By on March 8, 2016

2015 Ford F-150

Steve writes:

Mr. Bark:

My lady lives 650 miles away. Most of the time I fly to see her, but over the past 18 months I have put 40,000 miles on my Ford F-150 due to the odd weekends where it’s too expensive to fly, I can’t board my dog, or I want to do a detour and visit my parents in Arkansas.

What do you think is the best vehicle for frequent, long road trips? There has to be come kind of calculus that will help determine a balance between comfort, economy and longevity, but I keep coming back to my F-150. Also, breaking off the relationship with the lady is not an option.

Thanks,

Steve H.

Thanks for the formal greeting, Mr. Steve. Gosh, so many variables to consider, and less than a thousand words to do it in! Let’s get to it.

First of all, she sounds like quite a lady, so congratulations on that. Long-distance relationships are tough enough on the heart without having to be tough on your rear-end, too (God, that sounded like a Preparation H commercial). So what are some of the plushest rides that combine good fuel economy and reliability (and won’t break the bank)?

I don’t know what your budget is, but you sound like a man of at least modest means, so let’s start right in the middle of the pricing stratosphere.

The first car that comes immediately to mind is the Chevrolet Impala in either V6 LT or LTZ trim. I’ve easily coaxed 30-33 mpg out of one on the highway without any Gerdesian effort, and the ride is quite comfortable. You mentioned Arkansas, so it sounds like you’re doing some southern or midwestern hauls across some long, empty stretches. The Impala will eat those miles up a hundred at a time, and the hills and valleys won’t be much of a problem thanks to the 300+ horsepower the big antelope throws down. Plus, you’ll have plenty of room in the trunk for just about anything you need to bring with you, as well as sufficient seating for anybody you need to bring, too. I make no bones about my love for the Impala and its cousins, the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS. But it’s the Impala that will do the job at the lowest price.

If you’re into big sedans, why not the Toyota Avalon? I don’t find them to be my cup of tea, but they’re well loved by many, along with its Lexus ES350 stablemate. The Avalon can be found lightly used as a CPO car for not much money, and the ability to cruise comfortably in one isn’t rivaled by many cars — not to mention, fuel economy is often reported to be better than the EPA estimate. I think it’s actually a little bit nicer inside than the ES, and the Toyota holds its value just as well. Naturally, you get the normal Toyota quality, which your author finds to be a tad overstated, but it’s still a consideration if you’re not super-excited about the GM triumvirate.

If you’re looking for something that’s a little bit outside the box, I’d suggest a Volkswagen Passat TDI. Not entirely surprisingly, the prices are dropping through the floor on these right now. A friend of mine (and a TTAC reader) just picked one up for a song, and he uses it to commute from Atlanta into the heart of Mississippi every week, all while getting over 40 mpg. He picked it up with the stated goal of driving it 50,000 miles a year, which isn’t too far off of your annual totals, and he’s very pleased with it so far. It won’t win many 0-60 sprints, but the highway power is what you really want. The TDI delivers that in spades. I’m sure that we’ll have a fair number of the B&B who are afraid of VW’s reliability, but maybe it’s not a bad bet when it’s tallied up with such deep discounts. Also, I don’t give a shit about the environment.

(DISCLAIMER: I did not accept any checks at all for my endorsement of the Volkswagen Passat TDI. In fact, I actually lost quite a bit of money the last time I drove one. Damn Horseshoe Casino.)

So there you have it: three options from three continents. If I had to rank them, I’d probably go Impala, Passat TDI, then Avalon. Not to sound like one of those “Hooray for Everything” auto writers, but the fact is that you’d get three very different, yet very satisfying driving experiences from each of the contenders, and all three are likely to last you well into your golden years with your fair maiden.

Remember, Bark M. is sitting by the phone, ready to give his guaranteed winners in the B1G tournament! Wait a second … whoops. Wrong read. Bark M. is sitting by his iPad, waiting to answer your emails! Fire him off a little somethin’-somethin’ to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @barkm302. You can even send him a picture of the car you’re considering to his Instagram DMs @barkm302st (how’s that for a non-sequitur?).

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107 Comments on “Ask Bark: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Lover...”


  • avatar
    kosmo

    In his shoes, I think the GTI might balance out best.

    A good compliment to the truck if both will be kept.

    Dog friendly, too!

    • 0 avatar

      The GTI is one of the more sane hot hatches, but I think its ride would get quite tiresome after that long of a distance.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        If roads were terrible, perhaps, but I drive a GTI around Boston and have never found it to be an issue. Of course, I’m on winter tires for half the year, which make for a softer compound.

        I like the idea of a GTI, though certainly understand people will disagree on its utility as a highway car. For me, 600 miles in an Impala is a recipe to fall asleep at the wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      I’d go with a 2005 – 2006 Lexus LS 430, under 100k miles for $15,000 or less. Driving that many miles on a regular basis I’d put comfort and reliability over fuel mileage.

