The past decade has easily belonged to the SUV. It can be confidently argued that the decade known as the 2010s saw the rise of the SUV, at the expense of the once dominant sedan. Today, more people drive an SUV than ever before. They have easily eclipsed sales of sedans and hatchbacks in North America.

Recent data from Car and Driver magazine showed that of the 25 best selling vehicles in the U.S. in 2018, half were SUVs. With a growing number of SUVs available in gas/electric hybrid models or even all-electric versions, the rise of the SUV looks likely to continue. Here is a list of the 12 coolest and most popular SUVs sold over the past ten years.

12. Kia Sportage

Among compact SUVs, the Kia Sportage has become ubiquitous. It’s hard to pull into a Costco or Walmart parking lot without seeing a lot of them. There’s a good reason for that. The Sportage is one of the most fun, affordable, and practical SUVs of the past decade. Over the years, it has earned a reputation for being a comfortable ride and having composed handling. It also has an upscale interior that is almost as appointed as many so-called luxury SUVs.

There is plenty of technology in the Sportage too, even in the base models. Some of the highlights include a user-friendly infotainment system and the ability to use voice commands. It also comes with a bevy of standard safety features, including forward collision warning and pedestrian detection. The bottom line here is that you get a lot of features in the Sportage, for a starting price under $20,000. That’s why this SUV has become one of the best of the decade.

11. Honda CR-V

Slightly ahead of the Kia Sportage is the Honda CR-V. It’s another compact SUV that is extremely popular, and among the bestsellers in North America. The CR-V has become particularly popular over the past decade with families, notably soccer moms. They seem to appreciate the spacious rear seats, outstanding safety ratings, and ample cargo space.

Dads may also like the hefty engine and strong acceleration that the CR-V boasts — especially when outfitted with the turbocharged engine option. On top of all, that, the CR-V is as affordable as the Sportage at a similar starting price of just under $20,000. With so much to recommend it, it is easy to see why the CR-V has become one of Honda’s bestselling vehicles.

10. Buick Encore

Dropping down to the subcompact SUV category, there aren’t many as cool as the Buick Encore. Over the past decade, the Encore has evolved and been refined to the point where it is now a leader in its class. It has an upscale cabin and is known for being a quiet, cushioned ride. Its easy-to-use infotainment system has sent critics into fits describing how great it is.

Best of all, the Encore still has plenty of interior space despite being placed in the subcompact category. The back seats, in fact, are spacious enough to hold two average-sized adults comfortably. While some other subcompact SUVs have mightier engines, swifter acceleration, and more cargo space, we give the Buick Encore top marks for its style, comfort, and features. It’s definitely among the best of the 2010s.

9. Ford Escape

Ford no longer makes sedans, which is a bit ironic considering they basically invented the automobile. The iconic brand has cast aside standard cars in favor of SUVs and pick-up trucks. Much of that decision can be traced directly to the success of its most popular and bestselling SUV, the Ford Escape.

The compact Escape, now in its third generation, has proven to be one of the lone bright spots (along with the F-150 pick-up truck and Mustang muscle car) at Ford over the last 10 years. Much of its success stems from the fact that it is loaded with tech, seats five family members comfortably, and has one of the biggest cargo areas of any SUV in its class.

The engine, acceleration, and pace of driving aren’t too shabby either. Plus, the exterior styling on the Escape is great. This American-made SUV can confidently stand next to the most stylish competing European models. Plenty of safety features, including a standard back-up camera, have helped to make the Escape a standout.

8. Chevy Tahoe

Jumping up to the large SUV category, we come to the Chevrolet Tahoe. Although it was once derided as a gas guzzler, the Tahoe has evolved significantly in recent years. It’s now a more responsible SUV with decent gas mileage. Recent incarnations have also included a suite of active safety features, including low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and a head-up display.

Owners also get a standard eight-inch touch screen infotainment system that comes with Apple CarPlay and a roomy first and second row of seats. While some critics complain that the third-row seating in the Tahoe is cramped, we are content to chalk this up to nitpicking. People in the market for a large, traditional looking SUV should consider the Chevy Tahoe. It’s among the best of breed in this vehicle segment.

7. Lincoln Navigator

Although the Lincoln Navigator has been around a while, it has really come into its own since 2010. The flourishing Navigator is now a premier luxury SUV and among the biggest rigs you can own. The Navigator gets high praise for its premium cabin that has with plenty of space for adults in all three rows, as well as abundant cargo room.

