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First foray into the "cross-over wagon" market

2005-02-13 , ,

With a baby on the way, priorities are changing. Our Volkswagen Cabrio, much as we love it, isn’t practical as a daily driver.

What we agree upon:

  • No vans, no minivans, no trucks.
  • AWD or 4WD with traction-control.
  • anti-lock disc brakes.
  • airbags and side-impact protection.
  • “decent” gas mileage (so no V8 engines).
  • a third row of seating.

So a station wagon might do. That’s a good thing because there’s market segment opening around that list: the cross-over wagon. They’re taller and have more cargo room or convertible seating than the wagons but they aren’t a bloated and gas thirsty as the SUV’s and they drive like cars.

A few hours of research and we came up with a list of vehicles to see and took off for dealerships. Brooklyn is full of them and we went to several: Ford, Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Hyundai and Volvo.
The salesmen were all pleasant enough when we explained we weren’t buying today, not even looking to demo, just working through a list and comparing. Only at the Acura dealer did anyone act as if they couldn’t be bothered with us once we described our interest.

We narrowed it down to just three. I’ve summarized our reactions:

  • Ford Freestyle – Good looking but basic exterior similar to the Volvo on which it is based. Interior is plain, mostly gray plastic. The optional leather seats are pretty good, about the same as our Volkswagen and have the basic adjustability. The third row of seats is very tight for adults and I had trouble exiting from them. That extra row of seats is easy to operate and it can be done from with one hand from the open rear hatch. The value-priced model in this line up.
  • Honda Pilot – Slightly boxy exterior. Nicely appointed interior, feels spacious. Doors close solidly on their hinges. Leather seats have good adjustability. Third row of seats are adequately comfortable for adults. Seems to have less window and mirror coverage than the others. No package or options to mix-and-match, just choose a model. Overall, much nicer than I expected.
  • Volvo XC90 – Best exterior. Best interior. The leather seats are as comfortable as any I’ve ever sat in on a vehicle, they have every power adjustment available and push-button memory. Second row of seats has adjustments including a folding “booster” middle seat that moves forward to acommodate a baby safety car seat. Third row of seats is adequate for adults and, unlike the others, easy to get into thanks to the solid running boards. Rear hatch is divided into a lower gate and an upper hatch. Most expensive vehicle in the line up (and it shows).

Next time we test drive.



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