Q. I hope you can help me. I have been driving a Saab since 1987. We bought our first one, and have been leasing ever since. Our current lease is up in September. My husband is a few years away from retirement, so we are planning to buy my next car. Obviously a Saab is out of the question, which is breaking my heart. In your opinion, which car out there is similar to a Saab 93? What I love about the car is how it drives; I feel so safe in it. I feel like I’m “one with the car.” My husband wants me to have all-wheel-drive. I like a sun roof and heated seats. I also don’t want a car that requires premium gas. Is there a car out there for me? Safe, reliable, and will last a long time?
A. One car that might work is the 2014 Lexus IS 250. It has the all-wheel-drive that you are looking for, previous models have a great track record, and you can get heated seats and a sunroof. In addition, the Lexus does well in crash testing (four-stars). Where the Lexus misses one of your boxes is fuel requirement. The Lexus uses 91 octane fuel. The other two cars cars that I would look at are the new Cadillac ATS and the Volvo S-60. Both get decent mileage, ride and handle very well. The Volvo has the Swedish heritage that you like and the Cadillac ATS is one of the best Cadillacs I have ever tested.
Q. I recently had repairs on my 2000 Subaru Outback including knock sensor and air charged temperature sensor replacement. When I went to get a sticker the car failed because they said the cars computer monitors were not set. They said drive the car around and come back. How many miles do I need to drive for the computer to reset?
A. Generally it can take up to 100 miles for the computer monitors to reset. Although, I am disappointed in the service facility that did the repairs, they should have tested that the monitors were set. There is a set procedure to perform on your car that is relatively simple. The fuel tank should be half full. Start the engine from cold and drive at least 15 minutes at a speed of greater than 50 MPH. Then drive at 55MPH without much pressure on the gas pedal for more than three minutes. Avoid sudden acceleration and hard braking and lane changes. This procedure should set all the monitors.
Q. Our family is expanding and we are considering a mini-van. We currently have a Subaru Outback and it has met our needs quite well. Now we need something that will seat more and have room for more car seats. We also have a dog that takes up a fair amount of room. What do you think?
A. I recently drove the Honda Odyssey van and came away very impressed. This is a good sized van that can seat up to eight adults. It has a great rear seat entertainment center and a built in vacuum cleaner. The seats are also designed to allow more versatile car seat use with the LATCH system. In addition to all these features, when I was driving this van I also was getting between 25 and 27 miles per gallon.
Q. I recently needed the air conditioner condenser replaced on my car and the mechanic charged me $425 for a condenser. When I checked with the dealer the factory part was over $650. Everything seems okay, but do you think I will have a problem with the cheaper part?
A. Many replacement parts are equal to or in some cases even better than the factory parts. But the old saying that you get what you pay for is also true. Using my car as an example, there are condensers that range in price from $68.00 to $300, with the original dealer supplied part having a price of $450. Certainly they all may work, but generally the more expensive parts will fit better and last longer. In fact, one of the replacement parts is made by the same supplier as the original part. My advice it always to look at quality, fit, warranty and price, with price being the last criteria.
John Paul, the “Car Doctor,” is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England and a columnist for Boston.com. A certified master technician, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on 950 WROL in Boston (www.wrolradio.com) on Saturday mornings at 9. Need car advice? E-mail John at email@example.com or go to www.boston.com/cardoctor for past columns, tips, and repair help.