Auto Shopping - Phase 1 Part 1

Leanne and I are looking for a new vehicle.  We have a reasonable list of requirements, but this list still leaves us with many many vehicles to choose from.  We need:

  • something good in the snow (AWD / full-time 4WD, decent ground clearance, advanced stability/traction control)
  • comfortable enough to drive cross-country
  • roomy enough to house SCA event gear, and, less importantly, a large cage to haul 4 cats across the US
  • capable of towing something (possibly a '97 Honda Civic) 
  • heated leather seats
  • v6 or turbo 4
  • has an everything-but-navigation-package option.  these things go out of date so fast, and frankly the android nav system is sufficient for our needs.  our GPSes are obsolete now that Leanne has her Droid X.
These days, there are a lot of things that fall into this category.  Consumer Reports has been of some help, at least to eliminate the vehicles that explode after 50,000 miles.  We still have many choices, though.

Saturday, we visited the local Toyota dealership and tried out three vehicles, which elminated themselves more or less quickly:

Toyota Matrix
Too small, too small.  I'm sure it would be a very nice car to own, but it doesn't have a roomy cabin or a roomy posterior.

Toyota RAV4
Pretty nice, really.  The dash controls were kind of... childlike, and square, but cheerful nonetheless.  Large and easy to manipulate.  Lots of features, pretty much all that we want.  Roomy cargo area.  Cons: seats.  The seats were not comfortable - they were hard and blocky.  Also, the gas pedal was very aggressive, you had to really feather it not to surge from a stop.  This is a backup in case the rest suck.

Toyota Venza
Nice seats.  Very, very nice.  However, too reclined overall, and Leanne definitely didn't like sitting in it.  The controls are very "fancy", but harder to use than the RAV4s.  Cargo area was chopped up by large wheel wells, reducing usability as a large rectangular object transport.  I'm not sure that I was driving the V6 (couldn't get an answer out of our dealership copilot), but if it was it's a wheezy wimpy one.

Not sure what we'll do next.  Hyundai?  Ford?  The field is vast.  We still have the Highlander to test drive, I'm kind of saving that one since my internal top-picks list is between that and the Kia Sorento.