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I currently own a 2003 Pilot EX. We've had it now for about ten years. Bought with 89k on it and now it's at 169k miles. It's time to head back to the land of my wife's family. Previously we've made this trip before in the Pilot. It's roughly 1k there (16-19 hours depending on road conditions and how frequently we have to stop. And then we usually drive around 1-2k visiting people and locations. Then 1k back home.
A few other times when it was just my wife and me we have done these road trips in some small 4-dr sedans. I think a Hyundai Elantra once. It had about 5.5" of ground clearance and we got around fine, but we were definitely "sand sledding" in spots. :cool:

The difference now is the last time we went it was two kids + a buddy who tagged along. Now I have five kids, twelve down to a three month old.

- There is no infrastructure to speak of. About half of the houses are lacking in electricity and/or running water. In this case her grandparents now have both, but their house is small so we will still be camping out on the desert floor (6,000 ft) at least some of the time. Once you're off of the highway at best you have what is equivalent to a gravel road...unless it's monsoon season and wet. Then you got ruts.

- In the past we've gone up to the sheep camp at the top of the mesa, but only a bit around the base of the mesas in the Pilot, but never up to the top. Even some of those areas are dodgy for the Pilot. And I don't plan to go to the top this trip, unless we just rent or borrow a full truck to get up there. The mesa top is at about 9k ft, And it's about an 8 mi hike so we might just do that instead.

- The last trip with five of us I'm pretty sure we left the 3rd row down and used the extra space for storage with a hitch mount cargo carrier. We've also made trips to the Co Springs area with 6-7 people using that cargo carrier. And the current Pilot is also fine for all seven of us for the random day trip or visit someone for a weekend out of state if it's a day's drive.

- This trip since there are so many more of us I was initially thinking of hauling a small trailer for cargo, but the mileage (and 2003 Pilot year w/ the weak transmission) has me thinking it might be time to start shopping a replacement vehicle. I really don't like the thought of towing through mountain passes, so much so I might go around this year. :)


My apologies for the novel, but I thought I needed to give a bit of background. I'll be 47 soon, and my wife will be 40 this year. I doubt we have any more kids at this point. We are still fairly "outdoorsy" and like to fish and camp. I'm likely to take up hunting more often again now that my son is getting a little older. We like the Pilot as our main (and only) vehicle the past several years. It's been a good fit, but I can see we're outgrowing it. We will likely keep this Pilot as a second vehicle for the time being.

Initially I figured it was time to bite the bullet and start shopping a Honda Odyssey. But then I learned no 4WD/AWD option. The ground clearance looks like it's 4.5"? That's before adding people and cargo too I suppose... That made me look into the AWD Toyota Siennas, or a full size passenger van, and then a full size SUV like the Suburban, Tahoe, Expedition/Navigators, etc.

I wondered if anyone else has had a similar scenario with needing (or maybe wanting) more than a minivan? Does anyone have any other ideas?

Budget wise I'm looking in the used market, before 2016, probably around 2011-2014. Probably about $10k down and some flexibility on overall cost maybe as high as $20k I'll likely also keep the vehicle for at least ten years.
 

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Given your need to carry 7 people, plus stuff, I would suggest the most expensive Expedition or Suburban you can afford. They are relatively reliable, and you can get them with 4WD. You will appreciate the additional power as well.

Unfortunately, a Pilot is not strong enough to handle that kind of stuff while fully loaded and towing a trailer. They are great for highway trips to the beach but you start to feel the lack of power pretty quickly once the car gets filled up. Additionally, the (general lack of) reliability of the 2003 would concern me given the rural and extreme nature of your trips.
 

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What is more important to you - having some off road ability or mileage?

For mileage, any minivan is the way to go. I hate minivans and don't follow them so have no guidance.

For full sizers, with the size of your family and storage needs I feel you can only consider the Suburban, Yukon XL and Expedition Max. The prior generations of the Suburban and Yukon XL I view as superior towing rigs and better off road due to their solid rear axle while the Expedition has an IRS for a slightly better ride and a lower floor for 3rd row occupants (less "knees up" as they get taller). The Expedition more recently has the Ecoboost but the research I have done shows that in reality it doesn't get better mileage than the 5.3 V8 in the GMs, but it is more powerful. The Suburban has been available with a Z71 package at times that provides better-clearance front bumpers and possibly the G80 auto locking rear diff, but otherwise is largely an appearance package.
 

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The suburban is the same size inside as a Pilot, my family has owned both and the pilot was more comfortable in the Pilot but the Suburban is the better tower and off roader for sure. That being said our last suburban my dad bought new, was fully loaded top of the line and the list of things that shit the bed will scare you. With GM you'll either get a great vehicle, or a complete nightmare. But that being said it seems a lot of the market is that way now, even Hondas. If I was looking and the new Pilots won't cut it, the GM would be my choice and looking for maybe a 2 year old low mileage that someone else has got all the potential gremlins out of and taken the depreciation hit for you may do. The one thing the Suburban had was a great power train, it was thirsty as hell but bullet proof.
 

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The suburban is the same size inside as a Pilot, my family has owned both and the pilot was more comfortable in the Pilot but the Suburban is the better tower and off roader for sure. That being said our last suburban my dad bought new, was fully loaded top of the line and the list of things that shit the bed will scare you. With GM you'll either get a great vehicle, or a complete nightmare. But that being said it seems a lot of the market is that way now, even Hondas. If I was looking and the new Pilots won't cut it, the GM would be my choice and looking for maybe a 2 year old low mileage that someone else has got all the potential gremlins out of and taken the depreciation hit for you may do. The one thing the Suburban had was a great power train, it was thirsty as hell but bullet proof.
Same size, not exactly:

2021 Honda Pilot:
147192


2021 Chevy Surburban:
147193


Some notable differences:

Cargo Space
Pilot: 16.5 cubic feet. Suburban: 41.5 cubic feet.

Max Tow capacity
Pilot: 5000 lbs Suburban: 8000+lbs

Passenger room is larger in every category with the Suburban. Exterior dimensions much larger with the Suburban in all categories. Gas mileage is better in the Pilot. The Suburban fits the need of the OP much better than the Pilot.
 

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Same size, not exactly:

2021 Honda Pilot:
View attachment 147192

2021 Chevy Surburban:
View attachment 147193

Some notable differences:

Cargo Space
Pilot: 16.5 cubic feet. Suburban: 41.5 cubic feet.

Max Tow capacity
Pilot: 5000 lbs Suburban: 8000+lbs

Passenger room is larger in every category with the Suburban. Exterior dimensions much larger with the Suburban in all categories. Gas mileage is better in the Pilot. The Suburban fits the need of the OP much better than the Pilot.
my bad on this as the suburban was a 1990 they've changed a lot. In 1990 the inside was a lot closer to the pilot and the 3rd row seat was knees in your face vs. the pilot where 6' me could sit comfortable. What they claimed the suburban had for space was not as big as it functionally could do. The pilot would hold as much stuff and people as the suburban because the suburban was very poorly laid out vs the first gen pilot. on paper it was bigger inside, in function it wasn't at all. It was wider but with the wheel wells inside the back the 3rd row was narrower than the pilot so 2 adults max. IF you pulled the 3rd row out and left it in the garage it was ok for cargo but what if you needed the seat? it's home in the garage. I haven't looked a new one but if they fixed a lot of those issues with it, it would be nicer for sure. And Exterior was way bigger on the Suburban as you say but that didn't translate into a useful interior.
 

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I just googled the new suburban. They fixed a lot of the issues the one we owned had. Like I said, it was the better tower and more powerful. It just wasn't very well laid out inside.
 

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My dad has a 2011 Yukon XL (cousin to the Suburban) and I can verify that monstrosity is humungous compared to our '15 Pilot or '14 Traverse. I know the OP is going used, but I don't think '90 is the year he's looking for. The GMT and K2 based Suburbans are the biggest of the big since the death of the Excusion.

OP, I also spent years driving an Excursion with the V10, if you want a cool engine and the biggest, most capable SUV ever made I would highly encourage looking for one of them. BUT, good luck finding a good value as they are highly sought after.
 
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My dad has a 2011 Yukon XL (cousin to the Suburban) and I can verify that monstrosity is humungous compared to our '15 Pilot or '14 Traverse. I know the OP is going used, but I don't think '90 is the year he's looking for. The GMT and K2 based Suburbans are the biggest of the big since the death of the Excusion.

OP, I also spent years driving an Excursion with the V10, if you want a cool engine and the biggest, most capable SUV ever made I would highly encourage looking for one of them. BUT, good luck finding a good value as they are highly sought after.
yeah if you could find a running 1990 that wasn't a complete basket case LOL. I forget it's been 30 years since I started driving sometimes.
 

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I have a special attachment to the 1999-era Suburbans, BUT the 2007-2013 Suburbans were very reliable and you see them everywhere still. You probably will never have as much room as you'd like, but a Suburban, Excursion, Expedition XL will get you pretty close.

