The Big Move (Spreadsheet)

October 21, 2010

 

Shown below is the spreadsheet (thank you Excel 2010!) that I used to kind of narrow down my choices. I have some vehicles thrown in for fun: Lucerne, Sable, Taurus, Terraza, Enclave. You can tell I have a Buick fascination, because otherwise why is the Terraza or Enclave included? (Terraza is way too short to be considered, and Enclave is way too expensive – even though it would be the perfect vehicle for me)

Sadly, to me, it looks like the Outback wins. It has everything I need, even if I would like a little more rear seat room. Buick’s Rainier, and Mercury’s Mountaineer were my frontrunners until I did this spreadsheet – the Rainier is too unsafe, even though it meets all of my other criteria. Mountaineer is almost perfect – except for its fuel mileage.

The Lambda (Traverse, Outlook, Enclave) group is good, even though they have less rear room than the Equinox/Terrain. Just so you know, I chose vehicles that are loaded – CXL, Limited, LTZ, SLT, RTL, etc. trims. I also chose AWD/4WD when available.

 

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The Big Move (Part 1)

October 21, 2010

So, my wife and I moved. When I say we moved, we MOVED – to a place out in the middle of nowhere. The house only has dirt roads connecting it to the highway, and it gets nasty when there’s any type of weather. So, I have decided that I need to look at different vehicles that can get me to the house, no matter what the weather does to the roads. I don’t know that I will have the money to buy another vehicle, but if there’s a chance, I want to know the right vehicle to get. I have, of course, looked at SUVs, and trucks, and even some cars. I will have a post that will (nerdy…very nerdy) list out every vehicle I have considered, and the specifications for each.

Here’s what I need:

Quiet – I want a quiet vehicle. I like smooth, quiet cars and I want another vehicle that matches that description. So, of course, I have been hunting down reviews for vehicles that are quiet, smooth, and reliable. Of course, most newer vehicles have focused on quiet as a source of customer satisfaction (Ford has found that customers associate quiet with reliability, and have since put resources and money into making their vehicles quieter). So, I have looked at Mercury Mountaineers (I don’t really want a Ford Explorer), Buick Rainiers (very quiet, but not the best for safety), etc.

Ground Clearance – I want a vehicle that is going to be able to make it over most situations I will encounter – washboard surfaces, big holes, etc. without crashing into the ground the way my LeSabre does. Of course, a truck is the best for this, but I don’t know that I am ready to pay through the nose to fuel my vehicle. So, once again, I have been looking at body-on-frame SUVs, and crossovers with AWD and a fair amount of ground clearance.

Fuel Economy – of course, this is high on my list. Who wants to keep burning their money needlessly? I want decent fuel economy…mainly anything above 14/20.

Horsepower – I am a large man. I carry a lot of people. I want to get out of my own way on the highway when needed – any vehicle with more than 250 horsepower will do.

Rear legroom – Like I just said, I carry people. I want them to be comfortable. I have my seat all the way back when I drive, and I want the people behind me to not feel squished.

Safety – 5 stars all around? Yes, please. This is very important to me. I don’t want anyone to get hurt should there be an accident.

I have made an Excel spreadsheet that pits all of my considerations against each other. I used http://autos.msn.com to compare the specifications of each vehicle, and then colored the columns green for those vehicles that are the best (in my opinion), yellow for neutral, and red for bad.

So, who won? You’ll have to see the spreadsheet – if I can figure out how to link it…

I have noticed an issue, but unfortunately haven’t had the time, that I want to talk about in some newer cars: size. Almost all new cars get bigger – just look at any 1993 Toyota Camry/Honda Accord, and then look at them now. They’ve grown tremendously. In fact, you could arguably say that the 1993 Honda Accord is the same size as today’s Honda Civic. In most cases, it’s justified – families need more room, and fuel efficiency usually keeps pace. New engines, new transmissions, more aerodynamic designs, help the larger car keep the same (or maybe even get better) fuel mileage.

However, just take a look at the 2010 Buick Lacrosse/Ford Taurus. Now, before I get into my rant, I really like both cars. In fact, the Lacrosse actually looks so good, I don’t know why more people aren’t buying them. Material quality, build quality, sound levels – all got an upgrade in both of these cars. However, one thing got detracted: size.

The Ford Five Hundred was introduced in 2005, at a time when Ford’s Taurus was in a free-fall – sold mostly to rental companies, it was no longer a vehicle that people wanted to buy. Ford decided to split the Taurus line into two successors, the Fusion (smaller) and the Five Hundred (larger). The Five Hundred was huge – smaller footprint than a Crown Victoria, but much roomier (and with a slightly larger trunk even). It was woefully underpowered, but was otherwise a decent car.

