This seems to come up pretty regularly (and did so in conversation today), so I thought I’d solicit the opinions of you knowledgeable Opponauts. Let’s say, like most of my friends, you’re an active couple or small family, with a kid or two and/or a dog or two, with a budget that tops out around $10,000. You want an SUV that’s tough enough for winter and some offroad duty—say, to go camping, skiing, or hunting—and big enough to carry people and gear, but comfortable and safe enough to daily drive in the city on weekdays. Reliability is a high priority, and non-terrible fuel economy would be nice for the commute and road trips.
For example: I have an FJ80 for some of these purposes, and it ticks the reliabilty, size, and toughness boxes. But I certainly don’t drive it every day, and I don’t think I’d want to: if it were to be a family’s only car, it fails a few: the fuel economy is terrible, the creature comforts are lacking, it doesn’t have any modern safety features, etc. So what would you recommend?
The ideas I’ve had are heavy on Toyota trucks because that’s what I know: a Gen 3 or higher-mileage Gen 4 4Runner or an FJ100 Land Cruiser? A Sequoia is probably too big. An Explorer? An older BMW X5? A quad-cab pickup with a bed cover? The world is your oyster.
I suppose if you spend less of the $10k budget up front, you can use more of the rest on modifications or to make up for bad fuel economy, or on maintenance for something a little less reliable. What say you, Oppo?