[cue ominous movie trailer music and Don LaFontaine]
In a world where filling your gas tank means taking out a second mortgage and hoping for a Congressional bailout…
Yes, we’ve finally decided to make a change. But it’s not the Suburban that’s going – not this time, anyway (evil laugh). It may be a gas hog, but it’s paid for, I don’t drive it very far, and it’s still running well. Our 2001 Mercedes E320 4Matic wagon, on the other hand, is just too demanding a car for us. Great ride, solid as a… well, I was going to say “solid as a bank vault” but that wouldn’t be saying much, I suppose. Room for seven, and decent gas mileage (29 mpg highway, 23-24 in mixed driving) to boot. And it’s been reliable, but when it needs repairs – heck, even when it needs routine maintenance, yikes! That giant sucking sound is the money being vacuumed out of our checking account.
Having now been beaten into submission by our uber-German taskmaster (the car, not the service manager), we have set out on a quest to find something less exalted, something less expensive, something… with a warranty. This has set us to thinking about what we really need from a car. After doing some preliminary research into the limits of what is available, we have come up with a few basic criteria:
- all-wheel or four-wheel drive,
- as close to 20mpg city and 30mpg highway as possible,
- real passenger space for five (not just two up front and three bags of groceries in the rear seat),
- cargo/trunk space for backpacks, sports gear bags, and the occasional saxophone, and all for
- less than $30,000.
So, who are our contestants, Johnny?
First off, three siblings from Michigan (via Kansas City, Missouri and Hermosillo, Mexico), meet:
Next, a rough-and-tumble pair also from right here at home:
Adding international flavor, please welcome:
A late entry to our contest is:
- the Chevy Equinox AWD.
Another hopeful who wasn’t quite tall enough for the adult rides and didn’t make the field:
On our next episode of “Car Shopping,” it’s “The Rules.” (Not to be confused with “The Rules.”)