By on September 4, 2015

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

I recently attended the press launch for the new Lexus RX, which is a competitively priced, midsize luxury crossover that was styled by an angry man with a sword.

At this press launch, several topics came up. For instance: why did they give the styling job to this angry sword-man? Why was he so angry? What sort of sword did he have? And when are they going to put out a new plate of shrimp for us to eat?

There was also one other topic I discussed with a few people: the fact that the Lexus RX still doesn’t have three-row seating.

This is very strange. Although Lexus thinks the RX competes with the BMW X5 and the Mercedes M-Class, normal people don’t. Normal people think it competes with the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60, both of which offer three-row seating. So do the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder on which those models are based. And even more curiously, so does the Toyota Highlander, which underpins the RX. The RX shares the same platform, the same engines, the same sizing with the Highlander — but not its three-row seating.

I assume Lexus has lost many sales over this issue. People walk into the Lexus dealer, they see that the RX has only two rows, and they go get an MDX instead. I mean, yeah, sure, maybe they considered a GX, but more likely they were concerned its giant, open-mouthed grille would eat their entire family, starting with their pets. Or maybe they were concerned the GX is a body-on-frame SUV with a standard V8 and a much higher price tag. Definitely one of the two.

But all this got me thinking: why is a third-row seat so important?

I say this because when I grew up, my parents had two vehicles: a 1987 Toyota Camry (later replaced with a 1998 Toyota Camry), and a 1992 Isuzu Rodeo. These vehicles did not have three-row seating. In fact, these vehicles didn’t even have airbags, and we turned out just fine — although in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I walked away from a legitimate paying career to become a writer.

In fact, I don’t even really remember any specific time when we would’ve needed three-row seating. Now, I’ll grant you, I was just a kid back then, eating crayons and playing with chalk and kicking soccer balls and shooting heroin. But wouldn’t I have remembered if there was ever a situation where we said: “Oh, darn! Better rent a minivan!”?

Admittedly, I do recall one or two times where we had to stick someone unsecured back in the cargo area of the Rodeo. This is the kind of thing you could do if you were a parent in the 1990s, before the advent of safety advocacy groups that will dispatch a live komodo dragon to your home if your child goes outside wearing anything less than a padded helmet and a brightly colored safety vest.

Plus, this only happened once or twice. Maybe five times. We certainly didn’t need to buy an entire third-row vehicle just for this rare and occasional eventuality. What we needed to do instead was just tint the windows in the cargo are a little more so the cops couldn’t see inside.

And so I ask you, ladies and gentlemen: Why is this third-row seat thing so damn important to people?

Here’s my theory: In today’s world, people who can afford to do so buy things – not just cars, but everything – for realities we may not actually face. SUVs that can go off road, even if they never will. Watches that can keep working up to 100 meters under the surface, even if we never plan to dive. Phones with so much space they could store more documents than a file cabinet, even if we only use them to take pictures of our pets. And I think maybe the third row is just an extension of this behavior.

Here’s how I see it going: A buyer walks into the Acura dealer, looks at the MDX, and says, “Hmmm… a third row! Once I had to carry little Austin’s friend Cathy around for a couple days! And what if my parents come visit? They won’t want to rent a car! Even though they have been successfully renting cars since they were 25 years old back in the 1960s!”

So you buy the third row thing, and then you complain about how small the third row is, so you never really use it. And eventually you sell it to a used car shopper with the very same mindset, and eventually they sell it to a used car shopper with the very same mindset, and then eventually it gets cheap enough that it’s used to transport drugs.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the third-row cycle of life. Do you agree?

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123 Comments on “QOTD: Why Does Third-Row Seating Really Matter So Much?...”


  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Odyssey owner with 3 children under 4yo here. Here’s why we chose a 3-row vehicle:

    It’s very difficult to fit 3 car seats across on the same row. We have the twins sitting in the third row and our 1yo boy in the 2nd row.
    We like being able to go back while the van is moving to sit with the kids to give out snacks, wipe runny noses, keep them company, etc. It’s all very roomy and comfortable even for adults.
    We like being able to have someone else join us on trips.
    The window profile of minivans is usually square and allows good visibility to children even at the rear. Less chances for them to get car sick and it offers a more interesting view for them.

    IMO for parenting duty there’s nothing better than a vehicle with a proper third row. I find that the third rows in SUVs are compromising and at this stage of the parenting game couldn’t see myself ever considering them.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      See this to me makes perfect sense, there is a legitimate market here but as you said, the three row SUV seems flat out weird unless it is absolutely HUGE.

      i think the Op was referring to two child families, at which point three rows is again, flat out weird.

      Oh and the RX does compete against the X5 and whatever else was on that list, they all swim in the same bath of which the RX has been king for eons.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        I know more than one family who are single-child, but preemptively bought a 3-row for the grandparents who visit once a year. The father knew better than to argue at that…delicate time.

        But I suppose the 3rd row can often be collapsed and made into trunk space, so it’s probably not as bad of a waste as I think.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          You can make the third row into trunk space, but one tends to get a lot more space from a vehicle without the third row. When the third row is up, usually the best you can do with the very limited amount of space is put your groceries there on a day that isn’t “buy for the month” day.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Yes I don’t get the need for a third row with two children. I guess it fulfills a “nice-to-have-just-in-case” need but we are quite an insecure people and like to turn wants into needs. We somehow forget that renting a minivan is possible…

        If I had two kids only I’d probably be driving an Outback or XC70.

        • 0 avatar
          WildcatMatt

          Regarding the three row/two children question, as we plan to add to our family in the near future and two car seats means the second row is full.

          My parents are retired and live five states away, so every 6 weeks or so we’re driving to them or they’re flying to us. Having the third row means everyone can ride together to dinner or the airport and not have travel time be dead time — having my parents talk to/with my kids during the trip is way better than Spongebob reruns in every way I can think of.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      When dealing with multiple child seats (and, especially, a 3rd row of child seats) you also want to be able to stand up in the vehicle while dealing with the kids and seats—that requires a high roofline. And you want to be able to step into the vehicle carrying a kid—that requires a huge door opening. Therefore, having a 3-row kid-carrying vehicle also means you want it in a minivan configuration. But in minivan configuration, the RX would lose many of its current existing customers.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Excellent points and all valid. I remember now that my back used to hurt when putting the kids in/out of our Legacy wagon. Now I can stand or sit across the kid I am buckling, much better.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @Cactuar

      You bought a three-row vehicle that makes sense – a van. If you need to carry a bunch of people, you need a van.

