After this afternoon's excursion, and much discussion, we've decided which one of our three finalists will come to live here.
We drove the Jeep first, then the Honda, and finally the Chevrolet.
All models have a V6 and an automatic transmission. All models offer specific provisions for properly mounting a child safety seat in the rear seating area.
All three dealers had a salesperson out to greet us withing minutes; all were very low-key, and the Jeep guy remembered our names from last week when we drove through the lot.
First a few ground rules. I plotted a path to drive last night, and we drove all three trucks over the same route. Not hard to do at all, as all three dealers are located along College Avenue, the main drag through town, and are separated by less than 1-1/2 miles. It's a mix of main city streets, "suburban" side streets with drainage channels and speed bumps, and a busted up, unused parking lot with mounds of dirt and gravel. The radios were turned OFF so I could listen for any new and unusual power train and suspension noises, and the fan on the air conditioning was also turned down after we cooled the cabin in the dealer's lot.
These are my opinions of the vehicles we drove, based on what I expect from a vehicle like this, and my experience with a wide variety of vehicles.
IANAL, YMMV, and all the other fine print that goes along with that.....
The model we drove was a "Sport 'S'" model, two steps down the trim ladder from the Overland model I was pricing.
The Good - I was surprised at how well it rode. We could drive over the local speed bumps and drainage channels at the posted limit without drama. Turning radius was very good; I could easily make a u-turn in a cul-de-sac with >5' left over on each side. It was very quiet, and not annoying at all. Smooth riding, no tire noise, no annoying engine sounds, no clunks or groans over bumps. Interior fit and finish were better than I expected, even though the model we drove was the "Sport S" model, one step above the base model. The Overland model I'm pricing has an even nicer interior with leather and other "deluxe" touches. Nice and peppy, very good brakes with good pedal feel and modulation. I played with the one-step-below-what-we-want Infotainment system, and it worked very well. Instantly responded to the touch screen, and the Jeep also has REAL KNOBS for a lot of functions. Exterior fit and finish were excellent. Shiny paint, no orange peel, and tight, consistent panel gaps. Looks pretty well screwed together. Doors and tailgate close with a nice, solid feel, better than I expected considering the doors are "Wrangler Thin". Underhood access to battery terminals and fill points is excellent. FCA is offering 3.9% financing, and you get two years of complimentary ("free") maintenance.
The Bad - The steering uses a "Recirculating Ball" system, like in an old 1950's Chevy, and it has a vague feeling on-center. It almost feels like it's wandering, but the truck was tracking straight. It's an odd feeling if you've never experienced it, but it's fine once you start turning. It has decent road feel, and is nicely weighted but not "heavy" feeling. One of the car magazines said you feel like a "Ship's Captain In Heavy Seas" on the highway, and I can see where it could be a handful at 75MPH in a cross-wind. It's 5~6" narrower inside than any of the others we drove, and that was the first thing SLW noticed and commented on. Not quite "intimate" seating, but definitely closer than "normal". I almost felt cramped. Even at its lowest position, I felt the seat was too high off the floor, but I was able to find a comfortable position. The Overland model includes better seats with power controls, and may not have this issue, but this was the only one they had for demo use. Forward and side visibility are acceptable-to-good depending on where you're looking, but rear visibility not so much. There's a decent number of bins and storage spaces along with some groups of USB outlets, and the better radio comes with an "AUX IN" jack; narrow but very deep glove compartment.
The Ugly - I had a hard time getting in and out of it. Not pleasant. The roll cage structure intrudes enough inside that it's a head-knocker (see "cramped feeling" above), and I'd be cracking my noggin every time I got in or out. NOT good. The three-piece removable hardtop is nicely finished fiberglass on the inside, but NO padding or insulation is there until you buy the $600 "Headliner Group". I think it's more for insulation as I didn't notice any noise coming in through or from the roof.
The model we drove was an "RTL-E" model, exactly what we were looking for.
The Good - Holy smokes is this thing NICE! Beautiful interior with storage pockets, bins, and USB outlets everywhere. Wide, deep glove compartment. Has a nifty "Two Way" tailgate that drops down like a proper tailgate, and also swings sideways like some station wagons used to. Has a separate locking trunk in the cargo bed, and storage under the rear seat bottom. Rear seats fold up like a contortionist for more cargo space. They're loaded with well-designed, thoughtful touches. EXCELLENT outward visibility in all directions. Wide, roomy cabin. VERY quiet on the road, and sharp, responsive handling. "Rides Like A Car", and nice car at that. Turning radius was good; could easily u-turn in a cul-de-sac, with a few feet left over on each side. Multi-zone heating and cooling. Good, tight panel fit. Doors and tailgate close with a nice, solid "THUNK". Also seems to be pretty well put together. 1.9% financing available; NO complimentary ("free") maintenance, BUT the dealer only charges for the oil and filter. They eat the labor. These trucks are sometimes called "The Thinking Man's Pick-up Truck".
