With stand-out scores across the board, it quickly became clear that the Thule Motion XT was our obvious Editors' Choice Award winner. From its sturdy lid and ergonomic handle to its superior mounting system, we couldn't improve this box if we tried. While it does top the price charts as the most expensive product in our review, we wholeheartedly believe that you get what you pay for with the Motion XT, especially compared to the similarly priced but much lower-scoring Yakima ShowCase. We drove this box all over California and loved it for everything from its incredible user-friendliness to its sleek design and color options. At first glance, the Motion XT may look like any other roof box, but its exceptional ease of use score sets it apart as our distinguished favorite, making its high price tag worth every penny for shoppers truly looking for the best cargo box on the market.
Thule Motion XT XL Review
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we don't let price interfere with our search for the very best product on the market. The Motion XT was our clear Editors' Choice winner, with the perfect combination of every quality we evaluated. We love Thule's mounting system, and the stiff lid, large handle, and bonus pull cord make this box the easiest to use of any in our review. We gave it bonus points for style, loving its two color choices and shiny finish, and were impressed with the new red locking indicator which gave us confidence that our beloved possessions were always secured. More than anything else, what blows the competition away was the Motion XT's excellence in every single category, leaving nothing to be desired.
Ease of Use
The Motion XT received the highest score of any box in our review for this metric, and with good reason. While a couple of boxes in our test performed similarly in this category, the Motion XT had more great features than any other, earning the only 8/10 in any of our charts and setting it apart from our Best Buy winner, the Yakima SkyBox Carbonite.
We were surprised to find that the mounts of the Motion XT did not come attached to the box, though we imagine this might be to protect them during shipping. Regardless, it took us less than two minutes to install the clamps, as they easily click right into their slots. We barely had to glance at the instructions to understand their attachment, and compared to some of the other box's assembly requirements, this one had us laughing with its incredible straightforwardness. Once the clamps were attached to the box, it took us less than five minutes to have the box mounted on the car. While every box in this review requires two people to install, this one hardly did; we couldn't believe how easy it was to simply twist open the clamps, lift the box on top of the car, slide the clamps to fit the cross-bars, and then twist them until they click. Compared to the U-bolt system of the Thule Sidekick and SportRack Vista or the Yakima system found on both the SkyBox Carbonite and ShowCase, Thule's PowerClick mounting system was by far the best. If you plan on regularly removing and re-mounting this box, whether to accommodate your small parking garage or to uphold your in-town style requirements, you will be undoubtedly thankful you chose a Thule if for no other reason than this one.
Luckily, your choice of the Motion XT over, say, the Force, gets you a whole lot more than just easy-to-use mounts. We loved the handle on this box, making it possible to open and close with one handle. Compared to some of the other boxes in this review, the big handle of the Motion XT makes getting inside a breeze. We tested the handleless Force and ShowCase before we tested the Motion XT and found their designs only minorly frustrating, but once we laid our hands on this box's big gray handle, we couldn't go back. The pull cord inside is a nice bonus for height-challenged users or drivers of larger-than-life vehicles, though our 5'4" tester didn't find it necessary on even her mid-sized van.
Although this box does open from both sides, that was a universal feature on all but the two smaller boxes we tested, so it wasn't taken into account when scoring. If you have a small vehicle, you'll certainly love this feature; it wasn't really useful on the tester's larger vehicle, however.
For durability, we looked at both weather resistance and construction materials. We opened and closed this box countless times, shoving our skis and packs and camping gear in and out and trying to push its limits. We drove it through rain and windstorms, on the highway and on dirt roads, and were always impressed by the Motion XT's nonchalant, unwavering acceptance of the elements. Our gas mileage was happily unaffected by the presence of this and every other cargo box we tested.
While there are minuscule holes in the bottom of the box due to the customizable latching system, we feel confident that this box is just about as waterproof as they come, unless you, say, sprayed a hose directly into one of these tiny holes. Rain was never an issue as we drove this box through storms in the Sierra, and even the high-speed winds we encountered failed to shake or disrupt the Motion XT. Of course, we wouldn't want you to trust the life of your electronics to us, and since the manufacturer doesn't want to claim complete waterproofness, we still recommend you protect your valuables.
