By on September 6, 2016

2010_Lexus_GX_460_003

Austin writes:

Bark,

For the last two years, my daily driver has been a used 2006 Audi A6 Avant (bought outright in cash). Living in Minnesota and attending college in a rural part of the state, it’s the ultimate vehicle. It swallows 4 people and gear for a spring break Chicago vacation, gets through the snowstorms, and has heated seats and steering wheel. It even averages 24 mpg!

However, its mileage has reached the point where it’s no longer economically feasible to hold onto (repair-wise) going into the spring of 2017. I’m trying to hold off until used car prices fall, because of lease returns. With a budget of $15,000, I’m hoping to get five-plus years of use out of my next vehicle. My search has gravitated towards larger vehicles that are kinda low-volume players (with a slightly better reliability record) like the Lincoln MKT, Toyota Sequoia, Lexus LS/GX, Volvo S80, etc. Something bigger and a little more cushy. So, what do you recommend?

Easy! Go get another Audi A6 Avant. Oh, wait, you said something that was reliable and would last for five years. My bad.

If my brother were writing this, he’d tell you that you don’t need something so big, and that you should just rent an SUV for those vacations, and that you should go buy a Fiesta ST and a set of snow tires. Coincidentally, my FiST, complete with a set of snow tires and wheels, is coming up for sale in February. No? Okay, fine. I tried.

I think you’ve got a nice list of potential choices. I’m guessing a bit at your age, but since you said that you’ve been attending college for the last few years, my assumption is that you’re a traditional student in your early-to-mid twenties. If that’s accurate, I’m a bit confused about your desire to own car/brand that would normally be driven by somebody about twenty years your senior. But perhaps you’re from an affluent family and you’ve always been one to drive a luxury or near-luxury brand, so that’s just your jam? There’s no judgment here, just curiosity.

Before we dive into your list, I have a couple of other recommendations that you might want to consider:

  • Ford Flex. This one is obvious, due to your preference for the MKT. I’d look at a non-EcoBoost V6 if you’re really wanting to reduce potential maintenance headaches.
  • Subaru Forester/Outback. Maybe not as large/cushy as you’d like, but with more of that off-road/winter-time cred, and oh-so-Minnesota!
  • Lincoln Navigator. Why not? They’re huge and don’t seem to hold value as well as corresponding MY Escalades. Yes, the mileage sucks, but they’re pretty bulletproof.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee. I actually genuinely like this idea. If you can find a later-model, Pentastar GC, that would be MY personal choice.

But, from your list, I’d probably go with a Lexus GX. It meets every stated requirement for the vehicle. I’m not personally aware of any known issues with them, and the Googler didn’t turn up anything significant, either. It will probably hold resale better than any of the other vehicles listed, too, so in five years it might not be worth that much less than you’ll pay for it today. Here’s a nice example in a beautiful color that’s aged particularly well. They don’t look that different from the modern-day Lexus GX, either, so nobody will know that you’re rolling in a car that’s getting ready to complete its first decade on the road.

Ask Bark some questions. Please. He’s bored. Shoot them to barkm302@gmail.com or slide into his DMs on Twitter or Instagram

[Image: Toyota]

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149 Comments on “Ask Bark Brief: How To Replace Something They Don’t Make Anymore...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    My limited experience with later model Volvos is their front suspensions don’t hold up, and have various HVAC issues as they get older.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      They have serious ECU issues too, I know on some models parts are married to the cars vin code, so replacing something like a power mirror means a trip to the dealer.

      You’d honestly be better off with an Audi, no matter how many timid car buffs tell you otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Their trim is good at rotting and falling off as well.

      And the S80 V8 gets the same MPG as a Suburban.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The GX is certainly bulletproof (one of the most reliable vehicles in existence, across all generations) but do you really want to go from your nimble, nice-driving car to a true truck? Make no mistake, the GX is a truck, handles like a truck, has the high floor and less-than-expected space of a truck, and drinks fuel like a truck.

    If the goal is to carry 4 people and gear in comfort with true all-weather capability, I’d consider an Acura MDX. Vastly less trucky and more engaging to drive, well-equipped, about as much interior space, and a pretty good reliability record.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      A crossover does make more sense in this case, I agree. I’d include the MKX and Acadia (snazzy in Denali trim).

      But, maybe he’s ready for a truck. Some people are ready for a change, and a lot prefer the experience awarded them by something tall and truck-like, even with the drawbacks.

      I knew a lady who had a late model Grand Caravan with issues (NO! RLY? lol) and traded it in on a GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab. She couldn’t be happier. You could talk all day about mpg, seating capacity and handling, but she would simply say “I love my truck” lol more power to em. Drive what you want. In her case, its bound to be far more reliable.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong in pointing out the differences, just that to some, it may not matter.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Eh, I’d stay away from cars that have basic part-time AWD systems—which disqualifies the Lambdas and anything on the CD3 platform like the MKX—and stick to something with a meatier or better-performing setup.

        How ever, the MKX, especially the 2011-2015, represents great value for the money if you don’t want or need much in the way of performance.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          How does the MKX or Acadia system compare to his Avant? I’m not familiar, but somehow I doubt it’s more meatier than those.

          • 0 avatar
            never_follow

            Transverse Haldex reactive AWD (you slip before it grips) vs. Torsen center diff (permanent AWD, rear biased)

            Haldex systems are usually pretty good, and do save fuel as they aren’t always connected. However, they aren’t nearly as surefooted, and aren’t bulletproof as Torsen style systems (See AWD Volvos).

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            I understand, but they likely wouldn’t be an issue for this person’s requirements, or would they?

