Car Corner
Three Row SUVs

May 1, 2007
By Scott Lewis

With our 2001 Acura MDX getting close to 90,000 miles, it is time to start thinking about a replacement SUV... one that has 3 rows of seats.

Why 3 Rows

I know, SUVs are the bane of a car enthusiast. So why would this car nut be looking at SUVs that hold lots of people. Because we sometimes have lots of people to carry. Mini Vans may be practical, but they have too much of a Soccer Mom stigma. At least I will only look at car based SUVs. We take my in-laws in our vehicle frequently, and as they get older that will probably increase. That means at least seating for 6 passengers.

We also take my niece and nephew with us. Again, seating for 6. So it is a 3 row vehicle for us.

The List

I am doing some very preliminary research here. I just want to see what's out there. This month I am going to try and find all the viable SUVs that have 3 rows of seats.

Here are the ones I have found:

Acura MDX
Audi Q7
VW Toureg
Mercedes GL450
Toyota Highlander
Cadillac SRX

Now let's take a slightly closer look based on a little bit of Internet information. The price ranges below are from the base price to a reasonably well optioned model I would consider.

Acura MDX - Of course we should consider the latest MDX. The MDX has moved upscale since we purchased our 2001 model. The current MDX gets the 300 hp V-6 engine and Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) from the flagship RL sedan. However, the looks of the MDX are a little too "out there" for us. The nose particularly is too aggressive looking, and not in a good way. I don't think the MDX will win us over this time. Price: $40,000 - $48,000.

Audi Q7 - I like this one. It looks sleek... for an SUV. I decided to concentrate my look at the Q7 with the 3.6L V-6 which is rated at 280 hp. Close enough to the MDX, without getting too expensive with a V-8. Our current MDX has 240 hp, so this should definitely feel like a step up in performance. I have read good things about the handling of this model. Maybe it will feel like a car when I drive it. Price: $40,000 - $50,000.

BMW X5 - This one is new to the three row crowd. I am a big BMW fan (I own a Mini Cooper made by BMW). I have read mixed reviews on this one, but I like its looks. I really want to test drive this one. I priced the 3.0i X5 for two reasons. 1) To match the V-6 engines of the Audi and Acura. 260 hp is still an improvement for us. 2) The 4.8i X5 with its V-8 starts at $54,500 and is more than we are going to spend. Price: $46,000 - $51,000.

Mercedes GL450 - This one is higher on the food chain than all the other SUVs here. Mercedes does not make a V-6 based SUV with 3 rows of seats. I put this one here because I really like it. I don't think there is anyway we can afford it, but I would really like to test drive it. Price: $56,000 - $61,000.

VW Toureg - I didn't look this one up. The Audi is much nicer... inside and out. I don't think this will be given any serious consideration. Sorry!

Toyota Highlander - My wife's sister, who lives next door, has a Highlander. That almost makes it a given that we would not get one. What's the point of out doing the Jones if you don't out do the next door neighbor.

Cadillac SRX - I sat in a SRX at the last Auto Show In Motion I attended. I found the seating position and general feel of the interior to be far inferior to our 2001 Acura MDX. My wife doesn't like the styling as well. I don't think there is anyway to get this on the short list.


That's the list. As you can see I eliminated three right off the bat, and one more is out of our price range. That leaves three viable SUVs that will seat at least 6 passengers. I guess the next step would be to test them.

Are there any that I missed? Please let me know, so I can add them to the list.