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Review: We want an economical vehicle with cargo space and good towing capacity. What do you recommend?

Review: We want an economical vehicle with cargo space and good towing capacity.  What do you recommend?

The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.Xia Yang/Handout

We have a Toyota RAV4 hybrid, my wife’s car, and a Toyota 4Runner.

I love my 4Runner in every way except the fuel economy. This has been my dream vehicle since I was 23 (I’m 52 now), and it still fulfills many of my needs. Or rather the needs of my Labrador. However, I don’t get less than 12 liters per 100 kilometers and it starts to hurt.

I have to tow a trailer and two ATVs (about 1,500 pounds) maybe four or five times a year, and more often a lighter boat and trailer. I never needed the current capacity of 4,700 pounds. I need plenty of cargo space for a lot of dog training equipment – I use all the space in the 4Runner. Ideally, I would like to drive an electric vehicle on average for 30-50 miles, which is the shortest distance I drive regularly without hitting a highway. I also need four-wheel drive or four-wheel drive for access to cottages in the winter (and fairly good ground clearance), and enough room for two adults and a very cute dog. Dave

Petrina Gentile: Dave knows what he wants. He didn’t mention a price range, but based on the vehicles he owns, let’s stick to the regular models and skip the luxury options.

Mark Richardson: Dave wants everything: something big, but also something that uses little or no gas. His best bet is probably a plug-in hybrid. What about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV? Do you think it’s big enough?

Pagan: Yup – it would definitely do the trick. The all-new 2023 Outlander PHEV, which is expected to hit dealers soon, can accommodate up to seven passengers in three rows.

Richardson: It has just 2,255 liters of cargo space with the seats folded, compared to 2,540 liters in the 4Runner. But did you drive it? I only drove last year’s model, which I thought was impressive, but it was smaller, with only 1,886 liters behind it.

Pagan: No. But I’ve also driven the 2022 model and I agree that it’s an impressive package with four-wheel drive, lots of safety features and about 40 kilometers of electric range.

Richardson: You probably can’t buy that vehicle anymore. They are not on dealer lots these days unless they have already been sold. The new model has a new platform and ostensibly more power, with an electric range of up to 87 kilometers. We can’t recommend something we haven’t ridden, but based on the success of the previous model, we can recommend considering it.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander hybrid.Handout

Pagan: Secure. How about a Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid? That could do the trick for Dave.

Richardson: It doesn’t have the luggage capacity it needs, with only 1,908 liters of cargo space. It is too high at the back, so quite limited. I think he wants the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It’s comparable to the 4Runner in size, with 2,387 liters for cargo, but with a more forgiving unibody ride and a less greedy engine.

Pagan: I love the Highlander hybrid. It’s economical for a three-row SUV, roomy, can tow what it needs – it meets all of Dave’s requirements. But maybe he doesn’t want to go with another Toyota. What about something else?

Richardson: Don’t fire the Toyota so quickly. Toyota’s retention rate is extremely high because the vehicles are reliable and their dealers do a good job of keeping customers happy. If Dave’s wife is happy with her RAV4 Hybrid, it’s often easiest to stay in the maker’s family.

Pagan: But what if for some reason Dave wants change? Or maybe he really wants a plug-in hybrid?

Richardson: For the size he needs, he looks to a Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV or the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. However, the Pacifica minivan does not offer four-wheel drive with the plug-in. Dave probably doesn’t really need four-wheel drive – most people don’t – but it’s his choice.

Pagan: Come on, Dave doesn’t want a minivan. He doesn’t carry around a bunch of kids. But the Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV is worth considering.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe.The globe and mail

Richardson: His Labrador will like it, but if the dog can jump high enough – or if he buys a jump – then the Grand Cherokee will almost fit. It’s not that big, with 2,005 liters of cargo space, and it’s not cheap. The PHEV starts at about $75,000, which is about $10,000 more than the comparable gasoline-only Grand Cherokee. The Highlander Hybrid starts around $50,000.

Pagan: Yes, it is expensive and that is a major drawback of the Grand Cherokee PHEV. Not to mention, the electric range isn’t that great – it’s only about 40 miles. It will take him years to recoup the fuel savings with that premium price tag. Dave is definitely better off with a cheaper hybrid like the Highlander.

Richardson: Agreed. If Dave wants a plug-in he should look to the new Mitsubishi Outlander, and if he’s happy with a hybrid I’m sure the Highlander will be an ideal replacement for his 4Runner.

Which car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina [email protected] and use “Which car” as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

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