Last month I shared what happened to my Outback and then let you all try to help with input on the shortlist of candidates for my new car. Well, I finally chose one and now that the insurance check has arrived and been cashed, I will tell the story.
It turns out that the insurance company was quite a bit more generous than expected in their valuation of the Outback, to the point that I could easily have replaced it with another brand new one. However, I did look at the all-new 2015’s and while I liked the interior improvements very much, I just wasn’t willing to wait the quoted eight to twelve weeks for one to arrive the way I would have wanted it as there are very few 6-cylinder models on dealer lots.
This wouldn’t be a problem if I had a car to trade in to wait it out with, but the rental car would only be available for a limited time (although I still got over a month’s use out of it including driving it to California and back with the family and all of Christmas packed into it).
A goodly number of you suggested the new Outback and from a logical standpoint it makes a lot of sense. I hear quiet rumors that there may be a turbo offering in the works so that may be in my future one day…
I really wanted to find a Volvo XC70 T-6, but this time around they were very thin on the ground. I did get a chance to drive a used 2015(!) model over Christmas with only a few thousand miles on it that was apparently used by a Volvo bigwig at the Southern California Volvo offices.
It was fully loaded and priced in the mid to upper $30k’s, almost $15,000 off the new sticker price. While a very nice car, it was black (not my favorite) and just priced a bit higher than I really wanted to spend on one. In mid-winter it seems most owners of these seem to want to hang on to them.
The Audi’s – wow! I drove a 2008 S8 locally and then a 2011 S6 in California and then had a friend check another S8 out for me in Chicago. It was close. Both models use the same 5.2 liter V-10 (albeit tuned slightly differently) and were marvelous from a driving and sensory perspective.
In the end I decided against either as they are potentially just a bit “much” for what I do around here. If my garage was bigger I’d love to have one as a fourth car, but not right now. Of course these are just going to depreciate more and more so there may be another opportunity down the road.
The Jaguar wagon was just not available at the time and I was not willing to travel around the country for a ten year old car that may or may not have been a good one. Same story for the Allroad, just not many good candidates available.
I spent several hours looking at and kicking the tires of a couple of new Honda Accords. Very nice. I wish the Sport was available with a leather interior (but I know it can be added aftermarket) but in the end my wife just didn’t seem to want to go there.
I know, they are great cars and with snow tires may have worked, why, oh why won’t they just make a real AWD wagon instead of that Crosstour liftback thing?
The Ram – I looked at a couple at the dealer. I also looked at the F150 as many commenters seemed to prefer it to the Ram (never mind that I just got clobbered by an F150…) and in the end decided that while I like the IDEA of a truck and could actually use it as intended and it would provide a nice tax deduction according to my accountant, it’d be a compromise much of the time and I’d probably be just as happy with one day buying an older more beater-ish truck to knock around in when the mood strikes me.
The fact that I didn’t actually test drive any (although there was plenty of opportunity) kind of made me realize my heart wasn’t really in it.
I really wanted to make a Lexus LS460 AWD work, but never came across the right one at the right price in the right color in my short timeframe. They were either the long wheelbase, or had gray interior, or were priced too high or were too new or had too many miles. Another future contender for when I buy Jason Shafer’s barn and transplant it here, I guess.
Pretty much the same thing applies to the Mercedes E350 4Matic Wagon. I’m a fan of all wagons, and found several of these that sort of fit the bill, but all were still just a little more than I wanted to pay for the amount of miles they had on them.
I briefly considered the sedan and then also the slightly older version but in the end didn’t want to settle, so I took a pass on that this time around.
While in California, a couple of other things presented themselves that I hadn’t really considered before – I took a long hard look at a couple of Passats, and the reasoning against is the same as with the Accord above. Great cars in many ways, but not the perfect format.
Then I found an Acura dealer there since my closest one is an hour away. They had both a 2011 RL as well as 2009 TL, both with the AWD system and a V6. I drove both and liked the TL better and have to say the styling is not nearly as jarring to me as it was when it debuted.
The one I drove was a dark red with black interior as pictured above. (As a matter of fact all of the pictures are of the actual contenders if I said I drove them in this article). I actually made the dealer an offer and was ready to buy it. However he was completely stuck on his price so I decided against it. But it was close! I could have been happy with it, it’s quite underrated, I think the looks turn people off before giving it a chance.
So what does that leave? Yes, the second generation of the most American car that America has built in the last decade (in my opinion). Large, a little brash (less so in the second generation), plenty of engine, a smooth ride, lots of toys, and a comfortable interior – In this case a slightly used (8032 miles), 2014 Chrysler 300C AWD with the 5.7 liter V8.
Painted Billet Silver with a black interior, this particular one has every available option besides the upgraded sound system (but the stock Alpine system sounds excellent to my still slightly ringing ears. Everything from the offerings on Backspin on SXM (Ice Cube was a classmate of mine in high school) to my daughter’s latest Taylor Swift comes across loud and clear.) Of course even though the car is ostensibly “American”, it is actually assembled in Brampton, Ontario and the engine hails from Mexico…
The options consist of a very large panoramic sunroof (very similar to that on our old VW Touareg), the “SafetyTec” package (laser-based distance controlling cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross path detection coupled with the camera, blind spot monitor in the mirrors), Lighting package (Adaptive Bi-Xenon HID’s that swivel like the Touareg’s but use more inputs than just the steering angle, turn signals in the mirrors, front and rear fog lights, automatic high beam control), as well as the AWD system which is quite slick (no pun intended).
