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Discussion Starter #1
I am searching for a new vehicle for my family, and would welcome your thoughts.

I have been driving a Chevy Tahoe provided by my employer, but am in the process of changing jobs and need to buy my own vehicle. I would like something a little smaller and more fuel efficient than the Tahoe (and the similarly sized Toyota Sequoia). I am also concerned by the Tahoe's reputation for being somewhat less than reliable.

We have three kids, ages 11, 12 and 14. We do regular road trips here in Utah and the surrounding states to visit the various state and national parks. In the Tahoe, I can split the kids up (and reduce family friction, which is a good thing :) ) by having two sit in the second row and one in the third.

I would like to continue to have three rows, seating for around seven and respectable cargo capacity. I would also like to have some moderate off-road and four wheel drive capability for use on logging roads, trails, etc., and for winter use in getting to the ski resorts. I will use this vehicle for commuting to work daily.

My wife has an older minivan, but would like to replace it with a car (five passengers). My vehicle will likely become the default choice for vacations, weekend trips to grandma's or the cabin, etc.

I test drove the Honda Pilot, but the seating for three in the third row, plus the hard center console back in the middle position of the second row, drove my kids to complain loudly. I eventually ruled it out. :(

I like the MDX a lot. The kids like the MDX better than the Pilot. I have a deposit down on a silver base that will be delivered in about three weeks. But, before I shell out this much money, I am interested in your experiences.

Thus my questions -- Do any of you regularly haul three kids approximately the age of mine? Do they fit comfortably? How usable is the third row for my situation?

Any suggestions or responses would be most welcome.
 

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Your kids may be ok in the 3rd row for now, but they may outgrow it quickly. The 3rd row is ok for kids, but not very comfortable for any long duration for anyone of average size.

The other issue is that it is not the easiest thing to get into and out of the 3rd room. Kids like to climb in there, but I found it unpleasant as an adult to "climb" in the back.

One other issue to consider, while they wouldn't ahve the separation in the 2nd room, there is plenty of room and is very comfortable for 3rd. Many kids like having a seatbeat in the middle and the great view of the road.
 

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I haven't been in a Pilot, but I find the center console back in the middle second row seat to be very uncomfortable also. Did your kids try it? It is like sitting against a piece of plywood. Otherwise, the 'X is a terrific vehicle.
 

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kflint,

I think you already know what you want to do ;), but I will provide the push you are looking for.
kflint said:
1) I would like something a little smaller and more fuel efficient than the Tahoe (and the similarly sized Toyota Sequoia).
2) I am also concerned by the Tahoe's reputation for being somewhat less than reliable....
3)I would like to continue to have three rows, seating for around seven and respectable cargo capacity.
4)I would also like to have some moderate off-road and four wheel drive capability for use on logging roads, trails, etc., and for winter use in getting to the ski resorts.
As you have likely already found, there are very few vehicles that will fit this bill without a serious compromise in one area or another (too big, not fuel efficient, rough ride, too expensive, inadequate crash protection, not reliable, not "fun" to drive, poor resale value, not "enough" off-road capability, etc. etc.). What you have found in the MDX (and disappointingly, not in the Pilot), is the one vehicle, that while perhaps not the best in each area, offers the fewest compromises.

I am sure that you are aware of other SUVs, and SUV-like vehicles, that could fit your particular needs and that are at least worth considering (not to repeat the list but it would include everything from the Explorer, to the TrailBlazer EXT, to the Buick Rendezvous, to the Chrysler Town and Country AWD, to the upcoming Volvo XC90 and Chrysler Pacifica - and lastly, don't completely dismiss the gasp...2WD...Honda Odyssey)

Will your kids fit comfortably in the MDX? Sure they will. First, at those ages, how frequently do you actually have all 3 in the car at the same time? If you are like most families, you are probably running one or two of them from one activity to another. And when you have all three, they can fit comfortably in the second row leaving maximum cargo space available. For longer trips/vacations, the younger kids should be reasonably comfortable spreading out into in the third row (you may have to look into car top carriers, but that is not uncommon on SUVs of any size). By the time the younger kids are too big to fit in the third row for looong trips, your eldest will be at the age that he/she will not want to go with the rest of the family on those "stupid" family vacations and will prefer to stay behind anyway - problem solved :D .

kflint said:
I will use this vehicle for commuting to work daily...
I like the MDX a lot. The kids like the MDX ...
What are you waiting for?
 