The Motion XT has one of our favorite lids of any box we tested. Its incredibly sturdy construction made it easy to open with one hand, which was helpful in trying to load big items like skis or heavy packs into the box while it was mounted on the tester's mid-sized van, high above her head. We were impressed by all the details of this product, from the solid hinges and handle to the thick, unyielding material. No aspect of this box gave us pause when considering its longevity, and we feel convinced that this box would last a lifetime. Still not sure? Thule is so confident in their boxes that they come with a lifetime warranty.
While there was only one box in this review that made us nervous about the safety of our belongings, this category was designed to look at everything concerning the security system. The Motion XT scored high marks in this metric due to its unique SlideLock mechanism which was tied for our favorite locking system. We opened and closed these boxes dozens of times, trying to knock them off their tracks to see if there was any way they could be accidentally closed but not latched properly. The Motion XT was flawless.
The Motion XT tied the Skybox in this metric due to their favorable handles and easy-to-read locking indicators. We appreciate that the Motion XT's latching system has a loud, satisfying click when the box is latched. We were never stuck wondering why the box wouldn't latch while struggling furiously to remove the key. The all-around stiff construction of this box makes it simple to close, click to latch, and remove the key. Additionally, the SlideLock handle shows a red strip when not latched and was the only box in our review with this feature. We're not sure if it's really necessary, but we appreciate the straightforward nature of this box's latching design.
The sturdy lid contributes to its security, and we were never able to knock this box off its track, making it one of the easiest boxes in our test to keep secured. Unlike most boxes in this review, it is impossible to remove the key unless the box is latched properly, so there's no way to lock the keys in the box or accidentally drive away with an unlocked box, unless, of course, you forgot to close it entirely- but we can't help you there!
We realize that people will have different personal style preferences, but we thought there were some clear winners (and losers) in this category. We shop for cars based on style, so why wouldn't we evaluate their accessories the same way? We loved the simple classiness of the Motion XT and awarded it bonus points for being available in two colors.
While most of our "long and lean" cargo boxes shared the same general shape, we really like the sleek look of the Motion XT and appreciate its tapered rear end to limit trunk door interference. We tested the gray version of this box and felt sleek driving around town with this glossy model. We even felt that it looked out of place on our tester's old car! As one of only two boxes in our review with color options, we awarded it a bonus point for its ability to appeal to more buyers, regardless of their color preference. Finally, we appreciated that the handle was ergonomic without detracting from the box's sleek design and thought that the details were thoughtfully calculated. We think it looks like a high-end cargo box, which it is.
We tested the XL version of the Motion XT, but even the L version fits skis up to 175cm, making this model an easy choice for skiers (for comparison, the XL fits skis up to 200cm and the XL up to 215cm). The thing that sets this box apart from its competition is in ease of use, though, and so this box is a great buy for anyone who will be a constant user. Its mounting system is so easy that it is the clear choice for anyone who plans to regularly mount and unmount the box. Cargo boxes are not designed to be driven at high speeds while empty, so if you don't plan on using it for long-term storage of your favorite gear, you may want to remove it after each trip. If that sounds like you, or if you need to remove the box to fit your car in a garage, you will undoubtedly be thanking the Thule engineers for inventing such a simple mounting system. Additionally, for shoppers looking for the very best on the market regardless of price, this box fits the bill and is a much better buy than the similarly priced ShowCase.
Despite its high price tag of $730, we fully support the claim that you get what you pay for with the Motion XT. It is considerably nicer than the $649 ShowCase and the $550 Force. Leagues easier to use than any other box in our review, you will find your investment solidified the moment you have to put the box on your roof. If you plan on mounting the box once and not removing it for months (or years), however, you may find the $499 price point of our Best Buy Award-winning SkyBox considerably easier to swallow.
The Motion XT was hands down the nicest box in our review. The combination of sturdy construction, thoughtful locking mechanisms, incredibly mounting clamps, and an ergonomic handle make for an obvious Editors' Choice Award winner. Despite its high price point, we can't imagine you'll ever be disappointed with the Motion XT as it is without a doubt on our dream list of travel gear.
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Most recent review: June 14, 2017
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