      Doug is talking about three-row crossovers. Three-row crossovers are stupid. I have a friend with a new Sorento Limited, which is ONLY available with the third row. It is so tiny as to be worthless. I am not sure any kid small enough to actually sit back there wouldn’t technically need a booster seat! And it absolutely KILLS the cargo space. And he is a single guy! But he wanted all the toys, and the only way to get ALL the toys was to get the Limited, which only comes with the useless extra seat. Even three row big SUVs are usually pretty terrible. Since most of them are BoF and have live rear axles, the third row ends up sitting on the floor, and you end up sitting with your knees around your ears somewhere if you are more than 8 years old. Better than a CUV, but not that much better.

      I’m currently in Italy on vacation and find it hilarious to see all the Italian families crammed into the various cars that are SMALLER than a Fiat 500. Kids in car seats and all.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        The new Sorento in V-6 is 3 row, 2.0T models have 2 rows. So not it’s not ONLY available in 3 rows.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The Limited is only available with 3 rows. As I mentioned, he was only interested in the Limited. And those third row seats do not come out easily. He even looked into getting the parts to permanently remove them, but you can’t get the trim pieces in the right colors thanks to the exclusive trim colors the Limited model comes in.

          • 0 avatar
            SC5door

            No it is not. Homework done for you below.

            There is an SXL 2.0T and SXL V6.

            Autoweek even did a review:

            http://autoweek.com/article/drive-reviews/kias-new-luxury-liner-crossover-2016-sorento-20tgdi-drive-review

            As quoted:

            “All three engines are offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while it’s the V6 Sorento that offers a third row of seats…”

            Kia Website:

            http://www.kia.com/us/en/vehicle/sorento/2016/trims

            Trims:

            L, LX, LX V6, EX 2.0T, EX V6, SX V6, Limited 2.0T, Limited V6.

            Features:

            “http://www.kia.com/us/en/vehicle/sorento/2016/features”

            50/50 Third Row Seats under “Limited” has a “–” and or “Not Available”. Limited V-6 has 3 rows of seats, which gives the tilt and slide function of the 2nd row of seats.

            And no the seats DON’T remove, they fold flat into the floor.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Fine, the *V6 LIMITED* is only available with three rows. THAT IS THE ONE HE WANTED. As I said, he wanted all the bells and whistles, and that included the big motor. He even got most of the dealer installed accessory crap, lighted sills and tow package and storage package, MSRP was north of $50K.

            The third row does not fold into the floor in the way that, as an example, stow and go Chrysler seats do. Even folded, it takes up a ton of space. The fact that you can get a 2.0T Limited without the silly thing makes it even more stupid that you can’t get the V6 without it.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      “It’s very difficult to fit 3 car seats across on the same row.”

      You’re kidding me, right? The reason we bought an Odyssey (2013) over a T&C was because of three-across seating. We have a 6-year-old and two 3-year-old twins in the second row.

      The third row is for extra adults. With all of the kids’ seats occupying the 2nd row, third row passengers have to climb in through the hatch.

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    So true. Hell, my brother and I were nearly 10 (1992 or so) before my dad felt it necessary to buy his first extended cab pickup, and stopped making my brother and us ride in the bed (with a cap on, granted).

    We did several interstate trips with us in the bed of pickups, and all our Legos strewn everywhere, it was heaven to a kid. Nowadays we’d still be in booster seats in the middle seats of our 3 row CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I may have been a weird kid, but we always had regular cabs on the farm trucks. Last year was our first truck with anything else (We went with a crew cab). I always looked at sitting in the back like a punishment. Once I had my license, I would follow in another vehicle.

      Our truck for many years was a 1992 F250. It was an XLT, so it had a bench that had a really large folding armrest in the middle. I sat on that thing for tens of thousands of miles- when I was a kid, I thought it was a booster seat!

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Alright, that means that I had it good as a kid. Sitting on the driver’s side inward-facing jump seat of a massive ’77 F-250 SuperCab. The regular cab farm pickup, either a ’74 or ’79 depending on when we’re talking, was so big to 5-year-old me that we could’ve sat 4 across no problem. Only twice do I remember sitting in the back for any more than a mile.

      But road trips? In the bed of a pickup? Nosiree Bob, says Mom and Dad. That was how people wound up as chunky salsa on the Interstate. We had a perfectly good minivan for if we weren’t pulling the pop-up camper.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        For me it was sitting in the back facing third row seat of my Mom’s Country Squire wagon fishtailing on dirt roads following my Dad’s K5 Blazer on the way up to the family cottage. I wouldn’t worry if we crashed though as I had thorough padding from grocery bags full of hotdogs and chips, cases of Canadian and a steel Coleman cooler piled in the seat with me! Lol! Good times….

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          Such luxury. We did a Portland->Yellowstone->Edmonton, and a Portland->LA trip in an 87 Accord sedan (107HP) fully loaded with 4 passengers and luggage.

          It was probably smaller than a present day Honda Fit, but then again, people weren’t so huge back then.

          • 0 avatar
            Ltd1983

            When we weren’t in the truck, the 4 of us and a golden retriever were in a 1990 Accord sedan. We did many trips around the US with several weeks worth of luggage like that.

            Sounds like you definitely also get why we, as kids who were ignorant of any notions of safety at least, preferred the open space of a pickup bed with a camper shell.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            If there was a shell, I probably would have liked it. Being rained on with the wind whipping in your ears, and straw blowing all over the bed- not fun. Our other vehicle was a 1993 Escort, so that wasn’t extravagant, but I preferred it to the truck bed. At least the trips were short. It’s no wonder that I fell in love with our Chrysler New Yorker when we got it!

            ———-

            Recently, I saw a group of four people in a Mirage headed for Yellowstone. They had some luggage in the car, but it was light. I’d wager that the trunk was full, though. I felt a little sorry for them. Arkansas to Wyoming and back in a Mirage sounds like a punishment….

  • avatar
    godomatic

    Yay! I love reading your stuff on a slow Friday! Hysterical. And true.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I’d say about right, but the third owner could have use for the seats, as the lower incomes tend to have larger families. That or for the day laborers. So I guess they’re a thank you from the upper middle class to those who mow their lawns and cook their food and clean their houses.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      From some reports that I’ve read in the last decade, it’s the upper classes which tend to have the larger families now. It’s the new display of wealth from what I understand.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Backward facing car seats. Forward facing car seats. Small back seats. Illegal to have kids not in said car seats under certain height/weight/age.