In 2008, one of Ford’s higher-ups (Alan Mullally) said Ford had made a mistake in throwing away name equity – that Taurus was worth millions. So, when Ford redesigned the Ford Five Hundred (oddly, making “over 500 changes”), they renamed it the Taurus. Mercury had a Montego, and it was renamed Sable (which my wife drives). The car got a new engine, but otherwise just got better, and kept its same dimensions…which means huge.

Then in 2010, Ford redesigns the Taurus again – the same platform, but new sheet metal and a new interior. Front seat room was plentiful, fuel tank size was commendable, truck size was huge…the rear seat got ripped. Now, it’s barely better than a Fusion for comfort. Whereas the backseat was so commodious before, now it shrank so much that it would fit in a midsize car. Really, I’m happy about the improvements that were made, but would have liked to see the rear seat room stay the way it was.

(For future reference: I am 6’1”…and I have my seat all the way back in any car I drive. I want as much room as possible for the rear seat passengers – to the point that I don’t have to move my seat. In my wife’s Sable, I don’t have to move my seat at all…there is plenty of room for the backseat passengers)

So, since I’ve given a little background on the Taurus, let me give you a little bit of background about what Buick has done to their Lacrosse. Clue: it’s the opposite of what Ford did.

The 2009 Buick Lacrosse had a huge trunk, but a tiny rear seat. This wasn’t it’s fault – the platform it was built on (dating from 1988) was designed with a certain size rear seat in mind. It was fine during the late 80’s, early 90’s…but even in the 1997 Regal redesign, the backseat wasn’t huge. That was left for the Park Avenue…but Buick got rid of that car in 2005. The Regal was replaced with the Lacrosse – also in 2005.

The Lucerne replaced the Park Avenue and the LeSabre, and it definitely provided enough rear legroom. Why even bring up Lucerne? Because for 2011, Buick is replacing the Lucerne with the Lacrosse. There may be an actual full size car in Buick’s future (based on the next-gen Zeta platform), but for now, Buick is starting to rely on Lacrosse as their large car. When Buick redesigned the Lacrosse, they gave it a huge rear seat – almost as big as the Lucerne’s. And that’s great – more rear legroom is always welcome. But, and this may not matter to many, but it’s odd to me. Buick shrunk the trunk from 18 cubic feet…to 12. Not only that, they have these hinges that hang down into the trunk, smashing anything in their way as you close the trunk lid. Smart? Not very.

The whole point to this blog is this: why redesign a car, and make it better in almost every way, but ruin a good thing? Oh yeah, Buick, you fixed almost every single thing that was wrong with the old Lacrosse…but got rid of a good point of the old one.

Same way, Ford: you redesigned a good car, and made it great. But, did you really need to shrink the backseat so much?

I have thought since seeing the Kia Forte (and the Forte Koup), that they look an awful lot like something already out on the market. In fact, they look like a compact car that has been on the market since 2006. I am talking about the Honda Civic.

The profile is almost an exact copy of the Civic’s – the rakish windshield, the silhouette of the windows, the rear – all are very similar to the Civic. Now, the Civic is a very nice car. And many people think of it as upscale compared to other small cars in the market. But, (and the Koup looks to be a nice car) I feel like Kia should have done a little more to differentiate itself from other compact cars. I know its previous small car was decent, and didn’t stand out, and the Forte looks to be a huge leap over the Spectra, but I just wish they would have done something a little different to keep a brand new vehicle from looking like something from 2006. (Having said that, maybe Honda was just too forward thinking in ‘06, and the design of the Forte is a tribute to how good a design Honda has.)

The Forte, and last year’s Optima, have the new Kia styling, which looks very tasteful, yet sporty. The new Sorento, and the next Amanti, take this look even further, and I think Kia will have a winning lineup in the next year or so.

To see the profile of the Kia Forte Koup and Honda Civic Coupe side by side, go here.

From MSNBC:

“Ford, Subaru and Volkswagen sit atop the U.S. insurance industry’s annual list of the safest new vehicles, according to a closely watched assessment used by car companies to lure safety-conscious consumers to showrooms.”

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From Autoblog:

“…The Fusion, Taurus and Mustang were all in the running, but it was Ford’s redesigned mid-size sedan, the Fusion, that took home the coveted Golden Calipers.
In retrospect, the choice is a solid one and not all that surprising. The Fusion was extensively reworked for the 2010 model year and features a new exterior design, new models and new powertrains. Ford offers a four-cylinder model, two strong V6 options and a full-on parallel hybrid variant, which means buyers should have no trouble finding a Fusion that fits their needs.”

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