I’m not quite sure how many rounds I will need in order to narrow the list down to my “top five” choices, but I can tell you that I have come much closer thanks in part to the 2010 OC Auto show and the test drives I have done so far. Here is an update of my “Wish List” along with some extra comments:
The Large SUV Group
- Honda Pilot – This is barely making the cut right now. Not overly impressed nor extremely disappointed.
- Mazda CX-9 – It’s nice, it’s roomy and depending on the test drive, it could really be a contender.
Chevy Traverse– This car is relatively new, but it feels aged compared to Chevy’s newer offering. Even the GMC Acadia, which is practically the same SUV feels newer. Toyota Highlander– Cheapness, is it’s weakness. Even a newly redesigned exterior can’t overcome the cheapness. Ford Explorer– Much uglier in person, but I didn’t get to see the interior since they didn’t have a display model on the floor for people play with. Either way, I don’t think the lease will be attractive enough for it to warrant any consideration at this point. I may consider revisiting it down the road if an attractive lease pops up.
Overall, this group is starting to look really bad. I suspect the Pilot might get booted due to it’s styling and less-than-exciting interior, leaving the CX-9 as the top choice in this category.
The Compact SUV Group
Toyota RAV4– Cost-cutting has really made this SUV hard to love. The hard plastics reeks of cheapness and the interior dash is uninspiring. Even if its inexpensive to lease, I don’t think I want one since Toyota’s lease program leaves much to be desired.
- Ford Edge – This is a well-built SUV with a better-than-average interior. I haven’t seen any special leases on it, but it’s still early in the model year.
Infiniti EX35– Test drove it a few weekends ago and my impression is that it’s a solid crossover. It’s smooth over bumps, powerful, quiet and it drives like a G with higher ground clearance. There is also a lot of dealer cash on this car right now, which potentially knocks off a lot off the MSRP, making it a really good lease. Unfortunately I think it falls really short in two areas, cargo and MPG. It is still fairly practical since folding down the rear seats exposes quite a bit of cargo room, but I think of this car as a hatchback with poor MPG more than a true crossover.
- VW Tiguan – Saw it at the show and I’ve driven it before; my folks also own one. Cargo wise its slightly better than the EX, but not by much. No Wolfsburg edition planned just for 2011 (yet) so my only choices would be the S and the SE trims.
- Acura RDX – Test drove this as well and found it to be a serviceable crossover. I will not wow you, but it is all you should expect from Acura; Roomy and reliable with above average performance. The 4-banger turbo does not have a very noticeable lag which is impressive. Comes well-equipped, but it doesn’t have it all unless you go with the Tech. In my case, I can’t justify the cost. The exterior styling doesn’t really impress me much, but I think having an excellent lease program does.
- Subaru Forester – I think it has a slight edge against the Outback. After looking at them side by side, I like it a little better.
If I had to guess, the Forester, Tiguan and the RDX will end up battling it in the payment department. I just don’t think Ford provides enough lease incentives to make the Edge a contender.
The Wagon Group
- Audi A3 – I am a big fan of TDI model, but I am willing to settle for a FrontTrak Premium. It’s driving dynamics shouldn’t be too different than my wife’s Jetta so I think it will end up coming down to a price war between the other finalists.
- VW Jetta Sportwagen – Saw the TDI version at the show, love the Pano sunroof. Thankfully, it retains the nicer interior of the older Jettas, which is a plus. I did see the “new Jetta” and if you have seen “older” models, you will notice a difference. The interior materials haven’t been downgraded much, but the cabin certainly feels more “simplified”. The exterior styling isn’t too bad, but it feels more “vanilla” compared to the outgoing model.
- VW Golf TDI – As nice as expected, looks like a more civilized version of the GTI and gets crazy gas mileage. Big fan, hopefully the lease rates will look good when the time comes.
- VW GTI – I have to say, I am not a big fan of those cloth seats, but I love everything else.
- Subaru Outback – I like it, but I have to admit that there are better cars. AWD certainly helps it’s case.
The Wagon group shows a lot more promise due to the more reasonable payments, practicality and fuel economy. My first choice would be the A3, but at this point any of these are a possibility.
The Sedan Group
- Acura TSX – Acuras hold a special place in my heart, so this is a no brainer. I will likely opt for the Tech, but it all depends on the price.
- Acura TL – Ditto on the TL. If a TSX with Tech were to be around the same as a TL base, I’d take the TL.
- Hyundai Sonata – Saw the 2.0 Turbo and the Hybrid at the show, lovely inside and out. I got around to test drive the Limited model and I came away impressed. Quiet, smooth and with ample power. It’s no G37, but I didn’t expect it to be. Inexpensive, well-built and easy on the eyes. The closest thing to a win-win situation if there was one.
Infiniti G37– I’ve been plagued with battery issues on my G37 this past year, with yesterday being the latest incident (I couldn’t get my car started for the 3rd time this year and I didn’t even leave any of my lights on). I think I will be skipping Infinitis this time around. Nissan Maxima– Being the G37’s cousin dooms it’s chances. See above.
This is the “fall-back” category. I don’t think I would pick a sedan over the other categories due to my need for “room”. However, money talks and sedans have better lease programs than anything out there right now. The Sonata is a perennial favorite here, with the 2.0T being my top choice. My fall back would be the TSX, with the TL close behind.