The Subaru Impreza: Why 2017 is a big year

As much as we New Englanders love our AWD Subaru chariots to get us to/from wherever we need to go no matter what the conditions, the word phrase “refined ride” isn’t exactly part of their brand vocabulary.  Utilitarian is just one  word that comes to mind when describing an older Forester or bare bones Impreza, and it seems Subaru was listening to consumers as is evident in the newly redesigned Impreza.

Photo Credit: Consumer Reports

For 2017, Subaru has announced to the AWD faithful that their new Impreza (based on an all-new, shareable platform) will be quieter, ride better, and be an all-around more comfortable vehicle.  Sure, they’ve been saying that for a little while and with the exception of the Outback or Legacy, their vehicles have remained relatively “tinny”.  However, this is now a completely different ball game.

Photo credit: Consumer Reports

At first glance, not much appears to have changed.  The updates to the exterior are there (but subtle) and while the interior does benefit from some choice upgrades like a nice big touch screen and soft-touch materials, it isn’t a completely different vehicle, and for good reason.

Photo Credit: Subaru

The biggest changes become apparent when you get it out on the road.  Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels have been reduced significantly and overall the cabin feels much more solid than past generations.  Steering response is great and the vehicle feels much more planted on the road, all adding to the image of a vehicle that really can “do it all” and be reasonably priced.  All of a sudden, you realize that Subaru took all of the successful aspects of the old Impreza, and simply refined it to the point where it functions as a much more comfortable vehicle without losing the Subaru character that people love.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

As a whole, the new Impreza has certainly upped it’s game.  As pricing stays relatively flat, it will likely now appeal to buyers looking for the functionality of an AWD hatchback but want a little bit more refinement than hat was previously available at Subaru.  This new platform will be shared with other vehicles in the lineup so we look forward to driving the CrossTrek and Forester, among others.  Time will tell if this is what Subaru was going for, but we’re predicting that this can only mean good things for the unofficial car manufacturer of New England.

Best Bug-Out vehicles

While I think most of us can agree that the zombie apocalypse isn’t going to happen next week, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to dream about building up or buying a vehicle as the ultimate bug-out, go-anywhere-and-survive type of transportation.  So, without further ado, here is a list of the top vehicles that will keep you out of harm’s way in the most extreme (if not altogether unlikely) of scenarios.

 

1)      Avtoros Shaman:  You probably haven’t heard about this low-volume, Russian-made beast but that doesn’t mean it won’t put most anything to shame off the pavement. 8 wheel drive, 8 wheel steering, amphibious capabilities, and seating for 7 of your closest friends/family, what’s not to like?  Throw a mattress and a few packets of Quaker oatmeal in the back and you’re good to go. 

 

2)      Hagglund BV206:  Ever wanted to own a mini-tank but just didn’t pull the trigger because, well, it didn’t have a trailer?  Your search has ended.  The Hagglund was built for the sole purpose of going absolutely anywhere on the planet with all of the necessities to survive the harshest environs, including Antarctica.

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3)      M35 2.5 ton cargo truck: Affectionately called the “deuce and a half” this military grade truck is a go-anywhere 6X6 that is fairly readily available.  Though its top speed is nothing spectacular, it will run on pretty much anything and laugh in the face of small road obstacles.  Throw a camper on the back and you’ve got yourself a pretty bulletproof truck.    

 

4)      Earth Roamer XV-LT:  If the zombie apocalypse forces you into the great outdoors, the Earth Romer is the vehicle to have.  Based on the Ford F550 platform, these cab-over expedition duty campers are designed to keep you comfortable wherever the path may lead you. 

 

5)      The “Kira” Expedition RV:  Brian Ferren of Applied Minds has built the ultimate go anywhere vehicle.  Designed to tackle terrain with the most powerful technology this planet has to offer, (not to mention a turbo-diesel motorcycle for light reconnaissance) you’d be able to head to the most remote reaches of the planet with ease (and a hot shower).

 

6)      The “Burlak”: Once again, the Russians deliver a monster of a truck capable of toppling mountains with a punch of the skinny pedal.  From the guys who brought you the Sherp (a smaller version of this, essentially) this vehicle has the space to take you and your family of 4 anywhere in relative comfort. 

