The Truth About Cars » highlander http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 03:28:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » highlander http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-toyota-highlander/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-toyota-highlander/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=738321 image(1)

One day, about a month ago, a vehicle that I had never really given much thought to entered my consciousness quite forcefully. My phone rang, and on the other end was a family member informing me that my sister-in-law had been involved in a serious auto accident. She had been traveling through an intersection when another motorist had run the red light going the opposite direction. It was a hard hit. In fact, the impact was severe enough to flip my sister-in-law’s car was onto its roof. What’s more, her three-year-old son, my nephew, had been in the back seat. They both left the accident totally unharmed.

Her car? A 1st gen Toyota Highlander. So, at least in part, I owe the safety and security of my extended family to the car-based Toyota mid-sized CUV.

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Therefore, when I was invited to preview the new-for-2014 Highlander, I was interested to see what the hype was about—after all, companies don’t typically buy Super Bowl ad space and hire The Muppets for cars that aren’t critical to their corporate strategy. Toyota has been employing a two-pronged strategy for this segment for quite some time—the Body-On-Frame, rugged 4Runner, and the car-based, innocuous Highlander. The 4Runner has always appealed more to the male demographic, while the Highlander has been geared toward the ladies of the club. At first glance, it’s plain to see that Toyota has made a concerted effort to “butch up” the Highlander. The grill looks like the 4Runner’s, with a wide, gaping mouth. The doors now bulge out from the side, giving the whole vehicle a much more truck-like appearance. It’s also a little bigger, too—about half an inch wider and about 4 inches longer. Visually, it’s definitely a “love it or loathe it” look. While I’m probably likely to fall in the latter category, I do give Toyota credit for taking a creative risk with the appearance of the car. Where the previous generations of Highlander definitely faded into the background on any highway, this one will stand out.
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The interior is where the Highlander really shines. On the XLE and Platinum level trims that I drove, the quality of the interior materials was second to none. It’s clear that a great deal of thought went into the layout of the dash. The XLE and Limited trims offer an eight inch, high-resolution touchscreen in the center, while the LE gets a six inch touchscreen. There is a neat little tray (I’m not really sure what else to call it) that extends all the way from the center of the dash to the passenger door that is ideal for all of your electronic gadgets. In fact, there’s even a portal cut neatly above the USB jacks that you can tidily tuck your cables through. When one drives as many different CUVs and sedans as I do, it’s the little details, the unique touches that stick in your mind. Toyota’s gift here to the OCD among us is what stuck with me.

Another dear friend of mine bought a new 2013 Highlander last year, and her main complaint is the lack of room in the second row. “It’s pretty embarrassing exposing my ass to the entire parking lot as I’m leaning over the cramped seats trying to buckle kids into carseats,” she frequently complains to me. “Don’t you know somebody at Toyota that could fix that?” Well, Beth, I can’t do anything about your 2013, but the engineers at Toyota must have heard enough complaints about the outgoing model that they made significant changes to both the legroom and the hip room of the second and third rows for the 2014 model. In fact, the second and third rows have both been moved back about three inches, and the cargo room behind the third row has also been increased by 34 percent for you Active LifeStyle Triathlete types—more than enough room for a stroller or a golf bag. There’s also heated seating available for the second row on the Platinum package Premium trim level, which is a cool touch.
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However, I was most interested in how the thing drives. I daily drive one of the Highlander’s competitors (a Ford Flex), so I was interested to see how they compared. While driving the Limited around the beachside streets of Santa Barbara, the Highlander felt very wide, wide enough to be slightly concerning on some of the side streets. Otherwise, it was charming. Noise reduction was a big concern with the new model, and with 30% more sound deadening and a new windshield, Toyota hit it out of the park. It’s almost too quiet—I felt completely isolated from the environment. However, I can imagine that there would be times where that would be exactly what the doctor ordered. Even with the big Panoramic roof open, noise remained at a minimum. The driver’s seat provides good, comfortable cushioning, but it still uses the lumbar controls that I disliked so much in the Avalon. Braking was surprisingly mushy, so much so that I really had to apply serious pressure on the left pedal when decelerating from speeds above thirty-five or so.

