AWD in Chicago, Massachusetts Winter Car, Toyota Corolla vs Nissan Sentra and what’s Motor Mountain USA? [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.

2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • AWD in Chicago?
  • Mashup Jeep GC vs Outback vs 4Runner?
  • Nissan Sentra vs Toyota Corolla?
  • Motor Mountain USA (MMUSA) info?

2014 Audi SQ5

The first question comes from a viewer who needs an AWD vehicle that can handle hard winters and haul his mountain bike. He’s considering a Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, Infinity FX, Mercedes M or Mercedes GLK.

Q: Hey Roman, and Nathan,

I’m a big fan of your program and cannot decide on which vehicle I should buy. I just moved back to Detroit from Houston and sold my Lexus is250 rwd car in because it would not be able to handle the snow in the midwest. I am in the market for a AWD suv and to date have not been able to find one. I’m hoping that you can help give me some recommendations based on your experience with the vehicles I will be considering in this email. I need a AWD SUV and like you guys I’m into the outdoors and I would be using it to haul my mountain bike on a 2″ thule hitch.

I am looking to purchase a certified vehicle ideally 2-3 years old. I have been looking at the lincoln MKX but have not grown to love it. I think that they are overpriced since the new body style is coming out soon and am not seeing the quality of service at the dealerships compared to Lexus. I am considering getting a Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, Infinity FX, Mercedes M or GLK. I am also considering a Porsche Cayenne although I think that might be over my budget. Right now I’m driving my families Lexus RX. Its nice but I hate when people have 2 of the same cars. I have even considered if I can not find what I really want that I would get a cheaper car like a ford escape but after seeing how many problems people are having with them and the IIHS crash test results on it I have ruled it out completely.

What I am looking for in a SUV is something that can handle the snow, travel to Chicago on the weekend, haul my mountain bike, and most importantly something that is safe in a crash. I would appreciate if you guys could lead me in the right direction and help me with this decision.

Thanks Again,


2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

A: Greetings and thanks for the email. Roman and I agree, out of your choices, the Audi Q5 is the way to go. We both feel that you get your money’s worth, even with a used or certified pre-owned one.

Hope that helps!



This next question comes from a viewer who wants us to compare the Toyota 4runner, jeep GC and Subaru Outback 3.6r.


Roman and Nathan, a while back I asked about a mashup between the Toyota 4runner, jeep GC and Subaru Outback 3.6r.

Well, time has marched on, my daughter just got her learner’s permit and I’ll need a new car this August when the new model year changes.

I am now leaning towards the Subaru Outback 3.6 limited vs Jeep Grand Cherokee (limited) as the 4runner without Auto 4wd doesn’t seem as safe for us (me, wife and daughter) to use in the Northboro Mass winters here with icy conditions (yeah, we got over 108” of snow this year).

I LOVE the rugged, classy look and performance of the Jeep, but I’m concerned about such a crappy reliability history for the money.

The Subaru with the 3.6 will be fast enough for me (I have a 2008 Honda Accord v6 – which is quick and fast when I put my foot in it) but am concerned about the new CVT and donut spare, no skid plates available unless I get them from primitive auto aftermarket – if taken off road a bit.

I won’t do rock crawling, but do plan on messing around off the beaten path a bit (without scratching it) but want the best bang for the buck.

I don’t know if you have yet had the chance to drive the limited 3.6r, but since you have driven both models (the outback was ONLY a 4 cyl on the cliffhanger video), would you spend $36K for a FULLY loaded Outback with 3.6 and eyesight or a pretty Loaded Grand Cherokee for $38-$40K?

Based upon overall safety, reliability, all around dirt/beach (cape cod) off road capability and most important – bang for the buck – which would each of you choose if you could buy either and were to keep it for 6 years, which is what I average?

Sorry for the long email, but believe it or not, both of your opinions matter to me as you tell it like it is.

The JGC reliability is the most worrisome part of this as I can’t deal with down time in the shop, but don’t know if since the redesign in 2011 and enhancements (electronics, 8 spd trans) have improved things or not.



Northborough, MA

A:Thanks for the email!

It kind of sounds like you already have your mind made up and you’re looking for us to agree – which we do.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a terrific choice as is the regular Jeep Cherokee; however, being a dad and Roman being a dad, we cannot deny how excellent the Outback is, even without the big engine and high tech goodies. That would be the one we would get our daughters.

Thanks for the email and keep us in the loop with your decision.


2014 toyota corolla sport video test altitude

This email comes from a fan who is looking at the base model Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra.

Q: Hi Roman and Nathan!

You guys are great! I like how you two are so different. It’s cool to see how you mix with other presenters. Nathan keeps me laughing. But now I have a real question for you guys!

Simple question. New Toyota Corolla base model or Nissan Sentra base model. Both have six-speed transmissions. How would you guys cut this cake?


A: Great question and thanks for the kind email!

The base, 1.8L 4-Cyl. Toyota Corolla comes with a six-speed manual for $17,775. The base 1.8L 4-cyl comes with a six-speed manual Nissan for a $17,305. So, both of these cars are priced within $400 of each other. Both vehicles have been revised or are all-new over the past few years.

If you want the most room, comfort and best return on your dollar, the Nissan Sentra is a good choice. Still, both Roman and I would choose the Toyota Corolla as it is a spunky driver (compared to the Nissan) and its (internal and external) styling is more contemporary.

Truth be told, we would both choose the base model Mazda3 over those two.

Hope that helps!


2015 motor mountain usa epic trip to highest points across the nation with jeep and turtle wax

This last question is about the new weekly program TFLcar is running. It’s called Motor Mountain USA and it’s airing every Monday for 50+ episodes.

Q: What is Motor Mountain USA and when are we going to get updates to where we can meet Team TFL?

A: Motor Mountain USA is an adventure series that takes various members of the TFLcar team to the highest drivable peaks in all 50 states in the United States. Yes, even Alaska and Hawaii too.

Jeep has given us a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Red Rock and an off-road-capable trailer too!

Each drivable high-point in each state will be filmed in conjunction with a unique location in each state and an off-road area in each state too. I mean, we can’t drive a Jeep all over the USA without taking it off-road – right?

Each leg of the journey will be posted here on TFLcar with (possible) meeting locations and a general itinerary. We are at the mercy of weather, road and travel conditions, so some of the timing may be a bot off. Still, we will definitely list places where we can meet with you guys!

Click (here) to see the itinerary for our next loop!

Remember: every Monday is Motor Mountain Monday!


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Check out this video where Indy racer Justin Wilson does a blistering lap in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R!

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