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Need your vehicular advice, RBR bro's and sista's(42 posts)

Need your vehicular advice, RBR bro's and sista'sDale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 7:32 AM
The lil' lady and I are doing our patriotic best to goose the economy through spending freely (that's why the terrorists hate us, BTW), so it's car buyin' time in the Ozarks (Northern Sector). My lovely and talented spouse is picking out her daily driver, that I also hope will be our "trip car" (as in trucking down to Texas for Xmas).

We're replacing her '97 Accord sedan, which is a competent but souless driving appliance. I tried to get her to go for a nice wagon (me being Mr. Practical), but she won't go there. She has compromised by looking at mini-SUVs (AKA cute-utes, soft-roaders, mini-utes), which I think of as jacked-up wagons. I like the cargo-carrying capacity (bike inside, not on top); she likes the style.

This will be a pavement-only car, and we don't get that much snow here, so I'm thinking front-wheel drive with traction control rather than all-wheel drive. We both like to see EPA mileage of 20/25 mpg or better, and we'd like to keep this puppy under $25K.

We have test driven the Saturn VUE and Hyundai Santa Fe; both are acceptable. Both have V-6, auto tranny (5 spd on the VUE), FWD, and reasonable road manners.

What else should we be looking at? And, any opinions on the VUE and Santa Fe? As a totally irrational prejudice, neither of us are very crazy about the tailgate-mounted spare tire on the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CRV. A stellar review of either might overcome our goofy misgivings, though.

Thanks for any and all advice!

Toyota Highlander?DougSloan
Nov 4, 2003 7:38 AM
This is a great car:

About the right size; available in 2x4, and plenty of room for most people. It's at the upper price limit you specified, though.

Wife decrees no minivans!Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 9:54 AM
Thanks, Doug. I'm sure it is a great car. But, Wifey don't drive no minivans.

Interestingly (to me, anyway), the '04 Saturn VUE sports the same powerplant as the VUE, the Honda 3.5 L. V-6. GM bought 50,000 of them from Honda to put into VUEs.

At least you know the engine won't blow up.KG 361
Nov 4, 2003 10:53 AM
I wouldn't buy a GM product if I only had to pay a buck for it (excluding Vettes=) ) I'd opt for the CRV or the Rav, although the CRV is rather boring looking. Another thought, how about the Kia Suv, the Sorento, I believe. Nice looking, a V-6, and a decent warranty (you may need it...)
Toyota Matrix- nmfiltersweep
Nov 6, 2003 9:01 AM
Oops! I got my posts mixed up, Doug, 128. Sorry!Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 9:57 AM
Meant to put comments on Honda Odyssey under 128's post. RE the Highlander, it's a bit more pricey than wife permits.

D'oh on me. I thought wagons were the line. Seat comfort128
Nov 4, 2003 10:19 AM
is imortant and I found the seats in the ('01)CRV not good for long distance. I like the Highlander since the Pilot is over the spending cap.

Anyways, if your traveling a lot; consider firm cozy bolsters.
Wish wagons were OK, but Boss says nay.Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 10:32 AM
Thanks, 128! Yes, seat comfort is key. I'll take another look at Highlander. (Does this mean I get to wear a kilt and swing a sword if I get one?)

Ay, uhv cardse it doos lad. Weidr wun and swing awee! nm128
Nov 4, 2003 10:43 AM
Honda Odyessy ??128
Nov 4, 2003 7:53 AM*
What about the Ford Escape? (nm)Turtleherder
Nov 4, 2003 7:59 AM
Will likely test drive one. Thanks! (nm)Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 9:59 AM
Subaru Outbacksn69
Nov 4, 2003 8:00 AM
Normal version with the 165hp boxer 4 cyl. 25/28 mpg. Full time FWD. Lots of cargo space, good accel for a station wagon with a four, and excellent reliability.

I've got 72K on mine, and to date I've done nothing more than change tires, oil, front brakes and the main belts. It's been a terrific car--from the deserts to the swamps to the mountains.
Or save your $ and get the LegacyColnagoFE
Nov 4, 2003 8:37 AM
The only advantage of the Outback is the slightly higher clearance and the styling. The Legacy would be a better "pavement-only" car IMO. If you occasionally went offroad or needed a car for deeper snow the Outback would be a good choice though.
wait til 2005...gtx
Nov 5, 2003 9:59 AM
it's gonna be a total hot rod...
Yippee!KG 361
Nov 5, 2003 10:36 AM
I should be ready for a new one 'bout then. Love my Outback, but a better looking, more powerful version would even be better =)
become an IMBA member now!gtx
Nov 5, 2003 10:47 AM
IMBA members can get Subarus at wholesale pricing

That car does look very nice. I've just being hearing bad things about Subaru auto trannies...
dude! You don't buy a blown 4 banger and hook it to an auto!shawndoggy
Nov 5, 2003 5:46 PM
Really. And not just because it's the equivalent of running a triple or a kickstand. The torque curve on the turbos is pretty soft. If I just let out the clutch in my WRX first to "creep" I can put the foot to the floor and get beaten by a yugo till the tach gets north of 3k.

