OT: Talking Cars Tuesday (on a Monday)

Submitted by Michigan Arrogance on February 20th, 2017 at 12:39 PM

So it's a semi-holiday and a slow day so I figured this may be a good day for an OT thread.

Background: Family of 4 (kids 8 & 11), looking to move into a bigger vehicle that can transport the 4 of us, sports equipment and the very occasional 2-3 additional people (kids friends, fam that's in town every 6-10 months). I don't intend for this to become a minivan VS. SUV debate, so I'll try to get this out of the way 1st. I don't think we need the minivan- I'm not opposed to it, but we just don't need to transport that much stuff/that many ppl on a regular basis. I am open to thoughts on this tho.

Really just trying to hash out the options in a 3rd row SUV/crossover: some are very cramped in the 3rd row like the Kia Sorrento or Hyundai Santa Fe, while others are bigger but may be pricier/guzzle gas more: Dodge Durango, Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Buick Enclave. Looking at slightly used 3-4 y/o vehicles over the next 10 months.

Any thoughts on how you went through a similar decision process or general recs for or against specific brands in the 3rd row SUV category.

In addition, I was wondering how people thought about getting a luxury brand with fewer bells and whistles compared to an economy brand with a whistle or 2. Never really thought seriously about a luxury level vehicle purchase.


Powderd Toast

February 21st, 2017 at 8:13 AM ^

I agree about the Acadia. I have a 2012 Acadia Denali and it's served me well. I'm 5'11" and can sit comfortably in the third row. We routinely have 4 adults and 2 kids (7 and 5) plus our stuff in there with no problems. My only gripe is that the wife wanted a bench seat in the 2nd row as opposed to the captain's chairs.

Lou MacAdoo

February 20th, 2017 at 1:35 PM ^

We just bought a 2013 Pilot for my wife. It's nice, but I have a few issues with it. Basically, when the third row is up there is barely any trunk space and when the third rown is down it's not flat. This makes it slightly annoying for doing a weekly task like grocery shopping. Third row up, not really enough room. Third row down. groceries may roll out of the bags. Also, the MPG isn't what we thought it would be. We're averaging about 17MPG. We seriously should've bought a two row vehicle, but it wasn't up to me. 


February 20th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

why you'd rule out a minivan unless you have a serious aesthetic issue with them.

I used to hate them myself but now I can't imagine anything else unless I absolutely needd 4WD a LOT.  

I've got 3 kids and haul sporting eqipment, lumber, groceries & other kids on an almost daily basis.  Before the last kids I hauled all of the above but with dogs instead.

I love the utility of vans (at least the Chrysler variety) and the gas mileage, but I do wish on occasion that they had some higher ground clearance.

I also tow a boat, and often wish for the added oomp of a larger engine, 4wd etc.  but for 90% of my needs a minivan works.

My ideal family set-up would be 1 van, 1 SUV.


February 20th, 2017 at 2:41 PM ^


I live in a city of sharp hills that gets tons of lousy driving weather, so I would appreciate 4WD occasionally, yet the family minivan handles everything we need it to just fine.

It can tow in a pinch, though if one tows a lot a vehicle better equipped for it would be a wiser choice, especailly given the transmissions on Chrysler minivans.

All that said, our minivan does everything we need it to perfectly. Lots of space, fold-flat seats that are genuinely delightful to use, adequate at everything. I understand that someone doesn't feel like they need the space all the time, but frankly if you need space like that with any regularity you'll be glad you went all the way. For passengers, luggage, groceries, and any cargo short of 4x8 sheets of plywood, a minivan is a great option.

4x8 sheets of plywood technically work, but you have to have the front seats moved all the way forward. I discovered this at Home Depot some time ago when I had to call my wife to come drive the van because with 4x8s in the back I could no longer physically get into the driver's seat (she's 5'3, I'm 6'5).

I tried to find a reasonable, affordable alternative to a minivan for passenger carriage for years. The result? I own a minivan.


February 20th, 2017 at 3:32 PM ^

I love people that come on here and make claims about something they know nothing about.  Let me guess, you probably have a sticker in the back of your truck that has calvin with a backwards hat pissing on a Ford emblem?

I'd ask you to enlighten us all, but you won't have any fact based evidence to back up your claim so not much point in that.


February 20th, 2017 at 4:04 PM ^

and while it rides like a buckboard, that cummins diesel is unstoppable.  it gets 20+mpg in 2wd, 17 in 4wd.   our one ton rigs (fords) actually ride better but get worse mileage.   the dodge has been very dependable and is just shy of 200K miles. 


February 21st, 2017 at 11:06 AM ^

tomorrow with the top down in that miata, 60 degrees and sunshine.  unfortunately you can't carry a virtual ton of feed in a miata, or livestock, or cattle trailer, etc.    and then there are the kids to haul.  



