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2014 Mazda CX-5 (Mazda)
2014 Mazda CX-5 (Mazda)

Best of the Lot

Should they buy a minivan for their huge dog? Add to ...

Hi Jeremy and Michael:

We have a large dog – an Irish wolfhound. We transport her in the back of our Volkswagen Golf with the seats folded down. This leaves us no room for groceries, especially ones that the dog may consider as nourishment. We would like to replace our Golf TDI (we love it!) with a vehicle with enough room for the monster dog as well as a separate space for groceries or luggage. We don’t really want a van. Is there an SUV that would fit the bill? – Vikram and Lyn in Mississauga, Ont.

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Vaughan: You have asked the right man. I have driven countless kilometres with a Gordon setter in the back of a Golf TDI and think dog transport is an essential requirement of any good car. But a wolfhound?

They are magnificent dogs with great character, but they’re tall – very tall. I don’t think there’s a bigger dog out there. I know you don’t want a van, but maybe the dog does.

Cato: I have known you, Vaughan, for a long time; seems like an eternity, in fact. No, longer. And I know there is no subject that warms you more than dogs, especially interesting breeds with, as you say, character and personality. I believe you prefer dogs to people, in fact.

So I know you’ve put great care into Vikram and Lyn’s concerns. Which is why your first thought was to minivans. There is no more practical, affordable dog transport. Dog owners can buy, for instance, a well-equipped Dodge Grand Caravan for less than $20,000. Rename it the Dodge Dog Caravan and everyone goes home happy, including Fido.

Vaughan: They don’t want a minivan, Cato. I don’t understand the anti-minivan sentiment, but it’s real.

So, Vikram and Lyn, you “love” your Golf TDI, then why not another one? The Golf Wagon would give Bowser more room to stretch than your current Golf hatchback, but it wouldn’t provide more headroom. I think you’d still have to fold down the back seats to make the dog comfortable and there goes the space for luggage and groceries.

The Gordon setter had no difficulty being comfortable with the back seats up, but I’m not sure about the galloping hound. I want to be in the showroom with you because you must bring the monster dog to see if she fits. And that’s what the sales staff will have – fits.

Cato: Knock me over with a feather. You are suggesting a diesel Golf Wagon with a base price of $27,025. That’s a $7,000 premium on a perfectly suitable minivan.

The diesel engine may be something our canine-loving couple are used to, but the Dog Caravan has more space, costs less and delivers more bang for the buck. I can’t believe their objection is all about the minivan image thing. People who tour around with wolfhounds aren’t concerned with double-takes from strangers or neighbours.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250
 

Vaughan: Cato, once you’ve had a good diesel, you’ll find it hard to go back to gas, especially if you’re a highway driver. So I’m going to suggest the Mercedes GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic.

It has a sweet 200-horsepower, four-cylinder diesel, all-wheel-drive and a smooth seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s a lot more money than the Golf, starting at $43,500. But it is a bigger vehicle all around.

It’s built on the platform of the Mercedes C-Class sedan and I think it is the best-handling SUV of its size. A classy dog like a wolfhound will like driving around with the three-pointed star up front.

Cato: Overpriced and undersized for their needs. You’re assuming that wolfhound owners are snobs, too. Quirky, maybe, but probably not Conrad Black-ish.

2013 VW Golf 2.0 TDI Comfortline
 

Vaughan: With what they pay each month for dog food, you might be correct, Cato. They may want something economical, with the driving characteristics of a Golf.

I’d suggest the Mazda CX-5. I like the CX-5 for its SkyActiv fuel-saving technologies: all-new engines and transmissions, and a relatively lightweight yet strong body and chassis. The Mazda is nimble and fuel efficient. But get the new 2014 2.5-litre four-cylinder at 184 hp. The smaller 2.0-litre with 155 hp is not enough.

Cato: I suspect the dynamic dog duo is not racing away from stoplights, not with that horse-hound in tow. So the little engine may be fine and it’s available for $22,995 with front-wheel-drive. The CX-5 with the 2.5-litre starts at $28,650. What would be ideal is the CX-5 with a diesel. Mazda is putting a SkyActiv diesel in the Mazda6 sedan this year; look for the CX-5 D next year. Argh, too late.

Vaughan: Irish wolfhounds are aristocratic, haughty dogs and I think yours, Vikram and Lyn, would like the Mercedes best. It’s also the biggest and tallest of the lot, so that helps, too. But you didn’t mention a budget so it might be too extravagant. If so, the Mazda.

Cato: Forget the pricey Merc and, if not the minivan, the Mazda: right size, right price.

2014 Mazda CX-5
 

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI Comfortline wagon2014 Mazda CX-5 GS

Wheelbase (mm)

4,5252,7582,700

Length (mm)

2,7554,5564,555

Width (mm)

1,8401,7811,840

Track, front (mm)

1,6981,5041,670

Engine

2.1-litre four-cylinder, turbodiesel2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbodiesel2.5-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

200/369 lb-ft140/236 lb-ft184/185 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive

Transmission

Seven-speed automaticSix-speed manualSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,9251,4941,459

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

NA6.7 city/4.6 highway7.8 city/5.7 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$43,500$27,025$28,650

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.

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