Let the Car Search Begin

I’ve mentioned it quite a bit on Twitter recently, but I’m slowly starting to look for my next car.  I’m a bit of a gear head, so this isn’t a process I take lightly.  Whereas some people go through cars every few years, I tend to stay with one car for a very long time so I put a lot of effort into my search to make sure I really get a car I’m going to love driving for several years.

I’m actually in a great position to start my research as I don’t need a new car.  There’s not much worse than shopping for a new car when you current one is on its last legs.  I’ve been keeping my eyes open though for awhile to see if anything might catch my fancy and this year there are a few cars that have.  As I’ve started going through the process, I thought it might be interesting to share the experience from both my consumer perspective as well as my marketing perspective.

My intention is to share my experience completely from the manufacturer websites to the dealerships to my experience with the cars themselves.  To that end, here is a little bit of background.

My current ride:

I currently drive a ’99 Ford Explorer Sport with a 4.0 SOHC V6.  It’s 4×4 and does well in the snow which is really good as my commute is  currently 24 miles each way.

What I love:

  • 4.0 SOHC V6. I hit the gas pedal and it accelerates well enough to keep up with a stock 3.8 Mustang
  • It’s blue!
  • It handles well in the snow.
  • Ride height isn’t too high, but am able to maintain good visibility over the majority of cars.
  • The way it drives.  Before I bought it I was considering quite a few vehicles, but after getting behind the wheel of an Explorer Sport, I knew it was my next car.  I haven’t had that feeling with another car yet….
  • I’ve personalized it.  I’ve swapped out the turn signal covers (yellow to clear) and added blue lights, I have after market tail lights, tinted windows, a brush guard and an after market sound system.

What I dislike:

  • It’s an automatic.
  • It’s an automatic.  Yes, I’ve intentionally listed that twice as that is truly my biggest issue with it.  I like a standard transmission, especially in the snow.  Unfortunately, in SUVs and trucks it’s nearly impossible to get a standard transmission anymore and unless I wanted to go with a smaller engine, I had to go with the automatic.  Not to mention the fact I would have had to have one special ordered.
  • Manueverability. While it’s acceleration is pretty good, I still have to plan out maneuvers.  At times I am not able to change lanes simply because I don’t have the room and can’t accelerate quickly enough to get the needed room.  I’m not afraid to admit that part of this dissatisfaction probably stems from riding my motorcycle.

What I want in my next car:

  • Standard Transmission – I’m not entirely sold on the new dual clutch transmissions but am open to considering them. Especially as my afternoon commute is often gridlock.
  • Good acceleration – I do a lot of highway driving so I need something that can get to highway speed quickly and won’t leave me in the lurch when I need to pass.
  • Fun to drive – I spend a lot of time in my car, so if I don’t enjoy driving it, why bother buying it?
  • Handles well in the snow – Colorado may not get as much snow as some places, but a rear wheel drive car isn’t a smart decision.  I want to know that I can get home from work in a snow storm.

The options I’m currently considering:

Mitsubishi EVO

Subaru STI

Volvo S80

Nissan Juke

Audi S4

Nissan Xterra

Toyota Tacoma

Ford Explorer

Ford Edge

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  • Hey Melissa,

    Great to read about your experience – and thank you for being a Ford customer! We’re going to have a hard time with your next ride, I think, as we’re doing almost all automatics these days. That being said, I hope you’ll give the 2011 Ford Explorer a shot, as the Terrain Management System might be just what the snow doctor ordered.

    If you need anything along this journey, please let us know. We’d be happy to help.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  • admin

    Thanks Scott for taking the time to stop by.

    I agree with you, I do think Ford is going to have a hard time keeping me in their products, but I’m always open to getting more familiar with the product line. It’s a shame that it seems to be a trend for the American car companies to only offer an automatic transmission in most of their cars. It surprises me that at the very least they aren’t offering something similar to the dual transmissions that many of their competitors have.

  • Thank you Scott for taking the time to stop by.

    I agree, Ford is going to have a very hard time keeping me, but I’m always open to checking out their product line. It’s really quite a shame that it seems to be a trend for the American car companies to only offer an automatic transmission. I shouldn’t be too surprised though as this was an issue I was running into the last time I bought a car. I am surprised though that it doesn’t seem like Ford or the other US car companies are really doing much with a dual transmission system like many of their competitors. But perhaps that’s just my perception as I am still digging in to the details.

  • I think the reason you’re seeing more automatics is that the technology has advanced such that automatics are able to achieve better fuel economy than manuals. And when we’re all under pressure for the higher fuel economy standards under CAFE laws, we need to do everything we can to achieve those numbers.

    We announced our commitment to dual clutch transmissions at the 2009 North American International Auto Show. By 2013, all of our vehicles will have DCT. More on that from Car & Driver.