Now a big 'ol 'merican v-8 hooked up to an auto makes sense cuz you got torque galore down low. But the subies need to be driven like you stole 'em.
I hear yagtx
Nov 6, 2003 10:00 AM
But for me a Subaru would be a daily driver which would be used primarly by my SO. And the freeway traffic up here in INSANE. I've also been hearing those AWD drivetrain bits aren't that hardy. I've definitely been hearing stuff about the WRX, but people tend to spank those cars silly. I guess dry pavement hard launches with AWD will tends to break things... Regarding turbos with ATs, I've driving Saab turbos with ATs and it seemed like a good match with the torque curve.
kids? dogs? towing? Doesn't sound like you need an SUVColnagoFE
Nov 4, 2003 8:34 AM
I'd get a Subaru Legacy myself. Forget the more expensive Outback since you don't need the clearance. Lots of room for hauling gear, reasonably peppy. Don't waste your $ on a high clearance vehicle if you don't get much snow and it's pavement only. Saturn VUE looks nice but you'd be getting crappy gas milage compared to the Legacy and worse road handling.
I agree RE Legacy/Outback, but wife says no wagon (nm)Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 10:01 AM
Here - Let me helpmoneyman
Nov 4, 2003 8:57 AM
We had a minivan blow a headgasket in the spring time, so we were forced into replacement. We detemined that a small SUV, such as the ones you were describing, was just the ticket. We explored them all, and came away with the following conclusions:

Subaru - Too small and fairly pricey. I am 5'11" and 200+/- lbs, so I needed something I fit into. The backseat of the subaru just didn't work. My knees were pressed against the back of the front seat, and I had a hard time swinging my legs in and out. Too bad, because I really liked the reliability factor even though, as I said, it was a bit pricey.

Saturn VUE - The manufacturing quality of the Saturn was questionable. We discussed this issue with our mechanic (an independent) and he told us about the travails he has had servicing these models. In addition, there is a lot of plastic on them and they just didn't have that "solid" feel. Finally, their looks were less than appealing, although none of these vehicles really set my heart thumping.

Hyundai - The six cylinder automatic was a nice ride with lots of power, but the gas mileage (an important consideration for us) was compromised and the price pushed the high 20s. The four cylinder auto was an absolute dog, and the four stick wasn't much better. I liked the looks of it, kind of manly, but that didn't make up for the performance deficits.

Toyota RAV4 - Too small inside, as well as too pricey. High 20s. Our budget was for low 20s.

Ford Escape - Not so bad, lots of room, right price. Rode like a truck. We have a truck, so we didn't need another. Plus, the minivan that just blew was a Ford. Bad omen.

Nissan XTerra - Another truck like ride, high price and not enough power. In addition, it was very noisy on the highway. Too bad, because this is the one I REALLY wanted. I was a sucker for the marketing, but it was clear from the beginning of the test drive that it wouldn't do.

Honda CRV - This was juuuuussst right. It had lots of power to pull us along, room in the back so that I could ride comfortably if I had to, impeccable Honda engineering and safety features, quieter than all the others, gas mileage around 25 mpg, and the price was just at 20 for the EX model, which is their top of the line. We opted for the 4 cylinder auto, but I think if I had to do it over again and could find one I'd get a stick. Downside is that it looks pretty, ummm, efficient, and a bike in the back, even with the back seats folded down, is not really a good option unless both wheels are taken off. The spare on the back door allows you to have a full size spare, not just a balloon. We did not have the factory roof rack, but I think I would do that in retrospect. A Yakima system for two bikes on the roof runs about five bills, so until I either cough that up or figure out something else, the wheels come off the bike. Finally, the folding picnic table in the cargo area is a nice touch.

Have you thought aboutJusme
Nov 4, 2003 9:12 AM
The Suzuki XL-7?

Fold down third row seat seats seven comfortably, but folds down for lots of room.

