Big Wheels Suck, Jeep Wrangler vs Nissan Xterra, Reliability in Massachusetts and where are the Chevy Reviews? [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.

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In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • Wheel Disagreement!
  • Are there any competitors to the Jeep Wrangler?
  • Outback vs Jeep Grand Cherokee – reliability?
  • Where are the Chevrolet cars!?


The first question comes from a viewer who left a comment on my 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan review. He had a point to make about wheels.


My main disagreement with you on this and other videos that I have watched, where you were the one doing the review is summed up in something you said in this video. You were bothered by the fact that this base model doesn’t have larger and more stylish wheels. Everything that I have read about this current trend of using larger, and sometimes ridiculously larger wheels, is just about looks. These larger wheels, take away from mileage, they decrease 0 to 60 times, they cause pickup trucks (that have them) to lower the number of pounds that a truck can both carry and tow.

The whole thing is just stupid.

I want an automobile that has the tire and wheel size that will optimize my truck or SUV’s performance in the important areas. There is an older Chevrolet Monte Carlo that I see here in my town, the rims look like they are about 25 or 27 inches. Now, that look may appeal to a certain amount or percentage of the population…and I have no problem with those individuals being able to put whatever size tires and wheels that they want on their cars and trucks. But I do have a problem with automobile manufacturers who are intent on making that the only size or sizes available. I don’t want twenty-two inch (Plus) rims on my pickup truck or SUV. I was watching a Mr. Truck video yesterday, and it was about the 2016 Ford Expedition.

There were two reviewers (including Mr. Truck) and one engineer, that were out on the test ride. The other reviewer asked what size the rims were on the vehicle that they were driving and the engineer told them that they were 22″. When asked if smaller rims were available, the engineer quickly replied that that there were no smaller rim sizes offered, and that the decision to do that was made by the marketing department. To me, that is just another example of form over function. So, I am very glad that this small SUV has a more reasonable rim and tire size. And if this automobile does have a superior engine and transmission, well, then I suppose that it is very likely worth something close to the asking price. Hardly anybody EVER pays MSRP anyway. Just my opinion. And that is almost the only thing that I disagree with you about. For the most part, I very much enjoy the job that you fellas do.

Thank you.


A: Thanks for the comment!

I agree with some of the points you made, but not all of them. Yes, going to extremes with wheels sizes can be ridiculous and, sometimes, downright stupid. Adding to the rotational mass of any wheel is (usually) a poor idea. For the most part, it’s all for looks.

Bigger wheels can help the overall appearance of a vehicle, especially with vehicles that have too much wheel-well in the design; however, as you mentioned, it’s (most likely) going to play havoc with performance.

With that being said –

The Volkswagen Tiguan I reviewed had VERY small, 16″ wheels, much smaller than the other sets available for higher models. They look small, almost like hubcaps. They look cheap and they are. I would never say, “Yo’ VW! Put some 20’s on this bad boy!” Nope, that’s too much for something like this. The 17″ and 18″ wheels VW has would look so much better AND, according to Volkswagen’s numbers, they will not adversely affect the performance.

Still, there is another point to make: when a vehicle is developed and tested by the automaker to wear big wheels from the get-go, it (usually) means they are getting the best performance they can, despite the big wheels. Sure, real truck-folk prefer more side-wall and less steel with their setup. Yes, Ford, Chevrolet and others have built trucks that are strictly constructed AND sold to run on bigger wheels. I agree, it’s silly. Sad to say, it’s the trend today and, in order to sell the most vehicles, the automakers are keeping up with the times.

Finally, there are cases where more wheel helps performance. Some cars benefit from having wider wheels, which can be enhanced by stiffer side-walls … which can be additionally enhanced by a larger wheel. You can apply that logic to proper racing vehicles. If a team has a winning edge using a wheel/tire combination – that combination should be the one explored by performance-minded drivers. Often, the wheel is bigger than the ones that came from the factory.

Once again, thanks for the comment!


2011 nissan xterra moab utah off-road

This next question comes from a young buck who’s looking to buy a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport S, but want’s to know about alternatives for 30K.

