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Best SUV Crossover vehicles with Third Row - what do you recommend?

My wife and I currently drive a Subaru Outback and have had great experience with it. However for outdoor trips with family and friends, and for carpooling for a growing family, another row would be very useful.

We prefer the handling of crossover SUVs with AWD, which sit closer to the road and often have better balance and handling than full SUVs. We can also safely fly past SUVs on the way to winter skiing, snowshoeing and backpacking.

We also find the cargo length of crossovers very handy and more useful than the greater interior height of SUVs (we can fit many longer items in our Outback with our back seats down that a Forrester SUV could not fit). We would only consider vehicles with very good fuel efficiency. Our Outback gets 28-29 mpg highway, 22 city.

Here are some models mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article this week:

GMC Acadia

The GMC Acadia (and its sister vehicle Chevrolet Traverse)


Do you recommend any other “crossover” sport-utility vehicles similar to these models that have a third row of seats?

Appreciate any and all feedback, including from SUV drivers that can recommend SUVs with similar performance and excellent fuel efficiency.

The Ford Flex has received very good reviews. The “retro” styling is not to everyone’s liking, but it is a very good vehicle with very good interior space. Additionally, Ford quality is now considered to be the equal of Toyota and Honda on many models.

Honda Pilot? Toyota Higlander?

You didn’t mention your budget.

You might consider the Buick Enclave. It’s highly rated and is a more upscale version of the Acadia. It’s also about $10,000 less than the X5. Anticipated repair cost in the first 5 years is less than $1000, as are the Flex and CX-7. The Bimmer is expected to cost over $3000 during the same time period. Look at the Enclave and Mazda CX-9 on line and see if they appeal to you. You might want to test drive them.

This is my list, in decending order:
Ford Flex
Mazda CX-9
X5 (but try the 3rd row, it’s small)
But these are ALL good, I wouldn’t argue with any choice.

Second vote for Pilot/Highlander…easy and safe recommendations. They are the best IMO.
Highlander has Hybrid model…you WILL NOT get Outback mileage in a 7 passenger SUV unless you go Hybrid Highlander.
Oops…or diesel (add on)

I’m considering quality and mileage first.

A car that has great storage space, excellent quality and still good on milage is the Audi Q7. Its a great car with good handling. Audi is about to sell these models with very efficient TDI Diesel engines which should get you 35 mpg highway, 30 city. While still providing great torque (241 hp). 2008 models with low mileage are also very cheap right now.

We understand your stated needs. Car operation is the total cost of depreciation (largest), fuel cost, insurance and maintenance & repair.

The BMW stands out as a vehicle you probably don’t want to include; if IT USED NO FUEL AT ALL it would still cost more per mile to operate that some of the others in the group. A BMW costs about $1500+ more per year to keep running as it ages. It will also have the highest depreciation due to higher intial cost, plus higher insurance. And the interior space is only a little more than your Outback.

I think the Ford Flex is exactly the vehicle you need; losts of space, dependable (Fords are very good vehicles now), and average fuel economy. You won’t feel as top heavy in a FLEX as you will in other SUV and Cross-over vehicles. Think of the Ford Flex as a bigger Legacy Outback without the complicaton and expense of the AWD.

However, you owe it to yourself to drive one, as well as try out the Buick and Acadian. Personally, I would rent a Flex for the weekend (cheap) and pile in all you human and other cargo and see how you like it.

I would rent a Flex for the weekend (cheap) and pile in all you human and other cargo and see how you like it.

With such an expensive investment…renting the car for a trial run sounds like a good idea.

I recommend stopping buy the bookstore on the way home and getting a Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide. Then spend the weekend test driving all those that look good to you.

Have you come to a decision yet?