    Any other questions?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Parents with multiple young children *need* the third row these days because of the car seat factor. Two modern car seats eat your whole second row. If you have three kids, or ever need to cart an in-law around, you need the third row. I’m in the latter category and if my wife and I decide to have a second kid I’ll need to trade in our Forester for something bigger.

    Empty-nesters also seem quite attached to the third row, possibly because they wish their kids would come home more often and they’d have to tote the grandkids around. They don’t really realize that the third row eats cargo space; they just think of it as a convenient thing to have.

    Rumor almost universally has it that the next RX will have a third row now that the NX exists.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      +1. I’ve got a three row Highlander and one child but I’d like to have at least two more. (I like to keep cars for a long time.) I already have a plan where the oldest “graduates” to the third row while their siblings are in car seats/booster seats. She’ll likely be in heaven back there with her own HVAC vents and cup holders.

  • avatar
    pdl2dmtl

    Agree to some degree. See what I did here…
    Third row is nice to have – just in case. The fact that the RX does not have it, automatically disqualifies it in the eyes of the minivan avoiding “like the plague” people. They want the utility / luxury badge and they go and buy from the competition.

  • avatar
    drclough

    Sure we survived before. Being the youngest in the 70’s I was always relegated to the middle seat right over the massive hump that protected the drive shaft of our Plymouth Gran Fury station wagon, so when the Mini-van and it’s 3 seats came out, it was as if the waters had parted.

    Today, I’m sure much back seat bickering over space has been prevented by the 3rd row seat in our mini-van, which is routinely used to transport our 3 young children. That alone makes it worth the additional cost and reduction in coolness factor, which I could care less about anyhow:)

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      When I was a kid (early 80s), my dad used to tool around town with four of us (my dad and three kids) in his RX-7. We were probably 7, 9, and 11 at the time.

      My brother and sister would share the passenger seat, and I would lay across the trunk cover under the back window.

      Apparently this was in the days before carseats (and seatbelts, I guess) were required. Either that, or else the cops in Anchorage just turned a blind eye to that kind of thing.

      Third row? Bah. We would have been happy with a second row!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I am old enough to remember my youngest brother being placed in and riding around in the open ‘parcel space’ ( or whatever it was called) that was right over the engine compartment in the back of our VW Beetle. The thrum from the engine would put him to sleep. And in Toronto winters it was the only part of the Beetle that had any heat.

    Our riding around in the very back of our Type III ‘shooting brake’. No seats, no seatbelts. Sliding around on every turn, curve, stop, start and on ramp.

    Our riding in the rear facing seats of The Old Man’s Country Squire and my brother’s getting car sick from the motion, smell of exhaust through the open window and sensation of moving backwards.

    Or putting about 10 of us in my Type IV ‘shooting brake’ before seat belts became mandatory.

    Once I reach ‘adulthood’ trying to fit 2 infants and their sundry supplies in our Honda ‘real time all-wheel drive’ Wagovan. Dollar for dollar one of the best vehicles I have ever owned.

    The acquisition of a 3 row of seats mini-van was a God send. Room for infant and booster seats. Head room. The ability to split up squabbling children by moving one to another row of seats. The ability to take the whole family in one vehicle out for dinner/visits/trips. Car pooling. Out of town hockey/soccer trips. Folding the rear seats down to fit a garage sale find. Moving kids back and forth from college.

    Quite frankly the mini-van killed the market for station wagons because it was better at performing the essential functions.

    Why settle for 2 rows of seating when you can get 3?

    • 0 avatar
      Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

      This the best response I have ever read about this subject. If you were in my neck of the woods, I would buy you a beer.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Having driven a former lover’s Type III quite a bit back in the day, and having had the fortune (not the omission of the word “good”) to work on a couple of Type IV’s (one shorted out whenever the driver hit a bump and the seat shorted out the battery underneath; the other needed an engine pull and trans drop to change an A/C belt — got to help the mechanic who got stuck with that 14 hour job that paid 11.5)…after having that kind of direct experience with those vehicles, I nearly fell out of my seat laughing, hearing you tag them as “shooting brakes”…I suppose in someone’s dreams, but truly funny in reality.

      Always enjoy your comments, Arthur, though I don’t often comment on them.

  • avatar
    matador

    How else do you go offroading with four children and your spouse?

    Seriously, you pay more for the vehicle, and more to run it. Therefore, it needs to offer more. A two row SUV is the modern equivalent of the AMC Eagle- can go offroad, is higher than a sedan/wagon, is 4×4/AWD, and can fit two car seats. You don’t gain much in the way of practicality over a sport wagon, such as an A6 Avant, E-Class wagon, or a Subaru. The third row is a way to justify the purchase- you have something that you couldn’t get in a wagon. (Yes, I know the A6 was available with a rear facing third row, but still….)

    Will that row be used? Maybe. But, it’s there, and it’s something that separates the soccer moms from the girls. ;)

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    … because dogs, like people, are safer when they can be harnessed to a seat. Saying that, on balance I’d prefer to have the option to do away with the mostly redundant 3rd row and have better rear storage options.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Historically, third-row+ seats were of a much greater importance because families were larger and you probably only had one car. The Country Squire had to be able to take everyone. Now that we have 5 cars for every 6 Americans, it’s no longer necessary. Hence, the disappearance of the front bench seat as well as the predominant configuration in the most popular segments (mid-size and compact CUVs and mid-size sedans) being 2+3.

    Semi-related: We rented a Caravan for our road trip to Illinois last weekend and ended up with a brand-new Tahoe LTZ. I never sat in the third row, though I could see that because of the SRA the seat was practically on the floor. It drove nice and got better MPG than anything any of us owned (we all have pickups that get mid-teens and I have a CUV that gets 22, but we wouldn’t have wanted to put 5 adult men and their luggage in that), and had a lot of bells and whistles, but we would have been so much better served with a Caravan.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    For those who try to argue themselves into a minivan with two young kids:

    Our family vehicle was a 2003 Passat Wagon until our kids were 5, 5, and 3. Three car seats fit in a single row. You need to buy narrow ones. You need a seatbelt extender to make bucking easier between the seats. We also easily exceeded 30 mpg, and had the comfort and handling of a lighter car. The adults are also normally sized.