February 21st, 2017 at 9:37 AM ^

There's a pretty big difference between "the cars suck" and "I hate the cars."  You're not much different from most people in that they think their experience is the defining one.  So you had a shitty Mazda - I once drove a great Mazda around for a while.  So do Mazdas suck, or did you just have a bad one?

Shop Smart Sho…

February 20th, 2017 at 6:39 PM ^

Dodge trucks are garbage?  Strange, my parents have had nothing but the normal issues with theirs, and they use to to two a 38' 5th wheel that weighs around 10 tons loaded.  It's got 180,000 miles on it and crosses the Rockies at least twice every year.  

Most issues with any vehicle can generally be traced back to the idiot behind the wheel who doesn't do routine maintenance.

Hotel Putingrad

February 20th, 2017 at 1:09 PM ^

the third row seating is a must for when the in-laws are in town and when we have to take the golden retriever with us on trips back to Michigan. They don't get great mileage, but it's a large tank (20 gal, I think) and as long as gas stays under $4, it's not a budget buster. It's a very smooth and quiet ride, and I think they look sharp compared to the competition. Even when the third row is being used, you still have a lot of trunk/storage space. We're leasing ours, but you can get a very good price with the base package. Depends on whether you're picky about leather interior and color. Overall, it's a fun car to drive. Not the most acceleration, but unless you're set on a traditional full-size SUV, I think it's a very sensible choice. Overall, I'd give it a 9/10.


February 20th, 2017 at 1:10 PM ^

I did my expanded family car shopping last year.  I learned quickly as you have that there is a big difference between true 3 row cross overs and 2 row cross overs with a third row.  I have a family of 5 so I needed to be able to put stuff behind the 3rd row when it was up.  I also went for a bench instead of the pilot second row seats so all 3 kids can sit in the mid row for easy access to them and to allow for tons of room in the back to pack for big trips especially with 2 dogs.

For us, this meant I had to cross off a lot of SUVs such as the mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, and the other smaller ones you mentioned.  This left me with the Durango, GM lineup of 3, Explorer, and the Pilot.  The Durango looked cool and had a really good RT engine (plus is rear wheel drive) but I have read a lot of bad reviews in regards to the quality of Chrysler vehicles.  I needed something more reliable than what I could potentially be buying.  I have rented the buick and Chevy traverse, and they have tons of room inside (had 6 guys all 6 feet and above in it), and they park pretty easily (long wheel base is a little tricky).  They weren't a lot of fun though, and I didn't have any friends / perks.  

I really liked the way the explorer looked, and my grandpa could get me the z-plan.  The inside is big (I wish the second row was wider for a very wide vehicle) with a deep area behind the 3rd row. The regular 6 that is paired with it, is pretty unispired. It gets you where you want to go, and is fine for a commuter. I ended up driving the sport and never looked back. 350 hps gets the large beast going and it handles pretty well.  You still feel all 5,000+ lbs, but it adds some joy to my driving it. 

Figure out if how much you plan to use the third row and what you need to haul when you are using them.  That could open up or close up how many vehicles that fit your profle.



February 20th, 2017 at 1:49 PM ^

The captains chairs are really nice if you just have 2 (dogs is a good point). Floor is flat  to the third row if I remember correctly. I think the enclave looks better now than the traverse (but traverse still looks good). If you can get a deal, it might be worth it.  Also might be able to grab a used one as I don't think that they hold value very well as another option. 


February 22nd, 2017 at 1:10 AM ^

but we traded my wife's 2013 Avalanche for a 2016 Traverse for many of the use reasons listed by the OP. The Avalanche was a beauty - Black Diamond Edition with the Cadillac Pearl White paint. But traveling with any more than 4 was not comfortable. Plus, neither was sitting in the back seats. Fuel economy? What economy. Hard for her to park it - she scrubbed the paint off the front right bumper 3 times in just 2 years.
The Traverse on the other hand...more economical to drive, and purchase. She loved the lux and looks of the Buick version, did not like the looks of the GMC version, found the Chevy handsome and the lux 'enough for our purposes.'
The third row is passable, probably OK for kids under 12. Also hard to get to even with the captain's chairs. Cargo space gets pretty slim when you use them, too. I solved that, however, with a couple hundred bucks at Sears for the XL Cargo box.
It's a little heavy if you ask me, but it isn't overly so for it's size.
For reference, we were also considering a Pacifica minivan.
She wanted the SUV more (most do nowadays) and I thought the Chrysler van made more sense. Go figure. So we ultimately agreed and got the Chevy because we got a great deal on a loaded LTZ for a bit less than the Pacifica, and the dealer agreed to $2K more trade on the Avalanche than I was expecting.

The Mad Hatter

February 20th, 2017 at 1:11 PM ^

Is that gas prices are likely to rise, maybe significantly, during the time you own the car. If you drive a lot keep that in mind when making your choice.

