J.C. has had three Mustangs, but it’s time to upgrade. He has a healthy budget, too. But this new ride has to fit a car seat, have three pedals, and he would prefer something that has a different character than Ford’s V8 pony car. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
I’m on my third Mustang, and am looking for something different. I kept my current 2011 GT longer than I actually would have liked, but I started a business a couple years ago, and having a paid off car turned out to be a massive blessing during the whole “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?” not making any money phase. Frankly, it’s been an awesome car and I shouldn’t complain. Fortunately, my business is now doing pretty well, and I was planning on rewarding myself with a C8 when the initial buzz passes. Life had other plans. My wife is currently pregnant with our first child. She has the requisite crossover, so we’re covered for the main child car, but I’ll inevitably need to occasionally transport the kid, maybe all three of us, which kind of rules out the Vette. (Plus I was torn about getting a non-manual car anyway—my car has always had three pedals.) I’m leaning toward a Hellcat Widebody, because the interior is actually massive, and I can get a manual. That said, after having cars that were basically an engine and transmission for my entire life, something a bit more refined might be nice.
Performance, room for the occasional car seat, a manual transmission, and a warranty. I had an old BMW 2002 back in high school (when they were dirt cheap in the ‘90s—should have kept that car) that was about as reliable as an old BMW 2002, so I know my way around a wrench, but I can also vacuum, and at the risk of being kicked off Jalop island, view both as a chore. I’ve also driven a stick in Los Angeles for 20 years since moving here for college. It’s fine. Also, I’m 6 ft, 6 in, so I can’t have something too compact.
As for the budget, I can spend up to $70,000.
Budget: up to $70,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Pasadena, CA
Wants: Manual, Performance, room for a car seat
Doesn’t want: Another Mustang
Expert 1: Tom McParland - Very Much Not A Mustang
Okay J.C., there is nothing wrong with having an affinity for a certain car. I wouldn’t even blame you if you stuck with Mustangs and picked yourself up the fantastic GT350. However, it’s good to change it up a bit and have a different experience behind the wheel.
The C8 looks to be a fantastic car, but with only two seats and an equal amount of pedals, it’s probably not the best fit. The Hellcat can be fun, but if you are really looking for a change, I think we need to go beyond the American cars.
What you are looking for is a Porsche 911. It’s pretty much the opposite of the Mustang. It has a flat-six engine in the rear instead of a V8 upfront. I probably don’t have to explain the history to someone like yourself, but I will say it’s still pretty much the benchmark for a sports car that is also refined
There are faster cars, there are fancier cars, but don’t let the spec sheet fool you: The 911 “feels” better than you probably expect. Within your budget, you can score a newer 991.1 series car. These have a fairly modern look but still retain the naturally aspirated flat-six before Porsche turbocharged the whole lineup. The back seat isn’t what you would call spacious but will work in a pinch with a car seat.
Here is a certified pre-owned 2014 Carrera with a manual trans and under 20,000 miles for just under your budget. Yes, it’s the “base” 911 but trust me, that’s still more than most people need as a daily driver.
Expert 2: Patrick George — Try A Different Flavor Of Pony Car
First, congrats on the pending kid. Second, I’ll just say you’re not a bad Jalop if you sometimes view car maintenance as a necessary chore rather than a passion—especially if your getting around depends on your car running right.
You mentioned the Hellcat Widebody but say you want something a bit more refined. That’s understandable, and even with the new Demon stealing all the headlines the Hellcat is still an absolute land missile. It’s very fun, but it’s always just... a lot. But you seem to like the Challenger in general, with its massive (and pretty quality these days) interior, great engine options, and unapologetic old-school muscle car character.
I suggest you go with my personal favorite Challenger: the R/T Scat Pack. This is the most powerful naturally aspirated Challenger you can buy. The 392 Hemi’s rated at 485 horsepower, which is no joke. It comes in a manual too, and in Widebody form if you prefer. Is it on par with the Hellcat? Not in terms of pure speed, but it sounds amazing. I’d say its tone is the best of the three American muscle cars. That and it’s got plenty of tire-smoking grunt, and it’ll fit the kid’s car seat better than a lot of coupes.
Here’s a black manual one near you for way under your budget at $44,380. Go give this a try, I think you’d like it.
Expert 3: Kristen Lee — Ten’s Your Answer
I know you said no more Mustangs, which, fine, I’ll take my suggestion of the GT350 elsewhere. Buddy, what you need is a screaming V10 in front of you, a gear lever next to you and some back seats behind you. You need BMW’s E60-generation V10 M5. When was there another time in history where you could get 10 cylinders with a manual in a sedan?
The great thing about V10 M5s is that they are cheap. The terrible thing about V10 M5s is also that they are cheap. They were very expensive to buy new, but depreciation rocked them like nothing else and now you can pick them up for not a whole lot of money. Repair costs and maintenance fees were too high for some, I guess. So, it’s good that you have $70,000 to spend because even though you won’t use it all up outright buying the car, you’ll need it later down the road for some repair or other.
But think about what you’re getting. An engine that sounds like a banshee at the lofty, 8,000-plus redline, that has 500 HP and drew design inspiration from BMW’s contemporary F1 program. That’s cool no matter which way you look at it, and its sleeper exterior looks are just an added bonus.
Here’s a nice, low-miles one (just 23,949 on the clock!) with a manual for $39,995. Join the V10 club. Stay because you’re a masochist.
Expert 4: Raphael Orlove — What’s The Point Of California If Not...
Wow, all of the above cars are wonderful. Recent 911s are basically immaculate GT cars with the engine in a funky location, LX/LD-platform Chryslers drive better than they have any right to, and the V10 M5 is a high point in lunatic cars put into series production. But I think there’s something you shouldn’t overlook: You live in California.
California is a hub for oddball import cars, and one fo the few places in the world I can think of where it’s feasible to easily own an old Alfa Romeo, and if you live in one of the few places in the world where you can easily own an old Alfa Romeo, why not own an old Alfa Romeo? What are you putting up with the earthquakes and the droughts and the fires for if not for Alfas.
It sounds to me like you’ve moved past wanting something real, real old, but luckily your budget looks like it ought to stretch to the youngest of the old-school Alfas: the SZ.
This is a plastic-bodied, limited-production, ultimate evolution of Alfa Romeo’s last rear-wheel-drive era, the one that petered out in the 1990s with this, before it stuttered back into existence with the 8C, 4C, and now Giulia.
This 1991 coupe for sale up in NorCal is price upon request, but these things seem to be trading from somewhere around $50,000-$90,000 depending on how proximate they are to Hemmings versus Bring a Trailer. They get you a sonorous V6, great power and handling, and the most aggressive styling the era had to offer. They’re genuine classics, and one could be yours!