 

7)      Russian “Vityaz” or DT-30PM: This is a just a fancy way of saying a tank with another tank as a trailer.  This “articulating tracked vehicle” or ATV is basically two tanks strapped together with a payload of 10 tons.  Popular in the then USSR, these vehicles saw military and civilian action all over the world gaining access to remote areas where nothing else could dream of going.

 

8)      Arctic Trucks Toyota Hilux AT44 6X6: One of the slightly more civilized and attainable vehicles of this bunch, the transformed Hilux has already performed admirably on Top Gear’s Arctic special (albeit in a slightly different form).  Toyota build quality with Icelandic arctic ingenuity and know-how, doubtful there’s a better cold weather combo out there. 

 

So when you’re preparing for the end of days, be sure to save up for some suitable transportation because these aren’t going to be cheap (or easy to find).  Drool away preppers, your vehicle has arrived! 

The legend lives on: The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser name has always been synonymous with go-anywhere capability but only in the 1990’s did it begin to garner some respect as a luxury vehicle as well.  Well this trend continues with this mid-model refresh for 2016, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more capable luxury vehicle than this uber-posh off-roader.

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For 2016, the front fascia of the Land Cruiser gets a refresh, the most prominent new feature being the quad-projector LED headlights that light up the night like the 4th of July.  The revised grill has been accused of being too Highlander-esque but there’s no mistaking this for the Toyota cross-over with much less machismo.  From the A-pillars forward, we have all new sheet metal and the taillights get a slightly refreshed look, but overall, there aren’t very many significant changes to the exterior of the Land Cruiser for 2016, unless of course you count the multiple little “Land Cruiser” embellishments on the headlights and bottom of the rear doors.

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Inside is where you’ll notice the biggest changes.  2016 brings in a new era of gadgetry with a 9” touch screen shoe-horned into the center console.  In keeping with the Land Cruiser tradition, every feature is standard equipment, meaning you get Bluetooth, navigation, heated/cooled seats, 2 rear entertainment screens and a plethora of other luxury bits to keep you and your riders happy.  Quality materials are still used everywhere, and the new steering wheel not only looks and feels great, but also heats up for those cold winter days.  Legroom and headroom are still ample in both front and rear seats, but you do feel like you are in a bit of a cockpit with this latest generation having all manner of knobs and buttons very close to the driver.  Worth noting is that any surface, button or knob that gets used frequently exudes true quality.  The aforementioned knobs feel like solid metal, the switches most commonly used are like a well-oiled bolt-action rifle, simply perfection.  Additionally, the seats are very comfortable and would serve anyone well on long family expeditions.  Overall, a very nice place to be, especially with this author’s favorite, the optional Terra (brown) leather.

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Safety is still a Toyota priority and the Land Cruiser is no exception.  As standard equipment, you’ll find blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warnings, and radar guided cruise control that can brake the vehicle in case the driver isn’t paying attention.  Not only is this vehicle a great cross-country hauler, but these features add a new level of safety that comes standard. 

On the road, the Land Cruiser still feels as solid as ever.  Speed bumps simply flatten out in fear, potholes and road imperfections are coerced into submission, there is really no better riding full-size SUV on the planet.  Road noise is minimal with the huge amount of sound deadening used, and the only drawback to this latest Land Cruiser is the visibility.  With the newly designed hood that is about the same size as a soccer field, forward visibility is reduced a bit.  The same 5.7L V8 comes back unchanged for 2016 as it still puts out a hefty yet buttery smooth 381hp and 401 lb/ft of torque, but don’t expect this monster to win any drag races as it tips the scales at 5765 lbs, not exactly light.  The new 8 speed transmission does its best to help in these cases, but you’d be hard pressed to notice a difference from the last gearbox other than that it seems to shift a bit more frequently and perhaps it does so q bit more quickly and smoothly.  Overall it still has great manners on or off the road, but long distance drivers especially will appreciate just how stress-free piloting one of these behemoths has become.

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At roughly $85k, there’s no denying that this is not an inexpensive vehicle, but when you crunch the numbers on just how long these legends last with so few repairs required, things start to add up.  If you want the ultimate vehicle in luxury, capability, and reliability, look no further than the Toyota Land Cruiser.

What makes a car great?

People always wonder what makes a car “better” than others, what makes a car make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end or makes you get the chills when you hear it drive by.  The final answer is rather simple…the car has to talk to you.  However easy that may seem, arriving at this end goal can be difficult to say the least.  Which is why there is no magic recipe to follow, no assembly instructions to guide engineers and designers, this is a guessing game of buyers’ desires where some manufacturers fall short and others excel.  Despite the subjective nature of making a car desirable to us car-crazed individuals, there are a few things that most petrol-heads can agree are necessary ingredients in the sports car casserole.

