9 Dream Cars You Could Actually Own (Thanks to Depreciation)

Depreciation is a disappointing reality for new car owners, but it also has a bright side for those who avoid buying new: allowing magnificent machines to become easily affordable in just a few years. If you don’t mind your “new” ride having some miles, depreciated mega luxury and exotic vehicles may have exactly what you’re looking for at an unbeatable price. We get that these types of cars are often more expensive to repair or harder to find parts for, making them still out of budget for a lot of us.

However, consider us dreamers.

Since the average new car costs just over $33,000, let’s look at a few head-turning examples that undercut your everyday rides.

Aston Martin DB7

Let’s start off big. Less than $30,000 buys a hand-built British super-coupe with a 5.9-liter V12. The DB7 still looks and sounds amazing today, and low mileage examples are easily found online. At this price point, your Aston will be a little older—about turn of the millennium—but it will be loaded with luxury features. Unfortunately, it won’t have rockets or ejection seats, but it will make you feel as cool as James Bond.

Audi S8

Audi’s big sedan drives as beautifully as it looks, partially due to the 5.2-liter V10 delivering 450 horsepower. The Tiptronic six-speed transmission sends that power to all four wheels, so this can be your practical winter car. There’s also adaptive bi-xenon headlights, Alcantara and aluminum trim, and a seven-inch nav screen. How much does all that cost? Under $20,000 if you don’t mind a decade back, but still under $30,000 for a gorgeous 2009.

Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac Escalade

Perhaps a big family hauler is more of your dream ride. If the Aston won’t carry your five kids, take a look into a used Escalade. New examples start at $75,000, but if you don’t mind the previous body style, you can score a 4WD luxury SUV for less than half that price. Expect leather and speakers everywhere, tons of convenience features, and a 6.2L V8 making the best tow rating on this list. Who says your dream ride can’t be practical?

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Surprised to see a Chevy here? The sixth-generation Z06 put supercars on notice, with 505 horsepower coming from one of the biggest engines available in modern times, a 7.0-liter LS7 V8. The on-track performance was incredible, even with a base price of 70 grand. The years have been kind to this ‘vette, meaning you can score a reliable and powerful coupe for around $30,000. That might be the most horsepower you can buy for the money.

Hummer H1

If you’re more of the off-road type, we’ve got you covered. The original H1 was a military brute barely adapted for street use. It was not the greatest daily driver due to the Spartan interior (the features list is just an AM/FM radio), but over the years it forged a massive cult following. You won’t win any races with more than 7,000 pounds and a 6.5-liter diesel V8, but getting to your favorite fishing hole will be easy and fun. Originally six figures, 20-something models will set you back far less.

Hyundai Equus

Not many kids put posters of a Hyundai on their bedroom walls, but that could be changing. Evidence lies in the excellent Equus, mainly known as the most expensive Hyundai ever made, fully optioned to nearly $70,000. That cash buys a lot of car here, as the Equus is comparable to a loaded BMW 7-Series. Power is impressive, from the 5.0-liter “Tau” V8 driving the rear wheels, and an eight-speed auto keeps the shifting refined. This isn’t your buddy’s Sonata, but a used one is the same price.

Land Rover Range Rover

Land Rover Range Rover

If you enjoy off-roading and a vehicle with civil on-road manners, don’t buy two vehicles, just get a supercharged Range Rover. The blower helps the 5.0-liter V8 churn out 510 horsepower, turning this classy British SUV into a genuine hot rod. Sure, there’s leather, Bluetooth, and dual-zone climate control, but it also has air suspension, descent control, and gigantic 15-inch Brembo brakes.

Lotus Elise

Possibly the most head-turning ride on this list, the Elise may be old enough to buy alcohol, but it still gets lots of looks. The mid-mounted Toyota sourced 1.8-liter inline four cylinder isn’t all that impressive at 189 horsepower, until you realize it only has to push 1,900 pounds. That’s less than half a Dodge Challenger. The lack of weight makes the Elise quick, especially around corners. If you can swing Toyota Camry money for a reliable and fun two-seat roadster, get this one.

Porsche 911

Porsche 911

Yes, even legends depreciate. Under $30K used to mean you were stuck looking at a less desirable 996 model. While they are smokin’ bargains right now, the 997 series (2005–2012) is better looking and more capable. The 3.8-liter flat six is up to 355 horsepower, and the engine sound from behind you is absolutely perfect. The interior is refined and modern, but not busy with extra tech. If it has all its service records, a 911 can even be reliable. You won’t get a GT3 for this price, but the Carrera S is just as nice if you squint.