Q: Hey Nathan, I’m looking at getting a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport S in September. I was looking to see what other vehicles you would recommend in that price range of about $30,000. Thanks! E.B-W.

A: Interesting question. A year ago, I would have suggested the Toyota FJ, but it’s discontinued and it’s pricey. Still, there are a few alternatives. If you go slightly over your 30K mark, you might be able to get a Toyota Tacoma Extra Cab 4X4. I would mention the (excellent off-road) Toyota 4Runner, but good luck finding one for under $35,000.

The other option, and it IS a good option, is the 2015 Nissan Xterra. I’ve taken the Nissan Xterra to some gnarly terrain, its always prevailed. I mean, it is primitive and it rides like a truck, but the same goes for the Jeep Wrangler. While the Jeep Wrangler is incredibly capable off road, it’s not very good on the streets. The Nissan Xterra is better on the streets and is nearly as capable as a comparable Jeep Wrangler on dirt.

I know from experience that the Nissan Xterra is slightly more utilitarian and it’s fairly affordable given its content.

Either way, as long as you’re serious about going off road, both vehicles are a great choice.

Good luck!



This email comes from a fan who wants our opinion regarding the Jeep Grand Cherokee vs the Outback.

Q: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: I don’t envy your position: get the beefy off-road machine, or the reliable AWD wagon. Roman and I agree that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is an outstanding vehicles for its class. I’ve driven nearly every permutation of Jeep Grand Cherokee in the snow and the rough – it never failed to surprise me.

Being that we have a limited time with each vehicle, we cannot comment on reliability.

We haven’t touched a Subaru product in nine months, after we scratched an Outback testing it off road. Still, it was a 2015 model, so both Roman and I have a perspective on its overall performance. It’s a good car, a real good car, but it actually feels slightly less capable as the 2014 model. It may have to do with the CVT system.

With that being said: if you are concerned about reliability before the purchase, you will (most likely) be concerned about the reliability during your ownership. As good as the Jeep Grand Cherokee is, you sound like you’re pretty apprehensive about buying one. No matter how many good things I can relay to you about positive stories regarding the big Jeep, there are a few negative ones too. Believe me, I understand.

Go with your gut, and I suspect your gut says, “Fuji Heavy.”

Thanks for the great email!



2016 chevy malibu hybrid debut in new york city
2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid

This last question comes from a fan who’s upset about the lack of Chevrolet and Ford car reviews. So are we.

Q: Nathan and the TFL team,

What gives? I can’t find a single review of ANY Chevrolet car on your channel forever. Okay, there are a few things out there about the new Camaro and Corvette. They are cool, but I’m not in that market and neither are thousands of people! No recent reviews on any practical cars made by Chevy!

Where’s the new Chevy Spark, Chevy Cruze, Chevy Malibu, Chevy Volt, Chevy Bolt, Chevy Impala or any other Chevy!? Why the hell am I seeing Chevrolet Trax driving in my neighborhood with no full review from you guys yet? I know you went to the press event because I watched ti. But I want to know about how it is to live with.

This is ridiculous! Is it you or is it Chevrolet being lazy? I want to know!

I like you guys a lot, but it seems like you are reviewing nothing but Chrysler and Toyota cars this year. If you need to get through to more people in charge, just leave their email address and I call them!

Oh and what’s up with Ford!? Please review more Fords too! Where the hell are Mustangs, Focus and Fiestas? You get like one every three months! It’s enough to drive a man crazy!


A: Thanks for the email my friend.

Here’s one thing to keep in mind: General Motors gives us cars, not just Chevrolet. We get quite a few Buicks and, from time-to-time, a nice Cadillac to review. Our region tends to get vehicles with all-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Still, you have a point. The most recent Chevrolet car I tested was a Chevrolet Sonic – about a year ago; however, I am about to receive a Chevrolet Equinox (it’s the 2015 model). You’re correct about all of the Chevrolet vehicles we have yet to test in our home state. I’m sure they will ramp up deliveries before too long.

Fortunately, we have lots of GM/Chevrolet trucks that we review on our TFLtruck channel.

I’m sure we’ll start reviewing Chevrolet cars AND Ford cars very soon.

Thanks so much for the email!



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