This morning I told the story of the demise of my Outback. Since the insurance company said the check is in the mail it is time to start searching once again. You guys aren’t shy, perhaps you’d like to help, I know you have an opinion (or two)…
About a year ago while I was writing the last few COAL articles of mine, I started to realize that I’ve had a lot of cars and while I enjoyed almost all of them from a practical standpoint switching cars that often is really not a good thing, especially from a financial perspective. As one matures, different things become important and different priorities emerge.
I still enjoy my cars, but in different ways. The Subaru was not what I would historically have looked for and purchased but I found myself enjoying it as a comfortable, practical car and had really planned to try to keep it for much longer than my norm. It was a comfortable companion, a loyal friend.
However , I am also not getting any younger and since cars are one of the things I enjoy the most, I do not want to deny myself anything even remotely reasonable. Depreciation is a very close friend of mine who lets me take advantage of our friendship as I choose.
As far as requirements go for the replacement vehicle, there are several. I will use it to drive clients around as well as my family of five. So a strict four-seater is out. I actually started looking into a Volt (the technology fascinates me) but realized without the middle rear seat it is useless to me. However, we have a larger SUV for longer trips so my family of five does not necessarily need to be THAT comfortable…
The car has to be safe, i.e. somewhat modern. All-wheel drive, stability control, and multiple airbags are pretty much non-negotiable with our weather, road conditions and high-ish speed limits. While I love the idea of driving a Lincoln Town Car or something more classic like a Mercedes 280 SE 4.5 the reality is that I will be driving others that do not really have a choice in the matter, I feel a duty to be as protective as I can afford to be. If I want to buy that 1975 Civic Wagon that I posted a few weeks ago, that will be my thing to play with on the side, not to subject others to …
I am trying to limit the length to no more than 200 inches. That is pretty much the maximum that I can fit in my garage with the front bumper kissing the garbage cans while still allowing the door to close unless I switch the single spot with the tandem spot that my wife and my other car use and I just don’t want to go there. Our garage layout is the worst aspect of our house although it seemed great when we moved in.
The lower the mileage on the car the better, but 70,000 or so miles is pretty much my upper limit on this car purchase. It can be used or new, the budget can stretch into the mid to upper $30k range (no leasing) and I am willing and able to deal with the risk of potentially expensive repairs. I’d probably put between 12,000 and 15,000 miles per year on it.
So without further ado, here is my shortlist in no particular order. Feel free to suggest others or tell me why one choice or another is either inspired or asinine, hopefully with some knowledge on the subject rather than just what you heard from your cousin Fred’s neighbor Thelma’s butcher etc…For my part I will try to list the main pros and cons (for me) of each.
2005-2006 Jaguar X-Type 3.0 Wagon – I love, love, love the shape. And in hindsight realize that the X-Type sedan we once had really was remarkably reliable and cost-effective even once we pawned it off on my in-laws and they drove it past 100,000 miles before getting nervous themselves and trading it in for pennies.
They are well below my budget. However, the wagons are quite rare, i.e. hard to find with lower mileage at realistic prices and the back seat is not very large. But just imagine a dark green one…If I had Jason Shafer’s barn, I would have one for sure along with something (OK, everything) else.
2007-2009 Audi S8 5.2 V10 – I really like this shape, it is cavernous inside, the regular wheelbase A8/S8 platform (not the “L”) fits the length limitation, and I drove one recently – that V10 engine is simply to die for.
My research indicates that the V10 (and the whole car in general) is actually quite reliable with aftermarket vendors like Arnott able to provide cost-effective solutions to any air suspension issues etc. Gas mileage is a bit worrisome, but manageable.
The biggest issue for me is what perception some of my clients might form of me, but my wife thinks the average person would have no clue what it is. I also might be a bit obsessive about my kids tracking their dirty shoes on the seats etc. but it would be a great experience to own one. (More cost-effective potential alternative option: Regular A8 with Sport Package)
2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R – Yes, the new and improved version of what just got wrecked. I looked at one last week and the exterior styling is better than the old one, and the interior is significantly better. It’s also a little wider than the old one which is good and gets better gas mileage to boot.
The engine is a carryover, but the transmission had switched from a 5-speed automatic to a CVT. I have not driven one yet, but think that I may not like the CVT although reviews have been very positive.
The biggest downside is that they seem to be backordered up to ten weeks although my dealer is quoting me around 10% off sticker for a brand new one ordered to my specifications. I could get the same red as my last one, but the new green is a big improvement over the old one. ‘
And the nicer-looking tan interior now has a black carpet which is good around here. The biggest downside is probably that my wife is not really a fan (but won’t stand in the way).
2014 Chrysler 300C AWD V8 – oh, boy, I finally drove one with the Hemi and I liked it a lot! This is probably as close as I can get to the old-skool American classics like the Panthers and B-bodies (and the Chrysler M-bodies, right?) while fulfilling all of my other parameters. I like the lazy feeling when driving it, the space inside, the materials are not bad and the fit and finish is quite good.
The power is wonderful and the touchscreen system is frankly amazingly intuitive and good. The lightly used ones I have been looking at are former rentals but in very good condition, all around one year old with about 25,000 miles on them and in some instances CPO’d from a Chrysler dealer and priced in the lower to mid-$20k range.
I think Chryslers seem to depreciate more than even your average European luxury car on a percentage basis. But even the non-CPO’d ones have a 5year, 100k mile powertrain warranty.
