Q. I’ve been leasing an
older SUV that I like, but it doesn’t provide very good fuel
economy. This time around, I am thinking of buying a car but
can’t bring myself to get an expensive one, such as a
Mercedes, Lexus or BMW. I use a car to visit clients, putting about
25,000 miles a year on it. Durability thus is important, as are
reasonable maintenance costs. I have narrowed it down to the Chevy
Traverse/GMC Acadia, Nissan Murano, Ford Edge and Explorer, Dodge
Durango, Mazda CX-9 and Honda Crosstour. Any winners jump out of that
mix? – E.E., Naperville, Ill.
A. That’s a tough one because all have good and bad points. They’re pretty decent, but the Honda Crosstour seems as if it’s one of your most likely candidates because it delivers among the best fuel economy of the group you mention, although some feel its styling is controversial. Among those you haven’t listed is the roomy GMC Terrain, which is carlike and delivers an EPA-estimated 32 mpg on highways with its fairly potent four-cylinder engine.
Q. Your article about the Subaru WRX mentions that its engine resembles that of the Porsche 911. How so? – E.E., Via Internet
A. Both have a “flat” or “pancake” engine design in that they’re compact with horizontally-opposed pistons. Such an engine often is said to have a “boxer” design.
Q. Do you think that the 2012 model year will be the best we’ve seen in ages? – B.&P., via Internet
A. I wouldn’t go that far, but look for a larger number of more fuel-efficient vehicles because automakers must meet stricter upcoming federal fuel-economy standards.
Q. Do you think the 1961-67 Jaguar E-Type (called the XK-E in America) sports car is still the sexiest looking mass-produced car ever built? – E.N. Los Angeles
A. That’s saying a lot, but many would agree. Prices for good ones are pretty stiff. The 1961-67 E-Type had the purest design of any E-Type, with such things as smoothly shaped plastic headlight covers and slim bumpers. It was fast and had a smooth ride and good roadability. It got a larger, more docile version of Jaguar’s race-winning three-carburetor six-cylinder engine in 1965, along with a much-improved manual transmission. The coupe model looked better than the convertible version, thanks to a slinky looking roof. Federal regulations caused styling to suffer after 1967, with clumsier bumpers and more upright headlights with no covers.
Q. How often should windshield wiper blades be changed? – E.H., Chicago
A. Average quality wiper blades should be changed twice a year—once in the spring and once in the fall.
Q. I’m thinking of
the radical looking 1963-64 Studebaker Avanti coupe, which broke many
speed records. Studebaker built that car in South Bend, Ind., before it
went out of business in America. Then a private outfit custom-built the
car with a Corvette V-8 in South Bend. Should I get the Studebaker
version with its V-8 or the custom-built model, called the
“Avanti II.” – D.H., Grand Rapids, Mich.
A. The Avanti remains a head-turner and has great club support, which is important when owning any old car. Being an original, the Studebaker version is more valuable than the Avanti II. It looks virtually the same as the Studebaker model, but is built better. Generally, the best Avanti IIs were made from 1965 to 1976. The supercharged Studebaker Avanti “R2” is more valuable than the non-supercharged “R1”model.
Q. I hear that synthetic oil is better than regular oil. That so? – E.H., Miami
A. Regular oil is fine for most vehicles. The more expensive synthetic oil is mainly for high-performance engines or for vehicles that do such things as tow heavy loads. The most important thing is to change engine oil (and filter) at recommended intervals.
Q. I have a friend who insists on getting 75,000 miles from the original-equipment tires on his Toyota Corolla, which are at 60,000 miles and don’t look so good. Is he making any sense? –E.H., Kansas City
A. He’s asking for trouble. For one thing, the Corolla long has been one of Toyota’s entry level models, and thus the automaker has never put expensive premium tires on it. Also, tires are pretty old at 60,000 miles and thus are far more subject to failure than new—or much newer—ones.