    We went to a seven seater when the kids were old enough to have friends go with them unaccompanied by a parent.

  • avatar
    jefbak

    I just traded in my 2013 Ford Escape last weekend and the lack of a third row was one of the problem I had with car. I liked the Acura MDX and Highlander and I have owned a MDX in the past. I liked having them but they were a pain to get to. For some reason I feel that wagons can get away with not having the third row but not SUVs – they should have it.
    I ended up buying a 2013 Toyota Sienna awd van instead because even though we are just a family of three that third row is much easier to get to and more useful in size. I can fit more in and I don’t plan to go off roading so why not get the van I say?

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    Well I drive a hatchback, and the family car is a minivan. I’m a 30-something year old with 3 kids and more possible in the future. 3rd row seating isn’t really “optional” for me. At least not in the big car.

    For normal people it’s nice to have a place to stash extras. Like grandma and grandpa. Need them options. If you’re going to get a car that seats, what, 4? 5? Why glut on a big SUV?

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Ah, the Angry Swordsman! Zorro lives?

    That’s the best gag I’ve seen regarding the current frantically over-drawn auto-aesthetic, which makes me want to gag, too.

    My stock joke is that I’d have to stop hand-waxing my car, if I owned a Ford Escape. Don’t want to risk cutting cut my hands on all those triangles. ; >

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    Because modern day car seats. Next question.

    Though this only applies to families with more than 2 children. 2 kids or fewer, you don’t need a 3rd row. But even with 2 kids, it’s now almost impossible to sit back there with your infant to feed them on the road if you have 2 car seats installed.

  • avatar
    jjster6

    And we put captain’s chairs in the middle row, fold down the rear seat to make room for luggage, and then have a giant 4 passenger vehicle, when a small sedan would have done the job just as well.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Define just as well? Are you saying the rear passengers would be as comfortable on a long driver in the back of a civic as they would be sitting in the captain’s chairs of an odyssey? I grew up in the back of a series of old civics (’82 wagon, ’85 sedan, ’90 wagon), when my family first got our 1989 Mazda mpv with bench seats it was a revelation. When we bought our 1998 mpv allsport ES with leather captain’s chairs we reached the zenith of comfortable road tripping.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    This topic comes up a lot on the internet in discussion of 3 row people movers alot. It inevitably falls on two sides, those who don’t have kids and ask why people buy these huge vehicles for things they won’t need when they can just rent x times a year for when they do need them.

    Then there is the other side with people who have kids and homes and know exactly why they are wanted. Notice I didn’t say needed. You can make do with almost anything, it doesn’t mean it’s ideal. I can pound in a nail with a screwdriver but it doesn’t mean it’s efficient at the task.

    What large 3 row vehicles give you (mini-van, SUV, CUV, whatever) is freedom. You want to take grandma and the three kids to the lake or beach with all the luggage? You can do that. You found that nice piece of furniture on craigslist and they want you to pick it up by tomorrow? You can do that.

    Your friend and neighbor has an emergency and needs someone to drop her two kids at school while you take your two kids…guess what you can do that.

    The people that belabor the issue of 3 row vehicles are ones that would never buy them in the first place. The rest of us understand and will continue to purchase them.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Plus 1000 percent to the real world plus of the third row, we have a pilot and the 3 row has been a life saver , three kids and the fairly often need to shuffle others kids around as well. Really what is the downside?? You can fold the seats down if you do not need them. Just drove to Montreal this summer w the kids ,18,13,10 and the third row kept me sane and them alive. I could have put them all in my TDI wagon but the trip would have been much more of a PITA.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      This too.

      • 0 avatar
        jrmason

        I agree. As long as the 3rd row folds down so that you are left with a flat floor I don’t understand how their could be a down side to having one. We’ve got a 3rd row in our Mountaineer Prem and its got a ton of cargo space with the 3rd row laid down. We only have 2 children so no we don’t NEED it but it is nice for the kids to have their own space on longer trips. If they each bring a friend along (they often do) then the need for the 3rd row is there.

        What we used to drive and cram into is rather irrelevant. Times change and so does technology. Who would want to cram their family of 4-5 in a mid 80s Cavalier when they can buy a vehicle twice the size that gets the same or better fuel mileage? I can remember many trips across the state of Wyoming to visit grandparents stuffed in the back seat of a 2 door Cutlass with an infant brother and sister in car seats.I was always tall for my age and absolutely dreaded those seven hour trips.

        No thank you!

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The average family has 2.5 children, typically enough that two rows is enough. However, depending on their age separation, the baby of the family takes up an inordinate amount of space and honestly the kids don’t like getting crowded three to a row. Even the old station wagons had folding third-row seats facing rearward–which honestly was far more appealing to the kids than being forced to try to look over and around the front seat and its occupants.

    Third row today? I think Tesla has the much better idea by having them face the rear instead of the front.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    We’ve become so coddled. I remember two family trips down the I-5 in Dad’s Caprice Estate wagon to Seattle with 4 adults in the front and the 4 kids all rolling around in the “way back”.

    I also hate how three seat SUV’s/minivans have taken away the simple childhood pleasures of being in the rear facing wagon seat and madly grinning and making faces at the car behind you.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    We had what is essentially a Tesla Model S 3-row vehicle growing up. A 1987 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon with wood paneling on the outside and more blue on the interior than in the ocean.

    It’s been a long time but I recall us using the rear-facing third row maybe twice. We were a 2 kid family but traveled a lot and carried our grand parents to and from the airport frequently (an hour trip each way).

    Then we bought mini vans and never used the 3rd row. No one likes sitting back there and if I face that scenario, I will be driving my own car myself, thanks.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Minivan owner here with a near empty nest. The other vehicles in the motor pool are all five passenger cars (G8, Forester, Impreza sedan).

    I would have been OK with the minivan coming with 5 seats honestly (well, 4 as it has captains chairs second row). I wanted the cargo space and drive around with the third row permanently folded down.

    I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve hauled six or seven people, but it has happened and it has been great to have.

    But really, I have no legit reason to require 7 passenger seating. I think for most people it is a check box they tick off, because “you never know.”

    But again – I just wanted the cargo room.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    Not having children, I feel the same way about second row seats. I did just fine with an Audi TT for a decade, and a Supra Turbo for a decade before that. Eventually, I relented and got an A5, so I could fit in some friends when going out to dinner a couple times a year. I think we took my wife’s mother for a ride in it once, too. And last week, I gave two neighbors a ride back from the train station. But do I need two rows? Not really.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Same here, I drive a Z so that tells you about my concerns regarding carry people other my wife, or items larger then a toothbrush.