While these depreciated dream rides do have some miles on them, they can usually serve as daily drivers if you keep up on the maintenance. That’s a small price to pay for a vehicle that will put a smile on your face every time you see it.

Thinking of buying your dream ride? Let us know what you’re searching for in the comments below.

Quick Spin: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

2015 Hyundai Sonata pictureRead our exclusive review of this latest model.

If you’ve read any of my columns, you’re probably aware that I’m a muscle car guy. A horsepower guy. Big numbers, fast times. You get the idea.

But I’m also a man who likes to give credit where credit’s due.

When the Hyundai Sonata was redesigned for the 2010 model year, everyone wanted to crown it king, but I had my reservations. Where others saw a revolutionary exterior with ultra-sleek styling, I saw some overwrought lines that were bound to age poorly. And amid all the noise about its futuristic interior with a Volvo-inspired “mode man” for the climate vents, I wondered why no one mentioned that mode man’s head didn’t even work.

Sheesh.

But now there’s a new model — the 2015 Hyundai Sonata — and this one’s got my attention. I still say the critics were too eager to embrace the previous model, but this latest effort is the real deal.

Here are three reasons why.

  1. It Looks Like Money

I saw a 2015 Sonata on the road the other day, and this rarely happens to me, but I really didn’t know what it was. Maybe a new Genesis, Hyundai’s full-on executive sedan? Or some other premium car that just hit the market? Nope — it was a Sonata. You know, the one that competes with Camrys and Accords. And with its LED headlight accents, crisp new contours (none of that swoopy stuff from the previous model) and strong trapezoidal grille, it was a revelation.

When you see a new Sonata in the flesh, I think you’ll agree that it just looks like money. It’s a car that would look good in any driveway; there’s nothing about it that says, “I settled for less.”

It’s a downright handsome automobile.

  1. It Drives Like a Luxury Car

Behind the 2015 Sonata’s wheel, I truly am reminded of the Genesis, which starts at about $40,000 but looks and feels like about $60,000. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement; if you’re on a mission to find some average-quality plastics in the Sonata’s interior, you’ll eventually come up with a few examples. But by and large, the Sonata comes across as decidedly upscale, from the cohesive flow of its dashboard design to its supple, well-damped underpinnings that keep road noise at bay. The steering’s more responsive than I’m used to in Hyundai products, and there’s a real confidence at higher speeds that belies the Sonata’s bargain pricing.

I’ll tell you something else I like — in well-equipped Sonatas, you get a 4.2-inch color trip computer along with an 8-in touchscreen navigation system, and they both look beautiful. I’m talking high-resolution graphics, smooth transitions between screens, you name it. They thought of everything. This really is Genesis-grade technology, and it puts those Camrys and Accords to shame, no doubt about it. You’ll pay for the privilege, of course, but even a fully loaded Sonata is still a good deal.2015 Hyundai Sonata 2 picture

  1. It’s Still a Great Value

So let’s talk pricing. Looking at Hyundai’s MSRPs for the 2015 Sonata, you can get into one for as little as $21,150 plus destination. That includes stuff like alloy wheels, those LED running lights, power everything, convincing “metalgrain” interior trim and 6-speaker audio with Bluetooth. An enticing Popular Equipment package ($1,150) adds automatic headlights, a rearview camera, a 10-way power driver seat, leatherette door-panel trim and a 5-inch color touchscreen. If you’re a sensible shopper, you could stop right there and be perfectly content for $22,500.

That’s what I call value.

2015 Hyundai Sonata engine pictureBut let’s say you want to go all-out and get the color trip computer and 8-inch touchscreen I mentioned. Say you want the optional turbocharged engine, too, because I sure would. Listen, 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque beats 185 and 178 any day, and that’s the difference between the “2.0T” turbo engine and the base, non-turbocharged 2.4.

So let’s zero in on the Sport 2.0T trim level, which incidentally throws in an exclusive flat-bottomed steering wheel, paddle shifters, xenon headlights, quad exhaust tips, a sport-tuned suspension and some other nifty touches. It’s the one I’d recommend if you want to treat yourself. You’ll also need the Tech package ($1,750) to get the upgraded screens, and that package tacks on a premium audio system and an auto-dimming rearview mirror for good measure.

Ready for the total tab?

How’s $30,325 strike you?

I’m ready to rest my case on that one. I’m telling you, I can’t think of a midsize sedan on the market that gives you more for the money.