It apparently is able to automatically decouple the front axle via an electronic clutch if the temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit and no slippage is detected (i.e. the summer). So currently with our freezing temperatures it is in full-time AWD mode and works very well. It has about 2/3rds of the power going to the rear wheels so still is quite able to get the back out at will but is very controllable in the slippery stuff.
The list of standard features is somewhat mind-boggling, I had thought a lot of this stuff would be optional but it is standard on the 300C – Navigation, leather, real wood trim, heated seats front and back, heated steering wheel, ventilated seats in front, heated and cooled cupholders (didn’t know that was a thing), power rear sunshade, powered tilt and telescope wheel, power adjustable foot pedals, memory for everything, keyless entry and start/stop, automatic headlights, automatic wipers and much more.
I’m perhaps a bit of a luddite, meaning I have a smartphone but really don’t use many apps and am waiting in vain for the day that my expensive phone actually keeps every call connected and generally prefer my climate controls to be manual rather than automatic etc.
However I am absolutely smitten with the 8.4” touchscreen in the center of the dash and never (perhaps unfairly, I admit) would have expected Chrysler to have engineered this. It is very simple to use, extremely legible and logical in both layout and operation and best of all has redundant knobs and buttons for many of the most used controls below it.
Setting up Bluetooth was super simple, the car automatically turns on the seat and steering wheel heater if it’s cold out but lets me change the settings on a start-up screen when I turn the car on, and the navigation part (powered by Garmin) is intuitive and even lets you replace the curser with a pictogram of my car in the correct color (or you can choose between a Charger, a Jeep Wrangler, and I think a Cherokee among several others). Maybe a gimmick, but fun nonetheless. I guess this is what they call a “surprise and delight” feature in the industry.
Of course the heart of this beast is the engine, the 5.7 liter V8 “Hemi” that can deactivate 4 cylinders under light load. On the highway I’ve observed mid 20’s mpg so far, around town mid to high teens, not great, but far from horrible for a car of this size, weight, and power. I do like American V8’s and still remember the one in my old Chevelle wagon fondly. This one puts out 363 horsepower, 392 pound-feet of torque, and a very good noise.
The engine is attached to a 5-speed automatic and while the 8-speed that is supposedly being offered for 2015 would probably provide better mileage, the installed unit shifts smoothly and quickly and gets the job done just fine. As an aside, the newer 2015’s are slightly restyled but no longer offer AWD with the V8, 2014 was the last year for that combination.
I bought it December 31st, so have had it for a little while and several hundred miles. Freeway driving is a doddle, just lean back and relax in silence while the car wafts down the road. In town it just goes about its business, the windows are not as short as in the prior generation which really had trouble with being able to see overhead traffic lights and such, so that has been resolved.
The only annoyance that I’ve found so far is one common to many American cars, when you want the wipers to wipe only once, most imports let you push the end of the stalk up or down or in slightly with one finger, here you have to twist the stalk slightly, meaning you need to remove a hand from the wheel which is an asinine thing to have to do when you’d ideally want to maintain as much control as possible.
Otherwise, it’s smooth, quick, and even though the chassis has lineage dating to an older Mercedes unit, I never thought there was anything wrong with older Mercedes’, so it handles just fine for most of the driving that I intend to do with it. Mine used to be a rental car, it was used only in Idaho between May and November of 2014 and seems to not have suffered any visible abuse.
There are a number of these that are ex-rental but most have more miles, I’m not sure why the company would have cycled it through their system so quickly but whatever, I’ll take the 40%+ depreciation over eight months every day of the week (and hope that same depreciation schedule slows down now.). I did drive several with between 20,000 and 30,000 miles and they all seemed just about as solid as my lower mile one is, no rattles or anything loose or worn.
I even found one located in Eugene (CC Mecca) but alas, it sold before I made up my mind about it, it apparently was as good a deal as I thought it might be. That would have been a good road trip home after a CC walk with Paul. In fact it was the one that I used the pictures of in the QOTD article.
As I get older, I am becoming more aware of the passage of time and am valuing the ability to relax and not worry (or think) about car repairs and such. I definitely value having the remainder of the 3-year, 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and also the 5-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Since the car was built in April 2014 and has covered just over 8,000 miles, that still leaves me with plenty of time and miles.
Coincidentally my old Subaru was also built in April of 2014 and met its demise with just over 8,000 miles on it, so it’s kind of like I’m taking over where I left off but in a sort of parallel universe. Could I be the only Subaru Outback owner that replaced the car with a Chrysler 300C with a Hemi?
So anyway, thank you all very much for your input to my question a few weeks ago and rest assured that I am driving around with a smile on my face, my foot on the gas and (for now at least) barely caring whatsoever about the gas mileage. I have a Costco a mile from my house that is selling the go-juice for $1.59 per gallon…currently. God Bless America (‘Murica?)!