V-6 with pretty good towing capacity.
100,000 mile warranty.
About $21,0000.

It's well made with a great warranty, plus it's not some big obnoxious subdivision on wheels.
A bit truckier than than we are seeking. But, Thanks! (nm)Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 10:08 AM
Most helpful advice. Thanks Mr. $$ (comments follow)Dale Brigham
Nov 4, 2003 10:28 AM

Just what I was looking for -- comparison shopping advice. Thanks!

My 2 cents so far:

Subaru Forester: Wife does not want another wagon in our driveway (I have a Hyundai Elantra wagon, which, by the way, has been darn near perfect). She sees Forester as a wagon.

Saturn VUE: New Honda 3.5 L. V-6 powerplant w/5 spd auto tranny makes this a good performer, but build and mechanical quality suspect, as you note. I'll take to heart what you and your mechanic say.

Hyundai Santa Fe: Gas mileage with FWD and 2.7 L. V-6 is 20/26, which is barely acceptable, as you say. Wife liked this one the best so far.

Toyota RAV4: My impression precisely (small and pricey).

Ford Escape: Too trucky for us, but might look at one just for comparison basis. Low mileage (18/23), also.

Nissan XTerra: My wife's daily driver? Only if she gets a Gen-X boyfriend to go with it!

Honda CRV: Based on your recommendation, it's worth another look. We'll test drive one.

Thanks again!

Another alternative...cmgauch
Nov 4, 2003 11:31 AM the Ford Escape is the Mazda version, the Tribute. From what I understand Mazda has different suspension tuning that takes the "truckiness" out of it. Still a Ford underneath it all, but my buddy (a Mazda mechanic) says it's a reasonable vehicle.

I've not thought much about the "cute utes", but now that I do, I know several examples (purely anecdotal) of happy owners:
- My neighbor & his Honda CRV (he's had 2 in a row).
- A buddy & his Mazda Tribute.
- A co-worker & his Toyota Highlander.

Personally, I'd stay away from Hyundai, Kia & Suzuki products, based solely on the dismal resale values for these makes. Many auto finance companies exclude those makes as a matter of policy, since the loan losses are higher in the event of a repo. The same dynamic (depending, of course on many factors) could hurt you as a consumer in the event of a total loss 1-3 years down the road where the insurance proceeds might not be sufficient to pay off the car loan.
outside of a van, none of your options will swallow a bike wellshawndoggy
Nov 4, 2003 2:50 PM
Confessions of a car geek. I've had a subscription to car and driver and road and track for the last 15 years. I've lusted over some sweet machines (and still do). I even read the car classifieds every day. So I love getting asked for car advice....

I'm a wagon man myself, so I feel your pain. VW Passat, Audi A4 (or S4), or subaru legacy GT wagons would all be on my list. Especially next year once Suby puts the wrx turbo motor into the Legacy. To clear up some misconceptions above, though, the Tribute/Escape is a car based platform (ala highlander, rav4, crv, element, etc) not intended for serious offroading.

Went through this same search six months ago, though with two kids, we needed something bigger. Once I got past the stigma, the minivan became the obvious choice. We spend a lot of money on cars because of how The Man says it defines our lifestyle. I'm guilty too (my car is a WRX wagon). But in reality they are tools. They take us (and our crap) places. For my family, then, to get enough room to fit four people and be able to get a bike inside (front wheel removed) at the same time (with ABSOLUTE EASE), it's either a Suburban sized SUV or a van. [NOTE HERE: If you are tied to the mast on the SUV idea, get a one or two year old one, esp. American iron if you are looking for a bargain. My personal choice would be a 1-2 year old Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. with a V-8 in the low $20Ks.]

I hated the idea of spending what we did on a van. Six months later I'm smug about what a great freakin' vehicle it is. Eats up miles like no tomorrow, kids can watch movies (a whole 'nother debate, but believe me, naysayers who have kids that fight on a long roadtrip are lying if they say they've tried the video thing and don't like it), all our junk fits, I'm anonymous to the Fuz, the mileage is roughly twice what we'd get with a Suburban, and my monthly payment is about 60% of a 'burban's. Now when we run errands together on the weekends I put my bike in the back and ride home. Oh yeah, and my off the lot depreciation (on a Honda Odyssey) is WAY better than with American iron too.

To sell my wife on it I had to get leather. That would blow your pricepoint.

