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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:11 pm 
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So, with one vehicle now 20 years old ('97 Dodge Dakota 4x4), the other 18 years old ('99 GMC C3500 dualie) and with it starting to get expensive to keep them (Dakota is gonna need a tranny soon, GMC has a roof leak I can't find that's killing the electrical system), and with neither vehicle having much room in the cab (GMC is a straight bench with room for one passenger, two in an emergency if they don't mind a bunch of radios in their crotch, Dakota has front buckets and room behind them for a passenger sitting crosswise) for passengers or cats in carriers (we have 4 of the wee beasties), the wife and I have decided it's time for a new vehicle.

Our criteria:

Must Have

  • Room for driver and 3 pax, plus cargo (such as cat carriers) inside the cabin
  • 3,500 lb. (or greater) (class III) towing capacity to tow our single axle enclosed trailer
  • Automatic transmission

Be Nice To Have

  • Diesel powererd
  • A nice shade of blue (wife's requirement if replacing her truck)
  • 4x4 or AWD
  • 6,500 lb. tow capacity, for when I rent an aerial lift platform
  • other stuff I can't think of at the moment but will add as I get reminded

So far we've looked at a bunch of vehicles and realized that what we get is gonna depend a lot on what we replace. The Dakota is the wife's. She had it built to spec for her and it's been her baby for 20 years. If we replace it then it's going to be with something brand new, and the Dakota will become mine and probably get a tranny put in it at some point. I love my dualie, but it's more truck than I need these days and with the cost of keeping it running ($600 for injectors, $300 for batteries, $1,100 for tires, all in the last two years) it's probably time to let it go. If we replace my truck, on the other hand, it'll probably be with something used and offbeat.

So far we're leaning in two directions: A 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate edition, which would replace her Dakota (passing the Dakota to me and selling my truck) or, a used shortie school bus, preferably diesel powered, that we'd get for $5,000 or less and put another $5,000 to $10,000 into, in the form of an engine or tranny (or both) if needed, a paint job, tow hitch and some interior refurbishment, which would replace my truck.

UPDATE (02/22)

So far, here's the top contenders for new and used, in order of preference:

NEW
  • 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Ultimate 4x4
  • 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk w/diesel engine
  • 2017 Ford Transit Passenger Wagon XLT, extended, high top, 3.5l turbo
  • 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate (Update - Tried one out at the dealer, not liking the seats)

USED
  • Shortie school bus w/6.5l diesel, 4x4 conversion

After visiting several dealers I'm close to taking the Santa Fe off the list. While I still very much like the vehicle, the headrests on those seats are impossible to live with. They cant so far forward that my chin hits my chest if I try to sit with my shoulders against the seatback. Really an awful design that the wife and I saw repeated on a few different vehicles at the dealer's, even different manufacturers such as Kia. The Nissan Pathfinder got upped from the SL trim to the Ultimate after seeing the two in person. The dealer just happens to have one in stock with exactly the packages, options and colors that we want, and I came very close to taking it. I'm glad I didn't though because then I wouldn't have checked out the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, which the wife and I both really like, despite it being $8,000 more. The only thing we don't like about the Trailhawk is, again, the seats, but this time not because of the headrests but because of the shape. These seats are made for people in much better shape than the wife and I. They're quasi- racing style, designed to keep you in place and cradle you. The problem is, after years of being disabled, neither my wife nor I, are what I'd call trim and fit. Suffice to say that collectively we could stand to lose about the weight of one of those fit and trim folks, and we're both tall, so the "wings" on those seats in the kidney area tend to really dig into our sides. I'm not sure how long I could stand the prodding from those, and this becomes a factor if we decide to drive out to Idaho (we live in Virginia) and visit family. Might just be incentive to lose weight though.

Now, here's the thing... we're looking to buy in about 6 months. We need to pay down some bills (I just went through a lot of very expensive dental work that needs to be paid off) which will give our credit score the little boost needed to get over 700, and give us time to sell my truck, so we're not hit with insurance on four vehicles at one time. The diesel engine Grand Cherokees aren't out yet, and probably won't be until mid-late summer, which is perfect for us, but we could drive home the Pathfinder today. The Jeep has the better towing capacity (7,200 vs 6,000) than the Nissan, but this only becomes a factor when I rent an aerial lift platform since that's 6,300 lbs. It could be done with the Nissan since the platform is self-braking and doesn't rely on the vehicle brakes, and the Nissan has enough power to pull it without straining (our 3.9L Dakota pulls it but with difficulty and the Nissan has almost twice the horsepower and more torque) and it's seldom towed more than 20 miles.

