Ford, Most carry five passengers, some up to eight; all give you true transportation flexibility. There’s room for lots of cargo and all-wheel drive for every-season traction. Prices are reasonable, mileage decent, and powerplant choices plentiful, including diesels, hybrids, even a hot rod or two. Best of all, the midsize-crossover class is being energized with all-new models like the redesigned Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento and enlivened with updates of old favorites like the Chevy Equinox and Ford Explorer. Arranged alphabetically, this buying guide describes them all, with 2016s highlighted when they’re about to replace the ’15 editions. Key changes and attributes are called out. And please note that fuel-economy numbers cited represent EPA combined city-highway ratings. Base prices include the manufacturer’s delivery fees, usually around $900.
On this Page you will find:
- 2016 Chevrolet Equinox
- Chevrolet Traverse
- Dodge Durango
- Dodge Journey
- Ford Edge
- 2016 Ford Explorer
- Ford Flex
- GMC Acadia
- GMC Terrain
- 2016 Honda Pilot
- Honda Crosstour
- Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 2016 Kia Sorento
- Mazda CX-9
- Nissan Murano
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Subaru Outback
- Toyota Highlander
- Toyota Venza
- Volkswagen Touareg
2016 Chevrolet Equinox
One of America’s most popular offerings will have a new look when it comes out in fall 2015. This five-seater – a design cousin to the GMC Terrain — will sport a revised grille, headlamps, taillamps, fog lamps, daytime running lights, and wheels, as well as upgraded seating fabrics. It’ll also have new safety features, including rear cross-traffic and blind-spot alert. The lineup is also rearranged to consist of L, LS, LT, and LTZ trim levels with LT1 and LT2 grades dropped.
Depending on trim, new features include a dashboard storage shelf and a larger standard 7-inch color audio touchscreen with Bluetooth. Universal tablet holders will be available through dealers that mount on the rear of the front seats to provide convenient device-access for rear-seat passengers. All ‘16 Equinoxes come with front-wheel drive. AWD is offered on LS, LT and LTZ versions. Standard engine is a 181-horsepower four cylinder; fuel-economy ratings for 2016 were unavailable in time for this report, but it should meet or exceed ’15 ratings of 26 mpg combined with front-wheel and 23 with AWD.
A 301-horsepower V-6 is available with LT and LTZ trims and enables a 3,500-pound tow capacity. Its 2015 ratings were 20 mpg combined with front-wheel, 19 with AWD. A MultiFlex rear seat will slide to expand cargo or leg room in back. A built-in Wi-Fi hotspot is offered in all models. A new prognostic service relies on OnStar 4G LTE technology to provide data streams from vehicle sensors to give advance warnings of potential battery, starter motor, or fuel pump trouble. When conditions could affect vehicle performance, notifications will be sent to customers via email, text message, or in-vehicle alert or OnStar smartphone app so a fix can be made. Expect a slight increase over the 2015 base-price range of $25,395-$36,545.
With seating for up to eight and as much as 116 cubic feet of cargo volume, this three-row crossover can compete with full-size SUVs on size and midsize crossovers on price. Minor changes for 2015 include a revised 18-inch aluminum wheels, addition of Siri Eyes Free, a new Ebony/Saddle Up interior color combination, and three new exterior colors–Red Tintcoat, Sable Metallic and Blue Velvet Metallic.
Traverse is the best-selling version of a shared-platform trio that includes the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. The Chevy comes in LS, LT (with 1LT and 2LT trims) and LTZ trims. All use a 281-horsepower V-6 capable of towing up to 5,200 pounds and rated 19 mpg combined with both front- and all-wheel drive. Seating for seven is available with two second-row captain’s chairs. Chevy’s MyLink enables occupants to integrate smartphones for hands-free calling through the audio system and Bluetooth streaming of Internet radio.
Enhanced connectivity for 2015 includes text-message support and Siri Eyes Free. Text-message support alerts the driver to new messages and can have them read aloud. Siri Eyes Free enables iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 users to access Siri via steering wheel controls and check calendar entries, have text messages read and respond to them, place calls or call up music. Other notable features include remote keyless entry, satellite radio, and chrome door handles standard on all variants. A power liftgate is standard on 2LT and LTZ. The LTZ also comes with heated power-folding mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators; a heated steering wheel; and forward-collision, lane-departure, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts.
Traverse offers the segment’s first Front Center Air Bag that deploys from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and inflates between driver and front passenger to add protection in side-impact crashes. Starting prices range from $31,870 for the front-wheel base LS to $44,810 for the AWD LTZ. Traverse is roomy, comfortable, and capable, but it’s showing its age against a flock of newer rivals. Its next full redesign isn’t likely until 2018.
