By on October 4, 2009

Murauder? I just met her! (courtesy netcarshow.com)

TTAC commentator JollyJerry posits the following:

I’m looking for some recommendations and insight on highway cruisers that would coddle me and my girlfriend on a long multi-state road trip. I’m a tall lanky guy at 6′ 4″, so the Scion xB has been a perfect car for me so far. It’s definitely the wrong car to take for a long trip because it hurts my back, and I can’t stand the engine, wind, and road noise after a few hours. Here’s a list of cars I’ve been researching just to give an idea of what I’ve been looking at on TTAC and other sites: Ford Crown Victory / Mercury Grand Marquis / Marauder Toyota Avalon Chevy Impala / Monte Carlo Chevy Caprice Lexus LS Chrysler 300M Pontiac Bonneville Hyundai XG350. The ideal car would be cheap (<5k), reliable for at least a few months, incredibly comfortable on our bums and backs, and dead quiet. For this car, I wouldn’t care about looks or handling if I could get the above list. Good mileage would be a nice to have too because we’ll cover a lot of miles. Last generation domestic full-size sedans seem to do well on price and comfort. I’m more afraid of the Buicks and Cadillacs because of repair costs. Cost is also a big factor for most of the European sedans. What do you all think? Is there a car I’m missing that would be great for traveling all over the country and then selling?

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103 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: What’s the Quietest, Most Comfortable and Economic Long Distance Cruiser?...”


  • avatar
    BDB

    An old early to mid-90s Lincoln Town Car. Cheap to buy since they’re used in so many fleets, dirt cheap to repair, comfortable and quiet. And highway mileage is really quite good for such a big car with a V8.

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    The panther platform isnt a bad idea. Decent mileage for a full size car too.

  • avatar
    MasterOfTheJawan

    any 90s or 00s Buick LeSabre, Park Ave, or Regal. A couch on wheels while getting 31 mpg from the fuel frugal, powerful, and legendary reliable 3800 V6.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    The 2003-2004 Chrysler LH cars (aforementioned 300M, Intrepid, LHS, etc.) would probably be ideal. They have most of the reliability issues found in the 98-02 MYs fixed, are cheap, and the 2.7L V6 allows for great-for-a-big-car fuel consumption (my girlfriend’s 2000 Intrepid consistently gets 28mpg at 70-75mph). The relatively low drag makes for a reasonably quiet ride, too. The base-model Intrepids are generally the least expensive versions to buy used, but also tend to have the crappiest seats (driving from Buffalo to Houston really made this clear to me; we’re doing it again soon because 3000 miles worth of gasoline costs less than one plane ticket at the end of December, so I’ll bring a throw pillow or something to stick behind my lower back).

    High-mileage cars are dirt cheap; just make sure the water pump and timing belt were done at around 100K.

    The trunk is huge, and the interior is incredibly roomy — I’m 5’11″, and I can move the driver’s seat far enough back to not be able to reach the pedals (and there’s still room for an adult in the back seat!).

    These cars handle well for front-drivers, too. The longitudinally-mounted engine allows for symmetrical suspension geometry and minimal torque steer.

    So, while ostensibly crappy cars, they make a good solution for inexpensive roadtripping.

    …and as an xB1 owner, I agree that it would be a nightmare to drive across the country. I added a Rostra cruise control unit, which makes it a bit less stressful on the interstate, but I agree with your assessment of noise and harshness of the car.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I’d also say an older town car or grand marquis. When my dealership did away with our demo program almost all of the people who had been using it bought up town car or grand marquis trade-ins. They are cheap to own and repair, decent highway economy for the size and power, and can easily last well over 200,000 miles with basic inexpensive maintenance.

    The Grand Marquis LS and the Town Car both have an air suspension that will give you a more comfortable ride, but can cost around $1000 to have replaced if it goes out. However, the suspensions are pretty durable and not problematic, just keep it in mind if you see a check suspension warning light on a car you are considering.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    I would put forward the Jaguar X-Type.

    It’s very reliable and drives like a dream.

    Small note, if you do get one with AWD, the transfer box is the only suspect element of the car.

    Other than that, I think they’re bargains, especially on the second hand market.

  • avatar

    How about a $22k properly-maintained Mercedes S55 AMG? Life is too short to not buy one.

  • avatar
    MasterOfTheJawan

    TTAC did a Hammer Time on this topic about a month ago:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/hammer-time-road-warriors/

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    W140 Mercedes.

    Inexpensive to buy, cheap to own, run like freight trains.

    Quiet, comfy, fast, good gas mileage.

    Last of the grosser Benzes.

    (A nicely maintained W126 is also a wonderful choice. And there’s still nicely maintained ones available. I had over 350K on my 500SEL Euro greymarket when I sold it. Still ran strong and everything worked.)

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I don’t understand the Panther love fest AT ALL. It’s so cramped inside! And the fabrics aren’t nice at all! Not super efficient/economical, either. It’ll be sucking gas like crazy!

    I’d go with a really old (90-3) Lexus LS. Choose one with low curb appeal (lower price), but good mechanical condition. It’s roomy, comfortable, and you’ll find out what made Lexus so popular!

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The comfortable seats in the BMW 528e is what initially attracted me to the car. I have driven mine for 20 hrs at a stretch, and I’m 50 something. It is a great commuter car too.

  • avatar
    Jonathon

    I’d second MasterOfTheJawan’s recommendation of a Buick. And since when are Buicks expensive to repair? A LeSabre is essentially the same thing as a Bonneville, but with nicer trim and cushier seats. And you can get a pretty darn nice Buick for under five grand.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A good used Ford Five Hundred, but stay away from the CVT transmission. Get one with a conventional automatic.

    The seats are more supportive than a Panther, handling is far superior and the fuel economy is decent as well.

  • avatar
    rockit

    Jaguar X-Type? LOL Good sense of humor around here!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    @romanjetfighter – I’ll second that, I also don’t get the panther love. I get these things as rentals occasionally, they have NO legroom at all! I’m a ridiculously long-waisted 6’2″ (29″ inseam) and I don’t fit comfortably in them at all. And I don’t know what creature the seats are meant to be comfortable for, but it isn’t humans. I have driven nearly new Grand Marquis (de Sade) for 500 miles at a stretch and never seen higher than 22mpg, and saw city mileage in the single digits! I guess if you drive like the typical owner with the cruise set on 55 they will do OK, but I have ground to cover!

    Get a ratty Lexus LS if you need a rolling couch.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    rockit

    Nothing funny about my comment. I own one, I love it and would buy one again in a heartbeat. It drives beautifully, very reliable, looks gorgeous & elegant, quite good fuel economy and strong, but spry engine. When you take everything in account, not just performance, but everything, the X-Type is a sensational car!

    Go Jaguar!

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Cadillac DTS won the Yank tank comparo awhile back. I’d start there.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-yank-tank-comparo-cadillac-dts-vs-lincoln-town-car-vs-chrysler-300c-first-place-cadillac-dts/

    Or, along the lines of “life’s too short”,

    $21k Phaeton W12:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Phaeton-Luxury-Sedan-W12_W0QQitemZ330365210982QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Cars_Trucks?hash=item4ceb4d1166&_trksid=p4506.c0.m245

  • avatar
    MBella

    Probably the a Buick or Ford 500/Mercury Montego would be your best bet. Just make sure you check out the intake manifold gaskets on the Buick, and avoid the CVT on the Fords.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    1990′s Lexus LS.

    Bulletproof reliability, great ride, quiet, comfortable, roomy, built for highway crusing. Good mileage too, the 300 hp V8 in mine gets 23 mpg in mixed highway/city driving, on a road trip to FL I got about 26-27.

    Those 1990′s models are getting down to $5K or less in private party bluebook value.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is a good question. Both the Panthers and W-Bodies are cheap and reliable enough, but the ride isn’t at all that sophisticated, and at 6’8″ and not that lanky, the front seats really are not all that roomy and the low roof cuts into headroom. The huge steering wheels make leg space for tall people, too.