Choices, choices... :?

Anyone have alternative suggestions or ideas?

(edit: missing comma, typos, add stuff, updates, etc.)


Last edited by KJ4VOV on Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:17 pm, edited 11 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:01 am 
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Don't know about the 2017 version of the Hyundai, but we use the Hyundai Santra Fe as a critical care response car.

once you start putting bags in it it gets small very fast, though we usually stuff an ambulance's worth of gear in them.

have you though of getting a dual cab ute like the Izuzu Dmax, toyota Hilux, they are popular down under (australia) depending on the type you get great leg room and still decent towing + cargo. Alternatively look at the land rovers (though I don't know how popular they were in the US) or something similar, depending on the model you can get Power Take Off (PTO) functions. from experience try to stay away from engines that rely on computers unless you carry a diagnostic computer with you, repairing one in the field sucks.

Don't have any other comments, though if you could get your hands on an ex ADF Unimog ($20 000-$40 000 AUD depending on condition and type) you could build that into a go anywhere monster

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:33 am 
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The OP is probably in the USA but foolishly gives no useful location.

On to his question, a shortie bus? Great for storage but I'm unaware of AWD versions, funny center of gravity and large sail area.

For a low cost used SUV look for the military surplus CUCV. Basically a diesel Chevy Blazer.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:45 am 
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taipan821 wrote:
Don't know about the 2017 version of the Hyundai, but we use the Hyundai Santra Fe as a critical care response car.

once you start putting bags in it it gets small very fast, though we usually stuff an ambulance's worth of gear in them.

have you though of getting a dual cab ute like the Izuzu Dmax, toyota Hilux, they are popular down under (australia) depending on the type you get great leg room and still decent towing + cargo. Alternatively look at the land rovers (though I don't know how popular they were in the US) or something similar, depending on the model you can get Power Take Off (PTO) functions. from experience try to stay away from engines that rely on computers unless you carry a diagnostic computer with you, repairing one in the field sucks.

Don't have any other comments, though if you could get your hands on an ex ADF Unimog ($20 000-$40 000 AUD depending on condition and type) you could build that into a go anywhere monster

The wife and I rented a 2011 Santa Fe when we were out in Idaho visiting relatives that year and were quite impressed with it. It handled the ups and downs of the Sawhill mountain range with ease (loved the slap shift transmission since my last previous vehicle was a manual), even with four large (one 6 foot plus lumberjack, one 6 foot plus retired heavy construction boss and our wives) adults and luggage in it. I know what you mean about what goes into a first response car too; I was an EMT here for 14 years and drove them. Regarding the dual cab trucks (what we call a crew cab), it's been suggested before, and while it meets most of the criteria it fails on the part of carrying 4 adult passengers and the four cat carriers inside the cab. Summers can be brutal here, and winters often have days and weeks of below freezing temps, so the carriers have to fit inside the climate controlled cab.

I agree with you regarding sticking to non-computerized engines, or carrying a scan tool to be able to work on one in the field, that's why we kept the vehicles we have for so long, simpler to repair, but I have to face the reality that I'm not the kid I used to be, who was managing a 3 bay repair shop and ASE certified because he hated working in the family construction business. I'm over 60 now, disabled and very out of shape. I'm not fixing much of anything in the field anymore, so reliability is more important than ease of repair. The best way I see of getting that is with a new vehicle, or completely rebuilding something old (the school bus idea) to make it reliable. And yeah, a Unimog would be nice, but with my bum leg and shoulder, I don't think I could climb into one, and even with two knee replacements not that long ago, I'm not sure the wife could either. Plus, and I should add this to the list, the wife can't drive stick and has no interest in learning, so whatever we get needs to be an automatic.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:01 am 
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Evan the Diplomat wrote:
The OP is probably in the USA but foolishly gives no useful location.

On to his question, a shortie bus? Great for storage but I'm unaware of AWD versions, funny center of gravity and large sail area.

For a low cost used SUV look for the military surplus CUCV. Basically a diesel Chevy Blazer.

You're 100% right Evan, I should have given my location, which is the central Virginia area in the US.