Taking the Highlander into the mountains was a less pleasant experience. There are two engine options available (three if you count the Hybrid, which I did not get any seat time with), a 2.5 liter four cylinder that produces 185 horsepower and 184 ft lbs of torque (LE trim only), and a 3.5 liter six cylinder that makes 270 horsepower and 248 ft lbs of torque (available on all trim levels). With a curb weight of somewhere between 4,100 and 4,500 lbs, depending on trim, even the sixer felt quite underpowered (Toyota, perhaps wisely, did not provide a four cylinder to drive). The six-speed automatic transmission downshifted with even the mildest grade, which would be fine if it downshifted and stayed there. It didn’t. I experienced nearly constant searching and shifting as I went up and down the mountains toward Santa Ynez. The best way to get a consistently pleasant driving experience from the engine/transmission combination was to hammer it in a way that I doubt many CUV drivers are looking to do. This also caused the electric power steering to behave in rather bizarre fashion. I found that I was able to move the wheel several degrees in either direction before the front wheels would react. Again, not a huge concern for most CUV drivers, but when you’re trying to take mountain corners at higher speeds, it’s disconcerting.
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The new for 2014 double-wishbone rear suspension was immediately noticeable—the rear end of the car bounced around much less than one would expect from such a large vehicle. In fact, I found myself wishing that Toyota had put a wishbone suspension up front, too. The considerable weight over the nose of the car (weight distribution numbers were not available at the time of this review) made the MacPherson struts work extra hard in corners, and body roll was significant.

Toyota is expecting this refreshed model to be a big hit in the mid-sized CUV segment, a segment that is critical to the success of any automaker. They are looking for the 2014 to sell about ten percent more than the outgoing 2013 did, or over 140,000 units, all of which will be built in Franklin, Indiana. As the only big time competitor in this segment to be totally refreshed, it’s reasonable to expect that they will hit their target. They managed to keep the price tag under $30K for the LE, sneaking in at $29,215 for a FWD four cylinder. However, they’ve also managed to squeak over the $40k barrier for the first time with the Limited, topping out at $41,100 for the AWD model, which is an increase of $1,700 over the outgoing model. There’s also the new Platinum Limited, which comes in at $43,590 (with optional An available Driver Technology Package that includes a Pre- Collision system with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Automatic High Beam Headlights, and Safety Connect), and the Hybrid Limited Platinum, which just flies under the $50K barrier at $49,790. Whew. I would expect that the bulk of Highlander sales will come from the LE Plus and XLE trims, at $34,200 and $37,500, respectively.

My impressions of the Highlander? If you’re not planning to take it up and down any mountains anytime soon, or do any towing with it, it’s right up there with the best in class, including the Explorer and the Grand Cherokee. Despite the new styling, it’s hard to see it taking any business from its stablemate, the 4Runner—they’re still very different vehicles. This new Highlander will do nothing to keep satisfied Highlander drivers from buying another one, and will do a lot to convince happy owners of competitors to take a look. That is, assuming, they can get past that ugly grille.

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First Drive Video Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/first-drive-video-review-2014-toyota-highlander/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/first-drive-video-review-2014-toyota-highlander/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 20:25:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685274

Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC had its first bite at the 2014 Highlander recently. Be sure to bookmark TheTruthAboutCars.com for the written review in the coming days and a full-on drive review based on a week in Toyota’s new crossover in a few months.

