2013 buyer's guide to family SUVs & crossovers: Encore, Explorer - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

2013 buyer's guide to family SUVs and crossovers

Updated: June 14, 2012 11:57 AM EDT
The 2013 Buick Encore (©General Motors) The 2013 Buick Encore (©General Motors)
The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport (©Ford Motor Company) The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport (©Ford Motor Company)
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (©Mercedes-Benz USA) The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (©Mercedes-Benz USA)


By Suzanne Kane

Do you need to shuffle varied numbers of people and amounts of cargo from one place to another, daily? If you've done some shopping around you know that it can be tough finding just the right crossover or SUV to fit the bill, in terms of price, features, versatility, safety, and styling. For 2013, there are a number of redesigned vehicles to consider, ranging from compact family SUVs and crossovers all the way to full-size family-friendly haulers.

Compact

2013 Buick Encore

With the addition of the 2013 Buick Encore to the brand's expanding lineup, Buick is targeting its all-new compact luxury crossover against the BMW X1  coming soon and the Audi Q3, which may not be far behind. One point worth noting, in terms of cargo capacity that's important to family crossover buyers, is that the Encore has 48.4 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down, and 18.8 cubic feet with them up.

Inside the Encore, the "terrific looking" dashboard seems to flow into the door panels. A standard seven-inch color LCD display works with the available navigation system and Buick's IntelliLink voice activated system, which will be standard.

But families will really appreciate the Buick QuietTuning or active noise cancellation feature. Whether on a long ride or during hops around town, the cabin of the Encore is supremely quiet. And QuietTuning is standard in all Encore models.

Safety-conscious families will note the ten standard airbags, cornering brake control, and brake assist. Optional safety technology includes rear vision camera, front and rear park assist, forward collision alert and lane departure warning.

2013 Ford Escape

The all-new 2013 Ford Escape compact crossover gets high marks from our editors, who rate it an 8 (out of 10), especially for its tight new styling, taut ride and handling, and high estimated gas mileage. "After eleven years, a changeup: the 2013 Ford Escape drops the faux-SUV pitch and reels off authentically athletic looks and performance."

The new Escape also has more cargo space than the previous model and includes numerous clever spots for hiding and toting various family paraphernalia. These include umbrella holders on the seats, a hidden floor bin in the second row, and ticket holders in the sun visors. And the new hands-free tailgate option opens and closes the hatch with the swing of a foot.

Other stellar attributes of the Escape include best-in-class safety technology, from standard stability and curve control to optional rearview camera, parking sensors, active park assist and blind spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts.

2013 Mazda CX-5

The 2013 Mazda CX-5, Mazda's first all-new crossover in some time, replaces the now-discontinued Tribute and is aiming to take on the likes of the new 2013 Ford Escape, the redesigned 2012 Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 and the Chevrolet Equinox.

Our editors found the CX-5 to be one of the best-handling crossovers they've driven, while also lauding its smart, sporty styling, comfortable and well-bolstered front seats, and more-than-adequate room in the back seat for six-foot adults.

The load floor is long and flat and the 40/20/40 split rear seat has a clever folding arrangement. The only drawbacks seem to be somewhat sluggish acceleration and the fact that the CX-5 only has six airbags, when some competitors are offering up to ten. All in all, though, our editors rate the 2013 Mazda CX-5 an overall 7.4 (out of 10).

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Derived from its Impreza half-sibling, the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek compact crossover is an all-new model name making its first appearance in the company's product portfolio. As with nearly every Subaru, the XV Crosstrek will come with standard all-wheel drive, a feature increasingly popular with American consumers, and will arrive at dealerships sometime this summer.

But this is no Impreza clone. The XV Crosstrek achieves its separation by starting with larger 17-inch wheels and a higher 8.7-inch ground clearance than the 5.9 inches standard on the Impreza. The front disc brakes are also bigger.

Exterior styling notable in the XV Crosstrek includes the new front grille and fascia and new rear bumper design, along with a different rear spoiler, standard roof rails and tinted glass.

On the inside, the specs of the XV Crosstrek are not much changed from the Impreza. With the 60/40 split-rear folding seat down, there's 52.4 cubic feet of cargo space. A removable rolling cargo cover, tie-down loops, grocery bag hooks and waterproof tray are other familiar Subaru features.

Available in well-equipped Premium and Limited models only (no base), the XV Crosstrek has optional power moonroof and a navigation system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen. The All-Weather package, including heated front seats and exterior mirrors and a wiper de-icer is optional on Premium and standard on Limited.

Mid-size

2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Ford adds excitement this year to the Explorer lineup with the addition of the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport, billed as the first-ever performance version of the Explorer. What's different? Start with 350-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. In the words of our editors, the Explorer Sport is "basically an Explorer SHO."

