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I can go on a bit-
There's rollover risk, and the extra energy absorbed by the passengers when a rigid truck-based vehicle hits another truck-based vehicle or a wall or a pole. There's also the inferior handling and braking, and the lack of side impact and offset crash tests (and the mediocre offset performance of Ford/GM full-size pickups which have been tested) for large SUVs. Don't forget about the severe danger they pose to compact cars. You mention Consumer Reports, they have an ongoing preference against truck-based SUVs. (Most recently, see the sidebar on p. 55 of the May, 2002 issue)
You might consider some of the links at the bottom of this page before assuming a large, truck-based SUV is safer than a top minivan:
"By the way what might have happened had they victims been in anything else?If not at least as big (or bigger) than the MV?"
Keep in mind the minivan is lower to the ground than an SUV and would be more compatible with a passenger car. With a unibody frame, it will also tend to crush better in a crash. Mass does not play a significant factor in side impacts as it does in frontal impacts, and that is one reason why you can compare side impact results across weight classes. I suspect a mid or large sized passenger car with decent side impact ratings would fare at least as well, primarily because it would have much less risk of rolling.
I'd much rather have my family in a Windstar, Sienna or Odyssey than any SUV. Of course, I don't do serious towing or off-roading.
The biggest fallacy is that we are not all safer by driving massive vehicles. Yes, drivers of the big vehicles do gain an advantage against smaller vehicles in the transition. But when the vast majority have adopted big trucks, we are all worse off than had we not given into the trend. More mass and stiffer frames means more energy in crashes and less ability to absorb that energy in the frame.
Incidentally, here are the death statistics. Note that minivans do very well: http://www.iihs.org/sr_ddr/sr3507_t1.htm
Here is the article on 3rd row safety: http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2002/03/01/third-row.htm
Some additional reading:
http://www.hwysafety.org/srpdfs/sr3409.pdf http://aceee.org/pubs/T021full.pdf http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rollover/ http://www.aps.org/units/fps/jan02/a2jan02.html http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/suv980622.html
No offense or intention to wage war as you put it. I understand there are various reasons that large SUVs are a good choice. I don't feel that safety is necessarily one of them, at least compared to some of the top minivans, sedans and wagons that may serve the purpose for many people who don't ever use their large SUV for serious off-roading or towing.
Rear impacts are not very common according to the statistics (Crashtest.com and NHTSA FARS database). Severe rear impacts that cause seat failure are even more rare. The problem with 3rd row seats would be compounded if you frequently have multiple heavy adults in the rear that would further load the seat back, especially if they are seated in a position without a shoulder belt and/or headrestraint (which isn't safe anyway).
Kids in harnessed carseats have an advantage in the third row. They are much lighter, and won't load the seat back as much. Plus, a 5-point harness is going to prevent ejection even if the seat back does fail, and that was a major concern of the author. Finally, the shell of a high-back carseat will provide protection from intrusion and whiplash. All in all, I'd be much more hesitant to put a 2-3 adults back there than small kids. Here are some more threads for reference on this issue:
Another link that might be helpful:
Hope that helps!
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