With 17 vehicles offering eight or more seats in 2015, finding the one that best fits your family’s needs can be difficult. Every manufacturer now offers an SUV or minivan that offers standard or optional third row seating (whether or not there’s space for it is another question). To help distinguish between the top of the pack and the ones that will leave your legs aching when stuffed in the back, here’s are the 5 best 8 passenger vehicles of the 2015 model year.
2015 Chevrolet Traverse – $30,995
The 2015 Chevrolet Traverse offers minivan-like capabilities to those who don’t want a minivan. It’s an ideal family vehicle, able carry 8 passengers with the middle bench seat installed, or 7 with the second row captain’s chairs. Fresh off last year’s style updates of the front and rear, the Traverse looks just as good in the line of cars at school as it does in the grocery store parking lot.
Ample interior space allows everyone but the largest adults to sit comfortably in the third row while still providing a good amount of cargo space compared to other vehicles in its class. Available amenities like Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, rear-seat entertainment system, and 10-speaker Bose audio system can turn your daily shuttles into relaxed (and with MyLink’s Siri Eyes Free functionality, maybe even productive) rides.
Safety is a primary concern when you’re carrying such precious cargo, and it’s one of the Traverse’s strengths as well. Available technologies like the innovative front-center side-impact air bag, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and side blind zone alert all helped it to earn some very impressive ratings from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The only downside of the 2015 Chevrolet Traverse is the drivetrain. Its 281 horsepower, 3.6 liter V6 engine will get you around town at a rather average rating of 17/24 mpg city/highway, but it’s a bit sluggish at higher speeds. While both the front- and all-wheel-drive versions handle well, the transmission is sometimes unwilling to downshift for additional power when you’re passing slow traffic.
2015 Toyota Sienna – $28,600
While it is the cheapest vehicle on our list, the 2015 Toyota Sienna looks pretty good for a minivan. It’s also a fairly big one, which pays off on the inside where you’ll find a renewed interior and enough space to make everyone feel at home. First-rate materials are used throughout the cabin, and the comfortable seating (which can be configured to seat 7 or 8) is made even more so by a highly adjustable second row bench.
Tri-zone automatic climate control and Toyota’s Bluetooth 6.1-inch Entune infotainment system come standard, but a 7-Inch display is available. Other available features include a 10-speaker JBL audio system, HD and satellite radio, smartphone integration, and as of 2015, even a dual-view Blu-ray monitor that can show video from two different sources at once. This minivan can easily, and comfortably, entertain everyone.
The Sienna’s safety ratings are impressive, though they’re brought down a tiny bit by second-best ratings in frontal crash tests like the IIHS’s “small overlap frontal” test, where only the front corner of the vehicle is impacted, and the NHTSA’s rollover test – a particularly difficult test for large vehicles to ace. That said, safety features like automatic pre-collision breaking, blind spot monitoring, and the package of driver support features provided by Toyota’s Star Safety System all help to prevent collisions from happening in the first place.
The 2015 Sienna’s 266 horsepower, 3.6 liter, V6 engine gets a class-average 18/25 mpg city/highway and provides sprightly acceleration. However, it does get a bit noisy if you ask for too much, too fast. As for handling, this minivan offers a comfortable ride, a good feel – especially with available all-wheel drive – and exceptional braking ability.
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe – $45,550
Far and away the most expensive vehicle on the list, the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe offers a considerable amount of value for the money. It is a truck-based SUV that can go anywhere, tow almost anything, and still provide the interior feel of a BMW. It’s comfortable, it’s powerful, and it’s efficient, making it ideal for everything from family vacations to extended off-road excursions.
Inside, the Tahoe is exceptionally quiet and, with the exception of the third row, quite roomy. Both the second and third rows fold flat to provide more space for cargo, though trunk space is limited when you need to put people in all the seats. The cabin’s atmosphere feels somewhat luxurious, utilizing high-grade materials and a refined, contemporary design to impress everyone on board.
Chevrolet’s MyLink Infotainment system is accessed using an 8 inch touchscreen and the entertainment features (which are very similar to those offered on the Traverse) can be upgraded to include as many as six USB ports and a rear-seat entertainment system that’s powered by a Blu-ray DVD player. Sitting in a 10-way power adjustable seat, the driver has easy, intuitive access to well-placed gauges and convenient environmental controls.
