Thursday, July 3, 2008

Car Allowance

Funny I should post about the empty glovebox yesterday. It seems it will be emptier as my beloved car will soon be looking for a new caretaker. We have to trade it in. With the impending addition of spawn neither one of our autos will hold three car seats - ain't no way. The Boy is going to be in his for at least another two and half years (6 years, 60 pounds) so there aren't any workarounds other than family outings in two autos which is... well... dumb. Sadly whatever we choose is going to be a gas hog. They don't make fuel sippers with three rows of seats. At least, having to buy one now has the advantage of low demand and, as a result, deals abound.

I don't do mini-vans. I can't. I won't. It isn't just what they are. It's that I will be driving this new vehicle for some time and I like to drive. I'm not expecting a 911 or an R8, but to slog some mushy handling bus for the next eight years or so is not acceptable. So the field is narrowed.

Looking for opinions (reliability, performance, issues) on two models from those with some experience.

#1 Volvo XC90
#2 Acura MDX

Help out if you can.


Anonymous said...

kia sedona, if you've got what it takes...

arlopop said...

sedona sucks in reliability - so sayeth consumer reports

engine cooling
climate system
body trim (it falls off)
body integrity
body hardware
audio system
electrical system
fuel system
drive system
and my favorite for a family car...

But its exhaust gets top scores

Anonymous said...

Good luck finding a larger SUV or large crossover that doesn't drive like a bus - that's just life.

Having said that, the Volvo XC90 handles very well for being as bulky as it is, and the turbo straight 6 is pretty economical for the size of the vehicle. The Acura MDX wouldn't give you adequate "fun to drive" factor without the sport package added in, as it's floaty.

Another crossover you should look into is the Mazda CX9. It's designed like the Murano, where it's not sure if it's a sports car or if it's a SUV, and is over all very nice.

Two more vehicles you might consider are Dodge Durano and Chrysler Aspen. Sure, they're not all that great (or all that bad), but they do have one thing going for them that no one else does right now - unlimited lifetime powertrain warranty. You could pay off the vehicle, keep it's maintenance up, and when the kids are old enough to drive, they'll have something they can make gas money on when taking friends to school. If you do get one, get the Hemi engine - it gets better gas milage than the smaller V8 does, with better power.

Of course, the other thing you could do is wait for the Chevy Tahoe's supposed to get similar gas milage to a Toyota Camry 4 cyl, and it's guaranteed to be big enough for you, the wife, and the kiddos.

Finally, there's the Nissan Quest. It shares the same platform that your Murano uses, just in school mini-van form. From what I understand, it's not a bad ride overall and handles well for it's size.

Steve said...

Naively, I ask why the Camry can't handle three car seats if it can handle three adults in back and has three seatbelts. Is it the logistics of squeezing the middle child in? (I honestly have no idea, having no experience with carseats.)

Highlander hybrid? 27/25 mpg.

arlopop said...

The Camry and my Murano are fine with two seats but child seats are quite wide. There's simply no room for three across. This is the reason that families buy minivans, sadly.

As for the Highlander - when we were looking for a new car for me we drove the Highlander, the Pilot and the Murano. The Pilot came in not too far behind the Murano, but the Highlander was ghastly to both my wife and myself. It felt cheaply made, plastic, and was really unresponsive. It was rejected without even a backward glance which was surprising because before we started test driving it was the one I thought we would end up buying.

It's only because the camry is a good hybrid that we even bought that one. Two days after we got the camry home one of the interior covers of the roof pillars that hides the side-curtain airbag just fell off in my wife's lap. The plastic housing of the door handle popped off. It rattles incessantly. It drives well but the quality of workmanship is just awful.

Meanwhile my Murano has never had a single problem - not one - mechanical or cosmetic.

I just have a problem with toyotas in general.

I know, long answer, but after a day of test-driving vehicles that were well-put together I am even more put off by Toyota.

Steve said...

Bummer -- the only damage I've experienced with my Camry H is the squeaky center console! (Which I could and should take in for free work under warranty, but who wants the bother of a full day in the shop?)