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I've just moved from the foothills to the Sierra Valley...

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Dear Tom and Ray:


I've just moved from the foothills to the Sierra Valley where the snow piles up and the winter winds blow. I'll be driving across this windy place every day next winter, and I'm thinking of selling my beloved old VW bug and buying an American made four wheel drive Jeep-type vehicle. However, several people have told me that the smaller ones are unstable in the wind due to the short wheelbase, narrow stance, and top heavy construction. I do not want a big truck or van, and I will not buy a Japanese car. Any suggestions?
Barbara

RAY: This is a tough one, Barbara. Your criteria are really in opposition to each other. What's good in the snow, and what's good in the wind are really two things that don't often go together.

TOM: For snow, you want something like a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle. The four wheel drive and heavy weight of these vehicles give you great traction, and the ground clearance helps you get through deep snow without getting hung up.

RAY: But since these vehicles are high off the ground, and since they tend to be boxy, they're pretty lousy in the wind. They get blown around because they're essentially big shoe boxes on wheels.

TOM: So you're going to have to compromise. If you're more concerned about the wind than the snow, your best bet would be a four wheel drive CAR rather than a sport utility vehicle. There aren't that many to choose from. Our favorites are the Audi Quattros, which are some of the nicest cars on the road. Unfortunately, they start at about $32,000 and go up from there. For a lot less, you could get a four wheel drive Suburu Legacy, but you told us you don't want a Japanese car.

RAY If snow is a bigger concern than wind, we'd have to recommend a Jeep Grand Cherokee. This is the new Jeep. It's got a wide stance, and it's big enough, sleek enough, and heavy enough so that it should be more stable than most sport utility vehicles in the wind.

TOM: And in general, it's a very nice vehicle. It's very car-like, it has good power, and it doesn't have the neo-barbarian interior that the old Cherokee has.

RAY: It also has some modern safety features that your old Bug doesn't have...like an airbag and anti-lock brakes.

TOM: And other great new technologies like heat, a defroster, and enough power to make the car move when you step on the gas. I think you'll like it, Barbara.
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