Denice asks:With winter coming up and people worried about vehicle purchases to get them through harsh winter driving conditions, what advice do you have about fuel efficiency in four-wheel drive vehicles? Also, with gas prices high and expected to stay that way, what should a buyer look for in a four-wheel drive vehicle, taking into consideration the possibility of a resale down the road?

Corey says:

Thank you for your question Denice. It is a good one.

Balancing performance needs, like four-wheel drive capabilities, with strong fuel economy can be a challenge, however there are some good options.

If you are able to fill your needs with either a car or a station wagon-sized vehicle there are many that come with four-wheel or all-wheel drive, so you can have the best of both worlds. Car-like gas mileage and four-wheel drive capabilities, not to mention easier parking and driving than a larger SUV, will be advantages.

One of the top manufactures of these types of vehicles is Subaru, which manufactures small and mid-sized cars and station wagons. Volkswagen and Audi make four motion, all-wheel drive versions, and Toyota has come out with an all-wheel drive vehicle, the Matrix, which is a small hatch back with good cargo room and excellent gas ratings.

If an SUV is more your style you may want to go smaller. Just about every manufacturer has a small SUV to offer and many of them have gas mileage ratings similar to those of mid' and large-size cars. In this category, the Ford Escape and the Mazda Tribute are two of the top gas brands and the Escape also has a hybrid version. This version of the Escape has the best gas mileage in this category and has won many awards for being green.

Be careful though. Smaller does not always mean strong gas mileage. The Jeep Liberty is a small SUV, but gets the gas mileage of a mid-sized to large SUV. If saving on gas is a top priority for you, make sure to do your research and find the government rating for the vehicle you are interested in. A good source for this is www.fueleconomy.gov.

Finally, if size is what you need for either cargo or people moving, you still have options. If moving people is the primary interest and towing is not a high priority, you can select from several four-wheel drive mini-vans. If you can get over the minivan image, these are some of the most practical vehicles on the planet, offering car-like fuel economy with the ability to move seven or even eight people and their stuff. The Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town and Country and Chevy Uplander all offer four-wheel drive versions. You can expect to get in the low 20 MPG with most of these vehicles in mixed driving, very similar to a large car. Finally, if you also need to tow, you can go with a large SUV that converts between an eight cylinder and four cylinder engine capacity, depending on your needs. The Chevy Tahoe has a version that gives you the capability of a V8 when you need it, but, when you are cruising along, shuts down half of the motor. They also offer a hybrid version on these as well.

This is the least fuel efficient choice, but you must balance needs as well. Fuel economy is not always the only consideration.

Make a list of your needs and then pick the vehicles that fit them. Then research your best options.

Good luck and good shopping.

Meet Corey

I started out in the auto sales business in 1990, selling mostly new cars on the Lehigh Auto Mile. I served for five years in the military and then returned to the automobile business, spending the next several years as a business development manager and now store manager of a brand new pre-owned dealership in Quakertown. I've always believed that the best customer is an educated customer. To e-mail Corey, send your question to jpopichak@berksmontnews.com

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