The Truth About Cars » SL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:04:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » SL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Utah Man Says State Insurer (the State) Shortchanged Him http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/utah-man-says-state-insurer-state-shortchanged/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/utah-man-says-state-insurer-state-shortchanged/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 22:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1154305 Matt Gephardt and KUTV in Salt Lake City have a good story about a Utah man who was hit by a state vehicle and its insurance company — which is the state itself — shortchanged him on his 1985 Mercedes-Benz SL Convertible. The car was totaled, and the state offered to pay $8,000 for the […]

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1985 Mercedes Benz SL

Matt Gephardt and KUTV in Salt Lake City have a good story about a Utah man who was hit by a state vehicle and its insurance company — which is the state itself — shortchanged him on his 1985 Mercedes-Benz SL Convertible.

The car was totaled, and the state offered to pay $8,000 for the car. Tyler Winger, who said he restored the car with his grandfather, said the car was worth $12,000 to $13,000. (He’s not completely wrong.)

Winger said the state told him that they wouldn’t budge and that he couldn’t complain to the state’s insurance oversight board since that board doesn’t have oversight over the state’s self-insurance company.

According to the report, the state’s insurer told Winger his only recourse would be to sue the state, which could cost thousands more in legal fees.

Winger opted to go through his own insurer, which gave him $11,000 for the damage and allowed him to keep the title for the car — something the state insurer wouldn’t let him do. He said he and his grandfather plan to restore the car again.

(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD Review – Suave Ugly Duckling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-nissan-murano-sl-awd-review-suave-ugly-duckling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-nissan-murano-sl-awd-review-suave-ugly-duckling/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 22:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152009 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD 3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm) Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive) 21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel […]

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2015 Nissan Murano (1 of 13)

2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm)

Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive)

21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel drive

Base Price (S FWD):
$30,445* (U.S.)/$31,858* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$39,435* (U.S.)/$41,393* (Canada)

* All prices include $885 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,860 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

“Damn, that’s ugly,” I thought to myself — in addition to saying it openly amongst my automotive journalist friends when Nissan unveiled the new, third-generation Murano at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

“Who’s going to buy this?” I asked myself — in addition to everyone who would possibly listen to my whining.

“I bet this won’t sell,” proclaimed my inner monologue — in addition to my external one.

Boy, was I wrong on that last point. The new Murano’s year-to-date sales in Canada have already eclipsed last year’s entirely (sales surpassed 1,000 units in June 2015 for the first time ever in Canada), and it will likely sell more in the U.S. than it has in the last couple years at the very least.

When I had a chance to drive the newest “lifestyle” crossover from Nissan, I realized why my predictions were so wrong. If you can look past the sheet metal, the aging VQ35DE V-6 engine and the continuously variable transmission that’s become ubiquitous with the Nissan brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is arguably the best lifestyle crossover on the market.

That should be no surprise. One could make a case for the Nissan Murano being a pioneer in this segment. Back in 2002, Nissan rolled out the first-generation Murano to either fanfare or fiery criticism, depending on who you asked.

The non-luxury softroader was born — whether you liked it or not.

2015 Nissan Murano (2 of 13)

Exterior
To better understand the Murano and its “Predator with a Beverly Hills facelift” styling, one must understand the competition — namely the Ford Edge. Neither vehicle communicates a modicum of off-roading intentions, even though both are available with all-wheel drive. Both are targeted directly at yuppie dinks with money to burn and status to reinforce. They want a vehicle that’s visually loud so they can be unique just like everyone else.

Compared to prior generations, the Murano is more visually windswept up front due to its corporate V-motion grille and Z-inspired headlights. It’s a cohesive design regardless of how visually off-putting I might personally find it.

Around the side, the Murano flaunts the same floating roof treatment craze that’s seeing more use at Nissan and elsewhere. Our mid-trim SL tester wore standard 18-inch wheels shod with 235/65R18 rubber that didn’t visually fill the wheel wells as much as the 20 inchers available on the Platinum trim, but still did a much better job of not making the car look plebeian compared to the Edge on its smaller wheels. Actually, the 18s make the Murano look trendy, expensive and — viewing it as a car guy — comfortable.

