Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Car Daze

After several months of considering a new car purchase, and then the last month test driving our final choices, we purchased an Acura MDX (with the Tech Package) on Saturday. We pick it up this coming Saturday. The Tech Package adds the navigation system, an extra 2 speakers and a couple other minor things. We went with white exterior and taupe (very light grey) interior.

Our final round of choices consisted of the Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Mazda CX9, Lexus RX 350, and BMW X5. This will be Colleen's car, and she departed from our typical used car purchases because she simply had a hankering for a new car. And, because Liam is no longer in private daycare, the car payment is a little more than half of what we were paying The Tobin School, so we still are able to save more than we were. Finally, we went with a crossover SUV because she wanted AWD for Boston winters, and wanted to sit higher up.

Here are the reasons we decided against the:

  • Volvo XC90: Though we have been a 2-Volvo family for the last 10 years and had great luck in the Volvo brand, the XC90 just was too small and too expensive. Plus, it did not rate as highly in Consumer Reports (our car bible during this search) as most of the others. I sure love the look of the XC90, but we just couldn't justify it with the price and the cramped interior space.

  • Mazda CX9: We were impressed by the styling and the fact it won Motor Trends' SUV of the year award. However, we decided against it before we even test drove it because as the car-dealer husband of my boss said, "Put it this way, Mazda isn't Toyota or Honda." Meaning, Mazda does not have the strong reliability history of the other brands.

  • Lexus RX 350: This was a hard decision because we test drove the RX 350 and loved how it felt and looked. It was a close 2nd to the MDX. However, our goal throughout this was to get a 2008 model that would be heavily discounted because of the '09 models coming in. That presented a problem with Lexus because they introduce their new models in March each year, so no "new" 2008s were left. We couldn't find any that had less than 15,000 miles on it. The 2009 models were priced pretty reasonably, but the body style is going to change in 2010. Not knowing if we'd like the 2010 model better, and feel "stuck" with the "old" style was a mark against Lexus. Plus, this car is SO popular that it's hard not to see at least 5 during even the shortest weekend errand run.

  • BMW X5: First, we test drove the X3, but that was WAY too small for our family. My sister-in-law owns one and loves it, and we enjoy driving hers - and were impressed by the feel of the 2008 model -- but there was not even room for an adult to sit in the backseat when my sons' booster seats were in place. That was a deal killer. So, we put our sights on the X5, but the reviews in Consumer Reports were iffy for this, and the major ding against it was the price. Again, we'd need to buy one with more miles on it than we were comfortable just to get the price down to our budget.

And, here are 7 reasons why we went with the Acura MDX:

  1. My brother-in-law just went through the same crossover SUV research project and ended up with the Acura RDX, which is a smaller version of the MDX. He extols its handling, its value compared to comparable crossover SUVs, and the standard options it comes with. Chris is a big influence on us because he leads an enviable life due to his morals, smarts and love he has for his whole family. In the middle of the negotiations, we called Chris and he encouraged us to buy the Acura, and verified that the price we had negotiated was just a bit above what he had paid for an RDX without the Tech Package.

  2. We were interested in getting a third row, with a mind towards the future. Grady and Liam will just get older, make more friends, and become more involved in sports. We'd like to be able to cart their friends around to events and games. The Lexus did not come with a third row option and the Volvo's interior was just too tight.

  3. Acura has many 2008 MDXs left, so is being aggressive in trying to sell them. We started the negotiations at $7,000 below what Consumer Reports listed as the MSRP. Our final deal was a few thousand dollars below the dealer invoice, and they threw in a few extra options like an All-Weather Package and a Power Tailgate. We've since looked at all of the comparable MDXs online (even eBay reserve & Buy It Now prices) and have not found a lower price.

  4. Even though the MDX is bigger than the Lexus RX 350, Colleen felt like it was smaller when she drove it. She even parallel parked the MDX and thought it felt smaller. A lot it is probably due to the car-like dash, and the tight turning radius. We thought we were spoiled by the tight turning radius that is on our Volvo 960s, but I think Acura equals that.

  5. Acura is the luxury brand of Honda. My sister and parents are loyal to thir Honda Pilot and Honda Odyssey, respectively, so that was a good influence on us.

  6. We simply love the look of the MDX. Some think the grill is too like a warrior shield, but I find it classy and aggressive. The curved aerodynamic lines of the MDX are attractive and I don't fear they will go out of style like I think the Nissan Murano's exaggerated curves will in short time. That was a big reason we didn't put the Murano in our final choices list.

  7. The MDX was introduced in 2001 and has always enjoyed strong reliability and safety ratings. That long history of improvements, coupled with the fact the body was restyled in 2007 and kept the same style in '08 and '09 bodes well in my mind.

I highly recommend Herb Connolly Acura and our salesman, Don Guff. He was great with Grady and Liam, and made all the negotiations stress-free. There really is an art to knowing when to leave customers alone and when to be present and helpful. He was well orchestrated the whole time. Also, the dealership is a small one, so it had a comfortable small-town feel. That is in contrast to what my boss described was her parents' experience on Saturday buying a Hyundai Elantra. I guess they were there all day because it was so big and so busy.

So, now we are selling Colleen's 1997 Volvo 960 Wagon. All along we thought I'd inherit her wagon and we'd sell my junky 1995 Volvo 960 sedan, but her wagon is in better shape and has less miles on it, so should fetch more money. Plus, my sedan gets slightly better gas mileage. Lastly, having an SUV and a wagon was just too much. The dealer offered us an insulting $900 for a trade in, even though the Kelly Blue Book Value for a dealer trade it was close to $4,000. A private sale was valued at $4780. So, I cleaned it up, posted it on Craigslist for $3,999, and linked to a lot of full-sized pictures on a Flickr set. I bought a CarFax report too, and you can view that here. I want to sell it before Saturday so we don't have to deal with a car that isn't registered and doesn't have license plates, but, I want to hold out for a good deal too. Quite the dance.

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