Image is property of Mathieu Heurtault/Gooding & Co

Throttle response is paramount to making a car engaging.  Having to step on the loud pedal and wait……….. gets really tedious when you are trying to carve up a canyon.  A well sorted throttle makes a driver feel like their right foot is connected directly to the engine, the tires begging for traction while the tail kicks loose just enough to turn your knuckles white for a second.  Without this, a car feels like a mildly depressed sloth that hasn’t had its coffee. 

Image is property of Pintrest

The fingers are one of the more nerve-filled extremities on the body and as a result, we can gather and feel a tremendous amount through them.  Because of this, effective communication of the front wheels through the steering wheel is crucial to making a driver feel like they are a part of the car.  If you’ve ever driven a big, luxo-barge type SUV or sedan, a numb steering wheel that disconnects driver from road is commonplace, this type of vehicle being aimed specifically at people who don’t care about going fast.  Conversely, a steering system that makes a driver feel like the front wheels are 6 inches from their hands away is one of the most sought-after traits of good sports cars.  A well-weighted (not over-boosted) hydraulic system is most common nowadays, but electric systems are starting to take their place. Don’t throw a fit just yet, fellow gearheads, because according to most reviews, they still don’t have the perfect feel like their tried-and-true hydraulic ancestors, but who knows what the next few years will hold?

Image is property of Ohlins

Striking a balance between a comfortable ride and a strong showing at a track is one of the toughest challenges a car manufacturer can face.  On one hand, you don’t want the car to punish the driver too much with a bouncy, unpredictable, and unsettled ride but on the other hand, you don’t want to produce a car that rides like a 1950’s Cadillac.  The 1% of enthusiast buyers out there will argue that no car can be too punishing and that dedicated track cars are always going to be better at going fast in all situations, and they’re right (for the most part).  But for those of us that live in the real world, a fast car has to feel balanced in all situations whether it be a back-road bomb to grab some milk or a track day weekend at Lime Rock.  Achieving this feeling of stability at all speeds while simultaneously giving the car the ability to communicate exactly what all 4 corners  are doing is nothing short of automotive wizardry.

Image is property of Sharkwerks

Aural inspiration can be hard to find these days, which indicates that we’ve arrive at one of the more subjective parts of this equation…noise.  Most car enthusiasts will admit that a well-tuned exhaust note is crucial to the full enjoyment of a drive, and most car enthusiasts are right.  However, getting them all to agree on one particular exhaust sound is like trying to get everyone to agree to a universal favorite color….ain’t goin’ happen.  Some prefer the banshee wail of a Porsche flat 6 climbing to 7k rpms where others prefer to enjoy the deep bass of an AMG V8 starting a small earthquake, there’s no wrong answer here.  However, the need for a core-chilling, grin-inducing soundtrack to accompany a slow hairpin exit is an almost universally accepted notion amongst drivers.  A car sound that gives you goosebumps is more likely to get a gazillion hits on YouTube than one that sounds like a lawnmower, that’s a fact.     

While this list changes depending on an individual’s tastes, enthusiasts can generally agree that the above aspects are major contributors to the fun factor of a car.  Feel free to comment with your own additions if you think there are some other parts we’re missing. 

Another 10 for under $10K

A used, one owner, under 100k miles, clean CarFax Toyota Corolla? For under $10k?  Yes please.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=0&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=440654416&Log=0

Don’t let the mileage fool you, this Lexus is ready for another 100k miles with a reliable buttery smooth V8.  An easy way to get some luxury in your life for a bargain.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=0&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=438701309&Log=0

Looking to haul the family on a budget?  Check out this 2007 Honda Pilot.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=25&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=440934024&Log=0

Not looking forward to winter driving?  Gain some confidence with this sure-footed Subaru Outback.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=50&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=438112128&Log=0

Here’s a great little low mileage Mazda 3 that is sure to last for years to come.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=100&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=438533127&Log=0

If you want to go green on a budget, then there is your chance!  A used Toyota Prius with plenty of service records.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=125&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=439804941&Log=0

Here is an exceptionally low mileage Toyota Rav4, the perfect small SUV to get you around town and wherever else you need to go.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=125&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=440732025&Log=0