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Review: 2013 Toyota Venza (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-toyota-venza-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-toyota-venza-video/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477702

Our recent looks at the Ford Edge Ecoboost and GMC Terrain prompted an email from a reader asking us to take a look at the 2013 Toyota Venza with these two American entries in mind. If you have a request or suggestion for a vehicle review, just click the contact link at the top of the page, or find us on Facebook and drop us a note.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Venza landed as a 2009 model year vehicle with a confusing mission: slot between the 7-seat RAV-4 and the 7-Seat Highlander as a 5-seat mid-sized crossover. The Lexus RX imitating shape of the Venza caused further confusion and the dimensions didn’t help either since the Venza is longer than the Highlander. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Toyota from shifting around 45,000 Venzas a year in America. If you think that number sounds low, you’re right. Ford sold 128,000 Edges and GM pumped out a whopping 316,000 soft-roaders between the Equinox and the Terrain.

Exterior

While many crossovers try to hide passenger car roots with boxy wheel arches truck-inspired grilles, the Venza is more open about its sedan origins. Think of the Venza as a modern Camry wagon. If you want a crossover that looks more butch, opt for the closely related Highlander. Just remember it is no more capable off-road than the Venza since they share engines, transmissions, AWD systems and have identical 8.1-inch ride heights. While the side and 3/4 profiles scream Lexus RX to me, the Venza shares incredibly little with the Lexus, for better or worse.

For 2013 Toyota has given the Venza a mild facelift grafting their corporate three-bar grille to the four-year old profile. Aside from the nose job the changes are fairly mild and boil down to new wheels, light modules, paint colors, and a few additional base features. While not a change to the Venza, the new RAV4 is no longer available in a 7-seat version making the Venza’s position in the lineup easier to understand.

Despite the tweaking, I find the Ford and GM crossovers more visually exciting, especially the GMC Terrain with its mini-truck clothes job. The Ford Edge is blander, but somehow manages a less controversial front bumper than the Venza. The American options are slightly larger but actually less capable off road since they have notably lower ground clearances. Before you flame in the comment section, I’m not discounting the CX-7, Satta Fe or Murano, but this is a somewhat large segment and our reader request asked specifically about a GM/Ford/Toyota shootout. (If we did drop those three into the mix the Santa Fe would have been given my nod in the looks department.)

Interior

The Venza’s interior is starting to show its age more than the competition. With a decidedly asymmetrical design, a dashboard mounted shifter and a somewhat boring gauge cluster, the Venza failed to push many of the right buttons for me aesthetically. Of course style is subjective so I’d like to know your thoughts below. On a functional level, the dashboard layout ranks low on my scale because of the three-display theme where the clock, thermometer, trip computer and climate readout are set high in the dashboard on a small LCD. In addition to this functional setback there is plenty of hard plastic in the cabin leaving the Venza at the back of the pack in terms of haptic bliss. You won’t find the RAV4′s stitched pleather dash bits in the Venza, and strangely enough we didn’t find Toyota’s usual attention to detail either. Our tester’s dashboard had some ill-fitting trim and speaker grills which bugged me all week. Hopefully Toyota will refresh the Venza’s interior soon, although if you have kids that are rough on cars, hard plastic might be what you need, it holds up better in the long run.

For 2013, all Venza models get a power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control standard. Should you opt for the higher trim levels, Toyota will toss in a power passenger throne as well. Regardless of your trim level and fabric choice, the Venza’s seats aren’t as comfortable on long car trips as the competition. Nobody in this segment provides a huge range of motion or much lateral bolstering in their front seats but the Venza’s seemed particularly flat and thin. With any vehicle purchase, try to get a long test drive or extended seat time at the dealer lot. Spend time in the seats to decide which vehicle is better at keeping your sciatica at bay.

The modern crossover is the spiritual successor to the station wagon and minivan. This shows in the back with thoughtful touches like reclining seat backs, available rear seat entertainment systems that have dual independent DVD players, fairly good visibility and seat bottom cushions that are fairly low to the floor. The low seat cushions mean that adults on long car trips may find their legs need a bit more support but kids will be happier with the seating position.

