Dear Mr. Cato and Mr. Vaughan: My wife wants a pickup truck but I hate them. We actually own an old, beat-up pickup right now. I don’t like that it can’t carry many passengers comfortably; it is long and awkward to park and manoeuvre; it isn’t particularly fun to drive; it’s bad on gas; and I think it is silly to drive a big, uncovered truck bed around in a country that has 10 months of winter. The number of times I really need a pickup to move large objects is limited and can be done by renting.
My preference would be a Scion FR-S, but I love my wife and that isn’t going to happen. I would be willing to compromise with an SUV. With roof racks and removable seats, there is little that I couldn’t carry with a good SUV, and it still allows for driving with our offspring and their friends comfortably when not moving “stuff.” My wife is open to the compromise, with conditions: she wants a vehicle where the driver rides high, “above the traffic.” She prefers rugged over refined. Can you suggest a vehicle that might satisfy both of us? We’d like to keep things in the $40,000 range. – Bradford in Ottawa
Vaughan: I can’t figure out if Brad needs a new ride or a marriage counsellor. The bitter, exasperated rant about the hated pickup his wife forces him to drive – such acrimony and indignation. The poor man wants a two-seat roadster, the FR-S, because he knows the passenger seat would be empty. Is this not an irreconcilable difference?
Cato: Obtuse as you usually are, I’ll give you credit for one thing: recognizing a problem between Bradford and his wife. But as usual, you’ve missed the crux of it. Yet it’s so obvious: “She prefers rugged and refined,” Bradford longs for a Scion. A Scion from Toyota’s youth brand, the one aimed at city-dwelling millennials.
Obviously, she wants him to be the pickup in her life. Vaughan, the pickup is a metaphor. My advice to Bradford: get the P90X workout DVDs and spend the next 90 days turning yourself into an ultra-buff pickup. Get those pecs popping, those biceps bulging and, Bradford, you’ll be able to drive anything you like.
Vaughan: And six months from now, all that working out will turn Brad into a muscled-up and broken-down wreck like you, Cato. Let’s stick to the car advice and save the amateur psychology for Dr. Phil.
Brad, you need to try the Dodge Durango. I used to hate these things – the previous model was a big, horrible truck, just the kind of thing your wife wants to force you into. They were so awful they were taken off the market. But the new one is totally different.
This one started life on a Mercedes platform (remember the doomed “merger of equals?”) and, from there, Chrysler fine-tuned things and slapped on a Dodge body and a Dodge price tag – $38,195 for a basic 2012, minus discounts, if you can find one.
So it’s well within your budget, Bradford, and with zero per cent financing and other discounts, it’s completely affordable. This Durango drives so much better than any truck and has a magnificent interior. It’s big enough for the “people” and “stuff” you haul around and does indeed ride “high.”
Cato: I still think Bradford should pump iron before he starts pouring money into new sheetmetal. But if we must … I am totally on board with the Durango. It’s big, it’s brassy, it’s capable of towing a big trailer and going off-road. Even you would look tough wheeling around in one, Vaughan.
Now, if not the Durango, then another Chrysler – a Jeep Grand Cherokee. At $38,585 to start for the 2013 version, what you have here, Bradford, is another remnant of the Daimler takeover of Chrysler, the one that incinerated, oh, $30-billion or $40-billion in shareholder value.
This Grand Cherokee also started on the Mercedes SUV platform; the current Merc version is the ML. It’s sexy, it’s potent and for quality it’s ranked among the leading mid-size crossovers/SUVs. Mercedes cannot make that claim about the ML.
Vaughan: This is the best-looking Jeep yet. I always worry about Jeep’s quality problems, but as Cato points out – finally offering something useful here – the surveys show Chrysler is doing much better.
It’s an impressive vehicle at a much lower price than the Land Rover and Mercedes competition.
However, if these two recommendations aren’t sufficiently truck-like for the missus, then Brad might have to try the Honda Pilot.
It’s a big brute with truck looks. It’s much less than $40,000 – $37,920 for the base 2012, if you can find one. Imagine a Japanese Hummer.
Cato: The Pilot is the most macho mid-size SUV you can get from a Japanese auto maker. Powerful-looking. A brute and completely willing play the part of a rough SUV.
But of course, Brad, she wants that from you, not a new rig. Think about it.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2012 Dodge Durango SXT AWD
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4
2012 Honda Pilot LX 4x4
Track, front (mm)
|3.8-litre V-6||3.6-litre V-6||3.5-litre V-6|
|290/260 lb-ft||290/260 lb-ft||250/253 lb-ft|
|all-wheel drive||automatic full-time four-wheel drive||automatic full-time four-wheel drive|
|five-speed automatic||five-speed automatic||five-speed automatic|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|13.0 city/8.8 highway||13.0 city/8.8 highway||12.3 city/8.2 highway|
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.