Chris Woodyard and Joe Bruzek

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge: What the Judges Mentioned

Chris Woodyard and Joe Bruzek

Right here are our judges for this Challenge:

  • Joe Bruzek, Road Check Editor, Automobiles.com
  • Jennifer Geiger, Assistant Managing Editor, Vehicles.com
  • Kelsey Mays, Consumer Affairs Editor, Autos.com
  • Chris Woodyard, L.A. Bureau Chief, USA Nowadays
  • Brian Robinson, Producer, “MotorWeek”
  • LadyAnn and Ed Sabalburo, a Southern California couple with a young daughter and a second child on the way they personal an Acura MDX currently and are considering about moving up to a larger SUV.

We set a highest price of $ forty,000, like a destination charge, and a minimal EPA combined city/highway mileage rating of 19 mpg. There were 8 SUVs that met our criteria:

  • 2014 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2014 Dodge Durango
  • 2014 Ford Explorer
  • 2014 Honda Pilot
  • 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • 2014 Mazda CX-9
  • 2014 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2014 Toyota Highlander

Ford representatives declined to participate in the Challenge.

$ forty,000 3-Row SUV Challenge
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Here is how the scoring broke down: The experts’; scores accounted for 75 percent of the total score 15 percent came from the family’;s scores and 10 % was primarily based on fuel economic climate. Here is what the judges had to say about each and every auto, in purchase of how the SUVs finished:

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe

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The Verdict: “With the Santa Fe, Hyundai delivers the total bundle,” Geiger stated. “Loads of characteristics, a premium cabin and pleasant road manners. Just make sure you pack wisely.”

What They Liked: The judges liked a lot. “Unbeatable large-profile features for the funds,” Bruzek stated. “The Santa Fe delivers in virtually every single way, particularly in all the further worth packed in,” Woodyard mentioned. “Cooled [front] seats, a panoramic moonroof, rear sunshades and a heated steering wheel for under $ 40K?” asked Mays. “An embarrassment of riches, these attributes.” “The multimedia technique is intuitive and pairing my cellphone and launching Pandora streaming audio took only seconds,” Geiger mentioned. But it wasn’;t all about the functions. “It’;s a blast to drive via canyon roads or just to the grocery retailer,” Bruzek explained. In our mileage drive, it accomplished the best fuel economic system of the group. “Stout acceleration and nimble dealing with reveal the Santa Fe’;s spry curb bodyweight,” Mays explained. “It’;s the lightest SUV in this group.” LadyAnn extra, “It truly is not a sexy brand at all, but they really have nice features.” Ed gave it the largest validation. “It blew me away following driving it. I was operating the numbers in my head to see if it would function.”

What They Didn’;t: The largest downside was its smallest spot. It will get “an F for cargo room behind the third row some compact autos offer you much more trunk space,” Geiger said, even though others commented on limited headroom back there. “It undoubtedly feels like a 2-row SUV, with an added third row,” Robinson mentioned. “It doesn’;t come to feel like it was developed with 3 rows in thoughts.” “The Santa Fe’;s sleek, sloping roofline seems to be great, but it comes at the value of rear visibility,” Geiger said. “Despite all the luxury features,” Mays mentioned, “actual family articles is thin. Our tester lacked climate controls and respectable cupholders in the second row, while the third row will get each. Bizarre.”

2014 Dodge Durango

2014 Dodge Durango

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The Verdict: “The Durango combines brash styling with an entertaining trip-managing combine and the ideal multimedia setup in this group,” Mays said.

What They Liked: They liked the combo of features and driving enjoyable, which appears to be the target for Dodge (and by extension, Fiat-Chrysler). “Dodge’;s 8.4-inch Uconnect system still sets the normal for touch-screen usability,” Mays said, while Bruzek praised the “large-high quality interior resources.” Ed was “impressed with the tech this is customizable.” But it wasn’;t only the seems to be and exciting. “Power is brisk and shifts are prompt,” Geiger mentioned. “The confident trip quality is equivalent to a luxury SUV rather than a sub-$ forty,000 a single,” Bruzek explained. “It has a excellent trucklike trip with no feeling heavy,” Robinson extra. Lastly, “the tumble [2nd-row] seats made it easy to get into the back row,” Woodyard mentioned. “This is a car I would take into account buying,” Ed stated. “It has a lot of characteristics, bells and whistles, and there is something for everybody.”