All Venzas swallow 36 cubic feet of IKEA purchases, notably larger than the American competition despite the fact that the Ford an GM CUVs are longer than the Venza. While the rear seats fold completely flat, the front passenger seat doesn’t fold making it harder to get long and bulky items inside. An important item overlooked by some CUV reviews is the payload capacity. The Venza’s 825lbs rating is adequate for four American-sized guys and a French poodle, while the Terrain’s 1,146lb payload could accommodate the same four dudes and 60 bricks from Home Depot. Not that either shopper is likely to encounter the latter situation.

Infotainment

Venzas start out with Toyota’s easy-to-use “Display Audio” system which features a 6.1-inch touchscreen LCD, USD/iDevice integration and Bluetooth streaming and speakerphone. The base system is easy to use and allows full access of your music device via the on-screen commands. Optional on base Venza models and standard on XLE and Limited is Toyota’s Entune software. Entune is analogous to Ford’s SYNC product, something we’ve seen for ages allowing the same level of voice command interaction with your music device and other aspects of the audio system. Entune’s voice responses are more polished than Ford’s thanks to its more recent design. Response times are snappy and the system’s accuracy was equal to the other systems on the market. Entune also allows smartphone app integration with the system so you can use the radio interface to control your Pandora streaming, search Bing for destinations and make reservations via Open Table. Originally compatible only with iOS devices, the system is now fully functional with most current Android devices.

Base and XLE buyers also have the option of adding on Toyota’s basic navigation software which acts like an “app” on the system and uses your smartphone for traffic and weather data rather than a satellite subscription service. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able Bing while you roll.  The audio quality from the base speaker package is merely average, if you care about your tunes XLE models can be had with the  $1,850 premium package which adds 13 JBL speakers (including a subwoofer) and a power moonroof.

Venza Limited models come standard with the up-level JBL speakers but strangely use an entirely different 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The 7-inch system should be familiar with any late model Toyota or Lexus owners as this is essentially the same software they have used for some time. The larger system uses a hard drive for navigation data and has a larger pre-programmed database built in. Toyota has updated this system to allow the same Entune app integration and music device voice control as the lower-end unit, but there’s a catch. If you want traffic data to show on this navigation screen you’ll need an XM Nav Traffic subscription since it won’t pull the data via your smartphone.

Compared to MyFord Touch, the Venza’s systems all have smaller touchscreens and lack the visual polish of Ford’s system. Entune doesn’t offer Ford’s easy-to-use voice text messaging assistant, the dual LCDs in the gauge cluster or the ability to voice command your climate control. In Toyota’s defense, Entune didn’t crash or freeze during our week (unlike MyFord Touch). Does that make Ford the winner here? No, that goes to GM with their new touchscreen infotainment system that beats both systems in terms of response, graphics and the smoothness of the voice command interactions.

Drivetrain

While the competition is toying with boosted four cylinder engines, Toyota sticks with a more traditional four/six cylinder lineup for the Venza. The base engine in all trims is the same 2.7L four-cylinder engine as the Highlander and Sienna. Cranking out 181HP and 182lb-ft of torque the four cylinder scores 20MPG City, 26 Highway and 23MPG combined in FWD form and 20/26/22 when equipped with Toyota’s AWD system.

Should you need more shove, Toyota offers their ubiquitous 3.5L V6 for $1,820. This isn’t Toyota’s direct-injection six, but it does get dual variable valve timing to churn out 268HP at 6,200RPM and 248lb-ft of twist at 4,700RPM. Like the 2.7L engine the V6 is mated to Toyota’s 6-speed automatic transaxle. The extra shove may cost you more initially but it won’t cost you much at the pump with the FWD V6 having an identical highway mileage score and dropping only one MPG in the city. Add AWD and the numbers drop to 18/25/21 according to the EPA.

If you live in the snow belt, the optional AWD will set you back $1,450 with either engine. The system worked well on gravel roads and slick, leaf-covered back country lanes, but is decidedly slip-and-grip in feel. From a standstill in the Ford and GM crossovers, planting your foot on the throttle is a drama-free experience as the AWD system acts immediately preventing wheel spin in most circumstances. The Venza on the other hand one-wheel-peels for a short while before the system sends power to the back. While this arrangement is slightly less refined, it is unlikely to cause much of a problem en route to the ski resort.