The Bad - These trucks are also referred to as "The Rodney Dangerfield of Pick-up Trucks", and it's not just because they don't get no respect from Real Truck People. They have some issues that I'd read about, and the drive revealed them. The Infotainment system is laggy and slow. Hit a button and it takes a noticeable time for it to react. NO KNOBS to make any adjustments with. Everything is handled through the touch-screen system. Underhood access to battery terminals and fill-points is poor. The hood prop was so hot after our test drive that I couldn't hold it. Steering is very light with little road feel; almost feels like "Drive-By-Wire". This is the first car I've ever driven with very nice handling and crappy steering. Maybe it gets better if you lean on it hard, but I didn't drive it like that. Brakes are substandard. Pedal travel is very long, and the brake pedal has a squishy, mushy feeling to it. NOT confidence inspiring, but it handled the hard stops I made OK. I made a comment to SLW wife that they felt like the brakes in my Dad's 1969 Olds 98, but she didn't get it. It had a low groan over certain uneven road surfaces, almost like the unibody was flexing some. And it was repeatable over the same and similar stretches of our "bad road" test course. Paint job not as good as on the Jeep, with some orange peel.
The Ugly - Honda builds these trucks all the same. The only differences are the color and trim level. This means ALL the "options" are really Dealer Installed Accessories, and dealer installation labor is NOT included in the list price of the accessory. The sales guy we talked to said he didn't know the labor rate the shop charged for installing each accessory off the top of his head, but there was a sheet listing those prices that he would use when time came to price out the truck we wanted.
They didn't have the *exact* model we're looking for (an 4WD "LT" model) but the one we drove was 99% the same; a 4WD "Z71" model.
The Good - Very peppy, EXCELLENT brakes, VERY good steering. Sharp and responsive handling with good road feel. The ride was a bit stiff, as the Z71 has slightly different springs and shocks on it, but otherwise very smooth riding, with crisp handling. The engine and trans feel like they really work well together, upshifting differently depending on throttle opening, and downshifting coming down a hill when it would help slow the vehicle a bit. It wins the "Fun-To-Drive" category hands-down. Infotainment system is wonderfully good. It has REAL KNOBS to do things with. It even has a knob for adjusting the instrument panel brightness! Honda should go ask GM for help. Outward visibility was excellent to the front and sides, and very good to the rear. Fit and finish in the cabin was very good; almost as nice as the Honda. We didn't think it felt "cheap" at all, at odds with what the car magazines say. Multiple cup holders, USB ports, and a wireless charging pad for your cellphone. Much wider inside and more comfortable than the Jeep, but not as good as the Honda. Really comfortable seats, and we could in and out no problem. The turning radius was exceptionally tight, tighter than the Jeep. Did the cul-de-sac U-Turn with >6' on each side. Excellent exterior fit and finish. Smooth, shiny paint and tight, consistent panel gaps. Doors and tailgate close with a solid "THUNK". Looks to be very well screwed together. Underhood battery terminal and fill point access excellent; better than the Jeep. GM is offering an instant 10% off MSRP, and 3.4% financing on In-Stock vehicles. There's NO complimentary ("free") maintenance, BUT the dealer gives you first oil change and inspection for free, and every 5th oil change is free.
The Bad - Back seat area not as roomy as the Honda, but the back set can fold up for more cargo storage. Doesn't have "Multi-Zone" A/c, and NO outlets pointing at the back seat passengers. Doesn't have some of the Driver Assistance features the others do, like Blind Spot Monitoring. The transmission made a disturbing, clunky, botched downshift the first time we came to a stop, but didn't do it again in over 30 minutes of driving. 2020 model production has ceased, and 2021's are just starting to come in. If you can't find an in-stock 2020 that you like, you'll be ordering a 2021.
The Ugly - Absolutely nothing, except maybe that the fuel economy isn't as good as the Honda, but it's a notch better than the Jeep.
And The Surprise Winner Is....... (drumroll, please...)
The Chevrolet Colorado!
Well, at least it is to *me*. Now I have to convince my wife.....which I did.
*** I loved the Jeep Gladiator, and it broke my heart after I drove it. It's just too cumbersome (meh visibility out of it; difficult ingress/egress) and too specialized (narrow for off-road and trail use) for me to live with it. Me haz the sads over this....
*** I was afraid I'd fall in love with the Honda Ridgeline, and it disappointed me. Vastly. It looks spectacular on paper, and then fails in the execution of some of it's features and systems. The brakes are a real sore spot with me, and the Infotainment system would be aggravating to live with. Some of the brake issues might be cured with better pads, but the long travel and mushy pedal are design issues. HONDA- Fix The Damn Brakes, will you? I'm sure they meet all applicable safety requirements, but they don't inspire much confidence. The numb steering I could live with because it's responsive, and it goes where it's pointed very well, but mushy brakes with overly long pedal travel are a NOGO in my book. As always, YMMV!
And give the electronics guys at GM a call while you're at it, and find out if they'll sell you the "Infotainment3" system. It's brilliant.
