Congratulations to the 2012 Honda Pilot,
the winner of Cars.com's Best SUV for $37,000
Our most recent shootout put seven of the most popular 3-row SUVs that cost no more than $37,000 in head-to-head testing by the automotive experts from Cars.com, Motorweek and USA Today . The competition also included an evaluation of the family-friendliness of each vehicle by a family of four. This was an extremely close competition, but the Honda Pilot took the title for its great mix of comfort, features for the price, roominess and fuel efficiency. View full coverage of the results on Cars.com.
CHICAGO ? The family-size SUV market is an action movie.
New and freshened entries. Rising fuel economy. Zooming technology. Flashier styling. All of which would mean nothing if buyers weren't impressed. But they are.
Ford Explorers, Chevrolet Traverses, Honda Pilots and other three-row, family SUVs account for one of every seven new vehicles sold, reports J.D. Power and Associates, and buyers are paying a segment-record average transaction price of about $33,000.
Our latest Shootout comparison is a face-off among seven vehicles in the heart of that family SUV market: 2012 Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento and the 2011 Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander.
Our experts, plus the Koch family of Hoffman Estates, Ill., tested and rated them for the Cars.com/USA TODAY/MotorWeek$37,000 Three-row SUV Shootout? a mouthful that signifies we set a size range and sticker-price cap judged most relevant to the most buyers.
The top overall scorer in a close competition: Honda Pilot. Complete model-by-model ranking, scores, features, judges' reactions and some reasons why each one finished as it did, are above.
But here are some broad, overall impressions:
?$37,000 doesn't go far in this crowd.
All the test SUVs were more than presentable, but not all had leather upholstery, for instance, or backup cameras. Only two had navigation systems (Explorer and Sorento). Only one (Pilot) had a rear entertainment system.
And none had all-wheel drive, which buyers in some regions would consider necessary. All could be equipped with all-wheel drive for a price: $1,600 for the Pilot, for example.
The automakers supplied the test vehicles (except for Ford) and picked the combination of features and options they hoped would get the best mileage (10% of the total score) and make the best impressions on the expert judges and the Kochs (pronounced "Cooks") ? Tarek and Heather and their two children ? picked to leaven the tests with a real family's input.
?Despite differences in size, weight and government fuel-economy ratings, all got about 24 miles per gallon on the highway in our real-world gas mileage test.
The results from our 230-mile open-road jaunt, in which each vehicle was rotated among the expert judges, were in a range from 23.5 mpg (Chevy Traverse) to 25.4 mpg (Kia Sorento).
The results are somewhat surprising. The mpg-winner Kia's vigorous V-6 encouraged heavy-footed driving.
The Chevy's large size and weight made it less frisky and provided no incentive for hard driving.
?Being new wasn't necessarily a trump card. Ford's redesigned Explorer rolled out in late 2010 as a 2011 model with new styling, features and drivetrain, yet tied the Sorento for lowest score.
Ford is selling Explorers two to three times as fast as a year ago, so buyers might dispute our ranking.
Honda Pilot, meanwhile, just got a very mild update ? the exterior's hard to distinguish from the previous version unless they're side-by-side ? and it finished first.
An aging member of the group, the Mazda CX-9 launched in 2007 and little changed since, came in at a respectable third.
?Though these family SUVs were similar in concept, there were significant differences in how they drove, how much cargo space they had, how many passengers they carried and how comfortably they did so.
Not one of the tested vehicles had the best of everything ? no surprise to serious car shoppers. Buying one would be a heavy exercise in priorities and compromise.
The Koch family was a real find for this Shootout. They recently went through the hand-wringing shopping process and got a Buick Enclave SUV, mechanically similar to, and the same size as, the Chevy Traverse in the Shootout.
The recent shopping adventure meant they were past being wowed by new gadgetry or exotic options and could focus on roominess, key features and price. Almost.
Tarek Koch, 38, who works as an estimator for a big-job concrete contractor, kept remarking on the looks, leather and layout of the Durango.
And while he appreciated the value price of the Traverse, he said he had no second thoughts about having bought its upscale cousin, the Enclave, because "it's a lot quieter."
His wife, Heather, 38, works three days a week as an account executive at a finance company and is the shuttle service for the kids, McKenna, 8, and Bryson, 5.
