Well, it happened. I received a car buying request so complicated, so odd in so many ways, that I was simply not able to help. I consider myself pretty good at this finding cars for people, but I’m accepting defeat on this one. So I’m turning the challenge over to you.

My job is to help people buy cars for a living. Normally, when someone contacts me and is at a loss for what to buy, I send them a survey. I’m rather proud of this tool and it has enabled me to present a few options tailored for that specific customer and his or her circumstances. Sometimes I put cars on their radar that they have not yet considered, other times I try to talk them out of vehicles that aren’t a good fit for a variety of reasons.

The other night I received a note from a client who found my survey “too limiting” and sent me an attachment with the following wish list. Here’s what he needs:



Absolutely must have:

  • VERY quiet interior
  • Sonar parking sensors front and rear (beeping)

Should have:

  • Manual or, failing that, GOOD automatic transmission
  • Minimalist stylish (not gaudy!) interior
  • Analog controls for key controls, including climate, radio
  • Comfortable space for 5 for long journeys, including 4 adults, 2 of them tall
  • Cloth seats
  • USB outlet
  • Bluetooth
  • Good all-around visibility (without resorting to rearview cams)
  • Reasonable reliability
  • Very good safety, especially for back/rear rows
  • Powerful A/C
  • Good LED inside lighting
  • Have inside climate “zones”
  • Temperature displays switchable to Celsius

Good to have:


  • Manual parking brake
  • Analog ignition key
  • Tight, responsive steering
  • Sunroof, especially panoramic one
  • Old-fashioned, boxy styling
  • Power outlet
  • Heated seats and mirrors
  • Good, but graduated braking (rather than “snappy”)
  • Built-in frontal “dash-cam” (do these even exist?)
  • Remote start
  • Model be a number (rather than silly name)

Don’t care much for:


  • Brands
  • Sportiness
  • Power
  • All-road
  • Fuel consumption

Should NOT:


  • Be a Mercedes
  • Have an offensive, compensatory name like “Esteem”, “Rogue”, “Outback” or “Marauder” (I don’t have a low self-esteem, I’m not a crocodile Dandy or dream of plunging a trench-knife into somebody.) Highlander is pretty much there too.
  • Have gaudy, Fisher-Price style interior (chrome, gloss, glitz, colors)
  • Have driver “aides” like blind-spot detection/ lane departure/collision warning/ voice control/ etc.
  • Have DRL that cannot be turned off
  • Have idle engine start/stop that cannot be turned off
  • Have unbuckled belt beeping that cannot be turned off
  • Have a touchscreen, especially for key functions
  • Have any “entertainment” in back
  • Be “connected” car, provide internet, etc.
  • Have plastic bumpers

Good NOT to have:


  • Leather seats
  • Any screens
  • Rearview camera
  • “Black box” snitching
  • Cruise control
  • Navigator


  1. Price: up to $50,000, but would not mind something much cheaper if it’s quiet, has inoffensive interior and we can install aftermarket parking assist sonar “beepers”
  2. What do you think of aftermarket installers of sound insulation and parking assist sonar “beepers”.
  3. The car will mostly be used as to commute, shuttle kids and long journeys to NH/ME.
  4. When I wrote about “good auto transmission” I meant something smooth and responsive. I drove Mazda CX-9 2016 and found its tranny to be jerky and unpredictable. And it’s no BMW, to put it very politely, despite what some press hacks write.
  5. The candidates are Volvo V90 or XC90 (if could be rid of start-stop and can be had with 3rd row, but no leather) OR Mazda 5 manual (if it can be noise insulated and have park sensors installed). If the latter is true, I don’t need the Volvo at 2.5x the price. I don’t need to impress anyone with my car.
  6. I learned to drive on an old truck and Citroen 2CV, neither had power steering, power breaks or clutch synchro.
  7. I dislike “prestigious” cars and cars with names – these are almost mutually exclusive.

In fairness, this person does realize that compromises will need to be made and that no such vehicle exists that adheres exactly to this list. (Probably?) I can sympathize with him, I went through my own maddening process when choosing my next ride.

Currently, I lack the time and the resources necessary to fulfill this request. However, since Jalopnik is the most diverse, knowledgeable, and helpful car community on the web, I can think of no better group of car nuts to solve this puzzle.



What car should this guy buy?