Dear Car Talk: I have always driven a sedan but want to switch to a midsize SUV. I am an elderly lady (79) and have never driven an SUV but want something practical and dependable. I have looked online at the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Kia Telluride. If I want a third row of seats, which of those would you recommend? If I decide I could do with a five-passenger vehicle, I have looked online at the Subaru Outback, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV 4. What would be your top choice in that category? My current car has suddenly died, and I need to make a quick decision. — Wanda
Well, Wanda, every vehicle you’ve listed is a good one. Those are all practical, reliable, well-designed cars. The Telluride is currently our favorite three-row SUV. It’s quiet, smooth, powerful, and is a great value, besides. In the five-passenger category, we frequently recommend all three of the crossovers you list: the CR-V, the RAV4 and the Outback. And I’d add the Subaru Forester to that list, because it has particularly good visibility. But here’s the important thing: You need to go and drive them. Even if you’re a spry 79, climbing up into the bigger SUVs may not suit you. Even if you can make it in there with a yank on the grab handle or a little push from a helpful stranger, you may not want to do that every day. Plus, the Highlander, the Pilot and the Telluride are all pretty big. They’ll certainly be harder to maneuver and park than whatever sedan you’re used to. So unless you’re solely responsible for game day transportation for the senior center’s basketball team (plus coaches), I’d suggest you lean toward the five-passenger category. Those will be easier to get in and out of, easier to park and turn around, and, generally, more car-like and easier to live with. Then the question is, which one fits you best? Which is easy for you to get into and out of? Which one allows you to see easily over the dashboard and out the back? Which seat and seatbelt position fit your body best? Which one feels easy for you to drive and park? Visit a few dealerships and take a few test drives. I’m guessing that after some basic seat-of-the-pants research, one of those will emerge as the obvious choice for you, Wanda.
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By Ray Magliozzi
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