By on May 7, 2014

TTAC Commentator slance66 writes:

Sajeev,

The B&B helped me choose a car three or four years ago, and now I’m thinking of its replacement, ahead of time. I bought a CPO 2007 BMW 328xi, which has been nearly flawless to 67k. I only drive 8,000 miles a year with a 3.5 mile commute each way, so it should last a long time. I love the car and do plan to keep it a few more years, but, I don’t know if it will survive the potholes.

I live in the Boston ex-urbs, and six months of the year we have what some might call roads, and others might call random chunks of asphalt in a rough trail like pattern. I can exceed the front suspension travel in the 3 series just on some manhole covers. Hitting actual potholes produces a major crash/slam. The car is good for dodging them, but you can’t miss them all and oncoming traffic both. It’s not the RF tires either, as I have 4th gen versions that are a big improvement.

Since I buy 2-3 year old used cars, I thought I’d ask now what 2013-14 car, trucks, SUVs would best equipped to survive roads like this? Gas mileage matters a little, so a V8 half ton might be off my list, but otherwise I’m open to most anything if it has four doors, heated seats, is reliable and isn’t smaller than the BMW. Crossovers might fit, but while my wife’s used RX350 feels better on these roads, it’s cost us two bearings and two struts, so durability is a factor in my thinking. Thought the B&B would know what vehicles can really absorb this punishment and not punish the driver. No, not a Panther.

Sajeev answers:

I’ve been to Boston a coupla times, I can see your concern.  That said, no Panther?  No truck?  Really?

Odds are your BMW will not survive Boston without cratering your wallet: to the tune of new lower control arms, struts, strut mounts(?) miscellaneous bushings and who knows what else. If you like the BMW, by all means, replace the worn suspension bits as they fail.  If not…

Well, get over the German tuned suspension for something more Third World friendly.  Seriously, how can you not want a Grand Marquis now? Fine. I can imagine the cold, Panther Love-less world you clearly live in.

And while I’d never live in such a sad place, I’d recommend a Panther-Like world.  A car that’s had a good track record (recently) for cost-effective suspension engineering, proven in fleets of some sort.  Not cop cars, not limos…maybe rental cars.  Maybe a Camry LE with the big sidewalls on 16″ wheels.  Maybe any CUV with the base wheels, with the most amount of sidewall you can find. ZOMG I CAN NO HAZ A RENTAL CAR AFTER MY BEEEMER!

Long story short: remember when all cars came with these things called tires? Their rubber to metal wheel ratio was definitely more Boston-friendly.  I recommend finding a vehicle with more sidewall and a reputation for a more robust suspension.  Even if it isn’t a Panther.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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104 Comments on “Piston Slap: Keeping A Low Profile on Boston Streets?...”


  • avatar
    heavy handle

    One word: Wrangler.
    Gas mileage hardly matters if you only do 8k a year and have a job.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I like this idea but those things are murder on the used scene. I believe air conditioning is not even available until you select the 27K trim new too, so its one those things,

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        28-cars: The statement that disqualifies your argument is the “I believe…” While I’ll admit I paid about $30K for my Wrangler Sahara when new, it’s current Blue Book value is still over $20K.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I built one online back in March for S&G and noted A/C is not even an option until the third trim package, but could not recall the price, hence “I believe”.

          A/C is not available in Sport or Sport S, it only becomes *available* in Sahara which MSRPs for 28095.

          Given the wacky weather I would be hard pressed to not want A/C in my primary ride, FCA is kind enough to turn the knife a little for me in requiring me to spend nearly 30K for the privilege.

          http://www.jeep.com/model-compare/quick-chart/?modelYearCode=CUJ201406

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            I hope that table is poorly written and it’s really automatic climate control that is only available starting at the Sahara trim. Wranglers have always been a terrible value for comfort and convenience features, but min $28k MSRP to get AC is taking it to a new level.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Try again, 28-cars, you ignored one important fact: “… with Automatic Temperature Control”. Air conditioning itself is a Standard Feature on all models–including the Sport.

            @burgersandbeer: It’s not that the table is poorly written, it’s that it only lists OPTIONS, and AC itself is standard.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The chart has no entry for “Air Conditioning” without climate control so this is not clear. A better chart would list A/C above the existing row and have a green checkbox across all trims.

            That’s great news then.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @ Vulpine
            The table is definitely poorly written. It is not a list of options, it is a feature comparison (“Model Compare” – even the title is bad writing). It shows unavailable features (em dash), standard features (green check), and available options (A). It should have said “Automatic temperature control” instead of “air conditioning with automatic temperature control.”

            Adding to the confusion, if you click Build and Price for the Sport model, then click VIEW STANDARD FEATURES (mimicking site case, not shouting), under the Climate Control Options heading it says “Heater with Instrument Panel Ventilation.” Note that air conditioning is not mentioned.

            To find proof of AC in lower trims, from the Model Compare table click COMPARE ALL FEATURES > Interior > Convenience Features, and there you find air conditioning listed as an available option (not a standard feature) on the Sport and Sport S.