    In short, these are big cars for short people. Were I to choose, I would pick the Impala/Lacrosse because the Fords thump badly over bumps.

    I would consider something a taller and with a more modern suspension. Consider the Kia Rondo or Toyota Sienna or some other minivan: all ride well and have lots of headspace. If you must go the low-roof way, consider the better-than-a-Panther-in-every-way Ford Five Hundred, or perhaps the Hyundai Azera, which was, when I was looking, the most comfortable reasonably-priced car for a tall person.

    A dark horse would be the VW Jetta or Rabbit. I’ve done >1000km straight in either and the seats and ride are excellent in non-sport trims. The MkIVs are reliability-questionable, but the MkVs are decent enough.

  • avatar
    Alcibiades

    2003+ Grand Marquis LS. An ’04 would be ideal.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Try a four-year-old, low-miles Town Car. Lincolns have horrific depreciation, which works in favor of the second-time buyer.

    Also, I was in a Crown Vic as a passenger to and from a hike, and the vast trunk easily swallowed our packs and other gear. The highway ride was smooth and coddling.

    Think you might buy new? Be sure to sit in a new Honda Accord. It’s a big car inside.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I’m 6′, and while that used to be considered tall, all of these horome-enriched milk fed teenagers cum future NBA stars are making me feel shorter every day. I’m stocky vs lanky, but I’ve always found there was tons of room in the Panther cars, at least in the front. The Town Car has much more comfortable seats than the Grand Marquis, although a lot of that could be from the better thought out center armrest. I suppose your body type has a lot to do with it, which is why it is important to test drive any new car you are considering to find out if it is comfortable for you or not.

    As far as fuel economy goes, I get customers of mine telling me they are getting 28mpg on the highway in their town cars all the time, and this is in Florida where traffic on I75 goes around 85mph.

    The biggest panther plus though is the durability and reliability. There are plenty of cab and limo companies that don’t buy the cars until they already have 100,000 miles on them, and plan on getting another 150,000 out of them easily. The 4.6 liter V8 is bulletproof, as is the transmission. There aren’t a lot of fancy options are electronics, but as a comfortable highway car that will run forever, they are hard to beat.

  • avatar
    carguy

    E46 330ci with sports seats – eats up the miles and still gets 29MPGs at 80Mph. Quiet, comfortable and also a lot of fun if you happen to meet a stretch of twisty road.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    2002-2006 Camry XLE or Lexus ES300/330. Assuming you find one with enough miles on it or cosmetic damage to keep it within your budget, of course.

    The seats are very comfortable (10-way with power lumbar control), and the V6 ones are quiet. The soundproofing is decent, and bumps are absorbed well.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The issue I found with my panther rentals is if you hit an expansion joint in a corner, the car picks a new direction of travel at random.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, here ya go…1996 M-B E-Class turbo-diesel, nice shape, $6,500. 600+ mile highway range, plus Benzes are absolutely ideal for long drives. If you have back problems, here’s your ride – wonderful seats.

    Plus it looks a shitload better than a Crown Vic.

    http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?tracktype=usedcc&csDlId=&csDgId=&listingId=31089128&listingRecNum=107&criteria=sf1Dir%3DDESC%26alMdId%3D21014%26mkId%3D20028%26stkTyp%3DU%26mdId%3D21014%26kwm%3DANY%26rd%3D100000%26crSrtFlds%3DstkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-mdId-kw%26zc%3D80134%26rn%3D0%26PMmt%3D1-1-0%26stkTypId%3D28881%26sf2Dir%3DASC%26sf1Nm%3Dprice%26kw%3Ddiesel%26sf2Nm%3Dmiles%26alMkId%3D20028%26rpp%3D250%26feedSegId%3D28705&aff=national

  • avatar

    Thanks for the great suggestions so far. I’ve been on Craigslist looking at what you guys have recommended and it’s looking pretty promising:

    Ford Five Hundred – out of price range, heard good things from a friend.

    Lincoln Town Car – great prices on clean examples from the early to mid-90s. Will research problem areas more.

    W140 S-class – like the look, but fewer examples in the $5k range. Excited about this, but worried the repairs would be steep.

    Minivan – I love our used Nissan Quest. Minivans and wagons are awesome. Always loved those sleeper looking V70Rs too.

    Phaeton + S55 AMG – The big drop from new prices are tantalizing, but that’s still 22k of cash to depreciate down from :)

    @KatiePuckrik – Thanks for the Jag suggestion! I didn’t even think of the brand when I started looking.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    jmo :
    October 4th, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    The issue I found with my panther rentals is if you hit an expansion joint in a corner, the car picks a new direction of travel at random.

    That’s just their way of keeping things exciting…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The biggest panther plus though is the durability and reliability. There are plenty of cab and limo companies that don’t buy the cars until they already have 100,000 miles on them, and plan on getting another 150,000 out of them easily.

    Once more with feeling: this only really applies to fleet companies with on-staff repair departments and access to cheap parts. The durability and repair-ability of the average Panther doesn’t really apply to normal, non-fleet buyers.

    TCO for these cars is lower if you’re a fleet and/or if you abuse it the way that cabbies and cops do. Otherwise, the TCO and overall reliability of a “normal” car is better, and you’d be better off with a Camry.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    psarhjinian – I’d counter that with the bevy of fresh panthers in C4C junkyards, the tons of them that have been sold, and the rather slow progression of updates on the cars, there is no shortage of cheap parts for anyone. Also, they are one of the easiest cars to find a qualified independent mechanic to work on.

    A 4 cylinder Camry will give you better fuel economy, but it won’t ride as nicely on the highway, be as quiet, or have as much power. I know plenty of people with these cars that do nothing but change the oil every 3-5K miles, and they soldier on without a complaint. The only real even semi-common repair issue is the power windows, but most of the time that is a pin that can be replaced in under ten minutes for a part you can get for less than ten dollars, and even if it is a regulator or motor, it can be done for under $200 easily by any independent shop.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    They’re becoming ancient but the last era of the Caprice (1996) was really well liked by the fleet guys for its comfortable ride, size, reliability, decent mileage and bulletproof drive train.No doubt there’s an 85 year old guy out there selling a 1 owner 20,000 mile Caprice in some bargain rag somewhere.
    http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    A 1998 Olds 88, low cost, big cushy seats, huge trunk and interior. A living room on wheels, it also handles like a living room on wheels. Can avg 30mpg on the highway and very cheap to buy

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    I’d say Saab 9-5. Big, comfy, Scandinavian seats with a turbocharged 4-cylinder that does well on the highways. Used ones can be had for pretty cheap, and the 9-5 is just as reliable as any other car out there, it’s the 9-3 that screws Saab in reliability comparisons.

    Repair costs? I’m not sure on that. I can’t imagine they’d be too high because the vehicle has gone virtually unchanged for almost 10 years (until this year). Don’t quote me on that, though.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    For the poster that mentioned the 300M, I’d second this recommendation, but would add that the 2001 model year is considered the “high water” mark for content and was the only full model year to have the extra sound deadening package that was removed later on as a cost save.

    Including the sound deadening stuff, the decontenting actions started in earnest in 2002 (a few soft wrap panels such as the lower I/P and glovebox door went to all-hard plastic) and were in full-swing by ’03 & ’04. Try to find one with the “luxury group” and you’ll get genuine wood dash & door trim, outside electro-dimming mirror on the driver’s side and the EVIC (Electronic Vehicle Information Center) in place of the standard compass/temp/fuel economy computer.

    Some common issues on these cars and some ones that are often misdiagnosed but easy to fix:

    - Transmission shift woes (including being in limp-in mode) are usually caused by faulty input and output speed sensors and occasionally a faulty solenoid pack. All of these parts are external to the transmission and easily replaced. The two sensors are really cheap, and the solenoid pack is under $200 last time I checked. Most shops will claim the transmission will need an overhaul when really a sensor will fix it.

