All-purpose vehicle

My 2008 BMW 535xi is coming off lease in a couple weeks, my 2001 Honda Odyssey is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I?d like to un-clutter our driveway.

I?d like a single vehicle that is comfortable for longer trips, has not too ugly gas mileage, has all the navigation, backup camera, and phone goodies, has good acceleration, handling, and braking, is fun to drive, safe in snow and rain, will hold two bicycles inside, can be fitted with a tow hitch for hauling a snow blower and lawn tractor, and can be used for trips to Home Depot for house and yard supplies.

I?m probably dreaming because I haven?t been able to identify a candidate that will fit these requirements. Ideas?

Subaru Outback? With the 4 it can tow 2700 lbs, 3000 lbs with the 6.

As Jiminy Cricket sang “If you wish upon a star”. In truth, every vehicle is a compromise of various qualities and you have to zero in on the ones most important to your life style and driving patterns.

If you are buying a car, I would forget about anything German, since the high operating costs will hit you like a sledgehammer later on.

Carrying 2 bikes INSIDE will decide the shape of you vehicle, and I believe a Subaru Outback has enough room if you lie them flat. You won’t like any vehicle that will carry 2 bikes UPRIGHT inside. They’re tall and ugly, such as the Honda Element.

Others that come to mind are the Ford Flex, Ford Edge, Toyota RAV4 V6, Honda CRV V6, Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe. All these can be equipped with you favorite toys. Make sure the rear seats fold down flat.

You really have to test drive them to feel good about owning them.

…and, the 4 cylinder Outback, when coupled with the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is EPA-rated for 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway, thus making it the fuel economy leader in its size category. Many owners routinely report over 30 mpg on highway trips. The same engine, coupled to a 6-speed manual trans is rated at only 19 city mpg/27 highway mpg.

All of that being said, I really think that you need to buy a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide, which contains a wealth of information on every passenger vehicle sold in the US market–including historical reliability info and comparisons of vehicles in the same size category, along with the positives and negatives regarding each one.

Car recommendations from other people–no matter how well-intended–may not cover the entire spectrum of what is available. The more information that you have available, the better-off you will be.

I’d look at the Ford Flex

It’s got all the electronic goodies, it’s availible with a twin turbo 3.5L V6 that makes 355 HP, so it has some pep, AWD for when the weather gets bad, it has a roomy interior, and can tow 4500 pounds. Fuel mileage is 16-22 MPG, a little worse than your BMW, but in the same ballpark, and almost identical mileage to that of your Odyssey.

A Ford “Panther platform” car…An Outback towing 3000 pounds?? Only in automotive comic books…The words “CVT” and “reliable” don’t EVER fit on the same page…

If you are not opposed to another minivan, you might check out the 2011 Toyota Sienna. I just returned from a 785 mile trip in mine and averaged 24.4 mpg with an average speed of 57 miles per hour. This included some around town driving as well as Interstate driving and secondary highway driving. My around town mileage is between 16 and 17. It has all the “goodies” you mentioned except for the naviagation system–I didn’t opt for that. I’ve already loaded it up with two tympanis, a string bass, two horns, a violin and three passengers.
I don’t know about the towing capability, although I would think that you could pull a small trailer with the snow blower or lawn trailer.

I’m certain that it won’t handle like your BMW. I don’t know how it compares with other automobiles as far as handling is concerned. I haven’t owned a regular car in some time–our other vehicle is a Toyota 4Runner. The 2011 does have quicker steering and a shorter turning radius than the 2006 Chevrolet Uplander that I did own. It also has a quieter ride than the Uplander.

I don’t really care too much about the extra features. In fact, my tastes run along the line of a 1957 Studebaker Scotsman–if they still made the Studebaker Scotsman station wagon, I would probably own one. However, the Sienna can be had with even more optional junk than what I bought.

One feature that I was able to get Triedaq to use was the button to trigger the garage door opener. His opener had given out and when he would get out in the rain to open the garage door, he turned the air blue. When anyone asks him how he likes the new van, he always replied, “I liked the old one better”. However, he says this about anything new we get around the house. When we got a big screen television, he claimed to have liked the old small screen better, but it didn’t stop him from watching football games last fall.

Mrs. Triedaq

Easy…RAV4 v6 with 3500 lbs tow capacity or CRV/4 cyl RAV with 1500. Both handle nearly as well as many sedans, the v6 RAV is very quick, with convenient flip down flat read seats from the rear opening, CRV olny a little behind. Compact SUVs are the ultimate jack of all trades and you give up very little in comfort and handling with the new ones. They are absolutely as safe as the tires you put on.

If you can trade the backup camera for an ultrasonic backup monitor, the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave would work. They cover all the other bases. You can get the rear view camera in the Cadillac SRX Luxury as an option, and it’s standard in the Performance and Premium models. Expect the cost to be more like the 535 than the Chevy for the last 2.

That Outback has the 3.6l flat 6 and a regular AT, I think.

Lots of good ideas here. Since I can hold onto the Odyssey as long as I need to, plenty of time to mull them over. Thanks to all.

The Panther cars actually have lower tow ratings than the Outback, and the tow-package equipped Hyundai Elantra.

Being big isn’t all there is to it.

That said, I don’t doubt you could modify a Panther to tow more.

Psychologists have a number of names for this; anal retentionist, technophobia, fear of the unknown, and a number of others. My late father was the same way; he could never see the “labor saving” or technical superior aspect of something new.

I personally do not embrace everything that is new. Windows Vista was one I skipped over at the recommendation of IT friends.

We have 4 TVs in the house, ranging from 21" Sanyo to 50" flat screen Panasonic. The new one is a real treat. But I also have a 30 year old cast aluminum Swedish Apsco stapler; indestructible and very easy on the hands!

Any minivan would fit most or all of the criteria.

The panther cars never really struck me as fun to drive, you don’t so much “drive” them as you do “guide” them. I don’t think they have nav, bluetooth, or other electronic goodies availble for them either.

There is a wonderful spoken dialog between the pianist and the horn player that occurs in an alto horn sonata written by Paul Hindemith. The first lines, translated from the German, read “The old is not good simply because it has past, nor is the new supreme because we live with it”.
I did like the feature on my 1954 Buick. It had a “Selectronic” radio. You could advance to the next station by either pressing a bar on the radio, or stepping on a little button on the floor. I haven’t seen a car radio where the station can be changed by depressing a floor button since that Buick.
I had to claim to like the old television better because I was certain that Mrs. Triedaq would then want a flat screen television set for the bedroom. I was right–held off as long as I could, but did have to get that second flat screen set.
I have Windows Vista on the laptop my institution furnishes me. I haven’t found a real advantage over the older operating systems.


I have Vista and XP at home, and prefer Vista. The main reason is that networking is completely transparent. If another machine in the house is on, I can just open a shared drive from the networking tab. I have a scanner attached to the XP computer and the printer is attached to the Vista unit. I wanted to print 30 or so documents that I scanned in last night. All I had to do was open the folder on the XP machine from Vista, highlight, the files, right clike and print. Less than a minute later I have a copy of 30 documents. there are a few other good features, but that’s the big one.

A Consumer Reports New Car Preview from the local bookstore will list and compare every vehicle available. Start by picking up one of those. If you see one you like, test drive it.

Note: be aware that you have two contradicting criterion: performance and good in snow. Many models that come with good acceleration and handling do so by using wider tires and good low-end torque. That compromises performance in snow. I’d love a Nissan 370Z, but they’re notoriously lousy in snow.

Low end torque doesn’t compromise performance in snow if you have a light touch on the gas, and there’s nothing stopping you from running narrower tires in winter.