Q. I would like to buy a new Porsche Cayman, 911, or Boxster. But I would have to drive it year round, and have been told by several owners that even the all wheel drive models are really not safe in the snow. Do you have any sense of the answer to this question?
A. My experience with all-wheel-drive Porsche models is that when properly equipped with snow tires, performance in the snow is only limited to road clearance and common sense. Even the rear wheel drive Boxster with proper winter tires does pretty well in the snow. In fact in the past several years, members of the New England Motor Press Association have voted the Porsche 911with all-wheel-drive, as best in class all-weather sports car.
Q. I’ve been reading your column for many years and enjoy your candid advice, tips, and reviews I have a quick question for you. I’m soon to be in the market to replace my 2004 Volkswagen Passat wagon. My family (3 people/ 1 dog) head up to the mountains in N.H. for skiing, and are looking for an all wheel drive wagon. Our options appear to be a new Subaru Outback or a Volvo XC 70 with around 40K miles in excellent condition. Do you have an opinion you’d be willing to share with me? Friends swear by both cars, with the Volvo owners bragging about longevity and comfort, and the Subaru owners bragging about value and capability. I’d very much appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
A. Both are great cars but in terms of overall dependability I would put the Subaru slightly ahead of a Volvo. Add in, that the Subaru is new and has a full warranty and the Volvo is used with a limited warranty the Subaru would be my choice. The 2014 Outback offers a versatile interior, proven all-wheel-drive system, decent fuel economy and luxury touches such as heated seats as well as Subaru’s new EyeSight driver assistance system. This system includes handy safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure and a collision warning with brake assist.
Q. A family member has a 1998 Saturn SL2 with low mileage. The problem is an intermittent fast idle. When the car is taken into the repair shop the problem can’t be reproduced. At first the RPM was 1800 but lately it can go to 2400 RPM. Most of the time the idle speed is a fairly normal 800 RPM. I have pulled up on the gas pedal and checked the cable under the hood with no change. I am worried that it will run away or damage the automatic transmission. What can I have them check?
A. A few things that should be checked are a vacuum leak. Possible sources are the PCV hose as well as the intake manifold, both can cause vacuum leaks which can cause the idle speed to jump. The other common issue is the coolant temperature sensor. This sensor or its associated wiring can be intermittently faulty. When this happens the computer thinks the engine is cold and speeds up the idle.
Q. My new 2013 Nissan Rogue will not shift out off low speed in cold/zero degree weather. I generally have to drive about two miles before it will shift, is there something wrong?
A. Your Nissan Rogue and many Nissan products don’t actually shift gears. The transmission is referred to as a CVT or continuously variable transmission. This type of transmission has an infinite number of effective gear ratios to optimize power and/or fuel economy. It is would not be unusual for the cars computer to hold the transmission in a higher ratio for quicker engine and catalytic convertor warm up. Based on my experience with late model Nissan products, I would consider this characteristic normal.
Q. I just bought a Ford C-Max hybrid and asked for it in red, which they didn’t have at the dealership so they picked it up in Long Island, NY. When I picked up the car on the price sheet they added $300 to the cost of the car because it was red, is this standard procedure?
A. There are three colors of the Ford C-Max that command a premium price one of them is ruby red metallic which actually has a retail price of $395. It would have been best if they let you know about the price premium for your paint choice but the actual paint cost to the dealer was $353.00 I feel the dealership treated you fairly.
Q. Over the past year my Honda Accord has been presenting a symptom of what feels like the transmission “chattering” when I step on the gas. This usually happens in lower gears. I’m certain that I saw a question/answer in your column recently addressing this problem. We would like to catch this issue under our extended warranty which is up soon. The dealership says that it has no knowledge of this type problem, any ideas?
A. The chattering problem on some Honda products has been cured with a transmission fluid change and a computer update. I would ask the dealership if there are any updates available to cure this problem. The symptom you describe could also be the beginning of an engine misfire and is certainly worth looking into.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.