On the shortie, one of the things that would be done while making it into the rig we need is a 4x4 conversion. Their CoG is really pretty low, especially on the newer shorties. Yes, it's a large sail area and that can be a problem with high winds, but I've been driving a C3500 with a full steel utility box back for the last 8 years, without any real problems, including 5 years as a spotter for the National Weather Service. I don't anticipate any serious issues with a shortie bus.
The CUCV fails on passenger capacity.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:29 am 
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Evan the Diplomat wrote:
For a low cost used SUV look for the military surplus CUCV. Basically a diesel Chevy Blazer.

I remember those. Interesting vehicles.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:26 pm 
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KJ4VOV wrote:
You're 100% right Evan, I should have given my location, which is the central Virginia area in the US.

On the shortie, one of the things that would be done while making it into the rig we need is a 4x4 conversion. Their CoG is really pretty low, especially on the newer shorties. Yes, it's a large sail area and that can be a problem with high winds, but I've been driving a C3500 with a full steel utility box back for the last 8 years, without any real problems, including 5 years as a spotter for the National Weather Service. I don't anticipate any serious issues with a shortie bus.
The CUCV fails on passenger capacity.


My brother lives in Charlottesville so I know some of that terrain. If you want reliable, then look at the Asian SUVs.

We are a family of six, so my dream vehicle is one of the Japanese AWD minivans like the Mazda Bongo Image
or the Mitsubishi Delica
Image

Expedition Portal has some interesting recommendations like the 2005 Nissan X-Terra,

Suzuki Grand Vitara (99-03),
Image

(97-99) Mitsubishi Montero SR
Image

06 Chevy Trailblazer
Image

The (92-97) Isuzu Trooper manual transmission
Image

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:36 pm 
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KJ4VOV wrote:
Our criteria:

Must Have

  • Room for driver and 3 pax, plus cargo (such as cat carriers) inside the cabin
  • 4x4 or AWD
  • 3,500 lb. (or greater) towing capacity to tow our single axle enclosed trailer
  • Automatic transmission

Be Nice To Have

  • Diesel powererd
  • other stuff I can't think of at the moment but will add as I get reminded


Now, I'm biased here.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited will get you your must haves. Every last one of them.

But, again, I'm biased. I know there are better vehicles out there. But it's a viable alternative.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:46 pm 
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Evan the Diplomat wrote:
My brother lives in Charlottesville so I know some of that terrain. If you want reliable, then look at the Asian SUVs.

I actually have looked at several of the Asian minivans and I like them a lot. Where they usually fall short though is in towing capacity, manual transmission, and right-hand drive. I don't have a problem with any of that, but the wife is dead set against learning how to drive a manual, and kind of freaks at the idea of right-hand drive. Since she's paying for it and needs to be able to drive it, that limits the selection to left-hand drive and auto transmission. They're still being looked at and considered, though, as I come across them.

I've also considered an older Trooper, but having worked on them in the past I know they can often have serious rust issues and aren't big on leg room. The wife and I are both tall (6'2" and 5'10") so that interior room is pretty important. Still, does not put them out of consideration, though, if I find one in good shape.

Thank you also for reminding me about the Montero, which is indeed a viable contender, if I happen to find one to look at. They used to have serious hub bearing issues, back when I worked on vehicles, but I believe that was solved with a redesigned hub.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:02 pm 
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Beowolf wrote:
Now, I'm biased here.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited will get you your must haves. Every last one of them.

But, again, I'm biased. I know there are better vehicles out there. But it's a viable alternative.

The Wrangler Ultimate is a very strong contender. I have a friend who bought one two years ago and I've had a chance to really look it over. The only weak point it has, for me anyway, and one not listed in the criteria I posted, is that it's damned hard to mount ham radio antennas on. He has a 100-watt solar panel on the top of his (and I have multiple panels on my truck, some of which will be transferred to my trailer, the rest to one of our vehicles, probably the new one) and had to fab up some oddball mounts for his HF antennas that I really don't like the design of. If I were to get a Wrangler Ultimate I'm not sure how I'd do this. There's also the problem of our trailer, being a V nose, having a pretty short tongue. I think there might be clearance issues between the trailer and the rear mounted spare on the Wrangler during tight turns, especially if I put the 20lb. propane tank mount on the front of the trailer as planned. I might have to have some cutting and welding done on the trailer tongue to make it longer. Still, as a lifetime Dodge/Plymouth fan, I feel a strong affinity towards the Jeep lineup, so I'm not against the idea.