Let’s be honest, nobody buys crossovers or SUVs for their on-road prowess. Of course that puts the crossover in something of a pickle since, unlike an SUV, they aren’t designed for off road use either. Rather the modern crossover is trying to be everything to everyone, the perfect family hauler, cargo schlepper, weekend ski shuttle,  and commuter car all while trying desperately to look like anything other than a minivan or station wagon. The result with the Venza is a fairly tall, softly spring crossover with a fuel efficient V6 engine and optional AWD. While far from sloppy out on the back roads, the Venza tips, dives and rolls more than my sedan-biased preferences care for. Compared to the GMC Terrain, the Venza feels far less composed and despite being smaller than the GMC, it feels much larger on the road. GM’s 3.6L direct-injection V6 delivers 301HP and 272lb-ft of torque and the difference is noticeable on the road and at the pump with V6 AWD Terrain only serving up 16/23MPG. Meanwhile the Edge’s optional 3.5L V6 lands in the middle in terms of power and economy.

Our V6 AWD Limited tester rang in a $41,904 which is a few hundred more than a comparably equipped Ford Edge but $3,639 more than a comparably equipped GMC Terrain while the Equinox is a bit cheaper still. This placed my final ranking as follows: GMC Terrain, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox and lastly the Toyota Venza. While I wouldn’t rank the Venza last in the entire segment, its age is starting to show and without some attention from Toyota to the interior quality and feel issues, the Venza will continue to sell largely on its reputation for reliable and dependable service.

 

 Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 6.3 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds at 93 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 21.5MPG over 658 Miles

2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Front, 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seat Entertainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Front Seats and Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Venza Limited, Interior, Dash Display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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New or Used: A Truck For My Love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-a-truck-for-my-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-a-truck-for-my-love/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2011 19:43:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408485  

(www.sogeshirts.com)

 

Matt writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I think it’s time to replace my wife’s 2005 Honda Odyssey EX-L. It’s got 48,000 on the clock and has developed a few problems over the years. Power side doors that get wonky on really cold days, a slow leak in the AC system, a leak somewhere around the windshield, and an intermittent airbag light most recently, to name a few. None of these things is that big a deal, but considering that my wife has held a grudge against me for convincing her to buy a minivan in the first place, they are just mounting evidence in her case to replace the Ody.

Don’t get me wrong, we both admire the van. It’s a good highway cruiser, gets OK gas mileage, and can haul massive amounts of stuff. But we have no passion for it, and we’ve decided that we’re secure enough to get a vehicle that we really WANT, not just tolerate. I’m normally the type to hang on to a car for at least 100K miles, but I’ve had to hear complaints for 6 years, and I’m ready to give in. Besides, I still use my 2001 Accord as my daily commuter to the train station and back, and since I just dropped $2,000 on all the 100K service items, I intend to hang on to it. Besides, I like it. But back to the van…

The replacement probably has to be new. Wifey hates used cars…something about having to deal with other people’s problems and dirt. She claims she’s open to the CPO route, but usually she finds something wrong. Seems like many of these off-lease cars were formerly smokers’ cars, and she’s insanely sensitive to any odors, even after intensive detailing. Fortunately, she’s not affected by the toxic gasses leeching out of the plastic on brand-new vehicles. But I digress.

90% of the time she’s using it for normal soccer mom duties, hauling our little ones aged 5 and 7. It has to be an SUV/CUV. My love has always wanted a truck and has been denied her whole life, so the idea of a jacked-up station wagon appeals to her very much. And please, 4WD/AWD only—apparently it’s necessary for all those 2-3 in snowfalls Chicago is famous for. Towing isn’t much of an issue, since there are no 10,000 pound boats to tow in my future, for now.

