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Car recommendations wanted

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I am thinking about upgrading my wheels from a 12-year-old Honda Accord (which my sister would dearly like to take off my hands) to a sports sedan along the lines of the BMW 3-series or the Mercedes CLK series.  I want to spend at most $35K (I would consider buying used) and am looking for a car with good performance, reliability, and cachet value.  Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 15
If I were you I'd wait and but a Mazda RX-8 ( ). It has an engine with proven realiability, sportiness, AND room ( 4 seats, 4 doors 2 of which are suicide doors).
post #3 of 15
Well, here's what I thought of what I've test driven recently, in ABC order. I need a new car. I've actually been driving my housemate's autocross-spec Porsche 914 around lately, and it's tuned so high that I don't blip the throttle at lights to show off, I do it to keep the car running. Audi A4: (Driven: 1.8T, 3.0CVT) -Classy, understated styling inside and out. -Nice engines, but not spectacular. -Softer edge than BMW 3er, but not as numb as the Merc C. -Manual nice with a hint of Teutonic notchiness, CVT a bit slushy but the wave of the future. -Interior materials feel luxurious and solid, except for -Asinine red digital climate control readouts -Decent but unexceptional stereo. Verdict: if they ditched the idiotic climate controls and put in simple knobs, I'd have taken this one home. BMW 3er: (Driven: 330i in US, 330td in Europe) -drives wonderfully, with outstandingly sharp handling and braking, even though the best non-M model (the 3.0L turbodiesel 330td that has like 220hp and 400 lb-ft of torque while delivering 40mpg) is not available in the USA. -will look like crap in five years because the interior materials quality is Prada-grade at best. -Mediocre stereo Verdict: THE young wealthy twitmobile, built to be replaced every three years and to make young not-as-wealthy twits who drive older ones look cheap. Infiniti G35 (Driven: G35) -Pretty, especially like the headlights. -NICE kick from the V6 at 3500rpm. -Interior a step up from the BM or Merc, but not exactly in Audi territory. -Suspension almost as nice as BMW's. -Steering wheel radio and cruise controls very nice, with soft switches but very positive action. -Is the centre console ceramic? It feels cooler to the touch than plastic. -Slushbox only. -Not my idea of good sounds from the stereo. -Cheap n' nasty stalks for turn signals and wiper. Verdict: Awesome car let down by stereo, some controls, and lack of a proper transmission. Infiniti Q45, used (Driven: 1997 Q45t, 1997 Q45, 1999 Q45) -Very high quality materials in and out. -The wiper stalk brilliant, with a creamy ball-bearinged smoothness to the speed control that reminds me of 1980s-era S-Class Mercs. -Climate control readout digital but at least controlled by a knob instead of by pushbuttons. -V8 pulls even more smoothly than a classic Jaguar XK inline six or HE V12, phenomenal. -None of the four I drived had a service record showing anything but routine maintence, and they all had complete records. Verdict: Imagine a Lincoln or Caddy made with outstanding materials and workmanship, and you've got a Q45. I'll get one when I turn 50. "Jaguar" X-Type (Driven: 3.0) -Acres of Plastikwood forests cut down for these dashes. -Ugly, with way too much front overhang. -Cheap, nasty tacky plastic all inside. -Floaty, wafty ride nothing like a real Jaguar. -Needs a proper Jaguar engine, not a Ford Duratec. -Could not drive out of the dealer's lot onto the road because I was too disgusted by the interior and the ride. Verdict: Too bad the Ford Mondeo 4x4, with which the X-Type shares engines, drivelines, and suspensions, is unavailable in the US. It's a much prettier car, and hopefully drives less like a Lincoln, too. Mercedes C-Class -Three pointed star residuals -I love the keyless entry: open the "switchblade" key and the doors unlock. -Numb handling -No manual transmission -Interior materials and design bested by any VW, let alone Audi or Volvo. -Wretched stereo. -Ugly headlights Verdict: The only things this car has going for it are the badge and the well-conceived keyless entry remote/key. Volvo S60 (Driven 2002 T5, 2003 2.4T) -Beautiful styling that doesn't look bad from any angle. -Very nicely crafted interior. -2.4T not as taut as the BM, Merc, or Audi, T5 a little harsher but wonderful control for a front-driver. -Nice pull from both turbo 5s, but a little bit of lag. -Intelligent controls, including a BRILLIANT CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEM THAT USES SIMPLE KNOBS WITH SILKSCREENED INDICATORS. -I can actually fit in back. -Amazing stereo. Verdict: Every car company in the world should be forced to copy Volvo's brilliant and inspring climate controls. Oh, and the rest of the car is pretty much the top of its class, too. Here are the controls that should be copied: Volvo S80, used (Driven: 1999 T6) -Horrid residuals make a really nice car really cheap. -Much bigger than the others, except the Q45. -Not as smooth looking outside as the S60, but even better interior. -Butter-soft leather that feels wonderful but probably needs to be fed Lexol or Connolly Hide Food weekly to keep up its wonderfulness. -Why don't more companies make twin turbo straight