            It’s no wonder 28-Cars thinks you need $28k for AC. The site sucks.

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            Wrong, AC is optional on Sport & Sport S. Doesn’t become standard until Sahara trim. At that level temp control becomes available.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            All three of you need to ignore the chart–it clearly lists “Option Packages”. If you bother to look at the Features list for each car, INCLUDING the Wrangler Sport and Sport X, Air Conditioning is clearly marked as a Standard Feature.

            And yes, 28-Cars, I did look at the page you linked–then went to the last page of the “build your own” list and looked under Standard Features. Guess what I found?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It says that A/C is available on the lower trim Sport, but when you go to build one there is no A/C option listed, but in the summary it’s there as a standard item. It’s confusing as hell , but A/C is an available standard option on all Wranglers

        • 0 avatar
          TheyBeRollin

          Wranglers depreciate at about the slowest rate I’ve ever seen. I was looking at used ones a while back and couldn’t get over the fact a new one was really close to the same price as a used one. He might be getting at this fact. You really can’t get a used one for a decent price, unlike a used BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      A Wrangler won’t get torn up on the Urban Assault Course, but it’s not going to feel comfortable, either. You’re likely to seriously hate yourself for driving it on such roads. I would recommend the 2003-2009 Lexus GX 470, or the 2010-present Lexus GX 460. It’s a very comfortable and capable truck-based vehicle that (I’m pretty sure) has air-suspension, and even the new ones have an excellent tire/wheel ratio.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Kyree, the one huge downside to a used GX is the big up for new. They depreciate slower than… well, anything but an LX.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I disagree, Kyree; I came from a mid-sized SUV to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and honestly the ride is rather good–especially when handling the “urban Assault Course”. You’re not getting slammed around when you hit a 6″ deep pothole and you’re certainly not slamming your frame or suspension into the asphalt. Sure, it’s not as smooth and plush as a Lexus, but it will survive the roads better and still look good doing so.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I agree with Heavy. I’ve been driving a Wrangler Unlimited for over 6 years and potholes simply aren’t an issue for it while you still have an easy 5-passenger capacity and room in back for a decent amount of luggage and other household goods. With pothole-strewn streets, you need tires with a high sidewall, which typically come on light trucks and little else any more. They not only soften the shock of hitting those holes but protect the wheels themselves from damage by absorbing the hard edges. You shouldn’t be driving on anything less than 60-series tires unless you’re just out for high-speed agility. The Wrangler can also flat ignore 90% of the snowstorms until they’ve dumped about a foot of snow in the city.

      You also don’t have to worry about heating and cooling; the Wrangler’s AC system is remarkably effective for a vehicle designed to be open. It cools the front seat passengers very quickly and doesn’t take all that long to cool the back seat; heating is just as effective.

      Finally, the JK Wrangler is just plain fun. It’s surprisingly agile for in-town driving with a tight turning radius that rivals econoboxes. It might even turn tighter than your Beemer, though being a 3-series I’d say its pretty close to the same. Compared to most ‘city’ cars it doesn’t give much up to them, though its city gas mileage could be better (and may be in the next few years). You’ll probably be tempted to try things you simply can’t do in your BMW, like take some of those rutted trails typically traveled by the bigger SUVs and pickup trucks.

      There are many different SUVs on the market, but most are more crossover than true Sport Utility. There are also several trucks available, though they lose in maneuverability what they gain in carrying ability–they’re just too big. The Jeep offers the high ride and go-anywhere capability with a size and agility meant for slaloming between trees out in the forest. Maybe not the absolute best choice for all purposes, but the one that can handle more, different purposes the best.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      My brother has title to 5 different heaps of metal in various states of assembly and completeness, all of which have “Jeep Wrangler” typed on them.

      They are nearly unmatched in their ability to navigate difficult terrain (enjoyably!), but how anyone got the impression that they don’t break while doing so I have no idea.

      A Wrangler has a lot of mass for its size, which means components have to deal with a lot force. Hardcore off-roaders like my brother bring their Jeeps to the trailhead on a trailer. They rarely exceed 5mph, keeping the acceleration component of the equation as low as possible to keep forces as low as possible.

      It’s no surprise that you almost never see a Wrangler on third world roads. They’re just plain too heavy to be reliable enough. It’s too bad Toyota doesn’t sell Daihatsu 4x4s in the US – cheap and durable transportation that barely weighs anything – they’ll bounce off potholes all day long.

      Well, anyway, if it weren’t for the rust stereotype, I’d say a CX-5 might be ideal – light weight, inexpensive to operate, fun to drive. How real is that stereotype? I had a Mazda3 for 4 winters in Chicago and never had rust problems (that I knew about, at least).

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’m in NJ and I’ve driven a neighbor’s Wrangler around here and in NYC. A Wrangler is a terrible choice for “why did they bother paving this?” roads of an urban & ex-urban area. The visibility on par with a sarcophagus, and for that matter, so is the ride. What you might save on suspension bits you’ll make up for in dental bills. And for what it’s worth, my neighbor says he needs to replace suspension bits on his Wrangler and he’s at 50k.