      What does she drive when she visits you? She does share the commute, right?

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Save money and get a more compliant ride in the same platform with a base Golf Sportwagen S. Room for the dog, excellent highway manners, probably mid-30s mpg from the 1.8 turbo, and about $5000 less than a GTI.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Until the diesel debacle a VW diesel, probably a Golf Wagon would be the almost automatic choice.

    If there is no problem registering them in the OP’s state and since he probably won’t mind driving it until it has zero value, then a diesel VW might still be the correct choice.

    How about, from out of left-field a Toyota Prius V? Dog friendly, considered to be reliable and with a very low operational cost per mile.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      I really liked the idea of a Golf TDI wagon. In fact, my enthusiasm encouraged my mom to get a 2011 TDI wagon. It now has 110,000mi (she drives ~25k per year). Over the past 50,000 miles, however, she has really, really, really started to hate the seat in that car. It is now so bad she’s ready to dump the thing even with a loss on another vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My Golf SportWagen was extremely comfortable when we drove it 1,000 miles to California…but I do think the Impala and Avalon were better suggestions.

      The Prius V is pretty cool, and is technically a wagon. If you’re into that, I also recommend the C-Max. You can get one of those very inexpensively. And what it loses to the Toyota in MPGs, it makes up for in features and creature-comforts.

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        I have a C-Max, and I will tell you that it excels at being a city car. On the highway, it is basically a roomier Focus. It’s not bad, but it’s not exceptional like it is in town. The high roof of the C-Max is what hurts it in highway fuel economy. The highway fuel economy isn’t bad, high 30s to low 40s, but some non-hybrids do almost as well with more luggage space. VW Passat TDI does better on the highway, but diesel fuel has been running more expensive than gasoline to the point that there isn’t a significant difference in operating costs. At least the C-Max has plenty of power that highway driving is effortless. That wasn’t the case in the Gen 2 Prius. I haven’t driven Gen 3 or 4 Prius or Prius V. I suspect that a hybrid Fusion, Accord,Camry or Avalon would get slightly better highway fuel economy than the C-Max and would be a little more comfortable. Of course, they would also be more expensive.

        If you love your F-150, and you just don’t want to wear it out, you could simply rent a car for your 1,300-mile trips. If you can rent a car unlimited mileage for $30/day. That’s $90 for three day weekend. 1300 miles/90 = 14.4 cents per mile. That’s probably lower than the depreciation per mile on your truck, then you get the fuel economy benefit of a mainstream sedan, most of which are 30 MPG cars on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      We’ve now got a ’14 Passat 1.8Tsi and a ’15 Golf GTI. The Passat is the better highway car – it’s not even close. Compared to a Golf, the Passat has more comfortable seats, lower noise level, and a better ride.

      The gas 1.8T Passat has better TCO than the TDi version because the up-front cost is so much cheaper. I’m paying $196/month for the lease with $0 down. I’ve seen 30-33 MPG on road trips between SF and LA. Zero reliability issues so far.

      Better highway manners than the Malibu, IMHO. Way cheaper than the Avalon. Passat is the answer.

    • 0 avatar
      dash riprock

      Oh Arthur, as a owner of a Prius V who unexpectedly had to make dozens of 600 km(not miles) daily trips this year, I just had to add that it would be far from my top choice. It is just not that wonderful of a ride. Those time on a longer trip when out of boredom you want to punch it and amuse yourself? Not gonna happen. Seats are not built for hours on hours of use, numb butt will be your constant companion. More road noise than you might think.

      On the positives you are correct on the operational cost.

      It is a good functional vehicle but just not one I would buy if I was driving hundreds of highway miles.

      I would lean towards a diesel for this situation

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I’m not sure if Steve can have 2 vehicles, but if so, I’d suggest keeping the F-150, which he obviously loves, for around town, and buying a cheap cruiser for the long drives. It wouldn’t cost him an extra penny. Here’s how:

    At 20MPG and $2 gas, the F-150 costs $2,700 in gas alone over 27K miles. A Prius getting 45MPG would cut that to $1,200. Buying a used Prius for $10K, would entail depreciation of around $1,500 annually, which is the difference between the cost of gas. I assume maintenance costs would be equivalent, although that would likely favor the Prius.

    Essentially, the gas savings pay for the additional car. The key would be to see if Steve likes sitting in a Prius for 20 hours over 3 days.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This.

      Something wicked comfy and reliable, and if mileage is key, probably FWD.