This is essentially a Grand Cherokee from corporate cousin Jeep stretched enough to accommodate a third-row seat. That positions Durango nicely against rivals like the Chevrolet Traverse, with the bonus that the Dodge is suited for off-road duty and even on-track fun, with the sporty Hemi-V-8 R/T version. The 2015 lineup consists of SXT, Limited, Citadel, and R/T trims, all with a choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The popular Rallye Appearance Package is now available on SXT and Limited editions, and Dodge’s signature Blacktop Package expands to the SXT, the Limited and the R/T. Also new for 2015 is the Beats by Dr. Dre audio system with 10 speakers; it’s standard on the R/T, optional on Limited and Citadel.
SXTs, Limiteds, and Citadels come with a V-6 generating 290 horsepower (295 with Rallye, Blacktop, and Citadel). It can tow up to 6,200 pounds and affords a 600-mile driving range, rating 20 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 19 with AWD. The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is standard on the R/T and a $2,995 option for Limited and Citadel. It can tow 7,400 pounds and its AWD system includes an off-road-capable low-range transfer case.
The V-8 can automatically save gas by deactivating four cylinders when less power is needed. It rates 17 mpg combined with rear-wheel, 16 with AWD. Both engines link to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Durango also has the ability to be used as a Wi-Fi hot spot. A powerful Yelp search engine can be used via voice command if the driver needs to find a destination. Uconnect navigation then calculates a route and stores the destination’s telephone number for hands free calling. Base-price range with the V-6 is $31,490-$41,990; add $2,500 for AWD. The R/T starts at $40,790 and at $43,290 with AWD.
Bargain-hunting for a midsize crossover capable of carrying seven passengers? This is your target. Journey gets two new color choices – Billet Silver Metallic and Blue Streak Pearl – for 2015, and models with satellite radio get a free five-year subscription. A broad lineup continues, starting with the $21,290 American Value Package five-seater with a 173-horsepower four-cylinder and front-wheel drive.
That engine is also standard on versions of the SE, SXT, SXT Plus, and leather-upholstered Crossroad models. Their base-price range is $24,390-$27,590 and like the American Value, they rate 21 mpg combined, though they also remain among the very few modern vehicles still saddled with an automatic transmission with just four speeds. All but the American Value are available with an all-wheel option, which includes the far more-desirable 283-horsepower V-6 and a six-speed automatic. Base-price range for this configuration is $28,290-$30,990.
The V-6 is also an option on front-drive SXT and Crossroad versions at $1,200-$1,700, depending on the package. It’s standard on Journey Limited and R/T trims, which start at an identical $31,890 with front-wheel and at $33,790 with all-wheel drive. The V-6 rates 19 mpg combined in any powertrain mix. All versions are available with a third-row seat that’s good for kid use. The 50/50 split/folding bench has a reclining backrest and comes with rear climate controls. It’s part of a $1,500-$1,700 package. Despite its bargain pricing, Journey is available with some class-exclusive convenience features. Two bins situated behind the front seats are built into the floor and provide lockable, covered storage.
This is the only mainstream crossover SUV to offer built-in child booster seats, which flip out from the second-row backrests. The R/T includes a performance suspension and body kit. You won’t mistake it for a Challenger SRT, but the Journey R/T is surprisingly capable, and it won’t break the bank, especially when you compare the bottom line to other vehicles in this class.
Ford’s original crossover is fully redesigned for the first time since its 2008 introduction. It has fresh styling, more available technology and luxury features, and a choice of three engines. The new Edge is based on the platform that’s underpinned Ford’s Fusion sedan since 2012. Intended to be sold in more than 100 counties, it continues as a midsize five-seater but is longer and taller than before, though slightly narrower. Added passenger and cargo space brings it abreast of the roomier two-row rivals in its competitive set. Four models are offered: in SE ($28,995 base price), SEL ($32,395), Sport ($38,995) and – for the first time – a luxury Titanium ($36,920) series. It’s designed to meet demand for more premium offerings with such features as heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and heated steering wheel.
An all-wheel option adds $1,995 to all these base prices. SE, SEL, and Titanium are the first Fords with a turbocharged engine as standard. It’s a 245-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder available with front-wheel at a rating of 24 mpg combined and with AWD at 23 mpg combined. The optional upgrade on these renditions, at just $425, is a 265-horsepower V-6 rated 21 and 20 mpg, respectively. Exclusive to the Sport is a twin-turbo 2.7-liter four with 315 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque and rated 21 mpg and 20 mpg with AWD.
