Q. I am thinking of replacing my 2001 Toyota Avalon with a car that would have similarly generous legroom in the front and back for my daughter and I (both long of limb), as well as equally comfortable seats and ride. My other car, a 2006 Hyundai Sonata and an otherwise decent car, falls down in those areas so it is not great for us on a road trip. I was pleasantly surprised when I test drove a 2014 Subaru Legacy sedan recently. It was quite comfortable and roomy with good visibility, and it offers some impressive active safety features like lane change warning and blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision automatic braking. Based on that positive experience, I am seriously considering the redesigned 2015 Legacy, but am wondering what else is out there that offers its copious legroom, comfortable seats and ride, and safety. My daughter will learn to drive soon, and I am getting older it seems, so the automatic braking and some of the other safety features that help scan the road are important to me. All-wheel drive is not necessary. I would like to keep it under $34,000 and would appreciate your suggestions.
A. The Toyota Avalon in 2001 had about 41 inches of legroom. Three cars that exceed the legroom of your Avalon by at least a couple of inches are the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, and Hyundai Azera. Depending on what features you are looking for in addition to legroom, any one of these cars are easy to recommend. My former producer for my radio program; Dennis is 6’5” and is comfortable in his Fusion. Although specifications are a handy starting point, you really need to try each car you are looking at to find the one that is most comfortable.
Q. My 2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited has, since 2013, developed an annoying dead battery trick, even after the original battery was replaced last year. This car is driven as little as possible to conserve fuel and reduce pollution, 33,000 miles to date. Recently I drove about 100 miles and let the car sit for a couple of days and it started with no problem. After the return trip, the car sat for a couple of days and didn’t start. The dealer could find nothing wrong with the battery or charging system, put a battery charger on the car, and fully charged the battery. I drove the car about 20 miles and parked it for about an hour. When I returned home, it took about four hours to bring the battery up to a full charge. In addition to this problem, the ventilation system switches to “recirc” from outside air when traveling, what gives?
A. I would keep working with your dealer to find an answer. The car is obviously not completely recharging the battery for one reason or another. The problem could be the alternator, poor electrical connections, or even something as simple as a loose alternator belt. In addition, I would see if any recalls have been performed. Many 2006-2010 Highlander hybrids have been recalled for an issue with Intelligent Power Module (IPM) inside the vehicle’s electrical inverter module. The ventilation issue could also be a result of a poor electrical connection or an underperforming charging system.
Q. I bought a new 2009 Toyota Camry with 5-speed automatic transmission and I immediately started to have trouble; when it is cold, it will “choke up” and the tachometer will drop to about 400RPM and then recover. This all happens within less than a second and will continue until the transmission warms up. It will only happen in cold weather. I took it back to the dealer and left it all night so they could test it when the car was cold. They said they could not duplicate the condition. I did have my complaint documented for any future claims. It now has 60,000 miles and otherwise runs fine. Do you think it will eventually break down?
A. This model year Toyota has a history of transmission problems that can usually be resolved with re-programming of the car’s computer. Although, in the case of your car, the problem is more typical of a dirty or carboned up throttle body and intake system. Before continuing with additional repairs, I would consider a thorough cleaning of the engine throttle body.
Q. I’m still looking for a car to get me to the train, about seven miles a day, but would like to spend under $5000. I am okay with something over 100,000 miles, but do need a car with some size. It looks like Ford Taurus and Chevy Impalas from 2000 to 2007 are not a good choice. I do see that 2000-03 Buicks, Lincolns, and Cadillacs can be had for about $5000 with around 110,000 miles on them. Are there glaring problems with these makes from those years that would make them an unwise purchase?
A. Any one of these cars can be good or bad choices, it really depends on how the car was maintained and driven. Many of the General Motors cars have or had intake manifold gasket issues. Some Ford products can be prone to head gaskets issues and even as good as Toyota and Honda vehicles are they can have transmission and oil consumption problems. Find a car you like and have it check out by a qualified repair shop.John Paul is AAA CarFacts® Car Doctor. He has over 30 years of experience in the automobile industry and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. He will answer readers’ car repair and maintenance questions of general interest every Saturday. Tune in to John Paul The Car Doctor on wrolradio.com Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. Follow him on Twitter @johnfpaul.