Rugged retirement vehicle, offbeat car suggestion, Problematic Navigator, High-Mileage Accord

Q. As I approach retirement, I’m looking for a semi-rugged vehicle that I can drive cross country on “the roads less traveled” to enjoy the country and go fishing and hiking. I’ll be spending lots of seat time, so the vehicle needs to be comfortable for long trips. I’m looking for a vehicle that has supportive comfortable seats, robust 4WD system, good power for hills and off-road driving and decent fuel economy. I will be doing much of this driving alone and want some modern technology and a good sound system. Easy access to cargo space is important, but I don’t think a pick-up truck even with a cap would work. I have been driving a Subaru, but I don’t think it has what it takes for this journey. My budget is no more than $40,000, any thoughts?

A. The Toyota 4Runner, in my opinion, is a good choice; it is a solid reliable vehicle with great off-road ability, although fuel economy is only about 20 miles per gallon. Right at the top of your budget is the Jeep Grand Cherokee with the V-6 engine. With 295 horsepower a solid 4WD system and about 25 miles per gallon the Grand Cherokee certainly could work. Finally, don’t rule out the latest Subaru Outback, it delivers good mileage, dependability and 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a comfortable on-road ride.

Q. Over the years I have always owned weird cars such as a Sterling, Lincoln Blackwood, Jensen Interceptor and even a Morgan. During this time, I also drove a dependable Lexus. As time has gone by, I am looking for another new somewhat off-beat vehicle. Looking at new cars, they are all kind of the same. Do you have any suggestions for something that I won’t see on the road?

A. There are certainly some cars worth waiting for, the Toyota Supra, mid-engine Corvette, and Dodge Viper should prove interesting. One alternative might be a resto-mod, essentially an older car with a modern drivetrain you can drive every day. Readers do you have any suggestions?

Q. I have a Lincoln Navigator and I was driving on the highway doing about 65 miles per hour and suddenly the car lost power. As muscled my way to the side of the road fearing that I would be killed, I got to the break-down lane. I collected my thoughts, started the engine and it has been running fine. I expected this big Lincoln to be my last car, but not quite yet! I’m 78 years old and have never had anything quite like this happen. Even if this issue is fixed, I have lost faith in the vehicle and don’t think I will ever feel comfortable driving it. What should I do?  

A. You should go to the Lincoln dealer, explain what happened and have them check for computer codes but also to see if there any computer updates that need to be applied. Once the problem has been found and the repair completed and fix verified, I personally wouldn’t have any concerns with the vehicle.

Q. I’m the original owner of an old Honda Accord with 224,000 miles. This year the check engine light has come on six times. My mechanic replaced the oxygen sensors, purge valve, and the catalytic converter. At all of this time, the car ran great it and the repairs were just to address the check engine light problem. Much money later the light still comes on. Any ideas?

A. At this point, the technician will need to follow standard procedure to check the cause of the check engine light. One possible issue is if the shop used an aftermarket catalytic converter. I have seen many aftermarket converters, that just don’t work properly.  You spent your money at the shop and they should be providing some sort of warranty that the vehicle is completely repaired.

John Paul is AAA’s Car Doctor. He is an automotive expert who has been writing and talking about cars for more than 30 years. He also hosts the Car Doctor radio program on WROL radio in Boston. Email John at jpaul [at]

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