But I'm telling you man, I'll sing the praises of the minivan night and day. It's da bomb. It just won't impress your neighbors. I can't find the link anymore, but a magazine called grassroots motorsports did a performance comparo between an Odyssey and a '60s Jag E-type and a '50s Porsche 356. With two people in the back watching lord of the rings on the video system, the Odyssey won on an autocross course. Image and reality often diverge.

but it's a.....MINIVAN!!!!!!! ; ) (nm)ColnagoFE
Nov 4, 2003 3:20 PM
Points well taken, shawndoggy!Dale Brigham
Nov 5, 2003 7:12 AM
Yes, minivans are very practical, and the Odyssey is a gem. But,...we don't have kids or dogs (the cats don't go for car rides, 'cept to the vet), and my wife ain't looking to be a faux soccer mom.

I'm just glad she's considering something other than the Camry/Accord sedans, just because I'd like another of our vehicles to be able to devour a bike or two in back. Both the Santa Fe and VUE have available (as factory-made accessories) internal fork-mount bike racks, which are pictured in their respective brochures. I like that idea (bikes inside) better than roof or tailgate racks. Even in my little 'ol Elantra wagon, a can get two bikes and their wheelsets sitting up behind the rear seats. That should be easier to do in these mini-SUVs. I'll be bringing my measuring tape along for the next test drives to see how the cargo areas size up.

Great point about "ordinary" cars today versus the automotive legends of yesteryear. The technology and performance of even modest vehicles today is astounding. My little Elantra has a DOHC, electronic fuel injection, 4 valve per cylinder engine that makes 140 HP out of 2.0 L displacement, fully-independent suspension, 5-spd synchronized manual tranny, etc., and that's all on a $12K (new price) econo-wagon. That's pretty good compared to BMW 2002s and other pocket rockets of the 60's and 70's that I lusted for as a callow youth.

Thanks for your thoughtful advice, shawndoggy.

please please don't fall for the internal mount gimmick!shawndoggy
Nov 5, 2003 10:31 AM
The one for the odyssey is something like $150 from a discount retailer. And all it is is a fork block like you can get from Performance on sale for $10 or any LBS for $20.

Bring your bike when you test drive 'em. The problem with those fork mount deals in all but the tallest of vehicles is that the saddle is too high and hits the roof (at least with my not so big 56cm roadie).
Thanks for the warning! (nm)Dale Brigham
Nov 5, 2003 10:50 AM
Agree on the CR-V, and a tip for bike storage.DJB
Nov 5, 2003 7:09 AM
I agree with all your comments. My gas mileage is about the same as yours too. And how Honda can make a 4 cylinder that smooth is beyond me.

The only negatives that I have are:

- too much tire noise (from the site I know it's the tires, not the car).

- removable back seats would be nice.

But you can fit a bike in with the rear wheel on (depending on your bikes wheelbase), and without dropping your saddle (unless your inseam is a lot longer than mine (34")), by putting the bike in fork first. In fact, I don't even need a bike mount. My handlebars (Ritchey WCS, 44cm) fit right over the folded up rear seat (behind the drivers side). The front of the curve of the drops grips the sides of the seat fairly snugly. It doesn't move around. But even if your bars are narrower (or wider), I believe that if you situate a fork mount so that the fork is up against the rear seat (you'd have to raise the fork mount a few inches) , you can close the rear door. Actually, with fork mounts you'd be able to get 2 bikes in, although you'd need to put both sections of the back seat up.

Give it a try. (YMMV)
Thanks, DJB! That's the kind of ingenuity...Dale Brigham
Nov 5, 2003 7:20 AM
...that makes our country great. I'm about your size, and my bar size is the same as yours. We'll look at CRVs this weekend and I'll keep your great "trick" in mind.

re: Need your vehicular advice, RBR bro's and sista'sJusme
Nov 4, 2003 9:13 AM
The Suzuki XL-7?
Fold down third row seat seats seven comfortably, but folds down for lots of room.

V-6 with pretty good towing capacity.
100,000 mile warranty.
About $21,0000.

It's well made with a great warranty, plus it's not some big obnoxious subdivision on wheels.
And don't forget!4bykn
Nov 4, 2003 2:27 PM
The Mitsubishi Endeavor. Available in 2 or 4 wheel drive. Might be a little above your price point, if htat is a problem try the Mitsubishi Outlander, similar to the RAV4/CRV. If you get an Endeavor you'll be helping support a fellow RBR'r. It's built in the USA in Normal Illinois by yours truly.

