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Best AWD, seats 7, good mpg?

I’m looking to replace a Grand Caravan with something with AWD (we live in a very hilly part of CT where we get probably a couple dozen very bad driving days). We were going to get a Subaru and give up on seating for 7 til we discovered the RAV4 has a 3rd row option allowing 7 passengers. It still gets 21/27 mpg (about the same as an Outback), and has AWD.

The one unavailable option I would like is manual transmission (discontinued for US RAV4s a few years ago). In looking through the car advisor section on this website, I realized that the information here does not include extra seating options; for example, the RAV4 is listed as allowing a maximum of 5 passengers. So I’m wondering if I’m missing other possibilities we ought to consider.

You might want to take a look at the Mazda CX-9, or the mechanically similar Ford Flex. Neither is an economy champ, but for their size, they aren’t too bad on fuel economy.

However, the CX-9 does not come with a manual transmission. The Ford Flex also probably only has an automatic trans available, but you should check this detail, just in case a manual trans is available on that model.

My first suggestion is a Toyota Sienna AWD if you want to seat 7 or 8 people with incredible comfort and ease of egress.

Toyota RAV4 can seat 7 in a pinch with an optional 3rd seat. However using it requires you slide the middle seat forward(cramping 2nd row) and the third row is for children at best.

However that all being said an alternate would be to simply buy 4 dedicated winter tires on seperate rims (~$700-$900) on a FWD 7 passenger vehicle. It will be absolutely SUPERIOR to any AWD vehicle with regards to being able to stop and turn. The majority of winter conditions you will have no issue. People(detractors) think winter tires are expensive but do not realize their other 3 season tires are not wearing sitting in the basement or garage. Modern winter tires(Michelin X-Ice2, Blizzacks) are quiet and incredible on ice, snow and nearly as good as an all-season on normal days in the colder temps.

On a personal note I will add I need winter traction(ski house with poor accessibility) and 7-8 passengers soon. My plan is likely just purchase a 1-4 yr old low mileage Dodge/Chrysler Minivan and equipped with incredible winter tires. My budget range is 10k-15k. When/if it breaks down my trusty Subaru WRX is my backup albeit cramped for 2 kids, wife, dog(pug thankfully) and full ski gear.

the Subaru Tribeca has 7 passenger seating available

You’re out of luck as far as a manual transmission goes. As for seating for 7 and good mileage, you could check out the Kia Rondo, but no AWD. Seating for 7 real people+AWD does not come with good mpgs. The RAV4 is tiny for 7. The Highlander, Pilot, Traverse, and Flex all do it, expect 17 mpg city, 22-23 on the highway. The Sienna AWD would be a little better for mileage.

Another one worth mentioning is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid available with 7 passenger seating and AWD. It believe it is the best with regards to MPG especially if you do more city/town driving.