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Choosing an AWD Car


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#1 biggman100

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Posted 04 August 2013 - 06:59 PM

It is time to start looking for a new vehicle for my wife, and because of where we live, in a very rural, barely maintained in winter area, AWD is almost necessary. She usually drives Subaru Legacy wagons, but, I'm thinking its time to look into other makes and models, just to see what is out there, and people's real world experiences with them.  I'm not only looking for information on newer vehicles, but certain vehicles as far back as the mid 1990's, such as the Mitsubishi sedans, Subaru legacy and impreza, and Audi AWD sedans. Since the mid 2000's, we have been buying Subaru legacy's with the 2.5l, but after the last one didn't last because of a recurring head gasket issue, im looking to see what else might be out there, and make an informed decision on our next vehicle purchase. I hear that the pre-2000 Subaru's are good cars, and have been told stories where they have lasted well over 200000 miles, but my wife isn't so fond of the styling of them. She does like the styling on some of the older Audi's, but i hear they have odd mechanical and electrical issues, at least from what i read online, and we both like the styling of the 3 and 5 series BMW, but i hear older ones can be pricey to maintain. What i am looking for is anyone who can give me real world, actual use and maintenance info on any of the available AWD sedans and wagons that are out there. She wont, for some reason that i havent figured out in 10 years of marriage, drive SUV's, minivan's, or pick-up's, which is why im only looking for info on sedans and station wagons.



#2 Moses Ludel

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Posted 04 August 2013 - 09:45 PM

I'll take a general approach and trust that other members will jump into the discussion with actual AWD experiences and facts on given models.  I steer away from used European anything except pre-owned BMW motorcycles with good service records.  I worked around VW, BMW, Volvo and Saab in the 'eighties, and they each sang the same tune: high maintenance costs, including exotic labor and parts charges, plus ridiculously poor return on investment, regardless of the initial purchase cost or fuel efficiency.

 

A recent tale involved a family member with a late VW Jetta purchased pre-owned with very low mileage.  The differential in the FWD segment needed work, just a side gear and one half-shaft defective.  VW insisted that the only way to purchase the single differential side gear was within the VW rebuilt parts program, involving the complete Aisin six-speed automatic transaxle for $4,800 exchange plus the half-shaft assembly (installation labor not included).  This is apparently acceptable with European cars, I recall BMW car repairs that also involved "complete parts assemblies" at exorbitant costs.

 

So, that's one reason why the Japanese cars made inroads to the U.S. market.  Today, however, Japanese car parts are also significantly more expensive than domestics.  Go figure.  I am aware of the Subaru track record for blown head gaskets in those models, we had a friend who accidentally bought a used Subaru from that cohort and had the repetitive issue you describe.

 

Recent Subaru models have apparently returned the brand to its time honored status.  A daughter-in-law really enjoys her late Subaru Forester, and it seems quite reliable, a traditional expectation with Subaru.  (I did some work with Subaru around the launch of the SUS sedan years back, and the car seemed durable and utility bent.)  There's nothing exotic about a Subaru, the fuel mileage is not extraordinary, either.  However, these AWD cars offer utility with essential features—and for the most recent models, an exceptional safety rating within this market.  This makes me happy with our daughter-in-law's choice, as our cherished grandchildren ride in the back seat of this car.

 

I'm going to park it right here and ask others to be specific about AWD car experiences...We're a community at these forums, and this is time to help biggman100 and his wife make an informed decision!

 

Moses



#3 biggman100

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 08:11 AM

Moses, thank you for the info. My wife has been steering towards an 06 or newer legacy wagon, but i wanted to see what else was available before we actually made a purchase. Up until now, with house payments and remodeling, kids and school, and other financial drains, we have only been able to afford older vehicles, but we are finally in the market for something newer. I still want to be careful about what we buy, so it doesn't seem like im just throwing money away. I owned 2 1994 Subaru legacy wagons that lasted almost 350000 miles before they started to fall apart, but that was years ago, and then when my wife and i got married, she had a 1997 legacy with a 2.5, that i eventually replaced with another engine because of the head gaskets, and then we didn't own another one until her latest one, which i found was very expensive to repair, so for now, she is driving her 1996 legacy rally car back and forth. It's street legal and has been well maintained by me, but the body is starting to rot in places. Plus i don't think it would be a good winter car for around here with all the modifications we have made to it.



#4 Papaobewon

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 09:32 AM

Hibiggman 100
Recently, we recommended a Nissan Pathfinder 2013 for my daughter. She wanted and needed the utility of an AWD vehicle, as we live in Colorado! We loved the new design (crossover) the CVT - Constant Velocity Transmission, room for 7 passengers, v-6 engine and the real world gas economy of 22 highway / gal.
Well, there is now a recall on the brakes, there are reported incidents of shuddering and stalling which may be linked to the transmission. (Nissan is working on a solution.) Of course this problem has afflicted my daughter's car. I should have worked harder at helping her get another Toyota 4runner!