All Edges use a six-speed automatic transmission, now with paddle shifters and normal and sport modes. Pitched as a more fashionable and less family-oriented alternative to Ford’s seven-passenger Explorer, the redesigned Edge has the technology to parallel park on its own between other vehicles on the street as well as to pop open the hatchlid by simply swiping a foot under the rear bumper. It also comes with an optional camera in the nose that uses the screen in the instrument panel to show what, if anything, is approaching from either side at the stoplight or intersection stop sign to avoid a collision. It also offers adaptive cruise control with collision warning, glove box knee air bag, inflatable rear seat safety belts, and engine stop/start to conserve fuel in the 2-liter 4-cylinder Ecoboost. There’s also a steering system that can quicken reaction time based on effort on the steering wheel.
2016 Ford Explorer
Revised styling, more features, a new engine, and a new top-of-the-line model highlight 2016 updates to this popular Ford. The ’16 Explorer goes on sale in summer 2015 with appearance revamps designed to make it look more rugged, including a higher-positioned grille and new headlamps with standard LED lowbeams and available LED accents and fog lamps. Seating for six or seven on three rows remains, though real buttons replace electronic touchpoints for some controls. Base, XLT, and Limited trims will reprise a 290-horsepower V-6 as their base engine. They’ll again offer an optional turbocharged four-cylinder, but it’s a new engine, a 2.3-liter with 270 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.
It replaces a turbo 2.0-liter that had 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. In addition to more power to pass and climb inclines, it’ll have better fuel economy and will be available with AWD, not just front-wheel drive. Joining the Sport version with a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 and AWD as standard is the new flagship Platinum version. It boasts multi-contoured front seats in Nirvana leather and a leather-trimmed dashboard, real wood cabin trim, a heated steering wheel, and dual moonroofs.
All engines team with a six-speed automatic transmission. Sport and Platinum come with 20-inch wheels versus 18s on the other models. Also new for 2016 are front and rear cameras — with washers — that provide a 180-degree view on the dashboard screen of surroundings, plus optional park assist that automatically pulls the Explorer into and out of a parallel parking spot. Full prices were not announced in time for this review but the Base will start at $31,595, unchanged from 2015.
Californians have taken to this funky-looking low-rider midsize crossover, but slow sales elsewhere suggest its charm escapes most shoppers. Flex carries on for the 2015 with new metallic colors for all trim levels, heated mirrors now standard on the SE versions, and a heated steering wheel now available on the top-of-the-line Limited. Seating is for six or seven on three rows. The base engine is a 287-horsepower V-6 and can be teamed with front-wheel drive (rated 20 mpg combined) or all-wheel drive (18 combined).
The Limited is available with Ford’s 365-horsepower EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 teamed with AWD for a rating of 18 mpg combined. Both engines use a six-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles for the EcoBoost. Key features include inflatable rear seat safety belts. Sync hands-free connectivity is standard. Available is great-when-it-works-right Sync with MyFord Touch for voice control of additional features, an 8-inch dashboard touchscreen, and two 4.2-inch LCD screens in the instrument cluster. Pushbutton start is now standard on SEL.
Available active park assist uses ultrasonic sensors to locate a parallel parking space and then steer the vehicle into it with the driver controlling the gearshift, gas and brake. A power flip-and-fold-into-the-floor third-row seat is available. So is a second-row refrigerated console to chill up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles, or two 20-ounce bottles. Base prices are $29,995 for the SE, $32,995 for the SEL, and $38,595 for the Limited. The SE is front-wheel only; AWD adds $1,950 to the SEL and Limited. The EcoBoost Limited starts at $43,795.
This is GMC’s take on the three-row GM design that also includes the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Acadia carves out a nice niche between them, coming across as more muscular than the Buick and more upscale than the Chevy. Changes are modest for 2015 and include addition of an easier to access USB port, a heated leather steering wheel as standard on SLT-2 and Denali trims, and restyled 20-inch wheels. The lineup returns SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1, SLT-2, and top-line Denali trims. The sole engine remains a V-6 with 281 horsepower (288 with available dual exhausts) linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. All versions are available with front-wheel drive (rated 24 mpg combined) or all-wheel drive (23 mpg).
Equipped with AWD, Acadia can tow 5,200 pounds. It comes with three rows of seats to accommodate up to eight people. The “SmartSlide” second row moves to expand cargo space or legroom. Both second- and third-row seatbacks fold flat, allowing 48-inch-wide plywood or drywall sheets to be hauled. Two charging-only USB ports on the back of the center console are standard. The popular Denali comes with luxury features such as perforated leather heated and cooled seats (optional SLT-2); a dual-panel power sunroof; a navigation system; Bluetooth connectivity; and blind-spot and rear-cross traffic alerts.
