1 2 3
DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/1/21 2:02 a.m.

Sitrep: I am married, rather conveniently, to my wife.  Between the two of us, we have one kid who turned two last month.  My daily driver is an '85 Toyota MR2, and I also have an '85 Jeep J20 for manly truck things; I am keeping both indefinitely.  My wife's car is the fambly car, and the subject of this here discussion.  It is a tired and uninspired 2003 Toyota Matrix base model with AWD and ~180K miles.

Disclaimer: I'm a cheap son of a so-and-so and not as excitable as I used to be, so I don't buy cars if I don't have to.  Hell, I don't even buy car magazines anymore; I'm probably never going to buy a new car, and looking at someone else's stuff just brings me down.  But in probably in a year or two, we're going to have to pull the trigger on something.  This gives us some time to let used car prices come back down to earth while we think about what to look for and what to avoid.

 

Let's get the ugly stuff out of the way first.  Major gripes with the Matrix include the following:

  1. It's just not big enough.  For a childless couple or the sort of active senior you see on the multivitamin commercials, it's probably adequate, but it's damn near impossible for me to sit in the passenger seat with a child seat behind me, and I'm only 5' 7".  The cargo area is just about adequate for a grocery run or a stroller, but not both.  There is no margin.  We're barely scraping by with one kid.  If we manage to produce another youngern, the car is likely to collapse like Elwood's Monaco upon arriving at the Richard J. Daley Center. 
  2. The lack of power is absolutely infuriating.  It's dangerously soggy.  The engine is the asthmatic 1ZZ-FE, conveniently detuned for the AWD version to all of about 125bhp, and throttle response is strictly theoretical.  It's asleep until about 3500 RPM; at 3500, it switches from "asleep" to "woefully inadequate".
  3. The transmission is a four-speed automatic with ratios so far apart they have to communicate via satellite phone and so tall they barely fit under the hood.  The computer is programmed to upshift at every opportunity unless the throttle is set to 75% or better; downshifts do not occur unless at least 90% throttle is employed.  I actually have to make sure the floormat is out of the way so that the pedal can be depressed far enough to order a downshift. 
  4. No prizes for calculating the sum of issues two and three.  It's misery.  Going up a grade with the cruise control set to 60, it'll slow to 55, opening the throttle further and further until it reaches WOT, then downshift to third at about 55 or so and run screaming at WOT until it reaches about 65, and which point it realizes it's in way too deep and releases the throttle fully, upshifting to fourth as I inevitably go sailing past a cop at ten over.  Of course, I can shift it myself, which sometimes helps a little, but is a tiresome way to drive an ostensibly automatic family car that still doesn't have the oats to do what you want it to do.
  5. The car is a base model.  Like, not even XR.  It has cruise control and ABS and cold A/C, but that's about it.  We're not gadget people by any stretch, but power locks and windows would sure be nice.
  6. The chassis has all the confidence and poise of a washtub full of frogs and dryer lint.  The brake pedal has always been soft, and no amount of component replacement, rear brake adjustment, or bleeding can correct it.  Steering is numb and springy, as though it is artificially spring-loaded to return to center like some sort of coin-op arcade game.  'Er indoors doesn't care about any of this, but given a say in the matter, I sure do.
  7. It's generally unpleasant.  Seats are uncomfortable to me.  Ergonomics are not great.  The car is boomy.  I've added a little bit of jute padding to door panels and cargo area but it seems to have had little effect.
  8. Other than reliability, there are no particularly redeeming qualities, no charm, no character.  It is a place to sit until we arrive elsewhere.

I have considered slapping a little turbo on it to cure the lack of torque.  Ten pounds of boost would absolutely transform the powertrain.  However, the fact that I own an old RHB5 and a few little intercoolers and have all the tools to make it happen doesn't mean this is a good idea.  And it wouldn't solve any of the other issues.

 

So there's most of the gripes out of the way.  Here are the good points:

  1. It didn't cost too much when we bought it several years ago and was paid for a long time ago. 
  2. It is, mechanically speaking, a Corolla, meaning that it's exceedingly reliable and not tough to work on.  Should something poop the bed, parts are mostly cheap and abundant.
  3. It has full-time AWD.  While we live in western Oregon, where winters are mild, it's been nice to have AWD for the occasional freak snowstorm or trips over the passes to see family.
  4. It's kind of invisible.  Doesn't seem to garner much attention from the kind of people you don't want eyeballing your stuff.