Looking for off-road capability in a reliable package?  Then look no further, at only 122k miles this Toyota 4Runner is just barely broken in.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=150&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=439933264&Log=0

If you need to go full-size, it’s hard to find something better than a Chevrolet Suburban.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=150&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=419905431&Log=0

The ultimate in reliability, ruggedness and go-anywhere capability, the Toyota Land Cruiser.  Don’t let the mileage fool you, this one is ready for many more adventures.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?endYear=2017&zip=02118&listingType=used&listingTypes=used&engineCode=8CLDR&maxPrice=10000&showcaseListingId=0&mmt=%5BTOYOTA%5B%5D%5B%5D%5D&startYear=1981&makeCode1=TOYOTA&showcaseOwnerId=0&engineCodes=8CLDR&firstRecord=0&searchRadius=25&listingId=438996623&Log=0

 

10 good cars for under $10K you can buy NOW

The title says it all really…

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/2T1KU40E49C007553-used-2009-toyota-matrix–malden

Toyota Matrix:  A great little economy car with a lot of miles left to go at only 73K miles!  Great on gas too, a good bargain at this price.

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/JM1BL1SG4A1227266-used-2010-mazda-mazda3-i-sport–malden

Mazda 3:  Another great affordable car, but this one has a nice interior that feels much more expensive than it actually is, hats off to Mazda for making a great little all-around car.

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/JTMBK32V365002513-used-2006-toyota-rav4-sport–brockton

Toyota Rav4:  If you need a bit more space but don’t need a full-size SUV, a Rav4 is a excellent choice that will last for years to come.  Don’t spend up on a new one when this one has plenty of life left!

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/JTHBA30G045005498-used-2004-lexus-es-330–shrewsbury

Lexus ES330:  For those who want luxury on a budget, it is hard to beat a used Lexus ES.  With great service records and low mileage for the year, this is a great find that will run smoothly for years to come

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/1FTYR10D18PA84754-used-2008-ford-ranger–north-hampton

Ford Ranger:  If you don’t want to pay the premium for a Tacoma, a Ranger is a great option for a small utility pickup.

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/1GKEK13Z12R328904-used-2002-gmc-yukon–storrs-mansfield

GMC Yukon:  This is a full-size family hauler that could be negotiated down a bit.  Solid SUV with a traditional body-on-frame construction that’ll run for years to come, a family truckster on a budget!

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/JTJHA31U040049429-used-2004-lexus-rx-330–manchester

Lexus RX: the quintessential crossover SUV with all the luxury you could ever need.  A bargain for under 10k and a car that will keep you floating over the pavement for many more miles.

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/JN1AZ0CP1CT021707-used-2012-nissan-leaf–dedham

Nissan Leaf:  If you want to go green on a budget, this ultra-low mileage Leaf will get you there with cash to spare.  All electric means a limited range before you need a charge, but this would be a great second car or dedicated commuter vehicle.

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/JTEBT14RX58027385-used-2005-toyota-4runner-sr5–haverhill

Toyota 4Runner V8:  The V8 will run forever, tow anything, and never break on you,  need we say more?

http://www.carfax.com/vehicles/5TBBT44144S455584-used-2004-toyota-tundra-sr5–auburn

Toyota Tundra:  A full-size work truck on a budget, V8 that will last forever, what more could one ask for?

 

Hybrids: What makes them different and how to they work?

Many people have heard the term hybrid thrown around a lot but don’t really understand how a modern day hybrid works.  The most obvious benefit of a hybrid is the incredible gas mileage, but what is going on behind the scenes to make them sip that gas rather than guzzle it?  We’ll try to explain these very complex systems here, but in the interest of our own sanity and because of the limits of our technical knowledge, we’ll keep this on the simpler side. 

There are several different forms of hybrid drivetrains, the most common one being both an electric motor and a gas motor powering the wheels, acting in conjunction with one another, called a parallel hybrid.   This is beneficial because you have the benefit of the torque of the electric motor in addition to the added power of the gasoline engine when you need it.  In most cases, the gas engine is activated when you put your foot down to accelerate quickly. 

A second popular configuration is called the series hybrid.  What makes the layout different is that instead of having both the gas and electric motors connected to the driven wheels, the series hybrid only has the electric motors connected to the wheels while the gas engine is there only to generate power for the electric motors through a generator, converter, and battery.  This setup is popular because the gas engine can be a lot smaller and more efficient because it no longer has to do the work of helping to drive the wheels.