Like I said, I’m a muscle-car man at heart.2015 Hyundai Sonata dash picture

But if I had to buy a family sedan right now, there’s no question where my hard-earned dollars would be going.

Your Thoughts

What do you all think of the new Sonata? Are you with me in thinking that Hyundai really turned a corner this time? Give me a shout in the comments, let’s hear it.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for all of the parts and tools needed to maintain your muscle. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Top Vehicles with Retro Styling – Part 2

Dodge Challenger logoIn this exclusive sequel, we explore more contemporary vehicles designed with a nod to the old-school. 

Why do so many people like newer cars with retro styling? Maybe it’s because the vehicle in question is part of a great memory they have. It could also be that the original vehicle had an impressive reputation for good looks or performance and today’s buyers are hoping to recapture those attributes with the modern model. Whatever the reasons, vehicle manufacturers seem to like these retro styles as much as drivers do, particularly when they hit on a winning combination that results in soaring sales.

In the first installment of Top Vehicles with Retro Styling,we looked at several models whose looks borrowed heavily from their ancestors. Since there’s no shortage of retro-styled vehicles that are new today or that debuted within the last several years, we decided to examine a few more.

Chevy HHRChevy HHR – the acronym stands for “Heritage High Roof.” Chevy’s HHR was available in model years 2005 through 2011, and if it looks strikingly familiar, it’s probably because you’re thinking about Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. According to a review in Popular Mechanics, the HHR was also designed by the PT Cruiser’s designer after he and an auto industry executive both left GM for Chrysler. On its “discontinued vehicle page,” Chevy touts the HHR’s best-in-class fuel economy at 32 mpg, resulting in more than 500 miles between fill ups. For a retro wagon like the HHR, one would expect Chevy to be highlighting the HHR’s retro good looks or other appealing features instead of staid fuel mileage.

Chevy SSRChevy SSR – Chevy was obviously having a “thing” in naming its retro models with three-letter acronyms back in the early 2000s. Their Super Sport Roadster supposedly took its looks from a 1950’s-era Chevy pickup. It featured a folding hard top and tonneau cover, weighed in at nearly two-and-a-half tons and was powered by an eight-cylinder, 300 horsepower engine. The SSR was available from 2003 to 2006. Sadly, or gloriously, depending on your view, it was included on Time magazine’s list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.

Plymouth ProwlerPlymouth Prowler – From 1997 through 2001, the Prowler was the baddest looking vehicle on new car dealers’ lots. Less than 12,000 were sold throughout all the model years and there were none produced for the 1998 model year. While the Prowler drew rave reviews for its radical looks and nod to 1950’s-era hot rodding, it drew an equally strong criticism for being powered by a measly V-6. The Prowler was Plymouth’s last new model before the brand disappeared altogether, and it too made Time’s list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.

Pontiac GTO 2004Pontiac GTO – This one’s a bit of an oddball. If you’re going to name a car after a hardcore, ever-popular muscle car from the ‘60s, shouldn’t that new retro car at least look a little like its proud papa? Yeah, someone forgot to mention that to Pontiac, and therein lies the biggest disappointment with the 2004-2006 GTO – it looks like an unassuming family sedan. Surprisingly, underneath that sleepy exterior was a 350-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission. But as we all know, when it comes to cars, looks do matter.

Dodge ChallengerDodge Challenger – Unlike the folks over at GM with their GTO, when Chrysler introduced the “new” Challenger in 2008, they embraced the Dodge Challenger’s original muscle-car-good-lucks from the 1970 through 1974 model years. From the hood scoops to the front grill and four headlights, the new Challengers look decidedly similar to their old-school counterparts. Those street-tough looks are backed up by some serious power in the Challenger’s top-of-the-line model that features a 6.4-liter V-8 and 470 horsepower.

Given the public’s love affair with retro-styled new vehicles, the aforementioned models most certainly won’t be the last that we see appearing on the showroom floor. Who knows? In another 50 years, maybe we’ll see a new, retro-styled Tesla Model S that borrows some from the original looks sported by its ancient ancestor.

Read Top Vehicles with Retro Styling, Part 1.

Editor’s note: Keep your ride looking good and running right with parts and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.

 

Top Vehicles with Retro Styling – Part 1

Are we in love with the car, or our memories?

What is it about cars and nostalgia? Why do so many of our most vivid or cherished memories include a vehicle playing a starring or supporting role?