      Some unloved bargains which come to mind:

      Park Ave/Lesabre
      Legend Gen 3 (rl)
      Panther
      Later Chrysler LH 3.5

      If we’re spending money

      Lex LS
      Lex ES
      Avalon

      This is probably what I would do but something to think about is the amount of money spent on a secondary vehicle (inc mileage) vs depreciation on running long mileage on a newer truck platform. If say your acquisition cost, tires, and deferred maint is 6K but your depreciation and running costs (excluding fuel) for 20K additional miles per year is less, well you see where I’m going with this. Trucks in this market do not depreciate the same as cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Can I get an amen from the Church of 3800?

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        I definitely see a potential benefit of NOT running two cars. Yeah, trucks arent great on fuel, but extra cars cost money too, take up extra space, require extra time to maintain as well, and as mentioned, a V8 halfton can rack up mad highway miles and see neither a huge hit to its life span nor relative value.

        I’d go with just run the truck.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          davefromcalgary – agreed.

          Add a tonneau cover and get a set of high fuel efficiency tires.

          Maybe a “winter front” to close off the grill. I’ve heard that can improve mpg.

          Trying some hypermiling techniques might work. I’ve averaged 20.4 mpg US or 24.5 mpg Imperial with my 5.4 SuperCrew over 500 miles on a few separate trips with those techniques.

          Disclaimer:
          (I wasn’t sponsored by a car company)

      • 0 avatar
        turbobrick

        I have some perspective here, I have a Park Avenue… and I would pick a Ford Taurus LTD for this job. The seats are that comfortable. GM leather makes me feel like I’m sitting in a pool of my own sweat after half an hour, I did not get that from the Taurus after a 16 hour grueling drive from TX to FL. And I didn’t even use the cooled seat feature all that much.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      This sounds great unless his insurance premium on the extra vehicle is significant. I was all set to buy a commuter car until I found out I was looking at another $1900 in annual insurance. If Steve is young it’s a no go.

      Granted, I live in FL, land of the uninsured motorist and personal injury attorney, so YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      This makes sense to me and something like a used V6 Accord or Camry could do the trick. While insurance is an issue, he’d also be saving the F150 a ton of miles. At $2 gas, maybe running the truck makes sense if he wants to keep it. At $4, not so much.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Dart Aero, Cruze Eco. Either complements a pickup quite well and will give you great highway MPG. They can also be had quite cheap.

    TDI also works, of course.

    I wouldn’t want to drive a Prius long distance on the highway. No power, bad seats, and very prone to crosswinds. It can turn a light summer rain into a white knuckle experience. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      The only thing to be aware of with this excellent suggestion is the seats in the Cruze are very hit or miss. They seem to be a love hate affair.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    How could you suggest a Chevy to an obvious Ford man. Used CMAX is the way to go. Fulled loaded SEL ones with low miles are 15k. I rented one and got 36mpg at 80mph. Quiet on the highway with a surprising nice ride. If my E46 wagon gets too expensive I’ll replace it with this. Trying to get my wife to ditch Sonata for one.

    Or for the occasional weekend rent a car. I had to make some 1,200 round trips to NC to see family and it was cheaper to rent a Ford Focus (or CMAX when available)then to take my Jeep Grand Cherokee. This was when gas was expensive though. But if you factor in depreciation I bet it isn’t too far off now.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I absolutely agree. C-Max.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’ll be contrary and vote against the C-Max. Why? Because the main point of spending extra money on a hybrid is MPG, and as I understand it, the mileage advantage of a hybrid largely disappears on the highway, which is where most of this guy’s driving is going to be done.

        Plus the hybrid system itself adds extra mechanical complexity and potential repair cost, compounded by the fact that this car will rack up a very large number of miles. The potential gas savings don’t strike me as worth it for the potential headaches.

        I’d shy away from hybrids for this particular mission.

        Or am I wrong?

        • 0 avatar
          cgjeep

          The proof is in the sales. And the lack of sales would prove you correct. It being ugly probably doesn’t help it either. But I was really blown away by it. And it appears to have 0 resale value so while 36mpg on highway isn’t great, you can get leather, nav, heated seats, nice stereo, panoramic sunroof for 15k. Nice visibility and quiet. Prius and the original escape hybrid all have stellar longevity with the hybrid complexity. Would I buy a new one for this, no. But a used one all day long.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            As a daily driver for regular in-town driving, a C-Max would be a good choice for me.

            But if I was going all highway warrior, and wanted a used Ford, I’d pick a lightly used Focus with a manual, which would be even cheaper. The highway mileage would be roughly the same and there would be no complex, expensive hybrid systems to go wrong. The Focus would also be a lot more fun to drive.

            That, or a 2014/15 Fusion.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            I will pile on and agree with FreedMike about the manual Focus. My 2013 was good for 35 mixed on E10. I never had a chance to do an entirely freeway trip and couldn’t comment on straight freeway time.

