In the interest of ground clearance, easier ingress and egress, more cargo room, better-perceived safety, and, let's face it, on-driveway status, SUVs have become the default form factor for the U.S. motorist. If you asked a child born in the 2010s what pops into their head when they hear the word "car," their response is very likely RAV4, not Corolla. Hence, it was only natural that the segment gets its own category in The Drive's first annual end-of-year Awards.
Nominees were chosen based on review scores, but because the SUV segment has become so broad and diverse, we decided to devote a slot to the best example of each "type" of SUV. There's a fast one, an off-roady one, a luxe one, an affordable one, and an electric one. Only one out of those five could take home the crown, though, and that was decided by a vote amongst The Drive's entire car-testing staff.
Without further ado, here are The Drive's picks for the Best SUV of 2022.
Runner-Up: Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT, The Performance SUV
"Simply put, it’s the most extreme and expensive Porsche Cayenne you can currently get. Getting around the Nordschleife in 7:38.9, it holds the production SUV lap record at the Nürburgring. Just because a car is quick on track, though, doesn’t always mean it’s a good road car—some would even argue that those two things are inversely correlated. Thankfully, nobody appears to have told Porsche that because the Cayenne Turbo GT is still pretty fabulous on the street.
"Beautifully put together, this car feels like a real, red-blooded performance machine and occupies the same space on its segment totem pole as stuff like the BMW M5 CS and Honda’s Civic Type R do theirs. Abnormally involving and capable for its size, it feels special to sit in, sounds and hauls like an absolute animal, and its Alcantara steering wheel tickled my palms with glee every time I used it to nail a corner." —Chris Tsui, Reviews Editor
Runner-Up: Honda CR-V Hybrid, The Affordable SUV
"What all this adds up to is a quiet, serene driving experience that rivals far more focused luxury options that I've driven this year, such as the redesigned Mercedes-Benz C300. If Honda's going to lead more buyers towards EVs in the coming years, this is another great way to hook them—give them that quiet, isolated driving experience that EVs are known for.
"The CR-V is smooth, comfortable, amply powerful, has an excellent ride and good handling, and is a hearty amuse-bouche for anyone considering future EV ownership. It's also spacious—my lanky six-foot-three stature had no issues climbing in and cruising along comfortably, or seeing out of it. This new sixth generation's styling is quite handsome as well. It looks athletic and modern and features some neat refinements that pay homage to its past generations—check out those D-pillar taillights." —Peter Nelson, Staff Writer
Runner-Up: Genesis GV70, The Luxury SUV
"Among those in the know, Genesis is quickly building a reputation for crafting cars that feel less insulated and more involved than its rivals; this carries over to the GV70. No, it isn't as ruthlessly quick or grippy as the BMW X3 M40i but it operates with a less robotic and more analog quality that makes it subjectively more enjoyable. Ergo, that also makes it a league-and-a-half above the new Lexus NX when it comes to road feel and handling.
"The GV70, just like every other car in the Genesis catalog, is a pretty stellar motor vehicle. It's really nice to drive, it's elegantly designed on the outside and in, it's practical, and—unlike many of its rivals—cannot be spotted in bulk absolutely everywhere. The Genesis GV70 is one of the most competent blends of comfort, athleticism, technology, and outright luxury out there and, most tellingly perhaps, one of the only crossovers I found myself wishing I could keep driving after I gave it back." —Chris Tsui, Reviews Editor
Runner-Up: Rivian R1S, The Electric SUV
"Between the expansive hood you’re looking out over, general posture, and most importantly, just the vibe the R1S carries itself with, I had all the big-truck energy I enjoy in my old 4x4s plus an immeasurably more forgiving cornering experience and, of course, almost distressingly intense acceleration capabilities.
"Well, I’ll walk that back just a touch to say: I have a very strong emotional bond with the trucks I own after countless adventures and hours tinkering on them. But the Rivian R1S proved to me that an adventure rig doesn’t need a liquid-burning engine or straight axles to have soul, and frankly, I’m not sure there’s higher praise I could heap on the thing. At a cantering pace, it has the presence and confidence of a traditional truck and I didn’t even really miss my engine burbles. The R1S’s quietness is so perfectly paired with how graceful it is—it’s so unflappably smooth!
By the time I glided my R1S loaner back to the hotel we’d left in the morning, I was completely sold on the thing. As an adventure truck enthusiast and a lover of outdoor recreation, this vehicle doesn’t really leave anything to be desired as an SUV." —Andrew P. Collins, Executive Editor
Winner: Ford Bronco Raptor, The Off-Road SUV
Is it really that surprising that The Drive's Best SUV of 2022 happens to be the one that sticks closest to what the SUV was in the beginning? Boxy, chunky-tired, built on a body-on-frame truck platform, and made primarily for the dunes and not malls, the Ford Bronco Raptor takes the crown as the best high-riding five-door we drove all year.
To create it, Ford stuck a 418-horsepower, twin-turbo V6 under the hood of the Bronco, lifted it with reinforced Fox suspension, and gave it ultra-wide Dakar-style fender flares and the word "FORD" in big grille letters. The result is exactly what you'd want if you'd like to survive a theoretical zombie apocalypse.
"The good news is that it also eats up sand whoops like you'd expect," wrote Trucks Editor Caleb Jacobs. "With a HANS device and a helmet, I put in a hard day of wheeling on some of the same terrain where they race King of the Hammers. During that time, I found that zooming along at 60 mph was even more comfortable than 40 mph on wide-open sections. That doesn't mean you should flog it no matter what, but I was quickly sold on how well the Bronco Raptor maintained its composure when the path was more than unsettling. Even when rapidly entering loose sand, the truck never dug in or felt like it'd get topsy-turvy.
"The limiting factor, unless you're a seriously seasoned and professional driver, is likely going to be you. That's the case with so many performance vehicles today, though it hadn't been true of the Bronco until this variant came to life—it's really that good."
Throw in an equally high ability to slowly crawl over rocks and an unapologetically rugged aura that it 100% backs up and the Ford Bronco Raptor is The Drive's Best SUV of 2022.