For me, those important vehicles and memories include a 1974 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon, 1978 Mercury Zephyr, and my all-time favorite – a four door, five-speed, sunroof-equipped 1985 BMW 318i.

The work I did on all those vehicles is part of the memories each holds. The Zephyr in particular was my guinea pig. I remember replacing the starter, dashboard, back seat, radio, radiator, and a number of other parts through the years, all of which helped me build my mechanical knowledge and confidence.

A number of modern vehicles can trigger a drive down memory lane simply because they look like their iconic predecessors. Here are five on my list of contemporary vehicles with retro styling – in no particular order. What have I left off the list? What’s your favorite, and more importantly, why? I’ll explore five more in an upcoming installment.

2015 Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang

The 2015 Mustang comes with the model’s first ever EcoBoost® engine – a 2.3-liter power plant delivering 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. For the really performance-minded driver, the GT model features a 5.0 liter V-8 churning out 435 HP and 400 pound-feet of torque. This iconic sports car’s first model in 1964 pales in comparison when it comes to power as its 170 cubic-inch engine only cranked out 156 pound-feet of torque. And, it’s angular retro looks are nothing to sneeze at.

2005 Ford ThunderbirdFord Thunderbird

Ford’s more than four million Thunderbirds went through many different looks through the years. The 1955 debut saw classic lines and a hard-top or convertible version while the sixth generation from 1972 to 1976 model years were boxy and big, making this version the largest Thunderbird Ford had ever produced. The eleventh generation, from 2002 to 2005, would be its last and saw a return to a more classic look, similar to the earliest model years.

2006 Dodge ChargerDodge Charger

Seven generations of Chargers brought us from those first intimidating, wide-nose models of the ‘60s and ‘70s, through the embarrassingly compact fifth generation in the 80s, full circle to the sixth and seventh generations, available from ’06 through today. That evolution saw a return to looks that are more in line with those first Chargers, from the taillights to the hood and side panels.

2010 Chevy CamaroChevy Camaro

Debuting with the 1967 model as a competitor to Ford’s Mustang, four generations of Camaros prowled the streets until production ended in 2002, only to see the model revived for the 2010 model year with generation five. With today’s MSRP of $75,000, 505 HP, and a seven-liter V8, the 2015 Camaro Z-28 bears some resemblance to those first Camaros in looks only.

2015 VW BeetleVW Bug

The Beetle or “People’s Car” translated from the German “Volkswagen,” was officially called the “Type 1” when production began in 1938. Today, Volkswagen refers to its latest Bug model as, “a sleek twist on an iconic shape.” Out of all the retro-styled vehicles, the Beetle might bear the closest resemblance to its first ancestor.

A few of the cars on the list went through some “changes” or “growing pains” that left them looking nothing like their much-loved predecessors for several years before they came back around to today’s popular styles. The Ford Mustang is a case in point.

Those 80’s and 90’s-era Mustangs, for me at least, don’t conjure up memories of the tough-looking Mustangs I remember from the 60’s and 70’s. They were Mustangs in name only, unlike today’s Mustangs that look mean, powerful and menacing, just like their brothers from those first two decades of Mustang production.

Retro styling’s popularity could also be attributed to the timeless nature of certain style elements. Much the way some antiques, whether furniture or paintings, retain their value and popularity because of their classic style elements, perhaps the same can be said for certain classic vehicle lines and characteristics?

Or, maybe nostalgia and elements that never go out of style don’t have anything to do with retro styling’s popularity today. For some drivers, it could be that the vehicle’s good looks and solid reputation, built over several decades, leads them to equate today’s models with their popular classic ancestors. The Chevy Camaro has always conjured up the image of a street-savvy, aggressive performer, never straying too far from its original looks, even with the latest model.

Whatever the reason for our love affairs with cars, history and retro styling, two things are for sure – what’s old will someday be new again, and no one’s clamoring for a 2016 reintroduction of Mercury’s Zephyr, including me.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re restoring an original classic or working on vehicle based on a classic, Advance Auto Parts has the parts and tools you need. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Can The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI Be A Family Car?

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.pngCars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are traditionally considered to be family cars–yet the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as large cars. And if you’ve driven them, you know the EPA’s not kidding. These sedans are big, no two ways about it.

So here’s a question: Does a car have to be large in order to be suitable for family use?

Certainly, sedans like the Accord and Camry offer distinct advantages relative to cheaper, smaller alternatives like the Civic and Corolla. But what if there was a car that combined the refinement and versatility of a large car with the manageable dimensions of a small one? We drove the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI recently, and we think it just might offer the best of both worlds. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this VW tick.

