Car comparison: Which 3-row SUV is right for you?

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series comparing a range of cars leading up to what many consider to be prime buying season.

WASHINGTON — The end of the year is coming up, which means there are car sales galore. So which car is right for you?

After years of low gas prices, big three-row SUVs are all the rage. WTOP’s John Aaron and Mike Parris tested out the Subaru Ascent Touring, the Audi Q7 and the Lexus RX 350L and have the pros and cons of each car.

So buckle up and get comfortable for these car comparisons.

Subaru Ascent Touring

$45,670 as tested

Pros: Lots of buyers want something bigger than the two-row Outback, and Subaru seems to have gotten the three-row SUV concept right after the dud that was the Tribeca. The interior looks at home in a luxury vehicle: The brown leather contrasts nicely with the company’s usual black-and-tan interior background. Looks- and comfort-wise, it compares favorably with much-more-expensive competitors.

Cons: This big vehicle is pulled by a powerful — but small and strained — turbocharged four-cylinder. That, combined with the fuel-efficient Continuously Variable Transmission, can cause some lag before the power really lets loose.

(WTOP/John Aaron)

Audi Q7

$69,150 as tested

Pros: Audi has somehow managed to impart the mood of its sports sedans into this child-hauler. It feels fast, and you can confidently take it into turns without the car leaning excessively. It has tall windows and a relatively simple shape, leading to great outward visibility.

Cons:  The electronic shifter — where the normal Park position is now Reverse, and Park is now a button on the shifter handle — is maddening. At first, you’ll think you’re in Park, when you’re actually in Reverse. The interior features quite a bit of black throughout, making things a bit dull overall. The car’s price is painful compared with the others’.

(WTOP/John Aaron)

Lexus RX 350L

$57,329 as tested

Pros: Lexus consistently ranks at the top of quality and reliability rankings, so you know you will be getting something that is built to last. Mercifully, and unlike the Audi, this is a luxury car with a normal shifter. For those who like it, the driver’s seat is high, and the ride is pillow-soft.

Cons: For those who don’t like it, the driver’s seat is high, and the ride is pillow-soft. With the third row added, things can get a bit cramped. The rear-side windows have a design cue that slightly resembles a hearse.

(WTOP/John Aaron)

Pick: The Subaru Ascent Touring. While not as sporty as the Audi or as opulent as the Lexus, the Subaru offers the right combination of space, luxury and relative value for families looking for a three-row SUV.

(WTOP/John Aaron)


Read all five parts of the Car Comparison series:

Part 1: 3-row SUVs

Part 2: Hatchbacks

Part 3: Family cars

Part 4: Muscle cars

Part 5: Flashy SUVs

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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