The Exploder Rules!
Replaced both head gaskets at 48,000 miles under extended warranty. That quart of oil I was replacing every 2-3 weeks was cut in half.
Transmission went at 45,000 miles under warranty. Dealer replaced it with a "rebuilt" trans. It was worse than the original. Factory rebuilt in Malaysia (as I recall) apparently means: clean the casing thoroughly, perform minimal rebuild of only worn parts. Replace cheap malfunctioning parts with cheaper parts. Clean and polish casing again, so if customer sees it, they'll be impressed.
A/C compressor died at 65,000 miles--or so the dealer told me--right after my warranty expired. It worked for a few days till the freon all leaked out again. Dealer changed all major components and got it right with the last one--the evaporator. I loudly argued that if they had done a pressure test with dye FIRST, my bill would be $325 instead of $1400. To their credit, they refunded nearly all I asked for.
I learned that auto dealer repair departments are not there to diagnose problems. Mechanics and supervisors are pressured to replace major components. Again, to their credit, I was told this by an executive at the dealership.
Replaced metal radiator that lasted 80,000 miles. Only replacement available was an embarrassingly flimsy plastic thing. Also replaced the intake manifold gasket. Oil use dropped to nothing.
Replaced transmission again at 100,000 miles. Opted for a $2200 custom rebuild with 3-yr. warranty by local shop. Still going strong.
Rear wiper gave up recently.
The last few years, Max. A/C has gotten louder with reduced air-flow. I've cleaned the intakes, and done everything else recommended without improvement.
From the costly repairs above, it probably doesn't sound like I enjoyed this vehicle, but I did. It's never stranded us, and we have taken it to some tough places. Including a nearly 10,000 mile road trip when the vehicle had 80,000+ miles on it.
My son learned to drive in this vehicle, and named it, "The Exploder." This was for the noise it made (while not going anywhere) when he floored it. He said it always sounded like it was going to blow up. The boy averaged 15 mpg and could never understand why.
I did get a free set of tires from Firestone, but I never had any of the handling problems others have talked about. Never once came close to rolling it. The few times the ABS engaged, it was amazingly effective. I always felt safe in it, and didn't worry about my son after he became the primary driver.
Sure, performance was nothing special, although adequate for almost all situations. But I averaged about 23 mpg over the years. Not bad for a heavy vehicle.
Never touched the engine for repair. When the intake manifold gasket was replaced, the mechanic marveled at the condition of the valve lifters and other internal, lubricated parts he could see.
No matter what I use to grease the front door hinge assemblies, they groan and squeak loudly--scaring small animals.
Ever try changing the spark plugs yourself? Unless you're double-jointed and own lots of different socket extensions and swivel-joints, I'd highly recommend just paying a pro.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 10th May, 2008