One other thing we've looked at is a Quigley conversion van. We're still kicking ourselves that we had to let a locally listed Quigley Ford E350 go about a year ago because we were not in a financial position to buy it. It met all the criteria and more and was listed for about $10,000 below what it was worth.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:57 pm 
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I've seen some pretty sweet antenna setups on a few of the adventure or 'expedition' built Wranglers.

And many Jeepers remove that spare and relocate it. Depending on what your plan is, most opt to put it on the top with a rack.

But still maybe not the most easily moddable vehicle out there. Glad it's on your list of contenders, though.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:00 pm 
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Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon with the 2.8L Duranax? I love mine, gets 30mpg on the highway, can tow over 7,000 lbs and is a much more manageable size day-to-day than the full size behemoths. I got the crew cab/5' bed and put a camper top on it, but they also do a 6' bed in both crew and extended cabs.


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I can't personally speak for the towing capacity on a Honda Pilot,ours doesn't have a receiver, but Google says it gets you where you want to be. Based on recommendations from this board several years ago we got one for my wife. She loves it. It's nimble, yet spacious enough to haul two adults, two growing kids, two dogs and all of our cargo for holiday trips. The fold down third row seats let us haul extra kids or extra cargo depending on what we need at the moment. She does craft fairs for her pottery and she can fit her tent, display shelves, merchandise and both of our kids. When this one finally gives out I expect it will be replaced with another.

Personally I'm a fan of the F-150. I've got a '97 that I've owned for over 15yrs and nearly 200,miles over what I got it at. It's asked very little of me in terms or repairs and maintenance. It's as much truck as I need without going overboard. Just this past week I've found it's replacement because, unfortunately, the truck itself will last longer than it's rocker panels

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KJ4VOV wrote:
the four cat carriers inside the cab. Summers can be brutal here, and winters often have days and weeks of below freezing temps, so the carriers have to fit inside the climate controlled cab.


I forgot that small detail regarding the cold. we get up summer temps up to 120 degrees F, but our winter temps (in my area, North Queensland) we're lucky to get 41 degrees F on a winter night.

Whatever you choose, might I suggest insulating your roof. many landrovers in hot conditions had a 'safari' roof, you can get a similar result with careful placement of your solar panels. having a little 12V ventilation fan up high to vent the hot air also helps cool down the car quicker.

have no idea about dealing with winter temps...move somewhere closer to the equator? :crazy:

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Dooms wrote:
Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon with the 2.8L Duranax? I love mine, gets 30mpg on the highway, can tow over 7,000 lbs and is a much more manageable size day-to-day than the full size behemoths. I got the crew cab/5' bed and put a camper top on it, but they also do a 6' bed in both crew and extended cabs.

Good suggestion and I do like that particular engine, but it's short on cabin space, as are most pickups, even the crew cabs. I need room in there for four adults and four cat carriers.


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yossarian wrote:
I can't personally speak for the towing capacity on a Honda Pilot,ours doesn't have a receiver, but Google says it gets you where you want to be. Based on recommendations from this board several years ago we got one for my wife. She loves it. It's nimble, yet spacious enough to haul two adults, two growing kids, two dogs and all of our cargo for holiday trips. The fold down third row seats let us haul extra kids or extra cargo depending on what we need at the moment. She does craft fairs for her pottery and she can fit her tent, display shelves, merchandise and both of our kids. When this one finally gives out I expect it will be replaced with another.

Personally I'm a fan of the F-150. I've got a '97 that I've owned for over 15yrs and nearly 200,miles over what I got it at. It's asked very little of me in terms or repairs and maintenance. It's as much truck as I need without going overboard. Just this past week I've found it's replacement because, unfortunately, the truck itself will last longer than it's rocker panels

The Honda Pilot is another one that wasn't on our radar but that needs to be added to the list of possibles. We have friends who have had an Element for several years now who love the build quality, so while it's different from the Pilot, it lends credence to the brand for us. Combined with your recommendation that's enough to put the Pilot on our list.


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taipan821 wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:
the four cat carriers inside the cab. Summers can be brutal here, and winters often have days and weeks of below freezing temps, so the carriers have to fit inside the climate controlled cab.