    However, I agree with the “3rd World Capable” suspension. Given that the tax burden that exists in NJ & MA on those who have jobs, I don’t think the roads are going to improve.

    I seriously believe there’s a market for an urban-ex urban vehicle that can deal with this. Is it the jacked-up “Crossover” vehicle that Subaru has hewn from the Imprezza hatchback?

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      I agree about the Wrangler.

      It may seem like a no brainer at first, but driving daily begins to feel like a chore.

      I had a four door ’11 as a rental.

      Sluggish handling with dismal fuel economy. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice all of that in fear of the usual pothole.

      Good luck navigating city streets with a Wrangler. Have fun with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      What Wrangler did you drive, Rod? I can’t believe what you’re saying. Your visibility is better than anything smaller because you’re able to look through or over the cars around you while still seeing the traffic (I’m betting you don’t use your mirrors much or didn’t reposition the Jeep’s mirrors for your driving position). I’m over 50K miles and I have yet to replace suspension–even after taking it to off-road parks during that time. The only thing I’ve changed is the tires.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        The power generated from the PentaStar is surprising. It will move along, sure.

        But moving that thing from stop light to stop light and having to weave in and out of inner city traffic (think… rush hour) may prove to be tedious.

        Maybe two doors are better, but the four door Wrangler I drove was a big bastard.

        And WHY- oh why- are they so godd*mned expensive?

        I could buy a 4Runner for the same amount and feel much more confident over the long haul (reliability-wise) versus “The PentaStar”.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          It’s not as BIG as you think, Rare; in fact, it’s not that much longer or wider than the majority of the cars you’re running with–it’s just taller. I’ve driven in rush-hour traffic and quite honestly had no trouble. I’ve taken it places and parked in spots that many smaller-car drivers won’t attempt–and yes, mine is the Unlimited and with the older 3.7, not the newer Pentastar engine. Oh, and that 4Runner is actually bigger in almost every dimension.

      • 0 avatar
        Rod Panhard

        Vulpine, I have driven my neighbors Jeep Wrangler four-door with the hardtop in place. The visibility out the front is merely “okay.” The visibility out of the sides and rear is terrible. Yes, I used the really big mirrors. You can’t drive it without using the really big mirrors. And I’m used to using mirrors because I also ride motorcycles. That’s my perspective. I believe it’s a terrible choice for urban and ex-urban use.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          As far as I’m concerned, I will make one compromise in my argument. Since I do not carry back seat passengers, I either leave the seats folded down, or I break them down enough to fold the headrests back and velcro them in place, then raise the seat backs up again. As such, I have no issues as you describe, but then, maybe I’m more used to driving a taller vehicle than you. Anybody that’s close enough to be hidden by my spare tire deserves whatever they get if they hit my tail. No car is fully hidden to eye or ear if they’re to either side of me because of the way I set my mirrors–since if they’re forward of my mirror’s angle of view then they’re beside the door itself where I can see them without the aid of a mirror.

          Maybe it is that I drive with a better sense of my environment–as pilots would call it, Spacial Awareness. I use all of my senses to determine what is going on around me, from the hot brakes of some car or truck in front of me that may soon cause an incident to the sound (often of their radio) of a car trying to sneak up my side. In fact, if I can’t hear them I’m more concerned than when I can, because that means they’re at least one lane over and may try to change lanes toward me just as I try to change lanes toward them–it has happened despite my clearly signaling such lane change. But with that one, very minor modification, I’ve had no visibility issues with the Wrangler Unlimited–ever.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Why are you pushing this Wrangler? The man has expressed no interest in off-road activities. A Wrangler is a horrible choice as a daily driver if that’s it’s only purpose. The answer is no car on the road is going to handle potholes and give the guy a smooth ride. When they make such a car I’ll be the first inline

    • 0 avatar
      afedaken

      Sacophagus? My Wrangler has the best visibility of my fleet.

      That said, the other car is a Solstice, and the Wrangler is 25 years old.

  • avatar
    sproc

    Great call on the sidewalls. It might be worth finding out what combination they put on the basest-of-the-base 316i stripper in Europe, and see if it’ll fit your ride. For years in New England, I used to switch between 45 series summer and 55 series winter and it made a HUGE difference navigating the bomb craters.

    • 0 avatar
      dude500

      Is the 55 series tire also narrower? I’ve wondered whether a higher ratio, but narrower tire is more comfortable than lower ratio, but wider tire.

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        It was an Acura, not a BMW, but the winters were 205/55-16 and the summers 225/45-17. So yes, about 9% narrower but only a 0.4% speedo difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        The ratio number is width vs height. It’s not that a 55-series is narrower per sé, but that for the same width, the 55 series is lower height. At a 6″ width, a 55-series tire would be just over 3″ tall (3.3″) while a 60-series tire would be over 3-1/2″ (3.6″) tall. While that doesn’t sound like much, it means the tire has more ‘give’ to it for absorbing the edges of the potholes and softening the bump a bit. A 70-series tire would give you 4.2″ for an even easier ride. If you look back into the history of the American cars in particular, most came on tires as high as 80-series at almost 5″ of sidewall on a 6″ wide contact patch.

