The Best SUV in 2017
Has The Most Tech-filled Features
[To Keep You Safe]
by Bill Flitter
My hunt for a new car continues. My wife’s trusted Honda Pilot is nearing the end with over 200k miles. She doesn’t want to stray from the Pilot. It has been a very reliable car for years. However, I think it makes sense to look around at other options. I can’t quite convince her she needs the Cement-colored 4Runner TRD Pro. That ‘dream’ (my dream) will be put on hold until it’s time to give up my Prius. The next category to explore is the ‘Best SUV 2017’ for our family.
It’s no surprise that SUVs are selling more than sedans. They enable great views of roads, cargo storage, lots of seating, safety and pleasant driving experiences. Additionally, SUVs can be driven for daily trips around town as well as long drives for family vacations, and camping. Regardless, Midsize SUVs have the magical combination of size, power and fuel economy to supply both sport and utility for the whole family.
photo courtesy of MotorTrend
7 Features The ‘Best SUV 2017’ Must Have
The top most popular midsize SUVs are the Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Kia Sorento, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Murano. Predictably, they all provide advanced safety technology, power, entertainment, connectivity, luxury, and practicality. They are the top of their class but are they right for my family. My wife provided a list of 7 features the ‘Best SUV 2017’ must have for her to consider it – her list was something like below. I did a bit of research to understand each feature.
For me, the safety of my family is paramount and very important that’s why I think if you’re buying an SUV you should consider ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) features. In fact, research by Chris Hendrickson Ph.D., director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 Institute found that safety systems at current prices provide financial benefits for both the car buyer and society in the report, Cost and Benefit Estimates of Partially-Automated Vehicle Collision Avoidance Technologies.
Besides the financial benefits, sensors, cameras, and safety tech can help you to worry less about driving your family. Be sure to look for backup cameras, surround-view video, automatic emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian detection, blind spot warnings, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert and drowsiness alert. While these features may have slightly different names from different automakers, when you take the time to fully understand how they work, you, like me will be amazed.
Backup cameras are standard on SUVs to help see what is behind you. 360° view cameras let you see what’s around the vehicle which makes parallel parking or pulling out a tight spot easier. Side cameras ensure that when you’re driving you understand how far you are from the curb
Blind Spot Warning
Blind spot warnings, alert you if there’s another car in the blind spot of the lane you are trying to enter.
Automatic Emergency Braking
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) will stop the SUV in situations where you don’t have the time to react. Rear cross-traffic alert, warns you when something is going to cross your path while you are backing out.
Detecting pedestrians and being alerted of drowsiness can also keep a family safe. The Toyota Highlander can be equipped with pedestrian detection, while some Nissan Murano models with Driver Attention Alert (DAA) warn you when the way you drive indicates that you are getting drowsy.
4-6 Cylinders and All Wheel Drive
Most midsize SUVs are powered by six-cylinder engines except for the Kia Sorento which can be equipped with either four or six-cylinder engines. All of the top SUVs have the option for all-wheel drive which is great for areas where it snows or for families who go out into wilderness camping. The 4-cylinder models can lose their peppiness on high grades or mountains but have better gas mileage. If better gas mileage is important to you, the Toyota Highlander comes in a hybrid model which increases the gas mileage considerably and gets a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating.
SUVs Go to Great Heights
My family includes people of all heights. We recommend a rear power liftgate also called a power tailgate for those of us who have shorter people in the family. SUVs are about five feet high and that rear door can go up pretty high on some models.
Maybe you’ve seen the Ford commercials where the mom carrying packages crosses her leg under the car under the rear bumper and the rear liftgate opens automatically. Many SUV makers have some form of auto-opening, if not by leg movement, just by standing near the rear with the key fob in your pocket or purse. The liftgates on SUVs also can be adjusted on how high they open which is especially helpful for petite people – like my wife.