The Tahoe excels in all but the NHTSA’s rollover test, where its 3 Star rating brings its overall safety rating down to 4 Star level. As mentioned above, vehicles of this size simply don’t handle rollovers very well. The new front-center air bag and active radar systems like the Lane Change Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert are designed to detect high-speed approaches, helping the driver avoid putting the reinforced safety cage to the test.
A beastly 355 horsepower, 5.3 liter V8 engine earns the 2015 Tahoe (FWD) a 16/23 mpg city/highway rating and a tow rating of 8,300 pounds. Its magnetic ride control suspension keeps the ride smooth over rough terrain, and its responsive steering combines with a confident stance to give it the handling of a much smaller vehicle.
2015 Toyota Highlander – $29,415
The 2015 Toyota Highlander is a standard midsize family crossover. While it doesn’t boast a look quite as sporty as the Hyundai Santa Fe, it is a good choice for those who don’t mind (or even prefer) a relatively lean ride. Available in either 8-seat or 7 passenger captain’s chairs configurations, the Highlander sacrifices some cargo space to provide plenty of room in the first two rows.
Soft-touch materials abound in the cabin, and a combination of acoustic glass and silencing insulation helps keep the ride nice and quiet. Toyota’s Entune infotainment system comes standard with a 6.1 inch touchscreen that’s upgradable to a large, 8 inch version. A rear seat Blu-ray system is available, as well as Toyota’s unique Driver Easy Speak system, which projects the driver’s voice through the rear speakers to make it easier to speak to passengers without turning around in the seat.
Named an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus and given a 5 star overall rating by the NHTSA, the Highlander suffers the same troubles as many of its large competitors in both the small overlap front test and, of course, the rollover test. Toyota’s Star Safety System helps to keep the vehicle in firm control of the road, and other active systems such as blind spot monitors, a lane departure warning, and more are available. A rearview camera comes standard, and redesigned rear windows offer improved visibility over previous Highlander generations.
A 185 horsepower, 2.7 liter, 4 cylinder engine comes standard and gets a good fuel economy rating of 20/25mpg city/highway. However, test drivers recommend upgrading to the 270-horsepower V6 for more available power at highway speeds. With an MSRP of $33,190, the price of the base V6 model is slightly higher than the 4 cylinder model. The efficiency rating of the V6 only drops to 19/25, so the extra power won’t cost you much gas, but the higher price approaches the cost of equally powerful, luxury competitors like Acura’s MDX.
2015 Honda Odyssey – $28,975
US News ranks the 2015 Honda Odyssey as the best minivan available, beating out competitors like the Kia Sedona and the previously mentioned Toyota Sienna. Behind its distinct exterior, the Odyssey opens up to reveal 3 rows of seats that can all provide comfortable accommodation for adults. Even at full capacity, there is plenty of room for a full load of cargo.
The interior is made to offer entertainment to everyone on board, starting with a large, 8 inch infotainment system that’s compatible with Bluetooth, Pandora, and more. The standard seven speaker surround sound system can be upgraded to 12 speakers, and other available options include tri-zone climate control and touchscreen audio touchscreen audio, as well as a rear-facing, split-screen entertainment system and navigation. There’s even a built in vacuum (HondaVAC) to make cleanups a breeze.
The 2015 Honda Odyssey earned the titled of Top Safety Pick from the IIHS with the highest available rating in every test category. The NHTSA also gave the Odyssey its top rating in every category with the exception, of course, of the rollover test. A rearview camera comes standard, and other available safety features include a forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and front and rear parking sensors.
Powered by a 248 horsepower, 3.5 liter, 24-valve SOHC i-VTEC V-6 engine, the Odyssey’s 250 lb-ft of torque gives it plenty of responsive power, all with an outstanding gas mileage of 19/28 mpg city/highway. Reviewers agree that the power and performance of the Odyssey makes it the most functional minivan on the market. The only downside is a somewhat average reliability ranking by JDPower.com, so be sure to take a good look at the warranty.