Suburban Dad: Taking My Daughter to College in a 2012 Nissan Quest

It's a rite of passage for many families: driving your kid off to college. For our daughter, this meant a 1,500-mile trip from the Chicago suburbs to upstate New York. Assisting us on this trip was the 2012 Nissan Quest minivan. Given that I was recently in the Ford Flex for our summer vacation, this gave me a nice opportunity to compare and contrast two different types of family haulers, crossover versus minivan. Here's what we found.

By the numbers
On the way there: 713 miles
Driving time: 11 hours 40 minutes Leg mpg: 22.8

On the way back: 633.6 miles (because we have relatives in the area, we started our return trip 80 miles closer to home)
Driving time: 10 hours Leg mpg: 21.6

Full trip: 1,582 miles (includes miles racked up during the three days we were in upstate New York)

By Patrick Olsen | September 3, 2012 | Comments (3)

Living with MyFord Touch on a 3,500-Mile Road Trip


Ask Ford's reps about MyFord Touch and they say if you live with the system, you'll love it. They say that 80% of Ford owners with the system would recommend it to others.

My family and I lived with it for two weeks. Let me be clear: We did not love it.

Some of the issues that were prevalent when it debuted remain today on the 2013 Ford Flex, though it was supposed to have updated software. Among our issues:

By Patrick Olsen | August 22, 2012 | Comments (22)

A 3,445-Mile Road Trip in the 2013 Ford Flex

It was an ambitious roadmap for a summer vacation: Go from Chicago to the Twin Cities, across Minnesota and through Bismarck, N.D., down to Rapid City, S.D., to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, and then over to Denver before returning to Chicago. It included Alpine sledding, whitewater rafting and a trip to the top of Pikes Peak. All in a refreshed 2013 Ford Flex.

Now, we've driven each version of the Flex before. Our first trip took us in the original version from Chicago to upstate New York. Two years ago, we drove an EcoBoost-equipped Flex from L.A. to Chicago. This time, we had a new Flex with the stronger-than-the-original base engine.

Here are bits and pieces of how the trip went.

By Patrick Olsen | August 21, 2012 | Comments (13)

Suburban Dad: 2011 Chevy Traverse vs. 2010 Ford Flex

2011 Chevy Traverse vs. 2010 Ford Flex
If you’re a family on a budget (and mine certainly is), you might think a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Ford Flex is too much three-row crossover for you. As you might have read, I drove a fully loaded Flex Limited from Los Angeles to Chicago earlier this summer, but I recently got the chance to take the Traverse for a long drive to Lansing, Mich., and back (passing the plant where the Traverse was built as well). Turns out the EcoBoost Flex may not cost much of a premium at all.

It’s always tricky to compare apples to apples with cars we test, as the trim levels often vary, as is the case here. But if you were out on dealer lots cross-shopping the two models, the Ford turbo is only a few hundred dollars more than a comparably equipped Traverse. And in my road-trip testing, an all-wheel-drive Flex returned better mileage than a front-wheel-drive Traverse. Below is what I thought of the two trims I took on the road. To see how the comparably equipped models stack up, you can check out their specs head-to-head here.

By Suburban Dad | October 8, 2010 | Comments (10)

2011 Kia Sorento: Suburban Dad

Compared with the previous generation, I fell in love with the redesigned 2011 Kia Sorento. I thought its predecessor looked great — very trucklike — but it was kind of gutless. The new model doesn’t suffer from that, and with lots of goodies onboard and a decent price tag (around $32,000 as-tested and the base model starts at $19,995), this crossover/SUV could well be on the short list when I need to buy my next family car.

By Suburban Dad | October 6, 2010 | Comments (0)

Suburban Dad: 2010 Ford Flex EcoBoost Gas Mileage

The Flex performed pretty well on our cross country move, given that we had two adults and a car full of cargo. Its EPA rating is 16/22 mpg city/highway. The 2011 Flex EcoBoost is rated at 16/21 mpg for some reason. We traveled a total of 2,024 miles over four days. Here’s how each day broke down:

Day 1
  • Distance: 550.7 miles
  • Travel time: 10 hours
  • Terrain: Combination of flat desert roads and crossing the San Bernardino Mountains, and beginning to climb into the Rockies in Utah.
  • MPG: 22.8
  • Notes: Our mileage was likely affected to some extent by trying to keep two cars together on the journey. Still, the Flex’s cruise control worked terrifically, and the steering-wheel controls made slowing down and speeding up easy, not nerve-wracking.
By Suburban Dad | July 14, 2010 | Comments (3)

Suburban Dad: 2010 Ford Flex vs. 2008 Ford Flex

Fully loaded
The biggest difference between the Flex I drove cross-country in 2008 and the one in 2010 is the optional EcoBoost engine. While I didn’t find the Flex to be a laggard in ’08, the added power from the EcoBoost engine was a welcome addition on this lengthy haul. While in 2008 the trip was largely flat, with little in the way of topography, this time around we scaled the Rockies, both up and down, and the Flex handled those daunting tasks admirably.

Hitting steep uphill slopes, the EcoBoost kicked when needed, although there is one thing drivers should be aware of: When trying to pass, if you step hard on the accelerator, there will definitely be some torque steer as the Flex explodes in response. It’s not overwhelming, but you definitely have to be ready for it.
By Suburban Dad | July 13, 2010 | Comments (4)

Suburban Dad: The Great Drive Midwest

This summer I didn’t pack up the family for a cross-country, multiple test-car excursion. If you don’t recall my past summer cross-country excursions with family in tow — I’m still trying to forget myself — you can check them out here and here.

Instead, this year’s endeavor has more of a focus: My father is moving back to Chicago to be closer to us, and this trip entails packing up all of his stuff and leaving Los Angeles, his home for virtually all of the last 50 years. My elder son is coming along to help pack and move. My nephew is coming along as well.

We’ll be making the trip this time in a Ford Flex Limited, complete with the EcoBoost engine and the Sync entertainment system. What else is in it?
  • Leather (heated) seats; we didn’t need the heated portions, of course
  • Sirius satellite radio and Sync-connected weather info, movie times and gas prices
  • All-wheel drive
  • Panoramic roof (not much use to us since we were carrying cargo, not people, in the back)
  • Sticker price without destination charges: $45,245
By Suburban Dad | July 12, 2010 | Comments (1)

Suburban Dad: 2010 Mazda3 vs. 2002 Mazda Protege


While the new Mazda3 has lots of advantages over my own ’02 Protegé, there are just enough changes for the worse that I wouldn’t pick that car today if I were looking for a second car for my family.

Back in 2002, I needed a car that I could commute solo 90 miles a day, five days a week, but I also needed a car that could carry all three kids and my wife if need be. The backseat offered plenty of room, or at least enough room that the kids wouldn’t kill each other.

Fast-forward to last week, and the Mazda3, which certainly is way more contemporary — and decked out to the nines — had a backseat that wasn’t comfortable for my three teens, or even the three smaller kids I had back in ’02. And yes, we know the 2010 actually has larger interior dimensions, sometimes those numbers don’t equal real-world testing with real-live bodies that don’t like being next to each other.

By Suburban Dad | June 11, 2010 | Comments (24)

Does Today's Dad Need More Power?


Over the last few weeks, I was able to get into two crossovers with upgraded engines. While both offered more horsepower, I wasn’t completely floored by either, and it begs the question of whether they’re worth the additional cost compared to their basic offerings.
By Suburban Dad | September 25, 2009 | Comments (13)

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