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kflint,

I am in a similar situation with 3 kids; mine are younger though, 13, 8 and 3. I love the MDX as much as most everyone else on this board...I got it for my wife, who fell in love with it the very first time she saw it...we traded in MY car (4-door sedan) for the MDX, and I got her Suburban.

We take a couple of 1000+ mile road trips a year, and I cannot imagine trying to do it with 3 kids in the 'X. Trips around town are fine for my 8-year-old in the back seat, but I wouldn't dream of subjecting her to long hours back there. (How we did it as kids in station wagons, I'll never know.) Believe it or not, that's not the reason I wouldn't travel in it. Frankly, there's little room for anything inside the car with (part of) the back seat up, let alone luggage for 5 for any length of time, unless you strap it to the roof (in a rack) or get one of those cool new u-Haul luggage trailers...at that point, I get back to my middle child stuffed in the back...

IOW, the Suburban IS our family car because travel alot...

So why'd we get the 'X (APLZ)? Well, one because my wife loves it. Two, it is arguably one of the safest cars on the road, and three, the Acura reputation is excellent. In short, APLZ is my wife's carpool, swim-team, drive around vehicle.

In my humble opinion, the 'X is an EXCELLENT road-trip vehicle for a family of 4 or less, and a GREAT in-town ride for 6.

For what it's worth, I can't wait for my oldest to go off to college so that we may begin taking road-trips in APLZ.

I know this goes against the grain on the board, but we seriously considered trading in the Suburban and just couldn't figure out how we'd make it work. You may, and others surely will find a way to make it work, but for us, it just wasn't possible.

Hope this helps...
 

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jnbsdad said:
(How we did it as kids in station wagons, I'll never know.)
jnbsdad,

Oddly enough, I thought of beginning my original reply to kflint with that thought. Of course you can make it work. For many, many years families of 5, 6 or more have travelled in 6 passenger family sedans and wagons and lived to tell the story. And often the stories most told (and most humorous) are those that involved the travel - not the destination. Why do we need school buses to travel as a family any more?

Each vehicle is a compromise. Since kflint has already expressed his affinity for the MDX, and desire for something smaller than the Tahoe, my opinion is that he will NOT be happy with the compromise of driving a school bus as a daily commuter for the benefit of a dozen(?) family trips a year.

FWIW, so far, on family trips of 20hours, 12 hours, and 8 hours one way, and numerous 3 and 4 hour trips with additional passengers, my kids (10 and 8) fight to SIT in the 3rd row.
 

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Re: three kids in the MDX

kflint said:
Thus my questions -- Do any of you regularly haul three kids approximately the age of mine? Do they fit comfortably? How usable is the third row for my situation?
We have three boys; 19, 18, 14 and love the versatility of the MDX. The 19 year old has been off to college lately but since we have had the X since March 2001 all three have been in it many many times; particularly on trips. We have made 500+ mile (oneway) trips 5 times now with no comfort problems.

In fact we just returned from a trip to Longboat Key, FL; a 1060 mile trip oneway. We left 7:40 am EST and arrived home at ~ 10:45 CST (an ~ 18 hours in the X!). Yes you should do fine with your family.
 

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Re: cargo space

See my previous post

kflint said:
We have three kids, ages 11, 12 and 14. We do regular road trips here in Utah and the surrounding states to visit the various state and national parks. In the Tahoe, I can split the kids up (and reduce family friction, which is a good thing :) ) by having two sit in the second row and one in the third.