*** I was neutral on the Chevrolet Colorado, and it surprised me in a Very Good Way. I can't think of any major issues that the test drive showed. It accelerates, stops, steers, goes around corners, and rides far better than an off-road capable vehicle with a five foot bed attached to it has any right to.
SLW and I were discussing these pluses and minuses, and she agrees. She thought the poor underhood access on the Honda was unforgivable, and she's uncomfortable with the whole Dealer Installed Accessory thing because you won't know the total price of the vehicle, the Dealer Installed Accessories, and the labor to install them, until you sit down with the sales guy to "Price It Out".
SLW told the last car dealer we looked at that it would all come down to price, and getting a "good price" is her forte.
I'm off to look at current inventory in the surrounding area, and if we can find one like we want, we'll buy it. Otherwise I'll go online and use the Build-and-Price tool for a 2021.....
ANNNNND.....I found two in Colorado springs that are 95% matches. One is "Red Hot", the color SLW wants, and the other is "Crush", more of an orange shade.
This is the truck we're calling our sales guy about on Saturday :
Hopefully we can get it. It's a trim level higher (Z71 vs LT), and needs a spray-in bed liner and rigid tri-fold tonneau cover installed, but that's it. There were a few other trinkets on the one I "built" online, but the important ones, like the PosiTraction differentials are included in the Z71 package, and the others were things I can do without, like the "Power Pack" cat-back exhaust system, and some other trivial little thing.
The Kids and TLG sure will know when Grandma's coming!
UPDATE: We called the sales rep on our way to the Greeley Old Time Farm Show, and gave him the stock number, and he said he'd check. He called back to say they still have it (not sold yet), but the guy who handles the "Dealer Swaps" wasn't in on Saturday, and we'd have to commit to buy to get it up here.
Wife is mulling this over.....
Update to the Update: Well, now she says we're buying this truck. One thing that swayed her "distress" over having to pay $500 for a spray-in bedliner is that I found several places here, with good reputations, that will do it for less. Same with the $1099 (plus installation) rigid, folding tonneau cover. Found the same one at several shops here for $600, installed.
We're going to the Dealer Monday afternoon to get the ball rolling. I just hope the other dealer doesn't sell it between now and then. It's the ONLY one like it within 500 miles, and I'd like to move on it. If we wanted silver or white, I found 8 of those. Same with black. The local dealer has FOUR of them, all equipped the way we want, and there's another 8 or so within 250 miles.
If she can hammer out a deal to her liking, we'll probably be driving it before the end of the week. I was going to get the Jeep detailed and have the windshield replaced, but she's preparing to take the hit and trade it AS-IS. I'll be surprised if they offer us more than $3500 for it.....
UPDATE, Part III: Went to the Kelly Blue Book online price guide to see what my Jeep is worth. Being brutally honest about condition, it's worth $4150~$5375 as a trade, with my unique price being $4760. Selling it to a private party has a value range of $5850~$8100, with my unique asking price to be $7000. My "unique" price is based on options, mileage, and condition. A new windshield from SafeLite is ~$400 installed here at home, and a really good detailing will run about $375, more if I have them do the headlights, which are getting cloudy again.
Jeep defects include the cracked windshield, a sagging headliner in the area of the front sun visors (it's drooping from where it meets the windshield molding. Easy fix), the cloudy headlights, and even though I cleaned all the "stuff" out of it and vacuumed it with my shop vac, it's filthy. The carpets need to be shampooed, the seats cleaned and conditioned, and two small leather repairs need to be done.
Jeep assets include low mileage of 88,000, tires with only 3,000 miles on them, 4 new "premium" brake rotors with ceramic pads ~5,000 miles ago, regular maintenance with records, a premium Kenwood stereo with navigation and working steering wheel controls, no accidents, clean CarFax, clean title, rust-free "California Car", and one owner.
All of that means little to nothing to the trade-in appraiser, who's going to balance the low mileage and new tires against everything else, and low-ball me. I was just getting started with the spiffing up process, and now I doubt if I'll have time. I'm running it through the automatic car wash tomorrow, and selecting all the "Heavy Duty Super Scrub" options for the wash. It might help a little, but that cracked windshield is gonna jump and scream "JUNKER!!!" at the guy who decides what range of value they'll offer me.
I dug up all the various discounts and deals GM/Chevrolet is offering right now, along with looking at the dealer inventory of every_single_Colorado_Z71_truck within 500 miles. I picked up a lot of "hidden" information about The Sacred Dealer Fee, and the various advertised "special" prices, wrote down some observations, and turned it over to my Accountant and Business Manager, SLW. She'll digest it tomorrow in preparation for battle. I keep trying to explain to her it's like three separate negotiations, but she doesn't get it. You have to deal with the sales guy and his boss ("The Desk"), then there's the guy that does the appraisal, who you usually never even see, let alone talk to, and then you have the Finance Department to deal with.
Oh, well....she claims to know this cold, and I'm sure she knows the numbers, but I don't think she fully understands the sales people.
Monday should be interesting.....