For some, it is impossible to picture themselves buying a minivan.
“Ugh, I hate how they look.” “I have the worst memories of the one my parents had when I was younger.” “You know what, I just can’t and I don’t have a good reason as to why.”
These are some of the statements I’ve heard from friends who are in the stage of life where they could definitely use more than five seats and an extra row.
Enter the three-row SUV.
It provides the necessary space with styling that speaks to the minivan naysayers. And automakers, both mainstream and luxury, are diving headfirst into this category. Just this year we’ve seen the release of the all-new VW Atlas and the rebirth of the GMC Acadia, to name only a couple.
Here we take a peek at seven familiar nameplates that are vying for your attention.
It’s impossible to deny the Explorer’s tough, truck-like feel. And that’s not a bad thing. It stands out amongst the crowd, ensuring its presence is felt. Driving through the city makes you feel as if you own the road—and it maneuvers incredibly well for a big boy, with a tight turning radius that makes it easier than imagined to head for that parking spot on the other side of the road.
The Santa Fe has been a solid five-seat option for years—the addition of the XL (with seating for six or seven) version allows Hyundai to now reach more families needing that extra room. It doesn’t deviate that far from the original Santa Fe, which is perfect. The drive experience is straightforward, the infotainment system is simple and direct (dials where there should be dials, touch where there should be touch, buttons where there should be buttons), and it feels like it’s just a contemporary way to do a family vehicle.
The MDX is sitting a little stronger these days. After a refresh, the updated MDX now competes with much more confidence within the luxe seven-seat SUV market. The new styling adds a dash of bold that the outgoing model sorely missed. The result is an eye-catching vehicle that also boasts Acura’s impressive Sport Hybrid SH-AWD powertrain, for those who want to blow past others on the road while conserving fuel.
Don’t sleep on the Pathfinder. It has been a consistent staple in this category for years, and Nissan continues to somehow have it straddle between rugged and refined. It’s easy to picture the Pathfinder hauling a boat through dirt roads—and then taking you and your loved one to that swanky new restaurant after you dropped off the kids. It’s a tough balance, especially in this segment, but Nissan has figured it out.
Yes, you can still zoom-zoom with seven seats. Mazda’s latest design language translates beautifully to the CX-9. The large grille and sleek front-end is just as eye-catching on their SUV as it is on the Mazda3. It’s incredibly fun to drive—something not often said about a vehicle this size—and could become your everyday drive, even when you don’t have the whole family in tow.
The Highlander stays true to Toyota’s overall brand—its design can work for the majority of buyers, they offer a hybrid version, and it comes with the type of safety and reliability you would expect from the automaker. And, Toyota continues to improve on its infotainment and connectivity options, ensuring the learning curve is slight and quick. The Highlander also has an eight-seat version, for any families who could really use that extra seat.
What can be said about the new XC90 that hasn’t already been said. It’s been snagging awards ever since Volvo released it, and for good reason. The tablet-like infotainment centre is the closest thing to perfect from any mainstream automaker. It makes the front cabin feel that much more upscale and modern. Plus, it drives like a dream with styling to match.
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