Buying Guides

Vehicles With Automatic Hands-Free Power Liftgates

You can be lazy and really flaunt it

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Automatic power liftgates are one of the handiest features of any of the recent automotive updates. While most advancements in automotive technology focus on connectivity and media, sometimes something fairly simple like an automatically opening door is just more useful. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can't help you when you have your arms full of groceries, but an automatically opening power liftgate with hands-free operation can. Before this technology, you either had to put down whatever was in your hand to gain access to your vehicle or get a friend, family member, or nice stranger to help you open your rear hatch. It's true that a power liftgate isn't the end-all-be-all of automotive features, but once you get used to it, you won't want a vehicle without it.

2017 Ford Edge

  • PROS: Power liftgate available on three trim levels, smooth and relaxed ride, good variation in engine lineup, spacious and comfortable passenger seats.
  • CONS: Can’t get the power liftgate on base trim, cabin isn’t the most attractive and uses cheap materials, no third row of seating.

The Ford Edge ($28,950 base MSRP) is an excellent crossover for the family of five. It offers a comfortable and spacious interior, Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, and decent driving dynamics with a smooth ride. The hands-free power liftgate isn’t available on the base SE trim level, but on all subsequent trims – SEL, Platinum, and Sport – it comes standard. The Edge can also be had with all-wheel drive, navigation, parking aids and cameras, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping warning, and high-end leather seating surfaces.

Ford offers a variety of power plants under the hood of Edge, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that makes 315 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The most fuel efficient engine is obviously the 2.0-liter turbo and it manages 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway when equipped with front-wheel drive and automatic start/stop technology.

2017 GMC Acadia

  • PROS: Power liftgate available on four trim levels, three rows of seating, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, handsome exterior.
  • CONS: Bottom two trim levels can't come with the power liftgate, cramped third row, small cargo space with third-row in place, fuel economy isn’t great, ride on the firmer side.

GMC redesigned the Acadia ($29,020 base MSRP) for the 2017 model year and the vehicle is sleeker than ever before and better to drive. It features a quality IntelliLink infotainment system with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and Sirius XM Radio. Also available on the Acadia is a rear-seat entertainment system, a Bose audio system, blind-spot alerts, lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, a rearview camera, and an automatic power liftgate. Unfortunately, the power liftgate is only available in the top four trim levels: SLE-2, SLT-1, SLT-2, and Denali.

Power for the Acadia is supplied by either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 194 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque or a 3.6-liter V6 that chugs out 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. The four-pot engine is the more efficient one as it manages 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, but even it can’t match most of the competition.

2017 Nissan Rogue

  • PROS: Power liftgate is standard only on two trim levels and optional on two others, comfortable seats, plenty of features and technology.
  • CONS: Can’t get a power liftgate in all trim levels, vague steering, significant body roll, technology is robust but not fast or smooth.

Nissan has a real winner in the Rogue ($24,420 base MSRP). It sells better than the company’s cars thanks to a comfortable interior, a striking exterior, and tons of amenities and features. One of the best features of the vehicle is its motion activated power liftgate, which is standard on SL and SL Hybrid trims and available on SV and SV Hybrid trims. The S trim and Midnight Edition don’t get the option. Aside from the power liftgate, the Rogue can also be had with a power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, blind spot warning, around-view monitor, Bluetooth, NissanConnect with mobile apps, navigation, and a Bose audio system.

Nissan’s Rogue is powered by either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque or a 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain that makes 176 hp. Obviously, the hybrid power plant gets the best gas mileage, managing 33 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with front-wheel drive.

2017 Buick Envision

  • PROS: Hands-free power liftgate on all trim levels, spacious and luxurious interior with comfy seats, peppy turbocharged engine.
  • CONS: Base engine is weak, handling is uninspiring, bland exterior styling, completely isolates you from the road.