There are also new styling details: the Explorer name appears on the front of the vehicle, new wheels and polished tips on the high-performance exhaust. Other Sport features include rearview camera, 4WD with Terrain Management system, front heated seats, 12-speaker Sony Premium Audio system with HD radio, and SYNC with MyFord Touch. Optional safety technology includes inflatable rear seat belts, Active Park Assist, and Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert.

The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport, priced from $40,720, goes on sale late this year.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

There are not one, but two models of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size crossover to appeal to growing and established families. There's the two-row five-passenger Santa Fe Sport, out first this fall, and the three-row Santa Fe suitable for seven passengers, available early next year. Both offer, in the words of our editors, "aggressive new styling, terrific fuel economy, and a ton of features for a reasonable price," which translates to our 7.8 (out of 10) overall rating for the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system will be available and features remote start capabilities. BlueLink also incorporates navigation and Bluetooth streaming for apps such as Pandora, and it works in conjunction with a smartphone. Other features available on some models include push-button start, heated and cooled front seats, and automatic climate control. An optional panoramic sunroof adds to the feeling of openness.

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe will both be available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. As for safety technology, all Santa Fe models have seven airbags, including side curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. The three-row Santa Fe will offer the first Blind Spot Detection system in a Hyundai vehicle.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

When it goes on sale this fall, the all-new 2013 Nissan Pathfinder mid-size crossover will be more car-like than truck-like, although it will still offer an available four-wheel drive traction system. But the biggest change, outside of its sleek exterior design, is the interior -- Nissan actually calls it a full-sizer inside, and the packaging in the third row makes the sixth and seventh passenger seating much more accommodating. There's also a panoramic roof on the list of features.

As for power, the Pathfinder will sport a V-6 engine paired with continuously variable transmission, a combination that Nissan says will produce a 25 percent better fuel economy on the EPA combined cycle that the 2012 model. The new Pathfinder's aerodynamic body should also help with fuel economy.

Not much else has yet been released about the Pathfinder, but we'll be covering it in more detail as information becomes available.

Full-size

Although not yet due for a complete redesign, the trio of General Motors full-size crossovers, the 2013 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia, do receive modest facelifts and freshening.

2013 Buick Enclave

Our editors find the 2013 Buick Enclave "one of the most distinctive and comfortable full-size crossovers," and hail the "substantially upgraded interior" while giving it an overall 8.2 (out of 10) rating. Exterior changes include a new front fascia, new headlamp design and new hood. But it's the interior that boasts the most change: new trim, materials, more soft-touch surfaces and ‘live stitching.' The eight-passenger Enclave, along with its siblings, the Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia, features the industry-first front-center airbag and, for the first time, available side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

2013 Chevrolet Traverse

The 2013 Chevrolet Traverse receives an updated exterior and interior, along with more infotainment options that our editors note are "the better to take on the Ford Flex and Explorer." With an overall 8.0 (out of 10 rating), the three-row, seven-passenger Traverse, boasting 12 cupholders, innovative SmartSlide second-row feature, and 24.4 cubic feet of space behind the third row, is definitely a family hauler. The new front-center airbag will be standard on LT and LTZ, while the side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert systems will be standard on LTZ.

2013 GMC Acadia

Going on sale later this year, the 2013 GMC Acadia and Acadia Denali eight-passenger crossovers sport some new exterior design elements and technology and safety updates. On the exterior, the Acadia has a new three-bar grille, LED daytime running lamps, new taillight design, wraparound rear glass and a new rear spoiler. On the inside, the Acadia has upgraded soft-touch materials, French stitching, red ambient dashboard lighting, and the SmartSlide seating system standard. Also standard is the GMC Color Touch Radio, an infotainment system with capacitative touch controls and available IntelliLink and HD Radio. All GMC Acadia models feature the front-center airbag, while the side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert systems are standard on Acadia Denali and available on Acadia. A rear vision camera and six months of OnStar service are standard on all models.  

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Designed for families seeking a three-row full-size SUV with the utmost in luxury, the all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Class offers more of just about everything: more room, power, safety and amenities.

Exterior styling, while subtle, is most apparent in the front end and is crisper and more angular than the 2012 model. Available in GL350 BlueTEC 4MATIC, GL450 and range-topping GL550 models, the GL Class is powered by a revised 240-horsepower, gasoline-fueled 3.0-liter turbodiesel, a 362-horsepower 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8, and a 429-horsepower version of the same twin-turbo V-8, respectively.

A new seven-speed transmission, electric power steering and intelligent alternator management help increase fuel efficiency. Standard safety features include Collision Prevention Assist, Brake Assist, Attention Assist and Crosswind Stabilization.

On the inside, the new GL Class boasts increased shoulder, elbow and headroom in all three rows, and a third row power seat is now standard across the line. While the two upper models can be equipped with an On and Off Road package, the GL Class, in general, is ideally suited for long-distance highway cruising.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Class goes on sale this fall.

For information on other SUVs and crossovers, by highest rated, price, MPG, year/model and popularity, go to our New SUVs/Wagons page.

This story originally appeared at The Car Connection

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