I would like to continue to have three rows, seating for around seven and respectable cargo capacity.
What you are asking for here is only possible with a larger vehicle. In my opinion the MDX does NOT have "respectable cargo capacity" with the third seat in use. That is a limitation that we recognized and understood when we bought it and one we could live with (we traded an Expedition for the X). The MDX has limited cargo capacity with the 3rd seats up, particularly if both are up! We have traveled with only one rear seat up giving a decent amount of space. I would recommend that you really look and see just how much cargo space and seating space you need.
 

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The X would be fine for fitting the kids, but the question I have is how are you going to fit luggage for 5 with the 3rd row in use? It's big enough for a couple small suitcases, but that's about it.

The Pilot would be a little better in this area, but not much.

If you want 3 rows and cargo space, the Ody is a great choice.
If you want 4WD too, then you are back to the bigger utes.

Bottom line: I don't haul around 3 kids, but my bet is that you'll find the X to be too small.
 

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More on cargo space and rear seats

The Florida trip I refered to earlier was with the rear seats down, we took 4 sets of golf clubs as well as tennis rackets, clothes, toilitries, food, cooler, etc for a week on the beach. The kids did fine in the middle seat for a very long trip. Other trips, where not so much luggage was needed, allowed us to have one rear seat up and the other down.

I would have to say that if I needed both rear seats up for a trip, there would NOT be enough cargo room for an average amount of luggage for a family of five to make a week long trip. Unless I put the roof rack back on;)
 

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Compromises

It looks from other posts that you and your family could possibly be comfortable in the MDX. As the oldest of three girls (we were all 11 months apart) and having endured family road trips from the ages of 5-15 or so (most of those in a '76 Caprice Classic Station Wagon), I could see that we would have been ok in the MDX with the third seat up and purchasing a roof carrier for luggage.

For now, it's me and my husband and our 6 month old and two Laborador Retrievers. This year we will be vacationing about an hour from our house in two cars - a sedan for me and the baby and in our taurus wagon will be renov8r and the labs. Next year when we have the 'X we will be able to have the whole family in one car with cargo on the top (we take the dogs cages with us, which means the third seat will be down). I can live with that and the 'x will serve us well even with another kid probably for 12-15 years because I plan on driving my 'X for at least that long.

Back to you. You have three teenage kids and have expressed concern for how much you are shelling out. For the same amount of money or maybe less you can get the large Envoy which does have an adult comfortable third seat and maybe a smidge more cargo space. You would probably still need the roof cargo carrier for a road trip. So what are your sacrifices for a more comfy third seat? All the sexiness of the Acura, safety, fuel economy and you would have a truck (although its a pretty nice truck and I was very pleasantly surprised by its appearance and the way it drives, like a much smaller vehicle). See renov8r's post in the comparison forum for more on the Envoy. The Envoy is no X, let me emphasize. Good Luck!
 

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Re: Cargo Space

As was stated early, this is all about compromise. The space is there if you compromise. We will be taking a vacation next month and we will be hauling three kids, 4, 10 (size of a 14 year old) and 13. I want to be able to use the third row so the kids have space so they will not fight, because it will be a 10 hour drive.

My compromise is I bought the Yakima cargo carrier Space Cadet to put all of our luggage in for the trip. I have used it already and know it works, and it works well. With 15 cubic feet to work with, not to mention the space behind the third row of seats, that is plenty of storage space for everything we want to pack to go with us.

So we have great vehicle for driving around town with lots of space, and yet with the cargo carrier, we also have the perfect vacation vehicle as well. We have the best of both worlds. It's all about compromise and what you are willing to do to get what you want. I recommend the X. You won't regret it. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks to all

I just returned from a few days out of town (on a river trip with a troop of boy scouts, a story far too long to tell here), and was amazed at all the detailed and helpful responses.

Thanks so much to everyone.

I am waiting for my silver base MDX. I plan to add the Yakima roof rails and use a space cadet for longer trips.
 
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