Unicorn Hunting: Comfy wagon/SUV with great mileage

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Clay, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. Clay

    Clay Guest

    Greetings! I'm shopping for a car that may not exist. My requirements
    list isn't long, but it's hard to find them on the same car.

    1) Absurdly comfortable front seats. I'm 6'2" and get back pain
    whenever I drive any of my current cars for more than 30-60 minutes. I
    "only" weigh 190, but have long legs for someone by height.

    2) Good winter traction. We live in rural New England and have a 400-
    foot sloped gravel driveway. 4WD isn't a requirement (our FWD Passat
    is adequate for example), but better ground clearance would be great
    (our current cars frequently scrape on the dirt roads around here --
    including one recent event that broke TWO catalytic converters).

    3) Great gas mileage. As you can tell from the fact that one of our
    cars runs on waste vegetable oil (see below), we care a lot about
    reducing emissions. This is actually more important, to us, than fuel
    savings. That is, we don't mind paying $5,000 extra for a car that
    will save us only $3,000 in gas costs over the life of the vehicle.

    3a) Manual transmission. I have never owned an automatic and I don't
    like them. They have worse mileage and I don't enjoy them as much (I
    also like how manuals force me to pay attention to my driving --
    neither my wife nor I have ever had an accident in over 30 combined
    years driving 5-speeds).

    I've heard that the Prius has surprisingly good leg-room, but all our
    driving is rural -- so a hybrid doesn't seem like the right
    technology. I also hate automatics.

    I have a friend with a 5-cylinder Volvo wagon -- she says she gets 35
    MPG highway. I haven't tried driving it, but perhaps this is the best
    combo of the above choices.

    I'm also looking at SUV options (Ford? Honda?), because I notice my
    back hurts a lot less in vehicles (like our pickup truck) with an
    'upright' seating position.

    I sat in my stepmother's Subara Forester for a few minutes and I'm
    pretty sure the front seat is too cramped. Same with the few minutes I
    spent in a Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

    For reference, these are our current/recent cars, and what we liked
    and didn't like:

    a) 1987 Nissan Sentra (2-door). My first car, but I soon realized that
    driving it was like jabbing an ice pick in my lower back. My father-in-
    law was a mechanic so we ripped out the front seat and drilled some
    more holes in the seat frame so that it could go farther back (to the
    point that no one could fit in the back seat). This was a great
    solution, but not one that makes sense for me any more.

    b) 1996 VW Golf. Another great car. Suprisingly comfortable front

    c) 1999 Nissan Frontier Pickup Truck. Great reliable pickup truck, but
    somewhat cramped seating, and not a good all-around vehicle for a 3-
    person family.

    d) 1999 VW Jetta Diesel, with a "GreaseCar" kit to run on waste
    vegetable oil. Starting to show it's age -- less reliable than the
    Japanese cars I've owned. Horrible winter traction, and less
    comfortable than the Golf.

    e) 2000 VW Passat 6-cylinder. The weight helps gives this car much
    better snow traction than the Jetta, but it's mileage is poor, and the
    front seat is the LEAST comfortable of any car I've ever owned. Alas,
    I didn't notice this in the 20-minute test drive.

    I would love feedback from other people like me, who've had trouble
    finding a comfortable car. I really wish the dealers would let me test-
    drive a car for a day (or a week) so I could truly assess whether the
    car was suitable for long drives.

    Thanks in advance for any help!

    Clay, Aug 27, 2007
  2. Clay

    Jeff Guest

    This reference lists every vehicle made for 2008 MY:

    And http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/FEG2007.pdf for the 2007 MY.

    They group vehicles by type and list the engine, transmission, and mileage.

    You can do a comprehensive search and narrow your search easily.

    I drove a Saturn Vue (available with 2WD and 4-cyl) and liked it. The
    Ford Escape and Tribute might meet your needs. I would also look at the
    Hyundai, Suzuki, MiniCooper, Fonda Fit, Ford Edge, Pontiac Vibe. As far
    as what is comfortable for you, sorry, but I have a different back than you.

    You might or might not be surprised how big the Fit and Mini Cooper are.

    Jeff, Aug 27, 2007
  3. The Prius would do very well in the economy department and (depending on how
    you and the seats fit together) it would probably handle your height. The
    ground clearance and traction requirements are deal breakers, though. All
    Prius models have relatively little ground clearance - around five inches -
    and too much vulnerable stuff under the car. The hatchback models have a
    tactic of shutting down power to the wheels once slippage starts and is only
    overridden (partially, at that) with full throttle. The hybrid system
    doesn't have an actual automatic transmission so much as a power delivery
    system. I am also partial to manual trannies and occasionally really
    frustrated with automatics but I really like the way the hybrid power train
    works. Still - no way where you drive.

    The Ford Escape Hybrid may overcome the ground clearance problem, but I've
    heard bad things (maybe outdated) about the usable traction. That's
    something somebody with direct experience would know be able to tell you

    Michael Pardee, Aug 27, 2007
  4. Clay

    Ray O Guest

    Hmmm. performance and reliability are not on your list of desired traits?
    Lots of leg room tends to come with larger vehicles, which tend to be less
    fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than a smaller vehicle.