            I would stick with a hatch though because the trunk opening on the sedan is challenging.

        • 0 avatar
          Bimmer

          What hybrid complexity are you talking about!? Lack of a starter or an alternator? Very simple, compare to a modern 6+ speed, transmission? Brakes that last for up to 100,000 km? Or a hybrid component warranty that exceeds (Hyundai and Mitsubishi excluding) any power train warranty?

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            If you can only get 100,000km from the brakes on a Ford Hybrid or a Prius you are doing it wrong. My Wife’s Fusion Hybrid has 130,000 miles and the brakes are still at ~30%. Friends with Prius have done more than 150,000 miles on their original brakes.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “Hybrid complexity” is present in some hybrids, but not in those using the Toyota/Ford planetary gear system.

          You gain: a battery, two electric motors that will outlive you, and a power transfer unit so simple I could draw a picture of it.

          You lose: the automatic transmission, the most complex and failure-prone part of any modern car, the starter, and the alternator.

          Hybrid batteries occasionally fail at high mileage (and not that often in the case of Ford systems), but the same is true of automatic transmissions.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The Ford/Toyota eCVT is far from complex, it is the simplest transmission on the market today and other than shorts in early Pruis vehicles they are more reliable than any other current transmission. So you are wrong a Ford/Toyota Hybrid is less complex than a conventional ICE powered vehicle and the rest of it is more reliable too. So if you are going to rack up a lot of miles a Ford or Toyota Hybrid is a very good option even if you operated it mainly on long distance trips that are not its strong suit.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’d make sure you are *very* comfortable in whatever you get. It is hard to overstate how much better a good driver’s seat and space to move around makes a long haul drive. Low NVH and a good stereo really help, as well.

    Oddballs like a Volvo S80 3.2, or something common like a CamCordIma come to mind. I dislike the Altima, but its front seats make up for a lot of the shortcomings. The CVT is far better on open roads than in town, which would be enough for me to make up for its other drawbacks. V6 Chargers/300s also will see 30 on the highway, and are big, comfy cruisers.

    EDIT: Forgot to mention that radar cruise control and lane keeping assist are very nice to have if in the budget.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    My bro lives 800 kms from his lady. Hes put something like 50000 kms on his truck in 16 months. Two cars arent really an option for him so he just enjoys the comfort and utility afforded by a modern half ton. In the meantime they do plan to soon live in the same city.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Cant help but agree with a V6 midsize sedan. Just drove from Winnipeg yesterday, and all problems aside, the Verano simply excels on long highway slogs. The 2.0T makes cruising effortless similar to a torquey 6.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Torque rules on the highway. My driving (70 mi/day, more on weekends) is solely on flat lands with an onramp being the steepest thing to climb. In that type of driving, both the Hemi Charger (“Donald”) that replaced my 4-pot Accord and my Gen 1 Insight (“Bernie”) don’t need to leave 8th or 5th gear.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The Verano and Cruze both drive like much more substantial cars than they are, which I can appreciate…although the Cruze likes to race to the highest gear, where the Verano—even in non-turbo form—is much more intuitive.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Its crazy. I’ve never tried a Cruze with power seats, but the 1LT and down I have tried just kill my back. The Verano has great seats for my and my lady, it really makes the long hauls a lot easier.

        I think its the tilt of the seat cushion on the manual seats. I suspect a power seated Cruze would work for me.

        All THAT said, I still can’t understand why the multi way power seats in the Lacrosse kill both mine AND my ladies backs, and were very different of shape.

        • 0 avatar
          Kevin Jaeger

          I’ve generally enjoyed my time with Cruze rentals with the exception of the one time I did a long trip in one. That really highlighted the seats’ discomfort for me, which I hadn’t noticed at all in shorter trips.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          I agree with Dave on the Cruze seats. I didn’t last 10 minutes in them before my back was miserable.

          A Cruze would be a good choice for long, flat highway, but anyone considering it should rent one first and make sure the seats are a fit.

    • 0 avatar
      zaxxon25

      I’ve done three 2K+ roadtrips with my Malibu 2.0T and it’s definitely built for the highway. In 2LZ trim I’ve never had a problem with seat comfort. I also have a Volvo C30 which lives up to the seat comfort hype but the GM has the road noise/isolation thing down (swapping out the Eagle GT’s helped too). Plus I can easily pull low 30’s in gas mileage with the Chevy.

  • avatar
    stckshft

    My recommendation.. go get your private pilot license and join a local flying club or get a Cessna.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Can planes be rented by those who have the flying license and if so at what cost?