sixes? This engine is glorious. -Seats as comfortable as my Eames chaise lounge. -Wiper and turn-signal stalks a close second to the Q45 -Same brilliant climate controls as the S60 -One of the best stereos I've ever heard, and 4-disc in dash changer too. -Wider turning circle than it should have. Verdict: I bought one, but sadly it was totalled within half an hour by an idiot in a "sport" "utility" vehicle who went across 4+ lanes of road to take me out. Draw your own conclusions. As you can tell, details don't just matter to me in clothes. Peace, JG PS: I've all but decided to buy my fiance a car for Valentine's Day. She's driving a 1993 Opel Corsa that's crude and unsafe. But her parents drive Opels, so an Audi or Volvo would be seen as extravagant. I'm 99% that this is what I'm going to get her. Citroen C3 Pluriel saloon/spider/pickup The only other one I'd consider is the Peugeot 307 Coupe Cabriolet
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks Joe.  Your post is, as usual, comprehensive and quite helpful.  I know next to nothing about cars, so my choices are heavily influenced by reviews published by Consumer Reports and various automobile magazines, which seem to put the BMW 3-series and the Infiniti G35 at the head of the class as far as sports sedans go.  The G35 coupe, by the way, comes with a six-speed manual transmission.  (I assume that you were complaining about the five-speed manumatic.)  Considering that the G35 is basically a Nissan 350Z with a slightly longer wheelbase and more interior space, the stick should make it a rocket ship.  I think my firm might have an employee discount on Infinitis, which would make my choice much easier.
post #5 of 15
I know next to nothing about cars, so my choices are heavily influenced by reviews published by Consumer Reports and various automobile magazines, which seem to put the BMW 3-series and the Infiniti G35 at the head of the class as far as sports sedans go.
Oh yeah, one more pet peeve of mine about the G35: the stereo doesn't have a volume knob. Instead, it has two semicircular pushbuttons arrayed where a knob should be. In practice, it's not that big of a deal, because the steering wheel controls are a tactile delight to use. But I still found it annoying, as I find all superfluous levels of complexity. Yes, I'm hard to please....and if I could draw half a straight line, I probably would have gone into industrial design. It fascinates me when done right, and infuriates me when done not right. On the plus side, even with the slushbox, the G35 is a pretty damn fast car. I only drove the saloon, because the Coupe doesn't meet my criteria of being able to fit two six footers in back. (My father and future father-in-law are both over that line.) It doesn't feel quite as strong on interstate passing manoevuers (say accelerating from 70-90) as the twin-turbo Volvo straight six or the Infiniti Q45's V8, but it's quicker than 90% of the stuff out there and that engine sounds sweet when you air it out. But seriously, I'd test drive the Volvos. The S60 is a very new model, so don't expect to find any used. The S80 came out in 1999, if you can stand the size. I was frankly shocked by the design and execution of these cars, particularly of the interiors. (The smallest Volvo, the S40, looks and feels like a whole different -- and much worse -- class of automobile.) They've come a long way from being the boxy boringmobiles I remember. And their stereos just can't be beat. Also, one notable S80 driver is an always impeccably-dressed gentleman named Kofi Annan. Peace, JG PS: Oh, and somebody told me that the centre console material is actually some sort of foamed plastic, similiar to what Apple used to use on their Apple-branded computers. Perhaps PStoller or another long-time Mac devotee would be able to comment on that. PPS: The quickest way to learn more about cars is to put down MT or Car-and-Driver and pick up the British magazine CAR. Yes, it will annoy you that so much of the really good stuff -- the Alfa Romeos and Renaults and even hot Ford Foci or Subaru Imprezas -- are not available here, but the writing and the commentary in CAR (which shares some writers with Automobile but not an overall feel) is leagues above what one finds from the big American car rags. But even they, like all car rags, spend too much time writing about performance that maybe 0.0001% of car buyers will ever use (and that will cause 99% of those people to lose driving rights) and not enough time writing about the design compromises that one sees and lives with every time one steps in the car.
post #6 of 15
The Lexus IS 300 is a worthy notable. However, I can not comment on how well it drives, nor how it compares to other cars in its field. Nevertheless, all the reviews I have read regarding this car have placed it ahead of the BMW 3 series (which the Lexus IS 300 was made to contend) and the Infiniti G35. I did inspect the Lexus' interior and found it to be functional and youthful;with the use of 'metal rimming' around the knobs. The only thing I found to be poorly designed in the interior was the 'chronograph style' speedometer. I would imagine it would take a little getting used to to be able to determine the speed with ease while driving. I also wish to note that Lexus has exceptional customer service. I believe you wouldn't be disappointed with a test drive.
