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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    South Central Orange County

    Default Rate your road trip vehicle

    I've used two vehicles for long road trips (i.e. 1,000+ miles in one trip)-- a 1996 Ford Police Interceptor and my wife's 2004 Mazda MPV. Here are my reviews:

    1996 Ford Police Interceptor (a.k.a. Crown Victoria)
    - huge trunk
    - good interior passenger space
    - good highway mileage for a large V8 sedan (we got about 25 mpg on a trip from So' Cal' to Alaska and back)
    - fairly low maintenance costs
    - very conspicuous (because it was a former cop car) so fellow motorists were less likely to cut us off
    - very inexpensive if bought used

    - front end creaked
    - wind noise over 60 mph seemed almost exponential
    - very conspicuous so fellow motorists slowed dangerously (e.g. sped past us, pulled in front of us, and then slowed far below posted limit)
    - quick depreciation if bought new

    2004 Mazda MPV LX (minivan)
    - versatile interior configuration (rear seat solds flat into the floor; middle seats are removable; passenger's side middle row seat combines with front seat to make a bed)
    - transmission holds a gear when driving the twisties (this was very useful when driving Highway 1 from Carmel down to Morrow Bay)
    - on the small side for a minivan so it drives more like a car
    - fairly inexpensive if bought used
    - steering wheel controls for audio system and cruise control
    - ignition coils prone to failure (I've had two fail in the 5 years we've owned it and two others in the back replaced as a preventative measure)
    - quick depreciation if bought used
    - so-so gas mileage (about 16 mpg around town and 22-24 mpg on the highway)
    - the gear selector blocks some radio controls

    I'm considering getting a used 2007 or 2008 Subaru Forester (or perhaps a new 2009), so I'd appreciate owners' insights on them.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Forester

    Hi there - we have a 2005 Forester XT (similar to the '07 and '08 models) which has been an excellent road trip vehicle. The turbo engine is a nice bonus for pulling around a car full of gear. I can't recall this car ever feeling like it had too much to handle (Car and Driver got it 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, not too shabby.), but that won't stop people from cutting you off. Subarus are very common in New England (in fact, there are two in my household now) and thus are easy to find and also maintain their value; I'm not so sure about your neck of the woods.

    The boxy shape means that loading and unloading is very easy, and the interior materials used make for easy cleanup of spills, etc. Cargo area is smaller than some vehicles in the same class. Good "soft roading" capabilities, able to go places most normal cars can't due to higher ground clearance. Not a rock climber to be sure, but fun nevertheless. The car handles great in the snow, too. Auto transmission shifts smoothly in normal driving. Winter package with heated windshield (just below wipers) is very useful.

    Gas mileage is okay but not spectacular, maybe topping 27mpg on the highway if you use a light foot, about 20 around town. I don't know about the normally aspirated engine. I still use my former car, a VW Jetta TDI, as the standard by which I measure mileage.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    South Central Orange County

    Default Subarus

    The Forester XT is a nice car! I'm afraid I'm not willing to spend enough to get a turbo Forester, though.

    I've been looking for an economical car with adequate road clearance and all-wheel drive. The Forester and Outback seemed like the most logical choices.

    I've been so smitten with the great leases on Outback 2.5i Special Editions (the 4-cylinder model with cloth interior and a few upgrades), that I've decided to lease one for 3 years. This will answer a couple of questions I have, to wit 1) do I like Subies enough to own one, and 2) is the Outback truly a good car to sleep in.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Keep us posted!

    It will be interesting to hear your review.

  5. #5

    Default A little different!

    My road trip vehicle is a Victory Vegas. Victory's are made in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
    I have done a lot of trips on this bike including three longer road trips.
    The first trip in 2006 was an 11 day, 4200 mile road trip from Milwaukee to Las Vegas, day one was 1100 miles. The second longer trip in 2007 was a 16 day, 5700 mile trip from Milwaukee to Tijuana, day one was 1500 miles. In 2008 I did an 11 day, 8700 mile trip on the Vegas. All the lower 48 states.
    I really enjoy road trips on a motorcycle. There is something about a motorcycle with with a tent strapped to it that makes people want to talk to you. Everytime I stopped someone had questions about the bike and my trip.
    I have been able to see a lot but my favorite stories are always about the people that I have met. A lot of great memories!
    I have had temperatures from 42 degrees and light snow in Colorado to 117 degrees in SE California.
    The bike has been very dependable, no problems. I have averaged about 42 mpg on the trips. I can't wait to go again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default What a gorgeous ride!

    Yep, that is a special bike -- Nice shot too.


  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Yep, that is a special bike -- Nice shot too.

    Thanks Mark. A photo stop in Zion.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Minneapolis Metro


    I can imagine that you got a lot of strange reactions while driving a police interceptor!

    I have managed to use 5 different cars on long road trips....they all have their pros and cons that's for sure!

    1. 1994 Ford Explorer
    Took on a 7k mile road trip after graduating HS. Gas was $1.10 a gallon so we were not bothered by the low MPG.
    It was big enough that we moved our supplies into the front seats during the night and just slept in the back with the seats folded down!
    Check engine light came on 200 miles into the trip....but nothing ever came of it.
    Found out 6 months later we were driving on Exploding tires!
    Rank #2 out of 5 Cars.

