This is the second entry in my collection of observations as I search for a new car. In part one I listed every car I’ve owned. You can read it here.

Today, I’m going to set up some parameters for my next purchase.

If you look through that list of past cars, a trend is obvious: the last four were all selected based on the needs of our family. That’s not meant to be a complaint: two of those were pretty awesome rides that we were able to justify by saying “We need a big ass car to haul all our shit.” Still, buying for a family of five plus gear eliminated a lot of possibilities.

We remain a family of five, but the math has changed. M is driving, and has a car of her own. C will begin the driver’s education process this summer, and will ride to school with M in the fall. There are fewer and fewer occasions when we need a vehicle that can haul five-plus passengers. We don’t tow a boat anymore, nor do we go away for weekends that require room to pack in for groceries for 15–20 people.

Adding a third car also took up precious space in our garage. Where we once had a car’s worth of space to store bikes; golf clubs; baskets of balls and tennis racquets and other sports gear; lawnmower/pressure washer/snowblower; pool toys, furniture, and equipment; plus tools, ladders, etc., we’ve had to get creative about squeezing all that in since November. Which has made it very difficult to park the Tahoe.

We are fixing some of this problem soon. Our pool house is just about done, which will add a ton of storage space for the pool gear.

But, still, three cars take up more space than two, especially when one of those is huge.

I’ve been in a big Chevy SUV for nearly six years. Most of that time, I’ve loved them and they’ve definitely served their purpose. They drive like absolute tanks, though. They have tons of power but are sluggish to turn that into speed, not that it’s safe to drive them super fast. They lack any grace when carving through turns or switching lanes. As they hammer through the pothole-filled streets of Indianapolis, you feel every shockwave as they roll through the entire vehicle. They suck to park. And they get atrocious gas mileage.

I’m ready for something different.

Something smaller. Something more fuel efficient. Something that has at least a little quickness to it. Something a little more stylish. Although S has not put any budgetary restrictions on me, I would like to ratchet down the monthly payment a bit as well.

The catch is I still want to be in an SUV. I feel more comfortable being up and above the road. While I may not need to haul as much as in the past, I still need some space to throw crap. The backseat needs to be roomy enough so the girls can all sit back there for short jaunts around town.

After S got her Grand Cherokee in the fall I dove deeply into car research. I drove myself crazy comparing Car and Driver’s top X list to Motor Trend’s to Edmunds’ to US News’. I made spreadsheets that included all the cars I was interested in, breaking down their prices, mileage, sizes, cargo capacities, class rankings, and most notable features.

Until I began, I did not realize that there are a maddening number of sub-classes in the SUV world. Crossover. Compact Crossover. Compact. Mid-size. Full-size. Oh, and then there’s the Luxury kicker for each of those categories.

The most frustrating thing about this research is these silos seem pretty rigid on each rating site. For example, if vehicle A is the #3 ranked luxury mid-sized SUV and vehicle B is the #2 ranked standard full-size, there’s no master list where I can see how they actually match up against each other.

OK, so after about two months of research in late 2020, I locked in what category I was most interested: luxury compact SUVs. I still dabble looking outside that box, but most of my time over the past few months has been devoted to a small group of vehicles that fall within that sub-class.

That’s the general type of car I’m looking at. Next time, we’ll review into my first test drive.