 

Some qualifications for a potential replacement:

  1. Correct the gripes listed above.
  2. Wagons are preferable to minivans; minivans are preferable to SUVs.  AWD is nice but certainly not mandatory.
  3. It has to have an automatic transmission.  Although my wife has been taught how to operate a manual transmission, she has no interest in doing so.
  4. It can't suck to drive.  Better dynamics are better.
  5. Nothing too old, nothing too weird.  I want something new enough to be relatively crashworthy, something that doesn't render itself obsolete in ten years, and for which parts and service are relatively widespread.
  6. No BMW or VAG products.
  7. Let's assume the budget will be approximately $10K.  Less is better.  I'm theoretically open to putting work and money into a cheap buy if it raises the value of the car a corresponding amount.  Putting $4000 into a $5000 car and ending up with a car worth $11K is great; doing the same and ending up with a car worth $7500 is not.

 

What else can I tell you?  We're near Eugene, Oregon.  We don't salt the roads here.  Excluding midwest transplants and shoddy collision repair, rust is generally a non-issue.

Eugene is a liberal college town full of liberal college people, so you can't throw a rock without hitting a Subaru.  Trust me, I've tried.  They're abundant, particularly in Outback guise (not my favorite), but damned if they don't command a premium.  If we pull from Bend or Portland areas there is also a fairly good selection of Euro stuff.  More on that later.

Whenever possible, I do my own repair work and maintenance.  That said, I prefer not to have to.  Doing brakes and wheel bearings and engine mounts and water pumps on a reasonable interval is fine.  What I don't want is to chase down endless CELs or battle biodegradable wiring harnesses or hunt for some essential component that just doesn't exist anymore, or costs 1/4 as much as the car does.  My experience is mostly with Toyota.  I still get Toyota parts at wholesale and can source OEM parts for most other makes through friendly connections at dealerships or independant shops with Worldpac accounts.

I've never owned Euro stuff, but have worked on just enough to know that I am not interested in any late-model BMW or VAG products.  If this was a toy for me, it'd likely be a W124 wagon, but I'm putting my wife and baby into this thing, and she's not an especially skilled or defensive driver.  I want them both reasonably well protected by a reasonable complement of steel and crumple zones and pillows and (reliable) electronics.

Volvo V70s are sort of compelling.  The P2 cars are probably getting too long in the tooth to seriously consider.   But they sure tick a lot of boxes.  I have not looked into the P3 equivalent much at all.  Seems the P2 is more abundant here.  Mazda6 wagon looks fantastic on the rare occasion I see one.  Mazda5 doesn't look terrible and isn't nearly as big as other "mini" vans.  I hear they are down on power, but they can't be nearly as bad as that Matrix...

Something tells me we're going to end up with a Sienna and, upon resigning myself to the fact that it drives like a Toyota, wishing I'd bought an Oddyssey.  Or maybe buying an Oddyssey and resigning myself to the fact that the transmission just imploded.

Pardon any misspellings or incoherent ramblings.  I'm on the whiskey and also typing in the dark so as not to wake the aforementioned toddler.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
9/1/21 3:10 a.m.

For us (wife and 1 kid) the route was out of a Mazda5 and into a Mopar van.  For you it might be Sienna. 

Our runner ups were Lincoln Mkt (Ford Flex) or Nissan Armada.

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
9/1/21 5:24 a.m.

I also think the Grand Caravan is the easy button here. They are dead nuts reliable, have space for days and are generally 1/2-2/3  the price of the Japanese players for the same spec and miles. 

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
9/1/21 5:51 a.m.

I can attest that the later Mazda 5 with the 2.5 and five speed automatic is not at all underpowered.
 

Ours pulled a long steep grade on I40 in North Carolina at 55 with ease. The downhill side has multiple truck runoff ramps and a truck speed limit of 35. That's carrying our family of four and two weeks worth of luggage including two ice chests. 
 

