For years now myself along with a couple of fellow gear heads have been exchanging, mostly via text-message... random “Which would you rather have?” car questions in an attempt to pass time during the day or when prompted by seeing a car on the road that catches our eye. The comparisons would run the gamut from the more obvious exotics like "What would you rather have a Porsche 911 Turbo or an Audi R8 V10?" to "A Ford Focus SVT or a Honda Civic SI?
With every comparison the same 3 standards would typically apply:
1.Cool Factor- how the car looks, the originality of the styling and how well it ages. There are certain models that come out every now and again that have the rare ability to capture both present day design along with combining pedigree and classic sensibility that can make the look of a particular car timeless.
2.Performance- it’s not just a number. Too much horsepower is rarely something to complain about, but there’s a lot more to the overall performance of a car than just raw power. How a car harnesses that power is just as important, if not more so.
3.Emotion- forgive me if this comes off as overly dramatic, but for the true “car guys” out there who can identify a make and model of a car at night by only looking at how the headlights are configured knows that having an emotional attachment to a car is no exaggeration. Drive a particular car for a long enough time, especially in L.A. and it becomes a part of your identity. You develop an attachment to it, how you feel when you are in it, and how you feel when you are seen in it are emotions that don’t apply to other things we use everyday. A car, in some instances can be our first impression. Here are 3 used, but very cool cars that cover all 3 standards in spades and are obtainable without having to be part of America’s top 1%.
2006 Audi S4 Sedan or Avant Station Wagon 4.2L V8 340 BHP All-wheel drive, available 6-speed manual gearbox: price range $18,834-$21,000(depending on mileage) – I have always been a big fan of Audi’s and especially the S-line models. 2006 being one of the first years when the new re-designed single A-frame grill was introduced. Audi’s famed Quattro technology that dominated the Rally circuit back in the day makes the Audi S4 the perfect car for the Junior Executive seeking performance and style, but doesn’t want to join the herd of the 3 Series Bimmer sect. It feels at home pulling up to the valet at the latest tapas bar, or for the weekend warrior driving pass cars on the side of the highway putting on chains on snow covered terrain. I personally would opt for the Avant model, which gives you more room for Rover, because what’s the point of a weekend adventure if you can’t take your dog with you?
PROS: Great performance and luxury both inside and out. Audi’s interior is second to none when it comes to luxury cars, and it shows, even on lower end models. A more subtle and grown-up feel to its BMW M3 counterpart.
CONS: V8 performance comes at a cost at the pump. Maintenance can be on the pricey side.
2002-2004 BMW M5 Sedan 4.9L V8 394 BHP rear wheel drive 6 speed manual gearbox: price range $14,700-$20,900 (depending on mileage). This car was the standard of full-sized sports sedans when it came out and still commands the same kind of respect to this day. This car was not designed for soccer moms or boy racers. It’s as serious of a sports sedan as they come, so serious in fact that it was only available in manual transmission between 2002 and 2004 and unless your last name was Schumacher you were implored by the dealership to never ever disable the traction control out of fear of hurting yourself or others.
PROS: Very roomy, sits 4 adults comfortably and has a relatively pleasant ride at normal speeds. Being seen in one gives the driver a sense of pride without the Duchebag factor that came in subsequent models.
CONS: Can be hard to find and the Interior is a little dated. Opting for the polished aluminum rather than the wood trim helps.
2005 Subaru Impreza WRX-STi-sedan 2.5L 300 BHP 4 cylinder turbo all-wheel drive 6-speed manual gearbox: price range $14,299-$16,500 (depending on mileage). This car is by far and away the most practical choice of the 3. Its signature Boxer engine does more with less and is legendarily reliable. All models come with all-wheel drive making it the perfect sports-utility vehicle without being a gas guzzling SUV. Subaru was Eco-conscience before it was trendy and the WRX is like a bull in a China Shop that cleans up after itself.
PROS: Very affordable and reliable. Good gas mileage with A LOT of bang for the buck.
CONS: Boy racer looks reminds you that you’re way too old to be wearing skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors.