As you age, what you want in a car changes too. Fortunately, as America’s baby boomer age into a significant portion of the population, car manufacturers are keeping up with the new needs and wants of senior drivers. Helpful features that are becoming more common include backup cameras, power adjustable seats, bright headlights, and larger, better-lit displays and controls. Along with this evolution, a new type of car, the crossover SUV has been emerging strongly from a crowded market.
The crossover SUV has been rapidly gaining popularity in recent years, due to its combination of features from a sport utility vehicle (SUV) and that of a passenger car. The crossover has the high seating and ground clearance of an SUV, and the fuel economy and easy handling of a passenger car. Though many crossovers have all-wheel drive options, the majority of crossovers have only limited off-road capability, not as much as a traditional SUV. Take a look at four of the top crossovers of 2017, examined through the lens of senior drivers’ needs.
The 2017 Ford Escape
The 2017 Ford Escape, available in three models, is an updated classic. New for 2017, the interior and exterior design has been updated for a sleeker, more luxurious look. The base engine is a bit of an under performer, but the two optional upgrades are turbo-charged.
The base model, the Ford Escape S, has a 68-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. The possible upgrades are a 179 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and an elite 245 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This last upgrade is an extra $1,295, but will improve fuel economy and acceleration. The S engine gets 21 mpg in the city, and 29 on the highway, whereas the upgrades get 23/30 and 22/29, respectively.
Safety is the Escape’s forte as it comes with seven airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and three-point seatbelts at every seat. A blind-spot information system light shines in the side mirror to indicate a vehicle in the blind spot, as well as alerts for rear cross-traffic. As for the entertainment possibilities, a six-speaker music and satellite radio system comes standard, as well as smartphone compatibility and voice controls. The display is customizable, clear, and easy to read, with a built-in GPS system.
For a senior driver, the color-coded touchscreen display and the LED headlights are a major plus, as well as the powered trunk that opens and closes with the touch of a button, no slamming required. The lack of parking sensors and turn signal lights are worth considering.
The 2017 Toyota Highlander
The Highlander is widely praised for its quiet handling and strong reliability, as well as for its strong resale value if you change your mind. Like the Escape, the base engine is lackluster: 2.7-liter, 185 horsepower four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission, but with 20/24 fuel economy. This engine is unchanged from the 2016 model. The upgraded model, however, is a huge 3.5-liter V6 engine, with an eight-speed automatic transmission, 295 horsepower and more fuel efficiency: 21/27.
The standard safety features include pedestrian detection, lane keep assistance, and adaptive cruise control. Braking ranks among the best. With upgraded models come blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert features. The headlights are automatic. The best feature for seniors is perhaps the night vision, which can alert drivers of hazards up ahead beyond the reach of the headlights. For drivers who struggle with their own vision, this feature can be very useful. As for accessibility, the Toyota SmartKey can open and close the trunk from your pocket.
The comfort of the smooth and quiet ride operation is the main pro for a senior driver, as well as the highly adjustable, comfortable, and heated seats, which even offer extendable thigh support. Doors are large, plus the front and second-row seats are easily accessible, adjustable, and comfortable. Navigation and audio systems are controlled using a touchscreen with large, easily touched icons and quick response time. The night vision and bright headlights can drastically improve safety on the road after dark. As for the drawbacks, the Highlander’s third row of seating is cramped, some controls require a long reach, and the base engine is not very powerful.
The 2017 Honda CR-V
The CR-V is a well-loved classic, noted for its comfort, generous cabin, and cargo space. The new interior design is more luxurious and offers even more leg space, with easily accessible seats, and the handling is smooth and reactive. The standard engine is 2.4 liters, 184 horsepower with four cylinders, and the upgrades are 1.5 liters, 190 horsepower. The fuel economy is similar on both: the base is 26/32 for front-wheel drive, and the upgrade is 28/34, also front-wheel. The all-wheel drive option takes away 1 mpg in both city and highway driving.
Safety features include eight airbags, anti-lock, disc and drum brakes, and traction control. Night vision, bright LED headlights, blind spot monitor, lane-keeping technology, and a backup camera make driving much safer for seniors who may struggle with limited vision. The visibility is somewhat lessened from the 2016 model, but the safety aids help to make up for it.
The CR-V is smaller than other crossovers, which, when combined with the cameras and sensors, makes the technology is a little disappointing. The Garmin navigation system is sub-par, and you’d be better off relying on something else. The touchscreen is also a drawback in that it takes a lot of driver focus. Despite the drawbacks when it comes to the tech in the CR-V, the sound quality from the radio is excellent.
The price is also a little steeper than other crossovers. While the seats are comfortable and the driver’s seat is highly adjustable, the front passenger seat is very limited in adjustability, in that the height is fixed.
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee
First released in 1984, the Cherokee has undergone update after update, but its trustworthy reputation has held true. The 2017 Cherokee retains much of its original SUV appeal and is much more off-road capable than the other crossovers on this list. The standard engine is 2.4 liters, 184 horsepower and four cylinders, with the option of a 3.2-liter, 271 horsepower engine. Both have nine speed automatic transmissions, and you can choose either front-wheel or four-wheel drive. The standard engine with front-wheel drive has the best fuel economy at 21/30.
The Cherokee’s standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and a multitude of airbags, with the optional features being a rearview camera, roadside and stolen vehicle assistance, and collision warnings. The brakes are not as quick to respond as other crossovers, but using different tires instead of all-terrain can mitigate the lengthy stops. Although night vision and blind spot monitors are included, the Cherokee’s xenon headlights are brighter than LED lights. The navigation and audio system comes with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with easily navigable menus, responsive, large icons and a knob to move through lists quicker.
Xenon headlights, night vision and monitors, and the option of rearview cameras and crash detectors make this a positive choice, though the standard model comes with little. Senior drivers would need to pay extra for the technologies they wanted, though this crossover is a little more adventurous.