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I never thought I'd be driving something that sucks gas...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I never thought I'd be driving something that sucks gas as fast as my '97 Ford Expedition does. I am wracked with guilt, but I can't figure out an alternative vehicle. Please help me find a solution, or grant me automotive absolution. I live in rural New Hampshire and have three huge dogs, two horses, plus a husband with a wooden speedboat. They all either ride in or are towed behind the Expedition. Six grandkids and their four parents fly in for extended visits, sometimes simultaneously. Assorted siblings, nieces and nephews drop in for weekends or longer. I've been able to fit three adults, three kids, the dogs and groceries in the Expedition without using the roof rack. Also, my Expedition is invaluable to me as an EMT with the town's volunteer fire department. We respond to emergencies in our personal vehicles, in all kinds of weather and on all kinds of roads, from interstate to dirt. Please let me know whether I'm forgiven for driving such a gas hog, or am destined to burn in a noxious hell where no one's ever heard of a catalytic converter. -- Kimberly

TOM: Kimberly, just say 10 "Hail Saudi Arabias" and 10 "Our Kuwaits," and all will be forgiven, my child.

RAY: It's really very decent of you to want to drive a smaller vehicle, but you are probably one of the 400 people on Earth who can actually justify a Ford Expedition. Between the humongous dogs and towing the horses, and the New Hampshire weather and the dirt roads, this is actually the perfect vehicle for you.

TOM: We've never said we're against SUVs. We just don't think everybody on the planet needs one. And we've asked the urban commuter who drives to work alone in her 11-miles-per-gallon Ford Expedition to consider whether something slightly less gluttonous might do the trick when the lease is up.

RAY: But SUVs are very versatile vehicles, and if your lifestyle actually takes you on snowy dirt roads with huge dogs and a couple of buffalo in tow, then what else are you going to drive? If it weren't for the towing, an all-wheel-drive minivan might do the trick, but not for serious towing.

TOM: So drive on, Kimberly, and don't worry about it. But if you ever get down to two dogs, do think about downsizing to an Explorer.
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