Flutterby™! : Dan needs a new Car

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Dan needs a new Car

2001-12-20 20:19:27+00 by TC 29 comments

Vehix Site is a good site for car reasearch and Dan needs your help (because Todd's pestering is not enough) to help him decide how to travel in the 21st century. Some of the givens are 4WD and the ability to tow things. Now I don't think Dan wants/needs a big beasty car like mine but I think something like a Rav 4 is too puny.

[ related topics: Dan's Life Todd Gemmell Bay Area Travel ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2001-12-20 20:31:47+00 by: TC [edit history]

Todd's Suggestions

Subaru Forrester might be worth looking into.

Nissan Xterrra Dan seems to like Nissan

Ford Escape I've had good luck with ford 4WD but don't know much about this particular model

Santa Fe I don't know much about these but I have seen them driving about and think they at least look cool.

#Comment made: 2001-12-20 20:42:03+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]


I see Dan in more of a classic.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:53+00 by: Pete

Gotta disagree on the Sante Fe. In person that thing looks like it was constructed by Vogons.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:53+00 by: TC

You mean capable of destroying planets in order to make way for a bypass? or poetic? Vogon poetry is quite famous. we"ll c'mon and suggest something.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: Dan Lyke

Todd, the problem with all of those cars is that they've got a center of gravity that's way too high, thus their safety is generally lower than a reasonable sedan. One of the reasons a truck is a better alternative is that without all the steel up high in the back they can be made with a center of gravity that actually makes them a reasonable rough terrain vehicle. And the fine-line of places accessible by a vehicle with a high center of gravity that aren't already accessible via something two-wheel drive is pretty minimal.

The only other advantages at that point are towing capacity (something big and heavy) and no need for chains (whatever; chains have never seemed that much of a hassle to me). And a full-size spare tire, which is the lack I'm most aware of when I get off the beaten path.

Of course this is mostly predicated on getting my commute moved further towards bicycle or public transit, because while I could probably swing a recreational alternative vehicle in terms of dollar costs, I don't have a place to park it. It's too bad the primary motivation for this is towing to Burning Man, which is when everyone wants one. That's the problem with the economics of scarcity.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oh yeah, I could also see myself in a '70s Landcruiser, back when the Landcruiser was a functional vehicle, but that'd have to be a second car.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, that picture I inserted above is of a Kaiser.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: Dori

We have a RAV4, and we love it to death. No, we don't do much (okay, any) towing, but it's been great for hauling around plenty of gear and people and bikes.

I like that it's not so huge that I feel like I'm burning gallons per mile, but it's big enough that I can load serious amounts of stuff if I'm driving the boys to a camp out.

In particular, the ability to fold down only half the back seat adds a lot of extra cargo room. We found that many of the competition had an all-or-nothing back seat, which doesn't work for our 3 person family.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: Pete

Like all Vogon ships it looked as if had been not so much designed as congealed. The unpleasant yellow lumps and edifices which protruded from it at unsightly angles would have disfigured the looks of most ships, but in this case that was sadly impossible. Uglier things may have been spotted in the skies, but not by reliable witnesses.

#Comment made: 2001-12-20 22:54:27+00 by: TC [edit history]

Uh Dan, I'm somewhate familiar with your driving style and am confused about your "Roll Over Concern" but here are the goverment statistics that must be frightening you. Being an SUV pilot I have concluded (firestone tire exception) that most of these accidents are people being stooopid. You think the Forrester has "high" center of gravity?? (it's a station wagon prettending to be an SUV). and Third your supposed to be at LOTR while flutterby picks your car out for you. Oh and fourth also knowing your organizational style I figure you'd love a mini SUV for the reasons Dori mentioned.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: TC

Did some more digging and with roll over being your highest concern the goverment ratings say you should buy a pontiac aztek. Vogon designers not included.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: Pete

Have you considered all wheel drive options? Audis, VW's, the occasional Subaru...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:54+00 by: topspin

I'll cast my vote for something like a Volvo V70 wagon. Roomy, low center of gravity, potentially AWD, tows 1.5 tons, and still yuppie enough for Marin.