This is as real as it gets, a new vehicle which was approximately $35k and trouble immediately. Should have been mindful to the engineer credo: avoid 1.0 versions until the bugs are worked out!

BTW we drove two Subarus, an Outback and Legacy Wagon, both went 230k miles before we had an electrical issue with heater blower motors (open circuit in harness) yikes on both of them! The 87 Legacy was a 5 speed with no options, AC, etc., it delivered 30 mpg-highway. The 89 Outback fully loaded gave around 19-20 mpg - highway, auto tranny, AC, POWER EVERYTHING! Hope this provides some insight!

 

Papaobewon



#5 Moses Ludel

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 03:41 PM

biggman100, I'm on board with the idea of a later Subaru AWD if you can spring for an '06-up, and if they're past the head gasket fiasco. Are they?...It that's the same technology as daughter-in-law's Forester, it would do the trick!

 

Moses



#6 jj_jeep

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 07:15 PM

This won't help you at all because you can't buy this car with AWD from Ford, but have you seen the latest Ken Block videos on You Tube?  Perhaps he had Subaru issues too ;) ? 



#7 Moses Ludel

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 07:22 PM

Great testimonials, Subaru is clearly a respected AWD!  Difficult serviceability and higher maintenance/repair costs have become the new "normal" for most vehicles.  Has Subaru dodged this pitfall?  Or do things simply last longer on a Subaru before they require service?

 

How does the Subaru stack up for serviceability?  If you buy used and do your own work, will an '06 or newer Subaru be easier to work on than other vehicles in its class?  How does the cost of Subaru service parts compare with others? 

 

Moses



#8 biggman100

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 02:01 PM

JJ, ill answer yours first. Ken didn't go to ford because of mechanical issues with Subaru, it was mainly financial, and some issues he had with Subaru's upper management. My wife is an amateur rally driver, who keeps up on rally and drift news quite closely.

 

Moses, the Subaru head gasket issue, which as a lot of people know, only affected the 2.5l, and was pretty much non-existent in the 2.2l and 3.0l, and i should have been more clear on what she was looking at. She is actually looking at a 3.0l v-6, but, having never owned or worked on one, i am looking at info on them mainly, just to see what people have to say about them. I do belong to a couple of Subaru forums, and a lot of the guys on there i asked say the 3.0 is a good engine, but the gas mileage is a bit lower than i would like, but, if they are as reliable as the guys on those forums say, then the trade off in less maintenance costs may be worth the bit extra we pay for gas. The head gasket issue did plague the 2.5l into 2005, but after that didn't seem to be an issue anymore, so if i find a well maintained 2006 or newer 2.5l, i may be looking to buy one of those. As for the part about doing my own work, i normally do, but i have never worked on any Subaru newer than 04, so i would have to really look into what it takes to do certain things, because on the older 2.5l, there were some things that were a bear to do, such as spark plugs and valve cover gaskets. Whenever i make any vehicle purchase, one thing i always look at is whether i can work on it myself or not.

 

Papaobewon, thank you for that info, because even though my wife wont drive an SUV of any type, i will, and in a couple years im going to be looking at offloading my durango and finding something a bit newer. Its a 1999 with over 250000 miles, and is starting to do the dreaded nickel and dime me to death thing, but, for now, i need it to last just a bit longer. Luckily i don't use it much anymore, or i probably couldn't afford to drive it anywhere.

 

And, it does look like it will be a Subaru we will be getting, as she went and test drove a few different vehicles the last few days, without me knowing about it, and said that of the 15 or so cars she drove, she likes the Subarus the best, but i would still like to hear what people have to say about other vehicles, as like i said, once i have the funds to get rid of the durango, im gonna be looking for something for me to drive. I would prefer an SUV, though, because i tow a 24 foot boat and a 22 foot camper at times.



#9 Moses Ludel

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 02:55 PM

Thanks for clarifying, biggman100...I'm not at all familiar with Subaru's V-6 engine or that engineering.  I do have factory workshop manuals for each and every vehicle we have ever owned, plus bookcases of OEM manuals for anything I've ever worked on or written about...

 

I can't help but suggest that I would not tow a 24-foot boat or 22-foot camper (a travel trailer?) with anything less than an SUV.  In fact, we saw a two mile long line of traffic backed up on I-80 East near Reno yesterday as they mopped up a late Dodge Durango wreck that looked something like this:  The SUV had a sleek enclosed trailer in tow, possibly a car inside and headed into Hot August Nights or the inaugural Barrett-Jackson auction at Reno; the trailer was on its side after rounding a curve, and the Durango's back end was up in the air at the height of the raised hitch assembly. 

