I'm Getting My Doctorate And Now It's Time To Get A Nice Car! What Should I Buy?

Illustration for article titled I'm Getting My Doctorate And Now It's Time To Get A Nice Car! What Should I Buy?
Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

Kelly has been working and going to school full time for the past four years. She will soon graduate with her doctorate degree and score a healthy salary. She wants to upgrade her Subaru to something a bit faster with all-wheel-drive. 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 have been working 60+ hours a week and attending college full time for four years and in May I finally graduate with a doctorate in pharmacy and will have a decent salary for the first time in quite a while. I have been working myself so hard for this degree that I want to treat myself to a great car. I am looking for a new (or barely used) luxury car with some speed. I currently have a 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R and am in need of something AWD as well and something with some good horsepower behind it. I live in Vermont so the AWD is a must. I would not settle for anything slower than what I currently have and would prefer faster. I want a sedan or coupe and something luxurious. I have been looking around and am not sure what would be best for me, please help! I can spend up to $60,000. I do not want an SUV or crossover.

Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $60,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Vermont

Wants: Fast, AWD, luxury

Doesn’t want: An SUV

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Maybe Not What You Expect

Illustration for article titled I'm Getting My Doctorate And Now It's Time To Get A Nice Car! What Should I Buy?
Photo: Justin Westbrook/Jalopnik

Kelly, congratulations on all your hard work. All that schooling isn’t easy, especially when it’s combined with a full-time job. I can certainly understand your desire to treat yourself after this accomplishment. You want a fast luxury car with all-wheel drive, so the obvious answer would be Audi. You already know you can buy an S5 Sportback or something similar for $60,000 or so, but perhaps you want something different. I would have you look into the Volvo S60 T8 Polestar.

The Volvo is a fantastic luxury car, but it comes without the normal baggage of buying a German brand. The T8 is also a plug-in hybrid which can net up to 69 MPGe, though you will need a place to charge it. The best part is that the boosted four-cylinder engine, combined with the electric powerplant, makes a combined 415 horsepower and puts down almost 500 lb-ft of torque. The S60 T8 is a perfect “sleeper” car on the outside. It’s just a stylish and eco-friendly Volvo, but underneath this thing really moves. As a bonus, you would qualify for a $5,419 federal tax credit, and possibly additional local credits or rebates.


Here is a car in Boston that is already under budget, and the tax credit will make it even more attractive.

Expert 2: Rory Carroll - Maybe Exactly What You Expect

E 450
Photo: Cars.com

Kelly, congrats on getting your doctorate. Once you’re set up in a pharmacy and know where all the cameras are, I’ll send you my order. Just kidding! I’m glad you’re looking for a sportier sedan/coupe instead of a crossover.

My suggestion is going to seem a little obvious, but I think you should get a Mercedes like this 2020 E 450 4MATIC. You’ll love the 362 horsepower twin-turbo V6, and I think you’ll be really pleased with how well-knocked-together the car feels. It’s listed just below the $60k mark, but with the refreshed E-Class on the way, these should be getting more affordable.


Expert 3: José Rodríguez Jr. - Unexpected But Welcome Nonetheless

2021 Acura TLX
2021 Acura TLX
Photo: Acura

First of all, Kelly, good on you for making it through a grueling doctoral program! The stresses of the graduate program will soon become the stresses of working in the medical field during a pandemic, so it is paramount that you place yourself behind the wheel of a car that will elate you and bring you a joy on the commute. A German car would be a good choice, given your requirements and budget. But let me sway you in another direction. Consider the 2021 Acura TLX, in A-Spec.

We lauded it as a return to form for Acura, and it really is a good sedan to cross-shop when considering European sports sedans. It’s not quite as luxurious as the Volvo, Mercedes, or maybe even something like a Jaguar or BMW, but it’s more upscale than your Subaru. Still, the 2021 TLX is plenty lux, and even though its drive system is rear-biased, it still has AWD for those Vermont winters. This model in Apex Blue is a knockout and comes in under budget by a healthy margin, just shy of $48,000.


If I can’t convince you to save the $12,000, you could hunt down a 2020 TLX from Acura’s Performance Manufacturing Center. You’d still get the AWD, but that TLX comes with slightly older styling. Of course, you could then brag it came from the same factory as the NSX.

Expert 4: Mercedes Streeter - Maybe Better Than You Expect

Illustration for article titled I'm Getting My Doctorate And Now It's Time To Get A Nice Car! What Should I Buy?
Photo: Audi

Congratulations on this awesome step in your education! Let’s get you a sleek new ride to celebrate. My colleagues all have excellent suggestions, but I think this one will cover an angle you may not have considered. Vermont may be all snowy and require all-wheel-drive in the winter, but winter doesn’t last forever. What’s better than a fast luxury car with all-wheel-drive? A fast luxury convertible all-wheel-drive sportscar.

Consider the 2021 Audi TT Roadster. This car looks absolutely stunning from any angle, and in my experience it’s hard to drive a TT without a smile on your face. If I had a convertible TT I would definitely be top down drifting through the snow, blasting tunes through the Bang & Olufsen sound system. The TT has 228 horsepower on tap and a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds. It also comes with Audi’s famous Quattro AWD system, so you will rule the snow. And when the weather finally clears, drop that top and enjoy the sun.


These come in under budget brand new, or you can get a killer deal on a used one like this and have it shipped home.

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Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)



All bad suggestions. Someone straight out of college with reliable transportation shouldn’t be buying ANYTHING. How about paying down those college loans and investing into tax deferred retirement funds.

Get out of debt, max out that yearly 401k, then start looking into a daily driver that is more fun.  Get used to an income level that puts retirement/investing first and it makes it easier to budget for toys.