          • 0 avatar
            never_follow

            A pair of snow tires would do the trick regardless if we’re being honest.

            Otherwise, they don’t seem to care much for dynamics, so you’re right, it is a moot point.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Unless you are rock climbing, there is nothing wrong with Haldex 4.0. My 2014 XTS VSport XWD is comfortable with almost 600 lb-ft of torque. I just changed the fluid on the differentials and there was barely any material on the magnet drain plug at almost 50K miles. Even braking torque from a stop will create all four wheels spinning on snow, no slipping needed.

            Hold the traction control button for 5 seconds and it is rear wheel drive mayhem with a touch of the throttle and some steering angle.

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          2008 Taurus X approaching 200k miles. Only power train issue has been 1 rear hub and bearing assy. Bulletproof doesn’t begin to describe it. Never got stranded during 2015 Boston snowpocalypse with only all season radials. Just added a 2012 MKX to the home fleet as they share essentially the same power train. I’d be looking at MKX/Edge or MKT/Flex.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Honestly, the biggest thing I think people don’t consider about trucks, and then dislike after purchase, is the reduced interior space. People assume that all vehicles have space inside roughly proportional to their size outside, and then get surprised when their trucks (especially trucks like the GX, the 4Runner, and the SWB GM SUVS) feel cramped for rear=seat passengers and don’t fit bulky cargo well.

        If he really wants a truck, that’s fine — he should just be aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of switching to a truck.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          4Runner has about the same rear legroom and equal/more cargo space than most midsize CUVs, for what it’s worth. Pre-10 GX is also pretty darn decent, the 10+ trucks with mandatory third row lost quite a bit of cargo capacity.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          You’re right about that. The second row on the GX is cramped, and the third-row seats don’t fold flat because of the axle.

          And there was a time when truck-based SUVs were smaller inside and out than their car counterparts, too. If I remember correctly, a first-generation Explorer was shorter (in both wheelbase and overall length) and narrower than a contemporary Taurus wagon. And the Explorer was already bigger than the four-door versions of the Cherokee and the Bravada/Blazer/Jimmy trio.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Being based on a compact platform rather than a midsize, the first- and second-gen Explorers were definitely both shorter and narrower than Taurus wagons, but as many buyers soon discovered, the cargo area could take taller loads than a low-roofed wagon, even factoring in how much floor height the live axle ate up. The shift to a mid-size platform with IRS in 2002 helped alleviate many of these issues, and by then the Taurus was a dead car driving anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          I agree being body on frame with a solid axle robs interior space, no doubt about it.

          I enjoyed the ruggedness of my Isuzu Trooper for different reasons than I enjoy, say, the handling of a 98 Civic Si or Prelude SH.

          But, with only two children and no plans for more, the Sierra having less interior room was just fine. A 7 passenger G.Caravan was overkill strictly speaking on space/capacity. This guy didn’t mention a family or plans for one, although that can happen without warning sometimes lol.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Yeah, a two-row vehicle (especially a crew cab truck, which will benefit from having a larger wheelbase than almost any car) is a perfectly fine family vehicle. I don’t know why people are so dead-set on the specific criterion of having three rows. I grew up in the 90s and 2000s, and our two-parent / two-child family had several SUVs and crossovers, none with three rows. If we needed to transport that many people twice a year, we just took separate cars or rented something.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Keyree, my parents went to under capacity (3 seater Ranger standard cab and a 4 passenger Escort with a family of 5) to over capacity (seven passenger Aerostar XL Extended Length).

            We may not have used two of the seats, but there was a lot less fighting amongst us, and I didn’t miss the bed of the Ranger with an aluminum canopy on it when my mom had the Escort and dad had us, or when all 5 of us went in one vehicle lol.

            I don’t know why my dad didn’t get a 5 passenger Tempo instead the Escort. Even over long term reliability, they used the same manual transaxle, and Tempo’s HSC was more durable than the 1.9L CVH, although the only trouble the Escort had was a stripped spark plug that blew out when it was about five- six years old. It was totalled in 1992 after we replaced it in 1990 as the family car with the new Aerostar.

          • 0 avatar

            3 kids here. With modern car seats it’s way better with 3 rows.

        • 0 avatar
          Dsemaj

          Agreed. I just spent 4 weeks around the US with heavy film gear and luggage, and apart from the LWB Suburban we got, Minivans did a far better job of swallowing gear.

          The Toyota Sienna did by far the best job, but the Infinti QX80 (aka Patrol, new Armada) was next to hopeless. Barely any cargo room relative to size, and the “styling” meant you couldn’t have any tall items near the tailgate. We paid an extra $25/day and we would’ve been better with the Nissan Quest we had in NYC/Philly…

          Kia Sedona wasn’t a bad rigger either. Not as big as the Toyota Sienna, but wasn’t saddled with the woeful CVT of the Nissan Quest.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I compared a couple of replacement parts on rockauto for 2004 Lexus GX and GMC Yukon, the Timken wheel bearing assemblies were similar priced but the alternator was almost $100.00 more for the Lexus.

      You’ll have a hard time besting a lower cost of ownership of a decade old Yukon/Tahoe/Escalade.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Throw in a t-case replacement or transmission on that GM and we’ve quickly reached parity (to be fair, GX will need spendy t-belt replacement at 90k and 180k miles). The GMs definitely have sturdy bones and are pretty easy to wrench on, but for me the difference in quality and attention to detail is just too vast to ignore. Even switching from Toyota’s own US-designed/built gen 1 Sequoia to a Tahara-built GX is really eye opening. For the ultimate in utility, a GMT800 Suburban is simply hard to match. But if I wanted a comfy cruiser and had $15k to spend, I’d pick the GX all day long.

