Maybe you’re adding a new member to your family, or perhaps you’re tired of cramming your jogging stroller into a trunk already brimming with kid gear, but let’s face it — you’ve reached the crossover tipping point.
The crossover tipping point is the phenomena where your lifestyle no longer fits inside the sleek sedan or sexy sports car you used to drive before you had children, pets, and the unspeakable amount of injection molded plastics to haul around. You know you’ve reached it when the number of carseats you need outnumbers the adults, you’d seriously consider transporting the dog in the trunk if it weren’t full of sports equipment, and other parents give you the cold shoulder because you can never carpool. The prognosis: You need a bigger vehicle.
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important — and expensive — decisions a family will make. To help simplify the buying process, Babble waded through the crowded crossover segment to find the best CUV for any driving need. We examined new and best-selling vehicles on the market, but limited our budget to $35,000. That price ceiling quickly eliminated many vehicles from our shopping list, but the selection of economical crossovers is still considerable. To help narrow the list even further, we focused on fuel economy, safety, and parent-friendly features. When crossovers were fairly evenly matched, we gave preference to vehicles that had better fuel economy, price, or were a previous Babble favorite. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top SUV for active families | 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee
MSRP: $30,215 – $39-215
FUEL ECONOMY: 16/23 mpg
For 2013, Jeep introduced a new model for die-hard, off-road enthusiasts. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk edition is a more aggressive version of the already rugged crossover, and is designed specifically for driving off the beaten path. With 18-inch tires, rock rail body protection, quadra-lift air suspension, and selec-terrain traction control, the Trailhawk is pre-configured to handle extreme conditions.
But families spending more time navigating city terrain that country backroads may prefer the Overland Summit model with the ParkSense package, which includes the new Front Park Assist that alerts drivers to objects in front or behind the vehicle.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is self-described and self-certified as “trail rated,” which means it can handle a variety of terrains and conditions. It has a stiff frame and almost 9” of ground clearance for off-road trails, but the degree of off-road capability will depend largely on the drivetrain and powertrain combination you choose.
Jeep lets buyers choose from two engines and three 4X4 drivetrain systems. Buyers can select either a 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine that gets 17/23 mpg on front-wheel drivel models (and 16/23 on 4X4 models) or a 390-horsepoer, V8 engine that achieves up to 20 mpg on 4X4 models. The biggest change for 2013 will be the diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee that can for once be sold in all 50 states. On average, diesels achieve approximately 20 percent better fuel economy than conventional gasoline powered engines. Details on the diesel version of the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee haven’t been released yet, but consumers can expect to see the vehicle on the market in the middle of next year.
Its 4WD options range from basic support for winter conditions to advanced capabilities that help the vehicle traverse extremely steep or uneven off-road paths. It’s also available with hill descent that will creep you down a hill at a low speed so you don’t even need to touch the gas pedal – only steer. Other crossovers offer a version of this feature, but Grand Cherokee may be the only one that works at up to 60 percent hill grades and in reverse.
The Grand Cherokee can tow up to 5,000 or 7,400 lbs. depending on the engine size. To put that tow capacity to work, Jeep’s accessory supplier offers an off-road-capable, Jeep-branded and -styled camper trailer. The trailer is roomy enough for four adults and features a queen-size bed, sofa, stowable table, built-in aluminum cabinet, a 110-volt power supply, and a premium canvas enclosure for about $10 grand.
And if your activities often include long-distance driving, the SUV is available with adaptive cruise control that will keep pace with the vehicle ahead of it. It also offers advanced safety features, such as Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross-path detection systems. A 115-volt outlet will help run appliances in a pinch on camping trips.
SEATING + STORAGE
With one of the widest second-row bench seats in its class, the 5-seater Cherokee allows you to accommodate some car seats three-across.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee is available with a variety of audio and infotainment systems ranging from “basic” to “computers on wheels.” The top-of-the-line uConnect 730N/RHR gives you voice commands, hands-free calling, Bluetooth audio streaming, and wireless hotspot capability on a 6.5-inch touch screen. You can add on a ceiling-mounted DVD entertainment system in the rear, but unfortunately the brand no longer offers SIRIUS satellite TV.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
Consumer Reports rated the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee 71 points out of 100, and 79 percent of owners said they would buy the car again.