T Nation

What Kind Of SUV...

Hey People… I’ve been away from T-Nation for a bit because I’m in the process of looking for mid-sized, mid-priced SUV and I’ve been spending most of my free time looking for what I want and trying to decide. …

Of course there are way to many choices out there for everything these days. Even Pepsi… Remember when it used to be Pepsi or Diet Pepsi? Now it’s Pepsi low carb, Pepsi caffine free, diet caffine free Pepsi, blah, blah, blah and now I just seen them putting out a Holiday Spice version!!! What the hell??? I mean you go to grocery store and you have a whole isle of soda… We don’t need more…

Anyway, back to my dillema… With all these choices I’m confused as to what SUV to buy. I’m leaning strongly towards a Ford Explorer. My wife is pregnant and it will mainly be her vehicle so safty is a factor. I signed up for Consumer Reports and been looking at edmunds.com. Now I heard Ford provides each company with fundage so who knows what the hell is the truth… I’ll tell you who knows? T-Nation people… They won’t lead me a stray…

What are you thoughts? Experiences? What do you folks drive? Do you like it? Is it reliable?

Thanks for any input…

LJ

My advice to you would be the only good Ford is one under warranty.

This may sound trite, but I owned two Explorers and sold them before they hit 50K.

Both people I sold them to incurred serious repair expense b/t 50-70K. Despite the fact that they were both dealer serviced and lead pretty easy lives.

Additionally, the market is flooded with them and with very few regional exceptions, the 2-3 year depreciation curve is steep. Particularly if you pony up for an Eddie Bauer or Limited.

I am a car person, but my wife is currently looking at 2-3 year old LandCruisers or the Lexus equivalent. I will probably buy a 2002 or '03 in February/March.

Nissan and Toyotas tend to be bullet proof and a 2-3 year old one can be purchased reasonably and will hold up well from a resale standpoint for 2-3 additional years.

From a domestic standpoint, GMC’s seem to be well built and hold their value well, relatively speaking.

Toyota 4Runner

Honda Pilot

Maybe a Nissan Xterra?

I’ll burn in commie hell for this, but I will never buy another vehicle from an American car company. I broke that rule a few years ago and got a GMC Yukon XL. Never again. Currently driving a Toyota Sequoia which is great, but that might be a little above the mid-range price you’re looking for (mine was 40, but they start at $33,000 and go up to $44,000 or so). But with the 2005’s out, the 2004’s are being reduced. Safety is worth the extra dough when you’re talking about a family vehicle.

Can’t comment on Ford specifically. I hope they’ve improved because I really like the Bronco concept I’ve seen. But right now, I’m sticking to non-American. Looking at an Infiniti next.

For safety, buy the heaviest vehicle – this will likely also be taller than the average car. It won’t do much for your gas mileage, but that whole conservation-of-momentum thing from physics 2A still holds as far as safety goes.

All the safety ratings on various cars are compared against other cars of the same general class – I don’t care that the Honda Accord gets “5 stars”, if you crash it into a Suburban in a head on, buh-bye Honda.

I’ve driven SUVs and trucks my whole life – I tend to prefer what I call “real” SUVs – SUVs either built on their own platforms or, preferably, on a truck platform. Any SUV that is built on a car platform is worthless.

So, overall, look at the big SUVs (no car platforms among those…), and then pick the highest safety rating from among those – I think you can find that info on the J.D. Power site. I think Vehix.com lets you research various safety features as well, including airbags, built-in child-safety seats, etc. If you want to follow Shugs’ advice and go with a big Japanese vehicle, I believe that Nissan makes one comparable with the large American vehicles [ADDENDUM: This is the Armada] – the Toyota Landcruiser (and its Lexus upgrade) is also good, although I think there’s a rumor Toyota may be coming out with a large SUV like the Nissan sometime in the near future [ADDENDUM: I’m not sure if this is the Seqouia, but it probably is, and thus I am obviously behind the times in my info].

My $0.02.

The Nissan Armada is worth looking into. Start at 33k.

We have an Xterra and a RAV4 and love them both. The RAV4 is so cheap to drive (maintenance and gas) but may be a little small for you. We haven’t had the Xterra long enough for me to really offer much other than so far so good.

Jeep Grand Cherokee’s are pretty decent. They’re way more solid on bad roads than The Explorer will be (explorer was the first SUV ever designed to stay on the road). They don’t have too many problems. I’ve had two and they really didn’t start having issues until 8-10 years after purchase.