        As an aside, watch out for Timken stuff these days. Makes me sad as I had some direct family connections to their manufacturing in Canton Ohio, but a ton of the automotive grade stuff got outsourced to South Korea. They just don’t last anymore.

        • 0 avatar

          I can live with crappy build quality but the Tahoe resale is not all that far behind Toyota’s. That said If I could find a clean example of both it would be a hard choice between a Sequioa and a Tahoe (I like the GX better then both). While the 4L60 gets a bad rap I have seen several (including a former company truck I had) that made it over 200,000 miles and based on the number of high mileage Tahoes around I assume many others have too. The 2009 and up with the 6L 80 seem to have few failures so far but they seem to start around 17k for one with under 100k miles on it.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          When you’re shopping below $15k, you’ve got much better -availability- of GM options than Sequoias as well. The Gen 1 Sequoia looks a bit derpy and hasn’t aged well IMO, and the interior is pretty bad, even in Limited trim. Most of them are used up and have considerable amounts of rust.

          Lots more 00-06 GMs around, though they are overpriced even with high miles. Interiors are more modern with straight lines, rather than the pod look the Sequoia had. Got mine all serviced up yesterday, all fluids changed out.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I won’t delve into arguments for or against GMT800 vs 1g Sequoia interiors, they’re both rather icky IMO. Toyotas materials and paint on switches etc holds up better IMO, but both have bad panel gaps. Needless to say the GX blows both out of the water, BUT the dash top cracking issue is something to keep in mind as well.

            From a mechanical standpoint yes 4L60E can go the distance depending on use, in fact it’s the early-year Sequoias (01-03) that deserve criticism for transmission reliability. I do prefer the Toyota’s 4wd setup with a constant open split front to back with an option to lock 50/50, over the GM’s “auto” setting.

            Tahoe is definitely a more affordable bang for the buck option, clean 05-07 Sequoias with close to 100k miles are still in the upper teens for a clean one. I’m looking at a GX tomorrow with 130k miles that is listed for $13k, I’m hoping that’s quite negotiable as I have confirmed that the tires are mismatched and there is no confirmation of the t-belt service being completed at 90k. Tsk-tsk! Need to factor in a fresh set of Michelin LTX MS-2s and a full servicing at my brother’s if I were to scoop this thing up.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Sounds like he needs to come down at least what, $1500-1700? Might be rough. I always figure you have to count on the buyer who overlooks these things and will pay asking price, because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Kills the idea of negotiating for the savvy enthusiast!

            I’m liking how cheap/available the GM parts are, I’ve fixed two things myself for $45.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            gtemnykh, why the Michelin’s specifically? For a guy with as much knowledge as you, I’ve got to ask.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            PrincipalDan, I happen to think that Michelins as a whole are a top tier tire brand, with a good reputation for making smooth riding, quiet, long lasting tires that perform well. Of course, you pay for that. the LTX MS2 in particular is well regarded to be the sweet spot for folks looking for good capability (including some snow), but don’t want gnarly A/T tires that worsen fuel economy and are noisier.

            I haven’t put my money where my mouth is on my current 4Runner, I’ve been driving on the General Grabber HTS tires it came with when I bought it. I like how these perform, but they have worn quicker and are now noticeably louder as they near the 30% remaining tread line. They are however some of the most affordable all season truck/SUV options that come from a respectable manufacturer (owned by Continental, most stuff made in USA or Europe).

            A Lexus simply deserves a high quality set of matching tires from a top tier manufacturer IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Corey yes I think these omissions warrant a $1500 drop (in my mind) but you’re right all the seller needs to do is find an equally ignorant buyer and it’s a done deal.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I would generally agree. And for $15 you’ll be getting a newer MDX with lower miles than the GX. It’s going to be quite hard to find a GX which is old enough to be in budget without 150,000+ miles on it.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Corey I think $15k is right around the sweet spot for a decent GX with 120-140k ish miles. I was looking at an 85k mile unti for $17k a few months ago, and am now looking at a 130k mile example for $13k. The key is sifting through the beaten up trucks that have neglected maintenance schedules to find the one owner cream puffs. Also keeping in mind the condition of the factory electronic-damping struts, that’s about $1500ish in parts and labor to refresh that with OE parts right there.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m a major GX homer so if you want an SUV (and don’t have 7000+ lbs towing needs) I recommend it completely with just two things to keep in mind:

    – The GX470 uses a timing belt (probably not a big deal as you’ve owned an Audi for awhile).

    -It gorges fuel. You’ll likely get 14-16 combined and I think the Lexus V8 specs premium.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The newer 4.6-liter, used in the current 2nd-gen GX460 as well as the LS460 and the old GS460, requires premium.

      The older 4.7-liter in the original GX470, LX470, Tundra, Land Cruiser, 4Runner, etc, is a truck motor and does not require premium. Since this person would be looking at the 4.7-liter, premium fuel isn’t really a concern.

      You could kind of look at the contrast in those two engines like GM’s Northstar family of V8s versus a Vortec from one of the big trucks or SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “fuel economy isn’t really a concern.”

        Well, even if the GX470 takes 87 octane, it still gets like 15 MPG. Depending on budget and miles driven that could be an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Kyree Lexus did in fact recommend premium on the 4.7L in the GX and LX, although I doubt running it on regular will do any harm.

