As the years go by, new vehicles come and go. What will never change is the indulgence into consumer advice using the money I really do not have.
Since 2015, I have used this website as an exercise in personal consumer indulgence. Every year yields a sort-of definitive list of "What Would Randy Buy (if he had the money and the arrogance to do so)." It is a combination of egomania and marketplace intelligence.
As with every year, I try to change my methodology in presenting this shopping list for you. For 2019, I decided on combining a budget-based list with specific vehicle classes. For example, I would have a car, an SUV, and a truck for, say, a budget range of $50,000-65,000. This reflects some realities of the marketplace based on consumer trends – combined with my own experience of those vehicles.
As for where each vehicle falls into their respective pricing spectrum will depend on the sticker price of a vehicle based on specific trim and equipment level – options included. Base price is not considered when placing certain vehicles at each price point.
Sounds complicated? Don't worry, you can argue with me at every turn. I welcome it!
BUDGET – UP TO $30,000
CAR – VOLKSWAGEN JETTA: Can you actually get more for less? You can, but you better choose wisely. The issue here is that the average take on a new vehicle has jumped up beyond $30,000. But, you can get a great vehicle for under that price threshold. For example, this #VOTY18 finalist. The 1.4-liter TSI turbocharged engine is actually pretty powerful. The eight-speed automatic is smooth and can return some great fuel economy figures. As for which Jetta, that would be tough. I like the SEL Premium and its Digital Cockpit and Driver Assistance features, but I also love the sporty simplicity of the R Line. Which one would you choose? 2019 Volkswagen Jetta R Line is priced at $24,635, while the SEL Premium is priced at $28,590. Back-up choice: 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE Hatchback or Sedan
SUV – HYUNDAI KONA: The average take on an SUV/crossover is well beyond $30,000. The Hyundai Kona is perhaps the best vehicle for under that figure. It is small but very accommodating for its size. It also features a choice of engines, depending on which trim you choose. I have driven the SEL with the 148-horsepower 2.0-liter engine and the Ultimate with the 175-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Each one offers its own argument for which one to own, but it all comes down to the packaging. The jurors for the North American Car/Truck/Utility of The Year called this one right. 2019 Hyundai Kona SEL AWD is priced at $25,895, while the Ultimate AWD is priced at $29,995. Back-up choice: None
TRUCK – NONE: Every pickup truck I have found will send this budget beyond $30,000 threshold. Way beyond. See below…
BUDGET – $30,000-$45,000
CAR – TOYOTA CAMRY: If I can survive a long journey in one, it is worth the buy! Let me throw some twists into this car. First, I would choose the Hybrid with its excellent fuel-sipping 2.5-liter engine combined with an electric motor. Secondly, I would choose the XLE and its luxurious cabin. Thirdly, it's no longer considered boring looking and driving. It is quite comfortable – great for long drives. Not to mention ample room for rear seat passengers. This is why it is the best-selling passenger sedan in the USA. 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE is priced at $38,644. Back-up choice: 2019 Mazda6 Signature
SUV – HYUNDAI SANTA FE: This one was a very tough choice. As much as I love the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5, the Hyundai Santa Fe jumped to the top of the list thanks to its space and overall comfort. I had the Ultimate with the 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and found it spot on for the vehicle. It also helps to have a great shifting eight-speed automatic and a solid all-wheel-drive system. With the Ultimate, you get everything from driver assistance features to a fully customizable instrument binnacle. And, everything else that ticks my boxes for infotainment and convenience. 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T with AWD is priced at $39,895. Back-up choice: 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium 4MOTION
TRUCK – FORD RANGER: This was a tough one to choose, as I had a brief exposure to this mid-sized pickup. Yet, from what I heard, seen, and so forth – it'll be just fine. It has some qualities, such as the turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, a 10-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive, and a host of options to add value to this pickup truck. The danger of choosing a pickup truck in this price range are the options. Once you start ticking most – if not, all – of the boxes, you will wind up with a truck that costs much more than you anticipated. But, the Ranger should be worth it, right? 2019 Ford Ranger 4X4 SuperCrew XLT is priced at $42,055. Back-up choice: None
