Chris Woodyard and Joe Bruzek

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

Chris Woodyard and Joe Bruzek

Here are our judges for this Challenge:

  • Joe Bruzek, Street Check Editor, Vehicles.com
  • Jennifer Geiger, Assistant Managing Editor, Vehicles.com
  • Kelsey Mays, Client Affairs Editor, Automobiles.com
  • Chris Woodyard, L.A. Bureau Chief, USA Today
  • Brian Robinson, Producer, “MotorWeek”
  • LadyAnn and Ed Sabalburo, a Southern California couple with a young daughter and a 2nd youngster on the way they personal an Acura MDX at the moment and are contemplating about moving up to a bigger SUV.

We set a greatest cost of $ 40,000, including a location charge, and a minimum EPA combined city/highway mileage rating of 19 mpg. There had been 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
Index | Results | Mileage Test

Here’;s how the scoring broke down: The experts’; scores accounted for 75 percent of the complete score 15 % came from the family’;s scores and 10 % was primarily based on fuel economic climate. Here is what the judges had to say about every single automobile, in order of how the SUVs finished:

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe

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The Verdict: “With the Santa Fe, Hyundai offers the total package deal,” Geiger stated. “Loads of features, a premium cabin and pleasant street manners. Just make positive you pack wisely.”

What They Liked: The judges liked a great deal. “Unbeatable high-profile attributes for the cash,” Bruzek mentioned. “The Santa Fe delivers in almost every single way, especially in all the additional value packed in,” Woodyard explained. “Cooled [front] seats, a panoramic moonroof, rear sunshades and a heated steering wheel for below $ 40K?” asked Mays. “An embarrassment of riches, these functions.” “The multimedia program is intuitive and pairing my cellphone and launching Pandora streaming audio took only seconds,” Geiger stated. But it was not all about the attributes. “It’;s a blast to drive through canyon roads or just to the grocery retailer,” Bruzek mentioned. In our mileage drive, it achieved the very best fuel economy of the group. “Stout acceleration and nimble dealing with reveal the Santa Fe’;s spry curb bodyweight,” Mays stated. “It truly is the lightest SUV in this group.” LadyAnn additional, “It’;s not a sexy brand at all, but they really have wonderful functions.” Ed gave it the greatest validation. “It blew me away soon after driving it. I was operating the numbers in my head to see if it would function.”

What They Didn’;t: The most significant downside was its smallest area. It gets “an F for cargo space behind the third row some compact vehicles offer you more trunk room,” Geiger mentioned, although other individuals commented on restricted headroom back there. “It absolutely feels like a 2-row SUV, with an added third row,” Robinson said. “It does not come to feel like it was created with 3 rows in mind.” “The Santa Fe’;s sleek, sloping roofline looks excellent, but it comes at the cost of rear visibility,” Geiger stated. “Despite all the luxury characteristics,” Mays stated, “actual family members material is thin. Our tester lacked climate controls and legitimate cupholders in the second row, although the third row gets the 2. Bizarre.”

2014 Dodge Durango

2014 Dodge Durango

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The Verdict: “The Durango combines brash styling with an entertaining trip-handling combine and the very best multimedia setup in this group,” Mays stated.

What They Liked: They liked the combo of features and driving entertaining, which appears to be the concentrate for Dodge (and by extension, Fiat-Chrysler). “Dodge’;s 74-inch Uconnect program still sets the standard for touch-display usability,” Mays stated, although Bruzek praised the “high-good quality interior materials.” Ed was “impressed with the tech this is customizable.” But it wasn’;t only the seems and entertaining. “Power is brisk and shifts are prompt,” Geiger stated. “The assured trip high quality is equivalent to a luxury SUV rather than a sub-$ 40,000 1,” Bruzek explained. “It has a great trucklike ride without having feeling heavy,” Robinson added. Last but not least, “the tumble [second-row] seats created it effortless to get into the back row,” Woodyard mentioned. “This is a vehicle I would consider acquiring,” Ed mentioned. “It has a great deal of features, bells and whistles, and there’;s one thing for absolutely everyone.”