1. Deceptively spacious cabin

Most folks dismiss the Volkswagen Golf as just another small car, but they don’t know what they’re missing. Rear legroom and headroom is superb; we bet Golf owners hardly ever find themselves wishing for more. Yet this VW is compact enough to squeeze into any urban parking spot, unlike the mainstream “family car” behemoths that are a chore to maneuver through tight spaces.

And don’t forget about the handy hatchback body style. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf can swallow 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seats, which is about seven cubes more than the typical family sedan. Plus, you can fold the Golf’s rear seatbacks to open up more than 50 cubic feet of space, a figure that no family sedan can touch.

Driving 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.png

2. Awesome powertrain

Whenever you see “TDI” on a Golf, it means there’s a turbodiesel engine under the hood, and that’s a very good thing. The latest generation of VW’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter four is rated at just 150 horsepower, but the figure you want to focus on is the 236 pound-feet of torque. All that torque is available at low rpm, so the Golf TDI launches effortlessly from stoplights and always has some extra punch in reserve. Of course, diesels are known for their fuel economy, and the 2015 VW Golf TDI doesn’t disappoint, returning up to 45 mpg–way more than the most efficient family sedan.

3. Premium character

Here’s the other thing that prevents more Americans from buying small cars. There’s a perception out there that small equals cheap, and it drives a lot of folks to buy bigger cars than they really need. If that mindset sounds familiar, go drive a Golf and see what you think. You’ll be astonished by how nice everything is in this car, from the materials on the dashboard to the precise, expertly damped knobs and levers–not to mention the crisp, well-lit gauges and displays. The Golf presents as a more expensive car, and that’s a rare thing these days. Whereas most family cars feel built to a price, the Golf feels like the engineers had the leeway to get everything just right. It’s like having a little luxury car at no extra cost.

The best family car around $25,000?
We think the 2015 VW Golf TDI is a strong contender for this prize, all things considered. But are we wrong? Have you experienced the new Golf TDI for yourself? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Review: the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid

2014 Infinity Q50 Hybrid 1Our resident Gearhead takes this hotly tipped hybrid for a spin.

Given my loyalty to old-fashioned muscle cars, you might think that “Hybrid” is a dirty word in these parts. But you’d be wrong. Tell you what, I love the idea of an extra electric motor that helps the gas engine do its job. If you design it right, that electric motor will really kick in at low speeds to give you more torque, and it’ll help you when you’re merging and passing, too. Kind of like a modern turbocharged engine without the lag.

Trouble is, most hybrids are all about fuel economy, which means they pretty much hate fun. But I’ve finally found one that’s a little different, and I’m smitten. Let me tell you a few things about my new crush — it’s called the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid.

1. It’s Fast

And I mean fast. With its 3.5-liter V6 hybrid system, this thing cranks out 360 horsepower! That’s even more than the regular non-hybrid Q50, which stops at 328. It’s not just about the power, either, because this hybrid makes boatloads of low-end torque. It’s like an old big-block V8 the way it rears back and puts down the hammer from a stop. Like I said, when you add an electric motor to the mix, it can give you a real wallop during acceleration. Infiniti gets that. For the record, the Q50 Hybrid will do 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, or almost half a second quicker than the non-hybrid car.2014 Infinity Q50 Hybrid 2

2. It Drives Like a Champ

One thing about hybrids is that they’ve got big old battery packs to run those electric motors, and you’ve got to put that heavy thing somewhere. If you’re not careful, the extra weight can mess up the balance of the car. But Infiniti has positioned the Q50 Hybrid’s battery pack such that it adds a little rearward weight bias without going crazy. The result, if you ask me, is even better balance than the regular Q50. Going around corners in the Q50 Hybrid, I felt like I was driving an honest-to-goodness sport sedan. It just hunkers down and goes, with no understeer and not much body roll, either. Who ever heard of a hybrid that’s this fun to drive?

3. Its Fuel Economy is Amazing

Quick, name a midsize, five-passenger sedan that hits 60 mph in under 5 seconds and gets 31 mpg combined. Let me emphasize the “combined” part, because that’s what the EPA says you can expect for each tank as a weighted average of city (29 mpg) and highway (36 mpg) driving. Most cars with this much speed don’t even break 30 mpg on the highway cycle, and they’re way down in the 20s or even teens for city driving. That’s the other thing about a hybrid car’s electric motor — it takes a load off the gas engine in normal driving, and that means you need less gas to get around.

