Which luxury wagon should I choose?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who is ready to move on from his Honda Pilot.

Volvo V60 T8.
The Volvo V60 T8. –Volvo

Q. I’m in the market for a new vehicle. I’ve had sedans and SUVs, but it’s time for a change. My last vehicle was a Honda Pilot that I drove for 240,000 miles and may give to one of our kids. I like the utility of the vehicle, but now with the kids grown I just don’t need a big vehicle. Is there a big hatchback or station wagon that is worth a look or should I stick with another Pilot? I would like to stay under $60,000.

A. There are some very nice luxury wagons these days. These are not the barges from the 1960s and 70s with poor handling and even worse braking. This past year I evaluated the Volvo V60 with all-wheel-drive. This wagon handled the road like a sports sedan, had some of the utility of an SUV, and was comfortable to drive — all while returning an average of 26 miles per gallon. 

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Q. I heard you on your radio podcast just recently talking about an undercoating product called Waxoyl. I had never heard of it, and have always been skeptical about rust-proofing. Is it as good as it sounds? 

A. Waxoyl has been well documented in Europe and is often mentioned in used car advertising. It is a wax-based product that lasts a very long time, is flexible, and won’t harm rubber bushings. Generally, it is professionally installed, but recently Waxoyl-USA has a DIY version of both the undercoating and cavity-protection products.

Q. My car has poor headlights and even worse back-up lights. My brake lights are brighter than the backup lights. Do you have any experience with LED replacement bulbs for both headlights and backup lights? 

A. Some of the studies that we have performed at AAA show that for many cars, the headlight performance over 40 miles per hour is barely acceptable with only low beams on. In previous vehicles, I changed the bulbs to performance halogen and found the light to be not just brighter, but better focused on the road. What I didn’t like was the short life of these bulbs. I have not tried LED lights, but my aging eyes would benefit from more light on the road.  I have spoken to many people who have used LED replacement bulbs. Most have been happy with the outcome. What I have seen is quite a difference in quality between manufacturers. Some of these replacement bulbs are too bright, some will turn on a malfunction light, and others require modification of the bulb socket. If you are going to try LEDs, talk to an installer and read online reviews before purchasing.  

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Q. I have a Subaru WRX. I love the car except for the phone interface with the Harmon sound system and a slight rattle from the steering. I went to the Subaru dealer and talked with the tech-advisor who said he thought it was my older iPhone. I then went to service and they deemed the rattle acceptable. Other than these two minor issues, I love the car. 

A. The technical database that I use has at least a dozen bulletins about the sound system. Regarding the rattle, have the dealer reference TSB number 04-17-17R. This technical bulletin describes the rattle and a replacement of a small spring in the electric power steering. Regarding the sound system, the dealer needs to check that updates to both the software and hardware are up to date.  

Q. I have a newer Audi A6 and it seems as if the sunroof is rattling. I have two questions — any idea about the rattle, and it seems as if you don’t recommend Audi vehicles very often. Is there a reason for that? 

A. The sunroof noise can be caused by any number of issues — the track, roller shade, or even the motor and glass panel rattling. When a sunroof gets installed in a car, rattles are a possibility and not that many years ago were almost expected. Years ago, I was a third-party arbitrator for Porsche and I was assigned a case with a 911 and a leaky Targa-roof. The roof would leak in heavy rain, but the engineer from Porsche stated that since the roof panel was removable, water leaks were always a possibility. Today, in my opinion, leaks and rattles are not acceptable. The problem with your car could be a seal/gasket, loose sunroof cartridge, or trim panel. Work with your dealer and Audi customer service to get the problem resolved. I only try to recommend cars and products that I have evaluated. In the last year, Audi did not put vehicles into the press fleet that I work from. 

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John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.

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