2015 Nissan Murano (3 of 13)

Around back are some of the most confusing shapes and surfaces you’ll find on any crossover on sale today. The rear lamps sport the same boomerang styling as those up front. The blacked-out floating roof section, when inspected closely, even has some metallic flake in the plastic so it doesn’t look flat and cheap. Like the side, a chrome strip breaks up the lower body cladding and high-gloss paint, like a belt separating black pants and a loudly colored button-up shirt.

Overall, the Murano looks expensive and expressive, but its execution is far from my cup of tea. The Ford Edge ticks the same boxes without being visually nauseating.

2015 Nissan Murano (5 of 13)

Interior
Years ago, I listened to a stand-up comic — whose name completely escapes me — do a bit on yuppies and yard sales.

“Yuppie yard sales are just like normal ones — except nothing is for sale. Yuppies just want you to look at their stuff.”

Nissan knows the typical Murano buyer isn’t going to have kids — or if they do have that elusive single child, the chances of he or she having more than two friends willing to ditch their Facebooks and video games to actually drive somewhere is pretty slim. Instead, what yuppies do have is personal belongings — or at least more personal belongings than their kid has friends — so, understandably, there’s no third row seating. In its place is a cavernous cargo area so you can take all your stuff to the local yuppie yard sale, show it off, and bring it home in a flashy ride.

Unfortunately for the Murano, the Edge can hold even more yuppie junk in its upwardly mobile trunk; 32.1 cu. ft. of cargo space is available behind the second row in the Murano (minus 1 cu. ft. with the moonroof) versus 39.2 cu. ft. in the Edge.

You’d think that maybe the Murano is shorter than the Edge, but it’s actually longer on the outside by 4.7 inches. Wheelbases are similar at 111.2 and 112.2 inches respectively. And, as far as I can tell, the space isn’t being shifted to the passenger compartment.

2015 Nissan Murano (12 of 13)Murano (w/o moonroof)

Front headroom – 39.9 inches
Front legroom – 40.5 inches
Front hip room – 55.4 inches
Front shoulder room – 59.5 inches
Rear headroom – 39.8 inches
Rear legroom – 38.7 inches
Rear hip room – 55.2 inches
Front shoulder room – 58.8 inches

Edge

Front headroom – 40.2 inches
Front legroom – 40.5 inches
Front hip room – 55.9 inches
Front shoulder room – 60.3 inches
Rear headroom – 40.3 inches
Rear legroom – 40.6 inches
Rear hip room – 57.5 inches
Front shoulder room – 60.5 inches

(Bold is the greater measure.)

I’m flummoxed.

Regardless of the numbers, the Murano is incredibly comfortable up front and I didn’t once think I lacked space for my 6-foot-1-inch lanky frame. Nor did passengers ask for me to scootch the driver’s seat up to give them additional rear legroom. However, if you’re a sizable dink, you might want to opt for the Edge.

2015 Nissan Murano (7 of 13)

When you do find your place of comfort in the driver seat, you’re greeted by a steering wheel that could be found in almost any other Nissan. The push-button start is easily found in the center dash instead of tucked somewhere being the steering wheel. Other controls are quite simple, with HVAC knobs and buttons located below the infotainment screen and shortcuts to navigation, radio and other infotainment features placed on either side. Nissan says it has decreased the number of buttons needed to operate their system and this amount seems like a happy medium.

2015 Nissan Murano (8 of 13)

The instrument panel consists of two large dials separated by a very clear, 7-inch LCD screen with pages that are easily accessible through the steering wheel mounted controls. Unlike the Micra, the Murano is fitted with an actual fuel gauge and not just an LCD representation.

As I mentioned above, the front seats are incredibly comfortable, though they do have a look of cheapness. Maybe it’s the semi-gloss sheen. I just wish they looked as good as they felt. Same goes for the rear.

At least you will be safe, with a full suite of airbags that includes a driver’s knee airbag, just in case.

2015 Nissan Murano (4 of 13)

Powertrain
The 3.5-liter VQ35DE V-6 sitting under the hood of the Murano has to be one of the oldest engines on sale today. Introduced in 2001, the VQ series engine has been constantly updated and comes in a number of tunes depending on its application. However, it doesn’t come with direct injection or some of the other goodies found in competing products.

That said, the VQ is still one of the best sounding engines money can buy — probably because it doesn’t come with direct injection or the other goodies. Even when paired with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission, the VQ rumbles with its all-but familiar growl.