    - Rough running accompanied by misfire or cam sensor codes. Most shops will replace the cam sensor but the sensor itself is not the issue, the connector pigtail is actually the problem and you can buy a new pigtail with wiring to solder in to fix this.

    - Brakes are somewhat weak on this car, but can be improved by using the “police” rotors which vent out of the front instead of the rear of the rotor. The police spec pads are also a huge improvement in stopping power as well but they will make some low-speed graunching noises that are harmless. I did this to my sister’s Intrepid and it was like a completely different car from a braking perspective.

    - The window lace moldings tend to get a bit “gummy” in the hot weather and sort of glue themselves to the window glass, leaving a black residue at the top of the window. Keep this residue cleaned off to keep the window from sticking the molding and possibly failing the window motor from overstress.

    It really is a nice riding car with very comfortable seats, both front and rear. I miss my 2001 and would have kept it if it hadn’t been hit by an inattentive driver.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    You did say $5,000 or less, correct? Looks like some of the commentors missed that criterion.
    I agree about the Buick LeSabre/Park Ave with the 3.8L V6. Disagree about the LH Mopars, very road-noisy. Panthers are good; the Town Car is roomier than the Ford or Merc. In terms of the cheapest car with the most life left in it for 5K I don’t think you can do better than a low mileage 2003-7 Ford Taurus. Look for an SEL, better sound insulation.

  • avatar
    Jason

    An old Infiniti Q-anything?

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    Ah, Panther Hate. As predictable as a ricer in Reading having fart exhaust.

    Even its critics cannot argue the low cost of both acquisition and concurrent ownership for the Panther platform, regardless of which of the three versions you choose. Why don’t you go rent one for the weekend and draw your own conclusion regarding its suitability to your needs.

    Quick observation on the Buick Regal. We purchased a very low mileage off-lease 2000 for my wife based in part on its better than average quality and reliability reputation. That car turned out to be such a roach that I will never own a Government Motors product again. Things broke on that car I didn’t know could break. Constantly. It was never done disappointing us. What a piece of shit.

  • avatar
    Packard

    Not even close: Cadillac DTS. Town Cars have vauge steering, and they wallow. DTS with front wheel drive isn’t bothered by anything in the weather. On the highway, economy is 25 mpg and it runs on regular.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    willbodine :
    October 4th, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    You did say $5,000 or less, correct? Looks like some of the commentors missed that criterion.

    No kidding. Jaguars, Saabs, and Lexus? Looks to me that the OP is looking for a disposable car to take on a road trip and then get most of his money out of when he sells it afterwards. Cost definitely seems to be a factor.

    If that’s the case there is no other choice but a Crown Vic. You can pick one up for next to nothing. It will get decent mileage with the reliability of a low- tech V-8. Most importantly, it can be repaired any damn where in this country as well as Canada or Mexico that you might decide to take it. I don’t know where you planned to take this road trip, but try getting a replacement water pump for some obscure foreign
    make (like, I don’t know, a Honda) in the backwoods of West Virginia or expecting to find a mechanic with the correct tools and the know how to repair some nearly catastrophic engine failure on a 20 year- old Mercedes at 0300 hours in Arkansas. But a Ford? Not a problem, they’ve got the parts in the back and you’re back on the road in an hour or two.

    I suggest looking for a MY 2000 or later Police Interceptor that was assigned to a detective (or administrator) working for a police department that has a homefleet plan. The car will be in better shape than a pure fleet vehicle because somebody will have had their name attached to it and because an unmarked detective’s car won’t have been driven nearly as much or as ruthlessly as a patrol car. You’ll also get the nice interior. Here’s one that my department currently has for auction.

    http://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/lfucg,ky/auction/view?auc=378600

  • avatar
    shiney2

    I’m with porshespeed – sort of. My choice would be a clean MB 126 turbo diesel or six cylinder. Roomy, quiet, great mileage and nearly indestructible. The V8 cars are faster and very good, but they seem more prone to problems and there are fewer used ones in truly clean and well maintained condition. The only real weakness I have seen in older 116/126 cars I have worked on is occasionally iffy HVAC controls. A W124 E-class is also an excellent and reliable cruiser. The W140 is a tough & magnificent car, but very complex, and some repairs can be expensive and time consuming. None of the Benzs seem all that comfortable until you have been driving for 12 hours or so, then realize that you still feel pretty much the same way you felt when you sat down…

    I’m also a fan of the Panther platform, particularly town cars. Super reliable and very quiet. But the seats are not as good for long drives and lose support on older models. That said, the A/C in one is second to none!

    Another car to consider would be some form of 240 or 740 Volvo. Cheap, roomy, and great seats!! And Suburbans are great highway cruisers as well, and a deal these days with big SUVs out of favor.

    FYI – I’m your opposite build, 5’8″ 260lbs, extra stocky, all torso with short arms and legs. Shoulder and head room mean everything in a car for me, and I find some Toyota’s all but undrivable because they place the drivers seat so close to the door that my left arm is forced into an uncomfortable position.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    willbodine & dukeboy01 make a valid point. Years of poking at and playing with cars (paticularly MBs) makes me feel confident in my ability to nurse or repair one. But I would hate to reley on finding a trustworthy mechnic in the middle of no-where for an MB or some of the other cars mentioned.

    The Panthers, Taurus, Suburban, and Volvo 240/740 strike me as the easiest to get repaired, and any of them should resell easy. Have you considered a Honda Accord? they have become mighty big cars over the years, and unless you are actually on the Appalachian trail parts are at least as common as for any American car.

    My advice is to buy the car you want to drive, and stay west of the Mississippi river ;-)

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    Hello!!! The guy wants to spend less than 5 grand and have a reliable/cheap-to-fix car. THAT ELIMINATES EVERYTHING FROM EUROPE, AND ALL BUT THE AVALON FROM JAPAN. Problem with the Avalon is your going to have to go back some years + accept high miles to get in that price range. And although Avalons are very reliable, any car at that age+miles is high-risk for service costs. I’d also eliminate the Koreans. Better quality from US in the type of car+price your looking at and better ride.

    Bottom line: Look no further than a U.S. make for this car. For 5 grand you can get something in the 21st century with under 75,000 miles. Easily. Excellent condition. And it will ride on a cloud. Ford Crown Victoria / Mercury Grand Marquis / Lincoln Towncar / Continental would be good picks. Not the Chevy Impala / Monte Carlo, as they are not ‘ride on a cloud’ comfy. Chevy Caprice, not sure. Chrysler 300M, no. Unreliable + not ‘cloud’ worthy. Pontiac Bonneville, not ‘cloud’ worthy. Buick Regal + LeSabre are not ‘cloud’ worthy, but the Park Avenue sure is… I’d check that one out… Cadillac? Finding a nice one for 5 grand might get tough. Repair cost? That all depends…

    I’ll give you three that I’d drive first…. I suspect you’ll look no further. Lincoln Towncar, Lincoln Continental, and Buick Park Avenue. You’ll be able to get a 21st century version with low miles (under 75K). They are all reliable and parts are very reasonable if something needs fixed. One exception is the air suspension. Some versions have them (if not all), which can be pricey to fix. Make sure this is functioning properly (no holes/leaks from air bags + make sure all the interior electronics/features work) and you’ll be fine. The extra cost for the premium versions vs. the generic platform sharing siblings is minimal (at this stage of depreciation). So I’d just go with a Lincoln (or Park Ave) and be done with it. Both ride AMAZING on the highway. The Park Ave. will be a bit more fuel efficient with the 3.8L V6 vs. the 4.6L. Another bonus is these cars are usually VERY cheap to insure.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Not a single mention of the Roadmaster? How about an old Tahoe or Yukon?

