Top 5 most efficient 2020 three-row crossover SUVs

Though nearly every automaker offers a three-row crossover SUV, only a select few of these large family vehicles can be considered fuel efficient. Electrification raises expectations for efficiency without sacrificing performance or size. Just five years ago, when there were no plug-in hybrid or electric three-row SUVs, a 25 combined mpg was exceptional. That’s average at best now. And it’s not just electrification accounting for improved efficiency. For 2020, Toyota downsized the engine in the Highlander Hybrid and put it on a diet, resulting in nearly 30% better fuel economy.

While the 30-mpg Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivan (actually a plug-in hybrid, and now with available AWD) would be our recommended buy for families looking for a three-row vehicle, we understand the minivan stigma runs strong in the face of logic. So here’s a look at the top five* most efficient three-row crossover SUVs based on EPA ratings. Prices include destination fee. 

2020 Tesla Model X

2019 Tesla Model X

The bulbous Tesla Model X with the falcon-wing rear doors comes standard with all-wheel drive, accomplished by a motor on each axle. It comes in Standard, Long Range, or Performance trims, with the latter hitting 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds. On a full charge, it has a range from 258 miles to 328 miles, depending on the version. The falcon-wing doors that hinge at the roof to rise up over the car can open up in tighter parking spaces than a minivan with sliding doors, making entry into the tight third row easier than most other three-row crossover SUVs. 

Efficiency: 101 MPGe combined or 33 kwh/100 miles

Range: 258 to 328 miles

Starting price: $86,210-$106,210

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Small changes lead to dramatic improvements in the redesigned 2020 Toyota Highland Hybrid. Toyota swapped in a 2.5-liter inline-4 instead of the V-6, dropped weight, and increased fuel economy from 28 mpg combined in the outgoing version to 36 mpg combined for 2020. The all-wheel drive system only drops it 1 mpg combined, and includes a third motor powering the rear axle. 

Efficiency: 36 mpg city, 35 highway, 36 combined

Range: 550 miles

Starting price: $39,320 (spring 2020)

2020 Volvo XC90 PHEV

2020 Volvo XC90

2020 Volvo XC90

The 2020 Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid with the turbo- and supercharged T8 engine with all-wheel drive seats six or seven passengers. Space isn’t compromised by the powertrain, and the Swedish styling makes it one of the more attractive three-row crossover SUVs on the market, inside and out. It also packs plenty of punch, with the 400-hp powertrain hitting 60 mph in fewer than six seconds. 

Efficiency: 55 MPGe or 27 mpg combined without a charge

Range: 18 miles electric only, 520 miles total.

Starting price: $67,995-$73,695

2020 Lincoln Aviator PHEV

2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring

Available on top Grand Touring and Black Label trims, the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator plug-in hybrid is built off the 2020 Ford Explorer, but finished in the finest features and creature comforts. The 494-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission and 13.6-kwh battery pack generates a whopping 630 pound-feet of torque, good enough to hit 60 mph in under six seconds. Second-row passengers welcome available captain’s chairs and the roomiest space in the class, though a bench seat will help seat seven passengers overall. The third row is much tighter and best suited for pint-sized passengers. 

Efficiency: 56 MPGe or 23 mpg combined without a charge

Range: 21 miles electric only, 460 miles total

Starting price: $70,540-$89,540

2020 Lexus RX 450h L AWD

2020 Lexus RX 450h L

2020 Lexus RX 450h L

On paper, the 2020 Lexus RX 450h L AWD checks all the boxes, including the one for most letters after the model name. The “h” stands for hybrid, the “L” stands for long, but the third row in the RX 450h L is so cramped as to be functional in only the tightest of pinches, which is what the back-seat riders will feel. 

Efficiency: 29/28/29 mpg

Range: 499 miles

Starting price: $51,535

*2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid - First Drive - Portland OR, June 2019

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid – First Drive – Portland OR, June 2019

*We’re adding a sixth, because the RX 450h L and it’s nearly useless third row merit an alternative. In rear-wheel drive with a 318-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission, the new 2020 Explorer Hybrid comes really close to the RX 450h L in terms of fuel economy, but has a roomier third row more in line with the Lincoln Aviator. In Limited trim, it would be silly to call it the poor man’s alternative to the Aviator Grand Touring, even with available second-row captain’s chairs. Cargo room with all seats up is exceptional. 

Efficiency: 27/29/28 mpg

Range: 540 miles

Starting price: $54,120