Family Friendly SUV


AAA and Parents magazine is out with a list of the 15 best cars for families.

Among the winners in the category of the much-maligned SUV, is the Ford Expedition:

"Third row comfortably fits actual grownups, not just kids. Cavernous center console, 11 cupholders, spacious interior. To minimize damage to other vehicles, bumpers are the same height as those on normal cars. Four-wheel drive version has true off-road moxie."

Hans Eisenbeis defended SUVs in Reason here.

NEXT: Triangulation

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  1. I thought I had heard that the Volvo XC-90 won that category. It’s got anti-rollover stability control, side curtain airbags and a boron-steel reinforced roof structure all to reduce risk of roll-over, a car-height substructure to reduce damage to passenger cars like the Expedition, and, apparently, 17(!) cupholders. I guess that’s enough for a 12-pack of coke for the kiddies and one shy of a six-pack of beer for mom & dad (obligatory safety warning: don’t drink and drive!).

    It also won an award for ‘best engineered automobile’ by the Society of Automotive Engineers. In my opinion it looks better, too, and technically it’s still a Ford (Ford owns Volvo cars).

  2. Jim – There were three SUV winners:
    The Volvo XC-90 (17 cupholders)
    Expedition (11 cupholders)
    Honda Pilot (only 9 cupholders)

    I first heard about the list today on NPR, which misreported the Ford Excursion (which must have enough cupholders for at least a full 30-pack) as one of the winners.

  3. I figured that out when I followed the link. Duh. I would be surprised if they listed the Excursion, Ford’s cancelling it. I think they sold really well at first, but sales dropped off rapidly. I think it amounts to the fact that everyone in America that wanted and could afford a $50,000+ 7,000 lb tank already bought theirs.

    These types of really large and/or really obnoxious vehicles (like the Hummer) make for great anti-SUV bait but the fact is most people can’t afford them, and many wouldn’t buy them if they could. It’s a niche market, like limosines for rich liberals and politicians who complain about ‘wasteful’ SUVs.

  4. I didn’t care for the Explorer when it was introduced. But then came the Expedition, and I must admit getting wood. But before I could buy it, I saw the Excursion, and recognized the pattern. Ford keeps coming out with the next bigger thing. I guess the idea is to make me buy one, then trade up, and again, so I end up buying all three. Instead I’ll wait.

    My wife says to wait for the Ford Exponential?, but I think I’ll hold out for the Ford Extrapolation?.

  5. Mountain Goat,

    I can’t blame you for seeing a trend there. There were a lot of jokes flying around with 6-door pickups and such for a year or so after it came out.

    As an auto industry insider, I can tell you that I think the monster truck wars are over, and I’m not sure who won. The big next thing is the ‘crossover’ vehicle that’s kind of like an SUV and kind of not. Perhaps the ‘bigger is better’ thing worked well when all our stocks were as overinflated as our vehicles, but now vehicles are being ‘rightsized’ (nicer sounding than downsized).

    Yeah, the Hummer H2 just came out, but it’s a smaller version than the original, and GM’s following it up with yet another even smaller (and cheaper) version that will probably be on the same size scale as an Explorer or Envoy.

    Maybe you should go ahead and get that Excursion – you can probably swing a good deal on one now.


    Jim ‘Can we supersize that SUV for you?’ Nelsen

  6. Oh, and check out the new Lincoln Navigator. It’s pretty cool. It looks smaller than the original but I’m not sure if it really is or if we’ve all just been numbed by the size of the Excursion. Anyhow, they also just launched the Aviator, which is somewhat smaller (case in point).

  7. since i don’t drive i don’t really think much about cars one way or the other, but…

    SUVs do seem to have a negative impact on peoples’ already precarious driving ability. three times out of four, if someone’s trying to make a right hand turn into the side of a hotel, it’s an suv’er.

  8. smk,

    They gave the ‘thumb’s up’ by category – not to SUV’s in particular. If you happen to want an SUV, they picked what in their opinion are the best choices for families. They also had categories for cars and minivans.

    Based on all the flap and statistics regarding SUVs, I doubt it’s in the insurance industry’s interest to promote them. Apparently because of the higher incidence of roll over, statistically they don’t do much to reduce traffic injury and death. If you buy into the ‘killer SUV’ theory then they also inflict more costly damage and/or greater injuries to the cars they hit. They cost a lot to insure, in part because if you get into a front end collision with one they cost more to fix due to the added complexity of 4wd, and they’re more expensive in general which correlates to higher repair costs from even minor damage.

    Also, if it is true that AAA lobbied against seatbelts and airbags at one time, I’m sure they would lobby for them now if some libertarian plan to eliminate NHTSA was being considered. Fact is they save lives and reduce both medical and liability costs, which are in the insurance industry’s interests (like the lower speed limits and bans on radar detectors).

    There are historical reasons why the insurance industry can be forgiven for fighting some of the new developments in auto safety. This is kind of shocking to us now, but up through the 1950’s it was believed by auto safety experts that it was better to be thrown from a vehicle in an accident. A higher number of cars on the road led to more statistics on crashes that reversed the prevaling opinon on this issue and led to many of the motor vehicle safety laws now in place. You must also remember that the first generation of federally mandated airbags proved to cause more harm than good in the case of infants, children and small adults. They were designed to restrain an unbelted 250 lb. man. And there is some evidence to support the notion that the downsizing of cars caused by CAFE laws did result in additional traffic fatalities. Better car design and new technologies have reduced the effect of this, but the whole light truck-car incompatibility issue is a reflection of this today, a situation that may not be as extreme if the CAFE legislation hadn’t given the automakers and the public an incentive to move to light trucks as a replacement for large cars that were effectively outlawed.