      • 0 avatar
        ltcmgm78

        A 172 goes for $100-125 per engine hour. Insurance will require you take a check ride so you will spend an hour with an instructor at $60/hour. Avgas is a hair over $4 a gallon right now.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Thanks for the info. Assuming he wanted to spend the money to get the pilot’s lic, buying the plane becomes a large capital expense as renting sounds too expensive. Depending on his travel patterns, it might make fiscal sense.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      He’d have to build up an awful lot of hours at considerable cost to be certified to fly a plane IFR, and unless you can fly IFR, you’re pretty much at the whims of the weather. I enjoyed flying general aviation, but it was for fun, not for transportation that you could depend on to get you there and back on schedule.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If he loves his F150 then how about a Taurus sedan? The dealers are looking to deal in my area of AutoTrader is to be believed. Right now within 300 miles of me I could certainly pick up a brand new V6 Taurus for cheaper than a brand new V6 Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I had a rental Taurus for a long-ish business road trip (one 7-hour day behind the wheel and one 9-hour), and I concur. My only complaints were:
      – radio & HVAC controls that are a pain to use versus pre-touchscreen cars, but that’s an industry-wide problem.
      – a fixed HVAC vent to the right of the steering wheel. I wanted airflow from it, but not straight at me. I found myself wondering if the same vent was movable in an MKS.

      On the whole though, I thought it was a great car for a highway trip.

      Re: earlier comments about the Cruze, I agree that the seats could be better. I personally don’t find them deal-breaker bad, but they could do with more lumbar support.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Gen 2 Prius…

    They are actually very comfortable on the highway with a ton of room.

    When your done, you can easily sell it.

    They are extremely reliable.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I tend to agree with Bark on the Impala. With out any sort of information from the OP regarding budget and things like I’m a Ford man F GM, along those lines, the impala is the most cost efficient choice.

    I had an 08′ as a company car w/ the smaller v6. Got 30 mpg on the highway at altitude, was comfortable and most importantly quiet. Put 75k on it in 24 months. The only ‘repair’ was tires and oil changes.

    You may not want one that old, but if you can find a low mile one of that vintage I would say go for it. You will be less than 8k in and can put 100k on it and not care.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    When I was young, we had a phrase concerning the distance to your girlfriend:

    Geographically Undesirable.

    I dated a girl once that lived 25 miles from me (yes, that was a real issue back then – times have changed!) and I came to the same conclusion. I owned a gas-guzzling truck at the time, too.

    If you continue this relationship, she must be someone very special…

    Carry on and drive whatever you please!

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      It all depends on the girl. When I was at NYU, I dated a girl at Columbia, and broke it off after a month because I thought that uptown was too long a distance. A couple months later I met another girl, and somehow distance wasn’t an issue when I moved to London shortly thereafter. Then I married her.

      Distance sucks, but I absolutely see where the OP is coming from when he says that it’s worth it.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    You’re doing it wrong. The question should be what kind of car the lady would like to commute in. I’d suggest she get a Honda Civic.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I would go a a TDI they are cheap now for some unknown reason, the golf and sports wagon should get you around 550-600 miles to a tank the pasat much more, that much to the tank is a great Bennie I am happy w how my TDI wagon has held up and cheap gas will not last forever.

  • avatar
    John

    I get the concept that the most practical, economical vehicle is not always what one’s heart desires, but I have to wonder about a person who thinks an F150 is the best choice for regular, one person, long distance commutes. I second the Civic, and also the TDI and Prius. With VW’s problems, and the low cost of gas, it’s probably an ideal time to buy a TDI or Prius. Civics are not selling at a discount, but the 2016 gets rave reviews, and about 40mpg on the highway.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll second VoGo and 28 on this one – I’d have a hard time justifying $30,000 on a new car just to see it depreciate all to hell with all those highway miles.

    My suggestion would be the car I drive – last-gen Lesabre. It’s dead reliable, big and comfy, gets decent highway MPG, and it’s an outstanding road car.

    Six grand or so should get you one with +/- 100,000 miles. Don’t be put off by the mileage – these things will run 250,000 miles easy with the right maintenance. The nice ones out there were probably owned by some duffer who drove 7,000 miles a year and followed the maintenance schedule religiously (mine was like that).

    Just replace the head gasket, or make sure it’s been replaced recently – that’s the 3800’s Kryptonite and you don’t want to deal with this when you’re on some Interstate in the middle of nowhere.

    But if you want to drop some money…used XTS.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      It’s the intake gaskets on Series2 engines, not the head gasket.

      Blowing a head gasket on any 3800 requires some effort.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Thanks for correcting that, ajla. But apparently when that gasket goes, the antifreeze mixes with the fuel and all kinds of hilarity ensues.

        (Shows why I take my car to get fixed versus doing it myself!!!)