It's engaging to drive with direct and responsive steering compared to the two Odysseys and one Sienna we've had. 

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
9/1/21 6:18 a.m.

For these duties we've personally owned:

2002 Subaru legacy wagon

2 protege5 

2 mazda5. 

 

The mazda5 is the best at it. Ours have both been first gen, but the later first gen is way better in every way. 

Ive also used a 2012 mazda6. Suprisingly huge trunk, and a TON of legroom. But not a hatch. Backseats fold down, but not a hatch.

Id steer you towards a mazda, or whatever flavor of normal minivan you like.

KyAllroad
KyAllroad UltimaDork
9/1/21 6:37 a.m.

My problem with most family trucksters is the transmission.  My brother owns a 2012 T&C with a great motor....and the very worst transmission ever fitted to a car.  I've taken it on trips from Cape Cod to Colorado and HATE the numb driving dynamics and twitchy, to-eager-to-downshift tranny.  My mom has has Subaru Outbacks for the last three generations:  consistently underpowered, janky transmissions, poor fitting seats, and generally overhyped.  And REALLY hard to work on when I've had to do anything to them.

I know you said no VAG products but if you can find one a Passat like mine is a great place to haul kids.  B6 wagon with AWD and VR6.  Same trips in it are great, smooth, gears are held when you want them to be held, tracks well, big 2nd row space and cavernous trunk area.  I've owned mine for 9 years now and at 171K miles I have no plans to replace it.  Oh, and it's a tank.   Like the safest place you can stash your rugrats that still moves from point A to B.

 

If you insist on your silly requirement, look at some of the Volvo offerings, I hear they don't suck.  

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
9/1/21 7:05 a.m.

E350 wagon

malibuguy
malibuguy HalfDork
9/1/21 7:27 a.m.

I bought a 06 Highlander 3.3 AWD Limited not too long after we had our daughter.  I think of it as a capable wagon then an SUV.  It is essentially a Camry hooked up to an air hose.

Plenty of power, I have the exhaust set up just right where I often trade optimal MPG for THE NOISE.  I still average 21mpg in mixed driving.  I made a skid plate for it and put on trail tires and it has not gotten stuck, even on some proper offroad trails.

The interior is huge, plus it has a 3rd row JIC I gotta haul the grown step kids or anyone else.  I haul argon bottles, wheels and tires.  A couch once.  Its fantastic.

My only complaint comes to snow...and this is a typical modern car thing with Ethrottle, once it senses any slip it just reels back the throttle and also over uses the ABS.  This was exceptionally bad when it still had regular car commuter tires.  A yank of the ABS fuse and it drives very predicably.  With the good tires that are triple peak rated tires I dont need to yank the fuse unless I want to hoon.

They were made in 2wd V6 and also 4cyl models.  Plenty to choose from.

Toyman01 + Sized and
Toyman01 + Sized and MegaDork
9/1/21 7:28 a.m.

Pick the minivan of your preference in the best condition you can afford. Drive it into the ground. 

Of the handful I've experienced, I prefer the driving dynamics and handling of the Chevy Venture and its siblings. We ran ours to just shy of 300k miles with minimal problems other than the lower intake gaskets. 

The Ventures are getting a little long in the tooth now, the Uplander replaced it and was built through '08. They can be had for about half your budget. 

 

 

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/1/21 8:07 a.m.

I'm 5'10" and my 2018 Mazda3 has made a pretty capable family hauler for myself, Mrs. VCH, and 2 kids in car seats.  I remember looking at used Matrices when car shopping and the generation of Mazda3 is significantly bigger inside (For clarification, this is the 2014-2018 MY).  I have the 6 speed MT, but from what I've heard the 6AT is a very good automatic.  Grab a Touring or Grand Touring model for the 180-ish HP 2.5 four banger and you'll have something that can knock down mid-30's mpg and feel downright rocket-ship like compared to your Matrix.

I recall renting an AWD Matrix once out west.  The driving experience was exactly as you described.  The FWD ones are slightly faster, certainly more livable, but the 3 is way better in every way.  

The older Protege5 is a cool little wagon-lette, but again, the '14-'18 Mazda3 is bigger inside, and has more power and better fuel economy.  And they're still pretty easy to find. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
9/1/21 8:52 a.m.

