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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All, family of 6 plus a dog, 4 still in car seats, but oldest is almost ready for a booster seat. Currently have 2 5-seat vehicles so looking to get a 3 row vehicle. We live in Vermont, love backcountry skiing, resort skiing, mountain biking, hiking, etc which means we drive backroads with lots of snow somewhat regularly We own an Outback now and the thing is a beast in the snow, can handle the dirt roads that get rutted out / frost heaved.

I know a minivan is what we need as a family of 6, but I've had friends get stuck with their Odyssey, and the Sienna has less than great crash scores from IIHS. Plus, our driveway is 500ft and the plow guy doesn't come until there is at least 4" of snow, so the Odyssey would pretty much get stuck when that happens (especially with snow drifts).

I do plan to get a Thule cargo box on top, will probably need something for the hitch as well, but also need to transport bikes (wife's and mine mountain bikes plus kids bikes.

I think the Ascent will work for 90% of my driving, which is around town, dropping kids off at school, picking up, going mountain biking alone or with the family, skiing with the family every weekend. Roadtrips with the dog will probably be tough, but that would only be 2-3 times per year. But we would like to bring the dog biking or skiing sometimes as well.

So who here has the Ascent with a family of 6 with a dog? Our dog is a 70lbs Samoyed. Can the dog fit in a 7 seater Ascent in the 2nd row (either between the seats are on the floor in front of the 2nd row seats? Does it work for you?
 

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We have a smaller golden, about 75 lbs, and he does not like being between the captains chairs in our touring.
But I think you need a minivan ( the new sienna looks interesting, available with all-wheel drive) or a larger SUV, Especially if you get tired of accessing those external cargo units. Keep in mind you're going to eventually need bigger strollers for the older kids, while you still have to bring all the stuff for the younger ones as well....

One of the reasons we didn't get another Odyssey, is that even with winter tires, it would get stuck going up to our lake house in the Berkshires during a heavy snow. And the sienna was probably the least engaging vehicle I've ever driven, so that was out.

If you don't mind working with the external cargo boxes you mention above, the ascent would probably be fine for you. But I will tell you even eight or nine year olds will find the third row a little tight for longer trips, And I don't know how the booster/car seats will do in the third row b/c I never had to use them In the Ascent, my youngest didn't need them at that point.

A big advantage of the ascent, versus a larger SUV, is that it won't be a behemoth the rest of the time like a larger SUV would be.

And if you really want to keep everybody safe, it would be a great idea to invest in winter wheels and tires. I use them even in southern New England, I imagine in northern New England they would be even more useful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
We have a smaller golden, about 75 lbs, and he does not like being between the captains chairs in our touring.
But I think you need a minivan ( the new sienna looks interesting, available with all-wheel drive) or a larger SUV, Especially if you get tired of accessing those external cargo units. Keep in mind you're going to eventually need bigger strollers for the older kids, while you still have to bring all the stuff for the younger ones as well....

One of the reasons we didn't get another Odyssey, is that even with winter tires, it would get stuck going up to our lake house in the Berkshires during a heavy snow. And the sienna was probably the least engaging vehicle I've ever driven, so that was out.

If you don't mind working with the external cargo boxes you mention above, the ascent would probably be fine for you. But I will tell you even eight or nine year olds will find the third row a little tight for longer trips, And I don't know how the booster/car seats will do in the third row b/c I never had to use them In the Ascent, my youngest didn't need them at that point.

A big advantage of the ascent, versus a larger SUV, is that it won't be a behemoth the rest of the time like a larger SUV would be.

And if you really want to keep everybody safe, it would be a great idea to invest in winter wheels and tires. I use them even in southern New England, I imagine in northern New England they would be even more useful.

yeah, the bigger SUVs are massive and I don’t know if the wife would enjoy driving it. Albeit she would probably only drive it a few times a year. Also, they are insanely expensive.

as for winter tires, that’s a definite. Have always bought a 2nd set of rims for all my vehicles and I do the change out in the fall and spring. The outback with winters is a beast!

I’d probably have an AWD Sienna in an instant if it’s safety scores were better and it didn’t have run flats. The Suburban and Expedition Max are nice but honestly that space would be utilized maybe a dozen times a year. Maybe 2 dozen. Maybe. The other 340 days it wouldn’t be necessary and would be a gas hog.

I guess I just need a unicorn vehicle :). Honestly, I wish the Ascent was like 8” longer That could add another inch or two for 3rd row leg room and 6inches of rear cargo space.
 

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Don't overlook Pacifica in the MiniVan side of things. AWD is available and it's a nice vehicle. If you really want SUV and don't want to go large, Ascent is going to be a reasonable choice. But as has been pointed out, over time, "more stuff" may become a "convenience" factor.
 
