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What car would Al Bundy buy? Add to ...

Hi: I have a 2002 Jeep TJ Sport with 120,000 kilometres on it. It’s fine. I’ve had it serviced quarterly and have taken care of it repair-wise. But it’s 10 years old and I suspect just by virtue of age, vehicles (like humans) start going downhill – despite our mileage. As much as I dislike sitting in doctors’ offices, I find that due to my advancing age I’m doing it more frequently. Can I expect the same with the Jeep?

I’ve always operated on the premise that as long as vehicle repair bills don’t exceed the cost of new car payments I should hang onto the vehicle. That said, annoyance and inconvenience also factor in. Plus, I'll admit it, a new car is always fun. (Probably a Subaru Forester.) But so is taking the top off the Jeep and doing some country driving. I’m perplexed. Or as was once said in the Bundy family, I’m on the horns of an enema. – Bob in Waterloo, Ont.

Cato: Bob, you’re a fan of Al Bundy, from the 1980s TV sitcom Married with Children. As he once said, “Every now and then a guy who drives a Dodge likes to close his eyes and imagine it's a Ferrari.”

You’ve closed your eyes, Bob, and imagined your Jeep has been replaced by a Forester. This isn’t about repair costs versus monthly payments. No, it’s about you being ready to trade in the TJ. So go ahead; get a new ride. To paraphrase our man Al, don’t let life sit on your head.

Vaughan: I have no idea what you’re talking about. But I do know that the old TJ is today’s Wrangler and it is one tough little Jeep. It finally has a new and better 3.6-litre V-6 (285 horsepower), an engine far superior to that minivan engine it has replaced.

Cato and I risked life and limb taking a Wrangler ($22,695) up rock faces on the Rubicon Trail in California. Amazing what they will climb over. I think they’re great value for money and, Bobby, if you had fun in your old one you’ll have even more in the new one. Plus there’s a four-door model – the Wrangler Unlimited ($27,595 base) – if you want more room.

Cato: Jeep did a half-baked update of the 2011 Wrangler, but has now finished the job for 2012: better fuel economy (9.5 litres/100 km on the highway), more power, the same five-speed automatic in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and much more refinement inside and out.

What you won’t find in the ’12 model is a fat deal from Chrysler Canada. That sub-$23,000 starter price is as good as it gets, other than whatever dealer discount Bob manages to negotiate.

And forget about finding excessively great offers on the 2012 Subaru Forester ($25,595), either – other than 1.9 per cent financing for three years.

This Subie is not quite as rough and ready as the Wrangler, being car-based, but it has a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, versus the Jeep’s strictly part-time four-wheel drive.

Vaughan: The AWD Forester is a very capable car, one that will go over hill and dale, but Bobby can’t take the roof off unless he has an extremely large can opener. The Forester is a fine vehicle and, as Cato says, it has a great all-wheel-drive system. But Mr. Young at Heart over there wants the wind in his hair. That means he should stick with a Jeep.

Cato: As Al Bundy would say, “Wait a minute; I think I’ve just had a vision!” Now, Bob, don’t run from this advice like Mexican water through a first-time tourist – thanks to the famous shoe salesman for that, too – but I want you to be patient here. I want you to wait for two new crossovers before making your final decision: the 2013 Ford Escape and the 2013 Mazda CX5. Both are coming soon.

Of the two, I’ve spent the most time with the Mazda and it has an excellent engine and transmission combination, stellar looks and handling that will shock you after living with that 10-year-old Jeep, Bob. The cabin is rich with soft-touch materials, excellent outward visibility, comfy seats and a big cargo area. And best-in-class fuel economy from the 155-hp, four-cylinder engine (8.0 litres/100 km in the city, 6.4 highway for AWD).

Vaughan: Except that we don’t know what Mazda is going to charge for the CX-5.

Cato: Not yet, but look for the front-drive base model in the low-$20,000s.

Vaughan: I’m not arguing that, but it just sounds to me like Bobby wants to relive his happy days Jeeping. So he should go ahead and get one. It’s pretty unpleasant getting new knees or hips or whatever, but it’s easy to lay down the dough for a new Jeep with all new parts.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport 4x4

2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X AWD

2013 Mazda CX-5 AWD

Wheelbase (mm)

2,423

2,615

2,700

Length (mm)

4,161

4,560

4,555

Width (mm)

1,872

1,780

1,840

Height (mm)

1,801

1,700

1,670

Engine

3.6-litre V-6

2.5-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

285/260 lb-ft

170/174 lb-ft

155/150 lb-ft

Drive system

Rear- and part-time four-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manual

Five-speed manual

Six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,759

1,480

1,554

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

12.7 city/9.3 highway

9.9 city/7.4 highway

8.0 city/6.4 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$22,695

$25,995

$27,000 (estimated base price for AWD model)

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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