The biggest two issues was one electrical problem that was a little hard to find a mechanic who was able to figure it out (even the dealership was puzzled) and then a T-Case that needed to be rebuilt. However, the T-Case issue was a bit rare due to the fact my dad and I have taken that thing through a lot of country that your standard housewife wouldn’t take it through. Matter of fact we took both through that type of routing and now, with one being 11 years and one being 7 years old they’re both still running and both pretty dependable.

The newer one has had less issues than the older one too.

I second the Grand Cherokee. I purchased a 2004 Laredo back in March. I spent alomost a year researching SUV’s and Trucks before deciding that the Grand Cherokee was the best fit for me. Its been great so far and I’m extremely happy with my purchase. Before that I had a 1996 Jeep Cherokee Sport and never had a bit of trouble with it. Also, my parents own a 1995 Grand Cherokee with well over 100,000 miles on it and its still running strong.

Just make sure you do your homework and test drive all of the vehicles your considering before you make your purchase.

Good luck.

Had a Jeep for many years and loved it!

Alot depends on what you plan to do with it. Are you doing any hauling?
I work for a vehicle test lab so I see alot of the potential problems consumers may never see. To me this points to a company’s methodology as to how they get things right.
With that said I am personally not a fan of most Ford products (OK the GT40 is cool).
I know I will receive hell for this, but from a safety and functionality standpoint have you thought of a minivan.
As long as you don’t have to drive it, your testosterone is safe.
My wife has a Town and Country and she loves it. From a safety standpoint they have a lower center of gravity than an SUV and they are designed to absorb energy to protect the occupants in a crash. I hit a deer head on at 50 and the air bag didn’t even go off. It did however cause $9200 worth of damage.
Also, functionally they are more practical with kids.
I drive a GMC full size extended cab pickup and it is much easier to get the kids in and out of the van than the truck. However, you will have to pry my truck from my cold, dead (probably upside down) fingers.

http://images.t-nation.com/forum_images/5/2/524880.1101237177122.landcruiser_main[1].jpg

I have a Toyota Landcruiser. Totally kicks butt, even has DVD player. The 4X4 is great for Colorado winters.

[quote]Testy1 wrote:
Alot depends on what you plan to do with it. Are you doing any hauling?
I work for a vehicle test lab so I see alot of the potential problems consumers may never see. To me this points to a company’s methodology as to how they get things right.
With that said I am personally not a fan of most Ford products (OK the GT40 is cool).
I know I will receive hell for this, but from a safety and functionality standpoint have you thought of a minivan.
As long as you don’t have to drive it, your testosterone is safe.
My wife has a Town and Country and she loves it. From a safety standpoint they have a lower center of gravity than an SUV and they are designed to absorb energy to protect the occupants in a crash. I hit a deer head on at 50 and the air bag didn’t even go off. It did however cause $9200 worth of damage.
Also, functionally they are more practical with kids.
I drive a GMC full size extended cab pickup and it is much easier to get the kids in and out of the van than the truck. However, you will have to pry my truck from my cold, dead (probably upside down) fingers.[/quote]

I would definitely agree with the above ((consider a minivan), if safety and price are major factors to you. My uncle has a Honda Odessy (sp?), and loves it.

As for SUVs, I would 2nd the person about who recommended against American made SUV’s - I really do hate to say that, but based on most reliablity ratings Ive come across, the american automakers still have a LOT of room for improvement. However, I have heard good things about the Chevy Tahoe - they’re a little pricey, but I’m sure you could get a good deal on a used one.

The Nissan Armada Pathfinder is pretty sharp, and is most likely the most powerful and fastest SUV out there (305hp V8, 380ft/lb-tq), but it’s only been out a year or two and still has some bugs that need to be worked out. Seems a little risky, Id hold off a couple years before considering that option.

Toyota Sequoia would be a good bet, but because of cost, you might want to look into a used one.

I am a 4 wheeler… been one for years. I’ve driven and built about 13 SUV’s and I’d go with the Toy Land Cruiser. No question.

Gotta say that Jeeps are one reason I “went Japanese.” But this was the late-80’s so I’m sure they’ve improved a lot since then.


I’d also suggest an Ariel Atom. These usually come standard with a divorce though.

http://www.arielmotor.co.uk

You get whatever your wife tells you to get. I tried the comparison shopping, reading Consumer Reports, all the research crap.