      I think the answer here is “soccer mom”. Those types need to drag their kids plus half of the neighbors kids around too.

      Like most folks here we had the standard 70s fake wood panel station wagon as a kids (me & my brother) so two rows, four doors and storage in the back was perfect. We later moved into a custom van which had chain’s chairs plus that little table and a 3rd row futon like folding sofa thing. And yes we ONCE did the trip with grandma back there. Other wise the only time the 3rd row got used was to lie down and sleep (no seat belts).

  • avatar
    Fred

    As one of 4 kids my parents had a 3 row vehicle. Of course it was a rear facing seat in the back of a 1961 Chevy wagon.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If you have more than 2 kids you need that third row. Minivans, Flex, Traverse, these vehicles exist for a reason and that third row may very well be used nearly every single day. With those vehicles I don’t think it is even a question worth asking.

    What is worth asking are whether those cramped use-in-a-pinch third rows are useful or worthwhile in a vehicle the size of the RX or Outlander. If you are a grandma who sees her grandkids with any frequency and you want to take the same vehicle to lunch, that kind of third row allows that. Then it folds away and you have your reasonably sized 2-row CUV back. It’s a narrow window of opportunity, though, since moving childseats between vehicles is a chore and lanky adolescents won’t fit well.

    I don’t know how many people fall into that kind of use category. Apparently not nearly enough to keep the third row in the RAV4.

  • avatar
    baggins

    We have two kids, but have had a minivan since our first arrived. Just easier. My wife uses the third row all the time. Friends of kids. Grandparents. Cousins. Driving for school field trip. Minivan just gets it done. GREAT for road trips too.

    But I think Doug’s point is about SUVs. I see some relevance to his point there. The third row in a midsized SUV is pretty limited. Not sure my 70 year old mom would fit too well back there. But you can still stuff kids back there once in a while

    To the poster who stuffed 3 cars seats across in a Passat: You’re a maniac. Enjoy your hairshirt. 95% of people with three kids who can afford something bigger, drive something bigger.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      As a former VW owner, I’m pretty sure that a minivan would be cheaper and more reliable than the Passat.

      VWs are fun, though, when they run.

      Size != wealth. You have to be very wealthy or a very dedicated driveway mechanic to keep one going beyond the warranty period.

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        I assumed that the poster could afford a mini van if he had a Passat, but that he felt he was making some sort of a statement by still using a passat to tote around 3 kids in car seats.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The statement would be that he liked driving the Passat better than a minivan.

          Do people just haul the brats around with them everywhere they go? My parents sure didn’t. They went to work, my brother and I went to school. On the bus. If we were lucky, we got to go shopping with Mom once in a while, and holiday trips to the relatives. Once I was old enough to ride a bicycle away from the house, that was my primary means of transportation for the 3 seasons where it was possible in Maine. In the winter, too bad for me.

          Ultimately, Americans of the blogging classes are simply spoiled. It is most certainly privilege to be able to get a vehicle that is multiple times larger than you need every day, “just in case”. As I have mentioned, I am currently in Italy, and if an Italian family has a Fiat 600, then that is the family car, car seats and all.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I have one kid and I want a full sized Transit van.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I believe the picture above is a Transit CONNECT 7 passenger extended length wagon. It is already on my short list for next vehicle if they still make them (granted it will be 6 or 7 years in the future but hey we car guys fantasize all the time.) What I like is that there is a decent amount of room for cargo behind the third row. I just wish the transit came with a little more HP.

      The 8 passenger regular Transit van however has as much cargo room as a crew cab pickup and can carry that many people.

      • 0 avatar

        I have 3 kids (and 2 – 3 row vehicles) you know what I want for weekend warrior vehicle? A Nissan NV 3500 passenger version. All the rows pop out to fit enough draw wall to redo you average suburban house and it can tow 9000 lbs. plus I could have a separate seats for each kid and still have room for our dogs.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I think this can be tied to the death of the full size car and wagon and bench seat. Most full size sedans with a bench seat up front could sit 5 if not 6 people. A lot of full size wagons had a rear facing seat as well. Most of today’s vehicles are too small inside to easily sit 3 across and front bench seats now are basically the provenance of full sized pickups. I also think changes in society play into it. When many families had a stay at home parent, everybody could take the kids to baseball, dance, band, etc. Now, with kids lives getting even more crammed with extra curriculars and both parents having work schedules, carpools have become a necessity to make everything happen. When I was in middle and high school about 10-15 years ago, I went to a private school so no school buses. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of kids came to school in a carpool.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      If you wanted to seat 6 people “back in the day” in one car, it was 3 in front, 3 in back. Now it’s 2 in front, 2 in middle (captain’s chairs), and 2 in back.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Bingo. As I well know, driving a Panther.

        Or it used to be 3 in front, 3 in back, and now it is 2 in front and 2 in back, and need a second car and driver.

        And Doug, this was one of your better QOTD, and a good analysis of the situation.

        Just as I have ragged on what I thought were weak ones, I have to give kudos to this effort.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      Plus, now the nanny state has moms believing their precious bundles need to be in a car set up to 80 lbs. By that standard, my friend’s Laotian wife should be riding in a child safety seat.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I survived a childhood without proper car seats, and in ca without modern safety systems. Pretty much all of us alive today did.

        But my kids ride in proper car seats.

        Why?

        Because installing a car seat only takes ten minutes and $100, and it helps to make sure he has a whole lifetime to enjoy. And you can get a free one if you’re poor.

        It really is the least any kid deserves from their parents.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The numbers don’t lie. Car seats work. Modern car seats have *drastically* reduced road fatalities for small children.

        I don’t particularly enjoy the fact that my son is legally required to be in a car seat until he’s 8 years old or 4’9″ (whichever comes first), but the reason for it is crystal-clear, and I’ll happily comply.

        My mom was smart — she made me ride in the back seat, with a seat belt, until I was 11 or so. That was unusual in the mid-’80s.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “3rd row seating” is a recent term invented for SUVs whose interior volume doesn’t justify it, yet the mfr chose to jam them in anyway just to sell more cars.

    My 96 Grand Voyager had truly useful 3rd row seating – as have my three minivans since then – but the term “3rd row seating” wasn’t used then.

    Consequently, I mistrust any claims of “3rd row seating” because I already know what sort of utility they lack.