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I have a last-generation Lesabre and also owned a 1988 Electra T-Type for 16 years. The Lesabre has got to be one of the worst cars I have ever owned, reliability-wise. All of this failed before 100K miles: several window regulators, wiper motor, all dash lights, blower motor, radio, front hubs, rear shocks, and a few other things that I have probably forgotten.

      I’d go with a Toyota Avalon or used Lexus sedan long before I would recommend a Lesabre to anybody (and I had 221K miles on my 1988 Buick when I sold it – that was one of the best cars that I have ever owned).

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “And I had 221K miles on my 1988 Buick when I sold it – that was one of the best cars that I have ever owned).”

        The best 3800 powered cars were built from ’88-’98. Really, that decade was something of a minor Golden Era for GM full size cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I bought my ’03 in 2010 with 72,000 miles, redmond, and the non wear items have been pretty minimal – window regulators (a definite thing with this model), a wheel bearing at 110,000 miles, and that’s about it.

        And, yeah, an Avalon would probably be more reliable, but they go for stupid money.

        The LeSabre is an excellent choice as long as you pick the right one.

  • avatar
    BlueEr03

    “Remember, Bark M. is sitting by the phone, ready to give his guaranteed winners in the B1G tournament!”

    Upset special: PSU over OSU on Thursday night! Count it!

    For the question: have you looked at a Ford C-Max? Unloved, so you can get them for a sharp discount. But it gets good mileage for your long commutes, has plenty of space for your dog, or luggage. Only thing I can’t speak to about it is the longevity.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “There has to be come kind of calculus that will help determine a balance between comfort, economy and longevity”

    There is going to be so much personal preference here that recommendations are difficult. Obvious fuel misers like the Prius and TDIs have weaknesses,from comfort in the former to maintenance costs in the latter.

    Impalas and Avalons are expensive, and his budget wasn’t disclosed. If I were sacrificing a car for frequent long interstate slogs, I’d be looking hard at ex-fleet 4 cylinder midsize sedans. About $15K will get you a 2-3yo Ford Fusion 2.5 or Camry LE/SE or Altima. Pick the one with best noise suppression and seats for your taste and enjoy low running costs and ~35mpg. The Fusion in particular strikes me as a great budget highway car, quiet and solid, and the 2.5 Duratec is probably quite reliable at this point.

  • avatar
    Acd

    An Impala is a good choice as long as it is the new body style and not the old W-Body Limited–I refuse to rent those let alone buy one.

    Volkswagen TDI’s have really dropped in value. Find one that a domestic dealer who took in trade and you’ll be able to buy it for close to what a gas version costs and get 40 mpg. Dealers are scared to death of them right now but they are selling–follow the market online for a few weeks and you won’t see the same cars listed unless they are overpriced. Older, high mileage VW diesels still have value regardless of the emissions controversy. For highway driving a Passat is a lot quieter and more comfortable than a Jetta. If a TDI is too scary a 1.8 Passat is still a great choice–comfortable, 30+ mpg and really cheap to buy right now because it’s a Volkswagen.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      If the seats are agreeable to you, a 2012+ W-body Impala Ltd represents a great bargain. Fast with the 3.6L, roomy, reasonably quiet, not a cop magnet, and cheap to run.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Hybrids aren’t the solution to this problem. They get much of their fuel efficiency from energy recovery in stop/go urban and suburban use. However their mpg on the highway, where energy recovery is barely a factor, comes from the puny gas engine. If that’s the kind of mpg you want, buy a plain ICE car with a puny engine and save the cost and complication – not that I’d want to drive 650 miles in some little sh!tbox.

    I’d be pretty tempted by a VW diesel, given the current state of affairs, or the Impala for something more expansive.

    Other than that I think personal preference will play a big factor. If you’re used to driving an F150 you may have strong opinions on what comfort means to you.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Gee, I hear there are likely plenty of 200s sitting around on lots just waiting to be bought…lol!

  • avatar
    derekson

    Passat TDIs are crazy cheap now. I local dealer has a car that’s dropped from a $33k listed price to like $14k since October (SEL premium with low mileage IIRC). And they are very unlikely to be bought back or unable to be fixed since they already have urea injection.

    if the guy loves his truck, maybe a Ram Ecodiesel or a Colorado with the Duramax diesel would be a good buy for his situation? He’d still have a truck but gain highway mileage and range.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Don’t add any obstacles, strain or complexity to your long distance relationship by buying a VW.

