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You’ve seen them huddling around calendars and gossiping in the supermarket, that elusive clique of cool moms who seem to always have time for late afternoon lattes and leisurely Nordstrom outings. And you wonder: How do I get into that club? 

The key is the after-school carpool. Two days a week they trust the shuttling of their kids to another mom and two days a week they are that trusted mom. And entrée to this coveted group starts with the right car…a car that saves your sanity as an unpaid Uber driver—and all the glory that goes with it. Here, the best seven-seater SUVs for hauling everybody around. 

The SUV Basics

These people-haulers come in three types: Small, mid and full size, and are available from both luxury and popular car brands. Full-size SUVs typically seat eight and often are built on a truck frame, meaning they are bigger, higher off the ground and take up more space in parking lots and driveways. 

The seven-seater SUV (often classified as a crossover for being a cross between a car and an SUV) has become popular for its smaller size, car-like drive experience and better fuel economy. Most are available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, and increasingly, AWD means they are almost as capable as true 4WD. 

SUVs have become so popular that there are more brands and options than ever. Luckily for you, we already did a lot of the research. We have taken extensive test-drives of each of these popular seven-seater SUVs. Here’s why we like them and what you need to know.

buick enclave
Buick

Buick Enclave

Why You’ll Love It: Buick might be the best kept secret in the land of luxury; we include it in the “Popular” category because Buick dealers love to discount these to keep pace with sales goals. The Enclave comes with a standard six-cylinder engine, and inside it’s loaded with luxe features like heated leather seats, premium Bose sound and top safety features. And it comes equipped with OnStar and a rear seat reminder to protect children from being left in a locked car.

Why the Kids Will Love It: They’ll appreciate the luxury appointments like the leather seats and the double-pane sunroof, and third-row passengers will be happy, especially if the second row has two captain's chairs instead of a bench, making access and stretching out a bit easier.

What It Costs: $40,000 to $50,000

doge durango
DOdge

Dodge Durango

Why You’ll Love It: Dodge fans know the brand for its Hellcat and SRT muscle car labels, but don’t let the Durango fool you: This solid, capable SUV has seating for six or seven, and if you want a bit more buzz under the bonnet, there’s an SRT track-worthy model in the lineup too. 

Why the Kids Will Love It: This cool SUV has plenty of places to plug in a phone or game station, including seat-back HDMI ports and AUX ports, plus a household plug for laptops or tablets. 

What It Costs: $30,000 to $73,000

Read what we had to say about the Dodge Durango

ford explorer
Ford

Ford Explorer

Why You’ll Love It: We classify this classic seven-seat SUV as mid-sized, but it’s got tons of space, and with its new redesign, it has more style and more great features, including Ford’s CoPilot 360 suite of standard safety systems. And with an enhanced all-wheel-drive system that also has eco mode, you can choose your power or efficiency, allowing you to save a bit of fuel, too.

Why the Kids Will Love It: The third row, which seats two, is even easier to access with a one-hand flip of the seat, and there are USB ports for every seat. 

What It Costs: $32,700 to $58,200

gmc acadia
GMC

GMC Acadia

Why You’ll Love It: We think of this as the car person’s go-to SUV: We know many, many people in the business who choose this SUV for their families. Nicely sized, nicely outfitted and elegantly designed, it comes equipped with OnStar, a rear seat reminder (so no kid is inadvertently left behind) and all-wheel drive, which is great in challenging terrains. 

Why the Kids Will Love It: Comfortable, with lots of tech (wifi and USB ports to start), it’s not so large that it’s a challenge to get in and out of, and they’ll be comfy in the third row. 

What It Costs: $29,000 to $45,000; Denali trim $48,000 to $52,600

kia sorrento
Kia

Kia Sorento

Why You’ll Love It: If you love design, you need to take a look at Kia, a brand that has successfully transitioned from the budget-focused to design-oriented, thanks to premium features and advanced technology. Kia is typically among the first to add tech features like phone connectivity, UVO connected service (which calls 911 if the airbags deploy) and other active safety features, most of which come standard in the Sorento.

Why the Kids Will Love It: The second row is a roomy bench with a fold down cupholder in the center seat. The third row seats are on the small side, but little guys will still be comfortable there, and the panoramic sunroof will help them not feel too closed in.

What It Costs: $25,900 to $48,000

mazda cx9
Mazda

Mazda CX-9

Why You’ll Love It: A few years ago, Mazda made the pivot to become a premium brand, outfitting its entire line with top-tier features like head-up display, full leather trim and a zippy engine that, despite being a four cylinder, has a lot of pep to it. Drivers love this car and all you get for the price.

Why the Kids Will Love It: The second row is roomy and the third row means you can accommodate two more friends, but it’s not a huge space, so better for short hauls. The storage behind the third row is enough for everyone’s stuff. 

What It Costs: $32,000 to $45,000

VW Atlas
Volkswagen

VW Atlas

Why You’ll Love It: Finally, VW brought a full-size, seven-passenger SUV to the U.S. and we couldn’t be happier. Drivers who love the brand’s reputation for engineering and details from its pricier sibling, Audi, are happily driving around in this stylish, roomy SUV. You’ll find great technology, great space and plenty of amenities in the Atlas. And the second row has slide-and-tilt seats, meaning you can access the third row even if a child passenger car seat is installed in the second.

Why the Kids Will Love It: The space, the comfort and the plug-ability of the Atlas is great. And the third row is roomy and easy to get in and out of.

What It Costs: $31,000 to $48,000

We loved the VW Atlas; this is why.

VW Tiguan
Volkswagen

VW Tiguan

Why You’ll Love It: This is the smallest of the seven-seater SUVs. When VW first introduced the Tiguan with a third row, it was limited to the base model, but it proved so popular with urban families that it’s an available option in all models now. And the size means it’s easy to drive, park and manage in traffic (and great MPG!). The third row is a “convenience row,” however, and it’s worth noting that that while it’s great in a pinch—it’s pretty tight for anybody over the age of 12.

Why the Kids Will Love It: The Tiguan is kid-sized and easy to get in and out of; there is a motion-activated lift gate option that they’ll get a “kick” out of.

What It Costs: $24,300 to $38,000

RELATED: 9 of the Best 3-Row SUVs, from Luxury to Affordable

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