post #7 of 15
Joe G. You totalled your vehicle within 30 minutes of purchase? I thought those things only existed in movies or books. What a tough luck and hopefully it worked out OK for you after the incident. -Kev
post #8 of 15
Hey. I drive an older 3-series. I agree, though. I actually don't like the image the car gives, but the car itself (a 94 325is) is just heavenly. I agree about the plasticky interior, but it's still extremely comfortable and the car is very fun to toss about. And actually, if you take care of it, it will last forever. The engine will go 225k+ easily, and it's amazingly well-engineered and easy to work on. By the way, I'm not cheap, just broke. J.
post #9 of 15
I heavily researched cars back around august. I'm a big fan of the 3-series, however they are extremely common these days which kinda takes away from the prestige factor. Every young professional buys the lowest 3 series and the problem is that most people don't know the difference between one 3 series and the next. I've heard people liken the interior of the 3 series to that of a cockpit and it's kinda true. Make no mistake about it though, BMW is a driver's car and that's what BMW delivers. It's about handling and performance. You can get leather seats and a bunch of comfort features with it, but i think the reason for buying a BMW is cause you like driving. btw if you get a bmw there's some relatively inexpensive mods which i highly suggest ;p Anyway, BMWs are trouble free. You should go read Roadfly.Read the forums and you'll get a very good idea of what to expect of any particular bmw/audi/whatever. There's a lot of very helpful posters there (from auto-mechanics to engineers) who in general know a hell of a lot more about cars than any of us do Oh don't forget to check out The movies run 5 minutes and length and some of them are pretty cool. Ambush and The Star are the best ones imo. Do them justice and download the high res ones ;p The interior of the Audi is gorgeous for it's class. However, I strongly advise you to take a look at some of the long-term roadtests. The cup holders and controls aren't the only things that caused problems. I think by the time car and driver had finished with it (40k miles), the transmission and numerous other things had been completely replaced. When it wasn't in the shop they said it drove like a dream, but the car was a money sink. I've heard the same from other audi owners as well. Some never have a problem, but there's far too many  that do end up spending a LOT of unbudgeted money on their car. I guess it's less of an issue if you're buying the audi new, but don't forget, cars lose a lot of their value as soon as they leave the lot. BMWs actually maintain value pretty well though, assuming you take care of them. Oddly enough, my final decision was the bastard child of porsche (it had a front mounted engine and was watercooled, unlike any other porsche-these cars are WAY undervalued imo) ;p I know it's not what you're asking for but here it is anyway A 1987 Porsche 928s4. I had actually found a great price on it but my family's financial circumstances sorta changed overnight and I decided it was probably best not to lock myself in to a car that I'd probably have to spend a lot of money maintaining (well actually the insurance would have been a lot more than maintenance heh). The other thing is i got nailed doing 150kph at 3 in the morning to montreal ($295 fine, 5 points) =/ My lawyer has it tied up in court for about a year though and in the end i'll probably only get 3 points (which means I can't get caught for the next year and a half which is how long i have left on my probationary license): Pictures don't even do it justice. That baby is one of my all-time favorite cars (and this coming from a ferrari fan ;o). Hopefully I'll be in a position to buy one next year (assuming I can find one for a good price again, they're pretty rare).
post #10 of 15
Oddly enough, my final decision was the bastard child of porsche (it had a front mounted engine and was watercooled, unlike any other porsche-these cars are WAY undervalued imo) ;p
Interesting. An uncle of mine in Colorado has a 928GTS, and he loves it. I also looked at 968's recently before deciding that unlike their bigger brothers these definitely aren't undervalued. (I don't want or need V8 fuel economy, so I didn't seriously consider the 928.) I bought a car recently. I just couldn't take driving my housemate's rollcaged, 5-point-seatbelted "other bastard child of Porsche" (914) racecar during the cold snap we had. However, as I had just put deposits down on two cars (a 2004 Lotus Elise for me -- ......... I'm number eighteen in line, and mine's going to be British Racing Green with two yellow stripes down the top of the car, i.e. classic Team Lotus racing colours. No I don't know if the engine will be Toyota, Honda, or something else, nor do I particularly care -- and a 2003 Citroen C3 Pluriel for my fiance) I didn't want to deal with lots of maintenence or depreciation. Also, I thought about impending moves, and I bought just about the unsexiest car I could've bought: a 1991 Mercedes 300TE. Yep, an estate car (station wagon). On the plus side, I'll get out of it about what I put in when my Lotus arrives, and Car's Gavin Green wrote an ode to the W124 E-Class estate in a recent issue of that magazine. Also, its interior is about as degraded at 11 years old as one would expect a 2-year-old 5-series' to be.... Peace, JG PS: The "JoeG" asking about the Elise on that Roadfly site is not me. I hadn't been there until you pointed it out to me. Just for the record...