    2. 1996/1999 Pontiac Sunfire
    Went on four 2k plus road trips with one of these two vehicles.
    I'm 6ft 2in so they are both a little small for me....neither had cruise control sot that sucked.
    The tape player in both broke during different trips and you had to pack them pretty tight to fit all your stuff in it.
    About the only pro was they both got 32 mpg on the hwy
    Rank #4 & #5 out of 5 Cars.

    3. 1998 Chevrolet Caviler 5-speed
    Went on two 3k plus road trips with this car.
    Very similar to the Sunfire except it had a CD player and the 5-speed allowed for better Gas Mileage and more power when necessary.
    Rank #3 out of 5 Cars.

    4. 2003 Acura 3.2 tl
    Went on two 3k plus road trips with this car.
    Definitely my favorite road trip car to date.
    Very comfortable, 6 disc Bose sound system, large trunk, plenty of leg room.
    Plus lots of power and surprisingly good MPG at highway speeds ~31
    Just about the only downside to this car is black leather gets really HOT in the desert sun.
    Rank #1 out of 5

    I just got a 2008 Mercury Milan so I may have to break that one in this summer!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Match vehicle to trip

    Here's our stable:

    Corvette (convertible): trip < 1 week, along coast or up to redwoods or Yosemite. Can't beat the visibility and fun. Can't stand the lack of trunk or passenger room after the first few days. Best highway mileage of the bunch, worst city mileage of the bunch (I have feet of lead).

    Infiniti: 1-2 week trips, esp to civilization. Comfortable and bland. Did 750 mile sprint to SLC like it was nothing.

    Expedition: Long trips, esp where the possibility for some dirt roading exists, as in the Southwest parks, Death Valley, Eastern Sierra.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Outback review

    My current ride - a 2008 Subaru Outback 3.0R LL Bean (what a mouthful!) - I purchased in September 2008 as a leftover. I traded in my fuel miser VW TDI right before fuel prices dropped. Even though the car had several issues, I still managed to do quite well with the trade in value. I do wish I had waited about a month, because then I could have received 0% financing.

    It's got almost everything - leather, heated everything, 3.0 H6 engine, 5 speed auto with Subaru intelligent drive, panoramic sunroof, 6-disc CD with aux and satellite input.

    I didn't get the nav system.

    The car handles well, and the 245hp H6 pulls nicely even on steep hills. The brakes take some getting used to, definitely not "right now" brakes, but adequate. Subaru intelligent (SI) drive gives three different modes for engine and transmission response, but I find the transmission has some eccentricities about shift points, especially when in "Inetlligent" mode (which is the least responsive mode). This mode is useful only when in heavy traffic.

    "Sport" is best for normal driving, and "Sport Sharp" gives the engine better response on throttle tip-in and maintains a gear better when driving gets aggressive, but economy can suffer. Still, at times it can feel as though the vehicle has a CVT due to the programming. The transmission does have a manual mode, but I really haven't used it; having just come from a manual transmission car it feels a bit awkward.

    The ride is stiff but not painfully so. Fit and finish is top notch. Seats are extremely comfortable - perhaps one of the better parts of Subaru having once been fractionally owned by General Motors.

    Dual zone climate control is especially useful, though dash controls are a little bit confusing. Radio has a real knob for the volume, but unfortunately arrow keys for tuning stations. Reception is top notch, but the standard stereo lacks the "oomph" of the optional Harmon/Kardon unit.

    I drove this model, a 2009 3.0R, and an XT model. The XT with the turbo four has more torque than the 3.0, but the two models felt essentially identical in my test drive, with the exception of some turbo peakiness in the XT.

    Outside mirrors are nicely sized and give a good view of the road behind. There is a clear view out all of the window, with minimal blind spots. Leather and wood tilt and telescoping Momo steering wheel with radio and cruise controls, as well as SI-drive and information center controls, is the perfect size and feels good in hand.

    This car was unstoppable in several of this past winter's heavy snowfalls, allowing me to get to work without feeling any sense of concern.

    Information center has two trip odometers, outside temperature gauge with warning when temperatures fall below 37˚F, estimated trip time readout with warning at 2 hour intervals (take a break!), real-time fuel mileage and average fuel mileage readout, and door ajar notification.

    Somewhat gimmicky is the needle for fuel mileage, which reads "+" if you are being gentle on the gas, and "-" if you are a leadfoot. This needle will swing back and forth during the course of normal driving as expected.

    Two separate storage spaces in the center console provide very good room, with additional storage in the doors, glove compartment, and in the spot where the nav system would have been located. Seating is ideal for four adults and one child. Cargo space is very good, but the tapered roofline does eat into some of the rearmost load area.

    We have had a 2005 Forester XT in our household for four years, and our experience both with the vehicle and the dealership has been top-notch, directly resulting in the purchase of this vehicle. I had also cross-shopped some other brands, but nothing quite came up with the combination the Outback had for what I was looking for. With 10,000 miles so far, and several short (<7 hour) road trips, I can honestly say I am very happy with this car.

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