Dan, will you really need to tow more than 3000lbs? Will you really go that far offroad?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:55+00 by: Dan Lyke

Todd, I know of at least one Forrester roll-over, by someone who thought it was a sedan.

Pete, I'm really actually quite happy with the Maxima, except for towing and pitiful excuse for a spare tire. My only bit of taking this to its logical extreme is that the reasons for 4 wheel drive are also largely synonymous with the reasons for real ground clearance. Then again, my 528e had enough ground clearance to get me in and out of some pretty whacked places.

Topspin, 3000 lbs is probably sufficient. The 1000 lbs the Maxima is rated for is probably a little light, given that we generally have 800 to 900 lbs of water alone going for the playa.

I'll probably ask around about beefing up the rear end suspension on towing and just put a hitch on the Maxima. But thanks for reminding me about the Volvos.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:55+00 by: TC

Wow the Volvo looks pretty sweet. I knew someone in the community would have a good suggestion.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:55+00 by: ebradway

My Porsche is on the market again. I can make a special deal for Dan. I'm sure it could be equipped to tow well (might have to modify the suspension some). The rear-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration makes all-wheel-drive almost unnecessary.

Of course, you could go for a Carrera 4. The 959 never became street legal. Or you could look for this: .

Or how 'bout Porsche's new entry in the SUV market: The Cayenne

Personally, I like the Volvo Cross-Country but I think Dan would dig the BMW 525ix Touring. It's the 525i wagon with all-wheel drive. They are pretty scarce in the states but VERY popular overseas. It was pretty much only made from 92-96 but if you want a sedan, the range is greater.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:55+00 by: ccoryell

I second the vote for the volvo wagons. (of course I have one.) \

Anyway, I can't speak for the current wagons, but historically Volvos have absolutely fantastic turning radai. Mine is comparable to the ford aspire (extremely small ford) I was once unlucky enough to rent. I love being able to U-turn just about anywhere and can fit mine into very small parking spaces.


Again, I can't speak for the newer vehicles but there is over 208k miles on my odometer and its running great. Many volvos make it to 300k.


Carl C-M

#Comment made: 2001-12-21 17:06:32+00 by: TheSHAD0W [edit history]


I suspect you'd find something like my Bronco to be a bit of overkill, but figured you'd like a look. :-)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:57+00 by: meuon

I also have an '84 Bronco... not near that nice, but it is the ultimate redneck SUV.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:57+00 by: Mike Gunderloy

Who the hell needs an SUV. Just get a pickup truck. Any random kids can always just ride in the back.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:57+00 by: Dylan

My take: Screw SUV's, get a pickup.

I can *strongly* recommend Toyota trucks. They are, simply, the best out there right now. Best safety record, good price, *good* 4WD (meaning the right options in gearing and in controlling power output to suit the job), they aren't ugly, and they haul a lot.

My housemate drives Toyota's 'compact' pickup, the Tacoma...and having driven it on and off road, with and without heavy loads, and even towing a trailer...I can't recommend it highly enough.

Maybe you'll find something else out there you like better but for pure functionality I don't think anything will top it.

If you really want to be able to haul a lot in the bed I'd say go for the next model up in size, the Tundra...but the amount of bed-space you gain isn't worth the loss in capability off-road to me (it's only an extra 8 inches or so of bed, no wider and no deeper).

Fuck, I should go work for Toyota...

Anyway, it's a really great truck, and if I was in any financial shape to be buying a vehicle I'd be getting one.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:57+00 by: Larry Burton

I agree, get a truck. A Chevy truck. You don't even need 4WD, the ground clearance a Chevy C1500 will get you is all you need.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:58+00 by: spink

It just so happens that one of my other friends has been looking for a AWD/4WD vehicle since she does search and rescue( with dog). We went to the SF Auto Show and looked at all the vehicles. Both the Volvo CrossCountry and the Audi AllRoad have roughly the same ground clearance as most of the SUVs on the market. They are both stationwagons and both cost in the general 40K range. Most of the SUVs that are worth buying if you either want to tow or go off road are also in the general 40K range. Both the Volvo and Audi get reasonable gas mileage.

