By Cars.com EditorsSeptember 22, 2016
About the video
Cars.com put six of the most popular midsize SUVs in the segment though a week of testing. We evaluated acceleration, ride and handling, fuel economy as well as interior comfort, cargo room and features. Which one rose to the top?
(engine starting) Cars.com and Motor Week came to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where we put five mid-size SUVs through nearly a week of testing. Here's how they placed and what our judges had to say.
(exciting music) Our winner in the challenge, the 2016 Nissan Murano. The Murano has a standout styling that sets it apart from the rest of its competitors. It's futuristic, and it really is a love it or hate it sort of thing, and I love it. However, that standout styling leads to a giant C pillar. It makes that blind spot, when you're looking over your shoulder, impossible to see around. Because of that limited visibility, I found myself using the around view monitor system a lot. It's really easy to find. You just hit the button on the multimedia system and you get a great view of what's going on around your car. The Nissan Murano is a quick SUV with a legitimate big V6 engine, no small turbo, four cylinder here. It's also trying to be something distinct from the rest of them. Not as much a family SUV, really more of kind of a semi-luxury SUV, just in terms of interior materials. And a lot of that works. The thing that I like about the Murano is from the back of the vehicle, you've got the tailgate up. Maybe you have all this cargo you want to put in the back. So to drop that second row seat, sometimes it's a very uncomfortable lean in or even push back. But in the Murano, you've got a lever on both sides of the vehicle to drop down one side of the seats or the other, and then an electric button that pulls it back up if you don't need all that space. The Murano is very comfortable and super luxurious compared to the other vehicles here. The biggest thing I don't like about the Murano is the exterior design. I know it's edgy, it's out there, it's modern, but to me, it just looks like it's trying too hard to be different. In second place, the 2016 Ford Edge. The Edge is one of the wider mid-size SUV's in this challenge. And because of that, it easily fits three car seats across the backseat. Coming into this, I wouldn't have put the Edge as one of my favorites, but it actually has one of the nicest rides and dynamically, it handles very well. And one thing I didn't particularly like was the transmission. The shifter itself, it's really easy just to go right past D and into sport. And also when you're driving, going back and forth between drive and reverse, it takes forever for the transmission to respond. First of all, cabin material is really excellent, probably some of the best in this group overall. First-rate multimedia system, too. A Sync 3 system from Ford really, really is a much better system than Ford's outgoing My Ford Touch. I don't really like the bathtub feel that I have when I'm trying to lift myself into that vehicle. However, the adaptive steering, this is a new feature that Ford has just had over the last couple of years, is amazing. It literally makes it feel like a different vehicle when you're going slow versus when you're driving at speed. And when you're in sport mode, everything tightens up a little bit well, but again, speed-sensitive. That's very impressive technology. Placing a mid-pack third is the 2017 Kia Sorento. Going into this, I would have put the Sorento up near the top, but after driving it and spending more time with it, the ride, I don't know whether it's this trim level or this tire and wheel package, much rougher ride than I remember, especially going over harsh bumps. The rear suspension, incredibly noisy. The Kia Sorento has a pretty high-quality cabin and quite a bit of cargo space as well. All the things that impress about the Sorento do sort of go away though, once you start driving it. Unfortunately, the suspension allows just a degree of movement in the body over major bumps in the road that's totally missing in some of these other SUVs. Not the most comfortable on a road trip. The Sorento is the vehicle on this comparison test, to me, that felt most like a minivan. So it has that kind of vanilla personality to it. But what I did like is the interior. I think they've done an exceptional job of making both the navigation system and the HVAC controls underneath very easy to see and identify, no matter what the conditions are outside. The Sorento looks like a much more expensive vehicle than what it really costs. It has the sophisticated grill and alloy wheels. One thing that stands out about this Sorento, and not in a good way, is the road noise. You hit the open highway and it gets really loud in the cabin. Coming in at fourth place is the 2017 Hyundai SantaFe Sport. The SantaFe Sport, compared to the others, just feels very cheap inside, not at all what you'd expect compared to the others. A Hyundai SantaFe Sport has a few highlights, among them handling, which is pretty good, and lots of storage spaces up front, including a nice big open storage straight ahead of those cup holders and gear shift. A few downsides on the SantaFe Sport, visibility, a swooping rising belt line on the outside means smaller second-row windows, makes it a little bit harder to see out of from the inside. Speaking of inside, those cabin materials have a lot of cheap, kind of low-rent plastics, and the seats, cheap grade of leather in our test car, and they're kind of tough and not very comfortable. Although the SantaFe may be very fun to drive because it's so sporty, the jellybean design look is not gonna separate it from the crowd. Bringing up the rear in fifth place, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee. With the Grand Cherokee, I liked the fact that it's really the only true SUV of the bunch. Definitely has the off-road credentials, you can haul more, tow more. And I liked the more truck-like ride myself. A couple of things I didn't like so much about the Cherokee, the interior doesn't feel as roomy as the others here. And the quality of the materials is actually pretty good, but the hood and finish, not quite up to par with the rest. The Grand Cherokee, to me, was the most claustrophobic for me when I was inside. It's very dark, not huge windows. So no matter whether you're looking in the rear view mirror or even out the sides, you're not gonna be able to see a lot compared to some of the other vehicles in this segment. What I like about the Grand Cherokee is that maybe more than any other vehicle that we're testing here, it can do a lot of different things. And it also has a real four-wheel-drive system, meaning that it has a low range and also a multi-terrain system that allows you to set sand, snow, or mud, depending on what you're about to do. The Jeep Grand Cherokee scored some major points on ride quality, where its suspension really cushions a lot of bumps that kind of come up into the cabin in some of these competitor SUVs. Also, visibility. You can flip those rear head restraints down, create a clear view straight out the back. The back seat in the Grand Cherokee is fantastic. It treats its passengers really well thanks to heated rear seats, USB ports, and also air vents. There is so much stuff in this back seat. It's a winner for busy families. Here's what's a little odd about the Grand Cherokee. This is a, almost $45,000 vehicle and it has a beautiful 8.4-inch multimedia screen, but what it doesn't have is a navigation system. That's a real miss for most families. So there you have it. See each of these cars' full scores and plenty more on cars.com. (car trunk closing)