If you’re convinced that having a family means being condemned to driving stodgy, spartan minivans, think again. There’s never been a bigger and better choice of luxurious, powerful SUVs and crossovers that can carry up to eight passengers in serious style. These cleverly designed vehicles can take the kids to school in comfort, power the family up the side of a mountain for winter fun and still get valet parked up front at the swankiest restaurants.
We looked at a few of the best.
2012 ACURA MDX
With 300 horsepower on tap and asphalt-hugging all-wheel drive, Acura’s boldly styled MDX crossover can take a family and their stuff almost anywhere — and it looks good doing it. With standard leather seats and three-zone climate control, the MDX makes an everyday road trip feel more like a flight in first class. The MDX starts at $42,930, but shell out a few extra bucks and you’ll enjoy high-end amenities like voice-recognition navigation and a rear DVD entertainment system. All this and 21 mpg highway makes the MDX a luxury you can afford to live with.
2012 AUDI Q7
Offering three engine choices (including a V-6 turbodiesel that returns an estimated 25 mpg highway) and Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel drive, the substantial Q7 SUV has something to satisfy most drivers. Boasting one of the most impressive interiors on this list — including walnut inlays and heated front seats — the Q7 pampers up to seven passengers. It’s totally techy, too, with rear parking sensors, HomeLink (to control garage doors, gates and even the lights in your home) and intelligent iPod/iPhone integration. The Q7 starts at $46,250.
2012 BMW X5
(with optional third-row seating)
The X5 is a rare beast indeed: an athletic all-wheel-drive SUV (BMW dubs it a “Sports Activity Vehicle”) that’s able to transport seven people in state-of-the-art luxury. Starting at $47,500, the X5 offers drivers the choice of gutsy V-8 or efficient V-6 powerplants, including a turbodiesel that nets 26 mpg highway. Inside, selected leathers, fine woods and an available panoramic moonroof add panache to the X5’s power.
2012 CADILLAC ESCALADE ESV
The ESV is the more-to-love version of Cadillac’s celebrity-approved Escalade. It’s 21 inches longer than the regular model and offers seating for up to eight adults, plus there’s 137.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats. Starting at $65,770, the ESV has a hefty price tag, but there’s really nothing else on the market that can carry so many people in so much comfort. There are heated and cooled leather-trimmed front seats with French-stitched seams, a premium 10-speaker Bose surround sound system and computer-controlled Road Sensing Suspension. It’s the Cadillac of huge SUVs.
2013 INFINITI JX CONCEPT
Though the Infiniti JX that debuted at the recent L.A. Auto Show was billed as a concept, it’s probably pretty close to the production version expected in dealerships this spring. This handsome three-row crossover promises class-leading roominess, plus positively posh appointments like Infiniti Connection Telematics, which can automatically sync your calendar and provide GPS guidance to appointments, and Infiniti Personal Assistant, a concierge service that offers 24-hour access to actual human assistants.
2012 LAND ROVER LR4 HSE
(with optional third-row seating)
Starting at less than $50,000, Land Rover’s LR4 is a classy and capable midsize SUV that, with its seven-seat Comfort Package (an extra $1,250), becomes a flexible family friend. With full-time four-wheel drive and a striking contemporary silhouette, the LR4 can mix it up in the desert all day and still turn heads back in the city that night. Its opulent interior includes a standard Harman Kardon sound system, while the Comfort Package adds third-row side-curtain airbags and second-row air conditioning controls.
2012 LEXUS GX 460
For many, the name Lexus is synonymous with luxury. The Japanese brand’s midsize GX 460 SUV adds roominess, power and (relative) efficiency to the brand’s signature opulence. The GX 460’s 301-horsepower V-8 engine gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg highway, while full-time four-wheel drive and body-on-frame construction ensure on- and off-road agility. Even the $54,120 base model boasts leather-trimmed seats and rain-sensing wipers, while available options include Intuitive Parking Assist and a twin-screen Rear Seat Entertainment system.
2013 LINCOLN MKT
The world debut of Lincoln’s latest MKT full-size crossover was a highlight of last month’s L.A. Auto Show. Due at dealerships this spring, the MKT promises state-of-the-art three-row motoring with a choice of six- or seven-passenger configurations. Lincoln Drive Control with three selectable driving modes and a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers a purse-pleasing 22 mpg highway are also available. The interior is a monument to refined functionality, with Bridge of Weir leather seating surfaces (like the ones found in luxury yachts) and MyLincoln Touch hardware that controls a suite of infotainment and climate-control functions.
2012 MERCEDES-BENZ GL-CLASS
With comfortable seating for up to seven adults, Mercedes-Benz’s GL-Class SUV offers full-size functionality in an exquisitely designed package. All GL-Class models feature 4Matic all-wheel drive, Airmatic air suspension and sporty paddle shifters, plus dual-zone climate control that also filters dust, pollen and odors. Yet all this needn’t overly impact the environment or your wallet — the base GL350 BlueTEC offers a clean-burning diesel engine that returns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg highway. GLs aren’t cheap: They start at $62,445. But they’re a dream to drive.
2012 VOLVO XC90
At $38,400, Volvo’s XC90 crossover has the lowest starting MSRP on this list, but you’d never know it thanks to a high-quality interior, standard features like third-row air conditioning and the fact that it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The XC90 is also smaller than many of its luxury seven-seater rivals, which means cozy third-row seating but car-like handling and, in combination a six-cylinder engine, a very respectable 22 mpg highway. Splurge on the new Platinum trim starting at $44,300 and enjoy a 650-watt Volvo Premium Sound System and navigation with real-time traffic.
– Paul Rogers
Custom Publishing Writer