06 February 2011

Chevys and Fords and VWs...Oh My!

In pursuit for our first "family" and road-trip worthy vehicle, Michael and I have recently taken a few models out for a test drive.  We did a lot of Internet research first to analyze the stats on crossovers and wagons.  There are a few features we are dead-set on:

  1. Fuel economy: We're TIRED of getting only 15-18 MPG in our trucks!
  2. Roominess: My truck (which will most likely be the trade-in) has room for 2.  No place to put a dang baby.
  3. Bang for buck: You guys are smart enough to know what that one means.
  4. Aesthetics: This one's more Michael's make-or-break than mine, but if a vehicle even somewhat resembles an egg or a cube, it's not up for consideration.  As for me, I refuse to drive a light-colored vehicle.

There are other things we are looking for in our next car, but it's not going to be a deal-breaker if the gas cap is on the right side versus the left or if a model is only offered in front-wheel drive.  Here are the models that we have driven so far and a little info on each.

Test Drive No. 1: 2011 Chevy Equinox
  • Where: Hendrick Chevrolet in Duluth
  • MPG: 22/32
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Drive Type: front-wheel or all-wheel
  • Nifty Add-Ons: OnStar subscription; Pioneer soundsystem; rearview camera
  • Pros: Smooth drive; tight steering; easy-to-clean interior (exactly what my neuroses need); every part (inside and out) felt like high quality; fully customizable; able to name price; full factory warranty.
  • Cons: Terrible blind spots; head rests get in the way, even when let down all the way (I'm only 5'4"--I'd have to sit on a phone book to see over them when checking).
  • Overall opinion: Even with all the bells and whistles, as well as the ability to name our price, I don't feel I meet the height requirements of driving the Equinox.

Test Drive No. 2: 2011 Toyota Rav4
  • Where: Atlanta Toyota in Duluth
  • MPG: 22/28
  • Transmission: 4- or 5-speed automatic
  • Drive Type: front-wheel only
  • Nifty Add-Ons: Touch-screen DVD navigation system; roof rack
  • Pros: Easy-to-clean interior; stagecoach door in rear; fully customizable; already familiar with company (my ride is their Tacoma); can seat up to 7 (if you install 3rd row seat).
  • Cons: Every piece on this SUV felt SUPER cheap; less fuel efficient; not a fan of the spare tire on the back door.
  • Overall opinion:  It's off the list.  It felt cheap, so it didn't seem we would be getting our money's worth.  Sorry, Toyota.  You lost me on this one.

Test Drive No. 3: 2011 Ford Edge
  • Where: Gwinnett Place Ford in Duluth
  • MPG: 19/27
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Drive Type: front-wheel or all-wheel
  • Nifty Add-Ons: MyFord Touch; Ford SYNC (first time testing voice command--very cool); back-up camera with gigantic viewing screen
  • Pros: Hands-free technology; incredibly smooth drive; blind spots not as scary for short people; fully customizable; financing options for government employees.
  • Cons: Less fuel efficient (6 cylinders come standard); much more costly since there's a lot of technology; not a great history with Ford cars in my family's past.
  • Overall opinion:  It's on the short list for how it drives and for its technological capabilities, but the blind spots still aren't what I was hoping for.  If we did purchase one, I would almost have to get the back-up camera so I could avoid running into shopping carts and small humans.

Test Drive No. 4: 2011 VW Jetta and Jetta SpotWagon
  • Where: Gunther VW in Buford
  • MPG: 23/30 (gas); 31/40 (clean diesel)
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Drive Type: front-wheel only
  • Nifty Add-Ons: Panoramic sunroof (on wagon); roof rack; bluetooth technology; Mojo floor mats (soooo not making this up)
  • Pros: Drove smoother than butter; responsive gas and brake pedals; 36,000-mile free maintenance warranty; roomy; best fuel economy (especially in the diesel models); pinch-free windows; German engineering; 2 free T-shirts if you buy from Gunther's.
  • Cons: Leatherette interior is standard (no cloth option); only fully customizable if you're willing to pay the price and wait 5 months for a car to be shipped from Germany to Mexico to here; ride very low to the ground; not as much room to haggle on price.
  • Overall opinion:  Drivers wanted?  This driver is sold!  I would have walked out with one in every dark color available and ordered a vanity plate for each.  Love the look.  Love the way it handles.  Love the fuel economy.

After leaving the VW dealership, we headed over to the Subaru dealership out on Satellite Boulevard in Duluth.  Since we began our hunt for the perfect vehicle, I had placed Subie Forester and Outback at the top of my short list.  They have a zero-landfill production policy and are widely-owned by some of the greenest Americans out there--West Coasters.  But after laying hands on a couple of floor models, I was less than impressed.  They both look great and have attractive interiors.  Both are made for the outdoorsman, which would be great for road trips and camping excursions.  Yet, they didn't feel nearly as solid or high-quality as the Ford or VW models we had driven.  Upon opening the front door of the Forester, I felt like I could rip it off from its hinges, and I have no upper-body strength worth bragging about.  Neither had the fuel economy I expected (20/26).  No salesman approached us, so we didn't get the chance to take one for a spin.  So all in all, Subaru has booted off the list.  Reinforce those doors and up the MPG, and maybe we could talk.

We'll let you know when we make our decision!  A car is not a must-have at this very moment, but it's nice to know what's out there.  Send me your opinions on your crossovers/small SUVs/wagons.  I'd like to know if there's anything we've missed.  Nothing in the luxury car tier, OK?  Later!


Blogging in Brown said...

Thanks for sharing what you've figured out so far. I'm living vicariously through you because we won't be buying a family car until one of ours is DEAD and buried! I think that you should go with the VW... solely because it fits so well with your knew name (: hah-- clearly your decision-making style is a little more developed than mine, but what else is new?!

A. Hab. said...

This doesn't qualify as an SUV/Wagon, but I do have experience driving a VW in some pretty stinky weather. It was the vehicle we ended up renting when Robert and I went to Colorado for our very first vacation together. I ended up driving because my name was on the rental agreement (I was the only one over 25, lol). We drove it in Denver (like Atlanta), Boulder, Fort Collins, and Breckenridge. In the snow and ice.

I felt SO safe in it. It handled beautifully, drove smoothly, and never once slipped on the ice. It was so wonderful. I'm a very nervous driver when it comes to driving cars that aren't mine, but I felt incredibly comfortable in it (it was a VW Rabbit, so a teensy coupe).

And this also doesn't count because it's in the luxury tier, but my mother-in-law passed down her Lexus 350 to us a year ago, and I am in love with it. I really just wanted to mention the rearview camera. I didn't think I'd get used to it, but being short and scared of driving cars that aren't sedans, I quickly became a very close friend to this feature. It also makes sounds if I get too close to something (like a trashcan, other car, or small human). It's definitely a feature I'll want to eventually have on both our cars, when Robert and I are in the market to replace his RAV-4 (1998 and definitely cheap feeling...I hate driving it...I don't feel nearly as safe in it as I do in the Lexus). Seriously...when we start to have babies, I will not want my babies in that car.

Thanks for the awesome reviews on the vehicles! I can't wait until we're on the market--this has been extremely helpful! :)


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