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    +1 to onerareviper, the last thing you want on a cross country road trip is a European car, terribly unreliable, and when they break down in the middle of nowhere, good luck getting it fixed. There’s a reason why thats the basic plot for half the horror movies ever made. Buy a Buick Lucerne or Park Ave, Ford 500, Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon, or a Cadillac.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    @onerareviper,

    W126 Benz parts are (mostly) available at any national auto chain.

    Nicely maintained examples are reliable as dirt. Esp. as shiney2 said, the 6 and TD models.

    If you want a car that can be fixed in rural BFE, get yourself a 67 Chevy something. It’ll break about once a week, but yeah, old Clem might have the parts in the depths of West Virginia/New Mexico.

    Any decent general wrench best be able to fix an 80′s Benz. They are actually simple to diagnose, easy to wrench, and don’t have lotsa complicated ways to be cheap. If you can’t wrench an 80′s Benz, for the love of god, please turn in your tools or take up lawnmower repair.

    I will grant the W140 can have some odd issues, and if you don’t know how to read a wiring diagram
    some of the bells and whistle can fail and be a PITA. But won’t stop the the train.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    If were going to go completely nuts, you could get a Lincoln MKS Ecoboost for about half the price of Flashpoint’s S550 that makes only about 40 less horsepower, has every luxury feature he mentions plus a lot more, has just as much front passenger space, and has AWD to boot.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Cliff Notes version…

    1) Buick LeSabre, Roadmaster, Regal, Park Avenue (non-supercharged), Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile 88 and 98, upscale versions of the Chevy Lumina and mid-level Impalas

    2) Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable, Mercury Grand Marquis, Ford Crown Victoria, (2000 to 2003 models)

    3) Absolutely nothing from Chrysler

    The key is to find one with the right owner. Forget about the ‘type’ of car so long as it’s listed above it should be fine.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Buick or crown vic are always good. The old benzes mentioned are considered pretty rock solid. Rather than Saab though, I would suggest one of the old rwd volvos. The 900 series is the newest and a well taken care of model should be available for around $2500. Turbo models are available for additional fun.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    My Mercedes Diesel left me stranded more often than the 200k mile HSC Taurus I learned to drive.

    It was a 1-owner w123 2.4, and it absolutely loved new parts that weren’t available from McParts. Do not go with a Mercedes Diesel if reliability is paramount. They will last forever, but you will also spend every other weekend, forever, under that fancy doubly-hinged hood.

    Our Citation II was more reliable. So was the Tempo. So was the Intrepid. The Audi 5000s gave it a run for it’s money.

    I’ll recommend the Concorde. Longer and more elegant than the 300m, most of the fun-to-drive, with a dash of softness added. That, or what about the Olds Ninety-Eight Regency? My lesbian has one with nearly 300,000 miles, and it’s certainly ugly/tattered, but this car absolutely sails, and screams Ms. Haversham. Few cars look fantastic wilting, but this one is a beauty.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I missed the $5K recommendation. I’d still skip the Panthers because they really aren’t as roomy for tall people as you’d think, and the ride quality really is poor. There’s nothing comfortable about a car that’s floaty and requires constant course corrections, let alone one where you have to crane your head, lean the seat back and/or splay your legs around the wheel.

    Have you considered the previous-generation (Epsilon-based) Chevy Malibu? They depreciate like a stone, aren’t too bad in terms of reliability and are one the official list of cars that are ok for tall people; they’re certainly better cars than the W-Bodies or Panthers. Bonus points if you can snag a Maxx, because it’s a really versatile car. They are, mind you, not very pretty cars.

    I’d also suggest, again, the Toyota Sienna. They’re not glamourous, but they also haven’t lived a hard life and have that high roof that’s really helpful if you’re tall. The seats are marginally better than the Caravan and the ride softer than the Oddyssey’s.

    If quiet is important to you, perhaps you may wish to compromised a little and get something small that rides well and has a lot of driver space (eg, the Toyota Matrix or Ford Focus) and go bonkers with the Dynamat and perhaps add an aftermarket noise cancellation system?

  • avatar
    highrpm

    First of all, let me tell you that when you buy any used car for $5k, you will spend money on it before you take a road trip. How old are the brakes, or tires? How often was the transmission flushed?

    Here is my advice – suck it up and drive the xB. It sounds like your mutli-state road trip won’t take more than a few weeks. Just drive the car you have and you won’t have to hassle with servicing, titling, and insuring another vehicle.

    A lot of us on this site also own motorcycles. I’ve done many cross-country rides on the bike. That’s a much less comfortable form of travel than your xB, but it’s also exciting. My point is that if many folks can survive multi-state road trips on motorcycles, than you will survive a trip in the xB and your wallet will thank you.

    Now, if you are dead set on getting another car for $5k anyway, then I would recommend an ’04 Chrysler minivan. Pick one up with less than 50k miles and drive in quiet comfort with tons of room to take any and all gear you can think of. And you’ll get 25mpg along the way.

  • avatar

    Does anyone have any words of wisdom/experience about ex-police cruisers? There are a number of websites and operations in the Northeast. There’s even one about 10 miles from my house…wonderful name: Eddie and the Cruisers!
    ???

  • avatar
    AndrewDederer

    If you can find one, the Olds 88 (and 98 for that matter) are excelent at going straight and being confortable. As said above, a living-room on wheels. Be aware, it’s no sports car, it will squeel the tires going up a cloverleaf, and learning to park it can be an adventure. My mom had one, great between cities, kinda dire in them.

    I actually had a Bonneville as a loaner for the best part of a month. Ride was fine, but felt incredibly crampted (as in, less shoulder room than my CR-X, let alone my CR-V). I’m all of 5’8″ so be warned.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Ah, Panther Hate. As predictable as a ricer in Reading having fart exhaust.

    It’s not hate, it’s that these cars really do suck to live with for normal people and appeal only to a small slice of the car-buying public who appreciate the few virtues they bring to the table, rather like Smart cars. The problem is that Panther fans assume that those virtues are something everyone wants and needs.

    At least Smart car buyers have the humility not to assume their choice would make sense for everyone.

    There’s a reason why no one, not even the company (Ford) that makes them, offers them for general sale: in terms of what most people want (ride, space, power, efficiency, modern handling characteristics) they aren’t good at all. For most people, the W-Body Impala is a better car, and even it’s similarly compromised next to more modern offerings.

    Remember, there’s a good reason why the dinosaurs died out, too.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    @iNeon,

    Sorry to hear about that. It musta had either 500K on it, or you got the lemon. Curious as to what failed. On a car with no external ignition, and a butt-simple mechanical injection system, there ain’t much that’ll stop it from running.
    But there’s always an outlier.

    Go to the most tortured, bombed out streets in the world.Good luck ever getting spares. Say, somewhere in the Palestinian territories (NO politics implied). Guess what your taxi will be?

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Mercury Grand Marquis, rock solid, comfortable, good mileage (26-28 hwy), cheap to repair. Preferable to the Town Car because it doesn’t have the electronic accessories to go haywire which do at the age and mileage you’re going to be looking at. Crown Vic would be the same but they sold a lot more Grand Marquis than Crown Vics. Also because of the demographics of the Grand Marquis buyer you’re very likely to find one with lower mileage garage kept in excellent condition.

    For what you’re looking for (so long as you’re comfortable in the vehicle) I wouldn’t even consider anything else. Anything foreign will be a lot more expensive to repair and the GM and Chrysler products don’t come close to the Grand Marquis reliability. I spent 30 years selling cars (mostly Lincoln-Mercury) and believe me when I tell you the Grand Marquis is the best choice.

  • avatar
    Rix

    I would pick up a late 90′s Buick with the 3800 OHV engine. Preferably at an estate sale or something that has been owned by an elderly person. The problem with town cars and Panthers is that they tend to have been driven hard, as part of a fleet. I second those who look for the old GM 3800 engines. They are simple; tens of millions were made and parts are available everywhere. Of those cars, Buicks tend to have been driven the least hard and have the cushiest ride and most features. A ’99 Park Avenue will run you about 4k all in.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    A slightly used Bentley Continental Supersport GT. It can run on E85, make sure it has the big tires.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    FWIW,

    As highrpm noted, the cheapest play is just drive the xB.