I'd go with a Kia Sedona. Hell, I did go with a Kia Sedona. But any minivan, unless you need to go offroad or tow. And even if you do need to tow, they're not half bad for lighter loads. 

 

We recently used my MIL's Lexus RX for a weekend, and my mom's Honda Passport (new one) for a day. We were dying for the sliding doors in no time. The space is unmatched by anything short of a Suburban. If you have a child under the age of 5, they're just the best tool for the job. Not the only tool, but the best tool.

06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/1/21 9:15 a.m.

Just want to tell the OP his post is the best thing i've read all week. laugh  As far as a reccomendation goes, i'll second a Kia, but try the 2011-2016 Sorrento if you really don't want a minivan.  They're not too big, gas mileage isn't the greatest but not awful (averaged mid 20's) and available with AWD.  And built like tanks, ours survived multiple rear-end collisions until a Silverado finally took it out on the interstate, again a rear end collision that totalled both vehicles.  We drove ours to 120k miles before it met it's demise with just routine maintenance, one set of brake pads and an intake actuator that failed just outside the 100K warranty.  Parts were reasonable and readily available via Kia and Hyundai wholesalers.

Aspen
Aspen HalfDork
9/1/21 9:38 a.m.

Prius V

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
9/1/21 9:51 a.m.
Aspen said:

Prius V

I surprisingly have to often do a double take when I see a Prius V to not be sure it is a Mazda5

No sliding door on PriusV but the Prius is a 3 place rear bench vs the Mazda's 2 place second row and 2 place third row.  This means the PriusV can hold 5 people and cargo.  If the Mazda requires 5 people then there is a great reduction in cargo.  However, the Mazda wins when the car needs to hold 6 people (with 2 being small people) but at that time it looses at holding any cargo.  

The PriusV will also loose in the "driving excitement" portion but exceed at the "reliability and efficient" portions.  

The PriusV will also win at the carrying of huge car seats.  The Mazda is just good but the PriusV is great with its limo-like rear leg room.  

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/1/21 9:57 a.m.

 

John Welsh said:

For us (wife and 1 kid) the route was out of a Mazda5 and into a Mopar van.  For you it might be Sienna. 

Our runner ups were Lincoln Mkt (Ford Flex) or Nissan Armada.

Thanks for the input and the link.  Mopar vans are certainly an option, depending on condition.  My concern - assumption, really - is that once they age into my price range, they decay to the point that reliability and longevity may become a real  issue.

I was not really aware of the MKT.  Worth a look.  The Flex is certainly appealing, on paper, though I have my reservations about Ford.  My limited experience says their more conventionally engineered products are generally decent up to the point that they discontinue some critical little vacuum valve or proprietary electronic chingus.  So not strictly a no-go, but not top of the list.

 

chandler said:

I also think the Grand Caravan is the easy button here. They are dead nuts reliable, have space for days and are generally 1/2-2/3  the price of the Japanese players for the same spec and miles. 

Noted.  See comments above in response to John.

 

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

I can attest that the later Mazda 5 with the 2.5 and five speed automatic is not at all underpowered.
 

Ours pulled a long steep grade on I40 in North Carolina at 55 with ease. The downhill side has multiple truck runoff ramps and a truck speed limit of 35. That's carrying our family of four and two weeks worth of luggage including two ice chests. 
 

It's engaging to drive with direct and responsive steering compared to the two Odysseys and one Sienna we've had. 

Valuable input and very much appreciated.

 

Dusterbd13-michael said:

For these duties we've personally owned:

2002 Subaru legacy wagon

2 protege5 

2 mazda5. 

 

The mazda5 is the best at it. Ours have both been first gen, but the later first gen is way better in every way. 

Ive also used a 2012 mazda6. Suprisingly huge trunk, and a TON of legroom. But not a hatch. Backseats fold down, but not a hatch.

Id steer you towards a mazda, or whatever flavor of normal minivan you like.

Again, very valuable and much appreciated.

