Sun, 18 Oct 2009

Car Shopping - And Then There Were Three

This weekend we took some more test drives to include or exclude the cars we wanted to consider.

Last weekend, we had the field sorted in the following order: MB R350, Highlander, RX 350, MDX, Tribeca and XC90.

This weekend, we took the R-Class, Highlander Hybrid, RX 350, and the Tribeca for a spin.

The exercise allowed us to narrow in on specifically what were our priorities in the car. Briefly, we wanted a no-compromises solution, which meant the ability to seat 4 adults and a car seat comfortably. (Scenario: Christine, Carson and I go to the airport or train station to pick up two guests).

That meant the elimination of the Lexus, as it lacks a 3rd row seat, and seating for four adults with a car seat is not practical. This was tough because it was one of our favorites in terms of interior comfort and fit/finish. And the trailing candidate in fit/finish, the Tribeca was also eliminated, although it is definitely the class leader in its price class. If you want a mid-size SUV for less than $40K, you should take the Tribeca for a spin.

We also ended up eliminating the Acura MDX. The interior and technology package are quite nice, but the undoing of the Acura was its "truck-like" drive. Compared to the steering response from the R-Class, the Highlander and even the RX 350 and Tribeca, the Acura was dead last.

And we also ended up eliminating the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Christine simply found that the non-linear braking and acceleration didn't inspire confidence, and the savings in gas mileage were offset by the fact that this car will be driven well under 10K miles/year, minimizing the fuel economy benefits of the Hybrid.

That means that the final list is starting to narrow to the R350, the Highlander (non-hybrid), and the XC90-- the latter two which still need a test drive. (While I test-drove the Highlander Limited several weeks ago, Christine hasn't and she'll be the primary driver)

P.S. Some readers might be curious as to why we didn't take any American cars out. First, I have yet to be impressed with anything the American car companies manufacture, simply from a "can I see myself driving this, can I see myself spending money on this" perspective. But prodded by my brother-in-law, who is a wholesale car dealer, we looked at a few American cars a couple months back when we first explored the option of a Honda Odyssey. That outing included the Escalade, the Envoy, the Navigator, the Yukon, and the Acadia. To the extent that the Mazda CX-9 is similar to (and likely superior to in some respects) a Ford, even Ford was represented. None of them made us take a second glance.

Name/Blog: Rus Berrett
Title: take the ML over the R
Comment/Excerpt: I still think you dismissed the ML prematurely. Put your rear-facing carseat in the middle of the back row and you should have plenty of room for two adults on either side of Carson. Seating for 4 adults plus 1 carseat has not been a problem for us in the past... and I think the current ML's a bit longer and _wider_ than our 1999 model. I test drove the R-class (a couple of years ago) and I thought the driver's cockpit was a bit too claustrophobic (you are I are about the same build and size). Also, the driver in the ML sits higher than in the R... which (for me) is a good thing. You didn't say you took the ML for a test drive. I think you should, because it is far better to drive than the R in my humble opinion. I am fairly certain that the two cars share the same unibody chassis and engine and tranny (and just about everything else), yet I just like how the ML drives over the R. cheers. --rus.

Khan Klatt

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