What They Didn’;t: “Accelerator lag is an concern in Eco mode,” Mays mentioned. Bruzek stated it a lot more succinctly: “Default-on Eco mode needs to die.” “The lack of sliding second-row seats prevent taller grownups from negotiating a tiny additional room,” Mays said, even though Geiger named out that “cabin storage isn’;t wonderful for an SUV this big, it’;s acquired a rather tiny, un-purse-pleasant center console.” And ultimately, Robinson mentioned that he still has “reservations about prolonged-term dependability.”

2014 Toyota Highlander

2014 Toyota Highlander

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The Verdict: “The Highlander pairs a handsome cabin with good technologies, but that third row is a joke,” Mays explained.

What They Liked: “From the fabric-wrapped A-pillars to the cavalcade of rich, overlapping cabin textures, the Highlander did a 180 on cabin high quality with this redesign,” Mays said. “Toyota discovered its way, at least here.” “It has quite relaxed seats and a plush ride that make for a relaxed commute,” Robinson mentioned. “I come to feel like it really is a extremely thoughtful design and style,” LadyAnn stated. “They place a whole lot of considered into the specifics.” The Highlander’;s progressive under-the-dash shelf also won applause from a number of judges. It truly is not just cosmetic the engine earned kudos, too. “This is the responsive acceleration I am looking for,” Ed said. “Which is what I require to get through an intersection.” “The engine and transmission work harmoniously with each other for brisk acceleration,” Bruzek mentioned.

What They Didn’;t: The Highlander’;s small third row didn’;t win more than a lot of judges. “It was quite tight,” mentioned LadyAnn. “You are kind of squished in.” “Toyota says this seat fits 3,” Mays mentioned. “Proper, and ‘Oblivion’; was cinema gold.” “Cargo room behind the third row is larger than ahead of,” Bruzek explained, “but it really is even now tiny.” It was not the only concern. “A vehicle that’;s about 10 inches off the ground hardly requirements running boards,” Woodyard stated. “Fasten your seat belts: A stab of the gasoline pedal induces some uncomfortable squirrelly-ness thanks to our front-wheel-drive models’; torque-steer problems,” Geiger mentioned. “You have to phase up to the all-wheel-drive version to get ample managing functionality.”

2014 Nissan Pathfinder

2014 Nissan Pathfinder

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The Verdict: “Like a good deal of men and women, I was disappointed when the Pathfinder went the crossover route,” Robinson mentioned, “but it has genuinely grown on me since then. The trip is wonderful, and it gives just about anything at all most households require as far as comfort and ease features.”

What They Liked: “The interior high quality is borderline-luxury good,” Bruzek mentioned. “It really is the 2 eye-catching and practical with an attractive mix of quality resources and simple-to-use-controls,” Geiger mentioned. “From directional map scrolling to zooming in and out, the navigation program packs an array of frequent-sense shortcut keys,” Mays stated. “And none of them are touch-delicate!” “When we were parked and idling, I did not hear any engine noise,” Ed explained. “I could not inform if it was working.”

What They Did not: “I’;ve driven Pathfinders prior to,” Ed stated. “I do not think this is a massive improvement.” Several judges noted “pokey” acceleration. “The so-known as following-gen CVT [constantly variable transmission] automatic is significantly less responsive than Nissan’;s earlier CVTs,” Mays said. “It sucks some exciting out of passing maneuvers.” And “the Pathfinder is one of the loudest autos in its class with high ranges of road noise and an obtrusive engine note,” Geiger stated. Bruzek complained about “no sunroof, blind spot monitoring method or cooled seats for the price.” And the “luxurylike ride falls to pieces when roads get twisty,” Robinson explained.

2014 Mazda CX-9

2014 Mazda CX-9

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The Verdict: “Correct to the zoom-zoom advertising and marketing gimmick, it was the ideal-dealing with vehicle in the bunch,” Woodyard mentioned, “but it truly is blah in other respects.”

What They Liked: The CX-9 undoubtedly feels like a driver’;s auto. “It really is agile all around corners and has firm, precise steering,” Geiger mentioned. “There’;s great dealing with for an SUV,” Bruzek extra. It is not just driving acumen. “It truly is truly clean I like the interior,” LadyAnn stated. “I think that the leather high quality is 1 of the best.” “Seat comfort extends past the first row,” Mays stated. “The 2nd and third [rows] have some of the greatest cushions in this group.” “There is effortless access to the third row,” Bruzek explained, and Robinson mentioned that the “large rear doors make for simple access.”

