Last September, I explored the question that you have been asking me for too long. It seems that you all think I have some magic savings account somewhere and that, all of the sudden, $75,000 appears. Heck, we automotive writers don't make that kind of money…a few do, but not I.
I think you are crazy. Seriously.
However, I will acquiesce this time to again answer your question n of what vehicles I will buy if I had the money to do so today. There are some clues based on the reviews you have read on Victory & Reseda. Then, there are some surprises…
I would suggest putting down what you are drinking now before you go on…
In this version, I have decided to name specific vehicles based on price points. Further explanations are given, along with research based on inventory levels. This means concentrating on new vehicles, since a bulk of the work is around that market. Understanding that depreciation hits as soon as the vehicle rolls off the lot, I also take in consideration any programs the OEM might offer new vehicle buyers to offset first-to-third year costs.
Another aspect to this list are vehicles for which I am not just buying a car. One thing we often forget is not just the brand we buy, but rather the dealership we buy it from. We often go to the dealership just to buy the car without considering all other aspects of post-sale of the car. When you are there, take a walk through the entire property. Look at the service department, the parts department and any other value-added services that will help ease the pain of buying that vehicle. Feel how the staff treats you. If you like the people you will be working with, that might be the dealer you would buy your next vehicle from. You might get great service, too!
In a future article, I will be talking about dealerships. But, for now, it’s time to answer your question…just keep the drink down until we're done.
SCION iM/TOYOTA COROLLA iM: Even before a single car arrived at their showroom, I really loved how the Corolla hatchback (also known as the Auris/Levin) turned out for our market. Scion utilized a monospec, fixed price strategy that makes buying one easy. However, the Scion brand is done at the end of August. Come September, the iM will be folded into the Corolla lineup for the 2017 model year. While the sedan models are being revised with new front ends, an additional trim level and other equipment upgrades, no specific word on any changes to be made on the iM within the Coroilla lineup. A 2016 Scion iM with the CVT has a sticker price of $19,995. Considering the content it already has for that price – this is a darn good value. Depending on what Toyota does for its infotainment systems (please, please, please add the Entune lineup!), the audio system will have to go away for a more intuitive head unit. As for inventory, there are plenty of them in Electric Storm Blue with the CVT available at almost every dealership in the Twin Cities. Getting the 2016 iM will have some sentimental value with the Scion badge, but the 2017 Corolla iM may include a few more perks under the Toyota banner.
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT: I was smitten by the smooth ride and comfort of the 2016 Passat I recently reviewed for here. There is a debate on this car – which trim should I settle for? My requirements are based on a minimum of the 6.5-inch Discover Media MIB II infotainment system with navigation and App-Connect smartphone integration. That would leave the 1.8T SE with the Technology Package with a possible upgrade to the 1.8T SEL. Color would be important in this case, in particular – Reef Blue Metallic. Pricing will range from $29,230 for the 1.8T SE with the Technology package to $31,315 for the SEL. The latter is desirable because of the Fender Premium Audio added to the 1.8T SEL. Inventory is an issue for the 1.8T SEL, since they tend to be dealer ordered. The 1.8T SE with the Technology Package is more readily available on dealer lots across the Twin Cities – especially in the blue color I want. Volkswagen offers plenty of benefits to their owners, which helps add value to this wonderful car.
JEEP CHEROKEE: I figured I talk you all through this one. Yes, it had a few quality issues in the beginning. Yes, everyone had a field day with its design when it first was seen in public. But, this is perhaps the right compact SUV that I feel would satisfy my want of adventure, wanderlust and overall cool. There is only one model that suffices here: The Trailhawk. This model provides all the right tools for fun: Off-road suspension, Active Drive Lock – including two 4WD gears, hill descent control and switchable pre-set traction options. That is, as long as I get the V6. In all, I finally got a chance to drive a Cherokee that is exactly what I expect it to be. It is tough and capable. It is also just fine behind the wheel, even in the urban forest. For how I equipped this Cherokee Trailhawk, I came up with a sticker price of $37,970. The good news is that there are plenty of Cherokee Trailhawks in stock in the Twin Cities. Finding the right one is certainly going to be a chore. I'll take mine in Rhino or Mango Tango, please?