I drive sedans, so I don't really have any advice, other than to consider a station wagon. Plenty of room, efficient, and the good ones are even fun to drive.


February 20th, 2017 at 1:21 PM ^

All miles per gallon are not created equal.  A 20-22 mpg increase is more than a 30-32 mpg increase.  Convert to gallons per mile and multiply by how many miles you drive per year.  Then use a couple different gas prices ($2.50, $3, $3.50, $4) to see how much you might spend in gas for the year. 


February 20th, 2017 at 1:41 PM ^

My sister has an 09 acadia that they love. I drive a few different vehicles but one of them is a 2013 Ford Explorer. The explorer definitely seems to be bigger than the acadia with more power and the same gas mileage essentially.

All of the newer gm stuff seems to be having oil consumption issues. She hasn't had any with her Acadia, but they definitely seem to be there.

My parents had a 2009 Flex and now have a 2012 Flex. It's a different set up than the Explorer and Acadia which I think are similar. The flex feels like it has a ton of room in the first two rows. It has some blind spots when your driving it that I don't like though.

I drove a 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan as a company car for a short while and I was extremely impressed. The 3.6 has plenty of power and they get good gas mileage. Lots of room and they drive well. Chrysler is really focusing on the 3.6 too so there will be a ton of support for it for a long time.

Durangos are OK. If I was looking at a Durango I would definitely drive an Explorer to compare.

With all the vehicles I've listed I don't think you can go wrong. If I was going to pick a vehicle to do a lot of driving in it would be an Explorer as I think they are roomier for the driver while also having good room for everyone else. I've heard a lot of good things about Nissans but I can't say I have any personal experience with them. I buy everything from the Big 3, but I definitely think you could get a nice vehicle in something like a Nissan.


February 20th, 2017 at 1:56 PM ^

to go camping out west and carry the grandkids.  It is a large vehicle that is easy to drive with a surprisingly small turning radius.  They bought a year old version which saved $15,000.  The interior is nice, but feels dated compared to the crossovers (hard plastics and fake wood). The rear row is very large and wide.  The third row seats do not stow.  My mom struggles wiht this as she can't get the seats in and out of the vehicle on her own.  Our Explorer seats fold down with a push of a button. Tahoe gets good gas mileage for the size. 

Oregon Wolverine

February 20th, 2017 at 1:51 PM ^

Last month I picked one up with about 8K miles on it.  Granted I am up in the mountains a lot and need the AWD.  I also went Elite because I'm up in the mountains a lot and figured the extra safety features were worth it vs. one bad accident on a mountain road (with kids or wife).  Ran about $42K.

Sold a 2005 Acura MDX.  

The Pilot is a major, major upgrade, tons of safety features, drives beautifully.  Love the lane assistance and driver assisted cruise control.  Very roomy.  Easy to use interface, great heating system.  Second row captains chairs, heated, keeps the kiddos very happy.  Heated steering wheel makes the wife very happy.  Handles great in the snow.

There are killer deals on financing right now.  I went on light to Lightstream (division of SunTrust Bank), got approved in under 24 hours for 1.9% on a 36 month loan.  

I expect to be driving this for many years to come.


February 20th, 2017 at 1:55 PM ^

Image result for 4 wd van

ours gets about 14 mpg.  nobody plays road rage with my wife.   the envy of teenagers everywhere.  best aspect:  it was a stolen that i bought at auction and converted to 4wd.   ours isn't jacked up like this one.  always room for kids, friends, dogs, groceries, etc. 


February 20th, 2017 at 2:00 PM ^

I have a Sorento.  I like it.  Bulletproof warranty when I bought it (10 year, 100Kmiles, whatever was first).  More than enough room for 2 people, an 80# dog taking up the entire back, with beach chairs, sun umbrellas, and coolers for trips to the beach.  

Mileage is like 21-24 MPG depending on how much highway driving we do.   

My wife's friend really liked the Acura MDX for the 3rd row for when extended family is in town.  


February 20th, 2017 at 2:13 PM ^

But as is said up top, do you need a 3rd row? If you're thinking you'll need the 3rd row often, get a van. Full stop.

If you MAY need to use a 3rd row occasionally, and shove your kids friends back there, then you've got options. What Hailstorm said above is referring to real 2 row SUVs with a 3rd row for kids in the way back.

I'm a big fan of Car and Driver's reviews: http://www.caranddriver.com/search/all/3%20row%20SUVs They will give you lots of honest feedback.

Regarding badge/features/etc.

It is very typical to get the best deal on a mid-range model. For a relevant example - do you get a fully loaded Tahoe? Or a stripper Yukon? I'd argue that you probably would rather have the loaded Tahoe. However, you'd be getting a better bang-for-your-buck by spending less on a mid-level Tahoe or stretching for a mid-level Yukon.

Does that make sense?