SUVs are great for camping. Both Nissan and Honda make tents that fit the rear of the SUV making it part of your temporary housing. You can also buy aftermarket tents that fit other SUV vehicles. We outdoors families may also enjoy optional moonroofs, they even have a net in front to catch the bugs.
Many of the models (except Nissan Murano) offer a third-row seating option. The width and headroom of these seats vary depending upon the model. The Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander are designed with very deep front center consoles in which you can store a large purse, a small shopping bag and even an iPad.
A great feature of midsize SUVs is you get plenty of room for positioning the child seats and many LATCH configurations. However, if you opt for second-row lounge or captain seats you typically lose one child seat for the second-row.
Like, we see in minivans (link to minivan article), automakers offer entertainment options for the back area. For instance, the Toyota Highlander has an option for a drop-down video screen for playing DVDs and movies as well as the Honda Pilot.
For smartphone connectivity, SUVs offer a large center touchscreen for connectivity and features. All the models except for the Toyota Highlander have an option for Apple Carplay to connect to iPhones. Android Auto and CarPlay are available on the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The Toyota Highlander like the Sienna has the Easy Speak function in which to communicate to the backseat, the driver can press a button and his or her voice can be heard the speakers in the back of the vehicle. The sound systems available on SUVs are incredible with many speakers placed throughout the cabin, making it sound like you are in your own traveling luxury sound systems.
An internet connection subscription with Wi-Fi hotspots to keep everybody connected is currently available in the Nissan Murano.
Assembled and Sold in the USA
All the aforementioned midsize SUVs are assembled in America. It makes sense since SUVs are so popular. The Toyota Highlander is put together in Princeton, Indiana. The Kia Sorento is built in West Point, Georgia. The Ford Explorer comes from the Chicago Assembly Plant in Illinois. The Honda Pilot is manufactured exclusively by Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC in Lincoln, Alabama. The Nissan Murano is assembled in Canton, Mississippi. Manufacturing in the United States helps cut down on shipping cost, making them more affordable.
The Toyota Highlander is trusted for reliability with nice attractive touches throughout to make driving pleasant. A wealth of safety, comfort and eco-friendly features are available. The available Stop and Start Engine System shuts the engine off when the Highlander is at rest to help save gas. The Highlander can seat up to eight and has ample room for child seats. The available power liftgate eases loading, while the available panoramic moonroof shows the stars at night or illuminates the cabin during the day. The Highlander Hybrid model reduces fuel and emissions.
• Birds Eye View 360 Camera
• Toyota Safety Sense Pre-Collision System With Pedestrian Dectection
• Land Departure Alert with Steering Assist
• Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alerts
• Backup Camera Display
• Driver Easy Speaker (allows your voice to transmit out of the back speakers)
• Height Adjustable Liftgate
• 4 Full LATCH Child Seat Locations With 2 Tether Anchors
• 5 USB Ports
• Split Siding and Reclining Fold Flat back seat
• Front-Wheel Drive or AWD (only available with V6)
• Front and Rear Seat Warmers
• Heated Steering Wheel
• Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation
• Rear-seat Blu-Ray DVD Entertainment System
• Panoramic Moonroof
• Three Zone Climate Control
The Ford Explorer is a strong powerful midsize SUV with lots of room and seating for up to seven people. The Explorer Sport adds luxurious features favored by affluent Millennials who understand a good value. SYNC 3 with Android Auto and Apple Carplay provides easy smartphone and app connections. The available rear power liftgate activated by a foot swipe makes loading package a breeze. The available ADAS features help make exploring the modern world carefree. The Expedition will even help you drive around curves. Curve Control slows down the Expedition as much as 10 mph in approximately one second when it senses a speed too fast for the curve such as exiting a freeway. MyKey allows parents to set speed and audio volume limits for the vehicle.