She lasered in on how easy or difficult it was for the kids to use the second and third rows.
The family's ratings counted for 25% of a vehicle's total score. The combined votes of the auto journalists from USA TODAY, Cars.com and MotorWeek made up 65%. Fuel economy was the other 10%.
The 14.1% share of new vehicle sales this year by this group of large and midsize mainstream SUVs, most of them crossovers and not truck-based, is the highest since 14.2% in pre-recession 2007, says J.D. Power and Associates. And sales are gaining steam, so the group easily could overtake the 2007 share.
The average of $32,833 that buyers are paying for large and midsize SUVs this year is not only a record, says J.D. Power, but well above the overall average for all vehicles of $28,029.
Note: Two vehicles in this market, but not in the Shootout, are the Hyundai Veracruz (model being updated; Hyundai said the new one would not be ready in time) and Subaru Tribeca (Subaru said it had no Tribeca that fit the criteria in its fleet).
Sunday, November 13th, SanTan Honda and Subaru Superstore of Chandler bring
East Valley entertainment and community involvement with the 2011 "Battle of the Brands" Car Show featuring a 'Meet-and-Greet' with Dave Mirra.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chandler, AZ ? On Sunday, November 13th from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., SanTan Honda and Subaru Superstore of Chandler host the 2011 "Battle of the Brands" car show for Honda, Acura and Subaru owners to showcase their one-of-a-kind vehicle to the community. The event will bring entertainment to participants and attendees with food, prizes, music, raffles, and a silent auction with proceeds benefitting S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions). A 'Meet-and-Greet' with Subaru Rally Team USA Driver, Dave Mirra, will be held for all in attendance.
Dave Mirra became a pro BMX rider in 1992 and holds the record for the most X-Games gold medals. He is one of the world's best-known Action Sports athletes and is credited with bringing freestyle BMX into the mainstream with his success. Dave became a Subaru Rally Team USA driver in late 2007 and has since been successful in Rally car racing as well. In addition to his riding and racing career, Mirra has his own BMX video game and has made several television appearances, including host of Real World/Road Rules Challenge on MTV. He will be signing autographs and meeting fans at the Subaru Superstore dealership during the "Battle of the Brands" Car Show from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
For all registrants, judging for the competition begins at 10 a.m. and is based on five categories: Vintage, Stock, Modified, Unlimited, and Full Race. First-, second-, and third-place trophies will be awarded, as well as recognition from all attendees. The final competition will be between the winners of each category from Honda against the winners of each category from Subaru. It will be a head-to-head, "Battle of the Brands" match-up. In addition to the competition, the event will include plenty of entertainment. Raffles will be held every hour for prizes, gift cards, accessories, and more. The Chandler Fire and Police Department, McGruff the Crime Dog, and Miss DJ MJ from Power 98.3 will also be in attendance.
Registration is available now online at Santanhonda.com or Shopsubaru.com.
The 2011 "
Honda stands for quality. We ranked highest in initial quality for
sub-compact car, compact car, compact crossover/SUV, midsize car,
midsize crossover/SUV and midsize pickup. Honda has received more
2011 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Awards than any other
automaker. To learn more about Honda quality, visit
J.D. Power and Associates has named the 2007 Honda CR-V, Fit and Ridgeline as the "most-dependable" vehicles in their respective segments in its 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study? (VDS).
The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old vehicles (2007 model year), includes 198 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality. The industry average for all vehicles in the 2010 VDS survey measured 155 PP100.
The CR-V compact multi-activity vehicle received an overall score of 113 PP100. The Fit subcompact received an overall score of 137 PP100, and the Ridgeline midsize pickup received an overall score of 109 PP100. The Honda Accord was also among the top three models in the midsize car segment with a score of 103 PP100.
J.D. Power and Associates also measures initial quality of new vehicles. Last year the CR-V and the Honda Ridgeline pickup ranked highest in their respective segments in the company's 2009 Initial Quality Study? (IQS). The Honda CR-V ranked highest for IQS in its segment for the third consecutive year, with an IQS score of 93 PP100, and the Honda Ridgeline truck ranked highest in the midsize pickup segment, with an IQS score of 81 PP100.
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on cell phone ratings, car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.