 

My guess would be a classic shorter wheelbase tow vehicle's loss of control when the trailer gets squirrely.  In any case, we've seen similar scenarios with Jeep Wranglers, other popular SUVs and even crossovers, each attempting to pull U-Haul trailers in crosswinds and on curvy roads.  In my view, trailer weight ratings for these vehicles are often totally unrealistic, reflective strictly of powertrain and brake system capacity, not the vehicle's wheelbase length, track width, roll center or center-of-gravity. 

 

My used tow vehicle preference would actually be a Dodge Ram with the Cummins 5.9L diesel, a truck, well, just like the one we drive!  If you read my exchanges with Megatron about fuel efficiency and modifications, and enter this level-headed without a burning desire to modify the vehicle, then you're in the league where we started with the '05 Dodge Ram 3500 4WD Quad Cab.

 

In that stock form, the truck got consistent 23-plus mpg highway when empty and towed the XJ Cherokee to Moab on our car hauling trailer at 70 mph, still netting 17 mpg.  With the stock gearing, stock tires and stock ride height, holding the vehicle to a 60-65 mph cap, towing a 7,000# load, the truck could deliver 18-20 mpg. 

 

I expect this truck to last 500K miles, which more than amortizes the initial added cost of the diesel engine option.  There are 48RE quirks, which Megatron and I discuss at length, and there are other Dodge Ram nuances that need address.  Overall, though, this may be one of the last 4x4s to deliver on its initial cost.  I would likely replace this truck with another Dodge Ram/Cummins, even living with the 6.7L and its emission constraints.  When?  Not any time soon, I'm still driving the $42K MSRP out of our current truck!

 

As a footnote, I do all of my own work on every one of our vehicles, regardless of the task at hand.  So maintenance ease is crucial, and parts availability is a factor.  We do buy domestic vehicles, whatever that means in this era of the "Global Economy", with offshore subassembly and service parts sourcing by the OEMs.  (Our truck itself was assembled at Mexico.  Chrysler and other U.S. manufacturers have many of their OEM and service parts built at Mexico and elsewhere around the globe.)  Overall, the Dodge Ram is simply taking our best shot.

 

Moses



#10 biggman100

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 04:04 PM

Moses, thank you for another vehicle to consider when i do buy one for myself. My only issue with vehicles is my children. I have to have something that will comfortably seat five, plus all the stuff needed for 3 girls 10 and under, and all their stuff for however long we are gone for. If i am taking the camper, then a place to store their stuff isn't really an issue, as i can just stuff it all in the camper. When we take the boat, though, that's when taking their stuff isn't always easy, which is why i usually prefer an SUV. I would prefer a diesel for when i am towing or hauling anything though, but i don't see too many diesel SUV's.

 

As for accidents with people carrying trailers, i have seen my fair share in my travels as well, everything from a horse trailer that broke a hitch on the back of a 2004 chevy 4x4 pick up, and the trailer flipped in the median, to large boats that have broke the hitch and didn't have safety chains, to even a Nascar semi that the kingpin broke and the trailer flipped and blocked the highway for over 5 hours. We live just over an hour from Watkins Glen, NY, and the Watkins Glen racetrack, and there is also a somewhat large lake in Watkins, as well as a horse racing track 55 miles from there, so, unfortunately, with the vacationers, and tourists, stuff like that is common around here, mainly because people don't pay attention to things like vehicle capacities and trailer weights.

 

I am looking at getting rid of the camper, because it is getting older, and we really don't need all that space when we go camping, and maybe picking up a pop up style camper instead, but i will be keeping the boat for quite some time, so for me at the very least, an SUV is a must. Also, im not really into doing too much modifying to a vehicle. The extent of most of my modifying is maybe more aggressive tires, freer flowing exhaust, K & N air filter, just basic mods that help it breathe better, and get better traction in the snow, and what mud i may get into from time to time.

 

After reading what you said about mileage with your truck, that seems to actually be better than my durango is, but is your truck a standard cab, crew cab, or extended cab? I thought about getting a full size truck before, and only using the Dakota for a work vehicle, and i like the look of the newer dodges, but, im not too familiar with them as far as driving or working on them. One thing i have noticed locally though, is quite a few of my neighbors have been getting rid of their Chevys, and even a couple fords, and buying newer dodges, everything from a 2005 crew cab 2x4, to a 2012 crew cab dually 4x4, and everything in between, so obviously dodge is doing something right that the rest aren't.