When Nissan started fitting its lower-end, four-cylinder cars with CVTs, I moaned a great moan. But this — with the V-6 and some torque to keep revs low — makes boatloads of sense and is exceptionally smooth without the typical whine experienced with smaller engines mated to similar transmissions. To top it all off, Nissan’s combination is 4 mpg easier on fuel on the combined cycle than the Edge, representing a $350 annual savings according to the EPA calculator.

2015 Nissan Murano (13 of 13)

Infotainment
Nissan’s Around View has been on the market for quite some time, but this is the first time it’s been fitted to the Murano (incidentally, after it was fitted to the Versa Note). As one can expect, images from the camera are fairly distorted to give you a better field of vision, but there’s something else that bothers me about it. Image quality is, well, a bit subpar. Even though other systems obviously don’t give you a full 360-degree view of the vehicle on an 8-inch screen, the images offered on the Nissan system look pixelated to the point where you might actually miss something — though if that something is moving, the Moving Object Detection should pick it up. Meanwhile, the “Camera” button on the console lets you activate the system when parking nose first, which is great for someone like me who can’t place a vehicle square between two white lines.

Around View aside, the new NissanConnectSM system is enhanced over the last generation, though its ease of use has been hampered because of it. Thanks to a number of new connectivity features and other digitial knickknacks, the Nissan infotainment system is a bit more bloated. If you like fully featured infotainment, this is a great solution, but this might not be a selling point if you are like the vast majority of vehicle buyers who don’t use all the features provided by automakers.

Drive
What sets the Murano apart from the rest is how it drives. The 3.5-liter engine is as smooth as you can get. The CVT will do some “shifting,” but only so you can feel a little bit of torque transmitted into the seat now and then. Also, those seats are as good as they come.

However, these pieces aren’t the Murano’s killer app. Instead, its suspension tuning and decent tire sidewalls on our SL-trimmed tester that give the Murano a ride befitting its Infiniti luxury brand. Platinum models give you 20-inch wheels as standard, and I’m not sure that’s a good buy if ride quality is No. 1 on your car hunt.

In addition to the suspension, the Murano’s electric power steering also makes it light to handle. Who cares if it feels a bit disconnected? If you are looking for an engaging drive, you are shopping in the wrong segment by looking at the Murano. For a few thousand more, there are some interesting options from the Germans, though you might have to downsize.

Aaron Cole, Chris Tonn, and I all had a chat about the Murano styling. They quite like the Nissan … and they’d take it over the Ford Edge. I’d rather the Blue Oval, based on styling alone, inside and out. Yet, if the Edge didn’t drive as nice as the Murano (and I’m not sure if it does but an Edge is on the way) I’d probably have the Murano … the fuel economy bump for me is a nice to have.

If you’re a yuppie with some coin to spend, the Murano and Edge are like white and red wine: they’re both wine and they both get the job done of looking classy, but it’s all a matter of taste. The Murano, to most, will taste just fine.

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Piston Slap: The Body Control Module Electric? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-body-control-module-electric/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-body-control-module-electric/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074898 Gary writes: Good Afternoon, Today when I got into my 2002 Saturn SL2, the power door locks started chattering. Each door, over the space of about 45 minutes, had the same thing happen. Sometimes it would be one at a time, other times it would be two or more. I also noticed that the inside […]

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Gary writes:

Good Afternoon,

Today when I got into my 2002 Saturn SL2, the power door locks started chattering. Each door, over the space of about 45 minutes, had the same thing happen. Sometimes it would be one at a time, other times it would be two or more. I also noticed that the inside locks – the “up/down” button, not the little lever you use to manually unlock the car – would not work, only later to work. For now I have removed the lock fuse and that stopped the problem. I wait and plug the fuse back in, and the sporadic chattering once again begins. Sometimes it is completely quiet. Any thoughts?

Thank you!

Sajeev answers:

Whenever a problem like this occurs, I blame something Body Control Module like. When guidance systems break down? When there’s a struggle to exist? To resist?  That’s not a mere switch panel or short in chassis wiring. Oh no, Son, this is some heavy duty FAIL right here.

A body control module that’s scared out of its wits is the only culprit behind such berserk behavior. My apologies to the TTAC mothership (and all Torontonians) for such a shameful riding of RUSH’s coattails.

