Automobile Roulette

Well, the lease on my CX-7 is just about up, so I started the process of shopping for a new vehicle. I’m going to share my experiences here so maybe others can learn about things, but mostly just to outline my thinking…

I realized I wanted a vehicle with better gas mileage than I was getting. The CX-7 varied from 16 to 23 mpg. On the Highway, sometimes you could get 24 or 25. Decent, not spectacular, and mostly hovering between 17 and 19. This meant a 4 cylinder.

I also realized I wanted to buy this time. I considered lease, but lease is restrictive. I mean, I wanted to drive down to DC in my CX-7, but realized if I did, I’d end up paying a penalty. Meh.

I began thinking small. Honda Fit. Nissan Cube. Nothing by the domestics in this class worth considering, unfortunately. a Chevy Aveo isn’t worth firing a solitary neuron. However, I realized: I’m a big guy. I need a vehicle I can fit into.

So I started looking at Ford Fusion, Mazda 6, Dodge Charger, Chevy Malibu, HHR… but also some small SUVs like the Honda Element, Chevy Equinox/GMC Terrain, Ford Escape, Jeep Patriot and Nissan Rogue….

Fusion: Lovely car. Comfortable. Plenty of room. 4 Cyl model is peppy. Otherwise, the vehicle is blah… and over priced. Ford wasn’t really all that interested in a decent sales price. They wanted to lease only. Want to buy? Full price! Plus, Ford has changed their X-Plan rules to make it prohibitive for me to obtain an X-Plan. So… no.

Mazda 6: Same basic chassis as the Fusion. Again, lovely car, but in a different way. Roomy (except for instrusive arm rest on driver side that dug into my knee). Engine is pretty decent. Felt stronger than the one in the Fusion. Because I’m a “previous Mazda leasee”, they would have kept me on an S-Plan, so the price was excellent.

Malibu: Overpriced. And boring. Very very very boring. Not much else to say.

HHR: Still a package I like. Comfortable. Sizable. But… why such backwards technology? If you want an automatic, all they have is a 4-speed. WTH? Come on, Detroit. Wake up!

Equinox/Terrain: I LUSTED both of these. They’re large, comfortable looking vehicles with great gas mileage. However, they also horribly and ridiculously overpriced. Didn’t even bother with a test drive. Too expensive.

Charger: I LUST the way this car looks. It’s manly. But… only a 4 speed auto? Are you kidding me? Hello, Dodge/Fiat? The 1990’s called. They want their transmission back. I want a modern vehicle, not a dinosaur.

Patriot: I’ve test driven one of these in the past. The new ones are even nicer. However, dealership issues scratch this from the list. Once again, I show up to test drive and price a Patriot… and the dumb asses try to sell me a Dodge Nitro. I was so incensed, I simple put my hand up, and said “Bye”. What the hell is wrong with you, Jeep? Someone was there to buy a vehicle, and you wanted to sell them something else. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU????

Element: I like the quirky design. The interior is fabulous. The engine is smooth but… no. It still seems like Tonka designed an SUV for Honda based on a design by some designers 12 year old kid on Nyquil. Besides, its still the same Element they’ve been selling for years, so it’s long in the tooth… and the engine is too weak (gas mileage is weak, too).

Escape: I used to have a 2001 Escape. It was decent, but had bad transmission and quality issues. I still wanted to look at these, but Ford is over pricing their vehicles badly. New trans (6 speed) but still… why so much? It’s still the same chassis as the 2001 model I had. So… no.

Rogue: Well, I had low expectations for this, but came up pleasantly surprised. The CVT is decent. The engine is strong. The gas mileage is better than the CX-7, even with AWD. The interior was crisp and not a swath of hard plastic. Quirky, but not overtly spartan. The price on a purchase was perfectly within my budget. It wasn’t overpriced. It fits the sweet spot between my expectations and my hopes.

Therefore, I am in the process of obtaining a brand new 2010 Nissan Rogue S AWD in Silver Ice. I should get my new vehicle within the week (as long as I can get Mazda to “inspect” my CX-7 in timely manner).

I come away again without a domestic vehicle. I can’t express how poorly the domestics are priced and sold. Chevy thinks they’re selling gold plated, diamond encrusted SUVs. They also killed off 2 brands that I would definitely have shopped: Saturn and Pontiac. Let’s me honest here: If Pontiac wasn’t killed off, I’d be buying a Pontiac G8, which was the mostly beautiful vehicle Pontiac ever made. I LUST LUST LUST that car. But there’s none left. And Saturn had the Aura (a MUCH better looking Malibu clone) and the Vue (lovely SUV). Ford? Same problems as Chevy. They’re over pricing their cars.

Years ago, I remember shopping with my mom for furniture. We went into Gardner White. There’s a couch that looks perfect for what she wanted, but no price tag on it. So we ask the salesman, who says “Oh, that’s a $5000 couch, but we’ll let you have it for $1700.” WTF? No it’s not. How much does it really cost? Are you showing us a HUGE price up front, and then a smaller sales price to make us think its a bargain? I’m just not stupid enough for that trick, and thats the way the pricing at the domestics (Ford and Chevy) felt. A Malibu really costs $27k? No it doesn’t. Not for a 4-cyl model. Are you kidding me? It looks like someone stepped on a gummy bear!

Dodge/Jeep? Good Lord… shape up, or ship out. Stop selling 1990’s technology. Start selling what people go to the dealerships for! Fiat better get something modern flowing from that pipeline before it dries up. And fix the sales people, for gosh sakes… Sell me what I want: not what you have incentive to sell.

Don’t agree with me? Let me know…

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