Other noteworthy features include a heated steering wheel (standard SLT-2, Denali), power liftgate (standard SLE-2, SLT-1, SLT-2 and Denali), tri-zone automatic climate control (standard Denali, SLT-1 and SLT-2 and available on SLE-2). A head-up instrument display is standard on Denali and available on SLT-2. All renditions have remote keyless entry with remote start standard on Denali, SLT-1, SLT-2, and SLE-2. Base prices are $34,900 for an SLE-1, $37,480 SLE-2, $41,745 SLT-1, $43,020 SLT-2, and to $48,615 for the Denali. Add $2,000 for AWD
Putting a more chiseled body over the same inner workings of the Chevrolet Equinox creates this five-seater from GM’s “Professional Grade” brand. Unlike its Chevy cousin, Terrain’s appearance is unchanged for model-year 2015, though its OnStar assistance system does gain 4G LTE and standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot that converts the crossover into a mobile hub to stay connected. The hotspot comes with a three-month/three-gigabyte data trial. The standard engine remains a 182-horsepower four-cylinder with a 301-horsepower V-6 available for more power to pass or climb hills. The lineup returns SLE, SLT, and top-trim Denali model groups, all with front- or all-wheel drive.
A rearview backup camera is standard in all, along with projector beam headlamps and foglamps. The available programmable power liftgate can be set to open to a lower height to clear garage obstructions or make it easier to reach for those of shorter stature. Forward-collision alert is standard on SLT-2 and Denali and available on SLE-2 and SLT-1. Lane-departure warning is standard on SLT-2 and Denali and available on SLE-2 and SLT-1. The forward-collision and lane-departure setups use a single-camera crash-avoidance system to visually and audibly warn drivers when a collision is imminent or Terrain unintentionally crosses a lane marker.
Blind-zone and rear-cross-traffic alerts are standard on Denali, along with eight-way power driver and passenger seats. Also, automatic climate control is standard on SLE-2, SLT, Denali. All Terrains have a color touchscreen radio with seven-inch display and USB and auxiliary inputs. Heated front seats are standard on SLT and Denali and available on SLE-2. A sunroof is standard on SLT-2 and Denali. Prices start at $27,485 for the SLE-1, $28,985 for the SLE-2, $30,745 for the SLT-1, $33,390 for the SLT-2, and $36,415 for the Denali. Add $1,750 for AWD.
2016 Honda Pilot
Honda redesigns its three-row crossover for 2016, setting aside dated, boxy styling for trendier, curved contours. The first all-new Pilot since 2009 arrives this summer with more power, additional safety features, and its first-ever panoramic-roof option. The new body is 3 inches longer and looks like a larger version of the brand’s wildly popular CR-V compact crossover. The cabin adds soft-touch materials throughout and amenities such as heated front (and ventilated) and rear seats, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.
It again accommodates up to eight, and for the first time, top-of-the-line trims offer second-row captain’s chairs for easy walk through to row three. In keeping with high tech, there’s up to five USB ports, four that provide better recharging with 2.5-amp output, an auxiliary jack, an HDMI port for a gaming console, headphone jacks, 12-volt and 115-volt outlets to power/charge just about anything. The new dashboard incorporates an upsized 8-inch touchscreen Display Audio telematics interface powered by a new Android-based operating system. New navigation system has 911 emergency services. The longer body enables a larger cargo area that can hold an 82-quart cooler behind the third-row seat. Expect a lineup of LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring trims, now joined by a flagship Touring Elite trim.
All will be available with front- or all-wheel drive and again use 3.5-liter V-6. But this is a new, more sophisticated engine that should generate around 280 horsepower, some 30 more than its predecessor. It again has fuel-saving cylinder deactivation but adds stop-start technology. LX, EX, and EX-L versions will dump the five-speed automatic transmission for a six-speed while the Touring trims will get a Honda-first nine-speed automatic. Honda Sensing technologies respond to potential road hazards—other vehicles, obstacles, even pedestrians — to mitigate the possibility or severity of a collision. Prices were not released in time for this report but expect a modest increase over 2015 base prices that ranged from $30,750 to $42,500, with the Touring Elite likely touching $44,000 or so.
