What eight-passenger vehicle gets good mileage?

What are the options if I've got a family of eight and we'd like something that gets decent gas mileage?  We are looking for something with low mileage, and it must have ample seating for eight (third row must seat real people, unlike some of the tiny third-row seats). Mileage needs to be in the 20-25 mpg range. Are any manufacturers coming out with diesels in the near future?

John W.

Finding an eight-passenger hauler is not a problem, as most full-size, truck-based SUVs and vans can do it well with a third row and ample room. A list of vans and SUVs can be found here, where Ask.cars.com answered which vans can carry nine people.

However, finding one of these gas guzzlers that will get 20-25 mpg is virtually impossible — unless, of course, all your driving is downhill with a strong tailwind, but we guess not. You most likely won't see diesels used in this segment for increased mileage ratings, but rather hybrid technology.

Before the end of the year, the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon will have hybrid versions that should be able to reach combined 20 mpg ratings. That is, if GM’s current mileage claims hold true in real-world driving. Both hybrids will have a third-row seat and can fit eight people.

We drove the two hybrid SUVs at a recent GM event and walked away rather impressed at the hybrid’s seamless operation. Being a two-mode hybrid, these SUVs can operate solely on battery power, engine power or a combination of the two.   

Senior Editor Joe Wiesenfelder spent time driving the Tahoe hybrid and writes in his First Drive article, “After driving it and its full-size sister SUV, the GMC Yukon Hybrid — and after grilling GM's execs — there don’t appear to be any significant tradeoffs compared to a regular model. That said, the gas mileage is now described only as "up to 25% better" than the non-hybrid in mixed driving and up to 40% better in the city. That would mean gas mileage around 19.6 mpg in city driving, while the mixed-driving estimate could be as high as 20 mpg. EPA numbers will be released closer to the on-sale date in the fourth quarter of 2007.”

Pricing hasn’t been released yet, but Wiesenfelder dishes out details we do know: “GM execs suggest the hybrid won't exceed the price of either model's most-loaded non-hybrid trim level, which is just shy of $40,000 for a Tahoe LTZ 4WD and $49,420 for a Yukon Denali AWD, including destination charges.”

UPDATE: As our attentive readers pointed out, some minivans can carry eight people and have the possibility of mileage in the 20-25 mpg range – depending on your driving style and use, of course. The 2007 Honda Odyssey (with cylinder deactivation available on higher end models) and Toyota Sienna are available with seating for eight and both have EPA ratings of 17 city/ 24 highway mpg when using the EPA’s 2008 testing procedure. Without cylinder deactivation the Odyssey is rated at 16/23 mpg. The 2008 ratings are more reflective of real-world driving but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll achieve those estimates. The Honda Pilot can also seat eight, but its mileage ratings are a little lower and whether or not it can comfortably fit three in the back seat depends on the occupants’ size: Children should be fine but you’ll be pushing it with three adults back there.

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on September 21, 2007 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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