        The drawback with the higher sidewall comes in a combination of rolling resistance and increased sidewall flex. With that flex, the tire works harder to support the weight and you lose a small amount of energy as the tire rolls. Lower profile tires have stiffer sidewalls, so they don’t flex as much and you get better economy and handling. You have to find the compromise that best meets your needs. The lowest tires I ever used was a set of 60s on my ’96 Camaro. It met most of my needs, even in suburban Maryland, but I still hit a pothole once that cost me two wheels, even though the tires themselves survived. In over 6 years of driving my Jeep on 80s, I’ve not once had to replace a wheel, (though I had to replace a tire when I cut it on a stone at Rousch Creek in PA).

        Even so, for all that some are panning the Jeep for its poor ride and low gas mileage (personally I prefer the firmer ride–it doesn’t feel like a barge wallowing in the sea) I average about 17-18 mpg in mixed driving while easily exceeding 21 on the highway (then again, I don’t drive like an idiot, either). I have achieved as high as 25mpg on a 500-mile run down I-81 between Tennessee to PA at highway speeds (though not quite the speed limit). It was an easy run and only had to stop for gas once at just shy of 400 miles.

        • 0 avatar
          dude500

          I guess I’ll ask another way: if I currently have a 55 series tire, can I simply go up to 65 series?

          My understanding is that I cannot, unless I’m willing to accept a smaller width, which ends up making the actual length of the sidewall the same.

          If this is true, then does accepting a smaller width, higher aspect ratio tire make the ride more comfortable?

          • 0 avatar
            sproc

            As Vulpine explains very well, it’s a ratio. Perhaps the key point I didn’t make well enough is that in winter I go to smaller wheels (16 vs 17) and correspondingly higher profile tires (55 vs 45) that have an almost identical overall diameter.

            So, no, you generally can’t put higher profile tires on your same wheels (although this varies by make/model; you’d have to check). And if they do still fit the wheel wells, they’re going to have a significantly larger diameter, creating speedometer/odometer error and potentially screwing with a bunch of other modern systems like ABS, traction control, stability control, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            To add to what Sproc and Vulpine have said, the aspect ratio number is a percentage of the tire’s width. For example, sidewall height on a 235/45/17 tire is 235mm(0.45)=105.75mm. This is how Vulpine arrived at his numbers.

            Google tire size calculator and you will find all kinds of tools to screw around with tire sizes and see the relationship between width, aspect ratio, diameter, circumference, speed readings, etc.

            Also keep in mind that in some cases a smaller wheel might not fit over your brakes.

            Tire Rack shows alternate wheel/tire sizes (-1 for winter, +1 and sometimes +2 for bling).

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I think you’re misunderstanding what they mean by ratio in this case. To simplify, let’s assume that the combined tread width and sidewall height are a fixed figure. For kicks, let’s call it 10″ overall. With a 40-series tire, 40% of that overall figure is sidewall height, while 60% is tread width. A 60-series tire with the exact same overall figure would then have a 4″ tread width to a 6″ sidewall height. Keep in mind that this is an over-simplification.

            The car itself is designed for a specific overall tire diameter. In order to not change that diameter when you change the sidewall height, you MUST change both thread width AND profile ratio. A wider tire would need a lower ratio to maintain the same ride height. A narrower tire would need a higher ratio again to maintain the same ride height. It becomes a complicated calculation. Changing ride height also affects the overall performance of the car, as a taller tire makes fewer revolutions per mile, throwing off the odometer, mpg calculations, even torque and horsepower to the pavement. It’s all a balancing act that means either trusting your tire shop to give you the right tire for the need or determining for yourself what tire size best meets your needs without changing the ride height.

            Or, like those with lifted Jeeps and trucks do, chip the ECM to recognize the different ride height. My ’08 Wrangler Unlimited rides on 32″ rubber. One of the quickest and cheapest mods is a simple 1″ body lift and 34″ tires. Now the axle rides 1″ higher than it did, which means each rotation is about 6.28″ longer than the original tire’s. Over the course of a mile, this adds up quickly which is why the odometer is no longer valid and performance characteristics seem to change so much.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            It occurs to me that aspect ratio would be more useful if it were based on the wheel diameter, rather than wheel width.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      For an e9X 3-series, you should be able to run a 16″ wheel with 205/55-16s. Which is what I run in the winter. Z-speed rated Dunlop Wintersports. They ride significantly better than the 17″ RFTs I have for summer. And handle just about as well as the H-rated Conti’s it came with from the factory. The 2007 WILL ride more harshly no matter what than my ’11 though – BMW changed the suspension a bit with the LCI to smooth out the ride.

      Personally, I would put 16s on the BMW and enjoy it. Just keep your eyes on the road and avoid the worst of the holes. That said, when I am driving in Boston, I take my Range Rover. Though that is more because of the idiot drivers than the road conditions. If someone hits my irreplaceable BMW wagon you will hear the wailing from Mars. If someone hits the Rover I will buy another one that looks just like it and carry on smiling. A Rover is the ideal vehicle for Boston traffic – outstanding visibility, and enough presence to be intimidating.

