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Bleg: Large SUVs

My last vehicle bleg worked well so I figured I would ask. For the Mrs. and her people-hauling adventures, she wants something larger than the Honda Pilot. What do you recommend? Requirements:

Nothing from GM or subsidiaries. I will not drive a government car ever.

Same for Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, etc. No bailout company will get my money.

Enough towing for mulch and household stuff on a trailer.

For price range, I don’t really know where these things start. So help me out there. (I like my Infiniti and checked out Infiniti’s Earthfuckertm. But at $60K, no thanks.

Bonus points for annoying hippies.

57 Responses to “Bleg: Large SUVs”

  1. Ben G Says:

    Minivan, seriously.

    Way, way better at people hauling than an SUV and should handle the towing duties you described with no problem.

  2. Flighterdoc Says:

    Depends on how large you want. I’m quite happy with my 2002 Ford Excursion diesel, SUV’s don’t get any bigger than that but they’re unfortunately not manufactured any more. If you want one, they’re going for the $20k range on ebay, be sure to get the 7.3L engine, not the 6.0 in 2003 1/2 and later models. Towing? Anything up to and including 10k lbs.

    If you want new, the Expedition looks nice, so do most all of Fords models. I find the Ford Flex (called a cross-over, not an SUV) to be oddly attractive: Sort of a lowered econoline van… The big Toyota and Lexus models might do it, but again, pricey.

  3. Mike Says:

    We have a Nissan Pathfinder and a Nissan Xterra, and we like them both.

  4. workinwifdakids Says:

    Kia Sorento. Kia and Nissan are the only cars I trust my kids’ lives to. IIRC, our kids are about the same age. Check out the Kia Sorento.

  5. DirtCrashr Says:

    Rented a Nissan Xterra on Maui a few years back and it was like driving a greased roller-skate, on lumpy uneven pavement every time I hit the brakes I thought it was going to swap ends.
    For the life of me I can’t understand why the FJ Cruiser only comes with a V-6 when Toyota makes a perfectly good V-8, but hey, it has hands-free phone and bluetooth music…

  6. Matt Says:

    2011 Ford Explorer’s just came out, and look quite nice.

  7. nk Says:

    Nissan Pathfinder. Great car. But the one we have has trouble making tight turns on four-wheel drive. Check that.

  8. KCSteve Says:

    I went with the Volkswagon Routan. They call it a mini-van but it’s more a stretch SUV – heavier suspension and towing but three rows of seats.

    The rear row power folds – upright, folded down, folded down into the bay behind them, or flipped over into ‘tailgate’ mode.

    Center row can be lifted out in the traditional (brute force) manner if you want to go to full cargo mode.

    Lots of storage hidden under the floor and other spots.

    The Honda minivan is almost identical but the Volkswagon dealer is closer to my house.

  9. aczarnowski Says:

    I can’t think of an import usefully larger than the Pilot. Certainly not the Sorento, FJ, Pathfinder or Xtera mentioned above.

    With the totally reasonable no .gov vehicle requirement, Ford sounds like your only option. The Flex is oddly attractive to me too.

  10. Barron Barnett Says:

    Stay away from the 2011 Ford Explorers. They switched construction styles and it’s no longer really an SUV in my book. They’ve shifted the production types for the soccer moms. Anything 2010 and below in the Explorer is great, I had a 2003, wife walked away from a nasty rollover on black ice. Replaced it with a 2008 with stabilitrac (works amazingly I might add). After that I would recommend the Expedition. If she’s comfortable with large vehicles though, a diesel Excursion is the way to go, though with the light hauling requirements the Expedition should be more than plenty. An explorer properly configured should handle your requirements no problem.

    Our 08 Explorer is very handy, rear seats fold down electrically, middle row folds flush, split offset for a jump seat. Moving large items isn’t an issue. No lifting involved, the wife even with her injury can do it all on her own.

  11. TennGoodBoy Says:
    They sell a variety of vehicles that might suit your needs. Plus they are (kinda) a Tennessee company. However, my recent choice was a loaded V-8 Ford Explorer. But you want large so, Expedition. Personally, I like body-on-frame, but there is movement toward the “crossover” reshaped minivan.
    PS: Thanks again for the blog…

  12. Jon Says:

    I love my 2009 Toyota Sequoia. Always used to drive Fords or Chevy’s, but I got sucked into all the features.

