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:
- Jeep Wrangler Unlimited vs. Ram Eco Diesel – towing?
- Are there any competitors to the Jeep Wrangler?
- What’s a good car for under $10,000?
- I don’t understand Toyota Camry Love
The first question comes from a viewer who is choosing between a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and a Ram Eco Diesel.
Q: Hi folks, I was hoping to reach Nathan for some information on the 2015 Wrangler Unlimited he’s been driving around the country lately. If you could pass this along to him for a response I would appreciate it.
I’m currently driving a 2002 Ford F150 and it’s getting a bit old. My wife and I love traveling in the truck. It’s roomy, quiet and comfortable. It also allows us to take my motorcycle/s with us. sometimes we haul, sometimes we trailer. Depends on the situation. Having said all that, we’re keeping an eye out for our next vehicle (Probably in the next 1-2 years) and are watching the feedback on the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. We’ve driven it and are very happy with the way it drives/rides. and the fuel mileage is outstanding. However, after watching some of the Motor Mountain USA video’s you guys are putting out, we thought it might be fun to consider a Wrangler Unlimited that would expand the envelope and let us enjoy some offroading during our travels. Nothing extreme, fire roads, trails, some stream crossings. Anything you might feel comfortable handling with a Wrangler Sahara package. We also like the idea of a soft top to get some sun.
As you’ve been putting some pretty big miles on a Wrangler lately, can you give us your thoughts on traveling in a Wrangler JKU? I’ve seen you comment that, as a lover of the Wrangler, you’re biased, and we’re ok with that, we’d love to hear your thoughts anyway.
Tom and M.A
A: Thanks for the great email!
You’re correct about me being biased towards Jeep – but only for going off-road. You see, I look at the current Jeep Wrangler as an excellent vehicle for heading off the beaten path in every model and trim-level. It’s just SO damn good in the rough.
Still, only a few people truly go off road with any regularity. If you are not heading off-road often, I would never recommend the Jeep Wrangler. It’s not very happy towing, it is not efficient and, as a day-to-day driver, it’s a primitive ride.
I highly recommend the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman with the Eco Diesel. It’s one of the best compromises I know (off-road, towing, hauling, comfort etc.) and it’s an outstanding day-to-day driver. Sure, it’s pricey, but so is a loaded Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hardrock edition.
You can read about the Ram 1500 Eco Diesel Outdoorsman (First impressions of the Ram Outdoorsman Eco Diesel).
Hope that helps.
Once again, thanks for the great email!
This next question comes from a fan who needs a “manly” AWD vehicle that gets good mpg.
Q: I need help picking out a SUV with good gas mileage and at least AWD or a 4×4 and it has to be manly and for a young demographic. can you please help me recommend a car.
A: Not a lot to go one here. I would, right off the bat, recommend a Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel. It’s manly, great off-road and it gets great MPG. It’s also popular with people over 50 years-old. I’m guessing it would be out of your price-range too.
Here’s four vehicles that, when equipped properly, might meet your expectations:
Mazda CX-5 – It’s not that “manly” but it is a great driver and it’s frugal.
Jeep Cherokee – If you get the four-banger, it’s a good all-around package.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport – Good economy, good AWD system, cheap and (mediocre) manliness.
Range Rover Evoque – Manly, in a modern-chic kinda way. It’s pricey and gets mediocre mpg too.
Hope this helps.
This email comes from a young fan who wants to buy a car for about $13,000.
I love TFL! You guys are the hardest working reviews out there and you make everyone else look like fools. I have grown to like Emmie too. She’s great when she’s with you. That’s what’s cool, you work good with everyone!
My question. Is there a good car for me to head to college with that costs about $13,000 after the ink is dry? I want something new with a good warranty. All it needs is AC and a good stereo with roof for four. Preferably, a hatchback. The reason $13,000 works for me is, I’ll pay it off in five years. That’s when I finish college too. No leasing for me. I want to buy and maximize my investment.
Oh yes. It has to be fun too!
I’m going to school in Florida, so altitude and power loss will not be an issue.
You’re the best!
M.M. Daytona Beach, FL.
A: Thanks for that great email!
There are only a few hatchbacks out there that you can get for about $13,000. Here are two of them. Why only two? Because Hyundai, Nissan, Kia, Ford, Honda and Toyota priced their entry-level hatchbacks well above $13,000.
Chevrolet Spark – I like the Chevrolet Spark. It’s fun, practical and it gets the job done. The new 2016 model looks less polarizing, but the current model will have bargain prices soon. Dealers want them off their lots to make way for the new models.
It’s frugal, zippy and corners fairly well. The Chevrolet Spark is damn good on rough surfaces too.
You can read and see video of the Chevrolet Spark (Video review of the 2014 Chevrolet Spark).
Best of all, you can get 4G-LTE connectivity (it works great) and the “Command Center” which allows you to take many of the apps from your phone and display them on a built-in screen.
Mitsubishi Mirage – While I have not driven the Mitsubishi Mirage yet, I can give you the basics. Like the Chevrolet Spark, the Mirage is one of the least expensive vehicles available in North America. It’s also one of the most frugal with a 37/44 mpg rating – the best mpg of any non-hybrid/non-diesel vehicle.
It also has seating for up to five, while the Chevy Spark can only hold four.
The Mirage has been a huge seller for Mitsubishi, a surprise “hit” if you will. It’s doing so well, there is no rush to discount it. Despite less than complimentary reviews, they sell quite well.
Both cars have 5-speed manuals (which I always suggest) or continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) which are available. While both cars offer a decent amount for the money, I think the Chevrolet Spark is the better car for you.
Thanks again and keep us in the loop!
This last question comes from a viewer who hates the Toyota Camry and is displeased that automotive journalists like it.
Q: Nathan. Why the hell does everyone love the Toyota Camry so much? It’s not just the consumers who buy it, its the journalists like you and Roman who seem to lie to the world about how good its supposed to be. A real journalist would say its boring, slow and non-car people are the only ones who would buy it.
Everyone knows that Camrys are slow. Everyone knows that they are terrible handling and not fun. If you buy a Camry, you only want a car that is the most simple of cars. At least the new Nissan Maxima has power and good looks!
Does Toyota pay you guys to say it’s so great?
A: You are terribly misinformed and your insults are unnecessary. Why all the hatred for a car that does so many things well? Your opinion of the Toyota Camry is baseless and juvenile. Let me explain why:
The Toyota Camry is built for people who want to drive, with passengers, comfortably and reliably. There’s no conspiracy here. It’s simply a damn good car. It does everything well.
Don’t believe me? Why not look up customer satisfaction indexes, reliability scores, performance numbers and sales numbers? I’ll go one better; if you’re old enough to drive, why not try one?
Sure, it’s no sports-car, it still has (very) good power. You can get a 268 horsepower V6. Trust me junior, it’s damn fast with that V6. Get the Toyota Camry SE or XSE and you’ll have a vehicle that can competently corner. All versions have an excellent highway ride and overall utility is top notch. Its reliability is legendary. These points are incontrovertible, as is the value quotient for the Toyota Camry.
Just like the Honda Accord and KIA Optima (among others), there’s a lot of car for the money.
Sorry the Toyota Camry bothers you. I suspect one of your parents or someone you know, and dislike, owns one. Sorry, it seems you don’t understand what many people have known for a long time: the Toyota Camry is simply a damn good car.
Oh, and by the way – Toyota pays us as much as Nissan pays you.
Got a question for Nathan? Drop him a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out this video as Roman tries to launch a Dodge Challenger Hellcat!