Would it be too cliché to say I hate car shopping? Yes. Not only that, it wouldn’t be entirely true.
Doing the research is interesting, but I don’t mess around with a lot of the typical negotiating, let-me-go-talk-to-my-manager BS. The last three times we’ve bought a ‘new’ car it’s been a used car. One advantage to buying used cars is that it has kept our payments down, but a significant disadvantage has been the repair bills that often come with higher mileage, older cars. In fact, of the eight vehicles we have purchased since being married, only two were new – a 1989 Volkswagen Jetta and a 1994 Dodge Dakota club cab pickup. The others were used – two Peugeot 505 wagons (a 1988 SW8 and a 1988 Turbo, the best car ever), a 1992 Volvo wagon (which we still have), a 1998 Audi A6 Quattro wagon, a 1999 Chevy Suburban, and a 2001 Mercedes E320 4Matic wagon. Are sensing a theme here?
The used cars we have bought are mostly brands known for lasting a long time, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with repair bills. A cracked cylinder head here, a blown main seal there, assorted sensors, etc., etc. What they also don’t come with is much of a warranty, unless you’re willing to shell out a significant amount at purchase time which, for the most part, we haven’t.
Anyway, the Suburban is nine years old and has about 138,000 miles on it. Overall it’s in pretty good shape (for the shape it’s in), but it, too, is getting to the point where it will begin needing more expensive repairs. That, combined with a more-than-usually virulent strain of cabin fever, got me to browsing around the Internet at possible replacements. I’ve looked at nearly every combination of all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles for five to eight passengers currently on the market (note: “minivans need not apply”), and continue to find myself frustrated by the apparent lack of imagination when it comes to combining features with utility and fuel economy.
At the recent Detroit Auto Show, Jeep showed its Renegade concept. Using a 1.5-liter diesel generating power to two 268HP electric motors, the concept promises a real-world 40mpg (not so much the 110mpg they tease you with) for an off-road capable vehicle. Diesel-electric technology has been used in locomotives, ships, and submarines for years, though for somewhat different reasons. In automotive application, scrapping the mechanical drivetrain from the engine and going straight to electric, as a series hybrid, seems to have a lot of design advantages. I’d even settle for a more fuel-efficient diesel, but diesels are not offered as widely here in the US as they are in Europe, and even less so here in Maine.
Under the circumstances I may just try to sit out until a.) our needs change and/or b.) auto manufacturers wake up and offer real choices for fuel economy instead of hiding behind “we only make what people buy.” Give us a real choice and see what happens. (Hmm, sounds a little like the current campaign for president…)