    Look at the Scion xB, which has a surprising amount of interior room, good
    fuel economy, FWD, and available manual transmission. Check out the Ford
    Escape, Toyota Rav4, Honda CRV & Element, and new Highlander.
    Ray O, Aug 27, 2007
  5. Why does rural driving rule out a hybrid?

    As for the transmission....if you're truly interested in using less fuel
    and reducing emissions, you should take a close look at the Prius.
    True, you can't shift it yourself--but if you look very closely at the
    technology, you'll be amazed at what Toyota has done. It doesn't have a
    conventional transmission, or even a conventional belt-driven CVT, at
    all. The geniuses at Toyota figured out how to do a hybrid drivetrain,
    and determined how the power should be managed, and the result is

    Like it or not, the Toyota method is the wave of the future for
    passenger cars.
    Elmo P. Shagnasty, Aug 27, 2007
  6. Alas, much as we love our Prius for its consistent 50 MPG, it has the LEAST
    comfortable and least adjustable seats of any car I've ever ridden in since
    the elementary school bus.

    Sorry it doesn't exist, but what you need (and I'd buy one too) is a 40 MPG
    Volvo V70 Hybrid.
    newsgroups.comcast.net, Aug 27, 2007
  7. Clay

    bigjim Guest

    There's only one choice for you- try a Subaru Outback. My 04 got 29
    mpg fully loaded driving cross country and the AWD will handle
    anything you would attempt in a stock vehicle and be 100% reliable for
    a long time. Try it. The 4 cyl is plenty powerful and a manual is
    bigjim, Aug 27, 2007
  8. Clay

    bigjim Guest

    Hybrids are for wimps. I hate getting stuck behind those putt putt

    bigjim, Aug 27, 2007
  9. It's not the tool, it's the operator.
    Elmo P. Shagnasty, Aug 27, 2007
  10. Clay

    Roadie Guest

    A Volvo XC90 will be roomy, have good winter traction and get passable
    milage. A Subaru Outback will be somewhat smaller, get marginally
    better milage, have a manual gearbox and be passably roomy.

    Unfortunately the combination of large roomy vehicle with a manual
    transmission, all wheel drive that gets very high milage does not
    I doubt that you will find a 4WD passenger vehicle. More likely will
    be AWD.
    AWD vehicles typically do not get great milage.
    Very few passenger vehicles have manual transmissions. The only one I
    can think of that couples a manual gearbox and AWD is the Subaru
    Outback. It was quite comfortable when I drove one and I'm 6'.
    If it is an AWD vehicle I doubt that it gets 35mpg. Indeed the
    standard front wheel drive non-turbo car would likely get 28 to 30 mpg
    on the highway.

    Given that you apparently have back problems that should be the first
    criteria for you. Develop a list of cars that fit your frame and can
    accomodate a sore back. Beyond providing a list of cars with roomy
    front seating tt is literally impossible for someone on the internet
    to guess which car will fit you properly.
    Roadie, Aug 27, 2007
  11. Clay

    Jeff Guest

    I, too, take it nice and gently. I like to save gas and not wear out my
    equipment. The only difference is that I am not rushing to stop at the
    next red light, rather, I sail through it when it is green.

    Jeff, Aug 27, 2007
  12. Clay

    ronbon Guest

    Try an SE Camry. Excellent front drivers seat. Great mileage for a
    larger car. Good handling. I personally like the black upholstery with
    the chrome accents. Seventeen inch alloy wheels. The car has a lot
    going for it.

    ronbon, Aug 27, 2007
  13. Clay

    Tom Guest

    my crown vic gets 30+mpg on the highway with the cruise set at 65, and 22
    mpg in town if i keep my foot out of it.
    if the kids drive it, it gets 12 in town, and 15 onthe highway, cause they
    like to hit the speed limiter.
    thats why i don't let them have the keys anymore..
    Tom, Aug 27, 2007
  14. Clay

    MAT Guest

    Mazda 5, Subaru WRX/Legacy/Forester wagons
    MAT, Aug 27, 2007
  15. Clay

    ron Guest

    I'll second Ray's suggestion - I am 6' even and have an 08 Highlander
    Limited _do not have the seat near the rearmost it will go - the steering
    column telescopes and wheel tilts

    I just sold a house, the agent used part of the commission to by an xB - he
    is 65 and says its plenty roomy (I've not been in it to see)

    Ron in Ca
    ron, Aug 27, 2007
  16. Clay

    Lynn McGuire Guest

    Greetings! I'm shopping for a car that may not exist. My requirements
    I've got two suggestions, both not yet available:

    1. Volkswagon Tiguan Diesel (May 2008 in USA ?)
    140 hp 2.0L diesel, 35/45 mpg ?

    2. Honda CRV Diesel (August 2009 in USA ???)
    already available in the UK since 2001 ?
    150 hp 2.2L diesel, 35/45 mpg

    Lynn McGuire, Aug 29, 2007
  17. Clay

    John Horner Guest

    You can get the Volvo V70 wagon with a manual transmission. It is one
    of the very few vehicles which hits your requirements.
    John Horner, Aug 31, 2007
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