        4.6 is every bit as truck-worthy when retuned for it, they’ve put it in the GX and Tundra. It is a different family of motors, the newer alloy-block URs, but I have little doubt that they will be equally reliable and long-lasting.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I know the letter author wants something bigger and more cushy, but the Q5 is pretty much an exact match for that A6 in interior volume/dimensions, while having more ground clearance and the like:

    http://www.cars.com/go/compare/trimCompare.jsp?acodes=USC60AUS021B0,USB60AUC022A0

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    If you are borrowing any money for college, stop. Do not borrow more for a car unless the one you have dies. Then buy soeething low rent like a used FCA such as a Dart or 200 on the cheap until such time as all your debts are paid and you have accumulated some money.
    This free advice does not apply if you are able to finance college through scholarships, part time jobs or come from a family who is well off enough to pay for your college expenses without borrowing to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Also, don’t run with scissors, floss daily and follow your dreams.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Find a brand new loaded 200 V-6 right now for $15k, is that what you said? Huh. That’s one idea.

      Nahh I’m against unnecessary debt as well, but he bought the Audi for cash, I’m guessing there are provisions in place to provide for his needs, school etc.

      I may be wrong and its really none of our business.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        You probably *could* find a discounted AWD V6 Chrysler 200 that cheap given enough time, and definitely a lightly used one. However I agree with you; it sounds to me like this person wants something with a long roof for recreational equipment, and that he has his finances in check. Even if he does decide to take on debt with college loans, that’s not automatically a bad thing. It depends on a person’s unique financial situation.

        Recommending that he purchas a 200 or Dart, even a used one, may be particularly bad advice, because nothing to me suggests that those vehicles are anywhere near the bottom of their depreciation curves, especially since they’re being discontinued. He’ll buy it used for $15K, and then when he goes to sell it in two years, it’ll be worth half that, or less…versus a GX, which—like most Toyota trucks—has historically-low depreciation.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          My initial paragraph was more of a joke.

          I do like the 200’s styling, and one would probably last 5 years, a good bit of it under warranty (or all of it if need be). I think the Pentastar is decent enough and its hard to argue with the price assuming he could find it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The kid paid cash for a not-that-old A6. I doubt he is getting in debt to his eyeballs to pay for school. Not that any of this is in any way relevant to anything.

      I’d say if you like the A6 and were happy with it, just find another, nicer, lower mileage one. Or a Mercedes wagon – $15K will get you a quite nice one of those, and they age more gracefully than the Audi anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      Thankfully, scholarships and my employer are funding my college. The cost for me to attend college is zero. Not factoring in not having a life so I can get and maintain good enough grades to keep said status quo.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Having a life is lame, just buy more cars!

        Signed,

        The people of TTAC

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          I tried that when I originally went shopping for my first car. It was than all my hopes were dashes and I realized, I could not afford that used Infiniti M56x I wanted. So I had to go get a job and more education to keep one of my various dreams alive. As you can see, I haven’t lost all hope yet.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The M56x has, frankly, too much engine! The 35x is all you need, and gets poor enough mileage – and is much easier to find.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    How about a Nissan Xtrail? or, even an AWD Hyundai or Kia like the Sportage?

    Subaru Forester? Honda?

    There is so many to choose from. I don’t see this guys problem.

    This ain’t rocket science.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      We don’t have the Xtrail here. We do have the Xterra, which benefits from being rock-solid and BOF, but it’s also pretty agricultural. It sounds like the OP wants some luxury with his winter warrior.

      And the part-time AWD system in a Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage probably isn’t going to cut it for someone looking for a proper winter car.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Those light duty, city-cuv’s, won’t tow more than 3,500 lbs but are better for putting racks for bikes and paddle boards on.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Acura MDX.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s not a bad bet. Like, a 2008 or 2009 can come in under $20K, avoids the issues of the earlier Honda V6 transmission woes, looks suitably modern, and has standard SH-AWD. Despite its transverse engine, it dances as well as a contemporary X5, but is more reliable.

      Of course, it still requires premium fuel, and fuel-economy is somewhat poor for a crossover. And it won’t have low-range gearing, like the GX, but then…neither does the A6 Avant.

      • 0 avatar
        AVT

        While not initially on my consideration list, it certainly is a serious contender now. Granted, I still draw issue with the fact that an ecoboost flex/MKT can offer far more power and still get better fuel economy in roughly the same package. That being said, the MDX’s reliability seems pretty strong overall.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Is it better to buy a Acura/Honda on it’s 2nd or 3rd transmission?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Rule of thumb is a new transmission every 20 years or 250K miles. Alternatively, you can do your research and identify the few models and years that were impacted and avoid those, or buy cars that Honda/Acura remediated, often at their cost.

        Hey, as a public service, Norm, could you publish this year’s practice schedule for the GM cheerleader squad? You’re still the manager, right?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…its mileage has reached the point where it’s no longer economically feasible to hold onto”

    So it’s now past 36,000 miles?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Sounds to me like you’re looking more at longevity than fuel economy, because none of these vehicles is going to touch 24 MPG combined.

    The first-gen 2003-2009 GX (GX470) is a pretty bulletproof car. There are a few things to consider:

    -The transfer cases on some of them need to be replaced. You’ll know if you have an issue there because the car will momentarily fail to transmit power to any of the wheels. You’ll basically be in neutral.

    -It has adjustable rear air suspension. Suspension components are wear items, and a lot of them are getting to the age at which that’s going to need replacing. So budget for that.

    -There is an issue I’ve seen on the earlier ones where the dashboard cover completely cracks. Toyota has admitted that this is an issue and that it’s their fault, but I’m not sure how they’re handling it. My family-friend’s 2004 GX, which he bought new, has a cracked dash.

    Side note: try to find one with the navigation unit, because I believe Lexus bundled that with the Mark Levinson audio system. It makes a huge difference.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      You could get nav without Mark Levinson.

