Margot once had a 2005 Infiniti G35 that she loved, but she replaced it with a V6 Honda Accord. It’s not bad, but she finds it boring. She is looking for a daily driver that is exciting and different for $35,000. What car should she buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
I drove a 2005 Infiniti G35 sedan for 11 years, but I sold it in 2018 after barely driving it for a year. I loved that car. I loved the lines of it, I loved driving it—the handling, the speed, the acceleration. I loved that when you stepped on the gas, you knew it. Of course, a few months later I got a new job that required a car. I haven’t been a fan of the newer Infinitis, specifically the Q50, which is the successor to the G35. I’m also street parking in a city, so I was hesitant to get something “too nice.”
I ended up getting a great deal on a 2016 Honda Accord (V6). On paper it’s a good car, good engine power, good technology package. I just absolutely hate it. It’s boring to me. It feels sluggish, even in sport mode. One thing I really really hate about it is that, when decelerating, it seems to catch right around 25-30 mph and the car lurches, like it down shifts too soon. It contributes to the feeling that it’s clunky. It seems enormous and it’s awful to park.
I’ve had it for a year and every day I pray a tree falls on it. Last week my husband forgot where he parked it and for a few hours I was thrilled to think it was stolen. That was my wake up call that I need to get a new car. I just can’t decide what I want. We went to the auto show this year and nothing seemed that interesting to me. I’ve test driven a lot of cars and nothing gives me a feeling close to what I had from my other car.
My problem is that I haven’t found a car that I’ve liked. I’ve driven quite a lot and they all leave me feeling “meh.” When looking for this car I also drive the Mazda 6 and the Toyota Camry (both 2019 models). The Mazda felt very rough and the Toyota didn’t feel like it had enough power (to me). I thought for a while that I wanted an SUV, so I’ve driven practically every one out there (Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Infiniti QX60, Nissan Murano and Rogue, every Jeep model available). None of the SUVs felt like they were that fun to drive.
My budget is $30-35k, but I could be convinced to go up to 42.
Please help me find something exciting to drive!
Budget: $35,000, could maybe push to $42,000 for the right car
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Washington, DC
Wants: Fun, Exciting, but not too old
Doesn’t want: A boring crossover
Expert 1: Tom McParland — You Said You Wanted Exciting
Margot, the G35 was a high watermark for just a really good sports sedan. And you are right—they don’t make them like that anymore. Of course the Honda Accord is a fine car that will treat you well for a long time, but it lacks zest. So if you want a thrilling experience with a lot of power and a bit of unpredictability, I have your car.
The Cadillac ATS-V is a staff favorite around and here, and while GM discontinued the car plenty of them can be found around $40,000 in the pre-owned market—and they are fantastic performance values. Power comes from a twin-turbo V6 making 456 horsepower. It has Brembo brakes and a suspension setup that can throw down killer lap times. The interior and infotainment setup isn’t the greatest, but what this car lacks in refinement it makes up for in attitude. You will never be bored in an ATS-V.
Here is a sweet red one in New Jersey for just under $40,000. It’s a 2016 with fewer than 30,000 miles on the clock. Get it and stand out from the crowd a bit.
Expert 2: Erik Shilling — Let’s Not Overcomplicate This
What you want is an M3. Here is a 2013 M3 convertible in Alexandria, Virginia, for $32,000. Now, you won’t get points for being original here, but if you were all right buying a Honda Accord, you will surely be all right with an M3. It makes over 400 horsepower, and this one is also a manual.
It’s also a convertible, but you don’t sound like someone who will be sweating the additional weight that comes with that. And you shouldn’t. You’re not trying to break records on the track. The thrills you seek are more sensible. And surely safer. You want a little punch when you’re on the highway. You deserve it.
In any case, whatever you do, don’t get an SUV.
Expert 3: Raphael Orlove — What If Nice, But Not
In an earlier version of this story one staffer, who shall remain nameless, suggested the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Then we threw tomatoes at their head, as if they were some deeply unpopular Gilded Age politician. We have reasons for this.
I have driven the Quadrifoglio. It is a wonderful, spectacular driving machine. If you want new power, it’s your car. The way it runs up to the speed limit (not something you’ll ever do on 295 but hey, it’s nice to dream) is wonderfully satisfying.
But I wouldn’t buy one as, if I wanted an Alfa Romeo driving experience, I would get an Alfa 4C and something to tow it home in the case it breaks down.
As for a practical, spacious car that really lets you know you’re flooring it, the smart thing to do would be to buy a new turbo Subaru of some kind. An STI is right at the top of your budget, and a WRX, used or new, is even more comfortable there. The WRX isn’t particularly slower anyway, and you can just drive it harder if you want more speed.
But! I’m sure you’ve thought of that. For your budget... why not get something with a real kick, but still a ton of space? Why not drop some cash on a well-restored muscle car? This 1970 Dodge Super Bee is expensive at $36,700, but it’s one of the coolest-looking vehicles of its era, it runs strong, and it has tons of space front, back, and in the gigantic trunk. What does a Camry do that this doesn’t?
Expert 4: David Tracy — Appreciates a Nice Big Wing
It may seem like there aren’t many options out there for you, but trust me, there’s quite a bit out there for a D.C. resident looking for a fun, roughly $35,000 car to replace an Infiniti G35. The fiery little Italian Fiat 500 Abarth would probably be enough to stir your soul (plus, you could park it easily, even on the streets of Georgetown), but since you seem to be a fan of vehicles with four doors, I’ll suggest the Honda Civic Type R.
I haven’t driven the latest generation of the car, only the last one, which was bonkers. The newest generation, per my coworker Andrew Collins, doesn’t seem quite as bonkers as before, but to some, that could be a good thing.
The hot hatch’s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder cranks out 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is a crap-ton considering this little ~$37,000 machine is front-wheel drive. That drivetrain layout, by the way, may not be great for traction during launches or for drifting, but it does mean there’s decent room in the cabin relative to the car’s exterior dimensions, and it also helps the car come in at only a tad over 3,100 pounds.
So it’s small-ish on the outside, reasonably large inside, fun to drive, and actually fairly fuel-efficient for a sports car. The downside is that it only comes with a manual, so get ready for a serious left-leg workout there in D.C. But it’ll be worth it, trust me.
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