 

KyAllroad said:

My problem with most family trucksters is the transmission.  My brother owns a 2012 T&C with a great motor....and the very worst transmission ever fitted to a car.  I've taken it on trips from Cape Cod to Colorado and HATE the numb driving dynamics and twitchy, to-eager-to-downshift tranny.  My mom has has Subaru Outbacks for the last three generations:  consistently underpowered, janky transmissions, poor fitting seats, and generally overhyped.  And REALLY hard to work on when I've had to do anything to them.

I know you said no VAG products but if you can find one a Passat like mine is a great place to haul kids.  B6 wagon with AWD and VR6.  Same trips in it are great, smooth, gears are held when you want them to be held, tracks well, big 2nd row space and cavernous trunk area.  I've owned mine for 9 years now and at 171K miles I have no plans to replace it.  Oh, and it's a tank.   Like the safest place you can stash your rugrats that still moves from point A to B.

If you insist on your silly requirement, look at some of the Volvo offerings, I hear they don't suck.  

My silly requirement, sir, is based on my limited exposure to cars that, in this area, are either leased by the kind of people who lease expensive European cars (why maintain what you don't own?) or are owned by a variety of aging bohemians, female college students, or stance types.  None of these groups are famous for rigidly adhering to maintenance schedules.  The vehicles are obscure enough that jobs beyond oil changes seem to warrant a visit to a specialist (costly and inconvenient) so my impression, right or wrong, is that they get driven until they simply aren't worth keeping, then sold cheap to someone who has never had a paying job.  And the interiors smell like a box of hot crayons.  Maybe this is all more circumstantial than factual, but that's where I'm coming from with the VAG comment.

dean1484 said:4

E350 wagon

You make a compelling argument.  I've checked all your points, and they stand up.

 

malibuguy said:

I bought a 06 Highlander 3.3 AWD Limited not too long after we had our daughter.  I think of it as a capable wagon then an SUV.  It is essentially a Camry hooked up to an air hose.

Plenty of power, I have the exhaust set up just right where I often trade optimal MPG for THE NOISE.  I still average 21mpg in mixed driving.  I made a skid plate for it and put on trail tires and it has not gotten stuck, even on some proper offroad trails.

The interior is huge, plus it has a 3rd row JIC I gotta haul the grown step kids or anyone else.  I haul argon bottles, wheels and tires.  A couch once.  Its fantastic.

My only complaint comes to snow...and this is a typical modern car thing with Ethrottle, once it senses any slip it just reels back the throttle and also over uses the ABS.  This was exceptionally bad when it still had regular car commuter tires.  A yank of the ABS fuse and it drives very predicably.  With the good tires that are triple peak rated tires I dont need to yank the fuse unless I want to hoon.

They were made in 2wd V6 and also 4cyl models.  Plenty to choose from.

Ah, yes, the first-gen Zoolander.  I have read your thread and forgot to mention that here.  It is about the closest thing to a Camry wagon we're ever going to see, and is old enough to be affordable and new enough to be a contender.   That MZ engine is an absolute honey.  I'll have to review what you did to make it talk.

 

Toyman01 + Sized and said:

Pick the minivan of your preference in the best condition you can afford. Drive it into the ground. 

Of the handful I've experienced, I prefer the driving dynamics and handling of the Chevy Venture and its siblings. We ran ours to just shy of 300k miles with minimal problems other than the lower intake gaskets. 

The Ventures are getting a little long in the tooth now, the Uplander replaced it and was built through '08. They can be had for about half your budget. 

I forgot to mention that I'm leery of GM products.  They always seem to be more an assembly of cost-cutting measures than an actual vehicle.  And not exactly easy on the eyes.  But I'll look into that option.

 

volvoclearinghouse said:

I'm 5'10" and my 2018 Mazda3 has made a pretty capable family hauler for myself, Mrs. VCH, and 2 kids in car seats.  I remember looking at used Matrices when car shopping and the generation of Mazda3 is significantly bigger inside (For clarification, this is the 2014-2018 MY).  I have the 6 speed MT, but from what I've heard the 6AT is a very good automatic.  Grab a Touring or Grand Touring model for the 180-ish HP 2.5 four banger and you'll have something that can knock down mid-30's mpg and feel downright rocket-ship like compared to your Matrix.

I recall renting an AWD Matrix once out west.  The driving experience was exactly as you described.  The FWD ones are slightly faster, certainly more livable, but the 3 is way better in every way.  

