Ric’s Nissan Leaf works just fine for slogging through Seattle traffic, but the EV is having some unseen side effects on his soul, which longs for a vehicle that isn’t just a “transportation pod.” What car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
Unbeknownst to many, my lovely emerald-green Seattle is among the worst traffic cities in the world. And with only two undersized main arteries and explosive growth, it’s only getting worse. I spend 30 miles each way in this stop and go crapfest, for a total of ~13 hours per week commuting.
My current car for this commute? A Bronze Nissan Leaf with a bespoke sound system, lovingly hand-crafted by a local grey-haired garage dweller who also happens to be a multiple-time national IASCA judge. Now, when I’m stop-and-going on the Seattle byways, with my beautiful tunes, in my comfy Leaf, with the glowing white interior, everything is okay (though I’d still trade my soul for a self-driving automaton).
The problem is when I try to go to sleep at night. See, my first two cars as a grown-up were a 2004 and a 2006 Pontiac GTO, respectively. I grew up in a family of old BMWs and Mercs. I have relatives who secretly collect things like a purple 911 GT2 RS (which I have driven!)
I know what a limited slip differential does. I know how to modulate the throttle to bring the rear end around. I’d driven a BMW with 12 cylinders, a VW Scirocco, a Toyota Cressida Sports wagon (with a Supra-sourced I6) and an E55, all before I turned 18.
And when I try to find sleep at night, my conscience, my body, my SOUL tells me that I did not fill the measure of my creation that day. I did not slide out a rear axle. I did not gun it past some slow twerp on a two-lane. I did not lean into a curve. I did not drive. I did not live. So, here’s the deal. I need a daily driver that will salve my conscience, allowing a justified, peaceful end to each day.
As for requirements: I’m 6’2” so it needs to be comfortable. I also drive the kids to school, therefore four-doors is a must. I would really prefer rear-wheel-drive or at least all-wheel-drive. However, while I want something with hoonage capabilities, I don’t want to spend a small fortune on fuel. Finally, I need an automatic gearbox or some other two-pedal setup because traffic sucks too much to enjoy a manual.
Budget: $30,000 - $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Average Miles Per-Week: 100-200 miles
Wants: Something big, powerful, and practical
Doesn’t want: A clutch pedal or terrible MPG
Ric, I think all of us here can relate to your desire to pilot a car on your daily drive that is more than just an appliance. The Leaf is a fine piece of technology that serves its purpose well, but it doesn’t bring you any joy—and that is a problem.
Of course, you have been spoiled by not opening your wallet every week at the gas pump, and despite your preference for something with high horsepower, averaging sub-optimal miles per gallon will create a different kind of crisis—except this one will be over your fuel budget.
That is why you need something that combines maximum efficiency with passing power; specifically a BMW 335d. Now diesel has gotten a bit of a bad rap recently with the whole VW debacle, but oil burners still are the weapon of choice for those trying to save at the pump without losing a sense of engagement with the car. The 2011 BMW 335d with its twin-turbo inline six was able to crank out a respectable 265 horsepower, but an incredible 425 lb-ft of torque. That is more twist than you would get with the current M3. Even better is the car’s ability to get up to 36 MPG on the highway.
Ric, you didn’t specifically ask for this, so I won’t make it my official answer, but: have you considered keeping the Leaf and getting a second, cheaper, funner car for the weekends or the occasional commute? I’m not sure what your situation is with parking and insurance costs, but I’d ask you to at least think of spending some of that $30,000-$35,000 on a cheap used project car or sports car and keeping your perfectly good electric Nissan Leaf. Just a thought.
But that’s not what you asked for; you asked for a fun, quick daily driver that will replace your Leaf and won’t guzzle gas. And I’m here to deliver. Friend, you should really think about a Volkswagen GTI. Given your bona fides as a car guy—the old BMWs and Benzes, the Scirocco, the 911 in the family, the Cressida wagon (my family had one too!)—I think the GTI is perfect for you. It seems most every enthusiast has had one, or wants one. That makes sense. It’s an incredibly practical daily driver with a great interior that’s a first-rate corner-carver too, and has one of the best damn turbo fours in the business.
No, it’s not rear- or all-wheel drive, but the GTI is such an adept handler you won’t miss those things much. And if you really feel like ponying up for a used AWD Golf R, you can. But it does meet your two-pedal requirement with Volkswagen’s DSG, one of the finest transmissions around.
If you could see past that enormous plume of smoke in the photo above, you’d see me behind the wheel laughing uncontrollably like a disturbed loon. That’s because, as I’ve mentioned before, the Dodge Charger Scat Pack brings out my inner asshole. And it can bring out yours, too!
That’s really what you need right now, if you think about it. You’ve been driving a sad, bronze, front-drive, noiseless Nissan Leaf, wasting your life away. Now it’s time to make up for lost time by ripping up tires and listening to the sweet, sweet rumble of a 485 horsepower 6.4-liter American V8.
No, the Charger R/T Scat Pack doesn’t get the greatest fuel economy, but at 25 MPG highway from a huge boat with nearly 500 ponies, it really ain’t that bad, either. Plus, the Charger has the excellent ZF eight-speed transmission, four door with tons of interior space for your kids, and a price tag (for a slightly used model) of under $35 large.
The BMW 335D and VW GTI that my wonderful coworkers recommended are also good options, but they’re also missing about 200 horsepower. And after driving around in a Leaf, can you really afford to give up on that much hoonability? I don’t think so.
Oh, man, you’ve got it bad. That Leaf may be saving the environment, but it’s killing you, slowly, and with the bland, tedious malice of a dissatisfied bureaucrat caught in some gray cubicle. Luckily, you saw the problem, and are reaching for help. And I’m going to help save you, by throwing you the keys to this 1991 Toyota Century.
The Century is exactly what you need: it’s a big, comfortable four-door, it has a beefy, 4-liter V8, plenty of room inside that maroon wonderland interior for kids, animals, stuff, whatever. It’s like a living room that can tear ass down the road.
It’s a right-hand drive with wing mirrors and all the presence of some important Yakuza somebody. I’m sure the gas mileage isn’t great, but I bet it’s not too awful, and, besides, at only $8900, it’s so far below your budget including having it trucked from the East to West coast) that you’ll be saving money no matter what.
Just look at that gunmetal-silver beast. No one around you will have anything like it. This thing will re-animate that soul before you get out of your driveway. You’ll see.