      The Mark Levinson system in the GX is an upgrade, but it’s not in the same class as the “Mark Levinson Reference Surround” systems in the LX and LS.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Oh, okay. I thought they bundled it together. Maybe I’m thinking of something else they bundled, like navigation and sunroof.

        I do know from experience that the Mark Levinson in the GX is a profound upgrade, even though it doesn’t compare to the flagship Mark Levinson in the pricier cars.

        My pick for best sound system I’ve ever tested was a Bang & Olufsen in a current-model Audi A8.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    At that price point in Southern Ontario for a GX he would be looking at about a 10 year old model with about 190,000kms (118,000 miles) on the clock.

    For not much more he can get a nearly new Sportage, Tuscon or an off lease CRV or Subaru.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    The Lincoln MkT “bat signal” has alerted me to this post.

    I will say no to the MkT suggestion by Austin because $15,000 isn’t enough coin for a good one. You want 2013+, 3.5TT, and 20K-50K miles. That’s where the MkT has value. Bark is right, the 3.5L non-turbo Flex SE or SEL would be a better choice.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      When I was looking at the MKT’s/Flex’s, I specifically looked at the older models for two reasons. One, the 2013+ interior controls on the MKT are far less usable/responsive than they should be. Two, the pricing on the 2013+ is still high, possibly because there is still some form of fleet demand for them.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        The 2010-2012 versions won’t be as robust. Everything 2013+ had the benefit of a few years of Ecoboost V6 production and improvements from the 2011 Explorer. 2013 isn’t a new vehicle, but it’s a significant refresh.

        If you are buying an AWD 2010-2012 MkT or Flex, make sure the PTU has been replaced. Not just one that had the seals replaced. It will eventually die. It will cost you $1300 or more.

        As for the controls on the 13+, they are okay once you get used to them. The steering wheel buttons are really good and MFT > whatever Nav/infotainment thing Ford had in there previously.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          I know the first MKT I looked at (a 2010 ecoboost in frost white), they had to replace the PTU after they found out the car went into limp mode going through a car wash. Still can’t test drive it because now their waiting on the wiring harness for it. Arrival date, sometime in October. It had everything I wanted though, captain seats in the second row, full length console with fridge, and all the extra active safety tec.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    volvo xc wagon would check all the boxes he needs , pretty cheap used , take your time find a good one. they have been around forever so parts are easy to come by, you find a solid indie and you should be good, and I doubt they are beaten on so you should have no problems w getting 5 years out of it, and the size and drive will be similar to your Audi.

  • avatar
    JayDub

    Sorry I don’t have time to make this post shorter –

    Funny, I just sold my 2009 GX470 for family reasons (I now have a brood of three young children, so I switched to a Sienna AWD lease). However this was my second 2009 GX470; my ex also has one.

    The GX470 is like a V8 4Runner in a tuxedo. Few used vehicles under $25K (with close to 100K miles on the odometer) can pull executive duty, family duty, cruise the mall, conquer mountains, and still go another 200,000+ miles.

    Sure, these amazing SUV’s are known to go 300,000+ miles when properly maintained. However it is critical to change the GX470 timing belt and the water pump at 90,000 miles. I also suggest replacing the radiator; sometimes they have slight leaks. All told, I invested $3K at the dealer in this maintenance (because I thought I was keeping it forever). So, make sure the one you buy has the 90K already completed, or be ready to make the repair / investment yourself.

    A few other points:

    Some of these had the “Sport” package. This included KDSS (in later years, the KDSS comes standard), plus other goodies like a different suspension and dark graphite trim. They are the ultimate unicorn. All the people/dealers selling 2004-2009 GX’s will lie, and tell you “Sure, it has Sport mode!”. But you will truly know if it has the GX Sport Package, if/when turning on the vehicle, the KDSS illuminates on the dash. Plus the dark graphite trim. I doubt you will find it. More importantly, the vehicle does not need the Sport Package; it already has a sport setting, plus 4WLO. Some also argue the sport suspension is prone to failure.

    Some GX’s also come with DVD players (I opted to forgo this dated look), and/or factory trailer hitch (hell yes). I also invested in WeatherTech all-weather floor mats.

    2008/2009 is the GX’s best year(s), because the tail lights look better (2008/2009 has clear & red lights… earlier years had amber & red lights), and it was the final year before re-design. Plus 2008/2009 were not prone to cracked dashboards. The 2010 – 2016 GX remodels are ugly AND more expensive.

    GX highway mpg will never beat 22mpg. More like 21 or even the labeled 18/19 mpg. City is around 14/15 mpg. Premium fuel.

    These SUV’s are starting to become popular with the Overlander crowd. They realize the first 100K miles were probably put on by a mellow (?) soccer mom at the mall. As such this rig is ready for a trip to Tierra Del Fuego and back.

    I would buy a 2008 or 2009 GX over earlier years. And I would buy a 2008 or 2009 GX over a used 4Runner, because it is nicer w/ leather, comes with the buttery V8, and is a similar (used) price.

    I happen to be in the minority, but I am a fan of the refrigerator-type swinging rear door. I prefer this type of hatch, so it doesn’t swing upwards and hit my rocket box or my surfboards ;)

    For those who say the GX470 is cramped (I disagree), I once stuffed 11 adults and young kids into my GX470, and drove two blocks home from the Del Mar county fair! All kids were in proper safety seats, including the baby in my wife’s womb.

    Lastly, according to the internet, some of the GX’s were prone to a transmission with a slight “clunk”. I had mine repeatedly checked when it was serviced. Nothing was ever found. That stated, it occasionally clunked. But I did not care because it was a proper truck, and not an RX350 (old white guy accountant’s car)!