If I had that many kids I wouldn't even consider a Pilot. The third row is usable, but you have non existent cargo space if its up.
 

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I have a special attachment to the 1999-era Suburbans, BUT the 2007-2013 Suburbans were very reliable and you see them everywhere still. You probably will never have as much room as you'd like, but a Suburban, Excursion, Expedition XL will get you pretty close.

If I had that many kids I wouldn't even consider a Pilot. The third row is usable, but you have non existent cargo space if its up.
As shitty as the 1990 was quality wise, I still loved it LOL.
 

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I have a special attachment to the 1999-era Suburbans, BUT the 2007-2013 Suburbans were very reliable and you see them everywhere still. You probably will never have as much room as you'd like, but a Suburban, Excursion, Expedition XL will get you pretty close.

If I had that many kids I wouldn't even consider a Pilot. The third row is usable, but you have non existent cargo space if its up.
It's not all roses and sunshine though... while a GMT era (up to '13) Suburban/Yukon XL had prodigious length, the second row (at least with captain's chairs on my dad's YXL Denali) does not slide and the third row has less leg room (but more head, hip and shoulder room) than my '14 Traverse and the '15 Pilot with their sliding second rows. For kids, no problem, but it's tolerable for my wife (5'8") and unbearable for me (6'3") to be in the third row. The K2 based platform has more legroom with the second row all the way back but the second row slides which allows it to be adult friendly.

The real benefit to the extended length SUVs is their ability to take lots of people AND stuff, plus a roof box, hitch mounted box, trailer, etc. with ease and comfort.

OP, I did forget to mention that for the Suburban and Yukon XL, the unicorns do exist with a bench front row to make them 9 seaters. AND the option still exists on the brand new models as well. Good luck finding one, but that would be my preference since my leg is more comfortable floating in the air than hitting a pressure point against a console.
 

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I currently own a 2003 Pilot EX. We've had it now for about ten years. Bought with 89k on it and now it's at 169k miles. It's time to head back to the land of my wife's family. Previously we've made this trip before in the Pilot. It's roughly 1k there (16-19 hours depending on road conditions and how frequently we have to stop. And then we usually drive around 1-2k visiting people and locations. Then 1k back home.
A few other times when it was just my wife and me we have done these road trips in some small 4-dr sedans. I think a Hyundai Elantra once. It had about 5.5" of ground clearance and we got around fine, but we were definitely "sand sledding" in spots. :cool:

The difference now is the last time we went it was two kids + a buddy who tagged along. Now I have five kids, twelve down to a three month old.

- There is no infrastructure to speak of. About half of the houses are lacking in electricity and/or running water. In this case her grandparents now have both, but their house is small so we will still be camping out on the desert floor (6,000 ft) at least some of the time. Once you're off of the highway at best you have what is equivalent to a gravel road...unless it's monsoon season and wet. Then you got ruts.

- In the past we've gone up to the sheep camp at the top of the mesa, but only a bit around the base of the mesas in the Pilot, but never up to the top. Even some of those areas are dodgy for the Pilot. And I don't plan to go to the top this trip, unless we just rent or borrow a full truck to get up there. The mesa top is at about 9k ft, And it's about an 8 mi hike so we might just do that instead.

- The last trip with five of us I'm pretty sure we left the 3rd row down and used the extra space for storage with a hitch mount cargo carrier. We've also made trips to the Co Springs area with 6-7 people using that cargo carrier. And the current Pilot is also fine for all seven of us for the random day trip or visit someone for a weekend out of state if it's a day's drive.

- This trip since there are so many more of us I was initially thinking of hauling a small trailer for cargo, but the mileage (and 2003 Pilot year w/ the weak transmission) has me thinking it might be time to start shopping a replacement vehicle. I really don't like the thought of towing through mountain passes, so much so I might go around this year. :)


My apologies for the novel, but I thought I needed to give a bit of background. I'll be 47 soon, and my wife will be 40 this year. I doubt we have any more kids at this point. We are still fairly "outdoorsy" and like to fish and camp. I'm likely to take up hunting more often again now that my son is getting a little older. We like the Pilot as our main (and only) vehicle the past several years. It's been a good fit, but I can see we're outgrowing it. We will likely keep this Pilot as a second vehicle for the time being.

Initially I figured it was time to bite the bullet and start shopping a Honda Odyssey. But then I learned no 4WD/AWD option. The ground clearance looks like it's 4.5"? That's before adding people and cargo too I suppose... That made me look into the AWD Toyota Siennas, or a full size passenger van, and then a full size SUV like the Suburban, Tahoe, Expedition/Navigators, etc.