What They Didn’;t: “Accelerator lag is an issue in Eco mode,” Mays mentioned. Bruzek explained it much more succinctly: “Default-on Eco mode demands to die.” “The lack of sliding 2nd-row seats avoid taller grownups from negotiating a tiny added space,” Mays mentioned, while Geiger called out that “cabin storage isn’;t great for an SUV this big, it’;s received a rather little, un-purse-pleasant center console.” And lastly, Robinson mentioned that he still has “reservations about lengthy-phrase reliability.”

2014 Toyota Highlander

2014 Toyota Highlander

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

What They Liked: “From the material-wrapped A-pillars to the cavalcade of rich, overlapping cabin textures, the Highlander did a 180 on cabin high quality with this redesign,” Mays stated. “Toyota located its way, at least right here.” “It has really cozy seats and a plush ride that make for a cozy commute,” Robinson mentioned. “I come to feel like it truly is a really thoughtful layout,” LadyAnn stated. “They put a good deal of considered into the specifics.” The Highlander’;s modern beneath-the-dash shelf also won applause from a number of judges. It really is not just cosmetic the engine earned kudos, as well. “This is the responsive acceleration I’;m looking for,” Ed stated. “Which is what I need to get by way of an intersection.” “The engine and transmission work harmoniously together for brisk acceleration,” Bruzek mentioned.

What They Did not: The Highlander’;s small third row did not win over numerous judges. “It was really tight,” stated LadyAnn. “You are kind of squished in.” “Toyota says this seat fits 3,” Mays said. “Correct, and ‘Oblivion’; was cinema gold.” “Cargo area behind the third row is larger than just before,” Bruzek explained, “but it is nevertheless small.” It wasn’;t the only concern. “A automobile that is about 10 inches off the ground hardly wants running boards,” Woodyard stated. “Fasten your seat belts: A stab of the gas pedal induces some uncomfortable squirrelly-ness thanks to our front-wheel-drive models’; torque-steer problems,” Geiger mentioned. “You have to step up to the all-wheel-drive version to get ample dealing with overall performance.”

2014 Nissan Pathfinder

2014 Nissan Pathfinder

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The Verdict: “Like a great 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 ride is great, and it provides just about something most families need to have as far as comfort and ease characteristics.”

What They Liked: “The interior top quality is borderline-luxury good,” Bruzek stated. “It truly is both attractive and functional with an appealing mix of good quality resources and straightforward-to-use-controls,” Geiger said. “From directional map scrolling to zooming in and out, the navigation method packs an array of typical-sense shortcut keys,” Mays explained. “And none of them are touch-sensitive!” “When we have been parked and idling, I didn’;t hear any engine noise,” Ed explained. “I couldn’;t inform if it was operating.”

What They Didn’;t: “I have driven Pathfinders prior to,” Ed said. “I don’;t think this is a huge improvement.” A number of judges noted “pokey” acceleration. “The so-named next-gen CVT [constantly variable transmission] automated is significantly less responsive than Nissan’;s earlier CVTs,” Mays explained. “It sucks some entertaining out of passing maneuvers.” And “the Pathfinder is 1 of the loudest cars in its class with substantial levels of street noise and an obtrusive engine note,” Geiger explained. Bruzek complained about “no sunroof, blind spot monitoring method or cooled seats for the price tag.” And the “luxurylike trip falls to pieces when roads get twisty,” Robinson explained.

2014 Mazda CX-9

2014 Mazda CX-9

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The Verdict: “Accurate to the zoom-zoom marketing and advertising gimmick, it was the best-handling motor vehicle in the bunch,” Woodyard mentioned, “but it is blah in other respects.”

What They Liked: The CX-9 certainly feels like a driver’;s car. “It’;s agile about corners and has firm, exact steering,” Geiger explained. “There is great handling for an SUV,” Bruzek extra. It is not just driving acumen. “It’;s truly clean I like the interior,” LadyAnn said. “I feel that the leather good quality is one of the best.” “Seat comfort extends past the first row,” Mays said. “The second and third [rows] have some of the very best cushions in this group.” “There’;s straightforward entry to the third row,” Bruzek explained, and Robinson noted that the “huge rear doors make for straightforward accessibility.”

