Thursday, December 10, 2015

Triplicate: Three-Row Mid-Size Crossovers and SUVs Ranked from Worst to Best

When the going gets active, the active get a mid-size three-row crossover or SUV. Pardon us for adapting brother Blutarsky’s inspirational Animal House speech, but the sentiment holds true: If your idea of fun includes loading up the gang and their gear for a trip to the beach, ski slopes, or local inter-scholastic athletic competition (let’s not forget competitive tailgating rivalries in the parking lot), a three-three row crossover or SUV is pretty much the ideal transport. Smaller than carrier-class SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition, the mid-size rigs typically combine features like all-wheel drive and larger rear cargo holds with a more carlike ride and appearance. Although the three-row configuration eats up a little interior and cargo space in comparison to its two-row brethren, the trade-off results in increased head count. And hey, in addition to just looking sporty, that roof rack can actually haul stuff, too. Click or swipe through to see how the current class of mid-size three-row crossovers and SUVs stack up.Despite its distinctive exterior, the Outlander lingers at the bottom of the crossover barrel. The interior is quiet, with room for seven in three rows of seats. The base engine is a 166-hp 2.4-liter four mated to a CVT with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is optional.The GT has a 224-hp 3.0-liter V-6, a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive. Handling is composed, but both engines are challenged by the Outlander’s weight—especially the four-cylinder with all-wheel drive. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››With its pathfinding days behind it, the Pathfinder eschews the go-anywhere capability of its past and now joins the three-row crossover crowd. The big Nissan is a flexible family hauler and interstate cruiser that favors comfort, quiet, and fuel economy over dynamics and spirited performance.The sole engine choice is a 260-hp 3.5-liter V-6 with a CVT; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. It’s not exactly slow, but the CVT is unrefined and noisy. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››Although the Traverse might look like an SUV, it’s really more of a camouflaged minivan—especially considering its spacious and family-friendly cabin with room for eight. Powered by a 281-hp V-6 and driving the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic, performance is merely adequate.Despite sharp steering, the handling is rather bland, but the ride is quite compliant. Unfortunately for the Traverse, many of its rivals are more engaging to drive, including some actual minivans. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››With seating for seven or eight, the Acadia can haul people and their cargo—thanks to its 5200-lb towing capacity. However, its design and engine have become woefully outdated; newer, more modern choices are available.Still interested? Then you’ll want to know that it offers a standard 281-hp 3.6-liter V-6 (288 hp on Denali) with 266 lb-ft (270 on Denali). Power is sent through a six-speed automatic to the front wheels; all-wheel drive is optional. OnStar 4G LTE and Wi-Fi are also standard. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››With luxurious appointments and features, the Enclave is Buick’s upscale family hauler with refinement that rivals more expensive vehicles. Power is delivered by a 281-hp 3.6-liter V-6, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive.The Enclave is a quiet, refined crossover with a long list of optional equipment. Some of those features hike the price of the car quickly, though, and many of those options are only marginally useful. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››The Flex is as close as it gets these days to an old-school station wagon—and that’s actually refreshing in a world of SUV wannabes. Sharing its structure with the Taurus and Explorer, this big box seats seven comfortably, with room for all their stuff.The base V-6 makes 287 hp, while a twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 makes 365. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard. The 365-hp version is flat-out fast; handling is less so. All-wheel drive is optional on all models; woodgrain isn’t. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››Inconspicuous and sensible, the Highlander has what it takes to haul up to eight in quiet comfort. A 185-hp, 2.7-liter four-cylinder or optional 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6 both pair with a six-speed automatic; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional.A hybrid combines the V-6 with two electric motors for 280 hp. The Highlander provides an adequate driving experience with accurate steering and a well-controlled ride, but it’s more focused on interior niceties and storage. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››If you want some zoom-zoom in your kid carrier, Mazda’s got the ticket. The CX-9 provides a healthy dose of driving fun while seating seven in a handsome cabin. The 273-hp V-6 has plenty of passing power, the six-speed automatic has a manual mode, and steering is sharp and communicative.Fuel economy is a bit lower than that of its more modern rivals, but we think it’s a small price to pay for a family hauler that behaves like a sporty hatchback. An all-new CX-9 goes on sale in spring 2016. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››The Santa Fe offers up a sleek but subtle exterior design, with an interior that features three rows of seats and room for six or seven passengers. With a 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic, acceleration is surprisingly brisk while shifts are smooth and unobtrusive.Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Handling is neither sporty nor cumbersome and the ride is comfortable but not soft. A standard Trailer Prep package provides a 5000-lb towing capacity. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››The Explorer is the SUV that started the craze—and it’s still a contender, with a premium interior that seats seven, high-tech features, and robust mechanicals. It’s standard with front-wheel drive and a 290-hp V-6; all-wheel drive is optional.Other powertrains include a 280-hp turbo four and a 365-hp turbo V-6. The V-6 also offers a Sport model with all-wheel drive and a sport-tuned chassis. While the Explorer offers a quiet cabin and a solid ride, it somehow feels larger than it is. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››If a stylish, useful, and trouble-free ride is what you’re after, well—ladies and gentlemen, this is your Pilot speaking. The 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 powers the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic; top-level Touring and Elite trims get a nine-speed.The all-wheel-drive system offers torque vectoring for better handling and modes for snow, sand, and mud. The Pilot’s three rows provide plenty of room for all and a host of active-safety tech is available to keep everyone safe. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››The Durango remains big, brawny, and masculine in an era of soft, curvaceous crossovers, but it’s not as trucklike as other large sport-utes. Powertrains include a 3.6-liter V-6 or a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, both offered in rear- or all-wheel-drive guises.Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic is standard and V-8 models use cylinder deactivation to boost fuel economy. The V-6 models are enough for most, with smooth acceleration, while Hemi models deliver excellent torque, especially handy for towing. REVIEWS, PRICING, MORE ››

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