• Curve Control
• Reverse Sensing System
• Rearview camera with washer
• Collision warning with brake support
• Blind Spot Information System
• Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist
• Industry-first inflatable rear outboard safety belts
• 4 LATCH Child Seats
• 110V power outlet
• Power liftgate with an intelligent access key
• Universal Garage Door Opener
• Power-Assist Fold
• Power running boards
• Automatic parking assistance
• Remote Start
• Heated and cooled front seats
• Second-row heated bucket seats
• Adaptive Cruise Control
The 2018 Explorer will have a 4G LTE connection, with up to 10 Wi-Fi hotspots. That connection will also enable owners to start, lock, unlock and locate their Explorers using the FordPass app.
The Kia Sorento is practical, comfortable and economical with many configurations of four or six cylinders and front wheel or all wheel drive. Models are designed for five or seven person seating. The large UVO infotainment system connects to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The optional around view monitor shows what’s around the Sorento ADAS options provide advance safety assurance. The ten year -100,000 mile Kia warranty makes the Sorento a winner for buyers who plan to keep their SUVs on the road for many years.
• Optional around view monitor
• Lane departure warning
• Blind spot detection
• Rear cross traffic alert
• Autonomous emergency braking
• 7-Passenger model available
• All-wheel drive
• 2 LATCH child seats, plus one that uses tether anchors
• Power Liftgate
• Android Auto and CarPlay compatible 7” or 8” touchscreen with navigation
• Dynamic bending lights
• Panoramic sunroof
• Rear air conditioning controls
• Heated and ventilated front seats
The Honda Pilot blends elegance, function, reliability and dynamism for comfort as well as adventure. Honda Pilot has great handling and can handle up to eight people and an 82-quart cooler in the back. Honda’s LaneWatch, automatically shows you what is getting too close to the passenger side. The center console can hold a large purse and a small laptop or tablet. The available safety features and 8”inch screen that is Android Auto and CarPlay compatible make its technology very desirable. Campers will enjoy the compatible attachable tent. Drivers will enjoy its smooth ride while the kids can enjoy the optional entertainment system.
• Forward Collision Warning
• Lane Keeping Assist System/ Lane Departure Warning
• LaneWatch display, a blind spot information system, collision mitigation braking system
• Available Rear Cross Traffic Monitor
• One-Touch second-row seats
• 4 full LATCH child seat locations plus 2 using tether anchors
• Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System
• Center console for items as large as a full-size iPad or a purse
• Available Adaptive Cruise Control
• Standard multi-angle rearview camera
• Rear entertainment system
The Nissan Murano drives with artistic style, premium features and a blend of luxurious sportiness. I had the first generation Murano and absolutely loved it! Although the Nissan Murano only seats five, the zero gravity seats relax you like a lounge chair while the anti-fatigue engineering keeps you energized. Driver Attention Alert (DAA) will alert drivers who drive drowsy. The panoramic sunroof allows for a light interior feel. Nissan has upped its technology game with a full line of safety and tech features including Apple CarPlay and Wi-Fi hotspots. A hatch tent can be attached for camping fun.
• Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection
• Forward Emergency Braking
• Rear Cross Traffic Alert
• Avai Driver Attention Alert
• Blind spot warning
• Predictive Forward Collision Warning
• 8.0″ center touchscreen
• Two USB ports – one for front seats and another one available for the back
• Hatch tent
• Apple CarPlay
• Outboard rear heated seats
• Panoramic moonroof
• Front cooled seats
• Nissan Wi-Fi (monthly subscription required) and remote Apps
• Apps include Parental Controls, Find My Car, Geo Zone Alerts, Speed Tracker, Curfew Alerts and Valet Mode
Over to You
Help me choose the ‘Best SUV 2017.’ If you own one of the SUVs listed, what do you like about them (or hate)? Which safety or tech feature was your favorite? Are there any other SUVs that have worked well for your family?
[UPDATE] After conversing with SUV and Minivan owners on a few Facebook groups, I expanded my list: Best Family SUVs 2017.