This is Honda’s star-crossed attempt to create an Accord station wagon with crossover appeal. Launched for 2010, it has good handling, a slightly elevated seating position and suspension, and available AWD. But its sloped rear roofline diminishes cargo room and creates an odd appearance that’s done nothing for sales. Look for a second-generation Crosstour as a 2016 with more conventional styling inspired by similarly positioned rivals such as the Toyota Venza and Subaru Outback. Meantime, the ’15 returns unchanged in EX, EX-L, and top-line EX-L with Navigation trim.
All are available with front-wheel-drive and a 192-horsepower four-cylinder linked to a five-speed automatic transmission for a rating of 25 mpg combined. They’re also available with a 278-horsepower V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic and front-wheel (rated 23 mpg) or AWD (22 mpg). The V-6 has variable cylinder management to shut down two cylinders when not needed. Crosstour seats five and features a removable under-floor utility box, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and USB/iPod connection, fog lights, and an expanded-view driver’s mirror.
Premium available features include push button start, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, heated seats and mirrors, power seats, moonroof, 12 volt power outlet, HondaLink featuring Aha compatibility, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Watch, which is available on all but the EX and which, when you use the right turn indicator, activates a camera in the passenger door to show you on the center stack screen in real time what if anything is alongside or approaching from the right side to avoid potential contact with vehicles, bikes, or pedestrians. Prices start at $28,410, with V-6 versions beginning at $32,070 and AWD variants at $36,170.
Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport
This South Korean automaker divides its Santa Fe line into the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport and the nine-inch-longer, seven-seat Santa Fe. Changes for 2015 bring more standard creature comforts and convenience features, along with an upgrade to steering and suspension for quicker handling response and control. Both Santa Fes feature handsome styling, solid construction, a six-speed automatic transmission, and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The Sport is the better seller and uses four-cylinder engines; one has 190 horsepower, the turbocharged alternative has 264. Both rate 21 mpg combined with AWD and 23 and 21, respectively, with the front-wheel option.
Santa Fe Sport prices start at $25,825 with the base engine and at $32,125 with the turbo. The longer Santa Fe comes only with a 290-horsepower V-6 and rates 21 mpg with front-wheel and, 20 or 19 with AWD, depending on tire choice. It starts at $31,025. To all these base prices add $1,750 for AWD. New standard features on both edtitions include daytime running lights, a blind-spot mirror, and an auto up/down front passenger power window.
Sparkling Silver and Platinum Graphite paint colors are new. A power liftgate with Hyundai’s new power hands-free Smart Liftgate is now available on the Sport as well as the big Santa Fe: stand a few feet from the liftgate with key fob in pocket or purse to activate power open. The Sport also receives a two-tone grille to emphasize its sportier personality. Standard safety equipment on both includes Vehicle Stability Management with Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control, seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag, four-wheel disc brakes and ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Hill-start Assist Control with Downhill Brake Control and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
A standout for refined on-road manners, benchmark off-road prowess, and a generally upscale demeanor, this five-passenger wagon has more content for 2015. Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit models are available with rear- or all-wheel drive; the hot-rod SRT comes only with performance-calibrated AWD. Three different transfer cases are featured, each optimized for performance on pavement or off. All renditions use an eight-speed automatic transmission. Base engine is a 290-horsepower V-6 rated 20 mpg combined with rear-drive and 19 with AWD.
Also available is a diesel V-6 with 240 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque, and a 7,400-pound tow ceiling. It rates 25 mpg with rear-drive, 24 with AWD, and provides a driving range of 730 miles. Two Hemi V-8s are on tap, one with 360 horsepower, a 7,400-pound trailer limit, and a rating of 17 mpg with rear-drive and 16 with AWD. The second, exclusive to the SRT, generates 475 horses and a 15-mpg rating. It’s part of an encompassing performance upgrade that includes a handling-tuned suspension, brakes, tires, and AWD calibration, plus extra-bolstered sport bucket seats and unique cabin accents. Standard on SRT, Overland, and Summit and available on Limited are bi-xenon headlamps with LED running lamps.
Laredo and Limited feature dark wood accents on the dash and doors. Premium cloth seating is standard on Laredo while Capri leather seating is standard in Limited. Overland models have stitched-leather instrument panel and available open-pore wood. Summit models have premium interiors with heated/ventilated memory front seats. Overlands and Summits include a dual-pane sunroof that features a power sunshade (available on Limited). Laredos and Limiteds feature an available single-pane sunroof. Base prices: $30,990 Laredo; $37,890 Limited; $44,290 Overland; $49,690 Summit, AWD adds $2,000. The SRT starts at $65,590.
