Out with the old… and in with the new
In March of 2000, I bought a brand-new Nissan XTerra. In the last almost-12 years, I’ve put on just over 104,000 miles, driving mainly back and forth to work. For a 12 year old vehicle, it doesn’t look too bad.
Back in my single-man days, I drove it on short trips into the wilds of Western Washington and Western Oregon to go hiking and a couple of times, to go kayaking. When I bought it, I had plans to do a lot more kayaking, but I found I liked the idea of kayaking out in the wilderness by myself a lot better than I liked actually doing it. First, since I had no place to store a kayak, I had to rent one. When I did rent one, it was hard to get it off the top of the XTerra by myself. The times I did make the effort, I was so paranoid about getting lost or caught in the tides, that I ended up staying on Lake Washington or Lake Union anyway, where I could easily rent them, right there on the water.
The grandiose plans of amphibious adventure never really came to fruition, but for the most part I enjoyed the ‘truck’. It had plenty of cargo space without being massive. The kids (when they came along) liked to ride in it because it gave them a good view from its ‘stadium’ seating. The shift-on-the-fly four wheel drive came in handy in bad weather, which around here is infrequent, but often enough that you notice the vehicles that don’t have 4WD when you do.
But the XTerra had a few negatives. First, it suffered from horrible gas… mileage. I averaged around 15.9 mpg in the city, though I once did get it up to 21-22 mpg on a trip down the Oregon Coast driving at 45 mph on Highway 101. I contemplated replacing it numerous times for the gas mileage alone. However, once I got a job in Seattle where I took the train to work daily, I only filled up once every 4 to 6 weeks and gas expenses became a reduced reason.
For a vehicle with a V-6, you’d think it would have lots of power, but it really didn’t. On a lot of hills (like I-90 Eastbound towards Snoqualmie Pass), it couldn’t hold 60 mph in high gear, and when it down-shifted, you could wath the fuel gauge fall. Down shifting in the XTerra also sounded like you were sitting behind a taxiing 737.
Still, I grew pretty attached to this truck. It was like a member of the family… one that has been with me longer than I’ve been married, and almost as long as I’ve lived in Washington State. We’ve known for a while that we were going to replace it. It was just a matter of time. It was coming up on some major maintenance needs that were going to cost more than the vehicle was worth, and though we could get a few more years out of it, twelve is not bad, and still more than double what I got out of the 1989 Chevy Cavalier and 2005 Pontiac Sunfire I had before I bought it (combined).
Today, with a little bit of a heavy (but optimistic) heart, we traded the XTerra in for a 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5 Limited.
We started looking around at vehicles last summer, and had narrowed it down to the Kia Sorento and the Outback, and for a while, the Kia was well in the lead. But as we started adding more ‘nice to have’ features to our vehicle needs, I realized were about to buy another kayak hauler. Well not a kayak hauler, exactly. We had talked a few times about buying a vehicle that could tow a pop-up tent trailer to take the kids camping more. Not that we have a tent trailer, or have ever taken the kids camping in the first place. But you know, we’d better buy a vehicle that could tow 3000 pounds if we wanted to. We’d need a V-6 for that, right?
Well, with the V-6, came more expensive dealer packages, and soon, what we had been budgeting for a final price, was already below the base price of the vehicles we were looking at. Yes the V-6 Sorento and the V-6 Outback could do everything we wanted, but with those models and those engines, we were suddenly looking at 18-24mpg again… for features we would likely never (or rarely) ever use. And that’s when I remembered the buyer’s remorse from buying the XTerra. So we decided to downsize our expectations, and to upsize the fuel economy.
The Outback 2.5 gives us the cargo room we need, in a 4-cylinder vehicle that should be excellent in bad weather and still allow us to live the ‘wilderness’ life should we choose. It has roof racks we can put the kids bikes on for summer trips. In a pinch, it’s capable of towing up to 2700 pounds, which should be enough for most reasonably sized tent trailers, should we eventually decide to go that route.
For the most part, this will be the around-town-car and the family-trips-car. Which means I probably won’t get to drive it a lot. I’ll take my wife’s Camry to the train station and in to Seattle when I need to. The kids like the Outback better already than the Camry because they can’t see out of the back of the Camry. I know my wife already likes it better than the XTerra. It’s a smoother ride, and isn’t so bulky.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Camry because I don’t fit in it very well. My head brushes the ceiling, and it’s impossible for me to wear a baseball cap while driving it. The road noise in the Camry is the worst I’ve ever experienced (apparently because we got it with “Sport Suspension”). But it does have the V-6, and that sucker moves, so driving it won’t always be a bad thing. Unless I get speeding tickets. It’s not yet 5 years old, so we expect it to last another 6-7 years.
If all goes well, we’ll have this car for at least 11 years. Then we can hand the keys over to our kids, and they can have it as their school car. Hard to believe that we’re already thinking about that. But then again, it doesn’t seem like it’s been 12 years since I bought the XTerra.
Time just keeps flying.