      • 0 avatar

        I run 225/50 x 16 on my e46 in winter. They are comfy, eat most holes with no issues, and I lose 1 mpg due to rolling resistance.
        Front control arm bushings are a profit center for the stealer, but you can DIY with only an inexpensive bearing puller if you can do your own brakes…It is a very easy job.
        The standard tire is a 225/45 front and 245/40 rear, both on 17s’ They come out in May/June after the road crews have hot patched the roads.

        I live in NY, so I know crappy roads. Our roads are fully three dimensional

        I have the same system for my TDi as well. Summer is a 225/45 17, winter is a 195/65 x 15.

        There is an investment in the steelies and snows, but it is a Lot less hassle than ….WHAM…boom boomp boom booop…..

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Late-late model 4Runner or Land Cruiser. Third world’s finest.

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      +1. And for that “rebel leader” feeling, LX470 may be in order :-)

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I second that.

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          No Sequoia?

          Seqouia?

          Seqoiua?

          (Expecting a citation from the grammar police. I’ll pull over in advance.)

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The Sequoia and LX are in a class of their own for gas mileage. You can easily do single-digit mpg with short runs in the winter. Pentastar Jeeps are at least 50% better, and just 1 mpg worse than his current 326xi in the city.

          • 0 avatar
            slance66

            Agree with Heavy Handle, those things are massive. While I don’t drive much to work and back, we will use this vehicle for family trips to Vermont and elsewhere. I know that nothing but a hybrid will actually get truly good mileage on my short cycle 3 mile trip, especially in winter. 2/3 of it are with a cold engine.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Pull over to the side of the road, sir. I’m going to have to cite you for dyslexia.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yep. I think the OP would appreciate the lower NVH and smoother ride of a 4Runner (and available luxury features such as leather) more so than a Wrangler. Resale is unfortunately very strong, so if your means allow it buy a new 2014 might not be a bad idea. Assuming you can stomach the front end treatment! the BOF Nissan Pathfinders with IRS might also be a decent choice, much lower resale than 4Runners so you could pick up a 2012 for 20k-ish with low miles. Also, how about a 2003-2006 Montero Limited? Cheap to buy, totally underrated trucks. Not the mid-size “Sport” mind you, the Land Cruiser sized one. Made in Japan, smooth riding IRS, no real issues besides being picky with what ATF and transfercase/diff fluids you use. It’s like a more reliable and more efficient Land Rover Discovery.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup. I have a 2007 Land Cruiser and its visibility, reliability, and ample suspension travel and sidewall would make it untouchable in the OP’s scenario.

  • avatar
    dude500

    How about the prior-current generation W-body Impala, and the 2006-2012 version of the Fusion?

  • avatar
    kerilrus

    I am slightly biased, but if I were you I would be considering an Outback H6 (not the four banger). That engine is on par with bimmer i6 in terms of refinement and Outback itself has great suspension and car like drivability. I still have a 2004 LLBean with over 130k miles and it’s been a warrior through these conditions.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    I hit a pot hole at 40mph in my Silverado and it cost me a few hundred dollars in suspension repair, along with a new tire. So trucks while stronger than a car can still break.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    The only Bostonians I see still favoring Panthers are the white mesh hat -white belt folks who bought their ‘Legacy’, ‘Heritage’ or whatever Grand Marquis because that’s the last car they’ll buy and the public safety wannabee’s who’s single thrill is hanging in the fastlane in their Crown Vic scaring others into changing lanes, only to find out that it’s just some townie dolt instead of an unmarked trooper.

    Stay with the Bimmer and go with 55-series wheel/tire combo’s and put your wheel repair shop on speed dial, and suck up the two month period after the potholes are created and the locals get around to filling them, and live and drive for the major part of the year when roads are OK. And pay more attention to what’s ahead than you do to your passengers ranting and the text message that just signalled.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    A Camry for the pothole-ridden streets? I’d say not! I’ve ridden in a Camry taxi cabs in New York, and while mileage wise there were under 100K, they felt like riding in a box of bolts. Suspension was making noises that i never knew were possible. I would suggest forgetting about a fuel economy and getting a body on frame SUV.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    The answer is simple.

    Subaru Forester. Reliability and durability.

    And yes, you can lift them. Ready for doomsday. Bring forth ye aggressive concrete crevices of New England.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Forester lifted with upgraded long nose bump stops. XT if you want boost. But the 80K-120k list of stuff that breaks/wears out is pretty harsh. The Sequoia is a nice choice if you can find the right private party sale.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        If you can find a 140k-150k Forester, the previous owner has replaced all the 80k-120k stuff and you’ll have 50k-60k of trouble free driving, about 6-7 years for the OP. Of course, it’ll be a 2002-2005 model, and won’t look very pretty if it’s a New England car.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    You don’t need a truck just to handle roads with the occasional pothole. Potholes will ruin the rims, tires and suspension components of light duty trucks just as easily as on cars.

