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CAR TALK

by Ray Magliozzi | February 6, 2021 at 1:34 a.m.

DEAR CAR TALK: We have a 2013 Buick Encore that has had a lot of problems throughout the years. Thankfully, our warranty paid for it. Then, about four months after our extended warranty expired, we were told we had to replace the turbo charger at a cost of $2,700. The car had only 46,000 miles on it.

We contacted our representative at Buick to see if they would help with the cost. He said he would get back to us in a few days. After a week, I called again and was promised another call back. This went on for a month and he never called back. Finally, he called to tell us the only thing Buick would do for us was give us $1,500 toward a new Buick if we bought it within a year. After all the problems we had with this Buick, that's not going to happen. They might as well give us ice in the wintertime.

My question is how common is it for a turbo charger to go out, let alone at 46,000 miles? Thank you. — Jeff

DEAR READER: Not common at all. Back in the early days of turbos, like in the 1980s, it was not uncommon to have a turbo seize up after 75,000 miles or so. Turbos weren't well cooled back then, and oil would get caked onto the hot turbo and cause its bearings to fail.

But that problem was solved many years ago. Oils are far better, turbos are better and it's pretty common for a turbo to last the life of the engine now. So you're well within your rights to be disappointed in the performance of your Buick, Jeff.

I'd suggest making a counteroffer to Buick. They offered you $1,500 toward the purchase of a new Buick. Tell them you'll settle for $1,000 if you can apply it to a new Honda.

DEAR CAR TALK: We are thinking about trading in our 2015 Taurus for a small SUV because we — and our friends — are finding it harder and harder to get in and out of the car, which is pretty low to the ground. We're in our 70s.

We are considering either a 2021 Escape Plug-In Hybrid or the electric Mustang SUV. My first car was a 1953 Ford and this will probably be my last car, so I want it to be another Ford. Probably 95% of our driving will be easily within the range to get us back home without having to recharge.

My concern with the all-electric is finding recharging stations when traveling a long distance. At our age, 300 miles is a long distance. What would you recommend? I value your suggestions more than my wife's, but don't tell her I said that. — Ken

DEAR READER: Your wife wrote to us separately and said the exact same thing about you.

First of all, good for both of you for wanting your next car to be environmentally friendly. It can be a tough call whether to go all-electric now. You'd still be a somewhat early adopter. But, on the other hand, lots more electric cars are coming, and coming soon. They're more environmentally friendly, cheaper to own and maintain, and often quicker and quieter to drive.

I'm going to assume you've driven both the Mustang Mach E and the Escape Plug-In Hybrid and find both of them easy enough to get in and out of. And that you'd feel comfortable driving either car.

The advantage of the plug-in hybrid is that you'll get many of the benefits of an EV, without any risk of running out of electricity. The Escape Plug-In Hybrid gets an impressive 37 miles of all electric range before its gasoline engine takes over. That's enough for many people to do a full day's worth of driving (37 miles a day is more than 13,000 miles a year).

And if most of your driving is around town, doing errands, shopping and trips to the bookie to pay off your gambling debts, Ken, you may find you almost never need to plug in away from home. So you will be driving an EV.

And, the fact is, there are places to plug in at shopping areas and parking garages now. So you would be able to top up, even in day to day driving, if you found it necessary or desirable. Or if you just want to park in those primo spots saved for EVs only.

The plug-in hybrid also has a gasoline engine to back you up, so your total range is about 500 miles. That's plenty for those long trips, too. So you can think of that as a "starter EV." The Mustang Mach E is completely electric, and the longest-range version gets between 250 and 300 miles on a full charge. That would be way more than enough for most of your day to day driving. But would make the 300-mile trips a little more challenging.

If you want to see what longer trips would look like, Ford has put together what it calls the FordPass Charging Network. It's mostly made up of charging stations by Electrify America and Greenlots but allows you to have one account to cover all those chargers. If you go to https://tinyurl.com/y2qja39v you can map out any prospective trip. The map will show you charging stations that are available along the way. Now, there's no guarantee that they won't be in use or out of order when you get there. But that'll give you an idea of how widespread charging stations are right now in your area.

And if you're not comfortable with that risk, you can always call Enterprise and rent a gasoline-powered barge for the few weekends a year you actually travel 300 miles or more to visit your ungrateful children or your no-good cousin Leonard. Or go with the plug-in hybrid for now and revisit the full EVs when you shop for your next "last car."

Ray Magliozzi dispenses advice about cars in Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting cartalk.com

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