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2010 Toyota 4Runner (Paul Giamou/Toyota)
2010 Toyota 4Runner (Paul Giamou/Toyota)

What Car?

A buyer's confusing array of choices Add to ...

Guys:

A friend of a friend can get me into a (Toyota 4Runner) for what seems like a great monthly payment. He owns a Toyota dealership. So I am thinking this is the way to go. I have two kids and we drive up to the cottage regularly. I like the idea of four-wheel-drive and the 4Runner seems pretty rugged.

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I am also intrigued by the Buick Enclave. And then there is this 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL 450 that I've been looking at.

So what do you guys think? The 4Runner or the Enclave or the used Mercedes?

Benjamin in Forest Hill

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Cato: Benjamin, you seem like a pleasant enough fellow, although a little confused. I say that in all sincerity. Look, Benjamin, the 4Runner is pretty much a hard-core SUV, the Enclave is the quietest luxury crossover in the segment and then there's this big Mercedes SUV, the one with a gasoline engine.

Vaughan: Cato, this is how the real world looks at buying a new vehicle. I imagine you'd like everyone to carve up their choices into nice like boxes of similar vehicles, but that simply is not the case.

Real buyers - not car journos, but real buyers - struggle to figure out which vehicles fit where. And they're often swayed by friends, acquaintances, and whatever happens to suit their fancy.

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Cato: Who are you? You can't be Michael Vaughan. Or perhaps you've finally started the sensitivity training and it's working. Because the sympathetic tone you're taking leaves me utterly flabbergasted. Please, please, don't tell me you've started subscribing to Oprah's magazine and you've bought the entire boxed set of Sex and the City.

Vaughan: Don't be ridiculous. Our job here is to address Benjamin's concerns.

Cato: Fair enough, Mr. Sensitivity. Let's start with the 4Runner. This is a very rugged, very serious four-by-four. Now if Benjamin has a cottage somewhere in the middle of nowhere, someplace where he needs to navigate mud bogs, climb over old stumps and ease past boulders the size of old Volkswagens, then the 4Runner is an excellent choice.

Vaughan: Cato, I see you are not a fan of the 4Runner.

Cato: That's not true. But for Benjamin, I don't think it's the correct choice.

Have another look at the letter, Vaughan. Two kids. Benjamin has two kids, and they'll be sitting in the back seat of a hard-core SUV during those many weekend trips to the cottage.

And he lives in Forest Hill. You're heard of it, right? Ritzy Toronto neighbourhood. I think a car-based crossover would be a more comfortable option, more suitable for runs up the 400, or the 410, or Airport Road or any of the roads to cottage country, wherever that is for Benjamin.

Vaughan: But a crossover with four-wheel drive, correct?

Cato: Exactly. Benjamin has this Toyota connection, so I'd argue for either a Highlander or a Venza. The Highlander is bigger, available with up to three rows of seating. The Venza is more station wagon-like. Both can be had with all-wheel drive.

Vaughan: Bennie, my boy, go Highlander. It looks like a big SUV, but drives like a car.

Cato: Now the Enclave. I know that for some of the brand-conscious folks who live in Forest Hill, well, buying a Buick is akin to buying a Timex watch - not the trendy Ironman, but something dressy - and wearing it with a tuxedo for a summer wedding. Just not done.

Vaughan: But you're a big Enclave fan and you, Cato, have even admitted that you might have been wrong about Buick - wrong to suggest GM eliminate the Buick brand along with Saturn and Hummer and Saab.

Cato: Consider the Enclave on its merits. Good quality, really well-done interior, comfortable to drive and safe. Best of all, it's a deal.

GM Canada has returned to the employee pricing game. Benjamin will get the Enclave for dealer invoice. Plus, when last I checked, GM Canada had put in place as much as $5,000 or so in additional incentives - for the buyer who negotiates hard and squeezes out every last penny of the sales sweeteners available. The Enclave would be my first choice.

Vaughan: You don't know Forest Hill, Cato.

Cato: Maybe not. But it seems to me that smart people with money might appreciate another smart person - Benjamin - who spends his hard-earned money wisely.

Vaughan: I want to talk about the Mercedes. This is a big, solid truck. It will last and the design is timeless.

Cato: Yes, but Benjamin is looking at the gas version, not the diesel, which would be my first choice. The trips to the cottage? Benjamin just might get tired of paying for fill-ups. Although he does live in Forest Hill, so maybe the price of fuel is not an issue.

Vaughan: Highlander. Cato, Benjamin should buy the Highlander. He wants a Toyota and he'll get a good deal.

Cato: Enclave. Best deal of the bunch.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2007 Mercedes-Benz GL450

2010 Toyota Highlander V-6 Sport AWD

2010 Buick Enclave CX AWD

Wheelbase (mm)

3,075

2,790

3,023

Length (mm)

5,088

1,920

5,118

Width (mm)

1,920

1,760

2,006

Height (mm)

1,840

1,504

1,842

Engine

4.6-litre V-8

3.5-litre V-6

3.6-litre V-8

Output (hp)

(torque)

335 hp

339 lb-ft

270 hp

248 lb-ft

288 hp

270 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel

All-wheel

All-wheel

Transmission

Seven-speed automatic

Five-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,430

1,930

2,261

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

16.3 city

11.7 highway

12.3 city

8.8 highway

13.4 city

9.0 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$76,500 (original)

$42,810

$42,134

Source: Car manufacturers

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