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I have an Ascent but my wife drives a Sienna AWD. I just recently replaced the run flats with standard tires and the ride is 100% better. I bought a spare tire which we carry around on long trips (there is thread on the Sienna forum about doing this) but does eliminate some cargo space. But the utility is better than the Ascent and the kids are more comfortable. The sliding doors are plus as you don't have to worry about the kids flinging them open into the car next to you. You can also remove/hide the 2nd and 3rd row seats for some great cargo space (I just picked up 2 10' kayaks and was able to have them in the car instead of the roof). I love my Ascent, but the minivan is just more useful when we need the additional cargo space (the need to bring beach chairs is usually a deciding factor to use the minivan).
 

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MiniVan Pacifica is very convenient .. if we travel it is number one option to rent ... i just cant own a MiniVan, AWD or not ...
A mini van is just more practical for this size family.
I"m not a minivan person, either...but they do have their place which is why they are still available. If I were "forced" to buy one, Pacifica would be at the top of my short-list. FCA did a great job with that design.
 

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Hi All, family of 6 plus a dog, 4 still in car seats, but oldest is almost ready for a booster seat. Currently have 2 5-seat vehicles so looking to get a 3 row vehicle. We live in Vermont, love backcountry skiing, resort skiing, mountain biking, hiking, etc which means we drive backroads with lots of snow somewhat regularly We own an Outback now and the thing is a beast in the snow, can handle the dirt roads that get rutted out / frost heaved.

I know a minivan is what we need as a family of 6, but I've had friends get stuck with their Odyssey, and the Sienna has less than great crash scores from IIHS. Plus, our driveway is 500ft and the plow guy doesn't come until there is at least 4" of snow, so the Odyssey would pretty much get stuck when that happens (especially with snow drifts).

I do plan to get a Thule cargo box on top, will probably need something for the hitch as well, but also need to transport bikes (wife's and mine mountain bikes plus kids bikes.

I think the Ascent will work for 90% of my driving, which is around town, dropping kids off at school, picking up, going mountain biking alone or with the family, skiing with the family every weekend. Roadtrips with the dog will probably be tough, but that would only be 2-3 times per year. But we would like to bring the dog biking or skiing sometimes as well.

So who here has the Ascent with a family of 6 with a dog? Our dog is a 70lbs Samoyed. Can the dog fit in a 7 seater Ascent in the 2nd row (either between the seats are on the floor in front of the 2nd row seats? Does it work for you?
My wife and I have a 2019 Ascent Limited (our 8th Subaru, so you can tell I am a big fan of Subaru). Our Ascent has been great and we need the room when traveling with our daughter and 4 grandkids. Having said that, you would have a lot more room in a Sienna AWD or Pacifica AWD. (We previously had a Sienna AWD and our other daughter has a Sienna.) The Ascent, which we love, is not fun-to-drive IMO due to its large size. Since neither the Ascent, or an AWD Sienna or Pacifica are going to be fun-to-drive vehicles, the increased volume of a minivan may make more sense for your family of six with a large dog. However safety obviously is very important for you and your family, and the IIHS crash scores may well dictate your choice. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
However safety obviously is very important for you and your family, and the IIHS crash scores may well dictate your choice. Good luck.
thats exactly my concern. I know a minivan is probably right for me, but their crash scores are not perfect. It’s always the passenger side that’s the issue too, so I can tell my wife that I’m safe but she’s “marginally” same. That will go over well :)

I just need a vehicle that can:

1) top safety scores
2) handle 6 people daily
3) handle the addition of the dog and weeks worth of crap 1-3 times per year.
4) handle snow like a champ, with snow tires (AWD and ground clearance are the keys for me here) (edited to add: it needs to handle dirt roads, mountains, etc. I don't want to hear about how most cars with good snow tires can handle the interstate or main roads that are plowed 10x/day.)
5) decent MPG (more of a want than a need)
6) small enough for wife to drive it (she doesn’t like big vehicles, Suburban would be a disaster for her)

minivans meet #s 2, 3, 5 and 6. The Sienna AWD probably can do #4 as well. But it sucks for #1. Not sure how great the Pacifica will be in snow since it’s ground clearance is only 5”. Plus it’s safety wasn’t the best either.

does a car exist that meets these?
 

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MiniVan Pacifica is very convenient .. if we travel it is number one option to rent ... i just cant own a MiniVan, AWD or not ...
The Pacifica is a nice alternative, but after having rented one for a week, the second row seats are really a hassle in the way they fold down and return back to their original position. They are the best alternative for a rental minivan though.
 

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Hmm, we're a family of 4 (2 car seats in the captain's chairs), but regularly travel with uncle and/or nanny (both 6 feet tall) in the back, and have done a few trips with another couple + kid 3-across in the back. So I have a fair bit of experience with using all 3 rows.