    AAA has its biases but I doubt a love of big SUVs is one of them.

  9. Sandy:

    Geez…get a grip. Can you come up with a better argument than (and I’m paraphrasing here), “All SUV Drivers and their families are drug mules.”


  10. Our local National Propaganda Radio station ran two stories one winter day. The first was the typical anti-SUV crap, the second was how doctors and hospital workers were getting ferried to work by volunteers with 4WD SUVs.

  11. Ya know, sometimes you Reason folks just make yourselves look foolish. You keep rushing to the defense of SUVs because SUVs are the current fave target for Professionally Outraged Leftists, Inc. But the fact that they’re An Issue for the misguided doesn’t mean that they aren’t ill-handling, inefficient, ill-conceived beasts that play to certain people’s worst instincts. I mean, just because Consumer Reports and CSPI rant about kung pao chicken doesn’t mean it’s not greasy, ya know?

  12. It’s been pretty well documented by this point that AAA’s lobbying activities for decades have focused on legislation that’s “pro-motorist” except when it’s “pro-auto-insurance-companies”. Their lobbying arm pushes for added federal and state transportation funds for highway construction… and for cuts to mass transit.

    Want to know who to thank for the market-distorting massive tax deductions that go to buyers of the largest SUVs? Thank AAA. Cuts to alternative-fuel programs? AAA. Who’s been on the front lines fighting against vehicle fuel economy, safety and emissions standards that would, y’know, raise the cost of vehicles just like the seatbelt, unleaded fuel and airbag mandates they fought? AAA.

    Before the “pro-market” automaker and oil-industry cheerleaders out there get too excited, know this: AAA has spent years–nay, decades–lobbying for bans on radar detectors and lower speed limits too.

    AAA’s magazine gave the thumbs-up to big SUVs? Shocking.

  13. Let me reiterate one more time for the anti-SUV crowd. So….m*****f****** what. It’s what people want to spend THEIR hard-earned money on. They’re a friggin’ pickup truck with a little more ass. Get a grip and get over it. The market will handle it and, in fact, already is.

  14. AAA Mid-Atlantic can’t even get a towtruck to you in 3 hours on a weekday with good weather after rush hour. Or at night on a weekend when you’re stuck in a bad neighborhood. And I’m supposed to listen to their idea of what a good car for the family is?

    Sure, as long as your family becoming drug mules is an acceptable passtime. Great family fun all ’round–and you can learn the metric system while you do it!

  15. no, but seriously, this class of car/truck/oversized minivan seems to up the already dangerously high asshole quotient into meltdown levels. if it’s 3 a.m. and someone’s repeatedly slamming back into a snowbank so they don’t have to shovel, they’re probably driving an SUV.

    in fact, it seems to have a similar effect as sub-heavy car stereo systems. (which – i hope – no one is going to be defending anytime soon)

  16. I’ve tasted Moxie. Since, I’m not sure why it’s used as a synonym for “vigor”…

  17. >> Let me reiterate one more time for the anti->> SUV crowd. So….m*****f****** what. It’s
    >> what people want to spend THEIR hard-earned >> money on. They’re a friggin’ pickup truck
    >> with a little more ass. Get a grip and get
    >> over it. The market will handle it and, in
    >> fact, already is.

    The point is not that people can’t spend their money on whatever they want. The point is to get people to think about the consequences of their actions. The fact remains that SUVs are not environment-friendly vehicles, and it sure would be nice if before purchasing an SUV, people would stop and think whether they want the SUV because they really need it or because it’s fashionable to have one. I don’t think a little bit of thinking is too much to ask.

  18. Jerry V,

    Undoubtably some people buy these things for fashion or emotional reasons such as they just want one. Those types of people are probably not ameniable to reason anyway and are just doomed to be impulsive or style-oriented in their decision making. Now that SUVs are starting to be a little less popular I think you’ll see these same people buy something else, whether it suits their needs or not.

    However, I think most consumers do carefully consider their decisions, especially when parting with that kind of money. In light of the recent debates over the merits and detriments of the SUV, some may change their opinions. However they will probably remain popular because many consumers find their advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and new technology and improved design (such as those exhibited by the SUVs recommended by the AAA and Parents Magazine) have reduced some of the downsides to SUVs.

  19. Everyone needs to get a grip and but out of everyone elses business.First,There are very few excursions,I own one because I need a bigger ,safer vehicle for my family.I do not hear complaints about pick up trucks and vans ,Both of which are the same stature.(My Excursion is probably more socially conscienscous than a sportscar doing burnouts and racing all over creation.Percentage wise and from personal experience( I am a Paramedic) ,I see far more cars crashing and its not into an SUV.I do not usually see large SUV drivers acting irresponsibly.Of course there will always be the odd ball maniac.I think you all need to worry about your home life and stop trying to meddle in Mine.Just my 2 cents

  20. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/26/2004 08:03:38
    Lies are only a problem when you believe them.

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