The 2013 model year is practically out the door and car showrooms are now making way for the new kids on the block, the 2014's. If you are still in the market for an SUV and are scratching your head because there just seems to be too many to whittle down, check out these four standouts which should make your buying decision less stressful.
1) Nissan Pathfinder: Well, Nissan went back to the drawing board and has come back with a hands-down winning design with their 2013 Pathfinder. Poof, be gone went the Pathfinder's old boxy and truckie exterior which has now been replaced with a more crossover SUV that is really easy on the eye. The now car-like looker is lower, sleeker and has undulating lines that flow towards the rear which add character and appeal. Inside comfort is key and it is evident everywhere you look. The welcoming looking seats (eight-way power driver seat) are nicely bolstered and feel good the longer you sit in them. You'll also take note of the premium materials used in the Pathfinder's interior--amply padded armrests, sensibly placed instrumentation with a 7-inch color multi-information display that actually makes sense, feel-good leather-wrapped steering wheel and tasteful accents. Families will appreciate the overall roominess of the cabin and a useful third row seat that can actually accommodate a six-footer and that can very easily be accessed via the second row tilt and slide feature. A roomy trunk offer 79.8 cubes that is more than enough for any family of packrats. Cruising in a Pathfinder which comes in three trims--the S, SV and SL, is effortless, the ride is very car-like, a real smooth operation all the way. The Pathfinder's once bouncy ways has been modified to the tenth power and so it now absorbs rough road patches without harassing its passengers. Braking is tight in the Pathfinder which is a feature you'll appreciate especially in treacherous weather. The vehicle has a nice connection to the road and its 3.5 liter, V-6 engine, 260 horses (in all three trims) will supply ample power for any wannabe road warrior with their brood in tow. The new and stylishly improved Nissan Pathfinder is a sweet ride that will inspire any family to want to take off on spur-of-the-moment road trip vacays. Prices start at $29,495. www.nissanusa.com
2) Kia Sorento: The Korean automaker which introduced the 2014 Kia Sorento SUV earlier this year has managed to produce a vehicle that combines ruggedness, sophistication and street-wise cred in one great product. The vehicle has 'got it goin' on' in more ways than one--a prominent retweaked nose, attractive taillights that are upswept, a badass stance--the Sorento is without a doubt one of the better looking SUV's in its class. Even though the Sorento, which can accommodate up to seven passengers with the optional third-row seat, is categorized as a compact SUV, it's girthy size and spaciousness will make you wonder, how come? The Sorento's cabin is a gadget lover's dream, even you if don't dole out the dough for the more premium trims, EX, SX and SX-L. the basic LX offers features that many of its competitors would consider options like full power accessories, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power locks with remote keyless entry, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, AM/FM/Satellite Radio/MP3 audio and USB jacks. If you step it up a notch to the next trim, you add a dual-zone climate control system, leather seat trim (first and second rows), eight-way power adjustable driver seat with lumbar, 7-inch LCD driver information cluster, rearview camera, backup warning system, Blind Spot Detection System that uses sonar to survey what's around then warns you visually and audibly, UVO eServices Infotainment System (with its 8-inch touch screen is a cinch to use), push-button start with Smart Key, automatic headlights, second-row sunshades, interior accent illumination, auto-dimming mirror with compass. The seats in the Sorento are like a fave lived-in couch, comfy to a tee with one-size-fits-all cabin space. Behind the wheel of the Sorento you'll immediately notice what a great command you have of the road. The test vehicle, the SX-L is so maneuverable, exhibiting great reflexes and robust competency on highways with its 3.3 liter, V-6 engine that cranked out 290 horses. Another plus in the Sorento is the electronic power-assist steering which feels really well-balanced and brakes that are firm and stop light ready. The 2014 Kia Sorento is a solidly built SUV that offers value and quality throughout. Prices start at $24,100. www.kia.com