Three rows of seating would be nice, but we’re on the fence. Honestly, we only use the third row 5-10 times a year. But when we do, it is nice to have. Built-in navigation is a must (tired of the Tom Tom falling off the windshield unexpectedly and scaring the bejeezus out of me), and I’m kind of a gadget guy, so I’d like something with all the latest cool bells and whistles. Even though I know that it just ups the chance of something breaking.

Oh, and it has to be somewhat truck-like. My lovely bride isn’t fooled by a Forester, so there’s no need to even go there. If it doesn’t look like a truck, it won’t make the cut. I figure I’m not going to get out of this without spending $35-45K, and have promised her that she gets to make the decision, as long as she keeps it reasonable. No Audi Q7s or ‘Slades in her future, then.

The candidates:

  • 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Probably tops on the list right now. If we go this route, it’s got to be a Hemi. It’s my money, and if I want to be stupid with it and get gas mileage in the teens, then so be it. It would just be too hard to pass up the chance for a big-a** V8. It does OK on the gadget test, but without three rows, we get a bit nervous. We’d have to go for Limited or Overland trim.
  • 2011 Dodge Durango – I thought it would be a good candidate as a pseudo-Jeep Grand Cherokee with a third row, but my partner didn’t think it was truck-enough.
  • 2011 Ford Explorer – Scores high on the bells-and-whistles test, but my wife thinks it’s ugly on the outside. The usable third row would be a plus, though.
  • Honda Pilot – A strong contender until the latest crop of competitors came out. Besides, we’re sort of over the Honda thing. We’ve been driving them for 15 years, and frankly, their quality has gone down. I think my ’01 Accord is a better car than the Ody in many ways – except for the 2 failed transmissions, which I’ll save for a future Piston Slap question.
  • Acura MDX – Wife has always liked this, though it starts to get a little pricey as you option it up. Regarding quality, see “Honda Pilot above.”
  • Toyota Highlander – She thinks it looks “kind of luxurious” on the inside but I think Toyotas are bland. It is nice that you can get a third row.
  • Toyota 4-Runner – She likes it because it looks tough. She hasn’t driven it though, so I’m thinking that she might change her tune after some extended time with it.
  • GMC Yukon – This is truckish, all right. Saw it at the auto show and my wife loved it. Cons: third row is kind of a joke, and it scores low on the gadget department.

So, what do you think guys?

Steve Answers:

You need to figure out if this is the time to be a ‘keeper’. My brother’s family is going through one kid who is college bound and two others who will be of driving age in the next four years.

They no longer need the ‘BIG’ vehicle as a long-term keeper. You may be in the same boat as time goes on.

If we’re talking about the ‘thou shalt’ of making your wife happy, for now, I would look at the Highlander and Yukon. They are both well-designed vehicles and should keep her happy… until your needs change. Or until gas prices potentially zoom up to the ionosphere.

You know me by now. I love safety, and don’t believe for a minute that bulk and bloat equate to it. A front wheel drive midsize to full-sized cars would be a far better long-term value for you. However I’m not married to your wife.

If she’s stubborn then just make her happy. Or for a nominal fee, I can ask some old friends of mine from Jersey to help do some ‘traditional’ persuading.

Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Not that it’s a problem per se, but the crux of your quandary is your wife’s perception of trucky-ness. It’s all good, as I have a rather severe distain for the automotive buffalo butt. As such, I suspect a look at all large crossovers on any one of the automotive shopping websites will help narrow down the choices. An Acura MDX should hit all the size/tech requirements, except Acura doesn’t make anything even remotely truck like. I will second the Toyota 4Runner, even if its not the most efficient package on the market. That said, go all out and grab a Ford Expedition: with SYNC+Navigation and an unbelievably well executed third row (folded or in use) you may never care about the “shamefuel” mileage. (snort)

Or just screw it and get a Lincoln Town Car with winter tires. Solid axle, BOF construction and stupid-durable suspension makes it more of a truck than most of these limp wristed pansies, that’s for sure.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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