    If you want to improve your comfort for (relatively) little $ buy a set of Recaros. Even Corbeau has some comfy chairs for around $500.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    @Kate the snarky Brit

    You hate on Ford and cheer for one of the companies biggest peices of shit???

    X-Type? I had to drive one for one miserable year. Cramped interior with cheap plastics. Before you comment on Yank cars, you need to actually drive some.

    You know what they say about opinions…

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    psarhjinian -
    There’s a reason why no one, not even the company (Ford) that makes them, offers them for general sale: in terms of what most people want

    For the 2010 model year both the Grand Marquis and the Town Car are available for retail, or ‘general’, sale on dealer lots, as they have been for decades. The Crown Vic is no longer stocked, however. I wouldn’t ever pay near full sticker price for a panther car, and I question the sanity of the customers who do, but with cliff-face depreciation due to the huge fleet sales, you can get a killer deal on a lightly used pre-owned model.

    From your descriptions of the comfort of the cars, it sounds like they really don’t fit your body well, and I can fully understand why you wouldn’t want one because of that. They also don’t handle in the corners like any kind of sports car, or even a modern midsize family sedan, that is a given. On a flat long distance highway, where you only need to move the wheel to change lanes on occasion, they are some of the most comfortable cars made. I’ve never had to constantly correct the wheel of one on the highway, nor splay my legs or crane my neck at an odd angle for visibility, but that is why I recommend the user who posted the original question test drive one himself. I really liked the looks and idea of the Jeep Liberty and Land Rover Freelander when they both came out, but after driving them I found them to be very uncomfortable and too cramped in the driver’s seat. I know a lot of people have bought them and don’t share those complaints, but they didn’t work for me. In the end, the only way to tell is to drive one.

  • avatar
    ckb

    Can’t say its the MOST economical, but my BMW M3 treated my 6’3″ of lankyness great on a recent cross country trip. 27 mpg for the trip.

    As a sidenote we made a timelapse video of the section from SF to DC:

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Porschespeed–

    It had 128,000 one-owner miles on it. Carpets and MB Tex seats you could eat off of. The transmission never satisfied my need for a 3rd pedal, but the problems were: multiple batteries, alternators and I still drove home with no electricity on a handful of occasions.

    The suspension was dead. I took back up driving my old higher-mileage neon it was so bad.

    Vacuum system problems. Everywhere. Repair one, 2 more sprung up. Eternally.

    The air conditioner fell off the engine, and flopped about.

    Finally, the engine suspension system was never right, and the dealership was never willing to help me find the correct bolts. Never were they willing to help me find the correct bolts. When they were, it was $5.00 per piece– that’s not cool. It’s a bolt.

    The car was handsome, comfortable and felt solid. It had a patina that is never going to be seen on a car produced since, but it was a very maintenance intensive automobile, and I refuse to believe– or communicate to the uninitiated– that anyone has ever owned one that worked like a can-opener. The cars are attention whores.

    Find a 3.5 Concorde and drive it. You’ll take it home.

  • avatar
    DearS

    My friends all buy Crown Vics, Caprices and such. They really like them, but I don’t so much. Too soft and cheap and laid back for me.

    I recently drove a 1990 Mercedes E300, which was a great car in a lot of ways. I have an E34 525i, and its also a good car. Finally the e39 528i can be found for under 5k. I’d recommend an e34 most cause its more affordable and very reliable and things can be fixed if broken with money afforded. To each their own though.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    To the naysayers: Used Saab 9-5′s can be had for under $5,000. AutoTrader found 160 of them.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    Wow iNeon – Suspension problems on a low mile 123 are all but unheard of, they are absurdly overbuilt.

    Electrical problems? vacuum problems? the A/C compressor fell off? Wrong bolts in the suspension? It sounds to me like the car was a wreck rebuild, and someone ripped you off hard. That would explain the endless issues. Sadly, most MB dealers are actually pretty useless for service, but there are lots of very good independent shops.

    I think the tranny tends to be the weakest link in 60s/70s/80s benzs, but behind such a small engine it will generally run for 300K without issue. I worked at an MB shop in college, and they had a customer with a 123 300D with 780,000 miles on it. It was on its second auto transmission, but the owner swore the only non-maintenance work done to the engine was one set of glow plugs. When it was clean, it looked in and out better than most cars with 100K miles.

    ———–

    As for the car hunting mission, upgrading the
    Xb makes a lot of sense to me. And, speaking of suspension and transmission issues, I would avoid any FWD American car except the Taurus.

  • avatar
    NickR

    How about a $22k properly-maintained Mercedes S55 AMG? Life is too short to not buy one.

    Life is too short to spend it in a dealership waiting area? Because he wants to stay JollyJerry not AngryAsHellJerry?

    I am not convinced about the Panther platform. I inherited a Crown Vic which I enjoyed driving. And the highway mileage was respectable. But the seats weren’t supportive enough for someone 6’4″ and the head rest doesn’t go up far enough.

    You can get a 2000 Intrepid for as little as 2k, and 5k should get you a pristine example. Based on the hours my backside logged during my sales days, it’s a better choice.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    My Volkswagen Jetta GLS TDI was a real pleasure to drive on the highway, especially though the Appalachian Mountains.

    Unfortunately, it was neither cheap nor reliable — but it got great fuel mileage and it was very fun and comfortable to drive. And the engine was pretty quiet, even if it wasn’t silent.

    It’s probably the only car I’ve owned that I actually miss. But, alas, I had to sell it when it no longer matched my lifestyle.

  • avatar
    Lug Nuts

    Without a doubt, I’d go for a well cared for Marauder. It’s got a nice, mildly-aggressive look. Very comfortable highway cruiser. Keep it clean and for the next ten years you’ll have everyone on the interstate quickly moving out of your way, thinking you’re a state trooper. :)

  • avatar
    italianstallion

    I had an Xb for 6 years. It was a wonderful car, but my biggest beef was the absolutely punishing, miserably loud and buzzy highway ride.

    The car that JollyJerry is looking for is just about the polar opposite of the Xb.

    I agree that deals are to be had on any of the floaty, feature-rich Yank-tanks mentioned, but they’re all prone to WAY MORE repairs than your average Toyota or Honda. (I’ve had two Panthers – they were indeed cheap to fix, but they required a lot of upkeep).

    Nearly any mid- or full-size car is going to be a substantial improvement over the Xb. And our friend is interested in good resale.

    My advice? Just buy a used Camry (or Avalon). Anything after 1990 is built for comfort, and (coming from an Xb) more than quiet enough on the highway. They sold millions and there are still loads of them out there, many of them driven only by “little old ladies from Pasadena.”

  • avatar
    iNeon

    It was nothing of the sort, shiney2– Just a very hyped, very unreliable machine with a nice hood ornament.

    When it was good, it was great. For you or me, they’re annoyances, and the car was good enough to deserve the constant repairs and tinkering. To the rest of the world– that world that values being on time and arriving clean– its fancy trash.

    Again to the original poster: Drive the Concorde. Its a gorgeous automobile and deserves consideration.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Having made cross-country trips in a ’91 Miata, I suggest that you drive the xB. A pair of $0.25 foam earplugs will make it quieter than any Town Car ever dreamt of being.

    I’m only partly kidding.

    I don’t know much about the long-term reliability of the full-sized GM cars like the Park Avenues, but my father had one (it got stolen) and that 3800 V6 was a wonder in terms of highway fuel-economy. I also recall renting a lot of Olds Intrigues with that engine in the mid 1990s. It wasn’t the most intriguing engine, but 30+ mpg highway was common in what was an extremely quiet and comfortable car. When they switched to the twin-cam engine the fuel economy dropped precipitously, but the engine appeared more competitive in the sales brochures.

