By Suzanne Kane

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that sport utility vehicles or SUVs come in small, midsize and fullsize versions. Automakers – both U.S. and foreign – have really stepped up to the plate to deliver the kinds of vehicles Americans want to drive. And that includes the midsize crossover SUV market that’s now more than a decade old. Formerly nothing more than a facelift to a truck-like underpinning, today’s midsize SUVs are more car-like than ever, while still providing every type of comfort, convenience and more than a little off-road ability.

In selecting these top 3 best used midsize SUVs, we looked at Consumer Reports Best of the Best list, investigated the crash test and rollover scores for each model in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), picked only those models named Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Picks, and checked a few other automotive review sources.

Here, then, are the top 3 best used midsize SUVs:

  • Honda PilotWith its 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and '08_Honda_Pilot_(Montreal)top-notch safety features, Honda Pilot is number one on the Consumer Reports Best of the Best list. The magazine also says Pilot is “roomier than its [Acura] MDX sibling and less expensive.” Pilot also receives top scores on the NHTSA crash and rollover tests and IIHS Top Safety Pick honors for midsize SUV for 2006-2009. This family-friendly midsize SUV virtually “defined the emerging crossover SUV market,” says Pros include decent, but not stunning V-6 power, better than average fuel economy, maneuverability, comfort and convenience and seating for 7 to 8. Cons include poor braking distances, button-happy stereo and climate controls. Edmunds also doesn’t much like the 2009 redesign, “Pilot has lost some of its luster,” but says a used Pilot is “one midsize crossover you’ll definitely want to look at.”
  • Toyota Highlander – Among the “other good choices” on the Consumer Reports Best of the Best list, Toyota Highlander also has top safety crash and rollover test marks from NHTSA and earns IIHS Top Safety Pick recognition for midsize SUV. Debuting in 2001, the Highlander was one of the first midsize crossover SUVs in the U.S. Redesigned in 2008, Highlander got a bigger V-6 engine. Of its 2008 redesign, Motor Trend says “Toyota dumps the Highlander’s box-on-wheels look with the all-new 2008 model, which looks like RAV4’s big sibling.” Pros include seating for up to 7 passengers, 3 engines (187-hp 2.7-liter 4-cylinder with 6-speed automatic transmission), 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine (with 5-speed automatic), and hybrid-power, front-wheel drive (FWD) or AWD, and lots of features. says “even the first generation Highlander remains one of the better values for individuals and families who need a comfortable, easy-to-drive vehicle that can carry a fair amount of cargo, handle occasional snow and ice during winter months and still turn in adequate fuel economy.”
  • Mercedes Benz M-Class – When Mercedes-Benz introduced the M-class in the late 1990s, it was a truck-like SUV – luxury-themed, to be sure, but it still rode more like a truck. Some 11 years later, M-Class has a raft of available engines, sure-footedness in bad weather, luxury 5-passenger seating, 7-speed automatic transmission and standard AWD. Edmunds says cons include the fact that the regular V-6 is short on low-end torque, there’s no third row seat option, it’s expensive for its class, and the electronic interface is antique. Nevertheless, M-Class makes top marks in both NHTSA crash and rollover tests and IIHS Top Safety Pick honors for midsize SUV. Of the 2009 ML320 BlueTEC (210-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel powerplant legal in 50-states) Motor Trend says that it’s “simple and unassuming,” and “satisfyingly efficient, well appointed and, of course, always recognizable as a Mercedes Benz.”

Other midsize SUVs to consider include the Acura MDX (built on the midsize Honda platform) and RDX, Ford Edge, Flex and Taurus X, Infiniti EX35, Lincoln MKX, Subaru Tribeca and Volvo XC90.

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