Ride in Peace....Mike
You guys are all nutz....funknuggets
Nov 4, 2003 3:03 PM
Save yourself about a bazillion dollars and get a freaking decked out Jeep Cherokee. Get it with the inline six and it will get you where you need to go and more. I had fantastic results with mine before it got smashed. I will get another one.

Comeon Dale...
Chris, the Jeep is more vehicle than we needDale Brigham
Nov 5, 2003 7:57 AM
Really, we are just looking for a jacked-up, tall station wagon. Jeeps are real off-road vehicles. Our car might see a gravel road or a dirt parking lot once or twice a year, but that's it. Anyway, the Cherokee's price is way above wifey's $25K limit, and the mileage is way below her 20/25 mpg minimum. This she will not tolerate! She must be obeyed! Bow down to the Boss! (Am I trained or what?)

Hey, Chris, the Gravel Grumble is this Sunday, 10 a.m., starting/ending in Columbia, at Tryathletics located at Stadium and Forum Blvd. intersection. We ride/race down to Hartsburg on some gravel roads you won't believe (including three of the toughest climbs I know), and ride partly on the Katy Trail. Weather can be brutal or balmy; hard to say considering forecast as of today. Come on over, if you can!

It doesn't sound like it's about need thoughColnagoFE
Nov 5, 2003 8:46 AM
Sounds like pretty much anything would work for you--including your present car. A station wagon would be the most logical choice, but your wife is stuck on getting an SUV. Might as well go all the way with it and get a fullsize. Those mini-SUVs are more style over substance. They are no good off-road and no good on-road and have very little actual towing capacity or cargo room compared to a station wagon. They also get worse gas milage. So get a SUV if you're gonna get one, but I don't think you "need" one.
Right you are, but it's not my call -- It's my wife's!Dale Brigham
Nov 5, 2003 10:46 AM
I'd love to be shopping for another wagon, but wife says one wagon per household is enough. Clearly, logic has nothing to do with it. Everything you have said about SUVs I have said also. Like water off a duck's back to my spouse.

Just happy to be looking at cars with cargo areas in back, not trunks. Wife is going shopping with her mom tonight to buy a bookcase. Whose car will they take? Mine (Elantra wagon), of course, since it's the only vehicle of the three that can hold anything larger than a suitcase. At least a mini-SUV for my wife will take care of that little problem.

Nov 6, 2003 8:44 AM
Wow, Columbia must be more uppity than I remember, but a plain old cherokee sport should not be nearly that costly. You should be able to find one off lease for under 14 EASILY. Heck, for that kind of cost savings, it could get 8 miles to the gallon and still give you money to know? Cherokee sport, in missouri is STILL considered a CAR, and not a truck, so it is cheaper and offers you nice safety and room... and yes, the ability to climb those gravel roads. Plus, when it DOES snow... I've never driven in a more sure-footed vehicle.

The Gravel Grumble sounds cool, but I unfortunately have prior arrangements with the KC Chiefs at noon. I will likely just hit Landahl(local MTB mecca) early Sunday to get some time in the saddle. That Gravel Grumble sounds really FUN though, I will mark my calendar with it next year. I did just make a similar trip a few weeks ago from the Hartsburg Pumpkin fest on the Katy and somehow broke my back wheel...ON THE KATY TRAIL.... Im still curious how that happened... but nonetheless thanks for the invite!!!

I know exactly the type of road you speak about. Im a local boy (Columbia/Ashland/Jeff City), so believe me, I know. I look forward to coming to JC to go do hill repeats. People don't seem to believe MO has hills.

We are looking at Mitsubishis, MikeDale Brigham
Nov 5, 2003 7:36 AM
Visited the local Mitsu dealer last weekend, and I was much impressed by the Outlander (Endeavor is beyond my wife's firm $25K upper price point). Dealer did not yet have any of the '04 Outlanders on the lot (only a couple of '03 units), but have asked them to call us when they arrive. With about 20 more HP out of the 4-banger in the '04 Outlanders, I'm very interested in that model. Even if my wife does not get one, I'd be very tempted to buy one for myself.

Are Outlanders going to all be built in Japan, or are they adding them to your line in Normal? I really would like to support U.S. autoworkers, if I have the choice.

Thanks, Mike, for your kind advice.

We are looking at Mitsubishis, Mike4bykn
Nov 5, 2003 6:43 PM
Outlanders will continue to be built in Japan, we have our hands full with:
Mitsubishi Endeavor
Mitsubishi Eclipse
Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible
Mitsubishi Galant
Dodge Stratus coupe
Chrysler Sebring coupe