I took delivery of my 3.6 liter Natural Green Pearl Laredo X this week after watching it creep toward me with Milhous' help. I don't know how much trouble it is to provide this great service but I sure appreciated it and couldn't believe how often the information was updated. My dealer couldn't figure out why I knew more than them about my car. The car made steady progress on the train through all the small towns of America until it got off the train in the berg of Santa Rosa, NM. There it sat, 200 miles from me for 10 frustrating days, but over-all delivery was only 7 weeks from ordering. Much faster than the dealer had warned me to expect.
I originally really wanted to get Quadra-Lift and indeed I delayed ordering until the website showed that you could now get QL on a Laredo. Well when I went to to the dealer they informed me that was incorrect. Maybe it's just me but it seems pretty idiotic that QL is only available on the trim level least likely to need it. I wanted QL for the better clearance on our horrible mountain roads with huge rocks, ruts and ledges and I wanted a Laredo to avoid the sunroof, partly because I just don't care much about them and partly because I want to mount an amateur radio antenna right where that glass would be.
When finding that I couldn't get QL I delayed ordering for a while and thought about it. In the end I decided that simplicity has great virtue in itself. When I found out a bit more about QL it tipped my decision. One of the factors is a horrible failure mode out in the boonies where the suspension would go all the way down. Another factor was reading about the very stiff ride, with little suspension travel, when lifted. I'm sure I would like it, when working, but the decision kind of got out of my hands.
As for the 3.6 liter, it was just a matter of what appealed to me. I do look at the 3.6 valve train as a much more modern system and love the under-hood room and standing-up oil filter change ability as well as the regular fuel. With either engine the GC is pretty slow by modern standards but I find the 3.6 isn't something that I even think of being underpowered at my high desert elevation so far, but then one of my favorite cars was an old Honda Civic that was around 75 HP or so. I am kind of offended by the complexity of the Hemi cylinder de-activation also. I saw one review that said that system improves economy by 50% --- Right! It MAY improve it a little and what's the deal with all the spark plug changes. I thought that went out 15 years ago.
Yesterday I was figuring out how to fit the GC into my garage along with my other vehicle (2005 Acura TSX). My normal method is to get the car lined up, put it in neutral, then push it back and forth to find the perfect spot where I can raise the lift gate and still get around the front. Ahggg! Despite considerable owner's manual study it didn't register that you can't do that. When the engine is off you aren't moving the shifter to neutral and with the shifter in neutral you can't turn the engine off (very bad to keep the engine running with the garage door closed). I don't like this!
Today, I figured out that the work-around is to disable the shift interlock, which works, but that plastic plug is hard to get out. I may just leave it out because I like my car to submit to my wishes, not the other way around.
Tonight, after installing the Shark Fin antenna I went for a little break-in drive. You know, varying RPMs and manifold pressures and speeds. We have a nearby paved and lightly used road that I like to use for ride evaluation. It is rough and has rough railroad crossings. I took the GC up to a bit over 100 MPH a couple of times. It is entirely unstrained feeling getting up to and maintaining that speed and the ride is very composed and the vehicle is quiet. That is where the independent suspension really pays off. I like the rough stuff ability of live axles but find them miserable the rest of the time which is about 95% of the time.
I then went on some dirt roads and shifted into and out of 4 low a number of times. It is temperamental and I think I had about a 1 in 3 success rate getting it to go in while rolling slowly in neutral. I decided it is much less confusing to just look at the instrument panel to see if you were successful or not, than to look down at the button for the flashes and such down there. Coming out of 4 low seemed to work a lot easier and works OK even when completely stopped.
I got a kick out of the Consumer Reports video of the handling they didn't like. I saw nothing wrong with it, a bit of drift and the rear coming out some, although I don't think CR has any kind of vendetta. I got on some dirt tonight and tried the limits in Sport Mode and Auto Mode. I didn't find much difference in the two modes. The rear kicks out and you counter-steer and control it all with the throttle. It really just felt like a rear wheel drive car and I liked it. I don't like that the ESC light is on all the time when you are in Sport. That alone is enough to keep me out of that mode, especially since I haven't noticed much handling difference.
I tested the Shark Fin antenna before I got the GC and got good results. I finished installing it tonight before going for my break-in drive. I am amazed. I know antenna theory pretty well and it just shouldn't work this well. I find no noticeable difference between this antenna and the stock one, and I live a long way from a lot of the terrestrial stations. As for the satellite antenna, I drove several tree-lined (but the trees don't have leaves) streets and got no drop-outs. In my garage with the metal door open over the antenna, I got intermittent reception. In the garage with the door closed everything was solid. I took delivery of the antenna in gloss black. I like the idea of no metalics so as to maximize performance. I painted the antenna Krylon Ultra-Flat black and find that it matches the other black pieces on the roof very well.
As a long time Garmin man it appealed to me that I could finally get a Garmin as a factory nav system. All the factory systems I have tried have been pretty terrible. I was initially disappointed and understood why some people have called the graphics "cartoony." This system is not near the equal of the best portable Garmins but it is growing on me and I like it better than any other factory system I have seen. I do find I prefer it in the 2D mode. I am disappointed that I haven't found a way to upload any other maps. I may still have to carry another GPS at times to get things like topo maps.
To come are additional mods like the MyGig unlock and a 2 Meter/.70 Meter amateur radio installation with the head unit (Yaesu FTM-350) in the cubby in front of the gearshift, where it fits perfectly. That installation will also involve drilling a hole in the roof (yikes).
Blue Tooth music streaming with My Evo 4G seems to work about the same as the iPhone with the 430N. That is to say it doesn't work. It is broken and distorted and it doesn't seem to help to blank the screen. I wish I could just disable that function as I won't use it. I'm having good luck with the rest of the audio system except when searching for an artist on the hard disk the keyboard is ABC even though you have already selected QWERTY in the Garmin preferences.
Within the next few days I plan to test some of the other capabilities. I have spots in mind that because of looseness, steepness and rocks that I have not been able to get by in my previous vehicle.
I am not familiar enough with exhaust systems to figure out where the catalytic converter is for sure but I am afraid it is not covered by the skid plates. Kind of important here for when you are parking in dry grass. Sure wish the service manual was available.
Mileage display is right at 17 MPG right now with about 130 miles of mostly city on it. I do have all the interior LEDs working correctly. Oh, I find it utterly ridiculous that you have to call up and go through a bunch of needless rigamarole to get the manuals. You need the manuals most when you first get the vehicle.