    My dad currently drives a Mercury Sable… I think it’s a 1994 or so. It is surprisingly and horrendously noisy on the freeway and the ride feels like an oxcart with a broken leaf spring over bumps. My mother’s base 4-cylinder Camry feels like a lexus in comparison. He has put over 110k miles on the car so far without any repairs, though.

    Don’t forget the other huge advantage to a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis… lane hogs move out of the left lane as soon as they see you in the rear-view mirror! This may prove to be a priceless benefit on a long road trip.

  • avatar
    urS4red

    Toyota Avalon

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    Lug Nuts:

    Not so fast (literally). Driving a police looking vehicle (I drove an ex-sheriff LTD-S for 5 years) doesn’t make people ahead of you pull out of your way, it makes them slow down, WAAAAY down. Two lane highway driving becomes a major pain in the ass! Ask me how I know!

  • avatar

    $5k isn’t a hard limit. It’s just a good starting point to make sure I stay responsible with the finances. From the looks of it, there’s already a long list of choices for me to go through and try out. Thanks!

    @italianstallion

    I really do like my little xB (Chuck) for it’s practicality and quirkiness. I’ve had it for just over almost 2 years now. It’s the first car I bought, and I paid for it in cash so that was really satisfying.

    @highrpm, @porschespeed

    I’ve definitely done some research on adding sound deadening materials and there were some detailed tutorials on some xB forums. I decided to not do it because I didn’t want it to affect the resale value and also I’m too lazy to put the time into doing it myself. Arguably, adding some sound deadening would up the resale value, but I don’t want to risk it. As far as changing the seats, there was this great thread a while back about a guy who put in S80 seats into his Prius.

    @NickR

    Hopefully I’ll stay ‘jolly’, but AngryAsHellJerry has a nice ring to it too.

    @john.fritz

    Sorry to hear about your bad luck. I definitely plan to test drive to make my own opinion about these cars; Renting one sounds like a good idea.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Audi A6
    Audi A8
    Mercedes E-class
    Mercedes S-class
    Volvo S80
    Citroen C5

    Those are some excellent long distance cruisers

  • avatar
    blautens

    Okay Panther fans – here’s my take, and I’m not blindly picking on you. First, my experience – my father has had 4 Panthers, from 1984 to 2003. I started driving in a 1984 Crown Vic (2 door, Landau roof , 14 inch wheels with wire wheel covers – just take a second to think about that pinnacle of Detroit styling).

    On my office walls, I have a poster of a 2003 Mercury Marauder, and other Marauder PR material – I was a serious potential buyer of one. I also have a framed, super glossy, 18 inch PR print of a 1996 Impala SS (not mine, but identical to it). So the point is, I came from a Panther family, and I like the Panther for what it is, but I can clearly tell you it’s shortcomings (pun intended – see text to follow).

    I drove a number of Panthers as a police officer, and beat them 2 years in a row in our yearly all agency pursuit contest with my Caprice 9C1 without the LT1 (I had the 5.0 liter V8). Granted, I like to think driver skill had something to do with it, but I was trained in the P71 – I knew it well – and it was not as capable of a police car as the 9C1, even a 9C1 with the smaller engine (although I did enjoy the LT1 more when I finally got one). But I digress.

    The Panther IS NOT AS COMFORTABLE for taller drivers. Period – end of story. If your inseam is 32 inches or longer, it has remarkably little leg room for such a long car. Depending on the model year and equipment, than can mean your knees whack something hard as your legs are splayed out in a rather uncomfortable way. This in turn means inadequate thigh support, which means it’s NOT a good choice for a long distance cruiser. Change out the seats, like the feds do at Federal Pursuit Driving School in Glenco, and it’s a whole different story. Too bad for the person in the rear who gets their precious leg room filled with front seat, but a proper aftermarket bucket (okay, the 5 point harness might be overkill) does wonders for it, but the P71 still lacks torque (unless it’s been massaged by Kenne Bell) that I deem important for passing maneuvers.

    This begs the point, why so little cabin room in such a large car? Score another point for the 9C1 – superior packaging. In fact, the vast majority of police officers I know would still prefer to have a 92-96 Caprice 9C1 than the Crown Vic P71 they have now. Better packaging, comfort, torque, and handling.

    But in case you thought I was going to suggest the Caprice is the ultimate cruise – buckle in – it’s NOT. Neither makes an ideal long distance cruiser (just a really bitching occasional driver optioned properly and painted black). You already mentioned the car I’d nominate – I live in south Florida, and you can find older Toyota Avalons from recently de-spoused senior citizens with ridiculously low mileage for relatively little money (hey –cops and firefighters would almost fight to get first dibs on the deceased’s vehicles – part of the benefits package). I’d also suggest the Buick Park Avenue, another senior citizen favorite – and the power buckets slide back far enough and are comfy enough for long distance cruising. Both are also quieter than the Panther (the Park Ave probably a bit quieter).

    Other than maybe the supercharged Park Ave, which I might avoid for reliability/parts supply issues, both lack the torque and horsepower I’d like for truly superior cruising (somewhere north of 400 and 400 so you can leave the tailgating posers who figure if you’re both doing 95 but they’re behind you they won’t get the citation), but for comfort and low cash outlay…good deals. Reliability? Better than a Jag, but not perfect, and bot are reasonable to find parts for. No sub 5K car is perfect, and take it from someone who cruised across the Dakotas with someone in a 20+ year old Jag V12 – comfort is one thing – finding Jag parts in Nowhere, North Dakota (pop. 15…cows) makes the trip a lot less comfortable, though.

    I also agree with psarhjinian – if you have fleet support, the Panther can be reasonable to repair. But to most – a breakdown is a breakdown, and downtime costs money, too (for anyone who bills by the hour, anyway). And not all of us have an endless supply of used parts and/or the skill/desire to replace them ourselves. But again – in a sub 5K car, you WILL be replacing something – so it’s a consideration.

    I also concur with Scottdb – police cars inspire stupid braking – I used to call it “green and white fright” – people would see me rapidly closing and instead of moving over they’d get scared and jam on the brakes.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    Nothing is going to fit you better than your xB. I totally understand about the road noise though. I recently bought an new Corolla last year and was appalled by the road noise. My solution was to remove the interior and added lots of b-quiet. http://www.bquiet.com I even put it under the hood mat to cut down on the engine noise. (which I had to order as well) B-Quiet is like dynomat but a lot cheaper. I would avoid a $5,000 Cadillac. I had a 1999 Deville, (that the Corolla replaced) that was very quiet and comfortable and got about 20MPG but the transverse V8 is very hard to work on and is prone to head gasket failure over 100,000 miles. To fix it, the engine has to come out of the car (from the bottom) and then if you can find a mechanic willing to attempt it, the block needs to have new threads installed to accept the heads again. Read: VERY COSTLY. Also notorious oil leakers. There is no such thing as a cheap Northstar experience. I would be cautious of the GM 3800. They have a good reputation for fuel economy but watch for dexcool disasters. I like the mechanical simplicity of the panthers, and have a soft spot for the Town Car, but you they are not great for super tall people. The air ride suspension can be costly to bring back to factory specs when they break, (and they will eventually break) but strutmasters.com is the way to go for those cars. I would avoid the 20 year old Lexus or Mercedes idea as well. They have a good reputation, but I would not want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with a vintage, imported, high end sedan. In my opinion, you would be best served by put your money into sound proofing your xB. You could also have the seats redone with more foam and leather for about $1,500. You would have the safety, reliability, and fuel economy of a newer toyota product, the second to none headroom and space of the xB, and a Luxury car level of comfort that you will enjoy for the remaining years you own the car. Don’t forget that a second car will also cost you sales tax, license plate, registration, title fees, and insurance that you will never recover.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    I have driven multiple Dodge Caravans cross country on several ocassions. Low to mid-20′s to the gallon, low maintenance costs (and I never sell before 170K), very comfortable. A bit more road noise than some, but great long-haul seating position. Plus you never get pulled over (the cops are too busy nailing the used-to-be cop cars). If you want to avoid the Holiday Inn, sleep in comfort in back. Many are available for under $5K. I recommend older than 2002, as the MPG drops after that.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Looks like the Panther and the GM W win this poll. IMHO, Steven Lang wins best advice.

