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Hi Michael and Jeremy: It is time to replace my beloved 2002 Lexus RX300. My husband has a 2009 Lexus RX350 and we often go to Prince Edward County to our country property. There are certain things I hate about the 2012 RX350: they have closed off the area between the seats in the front for navigation, etc. (which I do not need). Not only have I lost the room for my purse, but the armrest area is now too far back for me to reach. So what would you suggest?

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I am thinking about a Grand Cherokee 4WD such as the Overland, but have never bought American. Another alternative is the BMW X3 with xDrive 28i, but have never bought European. I hear that Lexus is coming out with a mid-year model of the RX350, but no one can tell me what this will entail. – Anna in Toronto

Vaughan: Anna, let’s talk about the County. I went there hundreds of years ago on the long way home from Queen’s University. In those days, it was the most forgotten place and therefore the best place in Southern Ontario. I bought a place on the Bay of Quinte for a song.

Now it’s full of vineyards – although it’s doubtful how well they will do because British Columbia growing conditions are far superior. It’s becoming totally gentrified and I’m told the rich and famous have purchased gigantic tracts there.

Cato: That’s it, just sit there in your rocking chair, wandering down memory lane. Let me handle this.

Anna, steer clear of the RX. Nice ride, dead reliable, the quality standard of upscale crossover wagons and all that – but one Lexus RX in the family is enough. And if you’re waiting for Lexus to do a major renovation of the RX, expect to hang in there until at least the 2015 model year. The RX and its hybrid cousin were last redone completely for the 2009 model year. Generally, this sort of ride has a six-year product cycle.

Vaughan: Cato, can’t you see this is about the County? I doubt if there’s a single United Empire Loyalist in British Columbia where you hail from. You’ll never understand.

Cato: The County is lovely. I get it. Sandbanks Park is pretty and peaceful, quiet and ideal for reading, thinking, lounging and revisiting your past triumphs and travails at Queen’s. I see why you love the place. But Anna knows all about the County.

She NEEDS help with the replacement for her 2002 Lexus. The biggest problem Lexus has with the RX is that it doesn’t break; owners get sick of it long before the RX starts falling apart. There it is again, topping its segment in the latest J.D. Power long-term Vehicle Dependability Study.

But for Anna, I’d like to see her take a look at this all-new Range Rover Evoque. It would be taking a chance because Land Rover is at the bottom of the Power dependability studies, year after year, but after visiting the plant last summer and grilling company executives who know this is their last, best chance to reclaim past glories, I’d like Anna to take a test drive. Pricing? The five-door starts at $46,995 and a slick-looking three-door has a base price of $52,595.

Vaughan: That Evoque would do well in the County. In fact I think Land Rover actually had one of its awkward truck-based things called the County a few years ago. I have no idea what County that referred to; probably the one where Prince-never-to-be-king Charles lives.

Cato: Well, Chuck’s mummy has that place up in Scotland … Wait, now you have me off track. Where was I? The Jeep. The 2012 Grand Cherokee. A deal, no question. The platform underneath is shared with the new Mercedes ML SUV, except the Jeep starts at $37,995 and there is some discounting, too. The ML? Starts at $57,900. The Mercedes is not $20,000 more car, in my view.

Vaughan: I’m thinking that Jeep might be the one that suits the County best. People used to drive Jeeps down there years ago, before the rich people arrived and now the Jeep Grand Cherokee – where do they come up with these names? – is, as you say, the equal of the best German stuff at a fraction of the price.

I didn’t take detailed drawings when I drove it but I’m reasonably confident it has a great armrest, plus I’m sure a place for Anna’s purse. So it’s hard for me to give a definitive recommendation on the basis of what you’ve told me, Anna. However I’m sure Cato will. Nevertheless I hope to see you in Bloomfield next summer lining up for ice cream.

Cato: And yes, Anna, the X3 ($41,900 base) is worth a long, long look. The Bavarians fixed it in the latest remake and the pricing works, too. Try these and get back to us. Leave the Lexus to hubby.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2012 BMW X3 xDrive 28i

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

2012 Land Rover Evoque

Wheelbase (mm)

2810

2915

2660

Length (mm)

4648

4821

4355

Width (mm)

1881

1938

1965

Height (mm)

1661

1763

1635

Engine

3.0-litre six-cylinder

3.6-litre V-6

2.0-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

240/221 lb-ft

290/260 lb-ft

240/251 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Transmission

Eight-speed automatic

Five-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1865

2200

1670

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.9 city/7.8 highway

13.0 city/8.8 highway

11.4 city/7.1 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$41,900

$50,195

$46,995

Source: car manufacturers

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 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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