How much does that heavy tow package impact a vehicle's handling and performance?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

My wife is a faithful listener of your radio show and reader of your column, so I know she will take your advice on this question. She's interested in buying a Pontiac Aztek, and I agree that the car would be good for her. However, we have one area of disagreement: I would like to get one with a trailer-towing package for an extra $325. My wife is against it, even if I were to pay for the package. It includes a trailer wiring harness, high-output alternator, air compressor, engine-oil cooler, heavy-duty engine-cooling system and rear suspension with auto leveling. I feel that even if we never tow anything, all of the extra heavy-duty equipment would be worth the extra money. Diana feels that the heavy-duty stuff might change the ride. She liked the smooth ride and doesn't want it to ride like a truck. What do you say? -- Bob

TOM: I say, Bob: Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?

RAY: Mechanically, I'd probably side with you, Bob. It sounds like a great deal. Of course, you might not have read the fine print. It says that in order to get all that stuff for $325, you first have to buy another option package that costs $1,000. So itactually run you $1,325. But it's still a deal. And I can practically hear you grunting about all those heavy-duty parts from here.

TOM: But your wife is right to be concerned. A heavy-duty rear suspension can make a car's ride harsher. I'm not sure that would be the case with the Aztek, if they add a "leveling" feature. And having never driven either version of the Aztek, I just can't say for sure. But the fact is, SHE'S concerned that it will affect the ride.

RAY: So if I were you, Bob, I'd just back off. It's not going to make much difference to the life or performance of the car. And besides, we'll let you in on a little secret: When those heavy-duty parts break and need to be replaced, the replacement-part prices will be heavy-duty, too.

TOM: Look at it as an investment in a happy marriage, Bob. I know from several marriages that if you force this thing on her, every time something goes wrong with the car ... if the rearview mirror falls off someday ... she'll be muttering under her breath, "Bob and his #&%^@ heavy-duty parts. ..."

RAY: I agree. It's her car. She doesn't want the stuff, so forget about it.

TOM: But by the way, is the Aztek not the ugliest vehicle you have seen in your entire life?

RAY: Hey, there's no accounting for taste, Tom. After all, we know of at least two Earthling women who married you.

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