Friday, July 19, 2013

Fill my needs: A capable off-roader for camping

This entry is part of a series where I pretend to be a certain kind of shopper and figure out what vehicle is right for me based on my reasoning abilities (and probably my own personal biases as well).  I'll of course be using The Vehicle For Me for all filtering and comparing.

Today's entry has me looking for a vehicle to go camping in.  I don't have much of a preference for SUVs, crossovers, or wagons, I just need something that meets my need to go camping for a reasonable price.  Here's the situation: I have a medium-sized trailed I will be towing, which will require my vehicle to have a tow rating of at least 3,000 lbs.  I also have some kids I'm bringing camping with me (and a wife), so I'll have a voracious need for cargo space.  Beyond that, while I won't be doing a whole lot of off-roading with my trailer hitched, I will definitely want all wheel drive and a high ground clearance, as well as highly available torque at low RPMs.  My price limit for this is $40,000.  Some other features I need are fog lights and traction control.

OK there are a ton options in this category, including wagons, SUVs, crossovers, and even a minivan!  Options range from a Dodge Journey at $26K to Ford Expedition at $39K.  So to get down to a more reasonable number of vehicles to choose from, I've set a minimum horsepower of 200hp.  You can see my filter list here.  On the priorities page, I've set cargo space, ground clearance, total passenger volume, tow rating, torque, and power to weight ratio as my priorities.

Link to Comparison Page
Bottom of Comparison Page
The 2012 Ford Expedition earns a decisive victory here on the back of its excellent cargo space, torque and tow rating, which all are a cut above the rest.  It is the only vehicle here with over 300 horsepower and torque, and it's tow rating of 8,900 lbs is almost 4,000 lbs more than the next contender!  The only chink in the armor is that it is also the heaviest of the vehicles here and it has the worst fuel economy (13/18 mpg), so it is going to cost a lot to drive, but if you're paying $40,000 for a car, then you probably don't need to worry too much about filling up your gas tank (hopefully).

So let's look at some of the runners up, of which there are plenty.  There are four options that come within 25 points of each other (out of over 3,000!), and those are the 2014 Kia Sorrento SX V6 AWD, 2013 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X 4x4, 2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail 4x4 V6, and 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD.  And of those four, the Nissan Xterra and Hyundai Santa Fe are the clear value winners, with the Nissan doing better in cargo space and clearance, and the Hyundai focusing on power-to-weight and fuel economy.  Both of these can be gotten for around $30,000, which is significantly lower than the Ford Expedition.

Finishing in the middle of the pack are our outliers, the minivan 2013 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD 7-Passenger V6, and the wagon 2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited.  The former obviously focuses more on total passenger volume, sporting a mind blowing 164 cubic feet in that department, and also includes seating for seven, the only entry in this comparison to do so.  The Subaru is the smallest and lightest vehicle of the bunch, and is the more economical, winning the top spot in highway fuel economy (though it comes in behind the Hyundai Santa Fe in city mpg).  These are each great options if you need either more room for your kids, or would like a smaller footprint.

My Picks

1st - 2012 Ford Expedition XL 4x4

2nd - 2013 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X 4x4

3rd - 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD

Last Notes: I also have a soft spot for the Subaru because I personally prefer smaller vehicles, so I wanted to give it a shout out here.  Maybe a future post will look for the most economical camping vehicle?

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