The biggest issue is access to the 3rd row. You want the carseats in the 2nd row for easy loading/adjusting. But since the seats donn't tilt with carseat in (why they didn't include that is beyond me) you have fairly awkward access to the back. It's either squeezing through with the 2nd row slid up, or between the chairs. Which is ok for access, especially for kids, but would be a real pain for regularly checking the 3rd row seatbelts.

So I think the biggest question would be how soon do you expect the 3rd row kids to be into boosters, and do you feel you have to check their belts?

Cargo with all three rows in use is actually better than I expected. We usually have all the food in there--a cooler, plus a bin, and bags on top up to the 3rd row seat back. Roof box takes the other bags. This is fine as we are currently just going to the cottage. Once we're camping with canoe/s on top though, we'll need some sort of hitch carrier or trailer. You cannot fit everything for six inside the cabin. So I guess think about how practical/realistic the roof box and/it hitch carrier is for you. FWIW, the dealer threw in the bars and roof box. If you do go Ascent, push for that (although this was early in Covid; they may all be gone now)
 

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We are a family of 6 and love our Ascent, but it is not big enough for daily use for all of us. we can all fit, but not comfortably for long drives and forget bringing anything with you. For all the 3 row normal size SUVs, Ascent is best in my opinion. I had a 2013 and 2015 pathfinders, have driven the highlanders and atlas and almost all others.

We also have an Odyssey that we absolutely hate. We got rid of a newer Siena because of the crash test issues and the awful run flats. I would give the Pacifica a look if we were buying a van today, but generally do no want to own a Chrysler. Every time we are in the odyssey we wish the sienna didn’t have safety issues.

As a family of 6 we need a Suburban or Expedition Max to fit everyone. Even the van is tight on space for stuff with all those people. We have to be really careful to not overload the van’s weight capacity when we put the carbo box on top.

For your particular case, the car seats and boosters might be a hassle. I think you need to ask yourself how long you intend to keep it. With smaller children the backseat is doable, but my kids are 5, 8, 11 and 13 and it’s too small. I would make sure to do an extended test drive with all seats in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We are a family of 6 and love our Ascent, but it is not big enough for daily use for all of us. we can all fit, but not comfortably for long drives and forget bringing anything with you. For all the 3 row normal size SUVs, Ascent is best in my opinion. I had a 2013 and 2015 pathfinders, have driven the highlanders and atlas and almost all others.

We also have an Odyssey that we absolutely hate. We got rid of a newer Siena because of the crash test issues and the awful run flats. I would give the Pacifica a look if we were buying a van today, but generally do no want to own a Chrysler. Every time we are in the odyssey we wish the sienna didn’t have safety issues.

As a family of 6 we need a Suburban or Expedition Max to fit everyone. Even the van is tight on space for stuff with all those people. We have to be really careful to not overload the van’s weight capacity when we put the carbo box on top.

For your particular case, the car seats and boosters might be a hassle. I think you need to ask yourself how long you intend to keep it. With smaller children the backseat is doable, but my kids are 5, 8, 11 and 13 and it’s too small. I would make sure to do an extended test drive with all seats in.
Thanks for the response. My friends had the Odyssey for 1 winter and got rid of it as they got stuck 2 or 3 times in the snow (with snow tires). The Sienna crash scores worry me. I'm hopeful the redesign coming out this Fall will be improved, and maybe that's the answer. Until then, its not. Pacifica only has 5in of ground clearance (compared to Sienna at 6.6in and Ascent at 8.7in). Maybe that's enough, hard to say right now. But I agree that I don't know if I can trust Chrysler reliability.

My kids are 2months, 3 years, 4years and 6 years. If I'm going to buy the Ascent (or whatever car), I'd like to keep it for ~10 years. As the kids get older, we may replace my wife's Outback with this Ascent, and then buy a "better" family hauler in 5-7 year time frame, once the kids are then ages 5, 8, 9 and 11.

When you say its not big enough for daily use, why not? When I think of daily use, its pick up/drop off at school/camps/lessons/practice, driving to the mountain to hike/ski/bike, grocery store, etc. Then a few times a year is when we need to pack for an overnight trip of 1-7 nights. I can imagine the overnight trips may be tough, but is my idea of daily use that challenging for your family of 6?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
So I think the biggest question would be how soon do you expect the 3rd row kids to be into boosters, and do you feel you have to check their belts?

