Let’s face it, downsizing to a smaller vehicle simply isn’t practical for some drivers, particularly those who spend significant amounts of time traveling with a crowd—which is why evaluating today’s best 7-passenger crossovers is so important. Despite their size, they’re more efficient than their truck-based SUV rivals—and more comfortable, too—and they also offer a different approach to styling than is found in the much-maligned minivan segment. Further, these 7-seater crossovers aren’t limited to bus duty. The same big cabins provide gobs of easy-to-access cargo space for owners who need to occasionally haul plywood instead of people.
Even better, this year’s best 7-passenger crossovers include a number of fresh faces, as automakers continue to bring next-gen technologies to these family-friendly vehicles.
And that brings us to our full list of 2013’s best 7-passenger crossovers, presented in alphabetical order.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 GMC Acadia
The 2013 Buick Enclave might get more attention, and the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse may get more sales, but it’s the third member of GM’s full-size CUV triumvirate—the 2013 GMC Acadia—that gets the nod as one of Autobytel’s best 7-passenger crossovers. Something else the Acadia gets? A comprehensive refreshing for the new model year, with revised exterior styling that showcases LED accent lighting, a standard Color Touch infotainment system with available MyLink connectivity technology, safety innovations like an industry-exclusive front-center airbag, and more premium ride and handling, courtesy of retuned transmission controls as well as new dual-flow damper shocks and struts.
For drivers who prefer an extra helping of Professional Grade premium amenities, the brand continues to offer the range-topping 2013 GMC Acadia Denali, with unique luxury design cues, the Dual SkyScape sunroof system, and an upgraded roster of standard features.
The tale of the tape for the first of our best 7-passenger crossovers includes an MSRP of $34,060, engine outputs of 288 hp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque from a 3.6-liter V6 engine, and EPA marks of up to 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/19 mpg combined.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Dodge Durango
Looking for the same aggressive approach to driving as provided by the 2013 Dodge Charger, but need a little extra room? Check out the Charger’s divisional sibling, the 2013 Dodge Durango, with its MSRP of $29,495. Sort of the sport sedan of today’s 7-seater crossovers, the Durango even offers a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 capable of making 360 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. Yet because that mighty mill also incorporates Dodge’s Fuel Saver cylinder-shutoff system, the HEMI-holstering Durango can still reach 20 mpg on the highway. At the same time, the vehicle supplies 30 storage areas, 50 seating configurations and almost 85 cubic feet of rear cargo capacity. And the Durango’s standard powerplant is no slouch, either; it’s the award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that supplies 290 hp, 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and best-in-class marks for both driving range (more than 550 miles) and towing (6,200 lbs.)
Like a number of our top 7-seat crossover vehicles, the Durango also gets some new goodies for the new model year, with the most conspicuous being a sinister Blacktop appearance package that adds style enhancers like a Gloss Black crosshair grille and matching 20-inch wheels.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Ford Explorer
With a price of admission that starts at $29,100, the 2013 Ford Explorer brings high levels of high technology to our roster of best 7-passenger crossovers, including the latest SYNC with MyFord Touch system, industry-first inflatable seatbelts, Curve Control technology, and driver-assistance features like active park assist, blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, and lane-departure warning and lane-keeping tech.
The Explorer also provides one of the strongest powertrain selections among our collection of best 7-passenger crossovers.
The standard engine is an advanced 3.6-liter V6 with twin-independent variable cam timing that puts out a robust 290 hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque, while enabling an EPA line of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. For those who make performance a priority, the Blue Oval serves up a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with a massive 365 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque on tap; the Explorer’s second EcoBoost option—a 2.0-liter I4—is the high-efficiency choice, ringing up EPA grades that reach 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway/23 mpg combined, while still making responsive 240 horses and 270 lb.-ft. of twist.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Ford Flex
Boasting an immediately recognizable exterior design that wraps around an incredibly versatile interior, the 2013 Ford Flex joins the Ford Explorer among Autobytel’s selection of 7-seater crossovers with a sticker price that starts at $30,900.
As explained by Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas: “Flex appeals to people who want to stand out from the crowd, and it has the highest retention rate of any vehicle in the Ford lineup. With technologies not found in other full-size utilities, even better fuel economy, and a modern, sophisticated look, the new model offers people even more reasons to choose Flex.”
More specifically, the Flex offers many of the same advantages found in the Ford Explorer, including the latest SYNC system, advanced driver-assistance and safety features, and an available EcoBoost engine—in this case, the 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 365 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard powerplant is the Blue Oval's similarly sized but naturally aspirated V6, packing 287 hp and 254 lb.-ft. of torque.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Toyota Highlander
The only one of Autobytel’s best 7-passenger crossovers to offer a hybrid alternative, the 2013 Toyota Highlander has long been a favorite of shoppers and looks ready to build on its success with the new Highlander Plus model. The upscale addition was designed to bundle some of the Highlander’s top options into one high-value model, with standard features like a Display Audio System with 6.1-inch screen, a rearview camera system, a 3.5-inch multi-information display, easy-clean seating surfaces, a driver’s seat with a power lumbar adjustment, black roof rails, fog lamps, a one-touch/fold-flat second row, cargo cover and more.
As for the Highlander hybrid, it not only includes premium upgrades such as a navigation system and the automaker's Entune multi-media system, but also Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive that helps the vehicle earn fuel-economy marks of 28 mpg in all phases of EPA testing. And remember, that’s with a standard intelligent all-wheel-drive system.
