Help Us Find the Right SUV!

My wife and I are looking to buy a new SUV (or crossover), and (as usual) we each have some definite requirements:

Her: Third row of seats (e.g. room for 7 or 8 people) to ferry around the kids and their friends, while also not being too massive to easily parallel park.

Me: Advanced technology, including a navigation system with 3D map, iPhone/Android integration, display song title/artist while also showing map, rear camera, etc. (and yes, I know, distraction alert, but humor me!)

The closest we’ve come is the Ford Explorer, but I keep hearing about the glitchy technology, and my wife finds the stitching on the driver’s seat very uncomfortable on her legs. We also liked the Mazda CX-9, but the tech seems antiquated when compared to Ford.

Thanks for the help!

Ford Flex .

Yet, as you’ve noted, there are so often features that you must experience first hand to know their servicability, like the seat stitching.

Although, many times you can invent a fix to compromise.
I put cloth seat covers over my cold leather seats.

Thanks Ken. We were thinking about the Flex, but it looks like it doesn’t have the most recent version of the Ford navigation system (although maybe some folks would say this is a plus!).

Cloth seat covers might be a good idea…

No seat covers on newer vehicles. Not sure how many, but several car companies put the side airbags into the seats. If you put a cover over them, there’s no tells how the airbag would react in the event of a collision.

You’d be better off buying a TomTom or Garmin to get the 3d maps and such for navigation. Most cars today have blutooth radios available, so it shouldn’t be too hard to weed out those.

I’d say, if you both liked the Cx-9, get it, and get a portable navigation system if you HAVE to have the advanced satnav system.

I would make advanced technology secondary in your car choice. You can, as suggested, bring much of this technology along for the ride. I suggest you stay with Ford, Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander. The Traverse is another good performer.

Thanks for the advice, but both my wife and I greatly prefer in-dash navigation to a portable system. We’ve had a built in system in our current car (a Prius) for the past 7 years, and would not be happy with something external.

We haven’t explored Honda yet, but the nav system in the 2012 Highlander that we tried was barely more advanced than the one in our 2004 Prius. Toyota really seems to be behind the times in this area. I know that they’re supposed to be coming out with a new system in a year or two, but that’s a bit late for us.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to find good information in one place about car navigation and technology. For the amount of time we spend in our vehicles, I’m always surprised at how behind the times the car makers are. I can’t be the only tech-focused car driver out there, can I??

IMO, car manufacturers are behind the times because of patents use by the standard providers and the commitment they must make to integrating it when frankly, a lot of people have suitable technology in their cell phone. Short of going to 3d, how much improvement can be had ? Surprisingly, there are a lot of drivers and passengers out there who don’t want a visually and performance restrictive system for the life of a car with a built in. The sacrifice of having a wire dangle is well worth it for the added flexibility in these changing times.

Car makers would be smart to include a platform where any system can be mounted with hidden power source for no charge on all their models. I would look for that feature instead. The same reason cd changers in new cars are less important then mounting platform for personal mp3 players. The masses rule.

I am the opposite of the OP. The more high tech stuff in a car or SUV the less I like it. I may never get used to a huge flat screen in the middle of the dash.

It seems Ford has the most advanced system if you want “voice” controls in the system. BMW might be worth a look; lots of features if you can deal with the controls. There is a car reporter named James Healy who reviews cars for USA Today paper who comments on the tech aspects of the vehicle. Go to, then the Money section, then the Cars section and you’ll find a listing of his reviews. is another good research site. You should be looking at high priced luxury SUV’s if you want tech. Volvo, BMW, Cadillac, Audi, Lexus, Infinity and visits to showrooms might be needed. A great system for one person could be dud for someone with huge hands wearing gloves in the winter.

It looks like manufactures are starting to agree with you, dagosa. I’ve read about a new technology called MirrorLink ( that basically allows one to use all your phone applications on a larger screen in your car. This approach makes a lot of sense to me as well.

Of course, it’s unclear when/if this will come to fruition. But maybe there is hope for the future…

How much are you willing to spend? Based on your username, you can probably afford just about anything. Luxury SUVs that you might consider are Acura MDX, Volvo XC-90 or Mercedes Benz R-class wagon. Others are available, but they are full size SUVs, like a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator. Plus, the highway mileage of these behemoths is well under 20 MPG.

Thanks for the update. With technology changing so rapidly and the average car kept in ones stable for 5 years or longer, just about every built-in comunication technology will be passé in no time. It’s hard to stay up with the connections let alone built in unit itself. Hand held devices are upgraded every year. I feel Uncle Turbo will get his wish and he and I can use those cubbies for sunglasses holders…if we wish. The cool thing is that my geeky son or grandchildren can plug into to anyone’s car while riding. What a deal !