Once a week, I spend six hours on a former logging road, which is now paved but is still very bumpy and winding in some spots (three hours there, three hours back). The road goes over three mountain passes. I have been doing this trip in the non-winter months in a 2005 Toyota Prius with front seats from a Volvo XC wagon (seats circa 2008) installed in it for comfort because the original Prius seats were not very ergonomic or comfortable for my back. The Prius suspension is a comfortable enough ride on the bumpy parts of the road.
Starting last year, I needed an all-wheel-drive vehicle for the winter months. I bought a 2010 Lexus RX450h last fall, but the seats were uncomfortable and the car was a little too floaty on the winding roads, causing my daughter to feel “sea sick,” so I sold it this spring. I recently bought a 2016 Volvo XC – it has good seats and a less floaty feel, but the ride is too rough and jarring over the poor sections of the road, so I’ll have to sell this car and start looking for something else.
I’m looking for an all-wheel drive that has great ergonomic seats, a smooth comfortable ride, and is not too floaty and/or rolling in corners. I would like it to be something I can purchase in the next month or two, so I’m thinking that limits me to second-hand because new stock seems limited. If I can have a money-no-object suggestion and an under-$40,000 suggestion, that would be wonderful. – Beth
Petrina Gentile: $40,000 seems like a good budget for a used vehicle, but prices keep rising in the used-car market because of high demand, low supply and fewer lease returns. The average price of a used vehicle in Canada was $39,645 in June, according to AutoTrader – that’s up 53 per cent since June 2020.
Mark Richardson: More to the point, the difference in price between a used car and a new car has been narrowing, owing to the more immediate availability of used vehicles. Even so, if $40,000 is the budget, including taxes, how about a Mazda CX-5, or CX-50? I’ve always found Mazda’s seats to be very comfortable.
Gentile: That’s a good starting point. Beth will be able to find a 2019-2020 model that’s fairly well equipped in the low $30,000s. The CX-5 has a bit less cargo room than some competitors, but it does have pleasant road manners. It’s not a floaty ride like the Lexus. Wouldn’t you agree?
Richardson: It’s fairly firm and Mazdas also have what they call G-Vectoring Control, which tweaks the suspension in response to the engine inputs to keep the steering smooth. It’s a smart touch that you can’t really appreciate with a short test drive.
Gentile: She could also consider a used Toyota RAV4 SUV. Depending on mileage and features, Beth could get a 2018-2020 model. It has a bigger interior and nice road manners.
Richardson: For her $40,000, she might even be able to find a used RAV4 hybrid, which will save some fuel. Beth prefers hybrids, after all. It’s a bit of a crapshoot these days though, to find one for a fair price – especially with such a popular model.
Gentile: I wouldn’t even bother with the hybrid. I think it’ll be too hard to find. She’s better off sticking with a gas-powered version and the used price will be lower.
Richardson: That previous generation is probably the most comfortable for her. But how about a vehicle with adaptive suspension? Something she can set for a firmer drive that still has plush seating? It’s an expensive option on a new car, but much more affordable on a used BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
Gentile: Definitely more affordable on the used side. If money’s no object, she can look for a new BMW X1 SUV, which now has adaptive suspension. Or she could get into a 2018-2020 X1 in the low $30,000s – it didn’t offer adaptive suspension, but I honestly don’t think Beth, or most women for that matter, should care about that. The X1 is a nice, tight ride – not floaty at all. That’s what she’ll appreciate.
Richardson: I think the Mercedes GLA competition is better looking, though that’s always subjective. BMWs, Mercedes and Audis depreciate in value quickly. The trick is to find a used one that still has a warranty, because repairs can be expensive for the German brands.
Gentile: I agree. Repair costs are atrocious on German brands, especially on a vehicle that’s a few years old. Personally, I’d avoid a used German vehicle.
Richardson: Not if it still has enough of a warranty to absorb the shock of repair costs. Beth wants the advantages that they bring to the quality of the ride, after all. How about a new or used Cadillac? They also depreciate quickly, but their air suspension is state-of-the-art.
Gentile: What are you thinking – an XT4 compact SUV? That could work. It does have nice road manners and is attractive in its styling with a modern, tech-savvy cabin.
Richardson: The XT4 was introduced for 2019, so there should be a reasonable choice of used vehicles that have come off-lease. Even the most basic original XT4 has MacPherson struts at the front and a five-link independent rear suspension, and the XT4 Sport has an active suspension with continuous damping control. That’ll do the trick for Beth.
Gentile: And it looks like there are a few options in the 2019-2020 model years for the Cadillac XT4 in the low $30,000s on AutoTrader.ca. So that fits into Beth’s budget, too.
Richardson: The 2024 XT4 has been refreshed in its style and technology, and I’ve not driven it yet – it starts at $48,230 before taxes. New or used, I think the Cadillac would be a better choice than the BMW or Benz, but Beth would need to sit in it to make sure the seats fit her comfortably. Sometimes, the seats on sportier cars can be a bit snug or a bit thin, for better lateral support and feedback.
Gentile: Personally, I’d skip the luxury options and stick with a more affordable and reliable used Mazda CX-5 or Toyota RAV4.
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