2013 Family Crossover Comparison - Day Four

A. J. Mueller Patrick M Hoey

This is Automobile Magazine's Family Crossover Comparo, our comparison test of the kind of vehicle that you see during America's summer vacation, the three-row family crossover.

As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best all-wheel-drive, seven-passenger family crossovers, and we're going to sort them out. We've driven all of them at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.

The way we see it, these are the best family crossovers available in America right now. We've done our best to ensure that our test vehicles represent a useful level of features -- nicely equipped, as they say -- yet don't cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test vehicles at the same time, they aren't all priced exactly the same, but we've done our best.

These family crossovers include: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, 2013 Dodge Durango, 2013 Ford Explorer, 2013 Honda Pilot, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, 2013 Mazda CX-9, 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and 2013 Toyota Highlander.

On Day Two, we started the tournament with these randomly selected match-ups:

  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe prevailed over the 2013 Dodge Durango
  • 2013 Honda Pilot bested the 2013 Ford Explorer

On Day Three, the tournament continued with these results:

  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 edged out the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2013 Nissan Pathfinder knocked out the 2013 Toyota Highlander

As the tournament continues, the competition involves less driving and a lot more arguing, as the comments below indicate. It's not just about whether these family crossovers excel in this category -- because they all do -- but instead it's about finding the right kind of combination that meets our expectations.

As the tournament continues, here are the match-ups for our Final Four:

  • 2013 Honda Pilot vs. 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2013 Mazda CX-9

Honda Pilot vs. Nissan Pathfinder

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum

  • The Pathfinder ticks a lot of the right boxes for us. There's a yin for every yang, yet it all evens out to a pretty good car.
  • "The suspension pounds the road, and you feel like you're wheeling around a mini bus," says Joe DeMatio.
  • "It's anonymously attractive," says Donny Nordlicht. Another editor responds, "Like a Labrador retriever, or black dress pants."
  • Shade of Gray: Arctic Blue. It's blue, no doubt about it, but the Pathfinder somehow turns gray when surrounded by seven gray cars. Are there really fifty shades of gray?
  • A nice manifestation of big crossover ideals. It looks big outside, but it's also big inside. So that's good. Also, it has excellent fit and finish.
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) isn't bad, but we'd prefer a conventional automatic transmission. Feel>fuel.
  • "Wasn't the Pathfinder cool?" asks a young editor. "Totally," replies old dog DeMatio. "No one who used to own a Pathfinder would own this thing, but you'd be a complete idiot to throw out such an iconic nameplate."
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 12.7 seconds. You'll get wet trying to load up your groceries in the rain, but it's just water, people.
  • Panoramic sunroof is a must for third-row passengers. Otherwise, pray they're not claustrophobic.
  • "It's a Nissan that presents itself as a luxury car," says Michael Jordan. "It makes me less impressed with the Infiniti JX35," replies David Zenlea.

2013 Honda Pilot Touring

  • Sales don't lie -- this is the most popular vehicle in this group among the American public, and by a large margin.
  • "It's the Wrangler jeans of the group -- it makes a lot of sense, but hell if I want to be seen in it."
  • "It's a box and it drives like a box, but it's a very useful and well-built box," says DeMatio.
  • It's an appliance.
  • Shade of Gray: Alabaster Silver.
  • Most of us don't have kids, but forward-facing LATCH anchors in the third row are essential to some people, like proud dad Rusty Blackwell. Can you guess which of these four had them? Yep: "Two in the third row," notes Blackwell, "and six in the second row, which is impressive."
  • Honda has brand equity. You know that, when you buy this Honda Pilot as a used vehicle in five years, it'll run for at least another eight years.
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 13.7 seconds. That extra second over the Pathfinder might not seem like a lot, but what if you're trying to load up your groceries in the rain when zombies come out of nowhere? It could mean life or death…
  • "You wouldn't want to take the Pilot on a road trip," says Jordan. "It's made only for trips to and from the soccer field."
  • The Pilot is fortunate to have Honda's reputation of reliability attached to it. Otherwise, it probably wouldn't be a top seller.

The 2013 Honda Pilot is functional, straightforward, and as boring to drive as it is to look at. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is functional, too, but it leans toward passenger comfort rather than all-around utility. Because this reflects our own choices in the way we drive crossovers, the Pathfinder is awarded the win. - Christopher Nelson

Winner: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum. The Pathfinder moves into the final round.

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i like hyundai santafe 2013, because model fashion young, 
i like hyundai santafe 2013, because model fashion young, @Nguy?n Ân 
Mark Williams68
Love the Mazda it's not trying to be something's it's not . Nice elegant design and although one of the oldest model here in terms of drive train and power train , it still runs with the best of them
The Passport and Mazda CX-9 are old designs, but I see plenty of them, and there's a reason. My opinion why this is, the buying public don't like seats that rattle, suspensions that clunk, transmissions that are slow. The comments in the comments section, are true in my opinion. The CD drivers were biased to the Hyundai, and Nissan. Even though they are new, doesn't make them a better vehicle. Both the Honda, and Mazda are great driving vehicles, making them attractive. The Pilot especially, people love for the traditional values of body on frame vehicles. The Mazda, for being voted the best for years in this segment. Both the Hyundai, and Nissan, are vehicles, waiting to be kicked to the curb, when Honda, and Mazda give the public there new versions of the family crossovers.
Ryan Coleman
The Santa Fe for 2013 is by far superior in styling and interior design this year. Comparing to the Mazda, anyone that has drove both 90% of the time would prefer the Santa Fe. This is Hyundai's first major overhaul to the vehicle from the ground up since 2007 so you would expect it to be better. Is it the nicest crossover on the market, maybe not but for the money its definitively worth a drive. It comes with a standard 10yr 100,000 mile warranty, 5 years roadside assistance Plus 3 years of free Telematics System ( which no one offers that long for free )64% of People that buy a Hyundai buy another, which is the highest customer retention in the business. Not to mention the fact The Santa Fe on avg is $2800 cheaper then the competition. On a side note I sell Hyundai's for a living, but we carry every SUV on the market and I drive the competition on a daily basis. Go drive the New Santa Fe, and compare for yourself, I guarantee it will surprise you :)Also on the Interior dimensions, math is math ( The Santa Fe is bigger)This is the first year the the Santa Fe actually comes in a long wheel base design for the 3rd row seat. Most manufactures in the crossover segment just add a 3rd row option sacrificing cargo space in lieu of seating whereas the Santa Fe has added a LWB version.
This is a joke right? I have sat in the back of the new Sante Fe and CX9..They are the same damn size..windows and all. And by the way there are cup holders back there..
Jason Rowen
@blkphire I own a 2011 CX-9 and there is nothing "black hole" like about the interior. blkphire is correct with his comment, there are TWO cup holders in the third row area. If these editor's would have bothered turning their damn heads whilst fabricating bland comments to boost the Santa Fe they actually would have found them. Besides, the third row isn't intended for anyone over 5'8" so a little assigned seating comes into play when hauling all the other dumb editors around from tallest in the front to short in the rear.

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