2016 Kia Sorento
A redesign brings bold new styling, bigger dimensions, and more amenities. This is basically Kia’s version of the Santa Fe from corporate partner Hyundai, although instead of two body lengths, Sorento offers one that splits the difference between the two Santa Fes. The ’16 is usefully longer and wider than the outgoing version for more passenger and cargo room. Three engines are available: a base 185-horsepower four-cylinder, a new 240-horsepower turbocharged four, and a 290-horsepower V-6. Each mates with a six-speed automatic transmission and is available with front- or all-wheel drive. L, LX, EX, SX and SXL trim levels are offered, with base prices ranging from $25,795 to $43,995; AWD adds $1,800. Four-cylinder models seat five.
V-6s add a third row to accommodate seven. Available are heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 14-way power driver and 8-way power passenger seats, dual-zone air conditioning and panoramic power sunroof. New eServices electronics let parents at home keep tabs on teens in the car using GEO-fencing, Speed Alert, and Curfew Alert to track where the kids are, speed traveling, and time they are traveling.
Accessed through an 8-inch capacitive-touch color screen, the navigation system features SD card storage and USB 2.0 support for high-speed updates as well as integrated rear backup camera, Bluetooth, and UVO voice recognition. In addition to traditional safety systems such as electronic stability control, new available driver aid technology includes forward collision warning, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert, plus an advanced AWD system that automatically routes power to the wheel with the most traction.
Mazda’s largest vehicle was introduced for 2007 and despite a facelift for 2013, feels outdated in a competitive set brimming with newer rivals. Still, the C-X-9 is a stylish, roomy seven-seater that’s rewarding to drive and priced aggressively. It’s mostly a carryover for 2015 but does get outfitted with a new recreational accessories package as standard. It includes roof rails, cross bars, a cargo net, and a stainless-steel rear bumper guard. CX-9 offers Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring models, all with a 273-horsepower V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. All trims come in front-wheel drive and rate 19 mpg combined or with all-wheel drive for an 18-mpg rating.
All come with three-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, one-touch up/down power front windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth hands-free audio/phone connectivity, 5.8-inch dashboard multi-information touchscreen, auxiliary jack and USB connection ports, HD radio, Pandora and audio receipt/delivery of smartphone-compatible messages. The Sport has 18-inch alloy wheels and a six-speaker audio system. Touring adds leather upholstery, eight-way power-driver/four-way power-passenger seats, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, backup sensors, and rearview camera. Grand Touring adds 20-inch alloys rain-sensing wipers, anti-theft alarm, fog lights, mirrors with turn indicators, power liftgate, and automatic on/off bi-xenon headlights. Pricing starts at $30,865 for the Sport, $33,360 for Touring, and $35,915 for Grand Touring. Add $1,590 for AWD.
Redesigned for the first time since 2009, the ’15 Murano gets flashy new styling, a far more upscale interior, and many additional features. Wheelbase is unchanged and seating capacity remains five, but the body is 3 inches longer, adding some needed cargo volume. The profile is marked by a kick-up along the rear beltline; trimmed in chrome, it looks a little like a tailfin and will be a styling element on many future Nissan cars and crossovers. Murano offers S, SV, SL, and Platinum trims, all with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The sole engine remains a 260-horsepower V-6 and it again links to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Fuel economy improves by as much as 20 percent, to 24 mpg combined with both front- and all-wheel drive. Credit for that goes to powertrain advances, reducing vehicle weight 145 pounds, low rolling resistance tires, grille shutters that reduce drag, and underbody covers to improve air flow.
The cargo area is stretched 3.3 inches in width and 2 inches in length to hold more gear. In addition to the kick-up, the exterior expresses a new design direction with the brand’s V-motion front end and LED “boomerang” headlights. Interiors clean up a formerly cluttered dash by reducing the control-button count to 10 from 25. The base Murano S starts at $30,445. Priced from $33,505, the SV adds navigation, 8-way driver/4-way front passenger power seats, 8.0-inch color dashboard monitor, remote engine start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lights, roof rails and more.
The SL begins at $37,835 and builds on the SV with leather upholstery, Bose audio with 11 speakers including two subwoofers, blind-spot warning, Nissan’s 360-degree Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, and driver’s seat memory. Priced from $39,885, the Platinum includes all that plus 20-inch alloy wheels; cooled front seats; heated rear seats; heated steering wheel with power tilt, telescoping and memory; power-folding second row seats; and a power moonroof now with a single-panel opening rather than two panels. To all these base prices, add $1,600 for AWD.