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    2012 Ford Fusion SEL AWD for around $12,000 – leaves money in your $15,000 for a service contract and or repair reserve.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I love the Lexus people here…no matter what you have, you need to replace it with a Lexus!!

    “Get this 10-year-old luxury vehicle with 4WD with a transfer case and a million drivetrain points of failure, that has over 100,000 miles on it – dead solid reliable – but don’t get anything with a turbocharger…too many things to go wrong!”

    An Audi Avant you need to replace? Just get a giant 5,000-lb pagoda-styled dinosaur.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I’ll take my chances with a 4wd Toyota drivetrain with 100k miles over something German and turbocharged with a third of the mileage. Having said that, I’m seriously looking at a new Passat 1.8TSI (maxima is listed for sale).

      The GX470 has the fulltime system with a Torsen center diff. Low range is selected with a mechanical lever. Only the center diff is locked via electrical solenoid. Rock solid system I’d say. the 2UZ 4.7L is known to go many hundreds of thousands of miles, for example the million mile ’07 Tundra that was in the news a few months ago. Just don’t neglect the t-belt interval too much and you’re golden.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Data don’t lie. I’m no fan of the GX’s packaging or the way it drives but its reliability stats are superlative no matter what data set you use.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “no matter what you have, you need to replace it with a Lexus!!”

      You should be happy. This means more VWs and Mazdas for you!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      You’re too cranky, Fordson. (Although “5,000lb pagoda-styled dinosaur is quite funny and apropos) The OP himself referenced the GX and is specifically getting rid of the Audi because of repair costs. Curious what large German turbocharged AWD sled would fit his bill within the $15K price range.

      Kyree, care to remind him about how awesome your new X5 was?

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        After having the Audi for so long, after he gets the GX maybe he can find a set of aftermarket outriggers for it, so it won’t tip over.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          Ya, I test drove a GX470 since this entire article came online. While it does ride like its suspended on clouds, its handling characteristics, reminded me why I got a wagon in the first place. I’ve sorta concluded that it’s not going to work for me and my needs. However, the suggestion of an Acura MDX is going to get some serious consideration from me.Guess I never thought about one, but looking at them now, seems highly comparable to my wagon. Give or take a 3rd row of seats.

      • 0 avatar
        AVT

        Ya, looking at where my Audi is at right now, when I originally emailed Bark about this, I was decently confident I could get it into next year. Now, I’m thinking I was over optimistic and Christmas this year will be getting a vehicle since I still need to be able to drive to work after the New Years. And go to college. I don’t see the Audi reliably doing that over the next 3 months.

  • avatar
    DrSandman

    Odd. No love for the Jeep Grand Cherokee? We get 24mpg highway on regular fuel. It’s Big, Safe, Comfortable, & Plush. The rear seats recline and the steering wheel is heated on the Overland.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Out of OP’s price range unless he wants the steaming-poo WK1 body style.

      • 0 avatar

        you can get 2011 Laredo’s with 75-90k according to cars.com for 15-16k. But your not getting a nicely optioned one. The Penta star 5 speed combo in these is pretty reliable I don’t think you will have an issue getting one to 200k miles.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          mopar the first year pentastar motors had a ton of head-casting related failures, to the point that Chrysler has extended warranties on all 2011-2013 pentastars, but hasn’t been willing to issue a recall. The GC forums are chock full of people with issues even on newer trucks.

          • 0 avatar

            True, that’s one reason to buy a low mileage one better chance to get a replacement if needed (10 years 150k miles). I do wonder the actual amount of failures. It does get reported but True Delta and Consumer reports seems to show average reliability and True delta shows the engine as not the most problematic component (that goes to the air suspension) I know a number of people with 2011 Penta stars in various vehicles so far no one I know personally has had the issue (about 12 cars) FCA claims the failure rate is well under 1% but given the number of Penta stars FCA makes in a year thats still is quite a few engines(but not 6.0 Powerstroke engine bad)

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I question long term electrical fidelity and trim worthiness in the GC.

    • 0 avatar

      “Jeep Grand Cherokee. I actually genuinely like this idea. If you can find a later-model, Pentastar GC, that would be MY personal choice.”

      How much more love would you like me to give it?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I would not want to buy a $15k WK2 Grand Cherokee. That almost guarantees it’d be an ex-fleet 2011 Laredo with over 100k miles. My hypothesis is that one should not own one of these WK2 body Grand Cherokees much past 100k miles, drop it like a hot potato if you can after warranty runs out. The days of 200k+ mile Grand Cherokees like the ZJ/WJ trucks are over IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Were the ZJ trucks really like that? I remember a lot of engine/transmission issues on the V8 models. My neighbor has a low-ish mile ZJ V8 Limited with a lot of charisma but a steady supply of broken parts.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Most of the ones I see on CL are beaten to death 200k mile units. The viscous coupling craps out on the V8 models, transmissions seem a bit hit or miss. The motors themselves are pretty darn sturdy whether you choose the small block LA or the 4.0L I6. Now, I have no idea how well the accessories might hold up. Next to jellybean explorers, ZJ grand cherokees were the most common SUVs I saw in rural mexico. I know two people with WJs that went over 200k as well on original drivetrains, although they were in sad shape by the end of it (due to neglect mostly).

            What I’m thinking as far as the WK2s go is that the accessories will do no better, but now they’ve lost the sturdy old school drivetrains that can withstand neglect well. The 5spd auto transmission should be okay, but the suspensions, motors, and transfer case actuation are all suspect IMO.

          • 0 avatar

            ZJ’s are cockroaches of the road. Resale is pretty bad and lots of crap breaks but the basic drivetrain will often keep working for 100’s of thousands of miles. They are also cheap to fix and easy to work on. If you can deal with the sucking of gas they make very good beater cars.

