Midsize SUVs are sort of the navel of the automotive world: Just about every mass-market company has one. In fact, some have two, or even three.
That’s probably because midsize models were long the biggest-selling segment in the SUV market. Today there are 18 in the class, actually down a bit from their peak. Most are “crossovers”: high-riding wagons offering all-wheel drive but built on passenger-car platforms. Only a couple are of the old truck-type body-on-frame design. The latter often have higher towing limits, and are sometimes aimed more at off-road driving.
All models in this class offer all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, the latter sometimes available in part- and full-time versions. With all-wheel drive, it’s always engaged and the vehicle decides whether power should go to all four wheels. With 4-wheel drive, the driver can choose between 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. A couple of vehicles with 4-wheel drive have a part-time system, which is usually intended for severe off-road work and cannot be left engaged on dry pavement for fear of driveline wear. That’s not a concern with full-time 4-wheel drive.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2016
The midsize crossover/SUV class sees three redesigned vehicles for 2016: the Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, and Mazda CX-9. The Pilot is detailed on its Best Buy review page. The new Sorento rides on a more sophisticated platform that’s three inches longer in wheelbase than before, which improves passenger and cargo room. A new 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder joins the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and 3.3-liter V6, and Sorento also gains a host of new safety and technology features. The Mazda CX-9 is redesigned from the ground up, riding on an all-new, lighter platform with a wheelbase 2.2 inches longer than the outgoing model. The sole engine is a turbo 2.5-liter 4-cylinder rated at 227 horsepower. Three rows of seats and an available suite of high-tech safety equipment are among the CX-9’s features.