Q. I’m currently driving a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier sedan. Although I have kept the car well maintained, it is showing signs of age. Which cars can you recommend that will remind me somewhat of the Cavalier and return the best gasoline mileage? However, I don’t want a hybrid. Any thoughts?
A. The first car I would look at is the Chevy Cruze. It is the much updated version of the car you have today. There is a Cruze-Eco version that returns highway mileage of nearly 40 MPG. A car that has a bit of a different feel, but very economical and has proven to be a hit, is the Dodge Dart. Finally, I would look at the Volkswagen Jetta diesel. Volkswagen has done a great job with its diesel (the Cruze also has a diesel option). The last Volkswagen diesel that I drove returned an average of 46 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving and was great fun to drive.
Q. Do you have any recommendation for removing tree sap without taking it to a mechanic or harming my vehicle?
A. I have received several questions about tree sap lately. I would try a commercially available product such as Stoner Tarminator Bug/Tar/Sap/Grease Remover or Turtle Wax Bug and Tar remover. Both of these products will take off sap. These products will also typically remove any wax so you will need to wax and polish the car once it is clean. If this doesn’t work I would suggest an auto detail/reconditioning shop.
Q. Is it true that if you bring a car like a Maserati or Ferrari in for basic engine service once a year the cost can be thousands of dollars? Would this be the same for a car like a Mercedes-Benz? If so, these costs seem excessive.
A. As an example, the 60,000 mile service on a 2006 Mercedes Benz S600 will take about nine hours to complete. At an average repair rate at a Mercedes dealer of $120 per hour, the labor alone will cost over $1000. Of course other Mercedes models can be cheaper. In fact some luxury European imports include maintenance. I was recently reading a Ferrari owners page online and one owner posted that to replace the brakes on his 458 cost $24,000. Now of course these cars cost well over a quarter of a million dollars. Other owners talk about the 12 hours of routine service needed on some models. An old Ferrari mechanic I knew years ago once told me when it comes to servicing these cars, if you want to “drive like a sport you need to pay like a sport”.
Q. I’m considering ordering a Ford Edge SEL or Limited with the EcoBoost 4-cylinder package. Is it worth the cost and what are the downsides of running with it?
A. The four-cylinder EcoBoost engines provide six-cylinder power while delivering better fuel economy. The added cost of the Ecoboost engine is just about $1000 according to the website www.fueleconomy.gov. You can save about $300 per year with the Ecoboost 2.0 liter over the 3.5 liter V-6 engine. My suggestion is to drive the Edge with both engines before you make a decision. If you like the Ecoboost engine you will need to keep it about 40 months before the fuel savings pays for the extra engine cost.
Q. I am interested in purchasing a Honda Odyssey in the near future. I have owned three Odysseys in the past and like them very much. Usually, I wait until December and purchase the outgoing year model. This year I am thinking of purchasing a 2013 after the 2014 model is out. Is now a good time and what year model were you referring to in your article? If it was a 2014, what is your opinion of the 2013?
A. The last time I mentioned an Odyssey it was the 2014 model. The latest model includes the six-speed automatic transmission in all models which helps improve fuel economy. There were also additional standard safety features and updates, including a built in central vacuum. Several people I talked with would purchase the Odyssey just because of the vacuum. Regarding the 2013 Odyssey, of the recent crop of mini-vans, it is certainly a class leader.
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.