A 40 to 50K SUV, Xterra PRO-4X vs Cherokee Trailhawk, Chevy S-10 ZR2 and Jeep’s Tires[Ask Nathan]

Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it's relevant in the automotive universe, there's a chance we may know something about it. The author's email address and name will be omitted - leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.
Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.


In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • 40-50K Luxury Crossover?
  • Nissan Xterra PRO-4X vs Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk?
  • Tire capability in a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited?
  • Teenaged Chevrolet S10 ZR2 love?

2013 acura rdx

The first question comes from a reader who wants to buy a $40-$50 luxury crossover.

Q: I’m looking to by my first car $40000-50000

I have a Rav4.

Probably looking to buy because I feel if you lease you have to stay with that company or get screwed when you return it.

I live in Chicago and only Drive 16 miles a day.

I’ve been looking at BMW X3, Acura RDX, Lexus NX 200T, Kia Sportage XS, Audi Q5 and Lincoln MKC. (would also buy a 2014 used as well).

Wondering what your thoughts on which car would be best for value, but also the performance of the car?



A: Thanks for the email!

First of all – yes, leasing may not be the best choice for you. I only suggest leasing to folks who drive limited miles annually, those whom may be indecisive in terms of what they want to drive, individuals who will live in a particular place for a limited time (lots of military folks lease) and for those who want something upmarket and do not mind that they are not getting much equity out of a lease.

Buying is (quite often) the way to go.

As for your choices: the BMW X3, Acura RDX, Lexus NX 200T, Kia Sportage XS, Audi Q5 and Lincoln MKC?

The top three of those choices are the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and (surprisingly) the Lincoln MKC with the EcoBoost engine. The new Lexus NX is a pretty good performer too.

If it were my choice, I would look at the Acura RDX and Audi Q5. They are both the best compromise between performance and comfort.

I think the overall refinement of the Acura RDX is grossly underrated.

The Audi Q5 has a diesel option which makes for an efficient, torque-happy ride.

Both are solid choices and both crossovers Roman likes too.

Hope that helps!


2011 nissan xterra moab utah off-road

This next one comes from a Deputy Sherriff from Texas regarding our pick between the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the Nissan X-Terra PRO-4X.

Q: Nathan or Roman,

I really enjoy watching your reviews on youtube. I have watched the Xterra PRO-4X and the Cherokee Trailhawk a dozen times. The purpose of this email is to ask you which, in your professional opinion, would make a better vehicle for me? I live in Texas but spend a lot of time in the South Fork, Colorado area during the summer time fly fishing in the High Country.

I currently drive a Ram 1500 4×4 and it seems to do the job but it gets a little big on some of the trails up there. Obvioulsy, I would prefer either of these vehicles over the Ram due to fuel economy. I know your schedule is busy but I would great appreciate a no BS comparison of these two SUV’s. Thank you for taking the time to do what you do. Look forward to hearing back from you.

Deputy B.B


2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
A: Howdy Deputy! Thanks for your patronage. Roman and I fully agree that the Nissan X-Terra PRO-4X is a burly capable SUV. It is the better choice for serious off-road runs and it tows a maximum of 5,000 lbs. It’s also extremely thirsty and handles like a truck on the streets. It’s also due for a re-do soon, which may make it a cheaper prospect when you shop.

Given the age of the X-Terra, I doubt we’ll have an opportunity to test one against the Cherokee.

Roman and I are split on the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. We both know it’s the best off-road-going vehicle in its class, but Roman likes the robust underpinnings of the Nissan whereas I prefer the excellent off-road system and great daily drivability of the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. The maximum towing for the Jeep Cherokee with the 3.2L Pentastar V6 is 4,500 lbs, so they are close in some ways.

I took both vehicles to Moab, UT and feel that the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is better than the Nissan X-Terra 90-percent of the time. Still, when things got serious (big boulders, steep inclines and dunes), the Nissan was outstanding.

I hope this helps!

Be safe out there!


2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel

Q: Hello, I have a question that I hope you can answer!

I have a 2014 Grand Cherokee that is a limited version with the trail rated badge. “it has the quatradrive II suspension” I am looking to go off-roading on rocky trails that have multiple hills and have a moderate amounts of large rocks. Would the standard tires be suitable for off roading in rocks and/or what is the capability of the standard on/off road tires of the limited jeep Grand Cherokee?

Thank you so much for your time I love the website it has helped me with pick the current car I have and I love it! I just need to go off-roading in it “but I don’t know if the car can handle it”!



A: Good question and one Jeep needs to address right when they sell a vehicle. There are a lot of customers who buy a Jeep product without knowing the capability of their tires. Only a few Jeeps come with serious off-road rubber. Your Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is not one of them.

I believe you have P265/60R18 Michelin BSW on/off road, All Season tires. If that’s the case, it’s a great driving tire for day-to-day use, but it’s not made like an off-road-biased tire. This means that your sidewalls and tread are not as robust as full-tilt off-road rubber.

With that being said, your Jeep is still very capable and can more than handle challenging off-road obstacles. Just keep an eye on those sidewalls and, if the opportunity presents itself, airing down may help with traction too. If you’re serious about regularly heading off road for serious excursions, consider buying serious off-road tires.

Good luck,



This last question from a new driver who is considering a 2001 Chevy S-10 ZR2.

Q: Hi Nathan,

I’m a new and upcoming driver. I’m 17 turning 18 this year and hopefully getting my license soon. (Been on a permit for a year and a few months now). I know you guys only do reviews of new cars, and/or refreshed cars- I watch almost everything you guys review. But I do have a question about an S-10! I know love your beefy V-6’s and off-roading vehicles, so what do you think of an ’01 S-10 ZR-2? I have a few friends with S-10’s and I know they’re fairly reliable vehicles. So what are your thoughts on one of the ZR-2’s in near perfect condition for a new driver? It would be great to know if it’s a good vehicle to start out with! And I know you’ll tell the truth without sugar coating.



A: Sweet truck Amigo! I still think the Chevy S-10 with the ZR2 package was one of the best looking, most capable small pickup trucks out there. I still believe that, with its wide stance, beefier undercarriage, 3-ish-inch lift, 31-inch tires, Bilstein suspension and the 8&1/2-inch 10-bolt rear diff wit 3.73:1 gears – it can go toe-to-toe with the Nissan Frontier PRO 4X and Toyota Tacoma TRD.

Oh, and that Vortec V6 is an excellent power-plant.

Yep, I love the truck and – if I were looking for a serious off-roader, the Chevrolet S-10 ZR2 would be on my list.

It will get crap gas mileage and you may have a hard time finding cheap insurance. Even though it’s widened about four-inches, it’s still a narrow truck. Be careful cornering it on the streets. I remember that towing anything over 2,500 or so would make the rear dip quite a bit.

Keep in mind: it’s an off-road truck, its suspension is kind of squishy.

One final warning: the safety scores for your S-10 are mediocre and you should have look at what IIHS and NHTSA have to say about it.

Still, if you do get it – please send us a photo, we’ll post it on our truck site (TFLtruck.com)!

Best of luck!


Got a question for Nathan? Drop him a line at: asknathan@tflcar.com

Nathan Adlen Bio Picture Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.