So if you are willing to spend 40k get a super wagon. If not, get a truck. Everthing else is a poor compromise.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:58+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Just a note... My brother used to own a Jeep Wrangler. He once went offroad with some friends to a secluded beach. It was a hell of a ride, over brush and sand, and he told me he'd nearly gotten stuck several times.

When he'd finally gotten there, he found a group of people in a Subaru Forrester who'd arrived before. He talked to the driver, who claimed to have no problems getting there.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:58+00 by: Dan Lyke

My experience is that the clues to off-road (or just pavement) driving are:

  1. Ground clearance.
  2. Willingness to deflate your tires to 15PSI or below.
  3. Patience to go slowly enough to not pop tires or over-drive skid factors (ie: Dylan's house-mates experience).
  4. Willingness to go fast enough to not sink in.

The place that 4 wheel drive helps is on that last point, or places where #3 and #4 contradict each other. Other than that it's just largely a correlation factor between 4 wheel drive vehicles and #1, and the fact that most 4 wheel drive vehicles are compromises that give tire loading that make #2 an absolute necessity.

Thus the experience of your friend with the Jeep versus the Subaru is probably related to the tire loading issue, that because the Forrester is considered a car it's got tires that are set up for highway driving, which probably handle better in sand (as long as you don't let the tires break loose).

The only other reason for 4 wheel drive in this mind-experiment is that I have been a few places where a two-wheel drive car would get ticketed (parts of Joshua Tree National Park) or would have overridden my inexperience with #4 (Eureka Dunes, in Death Valley National Park).

Despite Todd's pleas, I'm probably just going to get the rear suspension on the Maxima beefed up a bit and put a hitch on it, although based on this discusison I'll probably keep my eyes open for a used Volvo or a good truck, 'cause I really don't end up using the extra passenger space of the Maxima as often as I thought I would.

#Comment made: 2001-12-27 06:20:59+00 by: Mars Saxman [edit history]

4 wheel drive also helps with uneven terrain. If one of the rear wheels leaves the ground, the car stops moving because the differential sends all the power to the airborne wheel and none to the one still touching dirt. This is still true with 4 wheel drive, but there's an additional pair of wheels on the front axle which can keep the vehicle moving. So a 4WD vehicle can travel forward with any one of its wheels in the air. Without 4WD, you have to rely on inertia to carry you until both rear wheels touch ground again.

So I'd add a fifth to your list of clues to off-road driving: 5. Keep your wheels on the ground!

A flexible suspension helps a lot here.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:01+00 by: Dori

I'm giggling about how many friends of yours want you to buy a truck. If you do, plan on spending most of your weekends dealing with the "Hey, now that you have a truck, can you help me move x...?" situation.

I wonder how many of these "friends" have an ulterior motive... :-)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:01+00 by: topspin

Ulterior motive? Now there's an idea.....

I (having helped Eric [or Heather or Elaine, via Eric] move about 5 or 6 times in the last 1.5 years using my Blazer and/or meuon's F150] suggested the Volvo V70 Wagon.

<whistling, shoving hands in pockets, and looking at shoes... then whispering to Eric>

Didya know the V70 has more cargo room than my Blazer? ;-)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:04+00 by: ebradway

I haven't driven one, but if you take in all the general factors for owning a car, the Volvo Cross-Country meets pretty much all of them. I think I told Dan back around 1992 that if Volvo made an all-wheel-drive wagon it would be a no-brainer. Volvo is alot better at creating usable cargo space and REALLY safe cars than Subaru. Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen all have very respectable all-wheel-drive wagons, but no one does cargo in a wagon format like Volvo.

There are some significant problems with the regular SUVs: rollover tendancies in normal traffic, increased risk to drivers of other cars, and fuel efficiency. This makes a full-size SUV for even occasional city life unreasonable. I could see owning an Excursion if you live in West Texas and need to shuttle ranch hands around. In the North Bay area, the Volvo carries as many soccer players as the Excursion and does it safer and more efficiently.

But this is coming from a guy in a Porsche 911...