 

bcm

1-0-0-1-0-0-1… (photo courtesy: saturnfans.com)

If I’m right, the video (below) is helpful. Ditto this Saturn forum link, complete with the body control module’s pinouts for your testing pleasure. A replacement is over $200 at Rockauto, rebuilders on eBay want over $150 for the privilege. So you’d be wise to test the wiring, get a factory shop manual and perhaps learn the proper BCM diagnosis method.

And don’t forget the BCM recall, too!

 

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

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Junkyard Find: 1997 Saturn SC2, With Rare Badass Flame Job Option http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1997-saturn-sc2-with-rare-badass-flame-job-option/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1997-saturn-sc2-with-rare-badass-flame-job-option/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=831881 Even though the Saturn S-Series has been one of the most common vehicle types in American self-service wrecking yards for at least the past decade, I’ve always walked right past the SCs and SLs when I’m looking for vehicles to photograph for this series. The rise and fall of the Saturn marque is a fascinating […]

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10 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven though the Saturn S-Series has been one of the most common vehicle types in American self-service wrecking yards for at least the past decade, I’ve always walked right past the SCs and SLs when I’m looking for vehicles to photograph for this series. The rise and fall of the Saturn marque is a fascinating story, and the S-Series spent much of the 1990s being driven by fanatically devoted owners who appreciated the distinctly un-GM-like experience of buying their cars. The SC2 has been one of the quicker and more reliable cars in 24 Hours of LeMons racing as well, but even that wasn’t enough to make me raise my camera when I passed a whole row of the things at U-Wrench-It. It took this red ’97, with its metalflake flame job peeking through the snow at a Denver yard this winter, to give us a Saturn Junkyard Find.
15 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
Someone loved this car, but then it got wrecked hard enough to render it not worth fixing.
16 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPerhaps King Credit has an in-house staff of flame painters, who apply flames to any vaguely sporty car that shows up in their inventory.
03 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe flames are executed very nicely, with clean edges, gold pinstriping, and generous application of metalflake.
07 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI didn’t feel like freezing my fingers to lift the hood and verify that the twin-cam engine was there, but I’m assuming that nobody would bother to paint such beautiful flames on a lowly SC1.
13 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThough I’d also say the same thing about an automatic car, and so perhaps I’m wrong and this car is a single-cam SC1. It has been crushed by now, so we’ll never know.
14 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAbout 10,000 miles per year during the course of its life, so this car’s owners got their money’s worth before the big crash.

01 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1997 Saturn SC2 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: Spastic Saturn’s Spacey Door Locks? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-spastic-saturns-spacey-door-locks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-spastic-saturns-spacey-door-locks/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743161 TTAC’s own Ronnie Schreiber writes: My mom’s ’02 Saturn’s SL1 power locks freak out sometimes, sounds like solenoids are having spasms. I’ll go to lock or unlock them and they’ll start fluttering. Sometimes slamming a door will stop it. My guess is that there’s a dirty switch somewhere, might be weather related too because it […]

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TTAC’s own Ronnie Schreiber writes:

My mom’s ’02 Saturn’s SL1 power locks freak out sometimes, sounds like solenoids are having spasms. I’ll go to lock or unlock them and they’ll start fluttering. Sometimes slamming a door will stop it.

My guess is that there’s a dirty switch somewhere, might be weather related too because it started happening in late autumn. It was easier to diagnose things when they didn’t use logic circuits for everything.

Sajeev answers:

Slamming the door will stop it?

Perhaps the sales pitch where a Saturn salesperson hits the door with a baseball bat wasn’t such a bright idea after all?

Just kidding.

After some googling on the Saturn forums, this is a common problem.  That said, this shockingly thorough post covers my two possible faults: a bad relay or a busted switch. Considering the door slam fix, the switch is bad.

Much like a well-worn record, the internal (copper) connections in switches can wear out over time. Or the springy action of the button can disappear, making it activate when least expected.  Considering the quality of GM interiors from this era, a worn out switch is also more likely than a bad relay.

So I’d disconnect the driver’s side power lock switch and see if the problem comes back.  If it does, attack the relays in the link above.  If not, there are plenty of new door lock switches on eBay for dirt cheap. I saw a brand new switch for $22…$27 shipped.  Nice.

Done and done: off to you, Best and Brightest.

