I hope no one here misunderstands when I say “large families” I am definitely not implying that the people who make up this group are somehow fatter than elephants at a pie eating contest. No, I am just referring here to the number of family members. You see the difference?
Large families come in all shapes, sizes, colors and political affiliations but if you are a couple with more than two children your vehicular needs change big time. Whereas you could get away with a sporty family sedan or wagon with two kids, with three you pretty much need a minivan or large SUV.
But don’t head on down to your local Chevy dealer just yet for a Suburban. Just because there are lots of play dates in your schedule doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your money on gas. Also, just because you need lots of cargo/human room does not mean you have to dread driving the “family car.” Trust me, I have road tested a number of surprisingly quick and agile family vehicles this year.
To be quite honest, vehicles like the Chevy Suburban are just too big for 90% of the places they go and the people who own them are usually not equipped to drive such a large vehicle. I can’t tell you how many times the driver of a Suburban/Escalade/Yukon XL has nearly mowed me down in a grocery store parking lot. These people aren’t mean, they just can’t see me!
So here are five terrific choices for those of you out there with large families with up to 8 members. Now, if you need more seats than that I can show you something in a school bus. And you might want to talk to someone about the concept of contraception.
2011 Toyota Sienna SE
When you absolutely, positively must have a minivan the Toyota Sienna SE is currently the most fun to drive choice out there. (Note: I have not yet tested the 2011 Odyssey, however.) The SE is the Sienna you want to go for if you don’t want soggy handling and vague steering.
In addition to some slight trim changes, the SE gets a sporty suspension set up that gives it serious cornering skills and a steering rack that wouldn’t be out of place in a sport sedan. Yes, I am serious. I didn’t believe it either until I drove one. This is not a marketing gimmick.
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 AWD
If you are on a budget yet still need seating for seven you can’t really go wrong with Kia’s 2011 Kia Sorento which also happens to be built here in the USA. The third row of seats isn’t huge but it is fine for most kids. It lacks the versatility of a minivan but it looks and drives a lot better than most of them. The interior is also gorgeously appointed and you get a very long 10 year warranty.
2011 Acura MDX/Honda Pilot
When in doubt, I always say, buy the Honda or Acura. These seven passenger SUVs are reliable, roomy, are built to last and return decent fuel economy given their size and weight. The Acura would always be my preferred choice but if you are on a budget you can get a lot of the MDX’s goodness at a much lower price.
2011 Ford Flex
The Ford Flex stands out because it offers minivan like room for seven yet it isn’t one. It also isn’t really a wagon or an SUV. Who cares what it is because all that matters is what it can do. The Flex has a versatile, well built and stylish interior. It is also available with the same 3.5 liter 346 horsepower Ecoboost motor from the Taurus SHO. That makes the Flex the muscle car of this grouping.
2011 GMC Acadia
For the 2011 model year the GMC Acadia adds a new high luxury “Denali” trim that starts at $43,000. If that price is too high for your budget GMC also has other variants that are more cost efficient. Chevy and Buick also sell versions of this 7 or 8 passenger SUV (based on configuration) but none of them encompass as many price points.
The GMC also has the most accessible and comfortable third row I have ever experienced in my whole life. Yes, adults can actually ride in the back without needing a chiropractor visit. Yet the Acadia is small enough that I have never almost been mowed down by one in a supermarket parking lot.