    Reliable? Durable? Economical? Low maintenance? Honda Accord. You’re welcome. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Given the cash & financing deals on Toyotas last December, wait for the next Toyotathon with cash on the hood and cheap financing. Hold out for 17999 and 3% interest on an LE. 18 years ago I snagged an Accord DX with a manual, crank windows, & optional AC for 12,775. That ship has sailed and the closest equivalent is a scavenger trim Camry. If buying used, the the 60,000 Impala or Fusion has the best ROI.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Given the cash & financing deals on Toyotas last December, wait for the next Toyotathon with cash on the hood and cheap financing. Hold out for 17999 and 3% interest on an LE. 18 years ago I snagged an Accord DX with a manual, crank windows, & optional AC for 12,775. That ship has sailed and the closest equivalent is a scavenger trim Camry. If buying used, the the 60,000 mile Impala or Fusion has the best ROI.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      How about a RAV4 Hybrid, Honda CRV, Ford Esape or Edge, maybe Acura RDX for a V6. They all get the fuel economy of a midsize car but you will have lots of cargo space for the dog. They also sit up higher closer to a truck compared to a sedan. Resale isn’t bad for these types of vehicles either.

  • avatar
    facelvega

    All these sedan suggestions skip one key element of the description: the dog. A sedan just isn’t the best choice if the dog is anything bigger than a lunchbox. The Golf Wagon people make a good point that it’s about the most comfortable riding (great handling and suspension, truly great highway seats), high-efficiency vehicle that can carry a dog on the cheaper end of things. A tsi will get you about 36mpg on the highway cruising at 80. So I’m going to say find a pristine Lexus Sportcross or a last-series European market BMW 1-series hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I don’t think a large dog is that uncomfortable sitting across the back seat of a sedan – no more so than a person having to sit back there, with its limited visibility and involvement – but a wagon or hatchback (or CUV – the CX-5 is nice) probably is better. I used to fold the seats down in my Mazda3 and put the dog bed right up against the back of the front seats so my girlfriend’s lab could lay with his paws hanging off the front edge. He had a good view ahead and could be close to us, which he prefers. I also pointed the dash vents at him and cracked the rear windows a touch so he could enjoy the scents of the prairie summer highway. Not the safest position for him, but I’d rather he enjoy life as much as possible. He also loved riding in the back of pickup trucks for lower speed warm weather drives.

      Really, a large dog could probably lay like this in a sedan with folding seats too. It would just have to duck its back end a bit when getting into position or standing up. Any reasonably well-trained dog should be laying until you reach your destination anyway.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    The implied “taking the dog with me” part suggests against a sedan. I mean, you can make that work, but it’s … not ideal, like facelvega just said.

    Wagons or smaller SUVs will be a very nice compromise against a full-size truck vs. a sedan.

    (I will of course recommend a Volvo, as I still love my XC70, but it’s probably overkill unless you also really like ’em.

    The cheap solution is “Golf SportWagen”, since VW is practically begging for customers now, or say the Sportage just reviewed here, or anything like that per preference.)

  • avatar
    kkop

    You love your F-150. Just drive it. Forget the hassle of getting a different (second) vehicle.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Whatever you do, understand that the average car really does cost about 56 cents a mile to drive. You are unlikely to get below 46 cents, but you can easily get in the 80 cent range. Look at the total cost of all your trips when you make your decision. Is it time to make a life change and for somebody to move?

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I’m a bit of an oddball, but I’d look to a 2005-08 Jaguar XJ8/ Vanden Plas. They are near the bottom of the depreciation curve, pretty much bullet proof mechanicals and elecricals (no Lucas jokes, there are no Lucas components on them). At that time I believe they tied with Lexus on the JD Power reliability survey for the #1 spot. The days of Jaguar unreliability of the 70’s are long over.

    Great fuel economy, I’ve achieved 35mpg on cruise, light due to the aluminium body and a very comfortable place to spend 7-8 hours at a time. I can’t think of many other cars I would want to do a long distance drive in. There seem to be plenty around $10K that have low miles.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I was in a similar boat a few years back, my then gf now fiancé was living in Muncie and then Ft Wayne, and I was over in central NY. For two years, I would take monthly road trips out to see her for a weekend. I’d work flex time to get a Friday and a Monday off, then I’d head out at 3am on a Friday, make a single stop to use the bathroom and fill up my car (’98 MPV Allsport ES) in Erie PA, and I’d be rolling into Ft. Wayne at a bit past noon. The MPV was getting about 18-19 mpg on average with snow tires on, a tad better with summer tires. The old girl never let me down with 160k on the clock, and was pretty darn comfortable in that leather captain’s chair. This was when gas was a good bit more expensive and I made half the salary I do now. I finally called it quits and bought my much more efficient and much newer Civic. Thankfully I never had to make any harrowing 4am drives across unplowed and cratered I86W through Western NY in it, something the MPV absolutely excelled at. I’d say there’s something to be said about driving a large truck-ish vehicle long distances that helps alleviate fatigue. Although a large cushy sedan might very well accomplish the same thing with better fuel economy. With gas prices being low, I’m inclined to say keep rackin’ up those miles in your F150.