      • 0 avatar
        DrSandman

        I meant _besides_ you, esteemed Mr. Bark. ;-) I know that I am thinking the right thoughts when only one or two other people agree with me. Cheers, mate.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      I have one of those too (2015 Overland) and it’s a great vehicle when it’s working right. Problem is that it hardly ever does. The 8-speed transmission is very problematic on these things. Almost everyone I know who has one has some sort of problem with the transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The personal appeal of the WJ and WK1 is that I could keep it on the road basically forever (I live in the South so no rust or anything). I’ve found them easier to work on than the Explorer, Trailvoy, or 1G Tundra but YMMV.

      I don’t have any experience with the WK2 or ZJ.

      That said, unless you’re towing or budget limited I’d get the 4Runner or GX.

  • avatar
    myheadhertz

    I own a 2004 Lexus GX470 with 148,000 miles on it. Maintenance is up to date. Runs like new. Interior looks ‘almost new’. I can live with 16 mpg on regular gas.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    My ’14 JGC Limited has heated/vented seats and heated wheel. The wife has a ’12 Laredo X which has heated leather seats.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    4Runner was going to be my suggestion. Though my neighbor up the street just bought a used one. Paid 9k, it has 200k on the odo. I don’t think I can bring myself to ever do that. Moving on.

    I wanted to post my college car question more pertinent to the life I led when in college..

    Dear Bark,
    My izuzu space cab 2×4 with 110k finally died. I have 1.5 semesters to go, I will graduate this spring! Woot Woot. The good news is I have my rent paid up for two months AND have $350 in my checking account along with nothing on my citibank card so I am good up to $500 (limit). The bad news. I have an internship for next semester in the next town, Wyoming you know, so i will have a 104 mile round trip commute each afternoon for work. What would you recommend? I am thinking Panther platform or old chevy full size anything as the pick and pull here has lots of motors for $50. What say you?

    **actual events.. went with a LTD wagon. paid $1200, financed $800, drove it for 20k miles, got $200 on trade after graduation, real job, etc** 15k budget in college WTF.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    >Subaru Forester/Outback. Maybe not as large/cushy as you’d like…

    The 2010+ Outback is as large on the inside as most C/SUVs. However it is no Audi in the looks department.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Since the OP mentioned the LS as a possibility, here’s a data point.

    Our last trip of any length was 3 weeks ago in our LS430, and it went off without a hitch.

    Real (not computer) mileage was the 260 mile ride home, average speed 63.4 mph and netted 25.7 mpg.

    Comfy as always.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      $15k will get you an LS, but it will need a bit of work. It will be either a non-UL LS430 or an ’07-’08 LS460 with high-ish miles. Expect to need to replace worn suspension and brake parts.

      • 0 avatar
        55_wrench

        Didn’t happen in our case. We found a 2003 base model (you don’t want the air suspension anyway) for 14k 2 years ago.
        It had 68,000 miles, struts and timing belt was already replaced by the PO.
        It’s all in the maintenance history..be patient, they are out there.
        All it’s needed in the last 2 years has been rear brake pads, a battery and a 54 dollar Denso oxygen sensor.

        Toyota heritage comes through quite well here. Replacement parts are cheap and the stuff unique to Lexus we have found to be dependable.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Nice find. My ’08 LS460 with only 43,000 miles (when I bought it last year) had the dreaded fragile control arm bushings and needed 8 new front control arms. Expensive surgery, but once that was done all it’s needed was a battery and a set of rear pads.

      • 0 avatar
        AVT

        Did not realize that the 07-08 LS460’s could not be had with AWD unless you got the 600hl version (well out of my price and rationality range). So the LS460 is no longer a consideration for me.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Cannot for the life of me understand why a truck solves any of his issues. The answer is Outback. Done, it’s EXACTLY what he needs.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    MKFlex.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Not sure if they’d be considered adequately cushy, and both are hideous, but based on my market, a Toyota Venza or Accord Crosstour with reasonable mileage is doable.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      Toyota Venza was a possible candidate. Until I drove one and realized it rode worse than my Audi. Thank you even bigger rims and low profile tires. As for the Accord Crosstour, due to the shape of the trunk (think Audi A7), the actual usable space (because in the real world, I don’t pack everything in perfectly triangle boxes) is substantially diminished. At that point, mind as well just get a sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Out of curiosity, did you try out an I4 or V6 Venza? I believe the V6 got an automatic +1 wheel size as standard. The base wheels were still massive, but it might at least bring you back to the Audi’s standard.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          I tried fully loaded V6 model Venza. Power wasn’t the problem, the problem was the ride. And unfortunately, the V6 models by default get an even stiffer suspension tune, so downsizing the tire size probably still would not fix the problem. Not to mention it would make the car look ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            Sorry, that’s what I meant, that maybe an I4 model would be adequate, if you’re desperate for options. I don’t know if the smaller wheels look all that ridiculous, but I’m a proponent of all the sidewall.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “I don’t pack everything in perfectly triangle boxes”

        Weirdo, who doesn’t? :o)

        “Thank you even bigger rims and low profile tires.”

        Couldn’t one just put Camry grade steelies on it and call it a night?

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          I promised myself I would not write ZDX.

          • 0 avatar
            AVT

            Lol, I looked at one. It’s even worse than the Crosstour because they decided if you want people in the second tow, they can’t be taller than 5 ft. It certianly looks cool to me and its really rare to see one, but man, there’s good reason for that. Mainly being, you can only have one other human sized passenger with. Otherwise, everyone else is going to suffer. Also, they are still out of my price range.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Out of left field:

    05-06 Montero Limited.