What They Did not: But people large doors “are just waiting to meet other doors in a parking lot,” Robinson explained. The most significant supply of discontent came from the CX-9’;s enjoyment and navigation screen. “My phone’;s screen is virtually as big as the CX-9’;s small navigation display,” Bruzek said. “The multimedia technique seems and operates like it truly is from 2005,” Geiger explained. “I have to take my eyes off the road to go through the display,” Ed said. “To me, it truly is not usable. Why do not I just put my telephone up there?” “Its tiny third row is not youngster-safety-seat friendly, and it is the only one of the group that isn’;t going to have a best tether anchor,” Geiger explained. “Forward-facing convertibles can’;t be securely installed back there.” Lastly, “it is unrefined engine and road noise are not really appealing,” Bruzek explained.

2014 Honda Pilot

2014 Honda Pilot

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The Verdict: “The Pilot remains a roomy choice for passengers and cargo, but the total bundle is turning out to be less appealing as it ages,” Bruzek said. “It truly is a single of the oldest SUVs in the Challenge.”

What They Liked: “Call me crazy (or just in the minority), but I like the boxy/militaristic exterior design,” Robinson mentioned. For most everybody else, visibility was the best attribute to, ahem, see. “Tall windows, an upright windshield and narrow pillars nevertheless make the Pilot easy to see out of,” Mays explained. “It really is a bit far more upright and open,” Ed said. Each and every other judge also known as out the fantastic views. That boxy design and style also meant that “all seats have excessive quantities of headroom,” Bruzek stated. “Energy from a quit is respectable,” Geiger stated, “and passing and merging are not a issue, thanks to its responsive automated [transmission].” Ultimately, Bruzek referred to as out its “seemingly limitless front storage for phones, wallets, purses, drinks and more.”

What They Didn’;t: Geiger disagrees. “Cabin storage is not great. For an SUV this large, it truly is received a quite little, un-purse-friendly center console.” Many judges known as out the dated interior. “The cabin is an aesthetic disaster,” Mays explained. “There is an injection-molded feel to the interior which is not inviting at all,” Robinson said. Bruzek found the “complicated multimedia program overloaded with buttons,” while Geiger wished the Pilot came with a touch-display: “The navigation system’;s management knob is not the best to use, and its menu structure is frustrating.” And “Honda can say all it needs about noise-canceling speakers and other sound abatements,” Mays said. “The Pilot’;s wind-catching form can make it a noisy road-tripper.” The family members was also underwhelmed. “This would not even warrant a pay a visit to to the dealer,” Ed said. “That’;s too undesirable, since I enjoy Honda.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse

2014 Chevrolet Traverse

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The Verdict: “Households will adore the Traverse’;s massive cargo spot and roomy cabin, but the adore affair will finish following Mom and Dad get behind the wheel,” Geiger stated. “It handles like a truck, and parking plenty are not its pal.”

What They Liked: Dimension matters for the Traverse. Numerous judges located it to be the roomiest of the bunch. “It has minivanlike cargo area,” Bruzek said. LadyAnn identified the third-row room to be “truly fairly remarkable,” whilst Geiger mentioned that “the back is the greatest side: It truly is got a roomy, easy-to-accessibility third row and loads of cargo room behind the rear seat.” But it really is not only space. “The ride top quality is quite excellent,” Robinson said. “It can make me want to load this issue up and go on vacation.” Mays said it “combines a poised trip with the handling of a smaller SUV,” a trait that Bruzek agreed with, calling it “surprisingly agile in tight spaces.” Its “direct-inject V-6 and 6-velocity automatic transmission are the ideal engine-transmission combo in this group, with robust, smooth-revving energy and quick downshifts,” Mays stated.

What They Didn’;t: There is not a lot for $ 40K. “This is the ‘no’; SUV,” Woodyard explained. “No keyless entry, no power rear hatch, no navigation, no blind spot rearview mirrors. No, no, no.” “Our tester skimped on characteristics large and tiny,” Mays said, “even as it fell inside $ 500 of the group’;s regular cost.” Mays also dinged the Traverse for its seats: “You sit on the seats rather than in them,” he stated, “the end result of Chevy’;s overstuffed cloth chairs.” “The brakes do not inspire self-assurance,” Geiger explained, “with a spongy pedal truly feel and pulse-y movement.” And Robinson was unimpressed with the tech appeal. “The infotainment screen is tiny and numerous phrases on it are also modest, producing it tough to go through at a glance.” Bruzek bemoaned its “entry-level, rental quality.”

$ 40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge
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