LEXUS ES 350: No, I am not out of mind. Nor am I realizing how old I am. There is nothing wrong with the 2016 ES, because it takes me back to the days when luxury cars are supposed to be smooth riding, relaxing, comfortable and can do a jig when it has to. Not to mention the amount of cabin space is has. It may not be as large as the Volkswagen Passat, but it will fit four of me comfortably – even with the softer Nuluxe upholstery. Choosing the V6 over the Hybrid was more of an "enthusiast" move than a sustainable one. It could go either way, but clearly the V6 model is less expensive than the other. I could load up the ES 350 with packages and options, such as Enform, navigation and the Mark Levinson audio system. However, I found that the ES is just fine without all of the bells and whistles, as Lexus has enough content on board for me to work with. The sticker price is manageable within this range – $39,050. The issue is color, as I found no Autumn Shimmer models available. There are other colors to choose from, such as Nightfall Mica. All it takes is to match what was on the ground rather than what is inventoried online between the two Twin Cities dealerships. In all, this is the most value-oriented way to get into the Lexus brand with all of the perks ownership entitles
DODGE CHARGER R/T SCAT PACK: As Richard Rawlings (of Gas Monkey Garage fame) have been saying in his commercials, "Get you some of that!" (i.e. #GYSOT). I had me a taste of "some of that" and it's intoxicating. I am a sucker for Mopar metal and the Charger has exactly what I want – four-door practicality with kick-butt looks. Add the 6.4 liter "392" SRT-massaged V8 and I have more than enough to kick anyone's butt. How about 485 horsepower worth? On one configuration, with just essential equipment, that came out to a sticker price of $42,580. The truth is that Scat Packs are becoming harder to come by. They no longer offer the Plum Crazy as a stock color, since it was a limited run. The next choice is B5 Blue, a heritage color that is always available almost every year. In terms of inventory, I only found that I would have to choose another trim entirely. A regular R/T would suffice, since the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 is just as exciting as the bigger engine. Those models would shoot the price down below $40,000. I did find one R/T with the Road & Track package in the area that was perfectly equipped for around $43,000. It almost seems that I should be looking at a 2017 model instead of a 2016. There is one thing to consider – picking the right dealer to work with. There are some that are good and others…not so much. It is the risk one takes for getting something desirable like a Charger R/T Scat Pack.
GMC SIERRA: Living in Minnesota means dealing with all four seasons. While you have to have four-wheel drive for better traction, you also need a combination of ride height and flexible hauling to do more than just commute in this town. There are advantages to having a pickup truck, as there are disadvantages. But, if I have to have one – the GMC Sierra would be my choice. I often said how balanced General Motors' pickups are that really don’t require a lot of engineering and technology. It is a straightforward truck that satisfies most truck owners. In my case, I prefer the GMC Sierra these days due to its balanced approach and solid comfort. Another reason is that GMC Sierras are easy to come by. A customer has to know the kind of equipment to have in order to match needs and wants. If you only need power to take care of lighter jobs, I think the 5.3 liter V8 suffices. I do not anticipate towing or doing major construction or home renovation jobs that require higher hauling capacity. Maybe I want to lay down a mattress, some blankets and a chair to enjoy the fresh air on a summer evening? My configuration is easy: The Crew Cab with the Short Box. I could go Standard Box, but where am I going to park it? It has to have four-wheel drive and the 5.3 liter V8 with the eight-speed automatic. As for trim, it is a toss-up between the SLT and Denali. An SLT for what I want will wind up with a sticker price of $55,250. Stepping up the Denali only requires a bit more money at $56,480. In the case of a recent Denali I reviewed, that would go up to just under $61,000. For the most part, Denalis are less available than SLTs, but I can get one nonetheless.
LEXUS RC F: I don't care how fast it goes or not! I also don't care that it is not completely graceful on the track. This car is completely pornographic (my kind of pornography, perhaps) and I would really think it would be right for me. It might not get me to hang with the exotic car guys, but so what? My personal pleasure is utmost here. The RC F is pure pleasure, especially when you cannot feel it go 100 MPH. For what I want, it does come out to a sticker price of $73,590. There is one point of contention. The RC F tester from last year came with a Torque Vectoring Differential. This is an awesome feature. However, to get the TVD, you have to spend $5,000-plus dollars for a package with carbon fiber body panels included. I would rather have the TVD a la carte than to get a package with items I really don't want. Then, there is the task of finding the right one without that package. Since I want my RC F in Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0, it would take a wider net to catch one. In fact, I was unable to find one in that color anywhere in the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, Chicago and Iowa. Maybe a 2017?
$100,000 AND UP
PORSCHE 911: Yes, that car! It is the kind of car when someone points out that I do not have enough trunk space, rear seat room or anything practical…and all I can do is smile back. Seriously, "so what?" So what if there is a front cargo compartment good for two gym bags. So what if the rear seats are useless – except to fold down the seatbacks for skinnier cargo. So what if the price of maintenance is high and it takes only 93 Octane gasoline. This is the ultimate car in my world. A car that I can drive on hours with a lovely soundtrack, great throttle response and complete utter satisfaction. They are pretty expensive – true. I know that I could only see the base price and expect to add additional equipment for another $20,000 on average. The 2017 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet did come with a sticker of $150,000. I can get a coupe that similarly equipped towards below $145,000. The most important piece is the "4" designation – the all-wheel drive – to make it an all-season driver. Inventory is not as robust as with other models listed, since it will take some finding and negotiating with the dealership of choice. Besides, you can't walk into a dealership and declare that you want a Porsche 911. You have to be ready…to be patient. For a car like this – with the money to spend for it – I can be very patient. Some things are worth the wait.
All photos by Randy Stern