These are, in one form or another, the most common types of hybrid drivetrains present in vehicles today.  For example, the Toyota Prius, which is one of the best-selling hybrids on the road, utilizes a highly refined parallel drivetrain called a power-split hybrid which allows the engine to be connected to the wheels electrically or mechanically at any given point.  There are different configurations of each of these systems, differing in the way the engine is utilized and how often the electric and gas motors are used, but the basic technology remains the same across many platforms regardless of manufacturer. 

With a true hybrid, there are generally three different ways that the car can be powered.  As one would expect, there is full electric mode which means the car or truck is being driven by the electric motors alone.  There is a limited range with this mode, as with gas cars, because the battery can only last so long before it needs a recharge. 

A gas only mode is exactly what it sounds like, a mode where only the gas engine is utilized.  This is generally happening when more power is needed perhaps with more aggressive driving or when the vehicle is loaded up with passengers and gear but the driver still wants to cruise at a reasonable highway speed.

Finally, a true hybrid will have the ability to combine both power sources at any given time to complement each’s strengths and weaknesses.  For example, cars with smaller 4 cylinder engines may find themselves lacking in power in the lower RPM’s of the rev range.  An electric motor, in this case, would prove particularly useful in aiding the engine from a stand-still with a heavy load, thus reducing the strain on the engine.      

This should cover the more common, conventional hybrids on the road today.  True to their innovative nature, automotive manufacturers are constantly at work coming up with new, more efficient ways to get cars down the road so don’t be surprised if there are different options out there in short order.  However, the same basic principles will apply so if you are looking for an efficient mode of transportation without committing to going full electric just yet, a hybrid may be the car for you!    

New cars for 2017: What do we have to look forward to?

Every year seems to bring something new and exciting, and 2017 looks like it’s going to be no exception.  From the “needs no introduction” Ford GT to a Mazda Miata hardtop enthusiasts have been pining for, manufacturers are really bringing their A games in technology, style, and performance.  What we have here is a few of the vehicles we’ve been anticipating since the prototypes were released.

Mazda Miata RF:  The RF stands for retractable fastback so while it is not the stiff, rigid and reworked coupe many enthusiasts would have hoped for, one can’t deny that it looks great and will keep drivers smiling for miles even in colder temps.  It is without any major drivetrain changes, but why mess with perfection?

Bugatti Chiron:  While you won’t hear anyone say that this is a completely new beast when compared to the Veyron, you can’t argue with the fact that is does look lot less bloated and more purposeful.  While still utilizing the ground-pounding quad-turbo W16 engine from the Veyron, Bugatti says the new 1500 horsepower figure is enough to tie the 0-60 time of the Porsche 918 of 2.2 seconds.  For those of us that loved the technological breakthrough that was the Veyron but didn’t care for the looks, prepare to open your wallets to the tune of 2.6 million dollars.

Ford GT:  This re-work of the re-work of the LeMans winning vehicles of the 1960’s has probably received more press than any other vehicle being released in 2017.  With Ford dialing back the cylinder count to 6 from 8, purists haven’t been afraid to vocalize their disappointment.  But Ford is saying that this will pack over 600 horsepower and couple that with a lightweight, mostly carbon fiber chassis and you’ve got a recipe for a car that will be very happy at a track indeed.

Toyota Supra:  Few vehicles are reveled by the tuner crowd than the Toyota Supra.  From a manufacturer that produces some of the most reliable vehicles on the planet comes a car that produces reliable high power numbers.   We don’t have many details on this concept pictured above, but if it is anything close to its predecessor, it will already have a cult-like following.

Acura NSX:  You’ll be hard pressed to find a more recognizable name among JDM fans than the NSX.  Long heralded as a handling and chassis benchmark for performance, the first generations delighted drivers with impeccable handling and a driver focused experience that beat most anything else on the road.  This newest generation is staying true to its roots with V6 mounted amidships, but adds electric motors to the front wheels for a bit more kick.  We’ll see if this new kid on the super car block can live up to the hype.

Volvo S90:  The Swedes are going hunting for Germany car buyers with this all new luxury sedan dubbed the S90.  A completely new platform for Volvo has this big Scandinavian boat riding smooth but also handling well according to most reviews, with enough pickup to get you into a little trouble.  With a base price under $50k, this car could mean a big comeback for the beloved brand of safety-minded buyers.