Pricing for this one of Autobytel’s best 7-passenger crossovers begins at $29,020, with the Highlander Plus coming in at $30,475, and the Highlander hybrid wearing an MSRP of $40,170.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Infiniti JX
The most luxurious of our 7-seater crossovers is likely the 2013 Infiniti JX, which actually boasts a relatively moderate MSRP of $41,250 when you consider its features include 24/7 access to Infiniti’s personal concierge services, a 15-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, safety measures like the industry’s first backup-collision intervention system, Google-enhanced connectivity capabilities, and an exclusive seating feature that allows simplified access to the third row even if there’s an (unoccupied) child seat in the second row.
Cabin versatility is further bolstered by best-in-class passenger and cargo space, highlighted by more second- and third-row legroom than a Cadillac Escalade. Of course, it gets much better fuel-economy marks than the Cadillac, with the ability to achieve 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with its potent 265-hp V6 engine and continuously variable transmission.
“Every element of the Infiniti JX is designed to connect the driver and passengers to the world, rather than shield them from it as many luxury crossovers try to do,” noted Ben Poore, vice president of Infiniti Americas. “Our goal is to heighten awareness of your surroundings, so you can get more out of every day.”
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
One of the newer entries on Autobytel’s all-star team of 7-seat crossover vehicles is the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, which transitioned from a body-on-frame SUV to a next-gen crossover for the current model year. The reimagined Pathfinder—about 500 lbs. lighter than the previous version—launched late last year with best-in-class fuel economy of up to 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined, and it melds those grades with best-in-class interior volume, a class-leading standard towing capacity, and innovations that include a cutting-edge CVT mated to a 260-hp V6, a reclining third row, an easy-access second row, Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert System, a 360-degree Around View Monitor, and sculpted, aerodynamic styling.
Also, while all of our best 7-passenger crossovers offer all-wheel drive systems, only the Pathfinder supplies one with ALL-MODE 4x4-i technology that enables true full-time all-wheel drive at the driver’s command.
MSRPs for the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder start at $28,650, making it one of the most affordable of our recommended 7-seat crossover vehicles.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Honda Pilot
Building on a fairly deep refreshing for the 2012 model year, the 2013 Honda Pilot received more upgrades for the current selling season and enters our rankings of best 7-passenger crossovers with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $29,520. It also brings new standard features like Bluetooth technology for both hands-free calling and audio streaming, a rearview camera, automatic tri-zone climate controls, USB integration and a high-res, eight-inch “intelligent Multi-Information Display” (i-MID). There’s a new exterior color on the palette as well, with Obsidian Blue Pearl replacing Bali Blue Pearl.
The Pilot also lands pretty high up on the economy scale for 7-seat crossover vehicles. Here, credit goes to Honda powertrain technologies such as the signature i-VTEC (intelligent variable valve timing and lift electronic control) system and cylinder-deactivation, which help the vehicle ring up an EPA line of 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with its 3.5-liter, 250-hp V6 engine.
It’s also worth pointing out that Honda engineers put significant effort into maintaining a premium cabin environment by incorporating noise-mitigation features like active noise cancellation and an active control engine mount system.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
The all-new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe follows in the tire tracks of the recently introduced 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport five-seat crossover, and represents the next-gen replacement for the older Veracruz. But while the Santa Fe retains the same $28,350 MSRP as that previous model—making it the most affordable vehicle among any standard 7-seater crossovers—it tacks on a wealth of leading-edge features and technologies and boasts the latest evolution of the brand’s fluidic sculpture design language.
Also helping to ensure the Santa Fe one of the best values among the best 7-seat crossovers is a standard equipment list that includes a 3.3-liter direct-injection V6 providing 290 hp and expected EPA ratings of 25 mpg highway, a sliding/reclining second row with versatile 40/20/40 split seatbacks, 18-inch alloy wheels, Hyundai’s Driver Selectable Steering Mode, LED accent lights both front and back, a trailer prep package (and 5,000-lb. towing maximum), and both Bluetooth and Blue Link technologies.
And naturally, this one of the best 7-passenger crossovers can be made even better through a long list of available goodies that range from heated leather seating to a panoramic sunroof to all-wheel drive with Active Cornering Control.
Best 7-Passenger Crossovers of the Year: 2014 Kia Sorento
The final name on Autobytel’s list of best 7-passenger crossovers is the 2014 Kia Sorento. Now, the Sorento isn’t being billed as “all-new,” but as Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Kia Motors America, points out: “With more than 80 percent of the 2014 Sorento including new or significantly redesigned parts, it’s obvious that the improvements are not just skin deep [and include] technological enhancements such as UVO eServices, the next generation of our voice-activated telematics system, and Kia’s first-ever blind-spot detection system.”
Sorento enhancements for the new model year also include a programmable power liftgate, an eight-inch touchscreen for navigation and infotainment systems, a redesigned panoramic sunroof (with one-piece power-operated shade), 19-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting and a range-topping SX Limited appearance package. Building on the success of the 2013 Kia Optima SX Limited, the supreme Sorento welcomes self-leveling Xenon headlights, model-exclusive wheels that show off red-painted brake calipers, heated seats trimmed with supple Nappa leather and a wood-trimmed, heated steering wheel.
Pricing for the 2014 Kia Sorento—set to debut this spring as one of the country’s top 7-seater crossovers—will be announced at a later date.