The older Protege5 is a cool little wagon-lette, but again, the '14-'18 Mazda3 is bigger inside, and has more power and better fuel economy.  And they're still pretty easy to find. 

Fine comments.  I don't think a second-gen Mazda3 is bigger enough to make the jump.  Kind of surprised you had nothing to say about the Volvo options.

 

mtn said:

I'd go with a Kia Sedona. Hell, I did go with a Kia Sedona. But any minivan, unless you need to go offroad or tow. And even if you do need to tow, they're not half bad for lighter loads. 

We recently used my MIL's Lexus RX for a weekend, and my mom's Honda Passport (new one) for a day. We were dying for the sliding doors in no time. The space is unmatched by anything short of a Suburban. If you have a child under the age of 5, they're just the best tool for the job. Not the only tool, but the best tool.

Noted.  Thank you.

 

06HHR (Forum Supporter) said:

Just want to tell the OP his post is the best thing i've read all week. laugh  As far as a reccomendation goes, i'll second a Kia, but try the 2011-2016 Sorrento if you really don't want a minivan.  They're not too big, gas mileage isn't the greatest but not awful (averaged mid 20's) and available with AWD.  And built like tanks, ours survived multiple rear-end collisions until a Silverado finally took it out on the interstate, again a rear end collision that totalled both vehicles.   

Glad you enjoyed.  Kias are an option, though probably not pick of the litter.  Minivans are preferable to SUVs at this point.  We once had a Jeep ZJ and really liked it but it's not the right tool for this job.

 

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/1/21 10:20 a.m.

In reply to DarkMonohue :

"Fince comments.  I don't think a secong-gen Mazda3 is bigger enough to make the jump.  Kind of surprised you had nothing to say about the Volvo options."

I don't have much to say about modern Volvos.  I guess I like the way they look, and supposedly the seats are quite comfortable.  

Perhaps I should have put a big asterisk by my recommendation of the Mazda3- my wife has a Suburban, which we use for long trips.  The Mazda is strictly for day trips when we don't need to carry much luggage.  And the Mazda is my daily.  

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/1/21 10:29 a.m.

If you say "no BMW or VAG" vehicles, then Volvo and M-B - or basically anything from Europe - is out.  ESPECIALLY in your price range. Any of them is a crap-shoot at best, ticking bomb at worst.

A newer Chrysler minivan with the 3.6L V6 and 6 spd automatic is reasonably decent to drive.  One advantage of the Chryslers is because they made so damn many of them (typically more per year than all other makes - combined), parts for them are cheap and any corner mechanic has worked on them dozens of times.  My local guy can fix anything that breaks on mine so quickly and cheaply, it isn't worth it for me to DIY most repairs. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise UberDork
9/1/21 10:53 a.m.

1 kid, started life in Miata MSM for 2 years. Then came kid 2. 

 

  • Started life in used 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Had it 24 months.  (sold)
  • Replaced with new CT200h 12 months (worst car in the world), but fit dual rear stroller in back no problem.  (sold)
  • Replaced with new TSX wagon 2012, fantastic machine - should have bought this in the first place. (still have)
  • Added new 2012 Mazda5 to stable - kept it 9 years. Got the job done, but low quality vehicle. (sold)

Now LC200 HE and a RCF is what gets them around daily. 

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/1/21 10:56 a.m.
volvoclearinghouse said:

In reply to DarkMonohue :

I don't have much to say about modern Volvos.  I guess I like the way they look, and supposedly the seats are quite comfortable.  

Perhaps I should have put a big asterisk by my recommendation of the Mazda3- my wife has a Suburban, which we use for long trips.  The Mazda is strictly for day trips when we don't need to carry much luggage.  And the Mazda is my daily.  

Got it. We're not in Suburban territory yet and likely never will be. I know they're the answer to a lot of questions, but not ours, at least at this time.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
9/1/21 11:03 a.m.

In reply to Ian F (Forum Supporter) :

I agree

For the OP and Mopar van shopping, know that 2011 and newer gets you the 3.6L and 2014 and newer gets you larger front brakes. 

