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So, in under 18,000 km of well-maintained driving, my Audi decides to crap out again. This time it's the infamous carbon buildup. Engine codes galore, sputtering at idle, crap throttle response, etc. It was fixed under warranty of course, but the service guy at Audi tabulated the amount warranty work $$ so far, and we're at about $12,000 (includes water pump, new front bumper because of failed headlight washers, electrical repairs behind the dash, weather stripping, etc).

Clearly the car is a lemon of the lowest order, and when the warranty is up next year I'm thinking it's going to murder my bank account. I went shopping for something Japanese or American, preferably a cool SUV. I checked out the Toyota FJ Cruiser (kind of quirky spartan, and honest, spiritually similar to the Elise as crazy as that sounds), the Wrangler (off the list when I learned it has poor side impact ratings - I have two little kids in car seats), and the Xterra.

The theme here is I want something a bit rugged but with a decent drive. I didn't get a chance to drive the new 2014 Xterra, has anyone here? Also, is the 4Runner worth a look? Anything else I should look at?

Thanks for the input, if anyone has any!
 

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I just picked up a used 2010 Xterra 4x4 to go along side my Elise. I've had it for a month and I'm very happy with it so far.

Positives:
  • Styling looks great compared to most SUVs
  • Built on a truck frame, so you can actually tow with it (up to 5k lbs with my year, so you can tow an Elise with ease) and take it off road (has good ground clearance)
  • Better visibility than the FJ Cruiser and doesn't look as cartoony
  • Plenty of interior room for all passangers, and the seats in the back will fold completely flat for extra room
  • You can install an aftermarket double-din NAV system really easily and for much cheaper than a stock NAV unit on most cars
  • Great performance for the money (4.0L v6 in my year)
  • Drives nice around town for the most part (besides the turning thing in the negative list)

Negatives:
  • Tons of them on the road, so you won't feel special
  • The suspension is stiff since it's built for offroad, so your passengers will slide around on corners and they'll comment that you are taking the corners way too fast :) (you'll see what I mean when you drive it)
  • You'll have to take speed bumps at about the same speed as the Elise. Not because of scraping, but because your passengers will go flying out of their seats if you don't slow down.
  • Not many options available for the car (if any), so you just have to buy the model that has as close of features that you want, and then go aftermarket with the rest (like the NAV)

I'd go take one for a drive if I were you. Bring a family member with you when you go so they can see how they feel about the ride quality. It has gotten better over the years, but since it's still basically a truck, it won't feel nearly as smooth as a crossover SUV. You really can't beat them for the features you get for the money. Definitely get a 4x4 version, they'll hold their value much better than the 2wd versions (plus the fun of going off road :) )

Obviously Land Rovers are much nicer, but almost twice the price for similar features. Plus as everyone knows, you never keep a Land Rover past the warranty period.
 

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Give us some more parameters:

- New or used?

- Budget? Lease or buy.

- Are you looking more 'rugged with luxury' or pure rugged?

- Are you married to Japanese or American?

- Are you solid on SUV or would you do the wagon/avant thing?

I just went (last week) from a fully loaded Jeep Wranger Unlimited to an Audi S4. I've had SUVs as my daily for the last 18 years and it was just time for a switch. The Jeep was fun, but it has ZERO aerodynamics - its basically a square box. That means, in the winter/fall with the hard top on, it's a MESS of wind noise and highway driving just sucks. It's insanely fun in the summer though. Getting the soft top up and down is a total pain in the ass. Other than that, I bought the car new and drove it 27K miles and had not ONE issue. Just changed the oil.

Another option is the new Ford Explorer. A neighbor got one and I must say, they are VERY sharp. Ford is getting quite 'steal from others' these days ('Aston-y' grill on the Focus and the Explorer gets a Range-type grill), but it's a very sharp looking car. He's got the white with the black styling. Don't know anything about their quality though.



Also, what about the new Grand Cherokees? They are beautiful and very stylish. That SRT hemi version is stupid fast (but unfortunately, always seems to be driven by douchebags).
 

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WRX Wagon The difference in control and feel between driving a car and an SUV is too dramatic for me. I vastly prefer cars, smaller, lower, lighter. Plus, you won't even know where your dealer is. All it ever needs is fluid changes.

It's much better packaged than those little Land Rovers. I can't believe how small those things are on the inside.
 

