We are 109,000+ car owners sharing real-world car information.

Join Us

Mid-size SUV that is reliable, fun to drive, and tows

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

mayham07

Safe, comfortable, tows up to 5K, accessible for mother from wheelchair (seats not too high or too low), decent mpg, good resale value. Nothing too huge, enough for 2 to sleep in if needed, and small enough to parallel park occasionally. Loved the Mazda CX9 (I'm an old die hard sports car owner) but I want a reliable car that won't cost me repairs, and as a woman, want to work with a helpful dealer, so I am gun shy after reading about mechanical complaints and poor company response to customers. Liked the Subaru, but also wary about recent complaints about reliability (axels, head gaskets), and towing is limited even in the V6. Liked the Pilot ride better than the Highlander, both promise be reliable, but not too much fun to drive. Highlander is really stiff and bumpy, I've eliminated it because of the rough, boring ride, even tho I am a 3x Toyota owner. Right now I am leaning toward the Pilot, but not too enthusiastically. Any SUVs out there I should still try? I enjoyed the Mazda the most, it would be an emotional purchase, since it has lower towing capability than the Pilot, and might cost me more considering all angles. Need something now, or I would wait to see the new Subaru Ascent, or the smaller Pilot.Yes, you needn't remind me that I am looking for the impossible vehicle to find, but any thoughts/opinions will be appreciated and graciously considered.

OK, perhaps a better way to approach my questions would be this: I am considering a 2018 Pilot, Outback, Mazda CX9, or Highlander, for everyday mostly highway, some city driving, as well as cross country trip/camping. For those of you who have towed a 2500# camper (mine is a Casita), with a recent version of any of these models, your opinion about towing performance, safety and handling would be appreciated. Also, very interested in your experiences with reliability of these SUVs in recent years. From that info, it should be a relatively easy choice. Thanks.

Priorities: Driving position & visibility / Handling / Towing

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider new cars only

Maximum price: US $ 42000

« Return to results

Sign in or join TrueDelta to post your own thoughts.

Sort responses by likes

Response from Dnslater

10:49 am February 16, 2018

The Mazda CX-9 is probably your best bet to meet all of your requirements while also being fun to drive. CX-9 is consistantly rated the best to drive in the segment and the interior is beautifuly executed.

I would throw another option at you for consideration. The Volkswagen Atlas. It is a new release and has a 5,000 lb towing capacity with the V6 and towing package. People worry about reliability with VW but they have gotten much better. The MQB platform that these use has a good history and the V6 is tried and true. Also new VW's have a 6 year, 72,000 mile warranty matching luxury makes and far excedding Mazda, Toyota, Honda, etc.....

Pilot is a solid choice as they are cleverly designed, but as with most recent Honda's, they are very bland..... and I am a long time Honda owner......

2

Link to this reponse

Volkswagen Atlas
Mazda CX-9

Response from danlisahall

4:24 pm February 16, 2018

Basically your looking for a mid size SUV While you don't mention a need for it, most these have 3 row seating. Thankfully, with $42K to spend, your choice won't be hampered much by budget constraints. I agree that CX-9 or Pilot would probably be the best choice of current models / models that have been on the road for several years. Neither are perfect, but they are both very good. While I don't have a lot of personal experience with most of these, my friend has a 2015 that he tows a has been very happy with.4,000 lb boat with and he has been very happy with it. Mazda also solid choice if you aren't too spooked by dealer reps. You might also want to take a look at the Kia Sorento. Kia has been turning out very well equipped, quality cars the past decade and they do have the longest warranty out there. Outback is the most compact of all, but still would meet your needs (two relatively small folks coud sleep in the back) The 3.6 L OB is rated for 2,700 lbs so it would handle your Casita nicely (Subaru forums suggest that they can handle 4000 lbs nicely). Also the Subie six seems to not have as many issues as the 2.5i that causes anxiety for some True Delta participants. I think the Subie axels are not a concern with recent models. The Outback has across the board Five Star safety ratings and if you like the idea of electronic driver aids, their Eye Sight system is one of the best.

We have a 2015 Outback 2.5i that I have used to tow a 2,000 lb boat over Cascade passes up to 4,000'. sy 60 mph but it is huffing a bit.T I live the driver aids which make driving easier & more relaxing for me. On the other hand, it makes my wife nervous and but my wife refuses to use it. To each their own! This car segment is very hot currently so there are a number of nice video review of some of your potential candidates such as this one: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_niEPR-bas) . If you are willing to take a chance on a new model, certainly look at the Atlas. Also, as you mentioned, Subaru will be releasing its new Ascent this summer which sounds like it could be a winner -- if you can wait 6 months. These new rigs are all immensely complex and you won't have to look too hard to find complaints on any of them! Since You will find that none of them are perfect so certainly consider any of the above, none of them are perfect, continue to do your diligence, test drive em all, and pick the one best suited for you and your family. Best wishes on you hunt and please let us know what you choose.

2

Link to this reponse

Kia Sorento
Volkswagen Atlas
Subaru Outback

Response from LectroFuel

11:24 am February 18, 2018

Is there a reason you aren't looking at a minivan? The Honda Odyssey is more practical and has a 3,500 lbs tow rating. Minivans have a larger passenger and cargo area with a similar exterior footprint, ride and handle more like a sedan, and are especially fit for someone with a wheelchair. In my experience, SUVs are more cumbersome to maneuver than a minivan. My wife has a Honda Odyssey and every time she or I drives a midsized SUV, she either hates it or says "it drives like it's twice as large as my van, but it's so small inside" The only SUV that didn't feel this way to me was the Acura MDX, Lexus RX (not really a midsizer), Mazda CX-9, and a Porsche Cayenne.