I think I could like this a lot, but if not could probably easily get back out of it after a year or so. The newer ones aren’t styled quite as impressively as the original ones but they also seem to be attracting less of the “Urban”-inspired modifications which I will admit to not being a big fan of.
2007-2009 Audi S6 5.2 V10 – Basically the same engine as the S8 above but detuned a bit (can’t have the little brother be faster…). Supposedly the chassis feels a little more lively as well as the engine growl being even better. I have not driven one but did start one a couple of years ago and the engine did sound fantastic. The back seat is possibly a little bit tight for five but should be manageable.
Pricewise these realistically are in the mid-to-upper $20k range as well depending on mileage and are pretty much invisible on the street. Most of them seem to be black (which is not my favorite since it is very hard to keep clean here and I can be a bit lazy) and the styling is okay but not nearly as good as the S8 above.
2012-2013 Dodge Ram Laramie 4×4 Crew Cab– I’ve never owned a large pickup and kind of like the idea. The biggest problem that likely makes it a non-starter is the length. If I move the garbage cans and the rolling tool chest it MIGHT fit but I have no good other place to put those items. A large truck is alright for taking clients out in here if it is trimmed out nicely enough and there is something about the Ram that I like a lot.
Gas mileage will probably not be that something, though. I’ll be realistic (and truthful) and probably be able to find a REAL use for it maybe a dozen times a year maximum. I do like the idea of trying something very American though. Again, if I just had Jason’s barn….And no, Jason, I have no interest in your van!
2002-2005 Audi Allroad – These are everywhere here but they all seem to have covered intergalactic mileages and/or are completely worn out. My brother used to own one and we have friends with one, they are simply awesome Colorado vehicles.
Big and comfortable with adjustable ride height, a powerful and easily tunable 2.7liter twin-turbo engine and a great image they hit all the buttons. Pricewise, even the most expensive ones tend to be under $10,000 but finding a low-mileage creampuff is difficult, I’ve been on the lookout since we moved here.
(Potential alternative option: 2002 Audi S6 Avant – same body, steel spring suspension, with a 4.2liter V8. Actually a bit easier to find with lower mileage than the Allroad but pricier and the V8 is less desirable than the turbo up here at this altitude between the two of them).
2014-2015 Honda Accord Sport – Yes, even more pedestrian than the Subaru. However, probably the ultimate “No worries” car of the bunch. Probably slightly underpowered-feeling (have not driven one) but nicely finished, roomy, and oh-so-reliable. And fantastic resale value as well. But just sort of boring.
My wife would actively hate it but would admit that it makes all kinds of rational sense. Not sure if I need or want that kind of sense but it’s there as a safe alternative if I need something and need it now and am willing to compromise on the AWD, snow tires would work I suppose.
Readily available and priced in the mid-20k’s (or maybe even low $20k’s?). I’m not sure if an Accord signals “successful” to a client though , that does matter. The Accord is probably the only one of the FWD sedan class that I would consider, for no particular reason. Actually, no, the Passat would be the obvious alternate for me in this case. With the new turbo engine it could work just as well or better and the wife would like it too. Hmm.
2010 Lexus LS460 AWD – Surprisingly it too fits the garage limitation. And what’s not to love about the top of the line Lexus model – Hugely roomy, impeccably finished, all the modern conveniences without worrying about electrical issues and good resale value. The car is perhaps a bit floaty and generally attracts a slightly older clientele but would be a “safe” choice. The pricing bumps up toward my self-imposed ceiling but there should be little to no unexpected expenditures going forward.
They seem to not be available in many interesting colors (black and silver being probably the best and the maroon and gold are not attractive to me) and I’m not wild about that red-tinted wood trim they tend to have (not the one pictured though) . I have not driven one yet but hope to do so this week while visiting the in-laws (Gotta keep myself busy somehow…)
2011 Mercedes E350 4Matic (wagon preferably) – You really can’t go wrong with an E-Class (OK, we won’t talk about the late 90’s to mid-2000’s). The newer ones are back to feeling pretty solid, the wagon looks as timeless as ever and the engine has plenty of power. Like it or not, that star on the bonnet still carries some gravitas and Mercedes have generally been relatively user-friendly from a mechanical standpoint.
The all-black interiors would work well with the kids, and safety is pretty much their middle name. But, I don’t think they are anywhere near the bottom of the depreciation curve and if I get rid of it in a couple of years I think I would take a bit of a bath. For some reason, Mercedes wagons always make me think of either Napa Valley or Cape Cod, not sure why but there are worse places to be reminded of.
2008-2012 Volvo XC70 T-6 – A big Volvo with turbo power is always handy. Around here many people seem to be selling the normally aspirated ones and hanging on to the turbos but when they come up for sale, they are right in the pricing sweet spot, between $20k-30k depending on mileage. They are roomy, the seats are fantastic and they are sort of like an Outback on Steroids.
The first and second generations were overshadowed a bit by the Audi wagons but I think this generation (the current one) easily holds it own. I do despise our local Volvo dealer though which is a concern and am not thrilled about the Chinese ownership of Volvo these days either. However, they seem to be able to rack up large mileages and there are plenty of independent Volvo mechanics around if I don’t want to get my own hands dirty.
So that’s my short list. Who knows, I could end up with something completely different. You’ve all suffered through my long list of previous cars, what do you think I will end up with or what do you think I SHOULD end up with? I’m curious!