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Give us some more parameters:
Ford is getting quite 'steal from others' these days ('Aston-y' grill on the Focus and the Explorer gets a Range-type grill), but it's a very sharp looking car.
Wow they really did steal that grill. When I first glanced at that picture I thought it was a Range Rover, until I saw the badge on the front.
 

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Another option is the new Ford Explorer.

...

Also, what about the new Grand Cherokees? They are beautiful and very stylish.

A friend of mine is in the process of buying an Explorer Sport like the one in your pic. They needed a third-row, and felt that the Explorer was the best out there right now in the mid-priced segment.

My wife and I have a modern Grand Cherokee, the Overland model with all of the toys, and we're very happy with it. Drives great, looks good, and has every feature you can ask for nowadays. My wife wanted all of the blind spot monitoring, collision avoidance, etc., and the GC has all of the Mercedes electronics as it was developed while they still owned Chrysler.
 

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Wow they really did steal that grill. When I first glanced at that picture I thought it was a Range Rover, until I saw the badge on the front.
Well, technically Ford owned Aston and Land Rover while their modern design language was developed, so it's kinda sorta not stealing. No matter where it came from and how, it looks great on them.
 

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BMW X35d . Diesel get ~27mpg highway with 265/425 stock numbers but buy the Burger tuning mod and get up to 330HP/525 tq!!! Gives many cars a serious asswhopping and I'm running level 8 which is ~310+ HP/515ft-lb/tq!!! An SUV without a diesel makes NO sense to me anymore!!
 

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Well, technically Ford owned Aston and Land Rover while their modern design language was developed, so it's kinda sorta not stealing. No matter where it came from and how, it looks great on them.
The bigger story there is that Ian Callum (ex of Aston) is now head of design for Jag and basically, every Jag coupe looks exactly like an Aston - so much so that when I see an Aston on the street, I first assume its an XJ. :)
 

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I have a 2011 Xterra. I previously had a 2006 Xterra, and I liked it so much that when it was time to trade, I got another one. :) It, and the FJ Cruiser, are the only 4x4 SUV's (that I know of) that are still available with a MT, which I really wanted. My current Xterra is a Pro4X, which comes with an additional off-road package (extra skid plates, heavy duty shocks, etc) and a very good Rockford Fosgate sound system.

In addition to moldytow's comments...

It's great in deep snow and mud. However, the ride is much stiffer than your Audi, or the Evoque mentioned by others. Handling is not the best when it's really windy because it has a relatively high center of gravity. The seats aren't luxurious but very comfortable (I have a back bad injury and am very critical of seats). Passengers have been comfortable on highway drives. It has lots of room for "stuff."

I get about 23 mpg in mixed driving. I've had no maintenance issues with either Xterra. This second one has taken a beating (garage door came down on the tailgate, tractor-trailer backed into it in a parking lot, 2 big trees fell on it and smashed it all to he77), and it still runs great after being repaired.

I love mine and if I were stolen today, I'd go buy another one.
 

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A good friend had an Evoque and my mom just bought her 2nd Cayenne. I've probably got at least 1,000 miles behind the wheel of each. Hands down, the best handling SUVs out there. If the budget allows for one of those I don't think you'll be disappointed by either.

I do really like the new Cherokee though I haven't spent any time in one that wasn't parked.
 

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I bought a Subaru XV Crosstrek. It's roomy, AWD, tows 3000# and I'm averaging 29.7 mpg combined. Plus it can be had with a proper 5-speed manual. Mine cost me $21,500. Pocket change. The biggest complaint I hear on the XV is lack of power, but honestly, I don't need more power on my daily driver. I did the standard K&N filter and cat back exhaust and the small gain is noticeable. I'm very content. Also, the car looks more expensive than it is (kind of like an Elise) so I'm not embarrassed to drive it.

This allows me to put more money into my Lotus and other projects. I couldn't be happier.
 

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I bought a Subaru XV Crosstrek. It's roomy, AWD, tows 3000# and I'm averaging 29.7 mpg combined. Plus it can be had with a proper 5-speed manual. Mine cost me $21,500. Pocket change. The biggest complaint I hear on the XV is lack of power, but honestly, I don't need more power on my daily driver. I did the standard K&N filter and cat back exhaust and the small gain is noticeable. I'm very content. Also, the car looks more expensive than it is (kind of like an Elise) so I'm not embarrassed to drive it.

This allows me to put more money into my Lotus and other projects. I couldn't be happier.
It has a 3,000# towing capacity? I wouldn't have thought that much. Good to know. Still considering this for the Mrs.


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