BUDGET – $45,000-$65,000
CAR – LEXUS ES: This was a no brainer. I simply love this sedan. Sure, it's a front-drive sedan that people older than me drive. However, this all-new version is designed for younger folks – younger than me, that is. Which makes the right person to buy one, right? It has everything I look for in a car – style, performance, comfort, technology, and safety. Plus, it's a Lexus! I do have a choice available to me. I can go either with the ES 350 and its 3.5-liter V6 engine in the Ultra Luxury trim, the ES 350 in the F Sport model, or the efficient ES 300h and its Hybrid 2.5-liter driveline in the Ultra Luxury trim. No matter the choice, it all comes with a huge smile on my face. 2019 Lexus ES 350 Ultra Luxury is priced at $53,170, while the ES 350 F Sport is priced at $52,435, and the ES 300h Ultra Luxury is priced at $54,480. Back-up choice: 2019 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack
SUV – KIA TELLURIDE: One could easily select a premium-branded compact SUV for this price point. I chose not to. Instead, I went with one of the best mid-sized, three-row SUVs in the market right now. I could have gone either to a 2020 Hyundai Palisade or the 2020 Ford Explorer, but the Kia has a few things I like on it. The T-bar shifter, for starters. The bold design is another. Comfort for seven people – check! Plus, all of the amenities that I want at this price point. Do I want anything more? Maybe, but the Telluride is one hot SUV that is reaping its share of kudos that are worth each one. 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD is priced at $47,935. Back-up choice: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD.
TRUCK – TOYOTA TUNDRA: This won by a three-way coin flip with the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150. The reason the Toyota won was not because of some advantage in towing or payload. It is simply because I love driving one. It has that 5.7-liter V8 engine that rocks and rolls underneath its hood. It has comfortable seats that soothe me over long distances. It also has Toyota's superb four-wheel-drive system. Sure, it is not the fuel economy champ or the most advanced truck in its class. But, what I want is a truck to play with. The TRD Pro is exactly what I'm talking about! 2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax 4WD is priced at $54,033. Back-up choice: 2019 Ram 1500 4X4 Crew Cab Big Horn
BUDGET – $65,000-$100,000
CAR – LEXUS RC F: "My favorite car of all time." It should be. I'm glad they upped the power to 472 horses. I'm also glad they added the Track Edition. But, somehow, I really don't need all that carbon fiber and I happen to like the deployable rear spoiler. Plus, an Ultrasonic Blue 2.0 RC F will still turn heads and bring fanboys and girls to its charms. But, this is a poser's car. It is made to carve roads. This is sort of a signature car for me, as I found its charms to be intoxicating. One thing I would need to do before bringing one back into the fold – see if I can still sit in those race-inspired seats comfortably again. If so…dimes can be dropped. 2020 Lexus RC F is priced at $79,155. Back-up choice: 2019 Audi A6 Prestige 55 TSFI quattro
SUV – FORD EXPEDITION: For what it is – a large SUV – it does very well. You do get loads of space, an interior that is shared with the F-150 to some extent, great drivability, and solid fuel economy from it's 3.5–liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6. It has honest seating for adults and a ton of cargo space. But does one need a huge SUV to carry people around? There are families who can justify that, but I can't. If you insist that I have such a huge rig for carrying folks around, then this is it. 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum 4X4 is priced at $80,125. Back-up choice: None.
TRUCK – FORD F-150 RAPTOR: The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is a great value, but it lacks a few things. What the Toyota lacks, the ultimate Ford F-150 delivers. The Raptor has more horsepower from its San Antonio-built rival. It also has more aggression and personality. It also costs a lot more for a SuperCrew version with everything I want in it. It does have a better interior than the Toyota. Still, if one wants a truck and don't care about towing race cars across state lines and simply don't care what the world thinks – the F-150 Raptor is the right truck for me! 2019 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Raptor is priced at $74,955. Back-up choice: None
BUDGET – $100,000-PLUS
Yeah…I think I'll stop here.
It is not that I do not like anything above $100,000. Understand that I am more humble than one should be. I just cannot really justify spending beyond that point. It was hard enough to select all of the vehicles above, but to look at a level beyond something I cannot truly justify – or enjoy – is not exactly what I am all about.
Let me just stay humble and stick with the $100,000 ceiling.
All Photos by Randy Stern