Several months ago, Chris Wood decided it was time for a new vehicle. He has a family, including four grandchildren, a 50-pound dog and a 5,000-pound ski boat and equipment to haul. He had $50,000 to spend, but he was faced with a lingering dilemma.
Wood, 63, of Pleasanton, a retired Silicon Valley computer salesman, looked for six months but couldn’t find a new sports utility vehicle that fit his criteria and could match the quality his previous vehicle, a 1999 Ford Explorer.
“I had it for 19 years; I serviced it all the time,” said Wood. “I put in transmissions and took care a lot of the things and kept it running. My dad gave me enough confidence introducing me to everything. He showed me how to rebuild a carburetor on a lawn mower so could learn how to do things myself.”
With his long, satisfying experience with Ford, Wood could have purchased another Explorer. But for 2018 he said the carmaker charges $600 for upgraded white paint. The basic white paint option was eliminated. “I just had an aversion to paying $600 for paint,” he said.
Wood looked for used vehicles, but finding a well-built trailer hitch proved futile. Third-row seating was important and a cargo area large enough for a dog cage. He didn’t want a white interior. Dodge, Honda and Toyota choices were eliminated for various reasons, including not wanting the expense and impractical issues of leather seats.
“I really wanted an upscale cloth interior,” said Wood. “Maybe I’m the only guy on the planet who likes a cloth interior. I would have paid a leather price for a cloth interior. It’s comfortable. The 19-year-old cloth interior of my Ford Explorer was in great shape the day I sold it. Plus you can’t find five-year-old leather that looks good, in my opinion.”
Wood recently purchased a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, a debut SUV and his first VW. He provided a list of 16 pros and seven cons after driving the vehicle for 1,500 miles. He meticulously studies the owner’s manual and has about two-dozen colored tabs on various sections. He has other sections marked in red for more tabs after additional reading.
Among the features Wood appreciates in his new Atlas is the standard trailer hitch and better position than after-market options. The transmission shift points are good for daily driving. The rear seat tilt with a child’s seat installed is superior.
Wood is also impressed with the infotainment system, the 360-degree camera, the large navigation screen, the logical and easy-to-understand changes and settings and the automatic engine start-stop function.
Expensive accessories, including the $600 side rail and the cost of installation as well and the $300 cargo cover, $320 roof rails and $300 ski rack are cons. Wood doesn’t appreciate the manufacturer’s obsession with warning proclamations throughout the owner’s manual. He suggests a section for owners who to do their own maintenance and repair.
“Give me a break,” Wood noted. “Let Darwin’s laws prevail.”
Like many car enthusiasts, Wood’s fascination with cars began with a family vehicle from his youth. His mother and father saved their money and purchased a 1966 Buick Skylark demo model. His family took two cross-country trips in the Skylark, pulling a camper-trailer.
“I tend to be pretty analytical,” Wood said. “My wife and I bought an RV a couple of years ago. We looked for a year for it. We thought about it and really studied and analyzed it. How are we going to use it? What do our friends say who’ve owned RVs?”
With his new purchase, Wood is 95 percent satisfied.
“It’s an excellent vehicle,” he said. “I just want people to know about it.”