Alfa Romeo Giulia:  For those who think that the BMW e39 M5 was the best car to come out of the doors at Dingolfing, you might want to take a glance at the new Alfa.  The Quadrifoglio model with a turbo 6 that offers up 505 horsepower going to the rear wheels via a true 6 speed manual is probably the closest thing we’ll see to a true driver’s sedan for years to come.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that this is probably one of the prettiest cars to be coming out in 2017 either.

Cadillac XT5:  A new crossover from Cadillac, how is that exciting?  Well it is not so much about the vehicle itself as much as it is about the company as a whole.  Cadillac struggles with the image that their cars are only driven by retirees and the XT5 is an attempt to shed that image.  With less-than-stellar sales across the board, the XT5 needs to be a saving grace to help bring the manufacturer back from a slow decline.

Lincoln Continental:  Lincoln finds itself in a similar situation as Cadillac in that they are trying to appeal to a different buyer, but the Continental is far from a vehicle for younger drivers.  With big aspirations to take down the well-established German competition, Lincoln has re-worked the Continental with available AWD and an optional twin-turbo V6 pushing out 400 horsepower.  Only time will tell if this all-American luxo-barge is up to the task.

Land yachting on a budget: Luxury cars for dimes on the dollar

True luxury sedans are out of the reach of many of us.  With price tags that get perilously close to, and sometimes exceed, six figures and maintenance that can empty a bank account, it just doesn’t make much sense unless you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket.  However, there are some used cars out there that have become relatively affordable relative to what they once cost so here is a list of some cars that might satisfy your need to be coddled in leather without forcing you to take out a second mortgage:

 *Disclaimer: Maintaining these vehicles gets expensive, so keep that in mind.

 1)      VW Phaeton:  This was a very limited run Volkswagen that was built to compete with the likes of Bentley (it was even called the ½ price Bentley by some).  The fit and finish are impeccable and it was available with a wonderfully excessive W12 engine with enough torque to get the behemoth moving to 60 mph in under 7 seconds.  To give you a sense of purpose behind this stealth-wealth beast, the Phaeton actually shared a platform with the Bentley Continental GT and the Flying spur!  Maintenance is going to cost you dearly, but this is one heck of a car that can often be found at under $30K used, a bargain considering how well these things hold up.

 

2)      Lexus LS: Now if you don’t need all of the bells and whistles associated with today’s modern cars, but still want to feel like you are the king of the road, a used Lexus LS is pretty hard to beat.  While they won’t have all of the fancy gadgetry that we have these days, a LS has one of, if not the, smoothest ride in the luxury world.  And as if that wasn’t enough, it is still a Toyota at heart so maintenance won’t cost you and arm and a leg.  Find a mid-2000’s model with low-ish mileage and the V8 and it shouldn’t cost you more than $17-$18k

 

3)       Mercedes S Class:  Some call this the king of luxury cars and they aren’t too far off.  The Mercedes Benz S-Class has been synonymous with luxury for decades and now you can find one for around $20K.  The fit and finish with these is still spot on even over a decade later, and while like most other higher mileage German-built sedans, it will cost more than average to own, that cost will still be a fraction of what it would cost to purchase a new one. 

 

4)      Hyundai Equus:  If your budget allows for some newer vehicles but you don’t like the price tag of the newer German offerings, check into the Korean automakers.  Hyundai’s Equus has been their flagship that has most everything the Germans offer at half the price. Right now there’s a 2014 listed on Ebaymotors.com for about $37k with under 40K miles on it, a lot of car for the money.  Reliability will be better than average, and maintenance will be cheaper than most, we call that a win-win.

 

5)      Kia K900:  Another Korean automaker making big moves in the luxury segment.  Much the same can be said of this car as can be said of the Hyunday above.  All of the modern bells and whistles but with a price tag much lower than one would expect.  Additionally, these are generally much easier on the wallet when it comes time to service, so keep that in mind next time you look at upgrading the garage.

 

6)      Audi A8:  This is the four-ringed auto manufacturer’s flagship sedan representing the best in all-weather luxury transportation.  With the legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive, this is one of the few luxury sedans that would be just as comfortable in a snow storm as it is storming the autobahn.  Expect to pay in the mid $20k range for a mid/late-2000’s model with some miles on it.  This is one of the more engaging large sedans to drive with more driver-tuned suspension than most of the vehicles in the segment with a price tag of around $70K when it was new.