What They Did not: But individuals big doors “are just waiting to meet other doors in a parking lot,” Robinson explained. The largest source of discontent came from the CX-9’;s enjoyment and navigation display. “My phone’;s display is practically as big as the CX-9’;s small navigation display,” Bruzek said. “The multimedia program looks and operates like it truly is from 2005,” Geiger mentioned. “I have to get my eyes off the road to go through the display,” Ed mentioned. “To me, it truly is not usable. Why don’;t I just place my cellphone up there?” “Its small third row is not kid-security-seat pleasant, and it is the only one particular of the group that isn’;t going to have a best tether anchor,” Geiger said. “Forward-facing convertibles can not be securely installed back there.” Finally, “it is unrefined engine and road noise are not quite interesting,” Bruzek said.

2014 Honda Pilot

2014 Honda Pilot

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The Verdict: “The Pilot remains a roomy selection for passengers and cargo, but the all round bundle is getting to be significantly less interesting as it ages,” Bruzek explained. “It’;s 1 of the oldest SUVs in the Challenge.”

What They Liked: “Contact me crazy (or just in the minority), but I like the boxy/militaristic exterior style,” Robinson mentioned. For most every person else, visibility was the simplest attribute to, ahem, see. “Tall windows, an upright windshield and narrow pillars even now make the Pilot effortless to see out of,” Mays stated. “It’;s a bit a lot more upright and open,” Ed stated. Every single other judge also known as out the excellent views. That boxy layout also meant that “all seats have excessive amounts of headroom,” Bruzek said. “Electrical power from a end is good,” Geiger mentioned, “and passing and merging are not a difficulty, thanks to its responsive automatic [transmission].” Finally, Bruzek named out its “seemingly limitless front storage for phones, wallets, purses, drinks and much more.”

What They Did not: Geiger disagrees. “Cabin storage is not wonderful. For an SUV this huge, it really is acquired a quite tiny, un-purse-pleasant center console.” Numerous judges called out the dated interior. “The cabin is an aesthetic disaster,” Mays said. “There is an injection-molded truly feel to the interior that’;s not inviting at all,” Robinson stated. Bruzek located the “complicated multimedia method overloaded with buttons,” even though Geiger wished the Pilot came with a touch-screen: “The navigation system’;s manage knob is not the easiest to use, and its menu structure is irritating.” And “Honda can say all it needs about noise-canceling speakers and other sound abatements,” Mays stated. “The Pilot’;s wind-catching shape makes it a noisy road-tripper.” The family was also underwhelmed. “This wouldn’;t even warrant a visit to the dealer,” Ed stated. “That is also undesirable, simply because I adore Honda.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse

2014 Chevrolet Traverse

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The Verdict: “Families will really like the Traverse’;s huge cargo region and roomy cabin, but the love affair will end right after Mom and Dad get behind the wheel,” Geiger mentioned. “It handles like a truck, and parking lots are not its pal.”

What They Liked: Size matters for the Traverse. A lot of judges identified it to be the roomiest of the bunch. “It has minivanlike cargo area,” Bruzek explained. LadyAnn discovered the third-row space to be “in fact pretty amazing,” whilst Geiger mentioned that “the back is the greatest side: It truly is got a roomy, straightforward-to-entry third row and loads of cargo area behind the rear seat.” But it really is not only room. “The ride good quality is very great,” Robinson stated. “It helps make me want to load this factor up and go on vacation.” Mays stated it “combines a poised ride with the managing of a smaller SUV,” a trait that Bruzek agreed with, calling it “remarkably agile in tight spaces.” Its “direct-inject V-6 and 6-pace automatic transmission are the very best engine-transmission combo in this group, with powerful, smooth-revving electrical power and rapid downshifts,” Mays said.

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

$ forty,000 3-Row SUV Challenge
Index | Results | Mileage Test

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