Hermine was the first hurricane to directly impact Florida in quite some time. Several weeks ago a similarly rare event occurred: my dad expressed interest in purchasing another car to replace his current one. Unfortunately he’s done nothing but vex me since then, giving me vague answers as to what he’s looking for in his next car, but I suspect he’ll pick something up before the year is out. The question is, what will it be? And what should it be?
His interest in obtaining a new vehicle came about when the battery light suddenly popped up while he was driving to Westchester on a hot August day, with the car being under heavy load due to AC use. The light shuts off once the AC is switched off, but that is hardly any consolation and likely indicates an impending replacement of the battery and/or alternator, as the same symptom resulted in both getting replaced in the past, which did fix the issue. Since the last battery replacement occurred at least four years ago this isn’t anything earth shattering, but this time around he’s questioning putting any more money into the car. Can’t say I blame him; even though he doesn’t travel much the car still has about 175,000 miles on the clock, and its not getting any younger.
My sister has indicated that she and her husband could use another car, which will probably be the main catalyst for him getting into something else. He’s previously given her a vehicle in the past: the 2004 Camry pictured above, which they initially borrowed before purchasing it from dad for a fraction of its value. The beigemobile is still going strong, but their lives would be much easier if they owned two vehicles. I think giving them the Taurus is a wise option, as its a known quantity that likely still has a lot of life left in it.
The catalyst that started the search is the 2015 Impala LS Limited you see above. My dad was interested enough to take it out for a spin but came away unimpressed. His verdict? “It didn’t wow me.” I certainly understand where he’s coming from; the Impala behaved quite similarly to his Taurus, with a few notable exceptions.
For starters, the electric power steering didn’t produce acceptable feedback, but it did require less input in low speed situations compared to the Ford, which I liked. On the highway, the Impala was very quiet, with little road noise reaching the cabin. Acceleration was brisk, but the six speed automatic prioritizes fuel economy over performance so much that it completely invalidates the advertised 302 horsepower figure. My butt tells me it felt more like 230 ponies; I’ll concur with that assessment. The Impala also felt composed over bumps with a ride nearly indistinguishable from the Taurus, but the Ford feels more confident around corners. Chalk it up to the Impala weighing about 400 pounds more.
As for the interior, it was a mixed bag. The positive attributes of the cabin amounted to the steering wheel and the seats, both of which felt very comfortable and well suited for long trips. Everything else disappointed me, especially the buttons, which are too small for their own good. This isn’t limited to the Impala either; The Verano and Silverado also suffer from this malady. To make matters worse the button to adjust the power mirrors came off when my dad tried to use it, making the oddly shaped mirrors even more useless than they already were. I was going to complain about the floor shifter not being labeled until I realized that the column shifter in the Taurus, along with most column shifters, aren’t labeled either.
Driving dynamics aside, the Impala simply looks far too similar to the Taurus, especially when taking color into account. Throw the Camry into the mix and it gets even more complicated. Did the Ford and Toyota get freaky one night, and is the Impala proof of that encounter?
Enough about the Camry, Taurus, and Impala. Time to start talking about potential replacement vehicles by starting off with…another Taurus. I swear I’m not being lazy by including it in my list; before he expressed interest in the Chevy my dad kept talking about how much he likes the design of the current generation Taurus. Introduced for 2010 model year, the latest Taurus is definitely due for a replacement, but given the state of the full size sedan segment that might not happen.
Of course we all know that age is just a number, right? After all, his 2006 has bones that date back to 1985, while the Impala’s architecture debuted in 1988. Every late model Taurus rides on a design that is either twelve years old or eighteen years of age, depending on whether you consider the D3 platform a true break from the Volvo P2 platform of which it is derived.
Automotive history aside, Ford’s full size could work for him. Steep depreciation means its not hard to find a well equipped model for a very reasonable price. Its got a ride and handling balance that definitely ranks above the Impala, and while I’m sure the SHO would wow him, I think the standard V6 has more than enough power for everyday driving. The seating position, dubbed “Command Seating” in Ford marketing speak, would make ingress and egress easier for his aging knees and back. All wheel drive would help in the winter and the trunk is huge. The same can be said for the Lincoln MKS, which is also a top pick.
What prevents this from being my number one pick is no doubt familiar to any of you who have ever had the pleasure of riding in one of these things: the interior space for the driver and passenger is extremely lacking and not much bigger than a mid size sedan. Exterior dimensions also come into play as the Taurus is noticeably wider than his current ride, to the point where it might be impossible to fit inside the garage. Its visibility is also an issue and definitely not ideal for parking or maneuvering in tight spots.
Which leads me to my second place choice, a 2013-2016 Fusion. This is the direct replacement for his car, and not just because its the latest mid size from Ford. Interior dimensions are very similar to his Taurus, with the Fusion being a bit wider, which greatly helps with hip room. Trunk space is nearly the same and visibility, while not ideal, is at least comparable to what he is familiar with. CPO prices on the Fusion are pretty reasonable for the SE trim level and the models without MyFordTouch have the exact same user interface that I have in my Focus, so the learning curve for him won’t be too steep. Large buttons for the audio controls are a big plus.
In terms of ride and handling, I would be very surprised if he wasn’t impressed with the Fusion, as even more basic models feel extremely well composed on the road. With 175 horsepower and a six speed transmission, the Ford 2.5 liter will feel appreciably faster than what he has now. Obviously any of the optional engines, including the hybrid powertrain, would offer even more performance, but the added cost might not be worth it.
Which is why my top pick for replacing the Taurus is the Ford C-max. Its a great value for a CPO vehicle since hybrids aren’t in vogue right now, and this particular model never set the world on fire anyway, which means you can find a fully loaded one with low miles for well under $20,000. Its quiet, roomy, and has excellent visibility. The ride and handling definitely punch above its class, and I’ve seen torque estimates for this powertrain come in at 230 lbs; no slouch at the stoplight, especially with the instant thrust a hybrid provides when accelerating from a standstill. The higher ride height means exit and entry are easier when compared to your average sedan. Long term ownership with a C-Max seems like an easy decision since Ford’s record with hybrid engines has no blemishes, aside from that gas mileage controversy several years ago.
Honorable mentions? The 300, Impala, Accord, Camry, Avalon, Cruze, Legacy, Verano, Regal, and Malibu are at the top, but seem way too expensive as lightly used cars. Suspect long term reliability takes the 200 out of the equation, as does any Volkswagen; Hyundai and Kia are big unknowns as well. The only Mazda dealer in the area has a terrible reputation so no zoom zoom for papa. I’m not impressed with any modern Nissan.
Parameters for a recommendation? He doesn’t want to buy or lease anything new, and he is partial to sedans, coupes, or wagons. I don’t think he is considering anything above $20,000, so I’m thinking the sweet spot is anything between $13,000 and $17,000. CPO is a big plus.
Wild cards? He routinely browses Craigslist for cars around the $5,000 range. I think anything below the $10,000 mark is a bad idea because at that point he’s not getting something I feel would last any longer than his Taurus.
This QOTD is now the length of a well researched Curbside Classic article, which means its time for me to stop writing and let you guys do the talking. If you’ve made it this far I owe you a drink.