    Took a 1 month vacation with 3 people and 2 75-pound dogs, with all assorted baggage and supplies, and had plenty of room. Fold-flat seats are great, and make it much easier to haul extra stuff when necessary

    Not to sound like a shill, but I don’t know if I’ll go back to anything else in the near future. I just wish the window-lock button didn’t lock out the driver’s controls as well.

  13. trackerk Says:

    I absolutely love my Toyota FJ Cruiser despite its stupid name. There is a large community of modders for it too. Add mounts for a shovel and axe to the roof rack and it will look like you are a rugged individualist which liberals find highly annoying.

  14. The Freeholder Says:

    Can you stand a used vehicle? If you can, then you could look at the GM lines. None of your money would go to GM that way, since you aren’t buying new. This is my plan if I need a new vehicle in the next few years.

    The Trailblazer was a good truck, and no one will get my Suburban away from me.

  15. Pol Mordreth Says:

    Basic ford Expedition. Have a 2004 model, Just took a medium length trip with all 4 kids, plenty of room for gear, and the drivers seat is comfortable enough for me to drive 5 hours straight while everyone else was sleeping (and I’m 6’6, so thats no small feat). it has enough power to effectively merge, and good visibility at all angles. Plenty of towing with the big v-8.

    Drawback: the parking stalls at most shopping centers don’t accomodate large vehicles anymore. You have to park a little farther out and walk if you have to swing the doors wide to get little ones out.

  16. Martini Says:

    Recomendations for new are the Ford Expedition, if you need more space, try the Expedition EL, it’s a bit longer. Alternately, I am very happy with the Nissan Armada. It’s the same vehicle as the Infiniti EarthFucker, but without the price tag.

  17. CWB Says:

    Our family has both the FJ Cruiser and Lexus GX 470. I love my FJ Cruiser but the rear doors are not the best for easy entry/exit. The GX 470 is large, luxurious, and rock solid. The biggest downside (other than price) is the all wheel drive. As for price, if you look for a 2-4 year old model, you should be able to find one for a reasonable price. The built in DVD system is great for the kids on road trips.

  18. Heartless Libertarian Says:

    My wife drives a Pilot, and if you want to haul the same number of adult-sized people, along with light towing, a minivan would probably be the way to go. However, a minivan doesn’t technically have more seats than the Pilot (most minivans are 2-2-3, the Pilot does 2-3-2). Just more space for each person.

    If you want significantly more seats than that, you’re almost forced into a full sized van – a Ford Econoline, since you want to avoid GM/Dodge. (I assume Ford’s big SUVs will do 2-3-3, or maybe 3-3-3 if you do a split bench front.)

  19. boxty Says:

    PJ O’rourke wrote an article recommending the Ford Flex. Seats seven depending on configuration and looks cool. You can find his article at Car & Driver’s website.

  20. Mad Saint Jack Says:

  21. John Smith. Says:

    Get a Mahindra scorpion… Diesel, 6 speed auto,4×4,30mpg,about 25-30 grand…

  22. John Smith. Says:

    The nearest dealer is in Crossville, tn

  23. Ed Says:

    Go for the Expedition EL for some fine earth-fucking. Gigantic, comfortable, handles well, seats a Mormon-sized family. Really pisses off the hippies. Also, it has a v8 which consumes fuel and turns it into snowy-owl poison.

  24. Speakertweaker Says:

    I’ll put my money on the Toyota Sequoia. I’m running a Tundra, and the Sequoia is a Tundra without a bed. Think Tahoe to Silverado. Anyway, it’s big, roomy, and with the 5.7L, you can tow your house to another lot.


  25. Bryan S. Says:

    Used Jeep Cherokee.

    Find one for $3-$4K with 100K miles on it and it will run you 200K more with standard mainenenece and easy repairs. 1999 models are the most solid, 2000-01 are great, but cant let most of them overheat. Im driving one (wife’s car) and just picked aup a fun car for cheap with 270K miles and it still pulls strong.

    Best yet, its technically an AMC engine with a Toyota transmission.

    Unless you are fine with all that cash going to the other bailout companies, the banks.

    You might want to check this out as well…

  26. Standard Mischief Says:

    >Bonus points for annoying hippies.

