Buying Guides

Crossovers With the Roomiest Third Row Seats

Adults won't feel banished to the nosebleeds

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Three-row crossovers are the people movers of today. The minivan will always have its place, but most folks are now opting for a taller standing, non-sliding-door vehicle with an SUV-like design and a car-like ride. There are quite a few of these vehicles out there and more of them pop up each year. Automakers seem to like to stick a third row of seating in the back of a large crossover. The issue with that is most of the third-row seats out there aren't comfortable due to a lack of legroom. Still, there are some vehicles in this segment that manage to have enough room in every row of seating.

Chevrolet Traverse

  • PROS: Third-row legroom of 33.5 inches, six trim levels to choose from, lower starting price, seats up to eight people.
  • CONS: Bland handling, infotainment system could be easier to use, fuel economy isn’t great, package that includes the rear seat entertainment system costs $2,385

The Chevrolet Traverse ($28,700 base MSRP) is a lot like a minivan with SUV style. It seats up to eight people, has a smooth, compliant ride, and is family friendly thanks to its features, amenities, and space. It has plenty of room inside the cabin, even in the rear of the vehicle. This means it has the most third-row legroom of any other affordable three-row crossover at 33.5 inches. So, not only can you transport eight people, but those folks won’t complain the whole ride about feeling cramped.

The Traverse comes with a 281 hp and 288 lb-ft of torque 3.6-liter V6 engine under the hood and can be had in front or all-wheel drive. It manages about 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, which isn’t too bad for a big vehicle. Still, the Honda Pilot, Volvo XC90, Ford Explorer, and several other vehicles do better. The Traverse comes in five trim levels and with plenty of amenities, including a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, rear park assist, power liftgate, blind spot monitoring, and forward collision monitoring. Also, it's important to note that Chevrolet has a new, updated 2018 Traverse that should be even better than the 2017 model year.

Buick Enclave

  • PROS: Third-row legroom of 33.2 inches, one of the largest cargo spaces in class, plenty of standard equipment, comfortable and luxurious interior.
  • CONS: Styling is a bit long in the tooth, sub standard fuel economy ratings, and a dated interior and infotainment system.

The big, bulbous Enclave is a soft and comfortable land yacht for seven people. It features generous room for all occupants with the third-row passengers enjoying 33.2 inches of legroom. The rest of the cabin is similar in terms of comfort. Seating materials are top notch and there’s a fairly long list of standard features, including tri-zone climate control, power adjustable front seats, a backup camera, park assist, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Enclave is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. That engine manages to get 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The model is available in three trim levels. Each of them has improved levels of equipment and features, and there are also additional options to add should you choose. The Enclave can be had in either front or all-wheel drive.

Ford Explorer

  • PROS: Third-row legroom of 33.3 inches, advanced infotainment system and safety features, handsome exterior styling, quick with the twin-turbo V6.
  • CONS: Feels larger than it is, maneuverability and visibility are better in competitors, cramped driver foot well.

The Ford Explorer ($31,660 base MSRP) does everything pretty good. It offers powerful engines, attractive styling inside and out, some off-road and towing capability and a spacious cabin. The model boasts 33.3 inches of legroom in the rearmost seats and plenty of room for the vehicles other occupants as well. That being said the driver’s foot well is a little tight, surprisingly. Available equipment includes a rearview camera, Sync 3 infotainment system, hands-free automatic liftgate, park assist, lane keep assist, navigation, and a 10-inch digital gauge cluster.

The Explorer is powered by either a 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque 3.5-liter V6, or a 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6. The most fuel efficient engine is the turbo four, and it makes 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Still, the top-of-the-line twin-turbo V6 manages 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, which is a smidge better than the Travers and Enclave listed above. The Explorer is offered in five trim levels with the highest, Platinum trim, offering premium brand levels of comfort, materials, and amenities. Also, it can be had with all-wheel drive if you need it.

Honda Pilot

  • PROS: Third-row legroom of 31.9 inches, large cargo bay, top-notch safety scores, and an attractive exterior.
  • CONS: Infotainment controls can be difficult to use, lane departure warning a bit annoying.

The Honda Pilot ($30,745 base MSRP) is another large crossover that’s well-rounded. It’s the perfect everyday vehicle for a lot of people which is why it sells remarkably well. There’s plenty of features, plenty of cargo room, and lots of passenger space. This Honda has 31.9 inches of legroom in the third row, placing it on this list easily. Aside from the spacious third-row, there are two other comfy rows of seating, a rearview camera, a touchscreen infotainment system, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning with steering assist and automatic collision mitigation.

The Honda Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. The vehicle can be had in front or all-wheel drive and manages to get 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway in its most efficient form. Honda offers the Pilot in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trim levels. The each higher trim level comes with more equipment.

Mercedes-Benz GLS

  • PROS: Third-row legroom of 35 inches, elegant interior and exterior styling, powerful and engine options, tons of available features.
  • CONS: Infotainment system can be confusing, more expensive than its immediate competition, thirsty engines.

Mercedes-Benz GLS ($69,550 base MSRP) does almost everything better than the competition. It’s more comfortable, faster, and wonderful to drive. Also, its rearmost seats offer tons of room when compared to the competition. The GLS has 35 inches of legroom back there. The rest of the seats are equally spacious and comfortable and the high-class-looking cabin and sumptuous materials make everything else out there seem plebian. The model comes with loads of standard and available features as well, including active brake assist, attention assist, crosswind assist, a backup camera, power liftgate, COMAND infotainment system with touchpad controller and an 8-inch high-res screen, navigation, and a rear seat entertainment system.

The model is powered by one of four different engine options. There’s a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 that makes 255 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, a 4.7 liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 449 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and a 5.5 liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. The most fuel efficient engine is the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 (the diesel has yet to be rated) at 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway

Why a three-row crossover?

  • Seating for seven or more without the minivan stigma.
  • A high ride height and good visibility.
  • Some mild off-road and towing capabilities.

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