  • avatar

    Hmm, 650 miles is about 565 nm. That’s too far for a day trip in Skyhawk. I say nothing short of Bonanza will do. Or an RV :-)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Keep driving the F-150. Life’s too short to compromise, and I don’t know that I could tolerate anything less for long trips. It’s like the F-150’s made for them. Car seats or their riding position would probably beat me up. The F-150’s driver’s seat reclines almost flat, enough to sleep comfortably, no problem.

    It seemed bizarre to some viewers when a contestant entered an F-150 in the Bullrun Rally, but I knew exactly why AND the F-150 actually lasted to the final rounds. Everyone else had fast cars or econo/penalty boxes and they were stopping 2 or 3X as often for fuel. 34 gallon tanks came standard in F-150s then, same as mine, but they’re optional now.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Have dog, want economy and comfort… what recent discussions does this remind me of… This is why the CR-V and RAV4 break sales records. Seat test the many CUV options and find one that agrees with your butt.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    How about a Camry hybrid?
    Highway mileage beats the next best Camry by 4mpg. 39mpg highway
    Then there is the Accord hybrid that beats the Camry by another 6mpg highway rating, 45 mpg highway
    2016 Prius? Mine is pretty solid and comfortable by my standards, highway and motor noise levels are comparable to my old 97 v-6 Camry The ride is a bit firmer. 53 mpg highway
    When gas prices go back up these three cars will make even more sense as long distance cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Accord could be a good option since its Ecvt is set up to direct drive once in a moderate speed steady state cruise. That direct drive however will hurt if the speeds are high. The Accord Hybrid’s Ecvt is actually simpler than the Ford/Toyota units. However it does not have a long track record. The big worry however is the battery pack. Previous Honda Hybrid batteries have been short lived and problematic at best. Of course they may have actually properly engineered the battery pack in the new Accord. The other problem with the Accord Hybrid is that it has not sold well, so they are pretty rare.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    The guy needs to get a bike. A new US spec Intercepter is around 12K. A VFR1200 around 15k.

    Bikes and pickups are the answer to any guy’s problems.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Get a Challenger SXT the V6 will get you 30mpg and that big dog will eat up the miles in style and comfort. The price is not bad and with MB bones and out long enough to get the bugs out it should go a long time.

  • avatar
    14Tundra

    I’d stick with the truck. With current fuel prices, it would take an obscene amount of miles to offset the cost of a second vehicle. A ton of extra expense to end up less comfortable.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Easy. E-class diesel.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Since his miles are almost all highway, that rules out all hybrids. No real savings there at all.

    To me it would seem a diesel is the best option and since he is not going to be reselling whatever he buys until it has high mileage anyway, why not buy a VW diesel and benefit from their pathetic gaming of emissions? Perhaps he could buy a one year old one from someone trying to get away from VW – their problem is his benefit! Talk about depreciation!

    That said, he should not buy more than a year old VW – and buy the largest diesel vehicle he can buy that satisfies his need for comfort. A GTI is a rather stupid choice since it is small. I’d think that a Passat diesel would be an excellent choice – far roomier than just about anything else sold and the costs to acquire would be enough to make up for the increased cost of the fuel.

    Mercedes are nice but if something breaks you will pay through the nose.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      “Since his miles are almost all highway, that rules out all hybrids”.

      That would rule out the Prius, which gets 50MPG highway, which would be more than the Passat diesel, which gets 44 highway.

  • avatar
    MAGICGTI

    Not trying to sound like a car salesman here, but I’m selling my elderly neighbor’s 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXL with 28k miles and can’t think of a better tool for the job.

    Great highway MPG, indestructible 3.8, very depreciated.

    • 0 avatar

      What are you asking for it? Where is it located?

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        An 11 year old vehicle with 28k miles will need a near overhaul with regard to all soft parts. Plus new tires.

        As a veteran of a three year commute from Dallas to Baton Rouge and back, my advice is almost any decent vehicle with about 20k miles. There ain’t no perfect solution. Just find a low-miler, fairly late model at a good price.

        With $2.00 gasoline possibly a later model Panther is a good solution.

      • 0 avatar
        MAGICGTI

        Atlanta, $7k negotiable. Cashmere Gold over beige Grandma special. Has a few superficial bumps and bruises from a woman who had no business on the public roads.

        The above comment is true, it needed a new battery, tires, and oil from limited use. Done, done, and done.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    The goals are: Highway comfort, economy, longevity. Comfort wins on a road trip, more so than splitting hairs over +- a few MPG. A great deal awaits all interested parties on a new or used Malibu, Camry, Altima, Impala. I’ve driven them all and personally found the Impala (V6) and Altima (4-cyl) completely non-fatiguing at 80 mph for hours on end. You simply must have one for a weekend rental to decide. These are all readily available for the experiment, if you call around.


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