    Well, go take your kid’s birth certificates, and proof of extracurricular activities or your ‘intent to form a carpool’ form down to city hall and request a SUV permit. The guy at the dealership is recommending some guy you can hire to walk your application through the process but I’m not sure if it’s a overt bribe, or that guy just knows the system. In the end, the highest law enforcement officer in the county has to sign off on it so let’s hope you’ve never ticked him off.

    Government Motors was the only manufacturer to survive the massive regulations and recalls of the twenty-teens, so all SUVs are Government Motors. If you get approval and pay the ‘earthfucker’ tax promptly, there’s only an 18 month wait at this point. (AAA has finally talked the union out of crushing a percentage of perfectly good cars as a job security measure, as long as they continue to prove that a backlog does exists)

    I’d recommend a flat dark-colored earth-tone paint scheme that’s easy to touch up. Those peace-loving hippies keep doing the monkey-wrench thing with their car keys, and that makes keeping a clear-coat presentable a bitch.

  27. HardCorps Says:

    DON’T BUY A NEW CAR! Everyone drives a used car. I can’t believe you spent so much on the G37. Why not a used Q? Same car as the new but half the price.

    Or X-terra or Pathfinder. Both are great, the PF is more cushy. Don’t buy a ‘car with more interior room’ (minivan), get a 4×4 that has value. I’d recommend Toyota too but they are spendy.

  28. TennGoodBoy Says:

    To follow up on “Standard Mischief” comment here is an old Ronald Reagan joke:

    In the old USSR a guy goes in, pays cash in advance and orders a car. Dealer says it will be ready in about ten years. Dont call us, we will call you when to come in. Buyer says morning or afternoon. Dealer says what does in matter, its ten years off. Buyer says: “The plumber is coming in the morning.”

  29. The Comedian Says:

    Not my typical area of the market, but Jack Baruth gave the EcoBoost Flex a surprisingly good review:

    (NOTE: He starts the review talking about a regular Flex, then he transitions into talking about the EcoBoost version.)

  30. Phenicks Says:

    Acura MDX awesome vehicle, not so good mileage.

  31. wizardpc Says:

    I have a 99 Cherokee. I love my 99 Cherokee. It is my second Cherokee, and my father had two Cherokees when I was growing up. If I totalled it tomorrow, I would make my insurance company find me another one exactly like it (because it took me four months to find one with the equipment I wanted for a price I was willing to pay). And mine is plastered with Dave Ramsey stickers.

    But it is not what you want. It’s small. You want a people-hauler, a Cherokee ain’t it.

    Parts (and you will need parts) will have to come from Dodge but I suspect they will start becoming hard to get. Jeep stopped making the Cherokee in 2001, and the .gov requires the manufacturer to keep a stock of parts for 10 years. I ran into this with an old Saturn I had.

    They also don’t do so well using ethanol-added gas. I get about 19mpg and I have to pay an extra .10-.15 for ethanol-free gas, lest I gunk up my injectors. Again.

  32. Dave Says:

    Explorer/Mountaineer. Especially the all-wheel drive v8 Mountaineer. We have taken my wife’s (stock 1997) off road at the Great Sand dunes with no problems. Tough as nails.

  33. TheOtherLarry Says:

    If you really want to annoy the neighbors I suggest the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: 6.1L 420hp Hemi engine. This thing shakes the ground just idling. It also boasts a 11+ second, 140mph in the quarter-mile. Also a very nice leather interior. A good used one can be had for about $40k.

    A more reasonable suggestion would be a Ford Explorer with the V6. Decent gas mileage. plenty of go. 3500lbs towing capacity (but I’ve hauled 5000lbs easy). The limited model includes 3rd row seating and all the bells and whistles.

  34. Alex Says:

    I love my used 95 Land Rover Discovery. Would really piss off Hippies.

    A nice 2004 SE7 will seat 7, gets 12-18 MPG, can go anywhere and can pull up to 4000 lbs in normal gear (8000 in low). And it will run around 10k. Don’t let people tell you they are unreliable, my 95 is as reliable as you would expect from a 15 year old car. And parts are pretty inexpensive, and they are dead easy to work on. They were designed to drive in Africa for crying out load. How many service stations are in the middle of the Sierra?

  35. Lyle Says:

    Get big Ford 4 x 4 pickup with extended cab or crew cab. It’ll do everything from hauling practically anything to transporting the whole family with two weeks worth of supplies, plus the dog and his kennel, and probably without ever hooking a trailer to it. It’s the most do-everything vehicle there is, IMO.