If you want a crossover that will seal you off from the cold hard world, the Buick Envision ($34,065 base MSRP) is it. It’s soft, comfortable, and luxurious. If you’re interested in driving as an activity, then this isn’t the vehicle for you, but if you just want something that is pleasant to sit in as you zoom around town, this is an excellent choice. The Envision comes with a fair amount of equipment at all trim levels, including an automatic power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and an 8-inch infotainment system. Optional equipment includes all-wheel drive, blind-spot monitoring, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, rear cross-traffic alert, front parking sensors, and forward collision alert.

Under the hood, the Envision comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 197 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque standard or an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The 2.5-liter engine is the more efficient of the two managing 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway when equipped with front-wheel drive.

2017 Honda CR-V

  • PROS: Automatic power liftgate with programmable height available in two trims, good fuel economy, attractive exterior and interior styling.
  • CONS: No automatic power liftgate on two bottom trims, engine could be more powerful, The Mazda CX-5 offers sportier driving dynamics.

The Honda CR-V ($24,045 base MSRP) offers a package that is easy to live with and use. There’s plenty of room in the cabin, it's attractive, and both engine options offer excellent fuel economy. Also, there’s plenty of features. Unfortunately, not all those features can be had on every trim level, like the automatic power liftgate, which is only available in the EX-L and Touring trim levels. Aside from that feature, the CR-V can be had with leather seating, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Bluetooth connectivity, 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Honda Sensing safety suite.

The CR-V offers two different engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 184 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque and a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder that makes 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are fuel efficient but the 1.5-liter with front wheel drive does the best, getting 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

  • PROS: Hands-free power liftgate available on all trim levels, more standard features than most of the competition, sleek exterior, powerful V6.
  • CONS: Hands-free power liftgate isn’t standard in bottom trim level (optional), thirsty engine, only one engine offered.

The Hyundai Santa Fe ($30,800 base MSRP) is one of the best-equipped crossovers out there. The list of standard equipment is long and includes things like dual-zone climate control, power adjusting seats, Bluetooth, Blue Link Connected Car System, Sirius XM radio, Android Auto, and a 7-inch infotainment screen. The hands-free power liftgate is standard on all but the top trim level and is still offered as an option on the base trim. Speaking of options, the vehicle can be had with a heated steering wheel, navigation, Infinity premium audio system, 3rd-row USB ports, all-wheel drive, blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane-departure warning. Pair all that equipment with the Santa Fe’s attractive exterior and competent driving dynamics, and you have one heck of a CUV.

The lone engine option for the Santa Fe is a powerful 3.3-liter V6. It manages to pump out 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, which makes it able to tow as much as a Honda Ridgeline pickup (5,000 lbs). However, its 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway number, when equipped with front-wheel drive, is less than exciting.

2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

  • PROS: Automatic hands-free power liftgate only available in top two trims, lots of standard technology, infotainment system easy to use, powerful V8 engine.
  • CONS: Bottom trim can’t get the automatic hands-free power liftgate, Body-on-frame makes for a truck-like ride, thirst V8 engine, only one engine option, and cramped third row of seating.

The Chevrolet Tahoe ($48,510 base MSRP) has been the go-to for many families that need a three-row SUV that can tow a trailer with ease (up to 8,600 lbs). The Tahoe also comes with a lot of standard equipment, including automatic climate control, rearview camera, rear parking sensors, OnStar automatic crash response and safety features, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, the hands-free power liftgate is only standard in the top trim level. It’s optional on the LT, midlevel trim level, but unavailable on the lowest, LS trim.

The Tahoe is powered by a 5.3-liter V8 engine that punches out 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. This makes it possible to tow your boat or even a horse trailer should you need. The big V8 is pretty thirsty, but that’s kind of the tradeoff you have to make with a V8. It still manages 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, which isn’t terrible.

Why get an automatic liftgate?

  • Cargo area is easy to get to without having to break out your keys.
  • No need to put items down to open the door.
  • Makes shopping a breeze.

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