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

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Piston Slap: Bennie Bucks on the Winter Beater? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-bennie-bucks-on-the-winter-beater/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-bennie-bucks-on-the-winter-beater/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 13:16:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=662242 TTAC Commentator 28-Cars-Later writes: Sajeev, I’ve got a small conundrum for Piston Slap.  Winter is fast approaching and for those of us in the mid-Atlantic states this is a serious affair. My winter beater has been my trusty (but not rusty) ’98 Saturn SL/auto/164K, which in the spring started showing its age and developed transmission […]

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TTAC Commentator 28-Cars-Later writes:

Sajeev,

I’ve got a small conundrum for Piston Slap.  Winter is fast approaching and for those of us in the mid-Atlantic states this is a serious affair. My winter beater has been my trusty (but not rusty) ’98 Saturn SL/auto/164K, which in the spring started showing its age and developed transmission issues after seven years (and roughly 80K) of ownership. I’ve let her sit most of the summer save starting her up and driving her around the parking lot every 7-12 days but I’ve been trying to put off the inevitable investment of Bennie bucks. This evening I was offered an ’00 Subaru Outback/auto/186K to replace it for $2500 inc four new cheap tires and inspection.

The prospects of an actual [built in Japan] Japanese wagon are intriguing, the Subaru is 7/10 in terms of condition with some dings and several rust spots, it had no issue starting up and is throwing no codes. The catch is I have zero documentation on the car (was a recent trade) and personally I am leery of all AWD systems regardless of make and model, especially without documentation/receipts. Panning over the engine bay I noticed a newer alternator and a battery stickered 3/12 (with old acid all over the cradle) so somebody (sort of) attempted to take care of the car. Oil was a down 1/4 a quart, coolant was dirty but not caked on or anything, but the kicker was the trans fluid is getting to be brown. I figure whomever recently owned this attempted to take care of it to some degree, but neglected all of the fluid changes, which leads to me to suspect none of the Subie specific maint (diff fluid, sensors, etc) has been done either by this owner (and who knows about the head gaskets). I have two days to make up my mind on the Subie before he sends it to auction.

(NOTE: because of my time delay in publishing, this car is already bought or auctioned off – SM)

So I figure my choices are as such:

  1. Spend $1200-1400 to install a used transmission in my Saturn and risk more expensive stuff breaking down the line.
  2. Spend $2500 and buy the Subaru, which for my purposes will probably get me through at least this winter without fireworks, but risk later expensive Subie specific repairs, or total loss if something big breaks.
  3. Not spend any money, junk my Saturn, and just drive one of my other two cars in the winter that I currently baby to some degree.

Sajeev answers:

Well…I guess it kinda depends on your other two vehicles.

#2 is not a sure thing: with zero service history and tired fluids, expecting this Subaru to work all winter is a rather huge leap of faith.  Perhaps if it was something more robust (truck) with less unique parts that are painfully hard to reach, perhaps if it wasn’t a vehicle known for its fragility (bad head gaskets) especially when neglected/abused…

Install a junkyard transmission in the Saturn, coming from a yard that offers a warranty.  Or research to see if a local shop rebuilds these units with quality parts and labor (not always easy to find) for a fair price.  Why?  Because it’s almost always easier to keep the problems you know, not the gigantic rolling question mark that could be even more of a horrid money pit.

 

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

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New Or Used? : Large Marge Don’t Want No Land Barge Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/new-or-used-large-marge-dont-want-no-land-barge-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/new-or-used-large-marge-dont-want-no-land-barge-edition/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 10:31:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483482 Dear Steve and Jeev, My girlfriend needs a car while in the midst of many other big financial decisions that severely limit her car budget. Here’s the situation. She has access to a family owned Mercedes 380SL that has what I believe to be transmission issues. It’s dripping dark red fluid from right about where […]

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Dear Steve and Jeev,

My girlfriend needs a car while in the midst of many other big financial decisions that severely limit her car budget. Here’s the situation.

She has access to a family owned Mercedes 380SL that has what I believe to be transmission issues. It’s dripping dark red fluid from right about where the transmission looks to be and it’s probably also leaking oil.

I’m handy, but I don’t think I’m money pit Benz convertible transmission and rear main seal handy. Then again it might not be so bad and might be a reasonable fix, until the next time it shoots itself in the foot. It currently doesn’t run and last time it was driven apparently exhibited the same problem it has for years, which is that if you don’t take it easy off the line it just dies on you.

