We spent the weekend down in the Boston area, where Kate was doing stuff at Readercon and I was running the kids around the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science (nominally in the company of a friend form college and his family, and some of Kate’s cousins (respectively), but either SteelyKid or The Pip was usually in a different room than everybody else, so there wasn’t a lot of adult conversation…). Adding a fun element of excitement to this was the fact that some sort of electrical fault in my car had caused the speedometer to go dead right around the time we reached Boston on Friday. Which would’ve been a great answer had I been tagged for speeding (“No, Officer, I have literally no idea how fast I was going…”), but contributed to the general stress of chasing the kids by making me worry whether something more substantial was going to fail and strand us in the middle of nowhere.
The car in question is a 2007 Ford Freestyle, notably featured here, and has generally been very good to us. I’ve been thinking about replacing it for a while now, though, and this moves “new car” a bit up the priority list. and makes a decent topic for a blog post while I wait for the dealership to tell me what’s wrong with the wiring.
The fundamental problem here is that, in terms of ideal vehicles for what we do, Kate and I have mismatched requirements. She drives a Prius, but most of her commute is on the highway, so she doesn’t get quite the full advantage of the hybrid, mileage-wise. And I drive a Freestyle, but we live two and a half miles from campus, so the vast majority of my driving is short-distance stop-and-go stuff, where my traditional gas engine gets lower mileage. Of course, that’s not something easy to fix– the reason we live where we do is that my job has more flexible hours that allow for quickly running home during the day, and Kate’s doesn’t. And we can’t just swap cars, because neither of us is fully comfortable driving the other’s vehicle– I can drive the Prius if I have to, but it’s much too small for me to use on a routine basis, and Kate’s not all that wild about driving a big car.
We also need to have at least one large vehicle, because we have kids. And, yeah, the Prius holds more than you might think, but it’s much, much easier to fit all the crap we haul around when we go on weekend trips into the Freestyle. And we’re getting to the point where we’re likely to find ourselves hauling SteelyKid to lots of activities– she’s really into taekwondo at the moment– and probably bringing her friends along.
The problem is there doesn’t seem to be anything that I can drive comfortably that gets substantially better mileage than the Freestyle. This is largely a matter of poor interior design– Subaru, for example, makes very popular cars that are large enough in terms of the frame, but they have a center console that pins my right knee against the steering wheel, rending it impossible to drive. Ford has also re-done their whole line so that a direct replacement isn’t possible; the Flex is as close as they get, but the mileage isn’t any better.
But I’m not really a car guy, so I don’t know much about what’s out there. So I’ll throw this out on the blog: Is there a large-ish vehicle out there that gets decent mileage (defined here as “significantly better than 20mpg city”) that I ought to be looking at as a replacement for my car? I’m willing to (somewhat reluctantly) go over to the minivan side (SteelyKid actually requested “One of those doors that slide open” the other day), if that’s what it takes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Suggestions of the form “You should bike/walk to work instead, you awful Earth-destroying monster” are not helpful unless accompanied by an offer to come babysit my kids for an hour a day to make up for the time I would spend biking/walking. Follow-up suggestions of the form “You just need to manage your time better” will be met with an anatomically improbable suggestion, then deleted, so save us both the trouble and don’t type them into the comment box in the first place.