    Dude…If you really hate domestic, go with Japanese. Honda, Toyota and Nissan in that order.
    Do not even think about European.

    Of the three part time jobs I have,one involves answering the phone in a scrap yard. The boss loves German cars. The scrap one’s come in and in a matter of days they get picked clean.

    The tow truck guys pick up stranded Mercedes owners all the time. There isn’t a repair shop within fifty miles that will touch one.

    I truly feel sorry for a guy, 1800 miles from home with a broken car,and limited funds.

  • avatar
    vvk

    If you want comfortable seats, look for SAAB/Volvo. They are the best. Turbocharged four cylinder SAABs have outstanding fuel economy, too. As in 35 mpg highway if you stay below 80.

    People are scared of them but certain models have been extremely reliable and even made it on Consumer Reports recommended list.

    Large American cars are fine cruisers but have dismally uncomfortable seats. I especially like the large Buicks with the 3800. Sublime ride, outstanding cargo capacity, terrific powertrain. But the seats are comfortable only for trips under 2 hours.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    80 replies!!!

    I am not going to read them, But want to add my 2 cents.

    For such a cruiser you need:

    1. Ample WHEELBASE, not jusat length. That is what counts, and the 7 series and the S-class L versions, with their 122-126 inch wheelbases, make mincemeat of the dinosaur Crown vics and Buicks with their 113 and 115 inch WBs.

    2. Ample weight, and again the 7 and the S class are farf heavier than all domestic V8s.

    3. AN excellent suspension, and again the domestics can only satisfy lit old ladies in this respect.

    4. A modern Diesel. (for economy, 30++ MPG highway). Offered in Europe in both the 7 and the S, but not here, so far. Too bad. My gas 7 will do 22-24 MPG at high speeds on cruise, which it not at all bad, but it could be much better.

    5. As far as the 7 and the S being expensive, havew you checked cars.com lately? there are a ton of beautiful v8 and even v12 7s, the 95-01 vintage before Chrius Bangle raped them, for peanuts! ANd I can say from 4 yrs of experience and now 129,000+ miles, that the 7 is a solid car that is quite reliable, with bulletporoof engine and transmission, and built to LAST and look LIKE NEW when it is 8 and 10 and 12 yrs old, and maybe much older!

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    “KatiePuckrik :
    October 4th, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    rockit

    Nothing funny about my comment. I own one, I love it and would buy one again in a heartbeat. It drives beautifully, very reliable, looks gorgeous & elegant, quite good fuel economy and strong, but spry engine. When you take everything in account, not just performance, but everything, the X-Type is a sensational car!

    Go Jaguar!”

    Read the question. It is does not ask us why our specific car is a good cruiser, but which cars have what it takes to satisfy all these requirements.

    I understand that most people love their cars, even if they are Kia sephias, or 90s Ford Mondeos/Contours (US) rebadged and restyled as “Tata-JAguars”. It is hard to tell somebody, even a friend, that their spouse is ugly, or much worse.

    HAving said all that, the X type, IMHO, is a total ripoff. First of, IT IS NOT A JAGUAR. Even the S-type is not a thoroughbred Jag either, it is a Lincoln LS. The exterior styling is JAg-like in the X, and maybe it has a nice interior, (probably not half as nice as the XJ), but the mechanicals are largely identical with its Ford clone.

    More importantly for the Q at hand, the X does NOT have the natural attributes that make it satifsy the criteria of this question.

    If I had to pick a Tata-JAguar ONLY, I’d obviously pick the LONG wheelbase XJ8. See my previous post for the 3 major reasons.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Of course, your typical large ROlls or Bentley (NOT the short GT coupe!) would make an even better highway cruiser, with their 130″ wheelbases and 5-6,000 lbs weight, but they are far from economical, and probably do not handle as well as the 7.. even after BMW bought ROlls and installed proper enginering in it..LOL.

    (PS I should offer fake cigars around… the current 7, the grandchild of my 7, is also the platform on which the “small”, “cheap” Rolls Ghost is based. Priced probably at $300k, the “bargain” rolls makes the $100k current 7 look like a bargain.. and the used 7s from 95-01, which youc an find at $10k or less, a 30 TIMES better bargain!

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    CommanderFish :
    October 4th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I’d say Saab 9-5. Big, comfy, Scandinavian seats with a turbocharged 4-cylinder that does well on the highways. Used ones can be had for pretty cheap, and the 9-5 is just as reliable as any other car out there, it’s the 9-3 that screws Saab in reliability comparisons.

    Repair costs? I’m not sure on that. I can’t imagine they’d be too high because the vehicle has gone virtually unchanged for almost 10 years (until this year). Don’t quote me on that, though.

    +1 on the 9-5… it is surely one of the best cruisers out there. The seats will be the selling point.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    People are scared of them but certain models have been extremely reliable and even made it on Consumer Reports recommended list.

    Yes, but when they do break, it’s expensive. Really expensive. A $5K 9-5 or 9-3 lands you right squarely in model years that suffered engine sludging, among other aging pains. I don’t know about Volvos of similar vintage, but my understanding is that the transmissions and electricals don’t age well. Your best bet if you must go this route is the 2004 9-5: no earlier or you’re looking at B235 sludging, no later or you’re looking at the 2005 facelift and according decontenting.

    The other issue is that Saabs and Volvos aren’t really that quiet, and they can be a little bit vertically cramped (especially the Volvos) unless you can find a sunroofless example. Oh, and when paired with tall drivers the rear seats are quite compromised.

    But the seats are excellent, especially in the Saab. That said, you can get seats that are almost as good in a NA 2.0L MkIV VW Golf or Jetta: it’s still potentially glitchy, but the ride is as well as (or better than) the Swedish competition and the parts are much more readily available.

  • avatar
    rcolayco

    Can’t go wrong with a Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Marquis/Lincoln Town Car of early 90′s vintage. Strong, proven, simply engineered rear-drive cars. Avoid the fancy versions with air-suspension.

    I gather you plan on simply cruising within or not too much beyond the national speed limit, mainly on expressways. The Crown Vic & its variants were made for that. Effortless and comfortable, with lots of room for you and your baggage.

    I favor the Ford models of this vintage over their GM & Chrysler competition simply because the Fords were built stronger and simpler. The others are front-drive, which tend not to age as well as simple solid-axle rear drives.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I just did a long trip (Ft. Drum NY to Ft. Leonard Wood MO) twice. Once in a 95 Saturn SW1 and once in a 90 Miata. Also I just did Ft, Drum to Atlanta on my Kawasaki KLR 650. As such, A Ford Tempo would probably feel “cloud like” to me.

    I do however have some experience with some of the cars mentioned. My best friend is a devought Panther guy and I owned a couple B-Bodys (Caprice and briefly an Olds Custom Cruiser).

    If you go with the B Body, the 94-96 is the one to have due to the LT-1 type engines. But for this trip I’d get a garden variety Caprice with the 4.3 V8. Better gas Mileage and plenty of power for cruising. The Roadmasters had the 5.7. The weak point on the LT series motor is the distributor (opti-spark), mounted on the front of the engine. It is not a conventional distributor set up. The 91-93 B Bodies had the old TBI motor and pretty poor fuel economy and power compared to the others.

    Of the B Bodies I am familiar with, only the 4.3 models could touch the Panthers on fuel economy. I’d try to score a 2003+ Grand Marquis GS (no air ride suspension on the GS).