#11 Moses Ludel

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 05:34 PM

You're right, accidents are everywhere...Trailering is a craft, not an impulse.

 

Watkins Glen is gorgeous country, I was there with Chevrolet for the initial media launch of the 1990 ZR1 Corvette, writing for Corvette Fever and many other magazines at the time.  Had to drive a "tame" 116 mph on the track, as it was pouring rain, and the windshield wipers would not stay on the windshield glass at higher speeds.  We visited the Corning plant, it was a very memorable event and wonderful area.  You're fortunate...

 

Understand the need for room and kids, we have four kids, all quite grown, seven grandchildren down to 17-months-old (Camden, who celebrated the week of his first birthday in the company of wild horses with Grandma, Grandpa and the Jeep Cherokee!), plus two toddler great grand-twin boys (the "Hellions from the Hill"—Virginia City). 

 

The Dodge Ram is a Quad Cab.  Front seating is terrific for long trips.  Leg room would work for your three girls, although a Mega Cab like Megatron's '06 might make better sense as the girls reach teen years.  Actually, our oldest son and daughter-in-law survived a Thanksgiving drive from our area to San Diego in the back seat of the Ram 3500, they were thoroughly impressed and did not complain, our son is over six-feet tall and a big guy!  Frankly, I was surprised.

 

Lately, the name "Crew Cab" has returned, and that is full rear seating at the sacrifice of bed space.  Our truck has only a 6.3' bed, by our choice, as the overall wheelbase is a maneuverable 140.5".  My wife, Donna, much enjoys driving and riding in the truck, and SRW means the truck is as manageable as a 2500 series model or even a longer-wheelbase (Quad or Crew Cab) 1500.  This works for us, although my bed space is zilch with the 75-gallon Transfer Flow cross tank. 

 

Wouldn't be without that tank, though, we have complete discretion about where and when we buy fuel and can outlast a price-gouging period.  With the lift, accessories and added fuel leaning toward 9,200# curb weight these days, the fuel range without a trailer, at 20-22 mpg (65-67 mph), is 2,200-2,400 miles—much better mileage and range than our XJ Cherokee 4.0L!  Pulling a loaded car hauling trailer at 60 mph is still 1,800-1,900 mile range, that's to Moab and back home with plenty of fuel left over.  Caution:  Drive faster with a diesel—you will pay for it in fuel costs and declining mileage!

 

This works for us.  Glad to carry the conversation further if you find it of interest.  We'll move to the Dodge Ram forum!

 

Moses



#12 biggman100

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 09:35 PM

Guys, thank you for all the info. The wife and i went out today, as she had the day off, and i wasn't really busy, and spent most of the day checking out different pre-owned vehicles. After several hours of test drives, talking to salesman, and reading brochures, plus taking into account all the information we have gotten from this and other forums, she chose a dark burgundy 2008 Subaru Legacy wagon, with a 3.0l, and automatic. Only time will really tell if it was a good buy or not, but given that we did pay a little less than expected and found one with less miles than we originally expected, i am very happy with her choice.



#13 Moses Ludel

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 07:10 AM

Yea!  Good pick, I would think, with the traditional Subaru engine design...The automatic has overdrive, so the mileage should be quite good...Let us know how this works out and what kind of mileage to expect...Moses



#14 biggman100

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 09:11 AM

The mileage, as she found out today, is on par with what we expected. She took today off, and decided to drive to her parents, because that is what we usually do anyway before we go camping or anything else, and said she actually got quite a bit better mileage than her old subaru, which was right around 24 MPG on the highway. Granted, the car is newer, and has low miles, and the mileage will drop a bit as the car gets older, but right now, it seems to be getting close to the 28 MPG on the highway that subaru advertised for those cars. I told her, once she packs all her usual survival gear in the car, which consists of 2 duffel bags, that carry extra clothes and stuff for us and the girls, just in case we decide spur of the moment to take off, and her cooler, and a few other things, we might lose 1 MPG, but, in the long run, we will still save a bit of money on gas.



#15 Moses Ludel

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:22 AM

We'll take it!  Subaru delivers on reliability, if the car passed the Car Fax and runs well, with the lower odometer mileage, this could be a real winner...Congratulations, wise choice for an AWD!

 

Moses



#16 biggman100

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:26 AM

Actually, i didn't check the car fax report. The dealer gave it to us, but after talking to the service manager, and finding out the car was serviced strictly by them, and they are guys i know and trust, because i have family that worked there, and i know quite a few people who have either bought from them or had their vehicles serviced by them, i never looked at it until a little bit ago. I figured this is one instance where it wasn't that important.

 

My mother in law took the car for a drive of about 60 miles, and said that even though she prefers the size of an SUV, at least for now, she likes the car.




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