Nissan has apparently shelved or delayed availability of the Hybrid version of this seven-seater for 2015, leaving the far-better-selling gas model to carry the Pathfinder banner. This roomy, refined automobile is available in S, SV, SL, and Platinum levels, all with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The sole engine is a 260-horsepower V-6. It links with a continuously variable automatic transmission and rates 23 mpg combined with front-wheel and 22 mpg with AWD (21 mpg in Platinum trim). Pathfinder can tow 5,000 pounds and its AWD system is a bit unusual for the class in that the driver can select from three modes: front-wheel, automatic AWD that shuffles power fore and aft depending on tire slippage, or lock-in that directs power to all wheels for additional traction in low-grip situations.
The missing-in-action hybrid was a little unusual, too, in that it combined a supercharged four-cylinder with electric power. Iit had a net 250 horsepower and rated 26 mpg with front- and all-wheel drive. The hybrid remains on the roster of the Infiniti QX60, essentially a gussied-up Pathfinder from Nissan’s premium brand. A 2013 redesign transformed Pathfinder from an old-school body on-frame SUV to lighter, unibody crossover engineering. Upgrades for 2015 include blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts added to SL and Platinum, and hill-descent control added to the AWD system. The revised SL Tech Package adds Nissan’s 360-degree Around View Monitor and a tow hitch and harness.
The SL Premium Package adds the Around View Monitor and a navigation system. A new Family Entertainment Package brings dual-headrest 7.0-inch rear DVD screens. The SL gains standard fog lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink Universal Transceiver, and heated side mirrors. A 120-volt power outlet is added to the SL and a dual panorama moonroof becomes standard on the Platinum. Also available are heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, Bluetooth hands-free phone, streaming audio via Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio with traffic and weather, tri-zone automatic climate control, rear view monitor, and remote engine start. Base prices are $30,515 for the S, $33875 for the SV, $36,945 for the SL, and $42,295 for the Platinum. To those prices add $1,690 for AWD.
A full redesign brings new styling, more passenger and cargo room, and additional features to the fifth generation of what started life as a compact all-wheel-drive station wagon. Today, Outback qualifies as a midsize crossover. It still looks like an inflated station wagon but surprises for its large five-seat cabin and impressive off-road prowess. The last comes courtesy of a generous 8.7-inch ground clearance and an advanced standard AWD system.
The model line divides into the four-cylinder 2.5i group and the six-cylinder 3.6R. The former consists of three models: base starting at $25,745; Premium at $27,845; and Limited at $30,845. The lone 3.6R model mirrors the Limited and is priced from $33,845. Both engines use Subaru’s horizontally opposed cylinder design and a continuously variable automatic transmission. The 2.5i models have 175 horsepower and rate 28 mpg combined, the 3.6R has 256 and rates 22 mpg. Standard is Subaru’s X-Mode AWD with crawl ratios and astutely calibrated hill-descent speed control for superior performance off-road. Among standard features is a 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated mirrors.
Limiteds add heated front/rear perforated leather seats, Harman/kardon 576-watt audio system with 12 speakers, and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with voice-activated controls. Subaru’s Eye-Sight driver assist system in the Premium and Limited integrates Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking and Lane Departure Warning. Below about 19 mph, Eye-Sight detects pedestrians or objects in the path ahead and activates brakes to avoid a collision. At speeds above about 19 mph it activates the brakes to help reduce collision damage. Among popular options is the power moonroof/power rear liftgate package at $1,695; add navigation and Eye-Sight to the package and the tab rises to $2,195. Also available is a $2,990 package that includes a power moonroof, keyless entry, remote start, and Eye-Sight.
Every version of this vehicle now has the “smoked chrome” headlamp treatment previously exclusive to the costliest models but Highlander is otherwise a rerun for 2015. The lineup begins with a 185-horsepower four-cylinder LE model intended primarily for fleet duty. Most retail buyers go for the combination of a 270-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission.
Available in LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited, and Platinum variants, it rates 21 mpg combined with front-wheel and 20 with all-wheel drive. Offered with AWD only and in Limited and Platinum grades, the Hybrid teams a V-6 with a nickel metal hydride battery pack for a net 280 horsepower and a 28-mpg combined rating. It uses a continuously variable automatic transmission. Although Highlander’s third-row is tight for those over 5-foot-6 or so, this comfortable and versatile crossover makes an appealing family-vehicle alternative to a minivan.
LEs start at $30,550 with the four-cylinder and $31,855 with the V-6. They come with seating for eight, plus 18-inch alloy wheels; 6.1-inch touchscreen audio display; Bluetooth phone and music streaming; rearview backup camera; heated mirrors with turn signals; a roll-top center console that can store 30 juice boxes; and multiple power and USB ports. Priced from $34,075, the LE Plus adds fog lights; height-adjustable power liftgate with flip-up hatch window; an eight-way power driver seat; Entune Audio Plus with SiriusXM Satellite Radio and HD radio; and three-zone automatic climate control.
