Sunday, October 2, 2016

Triple Down Economics

If you need to triple down when it comes to available seating in your vehicle, you have lots of choices among three-row crossover SUVs.  

The things to evaluate are:   

Room—Who’s riding in the back and how easy is the access?  What about cargo space
Safety—A top priority in the multi-passenger segment
Gadgets—Family haulers must deliver much in the way of entertainment and comfort.
Cool factor—Looks, luxury and acceleration are the qualifiers
Economics—Oh yeah, that too--fuel economy and MSRP

Acura MDX—a luxurious and sporty midsize

The Acura MDX is one of the sportier driving choices with AWD and a 3.5-liter V-6.  It is noted for a family-friendly layout to the 3rd row.  All MDX models for 2017 have a full suite of AcuraWatch safety technology:  Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Road Departure Mitgation. Acura says the new Sport Hybrid model will get 25 city/26 highway mpg and it has a 35-hp advantage over the non-hybrid that we tested.  Ours got 20/27 mpg and was loaded with the Advance and Entertainment packages for just under $60K.  Base price on the MDX is $43,950. 

Lexus to Introduce 3-Row RX 350

Lexus’ RX 350 will introduce a third row option late this year, creating another choice among the luxury midsizers. In the 2016 redesign, the RX 350 emerged with razor sharp edges and a huge grille that had mixed reactions, but all agree its cabin is first-rate.  The ride height was raised and the roofline was slimmed out in the redesign, creating a sleeker and less SUV-like profile with slightly increased length, while it maintains good head and legroom. The 2017 model adds more safety features and a GPS app that integrates with smartphones.  It is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with eight-speed automatic transmission.  Fuel economy and price on the RX 350 is just about neck and neck with the MDX.

Dodge Durango—Go Big; Stay in Budget

OK, you’ll burn more gas, but if you want to pay about the same for a larger vehicle with an adult-friendly third row, look at the Durango.  Unibody construction qualifies it, too, as a crossover SUV and gives it a car-like ride.  With starting MSRP on the base Durango at $29,995, it’s easy to go for the top-of-the-line Citadel starting in the low $40s.  Our test model topped out just over $50K with optional AWD and luxuries making it feel every bit an executive coach:  Technology and Premium Entertainment packages, second-row fold/turnable captain chairs and a console equipped with charging ports and power outlet.  Durango’s 3.6-liter V6 mated with an 8-speed shiftable automatic transmission delivers 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.  Long back doors and middle-row seats easily fold and tumble forward.  Folding all seatbacks creates an 86-foot cubic load floor.  

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