What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.  

Steven cruises around in a humble Nissan Versa while his better half rocks a Corvette Stingray. He likes the fuel economy and low maintenance, but it can be a bit embarrassing when clients spot his ride. It’s time for something a little nicer. 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:

My wife has a 2014 Corvette Stingray, while I have a Nissan Versa Note. We’re planning on getting the mid-engine ‘Vette when it comes out and replacing the Stingray with it. However, I’m tired of driving around Houston in this little bucket of a car. It’s not particularly well suited for our frequent road trips, has no power to it, though its MPG and efficient maintenance schedule helps tremendously with my feelings towards it.

I’ve been a big fan of how reliable my Nissans have been in the past. I booked almost 300,000 miles on an ’04 Altima and have rented several while traveling. They’d be my first choice, though I’m partial to GM vehicles as well, due to the family association.

I would prefer something all-wheel-drive and while I want something “tech savvy” I really don’t like some of the advanced systems like auto-braking and such. I can spend up to $25,000.

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Quick Facts:

Budget:  Up to $25,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Houston, TX

Wants: Tech-Savvy, Looks decent next to a Vette, Low maintenance

Doesn’t want: Too many driver aids

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Fancy Nissan

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Well, Steven, it is one thing to live the humble #Versalife, but when you also have a Corvette parked in the driveway I can see how the basic compact can wear on your psyche.

The tricky part about this case is you want something “tech savvy” but without driver assist features that most buyers consider when they are looking for a car with a lot of technology. But I think I have a solution.

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You like your Nissans and since it’s time for an upgrade you should step up to Nissan’s nicer brother Infiniti. The Q50 sedan should fit the bill nicely, there are plenty to be had used in the low $20,000 range, several of which will even come with come certified pre-owned coverage. Under the hood of the 2015 model was the excellent VQ series V6 that will give you 328 horsepower. It won’t be quite as fast as the ‘Vette, but compared to the Versa you will feel like you have a rocket ship. They do have a decent amount of tech, but you can always turn that off, and some of it—backup cameras and the like—you may even find useful.

Here is a nice CPO Sport for just a hair over your budget. If you dropped the all-wheel drive requirement, because you don’t really need that in Texas, you will have even more inventory to choose from.

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Expert 2: Patrick George - Fancier Nissan

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Initially I was going to suggest you get a Nissan 370Z, as those have been around since the flip phone era and are plentiful in your budget range. But I can’t imagine many families want two two-seat sports cars. One of you is probably going to need something more practical than that, if you have two cars.

Fun Nissans are hard to come by these days, but I suppose I’ll go the Infiniti route too and suggest another one: the Q70. Why settle for six cylinders when you can have eight? Adding a V8 sedan means your family garage will have 16 whole cylinders—more than enough, really. The Q70 may not be a luxury sedan class leader, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve driven, and they make tremendous used values.

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If you can stretch your budget a bit, here’s a 2015 Q70 sedan near you at $28,165 with the 5.6-liter, 420 horsepower V8 and the all-wheel drive you want. It’ll impress clients plenty, too. While you won’t be getting any of that sweet Versa fuel economy, your opulent sedan may even make your wife a bit jealous for a change.

Expert 3: Raphael Orlove - Sportier Nissan 

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Hm. You want tech but maybe don’t need every last bit of modernity. You want something that’s easy-to-own but stands out next to a Corvette. The choice is simple, and it’s not far from what you have now: a 1990s Nissan Skyline.

You have a couple options. If you do really want all-wheel drive, there are two easily within your budget at Duncan Imports in Virginia. Both of those are the older R32 generation, which are the lightest of the modern Skylines, and maybe the most charming. This sedan would be my pick.

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But you might also want to drop AWD to get yourself this gorgeous cherry red R33 from Japanese Classics, a 1993 model with the non-turbo RB25 straight six. Simple, relatively economical, but weird, techy, and interesting. It’s yours for less than $14,000.

Expert 4: Michael Ballaban – Your Own Goddamn Nissan

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Steven, this is something I say often, but it bears repeating. Let us not focus so much on the cars we should buy. Let us focus on the cars that we already have.

Specifically, let’s focus on the car that YOU have. You want something fast, you say? You want a Nissan, you say? You want something fast and lovely but without all the annoyances that come in brand new cars? You’ve already GOT a Nissan and $25,000 burning a hole in your pocket?

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You, my friend, have a Nissan-badged blank canvas with which to EXPLORE.

Specifically, to explore the glorious Nissan parts catalogue. Consider that the Greeks, yes the Greeks, have come up with a sweet little turbo kit for the same engine that’s in your Note. They don’t really say how much it costs, but let’s just pull a number out of the air with a lot of padding, say $5,000.

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Consider, also, that Nissan sells a version of your car in Japan with these sweet Nismo seats to make sure your butt isn’t going anywhere:

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Let’s be extraordinarily generous, and assume it’ll cost you about $2,000 for those. You’re only $7,000 in the hole, and now you’ve got a Nissan Versa Note sleeper that will absolutely slay. Try a transmission swap, too, for another $4,000, or so, bringing you up to $11,000.

Oh, what’s that you say, you’ve still got $14,000 in your budget?

Well, Steven, we’ve discussed a lot of mechanical work already, and you said you just want to buy a car. I think it’s fair, then, to assume you don’t want some massive project headache hanging over yourself. You want something easy, something fast, something ready to go.

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Take that $11,000, and give it to a mechanic. They should be able to do a lot of the work for $11,000.

Go nuts. Drive the Nissan you’ve always wanted. Your very own Nissan you’ve always had.

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