Best SUV for storm chasing

Well, the results from my earlier poll on best storm chasing vehicle seem to indicate that the SUV takes the cake. I wanted to hear your opinions on which SUV you think is the best for storm chasing. We use a Ford Explorer, and it's been great. I just wanted to get some idea of what everyone else thought.
 
SUVs are good, but I'm considering a crossover SUV like the 2006 Dodge Caliber R/T (trading in a 2003 Mazda 6). I like it because it's AWD, versatile, good looks, and best of all easy on the pocket book both on the price of vehicle and in gas. There is thread on here that a fellow storm chaser just recently bought a Caliber. Just though I'd give my two cents worth on this subject.
 
SUVs are good, but I'm considering a crossover SUV like the 2006 Dodge Caliber R/T (trading in a 2003 Mazda 6). I like it because it's AWD, versatile, good looks, and best of all easy on the pocket book both on the price of vehicle and in gas. There is thread on here that a fellow storm chaser just recently bought a Caliber. Just though I'd give my two cents worth on this subject.
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I'm glad you brought up the crossover topic because personally, I was wondering how many people had considered mini-van/SUV crossovers like the Saturn Relay. I have thought for a while that that would be an ideal chasing vehicle. It has a lot of space and it's as good as any other SUV on gass mileage. There's also a lot of window space so you can easily view the open horizon. And I don't know a lot about SUV's or Minvans, but it seems like it might be a little more low-profile and perhaps less prone to topple in high winds. Take a look at it.

http://www.saturn.com/saturn/vehicles/relay/photoGallery.jsp
 
Last year was the first time I bought a car with chasing first and foremost in mind. I needed 1.) good gas mileage and 2.) lots of room for people and gear. I first looked at the Forester and Outback. The Outback is a smaller car, yet it costs more than the Forester. The Forester has everything the Outback does (AWD, etc) and has more interior room. But, the Forester was a little too small for the price, and I soon crossed it off the list.

I briefly considered a minivan, but gas mileage and cost were not as good as I had hoped. Windshields are also very expensive to replace on those.

I turned then to the Ford Escape and the new Freestyle wagon. The Escape was less expensive than the Freestyle but the interior seemed too primitive, plasticy, and small for a car that looked so roomy from the outside. The ride and feel was truck-like. Plus, its high center of gravity affects its handling and has a greater rollover risk.

The Freestyle was comfortable to drive and ride in and has a huge amount of space, especially when you lay all of the seats flat which is a very cool feature. The ride and handling is car, not SUV, and MPG was pretty good for a vehicle that size (26 mpg highway).

I ended up going with the Freestyle SE front-wheel drive version and it has been an excellent chase car. I have been seeing more and more of these on the road lately so you might find a few good pre-owned models to test out.

I already have over 50,000 miles on this car, mostly chasing miles, since I bought it new in January 2005.

http://wvlightning.com/chase2005/car.shtml

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Said it before and I'll say it again......2006 AWD Toyota RAV4.
7.5 inches of ground clearance and 28 MPG :)

Second place vote would go for a Subaru Forester.
 
A few comments:

I've heard the Saturn Relay is an utter piece of crap from message boards. So if you go that route, make to to investigate thouroughly before hand.

I just bought the caliber. While it certainly is no SUV, it has many of the trademarks of the SUV that I wanted (space and ride height). Luckily, it's a crossover so it also gets 26/30mpg and rides like a car. What really seperates it is the nifty features.... AUX jack into the stereo, chilled glove box for drinks, AC jack in the front armrest, mp3/cell phone holder in the arm rest. Honestly, it's the best thought out front interior I've seen. Lots of cubby holes for storage. In the dash to the left of the wheel is a place to put credit/parking cards. The small hole in the door fits my flip phone perfectly. Farther down in a door is a small cubby that fits might sunglasses case perfectly. You then have the three-tiered glovebox. All of this and you can snag it for $15-18k depending on featues. Good bang for the buck.

So what don't I like? Just minor nitpicks. I wish the fuel tank was slightly larger. 13.5g gets me a range of mid 300s of 30/70% city/highway driving. It's also hard to mount any sort of non magnet antenna. I'll probably get the mopar roof rack and attach the antennas with clamps. I think the aft interior (behind the back seats) could of been designed a bit better with more storage options (think of the pop up rack in the HHR).

At anyrate, the vehicle should serve great as a chase ride. I debated AWD, but decided fuel economy trumped that feature.

IF you go full the full SUV route, I'd check out the Rav 4 as someone else suggested. Looks like a typical good vehicle with toyota reliability. Suburus always seem like great chase vehicles other than their high mark up. If you got wads of cash sitting around, a Ford Escape Hybrid would be awesome.
 
We just bought a Honda Element.. im sure we will field it a few times this year.. it is AWD and has ample storage and even sleeping capability..
 
I have been looking into a new SUV over here, so can offer my experience.

The Ford Freestyle that Dan mentions looks very like Australia's Ford territory

http://www.ford.com.au/range/territory/models/

That SUV sells like hotcakes here, and has had excellent reviews. The motors appear to very different different however, not being a car fanatic I am not 100% sure, but the Australian version has a 4Litre motor.

As for the other models, many are not available here, but other like the Forrester, Escape, RAV4 and CRV are exactly the same as your models. The Forrester probably is the bigger seller of these. What puts me off is that the cargo room is not what I am used to. The territory ( Freestyle ) has much better space.

On the other hand I had a 7,000km chase tour this year in my old Nissan Patrol and found it hard to keep up with the other chaser's Forrester, and she swears by it !
 
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