    For further reading, see “2016 Chevy Volt 5th seat”.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    For families with 2 kids, the third row is nice to have in case you want to take your kids’ friends out. Or grandparents.

    Is it used often? No, but that doesn’t make it a terrible buy. How often do you use the spare tire?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’ve used a spare tire once in the past 25 years. Thus it bothers me not at all that my last three new cars have not had one.

      Grandma and Grandpa can drive themselves.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I have two kids and use the third row fairly often. It may not be a necessity, but it is a luxury. If we go somewhere and each kid brings a friend (this really cuts down on fighting), we need the third row. When my inlaws and their kids are in town, we can all fit in the van. When my 7 of my buddies and I go to a concert or a football game, we can all fit in the van. It is also useful

    A three row SUV is less useful, as adults and even older kids can’t fit comfortably in the back seat, except for maybe a Suburban.

    Three rows is not new, either. Back in the day, station wagons had the way-back. My parents’ Colony Park actually had two way-back seats that faced inward.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      Suburbans are magical creatures for road trips. The only SUV/CUV that can haul 8 adults AND their stuff. Everything else makes you choose or strap stuff on the roof.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Expedition EL wants to have a word with you.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Adults? I’m only 5’10” and I sure wouldn’t want to sit in the back row of a Burban for any trip longer than 5 minutes to the lunch restaurant. Minivans are vastly better for hauling people, although you need the Burban if you’re going to tow at the same time.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        As someone who’s ridden in an ’08 Yukon XL and a ’15 Tahoe (and yes, I know that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison) and saw the kind of space that’s in the back seat right over the SRA, I have to say “ha ha ha…no” to the 8 adults part. I’m 5’8″ and I’d still have my knees in my face if I sat back there.

        How is the Expedition/EL? I’d imagine the IRS frees up a bit of floor space in the third row.

        • 0 avatar
          olivebranch2006

          Recently bought a 2015 Navigator L (same as expedition EL in size) after cross shopping the Suburban / Yukon XL. The third row in the GM versions is a joke. Almost sitting on the floor, less head room, knees way up in the air. Their folding flat third row is a joke as well.
          Expi/Navi gives you a more comfortable higher seating position so your thighs actually rest on the seat, more leg room, and more head room all while giving you a larger trunk with lower loading height. We have 1100 miles on the Navi and it fits our family of five perfectly! Room in the back for roadtrips without putting stuff on the roof is the best. We recently took the five of us plus the Grandparents fit in the third row comfortably! That is 7 people including three car seats and i’m talking about the really wide britax car seats with side airbag cushions.

          We also cross-shopped every other SUV / CUV and midsized CUV third rows were all pitiful. Dodge Durango and Mercedes GL had a decent third row but the cars were too narrow with tiny trunks.

          Full sized SUVs we tried with solid rear axles all suffered from the same packaging issue that IRS fixes so perfectly.

          I may add the land rover LR4 7 seater would have been really nice if it had a larger trunk… The three sunroofs and boxy, open cabin had amazing light and visibility. I really did like that SUV a lot!!!

          We went full size and it is strictly family duty. We don’t drive the large beast everywhere but when we do need a lot of capacity, it is the ultimate road warrior. Planning on keeping it a long time just like my pickup. Big heavy BOF vehicles are just so useful and durable…

          • 0 avatar
            Arminius

            +1
            We have an 07 Expedition EL. Went with this over the GM twins mostly because of the IRS and the resulting benefits to the 3rd row. While not exactly spacious, it is comfortable enough for the older kids on long trips. Plus it gives a fold flat floor when you don’t need the 3rd row.

            As for the broader topic, 4 kids here so at a minimum we need seating for 6. As far as I know they no longer make a sedan/wagon with a front bench seat. As such, it’s either a pickup/SUV/CUV or minivan. And while we “could” fit all 6 of us in a pickup, its not the most comfortable on long trips. Wife didn’t want a minivan, so an SUV it is. One other nice thing about the EL is that it still has a good amount of space behind the 3rd row.

            I drive an MDX. While the 3rd row is smaller than what is in the Expedition its not the torture chamber some make it out to be. Its just fine for the smaller kids and unlike the Expedition I can get 28 MPG on the highway.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    Because we don’t have any front row bench seats anymore, and even if you have only 2 kids, if you’re spending $30-60k on a vehicle, you might as well have enough seating for those “just in case” situations.

    Myself, I have 4 kids, so I’m stuck in 3-4 row territory for a while.

  • avatar

    I don’t know…especially when it comes to vehicles that shouldn’t have or offer third-rows, like the BMW X5, Range Rover Sport and Nissan Rogue. They’re barely passable for amputees, honestly.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I never even considered those vehices for kid duty.

      Why pay extra for a vehicle that will be covered in peanut butter and puffs? Oh, and the Rogue used to be a compact CUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        I seem to remember the compact RAV4 offered a third row for a while, just to say they did. It was so small you’d feel guilty even putting your mother-in-law back there.

  • avatar
    mleitman

    I drive a 2015 Outlander. It and the Kia Rondo were the smallest 7 seaters I could buy. Why did I make that choice? Easy. I have two kids 11 and 8. We do carpool for school and weekend activities, taking anywhere from 3 to 5 kids. None can go in the passenger seat (have to be 12 where I live). I need occasional third row (drives under 10km) use, but don’t want a behemoth SUV or minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      The Outlander’s closest competitor would be the Dodge Journey; they’re pretty much the same size. I’d say the Outlander is honestly the more alluring of the two, although it’s a big turn-off that it has one of the least-powerful V6s on the market, yet asks for premium fuel…

  • avatar
    Luke42

    We use the 3rd row in our minivan for cargo most of the time, and for in-laws. But I repeat myself.

    The 3rd row access for a lot of swinging door CUVs and SUVs doesn’t look too friendly for those of us who have two kids in car seats. The kids usually sit in the second row, so seats that fold or move to allow 3rd row access just aren’t as good. I’m puzzled by the popularity of these vehicles… Does most of the world have teenaged children? Or are they just car seat masochists? Or maybe they don’t really need the 3rd row seats?

    If you don’t really need the 3rd row, there are a lot of really cool two row vehicles. Choosing 3 rows really shortens the list of possibilities (and increases costs and fuel consumption).

