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AWD and 7+ seats & sunroof or convertible?

Hi all,

I am moving back to the US from Europe after 13 years so I am really out of touch about cars. We are moving to the bay area and plan to do a lot of skiing, camping, and outdoor adventure. I only have two kids, but with lots of family around thought a bigger car (7+ seats) would work really well for us. Glad to have fuel efficiency, hybrid… In the end the most important is the AWD since I don’t want to deal with chains etc in the winter.

Since we will ski a lot, I definitely want AWD. Besides those two things, I would love a convertible or large moon/sun roof, and leaning more to a wagon than an SUV. On my last visit to the USI saw a beautiful large Jeep with sides and a top that seemed to come off, not sure what it was or whether you can have more than 5 people in it… Anybody know?

I found an older discussion on AWD and 7 seats on here from 2009 but figured something might have changed since then.

Thank you!


I would suggest the Ford Flex, which will seat 7, has AWD, and can be equipped with a multi-panel rear sunroof (Vista Roof) in the SEL and Limited trim packages. And it has the wagon-type styling you said you wanted.

I would avoid Jeeps, because their reliability has been suspect.

Probably the 2009 comments are pretty much correct now. If I was looking, I’d check out the new Toyota Highlander (there’s a hybrid if you really want that, but it’s $$$$), the Flex, the Honda Pilot, the Mazda CX-9, just to name a few. I know of no station wagons I’d recommend.

But first get the Consumer Reports car buyers guide, LOTS of information that you’re looking for.

Hi thanks for the quick ideas! I never heard of the Ford model will check it out. Are Subarus out of the running these days? They seem to price where most of these do. Also a good choice or less so?

I will definitely get on the consumer reports too.

best and thanks again

If you really need to carry 7 people, the only 3-row Subaru (Tribeca) is tight. But sure, worth a look.

texases has the best overall point here…how big are those seven people ? and how often will it be all seven ?
My eight passenger Expedition is the best for big kids and adults all having enough space.
PLUS, people bring stuff ( backpacks, purses, video games, chargers, blankets, stuffed animals, FRIENDS, cooler, food, etc )…or you go somewhere and get more stuff ! ( shopping like monthly Costco ) So you not only need room for seven people but …’‘a place for your stuff’’ ( George Carlin ).
I only have the three big kids, my wife and me. Yet, when we go to Albuquerque for the day or weekend that Epedition EL gets kinda small !

Hi Ken,

My people are still small - 3 and 7 - as are the other 3 cousins. I guess the adults are bigger, but our immediate family is just 4. I looked at the Expedition and I think it’s just too much car for me. Hoping more for a station wagon feeling but with all those seats.

Wow you are all really helpful and thanks for taking the time. Other suggestions/comments welcome.


I think a large SUV probably meets your wish list most closely. Just about all of them will seat 6 or 7 passengers, can be AWD/4WD, and can have a moon roof. The largest convertibles seat as many as 4 people. The real best fit seems to be the Toyota Sienna AWD. No moon roof and certainly no convertible. The only thing that comes close to being a convertible is a 2.5 ton military truck, shown below. It is a GMC CCKW-353 and I suppose it could be licensed in the USA. I’m sure you don’t want it for your family. But if you do, the cab top comes off and the bed cover comes off.

Your description definitely sounds like the Ford Flex. It’s the nearest thing made to an old-fashioned big station wagon, though it sits up slightly higher. Most of the biggish crossovers come with some form of panoramic sunroof, only a part of which opens. The only true crossover convertible of recent years is the nutty Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. It’s a true convertible version of a mid-sized crossover and looks very odd. However, it only has two rows of seats and only seats four comfortably. It looks like a giant baby buggy to me, or some kind of toy.

The Flex is the most like a wagon, but other good three-row crossovers include the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Mazda CX-9. I especially like the Mazda. In all cases the third row is best for kids, but large enough for smaller adults as long as they can climb back there (so not for the very elderly, probably.) All of these are available in bith fwd and awd versions and are perfectly suitable for winter driving on normal roads.

Tires will be a bit tricky, living in the Bay Area, with our mild winters. Most people recommend winter tires for driving in ice and snow in cold climates, like your ski trips, but winter tires are only meant for places where the temperatures average below 40 degrees. In Bay Area winter temperatures they would be terrible to drive on and would wear out in no time. You could just stick with normal all-season tires, which is what you’ll want to be using except on the ski trips, or you could use so-called mud&snow tires. They have different tread than all season tires and would be better up in the mountains, where much of your driving figures to be over 40 degrees anyhow (during the day). They don’t use the same rubber composition as winter tires, so don’t wear out as fast. They’d be perfectly suitable for our somewhat rainy winters, if noisier than all-season tires You might want to have two pairs of wheels so you can easily switch to the mud&snow tires in the late fall and back again in the spring.

Your story sounds like my partner’s, Miranda. He also spent 13 years in Europe (Cote d’ Azur) and moved to San Francisco on returning. But that was 20 years ago. Took some time to adjust since he had left from Boston.

Don’t know exactly how common they are out there but you can get the Ford Explorer with a panorama type sunroof and 7pass seating, 6 if you get the 2nd row buckets. The VW Touareg would be another possibility.

The Touareg is lovely, but has a dismal reliability record. Typical of German cars. The simpler, cheaper ones can be fairly reliable (average, usually), but the expensive models are loaded with newish technology that isn’t reliable and costs a lot to fix. So the small, simple VW Tiguan has OK reliability and the luscious Touareg is a dog. The Audi Q7 is similarly troublesome, the smaller Q5 a bit better, if not great.

And the Touareg is 2 row I think.

The Explorer or the Flex are some of the very few 7pass vehicles with a glass roof or panorama sunroof, the Toureg is available with it but I recognize that it’s not the most reliable vehicle. Also why i don’t suggest the Volvo XC90 or the Land Rover LR4 which would fit the bill except for their troublesome history.

Have you considered getting a Consumer Reports New Car Preview at the local bookstore?