So she needs a new car, but she needs something as close to under $4k as possible.

She also has specific tastes, though she’s somewhat flexible. (Oh boy! And here comes her laundry list! -SL)

Click here to view the embedded video.

Completely averse to Panthers (otherwise I wouldn’t have to write this email) and doesn’t want a Taurus ever (her grandmother drives one, it’s been nothing but misery).

Oh also, it can’t be a manual, which means anything remotely – Miata, 2002, Volvo wagon with ls1 swap – fun out of the question. I’ve been looking at Volvo 240s, 740s, 940s, 850s, overpriced Camrys and Accords, Corollas/Prisms and a lot of late 90s early 00s 4th and 5th gen Maximas and i30s. Also G20s and just for good measure the occasional Saab.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’m very comfortable with the Maxima/i30 as my dad had one for 10 years and it’s what I learned how to work on so I know how to do any repair imaginable and problem areas plus they’re in abundance in this price range. I’m also intrigued by the Volvo option since you could easily sell it for the same you paid for it or more if there’s anything wrong that can be easily fixed.

As I said, I feel comfortable armed with a forum and a Haynes manual to do any reasonable repairs short of transmission rebuilds but I want something that’s easy and cheap to work on as possible. I know that the whole no domestics thing and crapshoot prices don’t help but what should she do? Find out how much the SL will cost to repair? Flush the transmission and hope for the best? What other cars should I be looking for that I’m missing. I assume craigslist is pretty much the only reliable source for these and that I’m buying a car for an owner not the car. Also, should she try to wait out tax season until prices come down, I’ve noticed that even on these sub 5k cars the prices seem higher than normal.

Steve Says:

How does she feel about a minivan?

I would suggest telling her that you want to fill one of those up and your problem should go away real quick. (Childish Giggling – SM)

Here’s the rub on this. Your girlfriend needs to stop looking at the popular cars with the unrealistic expectation of low maintenance and a low price. She wants a cheap Camry? Fine. You will find that the cheap ones are cheap for a reason. I have seen unfortunate souls spending dozens of weekends trying to find a popular car at a cheap price.

Most of them wind up anteing up thousands more than their budget allowed, and buying a popular vehicle with very high miles. Some people are OK with this outcome. The truth is that a better solution is there only if she is willing to adjust her expectations.

I would sit down together in front of the computer and go through the unpopular and orphan brands first. Visit carsurvey, Edmunds, here, there and anywhere else that offers reviews from actual owners. My recommendation is a late 90’s Buick Regal with the 3.8 Liter V6 and about 120k to 150k on the miles. Either that or an Explorer if she wants a bigger vehicle.

Get an older SUV if she doesn’t drive a lot. Or get an unpretentious middle-of-the-road sedan, with a keen eye on the powertrain combination, if her driving will be 10,000 miles or more a year.

Sajeev says:

The Benz might be worth a punt, but that’s only if she doesn’t need to drive very often. My guess is that this conditional statement is rather unrealistic. So the SL ain’t happening.

At this price, tough love is better than proper indulgence. She buys the vehicle with the cleanest interior, newest tires/brakes, the biggest wad of service receipts, and a character that isn’t completely offensive to her sensibility. That said:

“[She’s] Completely averse to Panthers (otherwise I wouldn’t have to write this email)”

Come on Son, don’t make jokes like that! Has she not seen the best Music Video ever made on the face of the Universe?

I simply refuse to live in the real world believe that women cannot embrace Panther Love. And I know my man Lang agrees, he came up with the title! While my advice is true, there’s a good chance that the best vehicle for the price will also be a super tidy Panther.

But seriously, get the cleanest, best maintained, late-model, non-European machine you find…buy what she wants when she has more cheddar. Because getting what you want now only hurts you in the future.

Unless it’s a Panther.