    A large car will have sturdier components and a better ride than a compact, but get much better fuel economy than a truck or SUV. Not to mention be much cheaper to acquire because SUVs/CUVs are all the rage with surburbanites who think they need something off-road capable to deal with the occasional pothole. As already mentioned, avoid the big rim and performance tire options.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      This is partly what I wanted to understand. Does an Explorer offer nothing over a Taurus in this regard? I know it is unibody now, rather than body on frame. What about a Grand Cherokee?

      However, I have a very steep driveway, and my daughter’s school is also up a steep hill, so AWD is critical. I’ve tried a FWD car (Volvo S60), and even with snows, it can’t climb my driveway reliably. For what it is worth, the BMW is better than the Lexus in this regard, and better than our old XC70 was.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “This is partly what I wanted to understand. Does an Explorer offer nothing over a Taurus in this regard?”

        Ground clearance if you need it. Some of the suspension parts are beefier, but are scaled up to handle the increased mass and ride height of the vehicle. I don’t think you’ll find one to be particularly more durable than the other under the same conditions.

        The same goes for the JGC vs say a an AWD Charger/300. The suspension components of the JCG are beefier, but the vehicle is also 25-30% heavier and much taller. You’ll still wear parts out over rough roads.

        My vote would be an AWD Charger/300. Significantly more value than a comparable model year/mileage JGC.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Check the tire-wheel combo on any vehicle you look at; compare it to the door sticker as well. The door lists what size tires/wheels the vehicle wore from the factory.

        The modern Explorer may have higher profile tires than the Taurus; honestly I don’t know since I’m not a Ford fan. The Explorer has a lot going for it, but my personal experience with the brand across all models has not been good. However, my father-in-law has an ’02 with the select-drive AWD and uses it exclusively in Pennsylvania winters while he uses an ’02 Saturn Vue for the other seasons. The Vue gets great mileage, but being a 4-cylinder FWD it could handle a little better on the snow. (I hear the Honda-powered V6 Vue isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Opel-powered I-4 is almost unkillable.)

        IF, on the other hand, you take trips out into the country, an agile, truly off-road capable vehicle may be an ideal choice. Many of the vehicles recommended so far have either great city manners or great highway manners to the sacrifice of the other. Most truck-based SUVs simply don’t have the agility needed for the city and may be too large to park in some areas. Most car-based models may have the agility, but may not have the ruggedness to absorb the punishment described. Again, my personal experience with the JK Wrangler is that it surprises people in the city with its agility and modest length–letting you parallel park sometimes in places other drivers have given up, while still offering the ruggedness and fun factor of handling those potholes and running the logging trails with ease.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Potholes will ruin the rims, tires and suspension components of light duty trucks just as easily as on cars.”
      Only if you go with the larger rims (20″±). More sidewall on the tire makes for less risk of damage on the wheel.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Guys, I’m the OP on this one. Thanks for the good suggestions. For example I only recently looked over a Lexus 470/460 in a parking lot and said hmmm… Have no idea if they are out of my price range (new they definitely are). Wish the current 4Runner hadn’t become ridiculously ugly.

    My 3 series does already have the 16 inch wheels rather than 17s, but the sidewalls are of course of the RFT variety, so don’t absorb much. I exceeded the suspension travel again yesterday on a simple manhole cover (yes it was deep).

    • 0 avatar

      Lose the run flats, now!

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        Sajeev, I thought about it, but was convinced that the new “Gen 4″ versions from Bridgestone were better. And they are…much better than my prior Continentals. But they are still 55s. Not sure GFTs would make much difference.

        • 0 avatar
          Tony T.

          My 2007 328i is running standard Conti DWS tires and they are holding up pretty nicely. The spare takes up plenty of space in the trunk though, so keep that in mind if you do ditch the run-flats.

      • 0 avatar
        dude500

        +1 you definitely need to lose the RFTs. You will pop them in short time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re bubbled already.

        I daily drive an E92 to NYC and popped six of the Bridgestone Turanza EFTs over two years before I gave up. Now on Michelin non-run flats and no problems for four years.

        Also, tires make a big difference for comfort. On one extreme, my ride is very comfortable when I have winter tires on.

        • 0 avatar
          slance66

          That’s old news. The old Turanzas were awful and bubbled. The Contis didn’t. I had those and they were ok, but hard as stone. The new “4th Gen” RFT Potenza is night and day better than the Contis I had before. I’ve been running the car on RFTs for six years or so with no issues.

          As Tony T suggested, I decided to try the improved RFTs rather than surrender 1/3 of my trunk. I still think it was the right move.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            My 328i wagon has the stock Conti RFTs on in the summer, and as mentioned previously, Z-rated 16″ Dunlop non-RFT in the winter. The difference is literally night and day ride wise. With minimal affect on the handling. The snows are a little squidgier (technical term) but that is mostly due to the open tread pattern. I really can’t wait for the RFTs to wear out, but I am too cheap to toss them early.

