Greetings! I'm shopping for a car that may not exist. My requirements
list isn't long, but it's hard to find them on the same car.
1) Absurdly comfortable front seats. I'm 6'2" and get back pain
whenever I drive any of my current cars for more than 30-60 minutes. I
"only" weigh 190, but have long legs for someone by height.
2) Good winter traction. We live in rural New England and have a 400-
foot sloped gravel driveway. 4WD isn't a requirement (our FWD Passat
is adequate for example), but better ground clearance would be great
(our current cars frequently scrape on the dirt roads around here --
including one recent event that broke TWO catalytic converters).
3) Great gas mileage. As you can tell from the fact that one of our
cars runs on waste vegetable oil (see below), we care a lot about
reducing emissions. This is actually more important, to us, than fuel
savings. That is, we don't mind paying $5,000 extra for a car that
will save us only $3,000 in gas costs over the life of the vehicle.
3a) Manual transmission. I have never owned an automatic and I don't
like them. They have worse mileage and I don't enjoy them as much (I
also like how manuals force me to pay attention to my driving --
neither my wife nor I have ever had an accident in over 30 combined
years driving 5-speeds).
I've heard that the Prius has surprisingly good leg-room, but all our
driving is rural -- so a hybrid doesn't seem like the right
technology. I also hate automatics.
I have a friend with a 5-cylinder Volvo wagon -- she says she gets 35
MPG highway. I haven't tried driving it, but perhaps this is the best
combo of the above choices.
I'm also looking at SUV options (Ford? Honda?), because I notice my
back hurts a lot less in vehicles (like our pickup truck) with an
'upright' seating position.
I sat in my stepmother's Subara Forester for a few minutes and I'm
pretty sure the front seat is too cramped. Same with the few minutes I
spent in a Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
For reference, these are our current/recent cars, and what we liked
and didn't like:
a) 1987 Nissan Sentra (2-door). My first car, but I soon realized that
driving it was like jabbing an ice pick in my lower back. My father-in-
law was a mechanic so we ripped out the front seat and drilled some
more holes in the seat frame so that it could go farther back (to the
point that no one could fit in the back seat). This was a great
solution, but not one that makes sense for me any more.
b) 1996 VW Golf. Another great car. Suprisingly comfortable front
c) 1999 Nissan Frontier Pickup Truck. Great reliable pickup truck, but
somewhat cramped seating, and not a good all-around vehicle for a 3-
d) 1999 VW Jetta Diesel, with a "GreaseCar" kit to run on waste
vegetable oil. Starting to show it's age -- less reliable than the
Japanese cars I've owned. Horrible winter traction, and less
comfortable than the Golf.
e) 2000 VW Passat 6-cylinder. The weight helps gives this car much
better snow traction than the Jetta, but it's mileage is poor, and the
front seat is the LEAST comfortable of any car I've ever owned. Alas,
I didn't notice this in the 20-minute test drive.
I would love feedback from other people like me, who've had trouble
finding a comfortable car. I really wish the dealers would let me test-
drive a car for a day (or a week) so I could truly assess whether the
car was suitable for long drives.
Thanks in advance for any help!