These larger brakes can be retrofitted to the earlier years but will require 17" wheels as all the earlier cars offered 16" wheels.  This means the retro upgrade is calipers, disks, wheels and tires.  Those last two items can make the transition expensive  if you're not in need of tires already.    

There seems to be no discernable difference between 2014 and 2020 model years just slight variations in trim levels.  So, the advice here, if shopping used, don't shop by age but rather shop by condition.  You may be better off with a 2014 w/ 70k miles than you would with a 2020 with 70k miles.  

 

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/1/21 11:11 a.m.
Ian F (Forum Supporter) said:

If you say "no BMW or VAG" vehicles, then Volvo and M-B - or basically anything from Europe - is out.  ESPECIALLY in your price range. Any of them is a crap-shoot at best, ticking bomb at worst.

A newer Chrysler minivan with the 3.6L V6 and 6 spd automatic is reasonably decent to drive.  One advantage of the Chryslers is because they made so damn many of them (typically more per year than all other makes - combined), parts for them are cheap and any corner mechanic has worked on them dozens of times.  My local guy can fix anything that breaks on mine so quickly and cheaply, it isn't worth it for me to DIY most repairs. 

See my comments above specific to VAG. My objection to BMW is partially philosophical. They seem trick-**** themselves in the name of technical superiority. The ones I've seen are a pig to work on (proprietary aluminum bolts on the water pump and an oil leak through the motor mount? Sure, why not?). And the VAG owner concerns also apply to some degree.  Since they don't offer anything I can't get elsewhere, I'm actively avoiding them for now. 

Volvo is a contender for a couple of reasons. They are interesting (five cylinders and a turbo? Must be my birthday) and offer an appealing size and configuration in wagon form. And they're more common as a wagon than most other cars barring Subaru. Importantly, there's a friendly and reputable independent Volvo shop a couple of blocks from my office. A resource like that makes a difference. 

Post-W124 Benz is probably not realistic, for obvious reasons. W124 or earlier also not realistic due to age and relative absence of safety gear. So probably no M-B this time.

Fair points on the Chryco twins.

Opti
Opti Dork
9/1/21 11:17 a.m.

Can you get a flex in sho trim (awd and 3.5 eco) in your price range?

V70s are cool

Mid 90s GM wagons with LT1 tickle my pickle but are thin on the ground and might be a little weird for what your looking for

 

Minivans are more useful than anyone says

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/1/21 11:17 a.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

1 kid, started life in Miata MSM for 2 years. Then came kid 2. 

 

  • Started life in used 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Had it 24 months.  (sold)
  • Replaced with new CT200h 12 months (worst car in the world), but fit dual rear stroller in back no problem.  (sold)
  • Replaced with new TSX wagon 2012, fantastic machine - should have bought this in the first place. (still have)
  • Added new 2012 Mazda5 to stable - kept it 9 years. Got the job done, but low quality vehicle. (sold)

Now LC200 HE and a RCF is what gets them around daily. 

TSX wagon is worth keeping an eye open for. Thanks for the reminder.

Please share your reasons for labeling the Mazda5 a "low quality vehicle". 

I don't know what an LC200 HE or an RCF are, but I suspect they are not contenders...

clutchsmoke
clutchsmoke UltraDork
9/1/21 11:18 a.m.

Acura TSX wagon. Maybe in a couple years they'll fall into your price range, but currently they're about $5k above it. 

DarkMonohue
DarkMonohue Reader
9/1/21 11:21 a.m.
Opti said:

Can you get a flex in sho trim (awd and 3.5 eco) in your price range?

V70s are cool

Mid 90s GM wagons with LT1 tickle my pickle but are thin on the ground and might be a little weird for what your looking for

 

Minivans are more useful than anyone says

Not sure about the Flex. Last time I checked, they were too costly to entertain. 

LT1 wagons are cool on paper, but truly enormous, and she wouldn't be caught dead in one. And that mid-90s GM quality, fit and finish, and design approach reeks of cheapness to me. Can't do it for a family truckster. 

1 2 3
Our Preferred Partners
RI2Uj5g24YInZhLNq6zA8IlwRb78uuwYWyHgHvVk6sqJailqbw0PyEFyTaLDQHeg