I have driven the Atlas, CX-9, Highlander, Pilot, 2017 Traverse, MDX, RX, Sorento, and the Porsche Cayenne. None of these are more practical than a minivan unless you need to off-road or tow over 3,500 lbs.

VW Atlas V6: This one felt the largest by far like driving a Tahoe or Suburban. I liked that the 3rd row was pretty spacious (not as spacious as a minivan still), the interior and engine noise were quiet, and the digital instument cluster was nice. I didn't like that the ride was stiff. With the stiff ride, I thought the car would handle well in turns, but it was the worst handling SUV I've driven. The engine was refined, but not powerful enough even with the V6. Just like the Tiguan, the Atlas needs to lose 300 lbs or so. MPGs are not good and I doubt it will be reliable being in its first year and it is a VW. Interior quality was not up to VW or German standards. Car reviewers seem to love this car, but I didn't see what they loved about it.

Mazda CX-9: This one is the best handling midsized SUV by far. It is also considerably smaller inside and has a super small 3rd row. I wouldn't recommend this because of your mom with the wheelchair. I don't know where you would put the wheelchair, like if you would replace the front passenger seat with a wheelchair or if you would put the wheelchair in the trunk. If you put the wheelchair in the trunk, this SUV would be fine I think. It has the nicest interior (and exterior) of any other midsized SUV. It also has had problems with the new turbo engine in its first year. It might be sorted out this year, but we don't know. It's an SUV that makes styling and driving dynamics ahead of practicality.

Toyota Highlander: This SUV is one of the better midsizers. It is the most reliable midsize. I thought it rode very well, better than all of them except for the RX, MDX, Sorento, and 2017 Traverse. The one I drove was quiet inside and materials were decent for the class. The interior is more practical than almost all the others because of the amount of storage and features. All safety features are standard on every trim.

Honda Pilot: I really like this one. It doesn't ride as well as the Highlander, but it's not bad. The interior is better quality than the Atlas and Highlander. The infotainment system is not good and there is no volume or tuning knob. It is easy to get into the 3rd row. It was one of the quieter midsizers. Driving the car, it felt much heavier than it really was, but nothing like the Atlas. The V6 makes it one of the fastest midsizers. People have had problems with the rough 9 speed transmission on the Touring and Elite trims.

Subaru Outback: I haven't driven one, but I've heard that it is super comfortable and great in the snow. Long term reliability is questionable with Subarus because of their tendancy to burn oil and blow head gaskets. I would suggest the V6 because the 2.5L is pretty slow and you are towing. Eye sight seems like it works well and it is easily accessible in the lower-mid trims. It doesn't have 3 rows if you need it, but the trunk is big.

Overall, I think the Pilot, Highlander, and Outback are your best bets. The CX-9 might also be good if you are willing to sacrifice some space and practicality. If you want the best of everything, the Honda Odyssey is definitely the way to go. Good luck and tell us what you buy!

2

Link to this reponse

Honda Pilot
Toyota Highlander
Subaru Outback

Response from LectroFuel

11:32 am February 18, 2018

I forgot to say that the Sorento is a very good SUV. I drove one on a road trip and it was close to luxury quality. It doesn't handle well and it is not that big inside, but it rides smoothly and quietly. It has a 10 year/100k mile powertrain warranty. The infotainment system is very easy to use. It gives you a lot of cool features for less money than its competitors. I don't know how it would do towing. The V6 I drove was neither fast or slow. Automatic braking is standard on all trims. The 3rd row seat is cramped.

2

Link to this reponse

Response from neverbored2

2:18 pm February 28, 2018

With the thought that this might be helpful to mayham07, I am strongly considering the 2018 Mazda CX-9 and a Bruno exterior platform lift, such as the Outsider, for carrying a powerchair or mobility scooter. This would let me have my cake and eat it, too, I think!

I would love to hear opinions, experiences, pros and cons on using a lift-type product with an SUV.

1

Link to this reponse

Mazda CX-9

Response from LectroFuel

8:18 pm February 28, 2018

neverbored2, I would recommend a minivan if you need to carry a wheelchair both for the convenience of getting in and out of the vehicle (easy step in height with a minvan as well as an SUV) and the ability to carry the wheelchair if the lift breaks (not as easy in an SUV). Minivans have much more passenger and cargo space than SUVs, but you do have to "be seen" in a minivan.

The Mazda CX-9 has "sport" seats, which means the side bolsters in the seats keep you in place while going around corners. This also means it is considerably harder to get in and out of the car, especially when disabled. Mazdas are always like this because they are driver's cars, but something that puts comfort and convenience first like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 (without sport seats) better suits most older/disabled people. If you need something with the size of the CX-9 and don't want a minivan, the Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, or Toyota Highlander are good choices if you need easy access. I have no experience with wheelchairs or lifts, but I am knowledgeable on cars/SUVs.

0

Link to this reponse

Sign in or join TrueDelta to post your own thoughts.

Return to top