I wondered if anyone else has had a similar scenario with needing (or maybe wanting) more than a minivan? Does anyone have any other ideas?

Budget wise I'm looking in the used market, before 2016, probably around 2011-2014. Probably about $10k down and some flexibility on overall cost maybe as high as $20k I'll likely also keep the vehicle for at least ten years.

Maybe a Toyota Highlander is worth a look. A little bigger and more truck-like than the Pilot and probably more reliable than a Suburban or Expedition.
 

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hard to say good bye to a Pilot. But it’s time for you.
It’s a little smaller than a ‘burb, but add the Toyota Sequoia to the mix.
 

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But why not a full size van, then? Even my '79 Dodge van was capable off the beaten track, and the interior space was practically limitless. See my signature. Maybe something more recent, lol, but you might find something interesting more within your budget than a Sequoia or some AWD GM land yacht.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for all the feedback so far.

I found this yesterday which was very enlightening: https://www.cars.com/articles/looking-for-a-family-hauler-get-ready-to-compromise-1420680350851/

Highlander has less room than the Pilot I have now, so I think that's pretty much a no-go. This article above kind of lumps all of the mid-size SUV's with V6's into the "Crossover" group. I think that's fair. Limited4WD/AWD, light towing capabilities.

I hadn't really looked into the Sequoia, but the cargo looks as weak as the Pilot...however I could then run a trailer with ease. The same is true for a Suburban/Yukon, Expedition/Navigator, or I suppose the Nissan Armada. The estimate MPG is making me want to puke though, plus the cost of a trailer. However, I see that the Suburban, Expedition EL and Navigator L all are very close to having the same interior cargo space as the average minivan...hmm.

That makes me wonder if I could get by with one of those plus using a hitch mount carrier AND roof storage option. Something else to consider. If I could do that perhaps the same is also true for the Sienna in AWD?

I think right now on my short list is a larger size SUV like the Suburban/Yukon XL, Expedition EL or Navigator L. Or perhaps Sienna or Odyssey with a roof AND hitch carrier. (long shot, but if I limit my off-road and pick my gravel "roads" carefully...I also hate the thought of no spare, even though I've never needed one) I think I will also look into full size passenger vans too, although I think long term I might regret having rear wheel drive as a daily driver in the snow and ice during the winter.
 

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Thanks for all the feedback so far.

I found this yesterday which was very enlightening: https://www.cars.com/articles/looking-for-a-family-hauler-get-ready-to-compromise-1420680350851/

Highlander has less room than the Pilot I have now, so I think that's pretty much a no-go. This article above kind of lumps all of the mid-size SUV's with V6's into the "Crossover" group. I think that's fair. Limited4WD/AWD, light towing capabilities.

I hadn't really looked into the Sequoia, but the cargo looks as weak as the Pilot...however I could then run a trailer with ease. The same is true for a Suburban/Yukon, Expedition/Navigator, or I suppose the Nissan Armada. The estimate MPG is making me want to puke though, plus the cost of a trailer. However, I see that the Suburban, Expedition EL and Navigator L all are very close to having the same interior cargo space as the average minivan...hmm.

That makes me wonder if I could get by with one of those plus using a hitch mount carrier AND roof storage option. Something else to consider. If I could do that perhaps the same is also true for the Sienna in AWD?

I think right now on my short list is a larger size SUV like the Suburban/Yukon XL, Expedition EL or Navigator L. Or perhaps Sienna or Odyssey with a roof AND hitch carrier. (long shot, but if I limit my off-road and pick my gravel "roads" carefully...I also hate the thought of no spare, even though I've never needed one) I think I will also look into full size passenger vans too, although I think long term I might regret having rear wheel drive as a daily driver in the snow and ice during the winter.
I know the Sprinter can be had with 4WD, I believe the Transit has had that as an option. Both can be had (or for the Sprinter comes standard) with a diesel for better mileage too. I can't believe I didn't think of them before, that is definitely a solid option to consider.

Honestly, given your use case as the kids get older I think a minivan would be a mistake.
 

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I know the Sprinter can be had with 4WD, I believe the Transit has had that as an option. Both can be had (or for the Sprinter comes standard) with a diesel for better mileage too. I can't believe I didn't think of them before, that is definitely a solid option to consider.

Honestly, given your use case as the kids get older I think a minivan would be a mistake.
I also think there are lifts available for these 2 as well. that and a set ot AT tires and you may have a winner.
 
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