The twin turbocharged V6 engine is also popular with critics who feel it provides enough power for most driving needs, including off road. Throw in massive towing capacity and best-in-class fuel economy and you’ve got a winner on your hands. Given all its attributes, it should come as no surprise that the Navigator is the preferred means of transportation among government leaders or professional athletes and their entourages.

6. Toyota Highlander

With the Toyota Highlander, we’re singling out the hybrid model as the one to own. If the standard knock on SUVs is that they guzzle gas, then hybrid models should be held up as a solution to that problem. Very few SUV hybrids can hold a candle to the Highlander.

The Highlander hybrid gets a best in class 29 miles per gallon of fuel economy when driven in the city and 27 MPG on the highway. For comparison, the non-hybrid Highlander only gets 20 MPG in the city. Add in an upscale cabin and a lot of standard safety features, and the Highlander is a vehicle that continues to impress as the years roll by. It’s definitely the leader among Toyota’s stable of SUVs.

5. Mercedes-Benz GLE

The Mercedes-Benz GLE has been redesigned for 2020 and has already blown critics out of the water. People are calling the revamped GLE one of the company’s crowning achievement for the decade. This is an SUV that has luxury down to a science. Every aspect of the driving experience has been considered and it shows.

The steering on the GLE has been called precise and the brakes have been singled out for being responsive. You also get Mercedes’ patented PRESAFE system that can sense if a crash is imminent, detecting skidding for example, and then tightens the front seat belts, adjusts the head rests, and closes the windows and sunroof. Other safety features that come standard include blind spot assist and lane keeping assist.

Inside you get a top of the line infotainment system and surround sound speakers, as well as the most comfortable of seats. While not cheap at a base price of more than $50,000, for many people the cost is well worth it.

4. Audi Q7

The Audi Q7 is a cool ride for several reasons, chief among them its power and torque. That all stems from its supercharged V6 engine. Exceptional braking and steering combine with the engine to ensure that the Q7 offers a true performance driving experience. It also has a fully touch-sensitive interface with a dual screen layout that has been described as “hot.”

Being an Audi, the Q7 also comes loaded with standard safety features such as electronic stability control, traction control, and secondary collision brake assist. There is also an anti-lock braking system and tire pressure monitoring system. This is an SUV where you’ll confidently feel like you got their money’s worth. It has grown to become one of Audi’s international bestsellers in the past decade.

3. BMW X5

Reviewers all seem to agree that the BMW X5 has come a long way since 2010. Long viewed as more of a crossover, the X5 now sits comfortably in the SUV category. The most recent 2020 edition has received plaudits for its size, cargo space, advanced tech features, and maneuverability. The X5 continues to be a top pick in the luxury SUV segment. Add in the V8 engine option and it is hard to go wrong.

With five different trim levels to choose from, there are plenty of options for everyone. Whether you want more bells and whistles, or a diesel engine, there’s an X5 for you. Higher trimlines offer all-wheel drive, a wider range of exterior colors, and more technology features for people who love gadgets. The X5 is routinely a top safety pick, given all of the standard safety technology included. This excellent vehicle continues to be BMW’s flagship SUV.

2. Porsche Cayenne

The runner-up for the coolest SUV of the decade is the Porsche Cayenne. A Porsche in every sense of the word, the Cayenne was redesigned in 2019. It now has a more luxurious interior, packed with all the technology you could ever want. It also has plenty of power, speed, and great handling.

Safety features include adaptive cruise control and night vision assist, which uses thermal imaging to help drivers see what’s beyond the range of their headlights. Being a Porsche, the Cayenne is stylish both inside and out. It contains all the luxury features (leather seats, voice commands, heated mirrors) that you would expect. In our opinion, the Cayenne is not only among the best SUVs of the decade, it’s the best Porsche of the last 10 years. Period.

1. Jaguar I-Pace

It’s only the first SUV made by Jaguar, but what an SUV it is! The I-Pace was named the “2019 World Car of the Year” at the New York Auto Show. In response, the engineers at Jaguar improved upon the I-Pace even more for 2020. The newest I-Pace remains atop the luxury SUV segment with its style, power, and performance.

It now has enhanced acceleration and precise handling that is rare to find in an all-electric SUV. That’s right, the I-Pace is a fully electric vehicle. How cool is that? It can travel up to 240 miles on a single battery charge.

In almost every way, the I-Pace is leading the SUV pack. Frankly, other companies are scrambling to catch-up. For all of its cutting edge technology and performance, plus it’s truly “green” label, the Jaguar I-Pace wins our choice as the coolest SUV of the decade.


Devon is a writer, editor, and veteran of the online publishing world. He has a particular love for classic muscle cars.