Saturday, June 20, 2009

What is the Best 7 Seat Crossover? Again

I wrote a blog post about 7 seat crossover SUVs in July, 2008 and now I'm writing one again. In the last 11 months a whole new crop of crossovers have appeared, but are any of them better than the Mazda CX-9, the vehicle I chose as the best last time?
First of all I'd like to point out the worst of these crossovers. It's the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, a car that is completely pointless and if it weren't for the BlueTEC diesel version it would have no right to exist. The R-Class has a useless third row seat, not much cargo space, but there are some large parts of it, the length and price are two examples. The next worst of these is the Subaru Tribeca, a car I really wanted to like because I like Subaru's, but it just isn't good. What Subaru did to create this car is take the Outback give it a taller, more curvaceous body, a third row seat, a fancy looking interior, and a few other finishing touches. The problem is that in the process a grille with a giant hole through the middle of it and a rear end that looked like it had already been crashed into made their way onto the car, so Subaru gave the car some plastic surgery and a larger engine to fix these problems, but now it just looks boring and still isn't a match for even that last generation Honda Pilot.
Now that we're done with the truly awful cars we can get onto the good cars. The Volvo XC90 is a good crossover and the first one that was well designed, but after nearly 7 years and the only changes being new engines and a host of new safety features it needs a redesign. Another crossover that's aging now, but is still very good is the Cadillac SRX. The SRX is good to drive, luxurious, fast with the V8, and comfortable, but short on space and about to be replaced by a Saturn Vue based 5 seat crossover. Then there's the BMW X5, which is a very good vehicle that's now available with the best diesel engine sold in North America, but it needs more space to work well as a family vehicle. The Audi Q7 is another good SUV that now has a very good diesel, but the Q7 has less power and more weight which is okay, because diesels have so much torque and there's plenty of power anyway. The Q7 is a very good vehicle, but I'm afraid it's too expensive.
Now for the opposite end of the price scale we have the Suzuki XL-7, a mediocre vehicle, but at a very reasonable price, $25,000 for a base model and just over $30,000 fully loaded. The XL-7 isn't good enough to be the best value of these, but the Hyundai Veracruz isn't much more expensive and gives you a lot more features, quality, safety, performance, and luxury. The Veracruz is a good family vehicle, but not much of a driver's car.
The Ford Flex is one of the new crossovers, but it's essentially a more attractive version of the outgoing Taurus X. The Flex is a very roomy, safe, and comfortable family vehicle that comes loaded with cool technology sure to entertain children for years. Unfortunately there's almost nothing to entertain the driver, because it's too heavy, slow, and reacts too slowly to driver input for it to be fun. The upcoming Lincoln MKT hopes to improve on the Flex's problems. The MKT hopefully will have a slightly firmer suspension, better steering, and less weight, so that it will make the most of the 355hp EcoBoost 3.5L V6.
I still maintain that the Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook are the roomiest and most practical, but I think the Enclave looks too feminine. These crossovers aren't great to drive, but they're more involving than the Ford Flex and have good engines as well as a pretty good suspension setup.
The Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, and Toyota Highlander are all great vehicles and the closest competitors of all the vehicles listed so far. Each one has it's own strengths, but the Highlander seems to have the least of these three. The Highlander is everything it should be, but to beat the CX-9 and Pilot it needs to be better to drive and more modern. The Mazda has lots of space and is good to drive, but I no longer think it's the best crossover. I was very wrong about the new Pilot in the July 08' post, because while I still think Honda should have gone for a lower, more car-like look rather than the boxy truck-like style it has, it's actually a very good vehicle. The Pilot is comfortable, safe, well built, good to drive, and has all the technology you will want. That means that the Honda Pilot is the best mainstream 7 seat crossover.
That still leaves the space of best 7 seat crossover still empty and the guiding question unanswered. The best 7 seat crossover is the Acura MDX. The MDX is the first SUV that drives like it's a sport sedan and without a back snapping suspension like the BMW X3 which doesn't even handle that well. The MDX instead achieves this with a all wheel drive system that distributes power, torque, and braking to each wheel independently and active dampers. The MDX therefore will make everybody in the family happy, the driver will enjoy driving it, the passenger will be comfortable and has lots of toys, and the kids have DVD, radio, and more to play with. The MDX has tons of luxury, safety, performance, and plenty of space. In fact the MDX could be the first car I can't find something on to criticize. Well done Honda!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

R-class useless? Did you ever test one? With fully contoured third row seats, including reclining backs, and a second row which can slide back/forth enjoying very spacious leg room, the R-class is the only 7-seater I know in which and adult can sit in the backrow (3d row) in full comfort, excellent leg room, and enjoy a sense of open space thanks to a massive full glass roof and proper side visibility. Go test one. Excellent car.