This is becoming an annoying tradition.
This is where I do an annual “What Would Randy Buy if He Won The Freakin' Lottery, Paid Off His Creditors and Have More Than Enough Money to Buy a Car…or Three.”
I do this not as a personal indulgence. Nor do I wish that I win some sort of lottery to become instantly under a massive tax burden.
Actually, this is a service to the consumer. If you noticed that your television, radio, and internet are now blasting clearance sales by the manufacturers, brands, and dealerships. They are making way for the vehicles of the coming model year. They need to move a lot of units in August and September with huge deals fueled by various incentives. All of the sudden, your $30,000 dream car can be bought for $26,000 with a new car warranty and all of the trimmings.
With that said, what if you were me? Except that you have a higher credit score and a higher paying job. In other words, what would I buy?
In the past, I broke it down to price points and explored each price point to find the right vehicle combination. This year, I'm changing it up. Instead of being worried about price, I am going to concentrate on vehicles I worked with recently that I would actually enjoy owning. Pricing, segment, and OEM are not dependent here. Nor does vehicle origin or any other factor will come into play.
For each vehicle, I will spell out certain equipment that drew me to this vehicle, along with current sticker price. Not to mention the usual specifications and characteristics that I enjoy from each vehicle.
If you happen to think you would want to buy any of these yourself, awesome!
So…the 2017 "What Would Randy Buy" list is as follows:
2017 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8T SEL PREMIUM: This actually began with a debate between two trim levels: the SE with Technology Package and the SEL Premium. The last Passat I worked with was an SEL Premium, but with the V6. Selecting the 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder over the VR6 was more for its balance in performance and the fuel economy it returned. What tilts my choice of Passat towards the SEL Premium trim is a matter of some premium appointments. The SEL's leather seats are highly supportive. The Fender Premium audio upgrade is superb. The big “buy” for me with this model is the complete suite of active safety features – including Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning. This is an absolutely complete package that offers everything – including luxury – at a good price. Complete Sticker Price: $31,815.
2017 MAZDA6 GRAND TOURING: There is no question that I still think the current Mazda6 is a superb touring sedan. From the 2.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder engine, its superb 6-speed automatic transmission and, now, G-Vectoring control, I have all of the ingredients of a sweet car to take on long drives and serve as a support vehicle for V&R. One thing I need to live without – Mazda Connect does not have provision for Apple CarPlay. However, I can program a lot of presets through this infotainment system, it offers a good navigation system and I can play my music files without a problem. Those Bose Centerpoint speakers also work well inside the Mazda6's cabin. It is also equipped with a complete list of safety features, including radar cruise control. Adding the Premium Package also adds the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system among other additional features. Complete Sticker Price: $34,070.
2017 DODGE CHARGER: I love this iteration of this big ol' lug. The recent facelift absolutely nailed it for me. I would not consider any other generation of this LX platform beast than this mid-cycle refresh of the second iteration of this car. My biggest problem is to which one to get. Unlike the Passat, I have a few more choices to decide upon.
First, there's the SXT with All-Wheel Drive. Some say that the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is about adequate for the Charger. I agree that it is a fine motor for this car and is worthy. The issue is to how to make an SXT more of a standout than others seen on the road. That's where the packages come into play. For the SXT with all-wheel drive, I found that if I added the Blacktop Appearance Group and the Premium Group that I would have a bad-ass Pentastar-powered Charger that spoke to my personality and needs. (Complete Sticker Price: $41,180)
Then, there's the R/T with the 370-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8. Again, the question is which package combination would I want with the R/T. Luckily, the same packages were available on the R/T as on the SXT – Blacktop Appearance plus the Premium Group. Save for the larger wheels and bigger engine, it is still a bad-ass Charger. (Complete Sticker Price: $44,280)
Ultimately, the Charger I would love to have is the R/T Scat Pack. With its 485-horsepower SRT 6.4-liter "392" V8, this is a powerhouse. You feel it rumble and hear it roar. What other car can do that for the price point? It is the muscle car of my childhood reborn in a modern big sedan. (Complete Sticker Price: $48,080)
2017 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R: Let me flip the script. If I must get small, I want the maximum out of my minimum. Based on that notion, I cannot think of any other car that fits this perfectly than the Golf R. How can you say "no" to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that spews out 292 horsepower and has 4Motion all-wheel drive standard? My only experience still lingers – a sharp machine with exceptional driving dynamics. Those cars are brilliant! Complete Sticker Price: $41,295.
2018 AUDI A5 SPORTBACK: I recently fell in love with this new premium hatchback. I can't lie – it drives superbly, offers plenty of power from its TFSI 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and dazzles you with its technology and engineering. Plus, it's a hatchback! What more do you want? In my case – plenty. My key features would be the Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade and the Virtual Cockpit. The rest is icing. Complete Sticker Price: $53,075
2018 VOLVO XC60: If I must be like the rest of the USA and have an SUV…it better be damn good. With that said, the XC60 is all new, but oh so good. It is the right size with the right power – the T6 316-horsepower 2.0-liter Drive-E with both turbocharging and supercharging. All-wheel drive is part of the plan, too! The big decision is which trim level to get. That should be easy: R Design! Then, add on everything – Bower & Wilkins audio system, all of the active safety features…OK, everything! The result should be the coolest SUV one should own, IMHO. Complete Sticker Price: $58,740.
2017 LEXUS RC F: I know…it's about $80,000. And, so what! The RC F hits me at the right places – a ball of power that rocks like a stealth bomber. It is a sports coupe worth driving and owning. There are two ways of doing this. If I want the Torque Vectoring Control, I must have the Performance Package – including the carbon fiber roof and wing. The carbon fiber add-ons look great with certain colors – Infrared, for example – but not every color. If I can live without the TVC, then I'll live anyway. As long as I have the Mark Levinson audio system, Navigation, and Pre-Collision system, I'm good. Complete Sticker Price: $79,555.
2017 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF WOLFSBURG: In the words of Kendrick Lamar: "Sit down, be humble." He also said some other things, but that would detract from this point. Not everything has to be fancy and fine. There are times when being humble is a reflection of one's roots and place on this Earth. Sad, but true. We can dream all we want, but when it comes to automobiles, we have to be realistic. At least in this Golf, I get App-Connect, using my iPhone through Apple CarPlay. I also get a fair amount of standard equipment that I would enjoy. To be humble, I must sit down…and enjoy the drive. Complete Sticker Price: $23,515.
There are a few consumer lessons to be learned here. First of all, know exactly what you can afford to own…or lease. That monthly payment is more important to your paycheck than anything. That, along with your insurance payment and other related expenses. The down payment is also important and will affect how much your monthly expenses will be. Think about that before you sign your life away.
Also important is to consider what you really need in a vehicle. To follow a trend or to get something your friends have might not be the right vehicle you actually buy. Just because SUVs are popular right now does not mean that you need one. But, if you do, better have some sort of justification – space, family, work. The same goes for any vehicle you buy or lease.
Lastly, get a better test drive out of it. A 15-minute test drive might not be enough to get a good feel for a vehicle. Ask for more time. Give it a good mix of driving situations. A short test drive around the block is not enough to get a long lasting impression.
Like I said, this may be an indulgence but it is also consumer advice. Which leads me to one huge tip: Don't be me. Don't even be like me. Be you instead. That goes for your chosen automobile. And never judge anyone's purchase or lease decision. You didn't sign those papers…they did.
Cover photo by Rick Mudge/Audi Richfield. All other photos by Randy Stern