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Next-Gen Mercedes SL AMG Doesn’t Have To Be Driven Like Grandpa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/next-gen-mercedes-sl-amg-doesnt-have-to-be-driven-like-grandpa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/next-gen-mercedes-sl-amg-doesnt-have-to-be-driven-like-grandpa/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2011 17:36:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=407399 I’ve personally never seen a Mercedes SL driven in anything close to anger. In fact, most of the time I see an SL, it seems as though the driver is in no rush at all to return to pulling teeth or fixing braces. But, as with the “low-flying” forthcoming Mercedes ML AMG, the boys from […]

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I’ve personally never seen a Mercedes SL driven in anything close to anger. In fact, most of the time I see an SL, it seems as though the driver is in no rush at all to return to pulling teeth or fixing braces. But, as with the “low-flying” forthcoming Mercedes ML AMG, the boys from Affalterbach are driving the new SL AMG like it’s meant to be… so you don’t have to. After all, that AMG badge does supposedly stand for more than “a little extra respect from the valet”…

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Review: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450sl “R107″ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-1979-mercedes-benz-450sl-r107/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-1979-mercedes-benz-450sl-r107/#comments Wed, 11 Nov 2009 21:39:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=334671 Imagine it is thirty years in the future, 2039, and you are driving in a hard top convertible made in 2009. It has had three owners, and sports a healthy six-figures on the odometer. Would you expect it to leak, rattle, and/or squeak? Probably. Would you expect it to look dated and out of place […]

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The R107, with soft top raised, visits the Trapp Family Lodge

The R107, with soft top raised, visits the Trapp Family Lodge

Imagine it is thirty years in the future, 2039, and you are driving in a hard top convertible made in 2009. It has had three owners, and sports a healthy six-figures on the odometer. Would you expect it to leak, rattle, and/or squeak?
Probably.
Would you expect it to look dated and out of place as we approach 2030 when cars (finally) fly and run by garbage-powered fusion generators?
Likely.
In 2029 there will be 1970s-era Mercedes-Benz cars still on the road though. By then they might rattle, leak, and/or squeak. They may even look a little dated. But not today. I drove this 1979 450sl to a dentist appointment this morning. Two weeks before I drove it from coast to coast, through rain, snow, and sun. It doesn’t rattle. It doesn’t leak. It doesn’t squeak. It is as solid today as the day it rolled out of Stuttgart thirty years ago. This thing is built like a tank.

With removable pagoda-shaped hard top installed, the genetic link to the previous-generation W113 SL is evident.

With removable pagoda-shaped hard top installed, the genetic link to the previous-generation W113 SL is evident.

In fact, the engineers who designed it nicknamed it “der Panzerwagen” as one of their specifications was to meet or exceed stringent safety regulations that threatened to force the roadster body style into permanent extinction. Apparently, the Germans know a thing or two about building tanks. Stylistically the R107 Chassis with its blend of slab shapes and extra-long radii curves owes far more to the Panzerkampfwagen “Königstiger” than its graceful automotive predecessors, the W198 and W113 “Sport Leicht” series. Under the hood, unlike the six-cylinder Gullwing and Pagoda Benzes, the R107 is motivated by a V-8 engine. It sports an overhead cam and fuel injection like its father and grandfather, and maintains a paternal link with a Pagoda-shaped removable hard top. From the neck down though it is its own panzer-like design. It was a phenomenally popular car, with well over a quarter-million of them made in a very long run, from 1971 through 1989. Built in a time when Mercedes-Benz was truly and uniquely synonymous with “quality”… as they remained alone at the top of the luxury automotive heap, towering über alles the (literally) smoking wreckage of Detroit and Coventry’s faded high-end brands, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Jaguar. This was when the Bavarians in Munich were just started going upmarket, and the Japanese were eviscerating Detroit only from below.

The R107 and it's genetic grandparent, the 300sl (W194)

The R107 and it's genetic grandparent, the 300sl (W194)

The interior is snug, but well-appointed for a car from the 1970s.

The interior is snug, but well-appointed for a car from the 1970s.