    And since people have been throwing out crazy suggestions, such as Lexus and Benz models…I’ll toss my assinine one out too…

    Old School Brick Vic with a built 351W or Boxy Caprice with a crate LS1 dropped in…or better yet buy the 351 W, take your road trip, and give it to me to fit in the Miata.

    Additionally, how about a Mark VIII?

  • avatar

    The early 90s to late 00s Town Cars have a problem with the rear air suspension dropping around 80K miles. If the bags fail completely it will burn out the compressor and that is another $400 to the $600 for the bags.

    My grandfathers ’95 Town Car gets a respectable 24.7mpg at 70mph.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    If one of the criteria is comfortable seats, I don’t understand how the Panther is even being discussed. After riding in one a few years ago, I realized it had the absolute worst seats of any modern car.

    The seats in a CAVALIER were more comfortable than what that Panther POS had.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    OK, since many cars were proposed that are really not designed to be comfy highway cruisers, how about the reverse questions:

    What’s the worst …long distance cruiser?

    Here are some serious candidates, off the top of my head. NOTE that some of them may be fine otherwise.

    Mazda Miata

    Lotus Elise (LOL!)

    Hyundai Accent

    Any small Kia

    Toyota Yaris?

    Chevy Cobalt?

    Ford Escort?

    (I bet I will hear from many owners of the last two)

  • avatar
    50merc

    JollyJerry, a large Buick best fits your specifications. An estate sale could be a great source. Grand Marquis is worth considering (and has similar previous-owner demographics) but make sure it fits you.

    But here’s the thing: in general, it’s hard for someone not in the business to find a nice and reliable ride for $5 grand or so. And by “reliable” I mean under 100K or doesn’t already need a brake job or set of tires before hitting the road. (Few people get rid of a car that doesn’t have something wrong with it.) Buying a car also incurs transaction expenses, such as sales tax and registration.

    You plan on selling this $5,000 car when you return home, so why buy when you can rent? Enterprise, for example, will rent an Avalon-size car for thirty days for less than a grand, and that includes 4,500 free miles. If it breaks down, just call ‘em and get a replacement.

  • avatar

    @blautens

    Your comment was article worthy. Maybe my girlfriend and I can start by flying out to Florida, hang out and wait for a mint cruiser, and start our road trip from the other coast.

  • avatar

    @ jkross22:

    While I agree that the bench seats found in the Panthers are terrible, the buckets found in the Marauder and Crown Victoria LX Sport models are tremendous. Can’t speak to the buckets in the interceptors, but given the amount of time they’re occupied every day I’d think they’d have to be pretty good.

  • avatar
    ddcfamily

    3 year old, 100k miles, former lease Impala

    A little over your 5k (I have seen several recently at 5.5k

    Very comfortable for driving (i do 30k per year), decent gas mileage (about 28 for me), lots of room in front (I am 6’5″ and 300lbs), good room in back (no complaints from co-workers, never mind kids)

    Should be able to run at least another 100k on it. I have.

  • avatar

    1996 R-O-A-D-M-A-S-T-E-R

    The master blaster for the road trip.

    Nothing else compares.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    @commander fish and porsche986, re Saab

    I own an ’02 Saab 9-5 aero wagon with the 5-speed autobox, bought new. Now has 78k miles. I’m 6’4″ 220lbs.

    The seats: they look good and feel good at first, but they are far from the most comfortable for long drives. My wife who is 5’10″ says the same thing. Neither of us can figure out why, even having owned the car for 7 years and played with all of the various adjustments. By contrast, I could drive our topline Toyota Previa for double-digits of hours at a time (one day from DC to Mobile, AL) and be totally comfortable. (Now there’s a bulletproof choice! Don’t worry about the supercharger; the engine on ours had 130k miles when we traded it, and required zero repairs.)

    Reliability? The Saab turbo motor, which has been faithfully maintained and not abused, now has leaking main oil seals at both ends. The alternator has failed; the power steering has failed; and, of all the cars we own, this one seems to illuminate the “check engine” light more than any other, for one reason or another. The autobox started behaving oddly — refusing to engage “drive” — slipping gears , but thankfully, a flush seems to have fixed that problem.

    Fuel economy? Best observed was 30 mpg fully loaded with passengers and stuff DC to NYC, in the summer with the a/c going at speeds mostly around 70 mph. But requires premium gas.

    Currently, my car’s Blue Book trade in is about the same as the budget our questioner submitted, so I think it’s probably the best of what he could expect from this car were he to buy it.

  • avatar

    Cadillac DeVille (now downgraded to “DTS” to confuse customers). I have a ’99 with 120K miles on it. Nothing has broken. All the gadgets still work. It gets 27 mpg highway, on regular. The Northstar V8 has enough power to put the entire car into orbit. Lots of legroom even in back. Trunk big enough for the legendary two dead Mafiosi, as well as all the luggage you can think of. Excellent roadhandling. Great snow car.
    Fortunately for us, used Caddys are cheap. I got mine for $9K, a friend got one for $3K. Well built, sturdy, comfortable and fast. What’s not to like? Plus distinctive styling. They look like luxury cars, not like Crown Victoria’s with a Lincoln badge slapped on.

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    A well maintained late ’90s Eldorado would meet your budget and comfort requirements with good power and decent fuel economy. Whatever car you pick, be sure to invest in a good pre-purchase inspection by an independent technician.

  • avatar
    Renvoi

    I have a ’99 Buick Park Avenue 3.8 L V-6; it is an ideal road trip vehicle. I am 6’3″, and I can fit comfortably into the front seat and leave plenty of room for an adult to sit in the back behind me. There is a trap door that leads to the trunk, so during a long trip you can bring along a cooler with cold beverages for your passengers.

    It averages 23 MPG (according to the odometer) but still has good power. My grandma gave it to me with about 60k miles 3 years ago, and aside from dings all over the place it has been very reliable and has run well.

    The main problem I have encountered was the transmission slipped for a few months a couple of years ago; my cousin owns a mechanic’s shop and claims that ’99 Buicks are notorious for having faulty transmissions (a claim I have been too lazy to verify).

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    I see lots of recommendations for really old cars. Problem is, at around 60,000 miles, it seems at least from my experience, a lot of rubber parts on cars start to go. Especially if the previous owner(s) was/were a little… enthusiastic. Hoses, vacuum tubes and gaskets go poof in the night. Whenever I decide to tear something down on my 1998 Prelude, I cringe the whole time, and it’s usually warranted.

    /me sigh

    Recaros won’t fix how loud xB Gen 1s are on the highway, but you may not care that much. However, is it really worth the expense to hunt down a used ride if you’re just going to get rid of it after the trip? I suffered through driving my SL1 for hours and hours up and down the east coast multiple times. All I paid for was gas and oil changes.

    Otherwise I’d try to find a Buick, any Buick, with low miles no older than 1998. I like my Skylark, it’s bulletproof and endearingly primitive, but the other models are better by leaps and bounds.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    If it were me, I’d get a late ’90′s Camry with a 4. It will have over 100K miles but if it has been properly maintained, it should be good for quite a few trouble-free miles. Consider a Solara if prices on those are lower in your region. When you get back, you can readily sell it for not much less than you paid. Or, if fuel prices spike, maybe for more than you paid. You might want to look for a higher trim level to get a quiet one with a good sound system.

    I’d also check CR and see what they think of a Mazda 626. They should be pretty cheap by now but were quiet and comfortable and got pretty good fuel economy and were lively enough. Again, you might look at higher trim levels. I think Mazda’s are under-rated but I could be wrong. Check CR.

    I’ve also seen late ’90′s Honda Accord Coupes with reasonable mileages at $5K asking price for a manual with I4.

    The thing about comfort, though, is that what’s comfortable for my back and tailbone might not be right for yours. It all depends on having enough headroom and having the right seat.


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