    Better road holding than the GX470 at the expense of a stiffer ride (unibody with IRS, stiffly sprung). $15k will buy you the cleanest one in the country as well as money for maintenance. Roomy as all get out, and an awesome driving position. I liken it to the SUV version of an old Honda. Super low cowl, massive upright windshield, insane visibility.

    Reliable trucks that have had their reputations marred by negligent BHPH-ers.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This thought, if OP wants a truck, I likes it.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’ve looked for a clean one of these on and off for about 5 years and have seen and test driven at least 6 or 7 at this point. They do rust (rear quarter panels when you open rear doors) so watch for that. Top end oil leaks are very common but easily fixed (valve cover gaskets, ‘half-moon’ rubber cam plugs). T-cases get sticky from lack of use (cycle system enough times or replace all 4wd solenoids for about $150), and transmissions are sensitive to fluid type (torque converter chatter, replace ATF immediately with Mitsu Diaqueen SPIII). Some driveline/powertrain vibrations and resonance that can be mostly solved curiously by taking off the rubber damping block that’s hanging off the transmission. Lastly control arm bushings to wear and go bad, replacing the front control arms is a bit spendy but definitely worth doing.

        Like I said, the hardest part is just finding one that’s been owned by the wealthy suburbanite who decided he didn’t want a Land Cruiser, rather than a truck that’s been through the typical 3-ish owners, by which time it is just not worth fixing up like I outlined above.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You told me to give up on the Montero because there were no good ones left and parts availability will be a concern!

          What is dis!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Well like I said, I’ve been looking for a clean one forever and still haven’t found one. I actually met up with a guy from Expedition Portal locally that did a fly and drive out to Washington to pick up a clean and maintained ’04(?) Limited with about 100k miles. Previous owner was a pretty well to do guy that lifted it 2 inches with OME HD suspension (very stiff) and fitted it with E-rated Goodyear Duratrac. Very poor behavior on road as expected with vibration and road noise galore.

            And yes these aren’t Toyotas as far as parts support goes.

            So I guess I’m sending the OP on a unicorn hunt, but if he truly did find a nice one out West, it might fit his needs well.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Okay, that’s better. I can add to the unicorn hunt a final model year Trooper in high trim with low miles, and no rust. :)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Around here 4Runners cost nearly or as much as the GX, and the GX will usually have less miles and be in better condition. If the market is similar where he is, might as well get a GX.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Forget the used Volvo unless you want to spend the purchase price on it again in 3-4 years. Get a V6 Flex instead, that is also built on a shared Volvo/Ford platform.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Just because you say it doesn’t make it true.

      Visit any S80 forum and you’ll find that P3 owners (ie: post-2006) are a generally happy bunch with no serious widespread issues. My own experience thus far with a 2012 S80 is that it’s trouble-free, cheap to insure, and allows easy DIY maintenance. It helps having a FWD non-turbo version, but that’s just common sense with any car.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I was casually looking at P3 S80s last night, dang there’s some sub-50k mile AWD V8 cars well within budget… the one thing that I don’t particularly care for is how interiors hold up on newer Volvos (Corey can back me up here). Some of the fastest wearing leather on seats that I’ve ever seen! Don is yours a FWD 3.2 model? How many miles does it have and does it burn any oil?

        I’m kind of playing around in a similar space as the OP except open to FWD. At the high end is a new Passat 1.8TSI SE that I should be able to find for right around $20k-ish. Seeing all these S80s in the low-mid teens makes me want to at least give them a fair shake. Likewise I’d been making arrangments to go look at a 130k mile GX470 this week ($13k advertised, private seller on CL).

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          Take one for a drive. They ride very well and I think they have a very nice interior for the price. Plus some really comfy seats. Look for a 2012 or later model if you can. They redid the interior and upgraded the 3.2 Inline Six engine for a bit more power plus played around with the transmission programming. Makes a noticeable difference.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Back up provided, above and here. Ha.

        • 0 avatar
          don1967

          Yeah, mine is a 3.2 FWD… CPO Hertz car with 40k. Oil level doesn’t budge, contrary to a small but vocal minority of XC owners who have to top up between (annual) changes.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Only a tiny fraction of owners of any car will post on a forum about it. You’re looking at a small, self-selecting group and pretending it’s representative of the whole. CR only has data for the ’07 S80, but there are plenty of black dots under it.

        • 0 avatar
          don1967

          If there’s any bias in the forums it’s that they tend to be complaint magnets. As for CR’s magical dots, the 2007 model year currently bears 12 red dots vs. 4 black dots. Every other model year shows “insufficient data”.

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        Just chiming to say my experience with my 2012 S80 3.2 has been very good so far. Great car for the money.

  • avatar
    jhughes

    I love the Flex. My wife has a 2012 Limited with the EcoBoost 3.5. It’s the ultimate kid hauler and tow vehicle. I could drive it to the track with my motorcycle on the trailer, then sleep in the back at the track!

    The only problem is they’re not that common because they’re not popular in most places. You’re also going to have a hard time finding one for $15,000. Skip the EcoBoost like Bark says and go for an SE or SEL to cut the price down, but you’re still going to want AWD, and the lesser models may lose some of the luxury items you want.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      That’s the problem I keep running into. If I get the flex, I essentially have to get the limited model with the ecoboost. Problem is, I can’t find any near me. Than I run into the point that the MKT takes a greater depreciation hit and it’s actually cheaper to acquire and insure. Out of curiosity, did you look at the MKT or just go straight to the flex?

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    AWD Dodge Durango would be my choice.


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