This 450sl sold for around $32,000 in 1979, which adjusted for inflation is a Kia Rio shy of $110,000 in 2009. What did that kind of Carter-era cash get for you? A damn fine ride. The 450sl is a cruise missile of a car, a true Grand Tourer capable of days of comfortable Autobahn travel… top up, or down, on or off. The interior is snug, though comfortable for both driver and passenger. Seats are made from MB-tex, the Stuttgart equivalent of Kevlar, which deflects wear, stains, bullets, and tears, while somehow not being torturously uncomfortable like virtually all other 70s-era synthetic seats. Leather was optional, but rarely ordered for these roadsters though shaggy sheepskin was a de rigueur disco-era aftermarket addition, thankfully averted in the example here. Real wood accents trim out the dashboard and center console. The removable hard top weighs about 90 pounds and requires two people (or a garage-ceiling mounted pulley-lift) to install or remove. The latching mechanism is ingenious however and guarantees a snug, no rattle or leak fit to the car. When off the car the top rests on an aluminum rack with casters so it can be wheeled into a closet or corner of the garage. The rack itself breaks down easily into component parts which are bagged and easily stored in the generous trunk. The soft top manually folds away into a decked storage compartment aft of the cockpit when down with (attention car designers!) no trunk space used, and when raised latches to the windscreen using the same hardware as the hard top. At speed inside the car with either top on you are treated to a ride as quiet as a coupe or sedan. Unlike most convertibles, all-around visibility is excellent in any top configuration.

The well-engineered hard top stores on its own well-engineered cart.

The well-engineered hard top stores on its own well-engineered cart.

While it may appear to be a big car, especially with the ludicrously large US-market bumpers, the R107 is in reality a diminutive two-seater which when parked next to today’s average machine finally reflects the true scale. It sits low, so when in the company of Suburban Ussault Vehicles defensive driving is an excellent strategy, so all that visibility for the driver pays off. Beyond a few 70s details in the styling it has a timelessness to it that wears far better than many of its peers from the days of disco. Especially with the top down, it appears as if it could be from any time in the last 40 years. Such is the staying power of simple shapes and spare, minimalist design.

The 450sl is much smaller than it looks.

The 450sl is much smaller than it looks.

Turn the key and the 4.5 liter V-8 makes a mild muscle-car rumble. The US-spec 3-speed automatic transmission does not inspire any sort of lust, nor risk any chiropractic involvement, performing its job in an undramatic utilitarian fashion. However once underway the chassis displays its Teutonic heritage in surprisingly nimble and huckable road feel. Able to cruise effortlessly at autobahn speeds, while also happily carving up any twisty backroad. Great turn-in and light, nimble steering. It is not the fastest car by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly can be fun should you choose to toss it about.

Hang on, what's that beach benz doing on a racetrack? (Answer: 3rd place for that day.)

Hang on, what's that beach benz doing on a racetrack? (Answer: 3rd place for that day.)

On the track it will never win any races (unless all your opponents are pedal-powered) but it will provide miles of smiles and never embarrass the driver. If anything it will inspire confidence to push it hard, as its manners are very steady at the edge of its performance envelope; neutral handling easing towards gentle and predictable throttle over-steer as you push it harder in the corners. Just forget about the dragstrip as the sedate transmission will let you down. The R107 is a stately sort of sports/performance car. It comes from Stuttgart but doesn’t wear that on its sleeve like a P-car.

A Montana State Trooper writes up his own review of the R107's capabilities.

A Montana State Trooper writes up his own review of the R107's capabilities.

The penalty for this moderately good performance, beyond being fast enough to collect speeding tickets even in Montana, is SUV-like non-frugality. The 450sl will burn up gasoline at about 12-17 MPG … if you are lucky. Thankfully it runs fine on Regular Unleaded, unlike so many finicky machines whose tastes are more top-shelf. This is also not a good winter car in northern climes. Performance on snow and ice is abysmal-to-terrifying. It will swap ends and send you pirouetting off into the woods at the mere sight of a snowflake. Park it once the thermometer starts dropping. Their A/C systems, especially for the ’77-’79 models can be problematic so if you’re living in Houston pick another year. Here in the Pacific Northwest however it’s a wash… it snows about as often a it reaches 90°F; almost never.

Trust me, you'll want to avoid this scenario.

Trust me, you'll want to avoid this scenario.

While nowhere near the stratospheric value of its gull-winged supercar forebear, the R107 was still an upper-class car, the ride of choice for Professionals of the 70s & 80s: Doctors, Bankers, Dentists, and Trophy Wives. Given their popularity, 19-year long manufacturing run, plus build-quality that was truly higher than any car before or since, R107s are still available in good numbers. Many of them coming from one-owner garages, at a cost about what you would pay for the lowest tier of today’s scheisseboxen. So here is that most rare beasts: An affordable, reliable classic car, that provides enjoyable top-down motoring while being relatively inexpensive to buy.

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