3) Mazda CX-9: The stylish family hauler, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 is a 7-passenger 'cool-like-dat' crossover SUV. It has the DNA of a sportier auto, perhaps its fam member, the Miata but it manages to incorporate all of the necessities that any family needs and wants too. The CX-9 has a new front end, giving you a semi-mean mug with body lines and contours that come together in a real clean way. The all over design is neat and contemporary. The CX-9's cabin is more than spacious and comfy enough for real-world folks in all three rows. Look around the CX-9 and you won't see extra bells and whistles or confusing do-dads that will make you desperately scrounge around for the manual. The interior is tastefully done, neat, with an easy sense of familiarity to the controls. As far as technology goes, the CX-9 has its fair share of wizardry. Standard features on the entry level Sport model include a roof spoiler, full power accessories, three-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a 5.8-inch touch screen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, Pandora radio capability and USB/auxiliary inputs. The next steps up in the CX-9 trims are the Touring and Grand Touring. The test vehicle, the Grand Touring sports bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, fog lights, automatic wipers, a power lift gate, keyless ignition/entry, driver-seat memory functions, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power lumbar support for the driver seat and a snazzier interior trim. Sitting in the driver's seat of the Mazda CX-9 and giving it gas, makes you realize why Mazda is known for its road prowess, all of the magic happens here as soon as you take off. As large as the CX-9 appears to be, you'd swear you were driving a smaller vehicle. The Japanese crossover SUV offers agility despite its girth. Steering is compliant, the CX-9 soaks up road annoyances as you maneuver with complete ease. Boasting a 3.7 liter, V-6 engine that puts out 273 horses , you feel confident as you 'zoom-zoom' past slow pokes and take sharp corners without breaking a sweat and all while trying to figure out, how such a hefty vehicle could possess such prowess. The 2013 Mazda CX-9 is good engineering that offers comfort and ease behind the wheel and road-ready spaciousness that any Brady-like brood would welcome. Prices start at $29,785. www.mazdausa.com
4) Mitsubishi Outlander: A crossover SUV that any family would welcome into their garage, the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander has kind of gotten lost in the crossover SUV's mix. Even though a major overhaul is coming down the pike late next year for the Japanese manufactured compact crossover vehicle, it's worth taking a look-see anyhow. In the exterior looks department, the Outlander is all testosterone, masculine, aggressive styling, prominent creases, "Hey you, fella, I dare you to come try me out!" There are three trims, the ES, SE and more refined GT. The SE's interior, the test vehicle, granted, really needs some imaginative spiffing up BUT it serves a purpose. The cabin's innards are austere, yes, but some folks prefer clean lines and no frills. If you kick it up a couple of notches to the GT, you'll then have a more premium design, double-stitch accents and soft touch surfaces. You'll also get an impressive heap of offerings that comes standard on the Outlander GT: full power accessories, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, fog lights, turn signals in the mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, heated front seats, sliding second-row seats, third-row seats, steering-column-mounted paddle shifters, a six-disc CD changer and the Fuse hands-free link system that integrates voice controls for iPod and Bluetooth devices, automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers, Sirius/XM radio and chrome touches. With regards to seating in the Outlander, they are cushioned enough to ease any case of back stress. Here's a noteworthy feature for die-hard football fans, the Outlander has a flip-down tailgate that is actually capable of supporting up to 440 pounds. With the second- and third-row seats folded, total cargo space measures a more than decent 73 cubes, perfectly suitable for soccer moms or golfing dads. But what sets off the Mitsubishi Outlander are the driving dynamics. The ES and SE are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 168 horsepower under its hood. The GT packs more punch with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine that's good for 230 horses. The Outlander is downright peppy to drive. The test vehicle, the SE, delivers brisk acceleration, so much so, that you have to keep looking back to make sure you're in an SUV. The Outlander gives you sure-footed cornering capability and a composed ride which inspires a true confidence especially at highway speeds or on wet roads. The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander is a shot of adrenalin packaged in a crossover SUV and is a vehicle that delivers fun factor. Prices start at $23,520. www.mitsubishicars.com
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