Cell-phone toting, latte sipping, warehouse shopping, morning jogging, after-hours volunteering, home improving, and chainsaw juggling: We've become a nation of multitaskers, balancing career and family, work and recreation on a teeter-totter of disappearing time. So much ground to cover. Not enough hours in the day.
So it makes sense that car companies come up with a product that meets such a diverse set of needs. Forget those big and clumsy, hard to park, tough to maneuver behemoths; no one has time for that. Hence, the car-based midsize SUV.
In this test, we examine three such SUVs that owe more of their DNA to passenger cars rather than trucks. Though the Nissan Murano, Mitsubishi Endeavor, and Toyota Highlander are available in base form with front drive, we're looking at versions equipped with optional all-wheel drive to determine just how multipurposeful they are.
All three take basic sedan architecture and add a cargo quotient. That means unitized body construction, four-wheel independent suspension, and compact, transverse-mounted engines and transmissions. With less vehicle length needed for powertrain items, there's more left over for people and all of their stuff.
Tossing the full ladder frame as on truck-based SUVs nets these vehicles lower step-in and liftover height, easing passenger ingress/egress and cargo loading. And because the truck frame is deleted, these SUVs are lighter, aiding performance and fuel economy. Lighter suspension components are a plus for handling, too.
Serious trailer towing or off-road rock-hopping don't factor into this SUV equation. Leave that for Uncle Bert and his turbodiesel Super Expediter. None of these nouveaux sport/utilities has seven-passenger pretensions, either. We doubt many adults are interested in hiking, ducking, and dodging past second-row seats, armrests, and shoulder belts as they're being crammed into a kiddie-size third row, chins resting on knees atop a bouncy rear axle. No, many buyers just want a vehicle with a front seat, a back seat, and a large, flexible space under roof, lock, and key in the rear that says, "Yeah, I got that covered."