I live in Montana and needed a vehicle to replace my 2002 Outback. We have very demanding requirements but a limited budget. We need a vehicle that will get us to our whitewater rafting locations in t...
I live in Montana and needed a vehicle to replace my 2002 Outback. We have very demanding requirements but a limited budget. We need a vehicle that will get us to our whitewater rafting locations in the summer and to the ski slopes in the winter with hiking and biking in between. This includes hauling 4-5 adults, gear, various roof racks, pulliing trailers over mountianous roads in all kinds of weather.
Room, realiablity, power, good gas mileage, i-pod ready stereo, fun to drive, handling, were all important requirements.
I consider myself a very informed car buyer and do very indepth research before buying any vehicle. I enjoy car shopping and research and test drive many vehicles not only for myself but for my friends.
I tested 18 SUVs,ranging from the Traverse to the Forester, some 4 or 5 times and ranked them for both objective and subjective attributes.
Being a Subaru guy I leaned towards the Outback but the 6 cyl with the options we wanted was out of our price range as was the Toyota Highlander, another of our favorites.
The local Hyundi dealer finally got a Santa Fe SE with the 3.5 on the lot and we were able to check it out, after spending a day testing the Highlander, Santa Fe, and OutBack, side by side, we found that that going with the Santa Fe was an easy choice and it scored highest in our rankings in many catagories.
I'm am 6'4" and my sons are all over 6' and we found the seating very satisfatory, especially nice are the reclining rear seats, foot room under the front seats, back seat heater outlets on the floor and door pillar, after a long day of skiing. The heater and defrosters are the best I have experienced.
The stereo is as good as many of the upgrades we tested on other vehicles. The AWD works great on snowy and icy ski roads and the 4wd lock feature has allowed us to climb out of some very steep and loose river access locations while pulling the raft trailer, this usually requires low range in my pickup.
However my favorite feature is the power, many of the roads we drive are steep 2 lanes filled with motorhomes and other slow moving vehicles so passing perfomace is very important to us. By using the manual shift feature and using the RPMs this thing can go from 40 to 80 in the length of a motorhome while loaded down with bikes and camping gear. The only SUVs we tested that can match this are the Rav 4 and Turbo Forester both smaller and less roomy.
Mileage is a little less then expected but we are still using ethanol in Missoula so I expect it to improve this summer, still with my lead foot and less efficent fuel we are still getting 22-24.
Best of all I was able to get this for invoice minus $2000 in rebates at 2.9% or $8-10K less then our other top choices.
Other nice suprises are the ability to put 4 golf bags cosswise in the back and the huge amount of storage under the rear floor. Although it cannot match our Miata for grins this SUV is fun to drive and so far it meets and exceeds our requirments.