The XLE starts at $37,375 and adds leather upholstery with heated front seats; pushbutton start; a moonroof; second-row sun shades; and a 4.2-inch color multi-information display in the main instruments. Limited versions are priced from $40,975 and have 19-inch alloy wheels; second-row captain’s chairs; heated/ventilated front seats; and a power passenger seat. The Platinum begins at $43,465 and adds to all that pre-collision and lane-departure alerts, stolen-vehicle locator, a panoramic moonroof, and a heated steering wheel and heated second-row captain’s chairs. To all those base prices add $1,460 for AWD. The Hybrid Limited starts at $48,635, the Hybrid Platinum at $51,125.
A rearview backup camera becomes standard on all models and V-6 versions now come with the tow package to pull a 3,500-pound trailer. Venza returns as essentially a Camry sedan transformed into a five-seat crossover via a station-wagon-like body, slightly elevated suspension, and available all-wheel drive. Rivals include the Honda Crosstour and Subaru Outback. Three models return. LE and XLE come with a 181-horsepower four-cylinder and a choice of front-wheel drive and a rating of 23 mpg combined, or all-wheel drive and a rating of 22 combined. Optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited is a 268-horsepower V-6, rated 22 mpg with front-drive and 21 with AWD.
All use a six-speed automatic transmission and come with alloy wheels unusually large for standard equipment, at 19 inches with the four-cylinder and 20 with the V-6. The Towing Prep Package now standard with the V-6 brings an engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan, and heavy-duty alternator. Rear seats fold flat with one touch. A power liftgate is standard on XLE and Limited. The adjustable center console features a sliding cover and armrest, three iPod/MP3 player holders with wire-concealment features, and a USB port, auxiliary audio jack and 12-volt power outlet.
All Venzas come with 10 front and rear beverage holders, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a multi-information display screen, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls and three 12-volt power outlets. The XLE adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, and pushbutton start. To that, the Limited adds rear-parking sonar and xenon headlights with automatic high beams that detect oncoming vehicles and automatically switch to low-beam. Toyota Care, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, is included in prices that start at $29,950 for the LE and $32,995 for the XLE. With the V-6, the XLE begins at $35,035. To all these, add $1,450 for AWD. The AWD Limited is priced from $40,825.
Freshened styling, new driver-assistance features, and an upgraded interior mark the 2015 edition of this five-seater. VW again positions Touareg against premium-class crossovers such as the Acura MDX and even the Mercedes-Benz ML. Indeed, its basic design forms the foundation of the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne from the German automaker’s luxury brands.
Dimensions are unchanged for ‘15, but there’s a new grille with horizontal chrome bars flanked by reshaped standard bi-xenon headlights. The new taillamps are LED units, the hatchlid and rear bumper are revised, and all wheels – 18, 19, and 20 inchers – are redesigned. Already among the more upscale cabins in the class, the interior is enhanced with white LED overhead lighting, new chrome and wood accents, and updated controls. Every version continues with an eight-speed automatic transmission and VW’s 4Motion AWD.
Three engine choices return. The base unit is a narrow-angle six-cylinder called the VR6; it has 280 horsepower and rates 19 mpg combined. The turbodiesel V-6, called the TDI, has 406 pound-feet of torque, rates 23 mpg combined, and has a 765-mile range. The hybrid combines a supercharged V-6 and battery-electric power for a net 380 horses and 428 pound-feet of torque; it rates 21 mpg combined. The Sport VR6 starts at $45,615 and comes with bi-xenon headlights, power driver and passenger seats with driver memory, VW’s MDI (Media Device Interface) with iPod cable.
The Sport with Technology trim starts at $49,655 as the VR6 and $53,155 as the TDI; it adds navigation, power liftgate, keyless entry with push-button start, and a towing package. The Luxury edition starts at $54,050 as the VR6 and $57,580 as the TDI; it includes all the above, plus 19-inch alloys in place of 18s, leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and Park Distance Control. An available Driver Assistance Package includes front park assist and lane-keep assist. Executive trim starts at $59,610 as the VR6 and $63,110 as the TDI.
It has 20-inch Montauk wheels, stainless-steel pedals and scuff plates, heated steering wheel and rear seats, 10-speaker Dynaudio audio system, rearview camera system and rear sunshades. The Driver Assistance Package is also available. Outfitted similar to the Executive level, the Touareg Hybrid flagship starts at $67,905 and adds the Driver Assistance Package as standard.