Q. I have a fantasy question for you. If you had a choice, would you buy a Nissan GT-R or a Porsche 911?
A. Interesting question. Depending on the model 911, both cars on paper are quite similar. They are both ridiculously fast, with phenomenal handling, stunning good looks, under full acceleration sound wicked, and both have completely useless rear seats. Recently I had the opportunity to compare both cars almost back to back on both city and highway roads. The Porsche is, in my opinion, more stylish and feels more sophisticated. The GT-R feels rougher around the edges. In this fight, think of the GT-R as a tough street fighter versus a black-belt. Where the 911 turned heads everywhere I drove, the GT-R felt downright stealthy. If you compare every aspect of both cars, actual and subjective, the 911 would likely be the winner. Although I would take either car in a heartbeat, there is something about the GT-R that works for me.
Q. When my previous car had the front pads replaced, the mechanic used ceramic pads. They appeared to work as well as the factory pads with one difference, there was no brake dust on the wheels. Why don't the cars come with ceramic pads when new? I see so many vehicles with the wheels ruined by the brake dust.
A. I have used ceramic pads as well and appreciate the lack of brake dust. My only thought is it must be a matter of economics. When I purchased the ceramic pads for my car they were nearly twice the cost of a premium conventional brake pad. For a vehicle manufacturer, this translates in to millions of dollars of additional costs.
Q. I read your column and find it interesting. I'm considering a new car. I have a 2007 Volvo XC 70. I like everything about this car but it is approaching 100,000 miles and I'm thinking it's time for a new one. I have maintained it well and have not had any problems, but I worry about reliability with so much mileage. Replacing this Volvo with the same car is out of my budget. I am confused with all the different makes and models to choose from. I like the configuration of the wagon or small SUV or maybe even a hatchback. My budget is $35,000 and I want all-wheel-drive, leather seats, a safe car, six-cylinder engine, decent economy, GPS and American made would be nice. Do you have any suggestions?
A. The GMC Terrain offers everything you are looking for in a small SUV and is certainly worth a look. The other small SUV is the RAV4 by Toyota, it can be ordered with all-wheel-drive and a six-cylinder engine and most of the items on your list. My other suggestion is don’t overlook today’s four-cylinder engines. They are smooth and in some cases more powerful than older six-cylinder engines. If a four-cylinder engine isn’t a deal breaker, the Subaru forester may be a good replacement for your Volvo. Then again, you could always keep your Volvo.
Q. I own a 2006 Honda Element EX AWD with approximately 96,000 miles. My little SUV needs four new tires, which I estimate will cost about $800. I'm undecided as to whether I should invest this amount of money in a six-year old vehicle or trade it in.
A. Today we see cars routinely lasting 200,000 miles or more. If the Element still meets your needs and you are prepared to spend more money on additional maintenance such as brakes, suspension, drive belts and fluid changes, I can’t see any reason not to keep your car.