Armed with all that info, and ready to buy - we passed the Chevy House. I’m…wait…We’re …correction… She’s now the proud owner of a 2003 Suburban.

The only bone I had tossed my way was XM Radio.

IAJTYWA

Is there any other SUV besides the Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The only thing I don’t like about the 2005 is the spare wheel location. No true SUV would have a spare tire under the chassis. Logistically, it’s either inside the vehicle or on the back or top.

-Brent

LJ,

Every body-on-frame sport utility is a compromise over a minivan. Stability, gas mileage, and interior space suffer for the sake of image, hauling capacity, and limited off-road ability.

Both active (avoidance) and passive safety are weak points in most SUVs. You do get more weight; how much more depends on the model. Large minivans are 4500 lbs (200 lbs more than an Explorer), while a fullsize GMC Suburban is closer to 5500 lbs, but because of compromises in ladder-frame and iron block engine crumple zones, Honda passengers may actually fare better in a collision between the two.

Frankly, I would ignore midsize car-based SUVs. They have all the added weight of a minivan but none of the interior space and versatility. Similarities beneath the paint put the two on even ground with safety.

Specific models, I can’t say. Too many new or heavily revised products to comment on reliability. Certain models have better track records than others, but don’t let that stop you from considering new domestics, many of which are deeply discounted.

DI

Hey Folks…

Man, thanks for all the responses… Let me tell you a bit more and maybe ya’ll can give me some more $.02…

OK, minivan is out… Not that I have anything against them or don’t think they are cool or anything. I need something I can tow with. I’m planning on getting a tow bar for my jeep to tow the beach and I want to be able to get mulch and stone and dirt when I need it with a trailer and not kiss my buddy’s ass for his truck. I know I could tow with a mini van, but I also need 4X4. We are going to build a house soon that’s about 10 miles from a major road and it gets nasty in the winter…

So with all that being said I definitely want a truck based body on frame SUV…

Here’s why I’m leaning towards the Explorer. I really don’t want to spend more then $25K, I know that’s not a lot of loot to spend on a car anymore, so I’m basically looking at a 2001-2002 4Runner which is fine, I like the body style better then the new ones. They are nice trucks, don’t get me wrong. I’m looking at a vehicle with 30000ish miles on it if I get the 4Runner.

Well… Ford is giving some super good savings right now. Of course everyone is trying to sell cars at this time of the year so the ball’s in my court sorta speak, but let me tell you what I’m looking at…

2004 Explorer XLT leftover sticker price of $35000. I’ve been getting internet quotes of $25000!!! That’s 10 grand off and $25K for a brand new vehicle!!! With a ton of options including side air bags, stabilty control, upgraded stereo, 3rd row seat, towing package, and some other things just to name a few…

I’d love to get a bigger SUV, but the wife wants no parts of it and I want her to be comfortable with what she drives… Especially with a baby on board…

I checked all the government sites for crash tests and the 4Runner and the Explorer are the 2 top SUV’s with the 4Runner coming in a bit higher. The jeeps are way bad and so are the GMCs…

As far as reliability it’s hard to say. I maintain my vehicles meticulously. I have a 1994 jeep wrangler that looks like it just rolled off the show room floor and pretty much runs like it too… It’s has about 140000ish thousand miles (my 33" tires threw the odometer off so I don’t know exactly) and other then a few issues this past year that were resolved way quick, by me and a buddy, my jeep hasn’t had any issues. I also have a 97 Grand Am. When I bought it people told me that I was fool and that I’m going to have a bunch of problems after 70000 miles… Guess what? I’m up to about 130000 miles and that thing, knock on wood, runs like a top… I really think a lot of that is how you maintain it.

Hmmmm… I can’t of anything else, but let me know what you guys think… The opinions for t-nation folks are golden!!!

Thanks…

LJ

There are a couple of caveats concerning your choices.

  1. If you get an older Forerunner they are way underpowered. Don’t plan on using it for towing. The low power is alright for offroad because high torque won’t help offroad, but on the freeway they can’t get out of their own way. This has been resolved in the newer models.

  2. Be careful comparing crash test data. The majority of fatalities in SUV’s are due to rollover, not impacts.

Other than that your choices seem sound.
I am just not a ford guy (nice trucks, but the rest Blech!!!).
My wife had a Windstar and it was the biggest piece of … well you know.

Good luck