It's not easy to find a seven-passenger car that offers decent fuel economy. In fact, when looking at seven-passenger cars with good gas mileage, you are for the most part restricted to the crossover segment, with the occasional minivan poking its head in, as no passenger sedan can carry that many people and most large suvs simply can't match the frugality of their lighter cousins. Technology is constantly marching forward, however, and you might be surprised to discover which vehicles are capable of meeting your cargo and passenger needs without breaking the bank at the fuel pump - and which SUVs stand out as exceptions to the gas-guzzling rule. Let's take a quick look at 10 seven-passenger cars with good gas mileage.
1) 2015 Ford Explorer
The 2015 Ford Explorer, until fairly recently, wouldn't have come up on a list of efficient vehicles. In the last few years, though, Ford brought its well-regarded EcoBoost engine to the platform as an optional upgrade. The Explorer's version of the EcoBoost is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. An EcoBoost-equipped Explorer returns fuel economy figures of 20 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway and is only available with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. In addition to its seven-passenger capacity, the Ford Explorer can haul up to 80 cubic feet of cargo.
2) 2015 Mazda CX-9
The 2015 Mazda CX-9 is a seven-passenger crossover with a reputation for providing more engaging handling than many of its competitors. A single engine option is offered with the Mazda CX-9, a 3.7-liter V-6 unit that can be relied on to produce 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and fuel economy for the CX-9 checks in at 17 mpg in stop and go driving and 24 mpg on the highway when the vehicle is delivered in front-wheel drive trim. Folding down the rear rows in the Mazda reveals an exceptional 101 cubic feet of space for hauling luggage and other oversized items.
3) 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe is another model that has added an extra row of seating to its list of standard features in order to increase total passenger capacity to seven. The Hyundai Santa Fe also comes with a well-styled interior that imparts a more premium experience than one would expect given its affordable price point. All versions of the seven-passenger Santa Fe are equipped with a 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine. Also capable of generating 252 lb-ft of torque, this motor's fuel economy is listed at 18 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway when found in front-wheel drive trim (thanks in part to its six-speed automatic transmission). All-wheel drive versions give up only a single highway mpg to the front-puller, and 80 cubic feet of total cargo space are available across the board.
4) 2015 Honda Odyssey
The 2015 Honda Odyssey is the first minivan on this list of seven-passenger cars with good gas mileage, and it makes it here based on the fact that it's the most fuel efficient vehicle in its class. The Honda Odyssey can actually transport as many as eight passengers if desired, and it features a robust 3.5-liter V-6 engine good for 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting duties for the minivan, and fuel mileage is listed at 19 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway. As an added bonus, the Honda can haul a hefty 148 cubic feet of cargo with the rear rows out of the picture.
5) 2015 Audi Q7 TDI
The 2015 Audi Q7 TDI is the first turbodiesel vehicle in our roundup, but not the last. Although the Audi Q7 TDI is a big and heavy vehicle - like most luxury SUVs in its class - the use of a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine is the great equalizer. In addition to producing 240 horsepower and a stump-pulling 406 lb-ft of torque, the Audi's engine is rated at a frugal 19 mpg in stop and go driving and 28 mpg on the highway, even with its standard quattro all-wheel drive system along for the ride. An eight-speed automatic transmission is included free of charge with the Q7 TDI, and it can hold up to 72.5 cubic feet of cargo behind the two front positions.
6) 2015 Nissan Pathfinder
The 2015 Nissan Pathfinder looks every bit as large and heavy as Pathfinders of years past, but its inclusion on this list is thanks to its recent redesign, shedding its previous body-on-frame SUV design for a more compliant - and lighter - crossover platform. As a result, the Nissan Pathfinder manages to advance considerably in the annals of fuel economy, boasting 20 mpg around town and 27 mpg on the highway in front-wheel drive trim In addition to its new chassis, the Pathfinder also benefits from a continuously-variable automatic transmission that is bolted to its 3.5-liter V-6 (which is rated at 260 horses and 240 lb-ft of twist). The Pathfinder is bigger inside than before, providing comfortable seating for up to seven passengers as well as 79.8 cubic feet of total interior storage space.
7) 2015 Acura MDX
The 2015 Acura MDX continues to rule the luxury roost for those seeking a premium crossover that provides plenty of practicality. The Acura MDX earns its solid reputation as a comfortable option by providing additional interior room for its seven passengers and up to 90.9 cubic feet of total cargo space. Despite offering a powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine (290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque), the MDX returns fuel mileage of 20 mpg in stop and go driving and 28 mpg on the highway. This is partly due to the fact that all-wheel drive is not standard, improving efficiency by a substantial amount. A six-speed automatic is the only available gearbox for the Acura crossover.
8) 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC, like the Audi Q7 TDI, offers all-wheel drive as standard equipment, and it also tips the scales as one of the heavier full-size luxury SUVs available. The presence of its 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V-6, however, goes a long way towards mitigating the efficiency-sapping effects of those particular characteristics. In fact, despite offering a generous 240 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 BlueTEC can be counted on to return 19 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg during highway cruising. The seven-passenger, three-row SUV also features a seven-speed automatic transmission, as well as 93.5 cubic feet of total cargo space.
9) 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a standout on our list of seven-passenger cars with good gas mileage, and it's also the only battery-assisted vehicle to make the cut. The 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid achieves lofty fuel mileage of 27 mpg city and 28 mpg highway thanks to a trio of battery-powered electric motors that work alongside its 3.5-liter V-6 engine to produce 280 horsepower. A continuously variable automatic transmission manages that output, with one of the electric motors occasionally diverting power to the rear wheels should additional traction be needed. Inside, the Highlander Hybrid can swap 83.2 cubic feet of cargo hauling space in place of its rear two rows.
10) 2015 Toyota Sienna
The 2015 Toyota Sienna is a very popular minivan option that comes exclusively with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The eight-passenger Toyota Sienna enjoys power output of 266 horses and 245 lb-ft of twist from its six-cylinder mill, and a six-speed automatic transmission helps the vehicle achieve fuel mileage of 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway in front-wheel drive models. Choosing the option of all-wheel drive saps two miles per gallon from each respective measure. In addition to its people moving skills, the Toyota Sienna provides a mammoth 150 cubic feet of total interior storage space with the second and third rows folded forward.