Babble Best Picks:
Best Crossovers for the Family
With winter right around the corner and dealers clearing out the lots to make room for next year's models, now is a great time to take advantage of dealer and manufacturer incentives and shop for a new SUV. To help consumers make sense of the increasingly crowded crossover market, I examined the most popular models on the market under $35,000 and chose the best SUVs for families based on price, cargo capacity, safety, features, and fuel economy. Read More »
There are a lot of options to choose from, and many vehicles are very evenly matched. When there was a tough call in deciding which vehicle was best for the category, I took the uncertain economy and the ever-changing price fuel into consideration and gave the top spot to the less-expensive vehicle that got better gas mileage.
Safety is also a big consideration when selecting a vehicle. New car stickers have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 5-star safety ratings on them, so here we listed the more stringent crash test scores given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To cross-check our results, we also listed the Consumer Reports vehicle score and provided their Consumer Satisfaction rating when available.
We hope you find this information helpful in your search for a family crossover. Don't see your favorite vehicle on the list? Nominate it here! - Liane Yvkoff
Best 7-seater SUV | 2011 Ford Explorer
MSRP: $28,360- $39,535
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/25 mpg
The 2011 Ford Explorer product team was led by two working moms who co-shared their responsibilities, so it’s not a surprise that it’s one of the best designed SUVs, er, crossovers, on the market. If you’re aware of the drama about the Explorer switching from truck to car platform, you can safely ignore it; it’s really not that big of a deal for the majority of buyers and drivers. The change may have cost the Explorer some of its off-roading cred, but it really just means that the new model has much better handling. The new 283-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine is smaller, but it’s a more efficient power train with much better fuel economy.
Ford prides itself on designing vehicles for both small and large drivers and included thoughtful touches in this car, like the height-adjustable tailgate that you can set to stop at a lower height so kids and shorter occupants can easily close it. While Consumer Reports points out that the front windshield is a little high for smaller drivers and could affect visibility, that’s nothing a little seat adjustment won’t fix.
For an extra fee, the 2011 Explorer offers plenty of extra tech features, like active park assist, which helps you identify spaces that are big enough – and then literally parks the car for you.
SEATING + STORAGE
One of the best things about this 7-seater is its ample legroom, even in the third row, which is among the roomiest in its class.
The Explorer also has a deep but short cargo well. To get more floor space and cargo capacity, the third-row seats fold flat in a variety of configurations. Optional powerfold makes it even easier to maximize cargo space without breaking a nail.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
Several 7-seater crossovers have similar power, size, and convenience offerings, but what sets apart the 2011 Explorer from others on the market is its industry-leading MyFord Touch system. The new infotainment system offers the best voice-activated control of a vehicle’s navigation, entertainment, and climate control systems. Consumer Reports wasn’t a fan of the interface, which does require a steep learning curve to master, but MyFord Touch is still leaps ahead of its competitors’ clunkier navigation systems.