            Also, the 16″ wheels and non-rft tires are MASSIVELY lighter than the 17″ RFTs, which also helps with the ride. It’s got to be 15lbs per corner difference, not helped by the ’11 stock 17′s being really, really, heavy wheels.

  • avatar
    omer333

    What do you require besides comfort and actual tires? Late-model Focus, Mazda3s, Civics, etc. are comfortable and have actual tires.

    But if it has to be SUV-like, a Honda Crosstour is amazingly comfortable and quiet, and late-model Pathfinders are quite excellent as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I have a sister who lives just north of Plymouth, MA and her 2009 Mazda3 developed rust around the wheel wells in less than 3 years, and extra undercoating didn’t help. They put some serious chemicals on the roads in the snow belt, and a 3-4 year old Mazda3 won’t last long there. Someday Madza might address the rust issue, but that day isn’t here yet.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Steve, as a former resident of JP, I feel your pain. I had a 2 door S10 Blazer that ate up the worst Boston could throw at it. My suggestion; 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. Pentastar V6, great suspension, perfect ground clearance, and the ability to get some larger sidewalls if need be.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If you hit a pothole at speed in a Panther, you won’t feel it through the suspension.

    You will, however, feel it when the rear-end skitters, especially if you happen to be accelerating at the time. It’s downright creepy and more than a little dangerous if you do it on an icy road.

    Get higher profile tires and steel wheels for the 3-Series and really try to dodge the worse of it where you can.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      You could say that about any vehicle with a SRA. I’ve owned a Panther for seven years and have traversed many icy roads. Put some good grips on it and watch your speed, and you’ll be fine.

      It’s more often than not the nut behind the wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “You could say that about any vehicle with a SRA.”

        True, and if you’ve driven trucks or Mustang you’ll expect it. The questioner is coming from a 3-Series. Punch it in a 3er and hit broken pavement and you’re probably going to be okay, at least for a while; attempt the same hoonery in a Panther (yeah, I know—who hoons in a Panther?) and your passenger will feel the car skid.

        I flipped (in the financial sense, not an end-over) a relative’s Town Car for this reason. It didn’t take too many acceleration-on-bad-pavement moments to remind me why I’m probably not a Panther man at heart.

        If the poster is really not comfortable with the possibility of doing in part of the suspension, the recommendations for an Impreza Outback aren’t bad: there’s a lot of suspension travel in those and they handle this kind of abuse pretty well.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    $5k-$7k. Cash.

    XJ Cherokee. Two door or 4 door. 4.0L engine with >100k miles and 4-wheel drive. More comfortable than a Wrangler.

    Fit it with off road tires.

    Enjoy your new commuter car and happy BMW stays on paved roads in suburbia. Cherokee handles the tough stuff (and it won’t even flinch).

    Done deal. No loans needed.

    (Check Ebay)

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Honestly, if I had the space and inclination for a third vehicle, I would probably pick up an old Tacoma, as I could use the utility of a P/U at times. But the reality is that the roads in suburbia are the same…beat to absolute hell.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The last sub 100K XJ that I was watching on eBay in MA went for $9.5K. Two years ago. They go for crazy money here if they are not rusty.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    I would say you need something with high-profile tires, prefferably a simple suspension, and cheap suspension parts. Since fullsize sedans are dead, I’d say you need a Tahoe.

    Or, what about buying a Charger and putting a police-spec steelies on it?

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      +1 for the LX. If a Panther is simply too much of a geezermobile, then it’s gotta be a 300/Charger/Challenger FTW. The Tahoe is a good suggestion too.

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    We have a similar locale and commute. There’s a reason you see so many Subaru’s around here, my tenure with an Impreza Outback was flawless in the arena of absorbing punishment and navigating snowy streets. I handed it down to my sister when she needed something reliable at a significant discount. Now I pilot a Malibu so I aligned with Sajeev’s rental car logic sans consultation … you can option them up to be quite comfortable and resourceful. Sound logic if you don’t need no stinkin’ badges since they depreciate quicker than the norm.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    My guess is that a 3-series driver isn’t going to enjoy a 5,000-pound three-row body-on-frame SUV. I think the Subaru suggestion is a very good one – Vermonters have relied on them to deal with frost heaves, potholes, snow and occasional off-roading for years, without tarnishing their greenie credentials with SUV-like fuel economy.

    I also think that the Boston exurbs are, in fact, perfect CUV territory. Every couple of days I worry that I’ve broken a rim on my TL because I can’t avoid a pothole, but my wife’s CX-5 (with aftermarket 17s, mind you – 19s look great but entirely defeat the purpose) has no problem with them. And they’re nowhere near as truckish as the 4Runner et al.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    What problem are we trying to solve here? Is it a comfort issue or a repair cost issue?

    If it’s repair cost, just fix the bimmer as needed. I don’t think their suspensions are as frail as the internet would lead you to believe. I drove a ’98 540 around Boston for almost four years and it was fine. It spent its first 120k miles with previous owners in NJ and on the Long Island Expressway. Early in my ownership, I bought into the internet FUD campaign when it comes to BMW suspensions and did the struts and shocks – I barely noticed a difference. Compare this to a Mazda Protege I had where new dampers at half that mileage turned it into a completely different car. Anyway, BMWs can handle a few potholes. Control arm bushings do wear quickly, but that’s true regardless of potholes.

