Yet another car opinion request

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Master Chef
Sep 4, 2004
Galena, IL
Hmmm... Until I saw one of the other lines this one didn't occur to me to ask here although I've gotten great advice on non-food oriented questions. In another year we're hoping to buy a new vehicle. We desperately need one, but in another year we'll be able to buy, cash.

SO ... here's the question. We live on a street that is very steep. The past two winters it has turned mostly to ice. So our beloved F-150 with rear wheel drive, that got us through thick and thin over the past decade plus, just does not cut it. We need a 4WD or all wheel drive.

Here are my requirements: I want a sedan that isn't huge, but still has a decent sized back seat. I'm 5'9 and not exactly thin and often as not wind up sitting there when we have company (husband says I can sit up front bla bla bla, but when we have older friends over, all ascribe to the boys in front and girls in back theory and short of being rude, guess which of the 5'9" people wind in the back seat).

The size of the car has to do with the fact that our little vertical town is a tourist mecca and I want to be able to park better than I can with my pickup.

I'd like 5 doors for the cargo space, but it is a "nice to have", not a necessity.

If I buy American, I'm inclined to Ford, but I'm not much inclined in any direction there.

I was interested in a Subaru Outback, but 1 out of 4 friends who've owned one hated it (the other three loved it, a pretty good record). We've heard great stuff about a Toyata Rave4.

Any advice from someone who has lived in mountainous, cold, icy, snowy regions, help please!
I have a Subaru Outback, love it for zipping around town and going up the mountain. But, it is on the small side, and is not comfortable for long trips. The size fits us, but we are both about 5' 7". I know that larger folks would probably not like the fit of an outback. Some friends picked a Forester because it has a bit more head room.
SO has had two Honda CR-Vs. They are a great car and come with either 2-wheel or all-wheel drive. Plenty of room and not too big.

Infiniti's G37 models offer intelligent all wheel drive. The car is a rear wheel drive car until the onboard computer senses you need all wheel drive. Then it switches over automatically.

Subaru has the Forester model that is a perennially high rated small SUV (similar to CR-V and RAV4). All Subarus are all wheel drive.
Hi Claire,

coming from Canada, I fit the bill for ice and snow.. my father recently purchased a Toyota RAV 4 and loves it. It is on a truck frame so can take some fairly heavy duty stuff, is 4 wheel drive, and is extremely comfortable and versatile when you're on a long trip or trying to fit something large. He also, like you, lives at the end of a small private road with a massive hill that even my 09 corolla had to be put to the floor maintain speed - and that is in nice weather with no ice or snow. From what I gather from your post, a RAV 4 would be a great choice. Also you can't beat Toyota's track record for quality vehicles.

If you can't tell, my family is pro-Toyota. After buying a 95 corolla brand new and having it last until this past December - it was even still running, I traded it in - with no major repairs whatsoever... I can name all of the repairs that have been done.. rebuilt starter (which is common on any vehicle), a bolt in the gasket came loose (again not major), and we replaced the radiator about a year before it would actually need to be replaced. For 14 years that is pretty good.
Claire, have you ever had a 4 wheel drive before? It is not a magic pill against ice. If the street is a sheet of ice then it actually will not do anything for you at all. You need some part of where at least one of the wheels the ground to be something it can grab onto. Driving a 2 wheel drive car on ice is the same as driving a 4 wheel drive on ice for the most part.
I think Toyota makes a great car. The Rav4 is pretty small for what it is though. We looked at getting one a few years back and there was just not enough room in it for us. Same thing for the Outback. They are both great vehicles, but room-wise they are lacking.

Do you want a car or is an SUV an option? Also, what kind of price range are you working with?
Like I said, we're still in the "just looking" mode. Yes, I do know that if all four wheels are on ice, your stuck. One year we laughed. We do not live out in the country, Galena is small, but it is an old city (it was THE city in Illinois before Chicago!), about 3500. One morning my husband looked out and laughed before he started swearing. Then entire road had turned to ice, and our perfectly parked (tires turned correctly, and where we live we automatically set the parking brake every time we stop, something we never did in Florida or even Hawaii and Virginia) F-150 was about 6' downhill from where we'd left it the night before. Our neighbor's car was at the bottom of the hill. So, yeah, I know, nothing can help you if all wheels are on ice. The other problem is that it is a road that is on a ledge. If you screw up, you wind up in someone's back yard ... that someone being a lot below you (as in they have a 3 story house and we're enough above them that we can't see it), so there isn't much wiggle room once you start shimmying. What I reasonably want is that if one or two wheels can get a reasonable amount of traction I can move. The past two winters, I literally have not been able to move the truck at all for weeks on end. I drive very well on snow, but both winters we've had ice storms and .... well, I couldn't move it, even though the front wheels were not on ice. Don't ask me why the ice forms on the back half of the road underneath my truck, but it does.
I'd consider an SUV if it was smaller than my truck. Seriously, I do not want to buy up. I'm not sure where a sedan becomes an SUV. I already have a big vehicle that I love, but cannot parallel park and it won't work on either our alley or front street. I don't want something that is a big old gas guzzler, I have no need to tow or traverse or anything else. I want to be able to get off of my darned street in the winter. I skipped a month or more of exercise classes the past two winters because I didn't want to deal with it, and have actually humped in groceries (3/4 mile)(up and down, not straight, with climbing over snow banks). I'd like a car that can get me the half mile from my street to a well maintained street that is considerably above or lower than me. When I first moved here I could walk almost everwhere I needed to go. Now all the facilities have moved to the suburbs (that didn't exist when I first moved here), and, well, short of calling an ambulance, we need something we can drive, and the F-150 ain't cutting it.
There is more of a selection of all wheel drive vehicles if you consider small SUV's. They are economical, maneuverable and can go in the snow. The Honda CR-V and the RAV4 are both excellent choices. The Subaru Forester is also highly rated.

In the sedan category, All Subarus are all wheel drive.

Good luck. It's always a tough process. I hope you find what you need.
We have a Kia Sorrento. I was so anti-Kia when we were looking for our 4 wheel vehicle that I would not even go to the dealer to check them out. We looked at Nissan (Murrano sp?), Toyota Rav4, Honda CRV, and Toyota Highlander. The Rav4 and CRV did not have enough room for us. They were way too small and we are not large people. The Murrano had tons of space in the passenger cabin, but because of that the trunk space was much smaller and that is where we needed it most. The highlander was not bad, but not great. My father in law mentioned to me how Kia has a 10 year 100,000 mile warranty which made me think that maybe if they are willing to stand behind their vehicles that much then maybe they are not as bad as I thought. I decided to take a look and I am glad I did. Some of the Kia's were what I expected, cheap and cheesy, but others were very nice and solid and comfortable. They ended up having exactly what we wanted in the Sorrento (with sports package). The Sorrento without the sports package would not have been something I wanted, but the sports package really made it that much nicer. We have put that car through a lot and it is still going strong. I would definitely recommend checking them out. They also have a smaller SUV, the sportage, which is more the size of the CRV or Rav4. I was not impressed with the Sportage, but it might be worth looking at if you are considering a Rav4 or CRV too.

It sounds like the Murrano might be a good one for you though. Nissan makes an excellent car and the Murrano is great. If you don't need a ton of trunk space and would rather have that space in the passenger cabin then you might love it.

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