Bruce has spent years rocking a minivan. It gets the job done, but it’s not a car he enjoys driving. He thinks it’s time for a “mid-life crisis” sports car, but also needs something that can handle his outdoor hobbies. What car should he buy?
We all go through different phases when it comes to car ownership. It usually starts with some beater as a first ride, then something impractical and fun, and many years with something “responsible.” Once the kids are out of the house, the priorities often shift once again to a vehicle that fulfills some selfish attributes.
So-called “mid-life crisis” cars get a bad rap and are often pigeonholed into stereotypes like red Corvette convertibles. We imagine some desperate guy behind the wheel popping Viagra and hair-treatment pills, trying to “compensate” for something. The thing is, I have worked with hundreds of car buyers and have not once encountered someone like this.
The vast majority of the time someone wants to buy a car that will just make them happy. I think we can all get behind that. Bruce wants a fast car, but it also has to have the ability to haul his toys and handle roads that aren’t paved.
Here’s the scenario:
I’m currently driving a first-gen Toyota Sienna (passed to me after kids left the house and wife upgraded to a newer car). I actually like the minivan. It’s my daily driver but it also pulls my boat. With the seats out, there lots of room for stuff and I can sleep in it. It gets good gas mileage and has enough power to go up and down the hills of Colorado. But, with over 200,00 miles, the wear and tear of raising a family in it and not to mention the minivan stigma, I’m looking to upgrade. I kinda have a “mid-life crisis” thing going on and have a desire for a Camaro or a BMW but I fish and ski and camp and tow stuff so a truck or SUV would be a better choice.
I’m looking for something that has power for towing and passing tourists up and over mountain passes. It also needs to be spacious and comfortable because I’m 6'3" and I have boats and skis and fishing and camping supplies. I’m not real concerned with looks, but I want something durable and dependable because missing a powder day due to a car issue is a trauma I cannot bear.
I’m not a fan of crossovers as I hear they have poor performance and poor truck-ability. Is there something that’s good at both?
Daily Driver: Yes
Average Miles Per-Week: 100-200 miles
Wants: Something with performance, but can also handle outdoor activities
Doesn’t want: A crossover, especially if it’s a Subaru.
Bruce, it seems you want a vehicle that can act as both a performance car and a truck. Rather than get something that is either going to be a compromise on utility or performance, what you need to do is buy both performance car and a truck. For your outdoor duties and gear, get yourself a nice GM 1500 series or Ford F-150 for around $15,000 to $16,000. Here’s a 2009, 4x4, V8 Silverado single cab with about 64k miles for $16,000. You already know these trucks can run forever and handle whatever tasks you throw at them.
Then with $14,000 burning in your pocket get yourself a nice BMW as a daily driver, but be willing to travel to get it. That will open up your inventory and allow you to really home in on a quality example. Like this awesome 2001 BMW 330i, with the very desirable sport package. You’ll get most of the fun of the M3, without any of the baggage. The E46 generation is really the sweet spot between affordability and driver involvement. This particular example has only 38,743 models for only $11,500. You better buy this car before I do!
This strategy would give you a fun daily driver that will check the performance box and a sturdy truck when the situation calls for it.
However, if the whole two car deal doesn’t seem appealing, then get yourself a Ford Explorer Sport. Yes it’s a crossover, but it has plenty of towing power, lots of space and comfort, and can really hustle when you want to push it. Here is a CPO 2013 with less about 29,00 miles right under your budget.
Hey there, Bruce! Heard you’re looking for a mid-life-crisis-y, fast, AWD car with some towing capacity. Glad you asked, and glad you’re smart enough to see beyond the little roadsters that way too many men fall prey to. Nevermind that shit, block out that claptrap—what you want is an SUV that eats those pansy little cars for breakfast and that the AMG gods themselves have blessed: the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG.
Haus AMG gave the ML63 503 horsepower and a 7,200-lb towing capacity. Beneath the hood was the wonderful and naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8—perfect for terrorizing the tourists with while they try and navigate your home turf in their rental Mustangs and Nissan Rogues. This is about dominance. This is about power moves.
You can easily seat your whole family in the ML63, so when the kids come home and wonder aloud what it’s like to ride around in a tank, the Benz has got your back. What’s it like to spit sick V8 yells through quad-tailpipes? You’ll soon find out!
As most AMGs do, the late 2000s-gen ML63 depreciated like a rock and you can find one with decently low mileage. Here’s a 2009 model with 61,170 miles that costs $28,995.
Back in 2005, Jeep introduced its first SRT-8 Grand Cherokee, a vehicle meant to do exactly what you describe: offer lots of power and decent handling, while still being able to tackle basic “trucky” stuff like light off-roading and towing.
If your vision of a mid-life crisis doesn’t include a fire-breathing HEMI V8 that can rocket you to 60 MPH in 4.5 seconds, it should. Between that sheer acceleration, the sound, the beefy body kit, those big wheels, the nice bolstered seats, and those pizza-plate Brembo brakes, the SRT-8 Grand Cherokee is a truck for people who like sports cars. In other words, it’s the vehicle for you, Bruce.
Though I’ll admit that finding a second-generation Grand Cherokee SRT-8 like the one in the picture for under 30 Gs is going to be tough (they tend to cost in the low 40s), that’s really the one you want, as the interior quality, ride and handling are all much better than the outgoing truck (plus an extra 50 horsepower—up from 420 to 470— never hurt anyone).
But, if you’re unwilling to budge from the 30 grand figure, and you’re okay with dropping down from 6.4 to a measly 6.1-liters of displacement, check out the first generation model. It’s just as quick as the modern one, and you can find them for sale in the mid 20s all day.
The great lie about America—one of them, anyway—is that you need a big hulking massive truck to tow anything. Friend, I’m here to open your eyes to the truth.
Did you know your average BMW 5 Series wagon can tow something like 4,400 pounds? It can. That’s a lot of stuff. I’m not saying it should tow as well as a pickup truck, or quite as effectively, but it can haul more than you think. Plus, unlike the truck and SUV options, you’re getting a far more sporting, fun and engaging option to daily-drive.
Wagons are the smart choice. They show the world you have nothing to prove, and don’t have any inadequacies you need to compensate for. With a 5 Series wagon, no one will accuse you of driving a mid-life crisis anything. It’s a good, capable, premium driver’s car with room for all your stuff.
I found you a 2010 BMW 535xi Touring with only 61,000 miles for just $20,000. You’re getting a 300 horsepower twin-turbo inline six, all-wheel drive and the cachet you’ve earned. Splurge for a little extra warranty protection through 100,000 miles or so and go forth. Never look back.