    If it’s a comfort issue, maybe a 2010+ Grand Cherokee. More comfortable than a Wrangler without the mercilessly high resale value, so a better fit for your buy 2-3 year old scheme.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    See if you can find a Cadillac DeVille/DTS. Nothing short of a Citroen will handle the bumps better.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      I like your style, Mandalorian.

      BUT… I’ve heard the DTS/DHS’s get bizarre alignment issues- shakes, shimmies, et cetera.

      AND

      A Citroen DS (which some consider ugly as sin, I personally believe they are gorgeous and an acquired taste, like a fine wine) would produce a smooth, smooth ride for sure. As far as managing the pot holes, though… I dunno, I dunno…

      French cars- particularly older French cars- give such smooth rides to the point in which I cannot comprehend.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Or get a Lucerne and save yourself the Cadillac premium and the Northstar penalty.

  • avatar
    david42

    I’m a fellow Bostonian and former E90 owner… that car was just plain unpleasant on our streets. A ride in a Camry taxi always made me feel like I was on a magic carpet compared to the BMW.

    I strongly suggest checking out Subarus. The various turbo Foresters are reported to be reasonably entertaining. The Outback (Legacy) with the 6-cylinder is a spectacular choice for bumpy city streets, though it won’t be as much fun as your BMW on Storrow Drive.

  • avatar

    Volvo XC60 3.2L. Comes with 235/65/17 tires. Comfy, spacious, decent on gas, takes big hits VERY well, lots of toys available, not a problematic car at all.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Looked at those last summer, before deciding to keep our RX350 for another year. Nice car, but not cheap. Actually was surprised, but we liked the Land Rover LR2 quite a bit, possibly more. Not sure how one of those would hold up to punishment.

  • avatar
    George B

    slance66, I’d probably buy a set of wheels and tires with the tallest sidewall that will fit the BMW 328xi that you already own. Most of the vehicles that might tolerate potholes better will be a significant step down in driving enjoyment.

    Don’t know how difficult parking is in suburban Boston, but maybe a Chrysler 300 minus the big rims might be an acceptable car that’s more rugged than your BMW. It’s suspension borrows heavily from the W210 Mercedes E class, a popular taxi choice around the world.

  • avatar
    200Series

    The Lexus GS is good used suggestion; body on frame coupled with 18″ wheels that provide for ample side wall. The 4.7 has good torque and is pretty enjoyable around town. They have been around for 10 years so you can find something in your budget. The last generation v8 4-runner is another alternative, but less amenities and likely rougher ride. If the roads are so awful that your cannot enjoy a “sporty” vehicle, the negatives of a SUV/truck are greatly diminished.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I think you mean GX, not GS. It’s more or less a 4Runner with the rough edges filed off.

      The RAV4 is not a bad choice, though. The XA20 (00-05) is a lot of fun to drive, at least for the segment. They aren’t cheap, but they are reliable, safe and efficient.

      The XA30 is less fun, but it’s very, very quick when paired with a V6.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    Go get a 3rd gen (1995-2002) Toyota 4runner. Cheap, reliable, and pothole-proof.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Sooner or later lower ball joints will need replacement, but we’re talking 150k or so. And while 4runners can take an incredible beating, they’ll beat you up while doing it. The ride is unapologetically “truck-like.” I love my ’96 and wouldn’t have it any other way, but renting a 2013 Explorer Limited really opened my eyes to how smooth modern CUVs ride. The explorer even had 20 inch rims! My 4runner rides on fat 265/70R16s.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    My Lexus GS400 is being destroyed by potholes here in Edmonton AB. The truck is king in this market for a reason. But, I’m a car-guy so next time I need tires, I’ll be upping the sidewall height.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Well, from what I can gather from Boston’s current state of the seemingly crumbling infrastructure, the answer is obvious: only an AM General Humvee would suffice.

    For an adequate test drive of the rig, go ahead and pack up the family for an exciting tour of East St. Louis, for lovely, real life examples of urban prairie and population flight :)

    Don’t forget your trusty conceal and carry piece, kiddies!

  • avatar
    Power6

    Buddy where are you driving? Losing struts to potholes? They were probably going anyways. Rims do bend sometimes on the big holes but Boston is survivable for any type of car. I’ve had plenty with 17 or 18 inch wheels and low profile tires.

    May I then suggest an old Lexus I sail right over the worst streets while the Range Rover drivers swerve around every pimple. Don’t need to suffer in a wrangler.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    When test driving the Accord in 2013 I compared the ride on the LX (16″), EX-L (17″) and Touring (18″) trims. There was a major difference, with the ride getting worse as the trim and rim size increased. I ended up with the EX-L because I wanted leather, etc., but said no to the Touring because of the worse ride.
    Wheel size is a case in which style has trumped function. If the car were not leased, I’d swap the 17s for 16s.
    (For 2014, the LX too has 17″ wheels.)


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