I forgot that small detail regarding the cold. we get up summer temps up to 120 degrees F, but our winter temps (in my area, North Queensland) we're lucky to get 41 degrees F on a winter night.

Whatever you choose, might I suggest insulating your roof. many landrovers in hot conditions had a 'safari' roof, you can get a similar result with careful placement of your solar panels. having a little 12V ventilation fan up high to vent the hot air also helps cool down the car quicker.

have no idea about dealing with winter temps...move somewhere closer to the equator? :crazy:

I keep trying! I started out in NYC, moved to Allentown, PA then moved to Baltimore, MD. From there I moved to DC, then back north slightly to Silver Spring, MD, then down to Fredericksburg, VA. My plan has always been to keep moving south and west, and hopefully retire in Cancun, Mexico, but I retired early, and now the wife wants to move home to the PNW, northern Idaho to be specific. She hates the tropics, while I love them. :(


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I'll vouch for the Jeep Wrangled Unlimited being a great 4wd and utility vehicle. Using one for 3 years as weekend driver and 4 wheeling in the mud in Wharton state park. Drove it stock . Cargo size and comfort a little bleh...

went up to the 2015 Jeep Cherokee unlimited and loving it. Spendy but worth every penny in my opinion. Hits all your bullet points. If you looking for hard 4 wd action there's the overland edition.

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JackBauer wrote:
I'll vouch for the Jeep Wrangled Unlimited being a great 4wd and utility vehicle. Using one for 3 years as weekend driver and 4 wheeling in the mud in Wharton state park. Drove it stock . Cargo size and comfort a little bleh...

went up to the 2015 Jeep Cherokee unlimited and loving it. Spendy but worth every penny in my opinion. Hits all your bullet points. If you looking for hard 4 wd action there's the overland edition.

I just spent an hour over on the Jeep site, building and pricing models. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with the 3.0l diesel looks like a contender to me, but the wife is pretty bummed they don't offer it in any shade of blue.


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What about a Volvo? They make both wagaons and suv's that are all wheel drive. Right hand drive, automatic, can tow, and are comfortable to boot. Actually this and the Audi wagons are the only ones I would have. Plus Volvo is pretty much synonymous with safety.
Yea I would want the V60 cross country model. It comes in blue by the way.

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The Twizzler wrote:
What about a Volvo? They make both wagaons and suv's that are all wheel drive. Right hand drive, automatic, can tow, and are comfortable to boot. Actually this and the Audi wagons are the only ones I would have. Plus Volvo is pretty much synonymous with safety.
Yea I would want the V60 cross country model. It comes in blue by the way.

Back when I had my service station in the 90s we were constantly getting Volvos in for two things, defective tail lights, and bad axles. The tail lights led to a very lucrative sideline repairing traces on those crappy PC board tail light contacts and selling them as reconditioned. The axles were just a PITA and low money maker for the shop. Swore then I'd never own one for those two reasons.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:18 pm 
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I've got the CRV, Honda's small SUV. I wouldn't make it a dedicated BOV, but it's reliability does speak well for Honda's build quality.

Have you considered a dedicated passenger van? Not a mini-van, but something based on a Ford Econoline or Chevy Express chassis.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:48 pm 
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KJ4VOV wrote:
JackBauer wrote:
I'll vouch for the Jeep Wrangled Unlimited being a great 4wd and utility vehicle. Using one for 3 years as weekend driver and 4 wheeling in the mud in Wharton state park. Drove it stock . Cargo size and comfort a little bleh...

went up to the 2015 Jeep Cherokee unlimited and loving it. Spendy but worth every penny in my opinion. Hits all your bullet points. If you looking for hard 4 wd action there's the overland edition.

I just spent an hour over on the Jeep site, building and pricing models. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with the 3.0l diesel looks like a contender to me, but the wife is pretty bummed they don't offer it in any shade of blue.


The diesel looks awesome. When my stock grand cherokee lease is finished in buying the grand Cherokee in diesel in overland or trailhawk edition.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:08 pm 
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Close_enough wrote:
I've got the CRV, Honda's small SUV. I wouldn't make it a dedicated BOV, but it's reliability does speak well for Honda's build quality.

Have you considered a dedicated passenger van? Not a mini-van, but something based on a Ford Econoline or Chevy Express chassis.

Yes, I have, and they are still a consideration, but only the older models, and only with a 4x4 conversion.


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