 

7)      Acura RL:  While not many know of this mid-large size vehicle coming out of Acura, it is worth considering on price alone.  In 2005, these were $50,000 cars but can be had for under 15k now without a problem.  While you won’t find big V8 grunt under the hood, the smooth V6 with 300hp and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive does plenty to get this Japanese behemoth moving.  As with any Honda/Acura product, maintenance will be relatively easy and cheap on these compared to its competitors.  This is definitely worth a look if you don’t need any of the XL offerings listed above.      

Aural inspiration: 10 of the best sounding cars and why noise matters

Ask any car enthusiast to name some major factors in the appeal of a car is, and they will probably place the noise it makes near the top of the list.  But why is this?  If you could buy a car that got you from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds but sounded like nothing more than a stiff breeze, would you buy it?  It’s unusual how much of a factor a simple sound can be in how we perceive a vehicle and how much pleasure we can get from it, but there’s more to it than that. 

If you’ve ever gotten goosebumps from your favorite song, gotten immersed at a concert or even enjoyed listening to a song bird chirp away, you realize how engaging sound can be.  A good score can turn a mediocre movie into an epic, spine tingling thrill ride that you can’t take your eyes off of.  Humans can be aural creatures and being able to accentuate any experience with a well-written soundtrack, especially when it comes to cars, is a critical component to appealing to those of us with oil in our veins.     

Well for gearheads, sound is what can make a car come alive, give it a personality.  Why would we want to make our cars louder, you ask?  It’s pretty simple really, we get goosebumps from that drive through a tunnel at full throttle, that open-window concert hall that’s an assault on all the senses.  Ever notice how some of the more track-oriented cars on sale don’t come standard with radios?  Well, we’re ok with that because the only sound we need comes out the back and that gives us all the entertainment we need.

With all of that nonsense explained, here are a few cars (in no particular order) that top our list with some of the best sounds ever to exit a tailpipe. 

 1)      Ford Escort MK2 rally car:  Think a 4 cylinder can’t make a good noise?  Think again.  The sound coming out of this nimble little rally monster at full bore is nothing short of spectacular.

2)      Aston Martin V12 Vanquish: Not only are these cars stunning to look at, they also make one of the best sounds ever produced by a car.  A big, meaty V12 and a free flowing exhaust is a recipe that is hard to beat

3)      Pagani Zonda:  Another exotic, but this time the V12 (crafted by AMG) is a much higher-strung, free revving one designed to delight (and often destroy) the eardrums of passengers and drivers alike

4)      Lamborghini Aventador:  This is one of the newest offerings from the Italian manufacturer and after hearing one of these, we’re glad they’re sticking to their roots with big V12’s instead of adopting the smaller displacement turbo method like many competitors

5)      BMW e39 M5: While some may argue that you need an aftermarket exhaust to unleash the potential of this super-saloon, there’s no denying that this thing can get your hairs standing on end and put a smile on your face in short order

6)      Audi R8 V8:  This is the same basic engine as was found in the much-lauded RS4 which ended production in 2008.  No matter that the V8 was considered the base engine, it still made a sound that would put many faster cars to shame.

7)      Ferrari 355: This list wouldn’t be complete without a high-revving Ferrari crafted V8, and the 355 is possibly one of the best sounds to come out of their factory. 

8)      Porsche Carerra GT:  This is one of the few times that Porsche has strayed from its flat 6 heritage, but the V10 in this hyper car makes you wish they’d do it a few more times.  No wonder this has turned into a real collector car

9)      Porsche GT3RS: A good naturally aspirated 6 cylinder from Porsche has a very unique sound that is recognized the world over as something that means business.  No surprise then that one of the rawest variants of the 911 makes this list

10)   Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: While the ZR1 is no longer in production at this time, this Chevy V8 with a supercharger strapped to it will make Chuck Norris run for the hills.  Did you really think we would leave some proper American muscle off of this list?

Now you have to remember that something sounding “good” is all really subjective and as a result, some great sounding cars haven’t made the cut.  Some people out there may prefer the wail of a high-revving F1 car to a deep, bass-like V8 from AMG.  We are not here to pick sides, but rather point out some noteworthy cars that in our opinion produced sounds worth listening to.  If you’d like to add, comment below with a video clip and let others enjoy!

 

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