post #11 of 15
Actually, I looked in to it quite a bit and the maintenance isn't *that* bad. I mean ya you have to spend 2-3k on it every couple of years for tune-ups (timing belts are the most important thing, it's NOT easy getting to them heh) and various other mundane jobs, but it's nowhere near as bad as a ferrari, where every time you take it to the shop you can be sure it'll set you back 5k heh. Porsche's are actually very reliable (at least these are, not sure about the newer 911s and such). I would guess that the high maintenance perception comes from the fact that you DO have to be religious about your timing belts. If you're not, you could end up with catastrophic engine trouble (ie pistons totally destroyed) setting you back much more than if you had just taken your car in heh. Most people pamper cars like this not because they have to, but  because they want to. Lots of people have taken their porsche's up to 400k miles w/o problems, they followed the maintenance schedule though. Lastly, I'm not that worried about depreciation on this car. I would probably buy one that's been well maintained (and has all the supporting documention to prove it) and has somewhere between 100 and 150k miles on it, meaning that I'm already getting a bargain (compare the 928 prices to a 911, even though it outperforms all 911s up until the most recent ones, it's still a fraction of the cost). I want the car so I can drive on a regular basis, not have it sit in my driveway. The biggest killer for me isn't the cost of the car or the maintenance, it's insurance =/ I'm 23, just got my license in the summer, got nailed doing 150 (which isnt that much really and the highway didn't have another car on it as it was 3am), which is my only ticket, however it's a probationary license (since i'm a new driver) which means I cant rack-up more than 4 points (i have 1 left) and it has to last you 2 years. In the end though, I think it's worth it to be able to drive a car like this and i'll be looking to buy one again next spring after I've got enough saved up for it. i don't wanna take a loan and i probably wouldn't get one anyway since most of my income from gaming (hence my name, GQgeek Great student job, eh?) isn't declared. Your uncle has good taste btw.
post #12 of 15
It's not maintenence, it's economy that scares me away. The car I had last time I lived in the US was also a gas guzzler (1985 Jaguar XJ-6 VDP, max 14.6 mpg as indicated by the trip computer), and I don't want to deal with that again. (My Merc seems to be getting low-mid 20's, which is fine. My Lotus will go more like 35-40 miles on a gallon of gas...) Also, any car worth owning will require its owner to maintain it. A small-block Chevy may just take gas and go, but a more precision piece of equipment will require more than that. That should be a given. It's just like polishing shoes. Porsche does by most accounts build a solid car. Indeed, they're of late the only European marque sold in the US that compares with Lexus and Infiniti in JD Power's quality surveys.
getting a bargain (compare the 928 prices to a 911, even though it outperforms all 911s up until the most recent ones, it's still a fraction of the cost).
True, BUT that performance is frankly not going to matter, unless you want to lose your driving rights. The joy of a 911 is that it's a bit rawer, more elemental, and FLAWED. Three words for you: drop throttle oversteer. The 928, by contrast, is a much more relaxed cruiser. Yes, it's fast, but no, you don't really notice it. As for insurance costs, I hear ya. I was paying more than the value of my XJ-6 in insurance every two years.... so, that said, maybe look for a used Lotus Esprit or Elan. Club Lotus does its own insurance, and rates are VERY reasonable, even for young drivers. My Elise will cost 75% of what my 1999 Volvo S80 T6 would have cost, for instance.
post #13 of 15
The Acura TSX will be available in April but no V6 will be offered.
post #14 of 15
The Acura TSX will be available in April but no V6 will be offered.
I was wondering if/how Honda was going to get the Euro-market Accord into the US.... Peace, JG
post #15 of 15
I agree about the plasticky interior, but it's still extremely comfortable and the car is very fun to toss about. And actually, if you take care of it, it will last forever.
Mea culpa. A friend picked us up from the airport in a 1995 BMW 325i (black leather on black) convertible that he's owned since new and put a huge mileage on. (My eyes were too tired to read the odo properly without looking obvious.) I asked him if the interior was new because it looked so good. (I hadn't seen the car in a while.) He went into a tirade (or maybe it was just a sentence, I was tired ) about how BMW's actually have well-made interiors but that most of the idiots who buy them have no idea how to maintain their appearance. It still wasn't nearly as good as, say, a new Volvo S60 inside, mind. But for an 8-year-old high mileage car it looked spectacular, far better than any 8-year-old Prada suit that's seen wear. Peace, JG
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