Cargo with all three rows in use is actually better than I expected. We usually have all the food in there--a cooler, plus a bin, and bags on top up to the 3rd row seat back. Roof box takes the other bags. This is fine as we are currently just going to the cottage. Once we're camping with canoe/s on top though, we'll need some sort of hitch carrier or trailer. You cannot fit everything for six inside the cabin. So I guess think about how practical/realistic the roof box and/it hitch carrier is for you. FWIW, the dealer threw in the bars and roof box. If you do go Ascent, push for that (although this was early in Covid; they may all be gone now)
Ok, this is all good to hear. I used to have a Highlander and it wasn't too bad to tighten in the back row. But I can see how this won't be the easiest. As far as trusting the kids, I feel pretty good with trusting them once they are buckled. They are good at calling each other out :)

As far as roof box and hitch carrier. We already use a roof box on our Outback, so I have no issues using it on the Ascent (and almost prefer it...keeps dirty skis out of the car). Same with a hitch carrier.

Bikes are probably the biggest wildcard. I have a hitch bike rack now, but if I need cargo space with a hitch carrier, I'll have to get creative. Or take 2 vehicles. Or just not take as much [email protected]!!
 

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I upgraded my family from 6 to 7 recently and the Ascent still works great!
I suggest taking your car seats with you, fitting them at the dealer then taking a test drive. I don’t have a dog so it’s just human seating in mine with 2 boosters, 1 high back booster, and 1 rear facing. Latch anchors are the limiting factor for using the 3rd row so boosters that just strap in are best suited back there. I have the rear facing baby seat behind the driver and the high back on the passenger side middle row. With that configuration I can’t tilt the middle seat for 3rd row access but it can slide it forward and they get in/out just fine. If you get the 7 passenger configuration that would solve 3rd row access issues and provide some dog room.
On the flip side my wife has a 7 passenger Kia Sorento and there is NO WAY to access the 3rd row except the trunk. She’s thinking about upgrading to something like a suburban. She figures if she’s going to go bigger then go all the way 😁

Don’t forget the roof of the Ascent is a lot higher than an Outback so it makes a rooftop box a little more difficult. I use one on occasion though. It’s also wide enough you can fit at least 1 bike up there with the cargo box!
 

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For us, there is not enough room for the stuff that our kids have day to day. Even getting all the backpacks for school is challenging. Going shopping as a family means very little room for whatever we just bought.
The biggest issue for us is lack of space behind third row. Make sure you sit in the third row and adjust the seat back angle to where a passenger would be comfortable, or even further back where it will need to be for a car seat and then try to fit anything behind it.
I tried to bring my son and two friends to baseball practice and we had to fold down one of the sets to get the three bags in the back.

The kids fight and complain about who has to sit in the back even for short trips.

I say all this but still love my Ascent, andwill consider another one where my lease is up.
 

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The biggest issue for us is lack of space behind third row. Make sure you sit in the third row and adjust the seat back angle to where a passenger would be comfortable, or even further back where it will need to be for a car seat and then try to fit anything behind it.
Honestly, this shouldn't be surprising with almost any mid-sized SUV. The vehicle isn't physically as long as a minivan or full sized SUV yet the seat spacing (at least in the Ascent) does permit adults to sit comfortably in the "way back". It's a compromise to accomplish that but must also be taken into consideration. The Ascent is great for hauling people or hauling stuff. Trying to do both at the same time in "large numbers" is a difficult thing; hence the likely need to use a hitch carrier and/or roof-top box for travel. Similar vehicles will have similar challenges/compromises.
 
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I sat in a top line Palisade the other day while my Ascent Touring was getting its TPMS system rechecked at the dealership (for the fourth time). I think there's a little more cargo room in the palisade, and the third row seemed a bit more spacious, and a bit more upscale, although the exterior styling is definitely a personal preference. Something along that size (or a Traverse or enclave) might be a good compromise if you don't want a behemoth, but if you still need a little more space for the kids to grow. I haven't driven it so I can't comment but the interior was very nice. This particular dealer said they were now going for MSRP, so supply must be roughly equaling demand at this point.

I still wish I could have stayed with the Odyssey, but the ground clearance proved more than a match for winter tires for us. The Odyssey was a good handling car, better than any minivan or suv has a right to be, and I miss its efficiency in terms of fuel economy and cargo space.
 

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So we are a family of 8. Part of the decision making for us was 8 seater or 7 seater as our 24 year old doesn't live with us anymore. I traded in a 2015 Suburban for the Ascent so we were definitely downsizing. We also go camping, fishing, hit trails, need to load bikes on the car, travel, etc. If we tried to but a car to fit EVERY one of our needs, we'd buy another Suburban or Expedition. But, the Ascent handles 95% of what we do (similar to OP). "If" we need to do a road trip with all 8, we'll rent a vehicle for that trip. But why drive the bigger, bulkier, fuel thirsty car the other 95% of the time?
Therefore, we went with the Touring. Our kids (that live with us) are 18, 15, 14, 13 and 12 and are good with the space in the third row. We do take road trips with a 21CUFT skybox. Otherwise, we wouldn't fit.
 
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