    That’s why I bought one. Mine has the towing package, but I’ve only ever used it for hauling heavy equipment when other people were too chicken to tow such a heavy load.

  36. Lyle Says:

    Oh, and put a tall canopy on the pickup. That’s where you’re keeping your luggage and food and the dog, the Christmas tree, the kayak, the shooting bench and the target thrower, the range bags, six rifles and shotguns, and the ton of stuff that’s not in the cabin with you.

  37. daniels Says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned a diesel Ford Excursion 4×4. That’s about as big as they come.

  38. blounttruth Says:

    IMHO you shouldn’t have sold the ST… lol but you know I am biased…

  39. Flighterdoc Says:

    @daniels… post #2

  40. atlflyfisher Says:

    I have driven a 03 FX for years, and love it. Just bought a 08 QX with 40k miles for $37k. What a vehicle. Tows 8800lbs, plenty of room, and the lefties hate it.

  41. Gun Blobber Says:

    Nissan Armada. My uncle has one, it’s great. Same as the Infiniti but cheaper.

    @nk #7: You should never attempt tight turns on dry pavement in 4WD mode. In a tight turn, all 4 wheels travel a different distance. In 4WD mode in a true 4WD vehicle, all wheels will turn the same number of revolutions, no matter what. So if the surface you’re driving on has decent traction, you will be either destroying your tires as they slip/grip repeatedly, or (more likely) destroying your drivetrain when the gears in your transfer case and differentials all bind up. This is a common issue, google “4wd tight turn” for more info, and there should be something in your owner’s manual about it.

    True 4wd (different from AWD) is NOT for dry pavement, ever. In fact, you should never really turn it on unless you NEED it. “2wd to get stuck… 4wd to get unstuck.” If you are driving in 4wd then you will just get stuck in harder places (where you will need a winch to pull you out). In borderline conditions (such as snow and ice on a paved road) go ahead and use the 4WD, but drop to 2WD when parking or doing other tight maneuvers at slow speeds. If you truly need the 4WD (wheels are losing traction) then turn it back on.

  42. Knucklehead Says:

    Didn’t read all responses but scanned a good bunch of the first 20 or so.

    Your wife wants a vehicle “larger” than the Pilot. Can you qualify “larger”? Just all around bigger and heavier or is it a matter of capacity (cargo, passengers)?

    If no Gummint Motors or other BailoutMobiles, then you talking Ford or Foreign.

    I’ve driven the giant Expedition XLT for a winter week in CO. Solid as a rock. People and stuff just keep going into it. Should be able to handle light towing.

    Toyotas bigger than the Pilot are Sequoia and Land Cruiser (EXPENSIVE!), Lexus LX, or Nissan Armada.

  43. Blue Waters Says:

    Buy a Ford Van Conversion and then you can take it camping as well!

  44. Billy Vincent Says:

    No to the minivan you WILL regret it.
    Id say get a Toyota we have a 03 sequoia that still runs perfect, the only thigs wrong with it are cosmetic (dents,scrapes,ect)

  45. LKP Says:

    Right now you’re better off buying a new vehicle instead of a used one. Cash for clunkers took 300,000 perfectly good used cars and destroyed them. What do you think that did to the used car market? It greatly inflated used car prices. Seriously, anything bigger than the Pilot is going to cost you a lot of money. An Expedition would probably be the least cost prohibitive.

  46. COL Bill Says:

    If you don’t absolutely, positively have to have an SUV, I’d say you should look at one of these:

  47. Ben Says:

    I picked up a 2010 Ford F150 super crew last summer. Seats 6, the back seat is huge, and has tons of room with the seats folded up. Lots of bells and whistles. And I threw a matching Leer canopy on the back to keep the dog in.

    My wife was scared to drive the thing at first, but now she loves it. Throw it into 4×4 for off road or snow and the thing is a beast.

  48. dagamore Says:

    if a crew cab truck is not out of the question, the new ecoboost v6 from ford, looks to be a great motor, plenty of power, quick to spool up twin turbos(everything good comes in pairs), and when out of boost you can still get great fuel economy! or you could go with the new 4v 5.0l V8 even in truck trim its a great motor!(and takes to turbos well(from what i read in the mustang world))

  49. wizardpc Says:

    Gun Blobber is right about not driving in 4WD on dry pavement. Best way to destroy your drivetrain.

