The very name, "SUV Crossover," might confuse you, but we’re here to offer a definitive explanation for the naming convention. First, clear your mind. Now, close your eyes and listen. An SUV Crossover is basically a Midsize SUV. So why the name change? The industry as a whole has adopted various names for what essentially is the same vehicle—SUV Crossover is a Midsize SUV just like a Small Crossover is a Compact SUV. And nobody can seem to agree on the proper nomenclature. Just remember, an SUV Crossover is the same thing as a Midsize SUV.
With the semantics out of the way, it’s time to pay attention to the Top 5 SUV Crossovers for 2014. They all utilize a unibody platform, which mean means lighter weight, a more car-like ride and better fuel efficiency. Here are our Top 5 Recommended SUV Crossovers for 2014.
Our favorite SUV Crossover of 2014, the Highlander will surely impress even the most finicky shopper. The handling has a slightly numb feel and third-row seating could be slightly more spacious. But on the positive side, it has solid cargo room and flexible seating arrangements, a comfortable, quiet ride, and abundant convenience features. Refinement, safety and reliability are a given. Basically, Highlander is the definition of a good family vehicle. Base power is a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine with 6-speed automatic transmission, but the available 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with a 5-speed automatic is the way to go, albeit with a 2–3 mpg penalty.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 19 city/25 highway.
The Pilot’s boxy, angular styling will never be called svelte. However, it does help maximize interior space. Pilot is the only SUV Crossover here with standard 8-passenger seating, making it a natural choice for big or extended families. Plus, the second- and third-row seats fold 60/40, a trick shared only with the Acadia. The interior has many such intelligent details, but down-market trim mars the overall impression. As for the chassis, the sole power choice is a 250 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with a 5-speed automatic transmission. The engine is Honda-smooth, but overall handling isn’t at the leading edge.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 18 city/25 highway.
Long one of America’s favorite SUV Crossovers, Explorer for 2014 is a whole new animal. Ford ditched the body-on-frame design of the 2012 model in favor of a car-like unibody design. Car-like it is, because this Explorer feels more like a well-sorted sedan. Base power comes from a 290 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with 6-speed automatic transmission; some models offer a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo. Of note to speed freaks, the new Sport trim uses the same 365 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 found in the Taurus SHO, along with various chassis upgrades. On the driveline front, 2014 Explorer no longer offers a transfer case with low-range gearing.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 17 city/23 highway.
Oddly enough, the GMC “truck people” have created what is probably the most upmarket, luxurious SUV Crossover in this group. The exterior is modern, attractive and should age well. Inside, the refreshed 8-passenger interior boasts improved materials, French stitching and more soft-touch surfaces. The 6.5-inch touchscreen display for audio controls is easy to use, but it’s a bit small for the available navigation features. Power comes from a 288-horsepower V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Luxury has its price: the base MSRP on Acadia is about $5000 higher than for the other members of this group.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 17 city/24 highway.
Pathfinder joins Explorer in swapping its truck underpinnings for a unibody design, adopting the chassis used by the Infiniti JX35 and Nissan Murano. However, the Pathfinder lost some capability in the process but it gained sophistication and comfort. Some high-end JX35 features are available, including “Around View,” which uses four cameras to create a bird’s eye view of everything just outside the vehicle. Power comes from a 260-horsepower V6. The CVT (continuously variable transmission) can be a love it or loathe it thing, but it does contribute to the best standard fuel economy ratings in this group. Handling is comfort-biased, with cornering showing noticeable body roll and weak grip.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 20 city/26 highway.