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      As far as the car seat issue, that depends how many you have in car seats at once. Only one in an infant/toddler seat, you just enter from the other side. If captains chairs are in the 2nd row, you can access the 3rd row between the captains chairs. Some vehicles have a tilt feature that allows the 2nd row chair to lean forward with a car seat attached, too.

      We have a Rav4 right now, but if it had to be replaced, I’d think long and hard about a Highlander or RX350. The Rav4 is perfect for my family of 3, but if the grandparents come along, the 2nd row gets very tight for 2 adults and her Chicco Nextfit. The Highlander and RX benefit from being built on a wider platform.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I understand that you can work around the problems in the CUV/SUV floor plan.

        As someone who already owns a minivan, though, my question is why would you put yourself through that when there are better options available for a similar price?

        Context: we have an infant and a five year old, and we’re talking about a 3rd and maybe a 4th.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          I have 1 kid and will not be having any more. I can’t really answer that question because I have no frame of reference.

          I did drive a 2015 Sienna for 6 hrs yesterday going to another work site. The mid cycle refresh did wonders for it.

  • avatar

    My parents bought a 3-row Plymouth Voyager when I was 9. On long family vacations, my older brother and I would each get our own seat, with the seat next to us piled with luggage, instead of folding down the back and making us sit next to each other. It got rid of the “he’s on my side of the seat” fights.

    It was also useful for carpool duties for class trips and the like.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Doug,
    You have a Hummer and Range Rover and no kids, one day you will understand the appeal of the third row.

    • 0 avatar
      jrmason

      Irony at its finest!!! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      an innocent man

      Own a Rover?

      Couldn’t you DD a Camry instead and then whenever you have a need to be broke-down along the highway, just RENT a Rover?

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Plus, if you get tired of breaking down, Thrifty can offer you something else!

        Oh, the irony. So, as a farmer, am I still supposed to rent pickups from U-Haul or something?

        • 0 avatar
          an innocent man

          Apparently some here believe if you aren’t carrying 2700 lbs of stuff 7 days a week, you shouldn’t have a pickup truck.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            I don’t do that every day. There are some things that you need trucks for. If gas were cheap like it was 15 years ago, I’d probably daily drive a Dodge Dakota. Just like extra seating, you never know when you need the capability, but it’s there.

            That brings us to the point of the question: third row seats and pickups offer enhanced freedom.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    We have no kids, but are surrounded by 3-kid families of our siblings and I’ll say I could never imagine anything but a van for that scenario. No easy way to get back to help 3-rd row kids in a CUV.

    Having said that, I can’t help but wonder… Usually the top of the line model comes with the third row included? Many times, the only way to get other commonly desirable options is to buy the top of the line (like leather). So how many manufacturers are skewing their own demand numbers as a result of giving their consumers lack of choice?

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Some manufacturers asked similar questions in the past and lost market share:

    Why would a minivan need rear doors on both sides? Isn’t one on the curb side adequate? We’ll just keep making the Aerostar/Transport/whatever for a few more years the way it is…

    Extended cab pickups only had doors on one side for years… until they didn’t, Chevrolet S10 anyone?

    Why do so many of my friends in California buy AWD vehicles because they “may” go skiing once in a while and there is a small chance that the weather may require chains? So rather than possibly having to stop and put chains on your front wheels once every two years you’re going to pay thousands more up front and get worse fuel economy every day? Heck, I live in Northern Michigan now and do fine with a FWD car as do probably 75% of the people around me on the road. AWD is a nice to have but a necessity?

    I have two boys, ages 11 and 6. My family truckster is a 2002 Ford Taurus wagon with a third-row seat. My previous car was a Mazda5. In both, the rear seats remained folded flat 90% of the time but a few times a year they were used. It was convenient but rarely “necessary.” As my kids age I do find myself driving their friends around more and use the third row to keep from taking a second car once in a while.

    To be fair, neither of these vehicles were expensive or gas guzzlers and I considered the extra seats nice to have bonuses.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I was gonna say, “Nuh-uh, Ford was the first to put a third door on an extended cab with the ’97 F-150,” but then I decided to actually look it up. TIL the ’96 S-10 was the first.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    A few reasons I can think of.

    1. Modern cars/CUVs are increasingly narrow, which means limited hip/shoulder room, so 3 teenage kids do not fit comfortably in the third row.
    2. Purchased because “it came with it”. I want a Suburban. Don’t give a rat’s rear about the third row; but I can’t delete it so I’ll be buying it because “it came with it”. Hell if you’re a single person but want a full-size SUV to tow; you’re getting a third row whether you want it or not.
    3. Massive comfort. Take a minivan, remove the second row, enjoy extravagant lounging space in the third row.
    4. Actually have 4+ children. Or buying a new vehicle with 3 children and planning ahead for a possible 4th.

    If cars were wider it’d be less of an issue; three car seats in the 2nd row works just fine in my Silverado.

  • avatar
    BrianL

    This also depends on the SUV. With Captain’s chairs in the middle row, with 5 passengers you need the 3rd row. But, I have went on plenty of trips with people where this has been useful. As others have said, it is a nice to have for when you need it. And all the SUVs have seats that fold flat, so you really aren’t using that much storage space. In large SUVs and CUVs, I would be expecting one.

    This actually bring me to a point about the Toyota 4Runner. If you want a Trail package, you can’t get it with 3rd row seating. SR5 and Limited you can. I don’t want the 20″ wheels on an SUV I would take off road, so I was actually looking at the SR5 Premium. But then I found that it doesn’t heated seats, which means a veto from my wife. Here is to hoping that the 2017 4Runner is a little bit better with the feature mixing.

    • 0 avatar
      Tifighter

      4Runner SR5 Premium comes with heated front seats. Standard SR5 does not.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Correct. Premiums get “softex” leatherette and front heated seats. I’m looking at Trail Premiums simply to get the manual transfer case and locking rear diff in conjunction with the moon roof (unparalleled laminar cabin ventilation with rear window down). My perfect truck would be a plain sr5 with the trail’s t-case and locker, beige cloth, and moonroof. Alas all trails have black interiors and the only way to get a moonroof is to step up to a premium trim.