  50. Scott B Says:

    Ford Expedition.

  51. anon Says:

    @KCSteve “I went with the Volkswagon Routan.”

    FYI: The Routan is a re-badged Chrysler, hence ineligble.

    Go with a Ford Explorer or Edge.

  52. Blackwing1 Says:

    +1 for @35:

    A Toyota Tundra Crew Cab, with the small V8 (the new, all-aluminum 4.7L) in 4WD. Plenty of room for 5 people, and squished-in for 6. Add a topper to keep stuff dry in the back. More towing power than you’ll probably need.

    I just bought a 2010; took it out to Wyoming last fall. Averaged 20 MPG on the freeway at 72 MPH. 6-speed auto tranny turns around 1500 RPM at 63 MPH. My wife refuses to drive it, saying it’s too big, but loves to ride in it for the comfort. And I bought a bottom-of-the-line model.

    Best of all it’s a Toyota, so it’ll run for ever. My previous truck was a (hawk, spit) Ford Ranger…I put as much into it in maintenance as I did to buy the thing over 10 years, got worse mileage than the full-size truck, and will NEVER buy a Fix-Or-Repair-Daily again.

  53. old fart Says:

    No one has mentioned the Toyota 4Runner, so I will. Mine is an 01, bought used in 03 and I love it. Room for 5 and seats fold down for cargo. Mine has the V6 but newer (bigger) ones have a V8. They’re pricey though and hard to find used because people don’t generally get rid of them.

  54. KCSteve Says:

    @KCSteve “I went with the Volkswagon Routan.”

    FYI: The Routan is a re-badged Chrysler, hence ineligble.

    Go with a Ford Explorer or Edge.

    Actually not. I had a Chrysler and liked it but was not going to replace it with a new one. The Routan is very similar in style but has a different frame (larger, wider and longer wheelbase) and other significant differences. There does seem to be a Dodge version / clone built cheaper (in all respects).

  55. GayCynic Says:


  56. Tony Says:

    I’ve had a Sequoia for 8 years and I really like it. It’s rugged and handles our 7 member family well. It’s a little short of cargo space when all the seats are full, but a hitch mounted cargo container gets us through long trips with extra gear. I’d get another one in a heartbeat.

  57. N.U.G.U.N. Blog Says:

    A couple of thoughts…

    I know you’re against the bailout companies. But remember, these were companies that were encouraged by .gov to make ungodly agreements with the unions, give unbelievable packages, and take care of their retirees. On the basis that .gov would protect the domestic auto industry. .gov did it’s usual breaking of promises.

    Granted American cars sucked in the late 70’s. But after they improved quality, .gov should have restored tariff controls. Heck, GM got dicked over by .gov with the EV1 when California dropped their 0% emissions requirement in lieu of hybrids. GM found themselves go from ahead of the game to behind.

    And GM is trying to move forward with new technology with things like the Chevy Volt.

    I’m really of the opinion that .gov is much to blame in the auto companies failure. If GM had been allowed to unshackle itself from the union 20 yrs ago. It’d probably not have needed a bailout.

    If you find yourself choosing practicality over ideology. The Dodge Durango offers a nice middle ground between mid and full size SUVs.

    It also has one of the most comfortable 3rd row seats. I really liked mine, wish I still had it. Also was great towing. I towed a fully loaded trailer, up a steep hill covered in ice and it didn’t even flinch. The traction control countered the ice and it kept going. Blew my mind away.

    When I test drove back in 2006:

    – Toyota Sequoia most comfortable, somewhat sucky turn radios. Best 3rd row seat

    – Chevy Tahoe, nice, but 3rd row seat didn’t have much leg room. Probably second nicest vehicle after Sequoia

    – Ford Expedition felt a little cheaper. 3rd row seats hard and uncomfortable but leg room was okay.

    – Dodge Durango drove better than most of the above, a little sportier as it wasn’t quite as large. 3rd row seat had was the most comfortable after Sequoia. But considering it was half the cost – much better deal.

    – Nissan Armada – they named this one right. It’s boat. It drove like a boat. Felt twice as big as any other SUV, even if it was only slightly bigger. Worst 3rd seat of them all. Seat was so shallow my knees were in my chin and I am a VERY short person.

    Granted new model revisions have come out. But that gives you some of my experience.

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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