  • avatar
    ColorMeCrazy

    The need for three rows is simply because the mid sized SUV has replaced the family station wagon/minivan. From the 1950s into the 1980s,you could fit 10 people in a full sized station wagon. 3 on each row, and 4 kids in the back (before the safety cops arrived). Then the minivan took over this duties. Insecure, boring soccer moms decided the minivan wasn’t cool enough for “hip” moms and now buy mid-sized SUVs to fill the same role. Two it three kids fill the second row, and throw in grandparents, sleep overs & soccer games, and the 3rd row is too practical not to have.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    My thinking behind wanting a 3rd row was to take grandparents along with 2 kids or carpools with 4 kids, or friends and kids when they have their pickup. We still have a small 5ish seat sedan and make do so I guess it wasn’t that important, but the captain’s chairs in the second row of a Mazda5 are still attractive when the kids bicker in the back seat.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I hauled my six spawn around for years in various three row vehicles. I had a couple of Type 2 VW’s, a Vanagon, a short Astro Van, a Dodge Colt Vista and, at the end when there were only four still riding with us, a Mitsu Expo SP. All worked out pretty well. The VW’s and the Astro had plenty of room for everybody. The Dodge and the Mitsu third-rows were reasonably roomy for the size of the vehicle if the kids were less than 10. The majority of the newer SUV third-rows seem to be “penalty boxes” for the most part compared to what I owned back then. My criteria then was that I (at 5’8″) had to be able to sit fairly comfortably in the third row before I’d consider the purchase. Feeling some nostalgia I’ve done the same with current three-rows. The absolute minimum was the Nissan Pathfinder – anything smaller wouldn’t pass muster – knees to chin and touching the seat-back ahead.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    A 3rd row on anything short of a Suburban is just the manufacturer padding the bill. They’re not needed for 99% of SUV buyers and take up precious room.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Certainly some people regularly need to carry 6-7 people around. They don’t want to buy minivans because car makers use marketing to condition them to disdain minivans. Even if minivans carry 6-7 people a lot better.

    I think it’s also about people with control issues. My FIL insists on buying SUV’s with 7-passenger seating. He actually carries 6-7 people for about two drives a year. The rest of the year he operates a much larger vehicle than he needs. As the alpha male in this social grouping, when he has his vehicle around basically no one else is allowed to operate their vehicle on any outing that includes him. He’s the “important guy” in charge of his mere passengers, and has a “thing” about being the driver.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Everytime I owned or borrowed(Twice during moves) a 3 row vehicle, the seats came out of the back and never went back in. The space was a lot more useful than the seats ever were. One nice thing about the seats were they were absolutely in new condition, since they were never used.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I might consider buying a three row car if it has tailfins, woodpaneling and a bigblock (do they even exist with manuals?)
    I currently have to do with an older CUV because I didn’t want a 3rd row that is impossible to get into, and can’t seat people with actual legs.
    Now, finding a car wide enough to actually seat an adult and two child-seats (in some comfort) was not easy, and so far I’ve only found that the 2nd gen. CR-V is able to do it (of the cars that are available and user-friendly in Norway that is)
    I may add that I would normally get the smallest (lightest) car available whenever I look for a car, partly because searching for a car with a large engine is hopeless over here, and largely because I despise hauling around extra weight very time I need to out of the house.
    (or when looking for a parking space, Norwegian parking spaces are optimized for mid-size wagons)
    I despise minivans, not because they look bad or are ‘un-cool’ , just because they are usually awful penaltyboxes sold to desperate parents who need them, and they have traditionally not been good at anything besides seating more than 5 people. They may have improved with more competition, but so have CUV’s.
    Just look above and you will find people who feel that even a Passat drives better than a minivan…

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    We have a kiddo who plays high school football, and we all tailgate for 3-4 hours before every game. While I was working the grill and sipping Crown Royal on the rocks in 90 degree heat yesterday afternoon, I looked around the parking lot. Of the 100 or so vehicles, nearly half were full size SUV’s, and all but one was one of the GM triplets…Escalade/Yukon/Suburban. The next most common vehicle was F150 trucks, followed by an assortment of CUVs, some with a third row, some without. Less than 10% sedans. At least at our age and stage, larger, three row vehicles are useful, and I like to sit up higher and see what’s going on around me, which is nice too. The damn game got rained out after all that…a front blew in.

    I have an observation about color too…EVERY big GM SUV on the lot yesterday was black, while the Lexus RXs were pearl white, Bamboo Pearl (light green) and silver…not a black one in the bunch. The other CUVs were a mix of colors too. I wonder what the take-rate on black Suburbans and Yukons/Denalis is…I already suspect that Escalades are probably more often painted black than any other color.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The youngest of my two kids left for college last month. While the kids were young, having a minivan was really nice. Car seats were less of a chore. The kids didn’t slam the door into your other car at the garage. Dropping the kids off at school, practices,etc., you didn’t have to get out of the car- just hit the power door button. When the kids didn’t get along, you could put them in separate rows. You could car pool. The minivan was much more comfortable than a car for driving vacations.

    A year ago, our minivan was crunched in an accident. We could have bought anything under $11,000. We didn’t have to buy a minivan at that point. When I shopped, I noticed that Honda Accords and Honda Odysseys of the same vintage equipment and miles sold for the same price. We opted for the Odyssey for several reasons, it added functionality that our other two cars didn’t have. It is a safe car for teen drivers, and it doesn’t lend itself to hooning. Honda Odysseys are one of the most likely vehicles to hit 200,000 miles and still be worth driving. Our 07 Odyssey is now our third string car. The other vehicles are driven by the drivers going the furthest, so the lower fuel efficiency of the van is not a big issue. We don’t need the extra row as often as we used to, but it still comes in handy several times a month. A 3-row SUV/CUV could perform the same functions but not as well and likely not for the same cost.

  • avatar

    There are folks who have kids and those who don’t. I’ve 3 kids and they attend private schools. In order to make our life easier, we carpool with their classmates. The 3rd row seating is an important option for us.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    If you need a third row of seating, get a minivan! The real question should be why people who would best be served by one of the several excellent minivans on the market insist on buying an SUV instead?

    In a vehicle the size of this Lexus, a third row is silly. If you absolutely must have an SUV with capacity for six people, get a Suburban.

  • avatar
    Counterpoint

    Stupid question. We use the third row in our family CUV frequently when transporting our two children’s friends and occasionally when taking my parents somewhere. Most of our friends and neighbors with small children do the same.

    And enough with the “good old days” nonsense about transporting children unsecured. That was dangerous and stupid.

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    Outside of minivans, 3-row is just ridiculous…. the only reason we even discuss it, is because American drivers and their NEED to be in something not-a-minivan-even-though-it-might-as-well-be-an-undersized one.

    Lexus has it right.

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