2014 Infinity Q50 Hybrid 4Sign This Gearhead Up

My test car came in at a shade over $46,000. That’s actually pretty reasonable when you consider that the Q50 Hybrid is a full-on luxury car with leather, navigation, Bose audio, dual electronics displays, you name it. You could easily pay more than twice as much for a Porsche Panamera hybrid that goes 0-60 in 5.2 seconds and only gets 25 mpg combined. I never thought I’d be saying this about a hybrid, but I would really and truly like to own this 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid sedan.

Am I crazy? Have you ever driven a hybrid that made you fall in love? Tell us your story in the comments.

 

Editor’s note: Whether you drive a hot new hybrid or a weathered old gas-guzzler, count on Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts—and even better values.

Give Your New Used Car a Clean Bill of Health

Used car buyingDid I ever tell you about the time my husband brought home an old Toyota Tercel? I didn’t ask for it, believe me, but there he was, puttering into the driveway in that gold 1985 hatchback. I don’t know about you, but while my husband is smart, educated and ultra-handy, he can still be pretty darn clueless sometimes.

Anyway, I don’t want to cast any aspersions on the Tercel itself. Properly maintained, it was one of the most reliable cars ever built. But my husband just trusted that it would keep running fine, so he didn’t take these three simple post-purchase steps that could have saved us some headaches down the road.

Change the Oil

When you’re buying a used car, I don’t care how convincing the previous owner is when he or she tells you, “I changed that oil religiously every 3,000 miles!” I like to assume the best of people, but in this case, I always assume the worst. It takes time, energy and money to keep up with car maintenance, and folks don’t necessarily have all three at once.

So here’s my advice: pretend like that oil hasn’t been changed since the car rolled off the assembly line, and change it immediately, whether you do it yourself (my preference, of course!) or pay for the service. My husband dragged his feet on this for a while with the Tercel, since the oil level looked fine on the dipstick, and we had some strange engine issues that cropped up down the line. I don’t know for sure that old oil was the culprit, but I wish we’d just handled it and changed the oil right away. Today, tens of thousands of miles later, the Tercel’s running great with regular DIY oil changes, thank you very much!

Get Fresh Tires and an Alignment

Unless the existing tires are fairly new and a high-quality type that’s properly fitted to the car, I always advise starting from scratch with a new set. Hey, you’ll have to buy tires at some point, right? Why not do it right away? It’s the same idea as the immediate oil change: you want the car to be yours from the get-go, and that means buying a set of top-notch tires yourself. As a fringe benefit, the tire shop will balance the wheels, which should minimize any vibrations you’re feeling on the road.

Also, make sure you have a four-wheel alignment done, because a misaligned car will eat those nice new tires for breakfast. Finally, don’t forget to rotate the tires and balance the wheels at the prescribed intervals; ideally, try to find a tire shop that will perform this service gratis for the life of the tires. My husband decided to keep the tires that came with that old Tercel, since the car itself cost so little to acquire, and the result was that we lived with a jittery ride until the tires were so far gone that he had to get new ones. The difference with the new rubber was night and day. Don’t make the same mistake!

Take a Road Trip

With summer here, this one’s a no-brainer. This is the most fun DIY tip I’ll ever give you: after buying a used car, just hop in and drive! Most trips we take in cars are short, and that’s the worst thing for the engine and other drivetrain components, because they need plenty of time and heat to get properly warmed up. That’s why I think of long highway drives as spa treatments for my cars. Engines are happiest when they’re humming along contentedly for sustained stretches.

With the gold Tercel, we noticed that the more we drove it on trips like this, the smoother it felt (well, once we resolved those engine issues and put on new tires!). There’s nothing like a getting-to-know-you road trip in your “new” used car to knock out the car’s cobwebs and help the two of you get on the same page.

What Works For You?

I’m always eager to hear how you folks tackle real-world problems like “breaking in” a used car. Let me know in the comments! Are there any additional procedures you’d recommend?

Editor’s note: count on Advance Auto Parts to help keep your used car looking good and running right. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Top Diesel Cars and Trucks for 2013

Purchasing a hybrid vehicle can make sense under the right circumstances. If you do a lot of city driving, for example, nothing can beat a hybrid’s fuel economy. And hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Ford C-MAX are downright practical vehicles, even if you put their incredible fuel economy aside.

But diesel engine cars and diesel powered trucks have a lot to offer too. Consider the following:

  • Diesels are as fuel-efficient on the highway as the most frugal hybrid
  • Diesels give you great low-end torque. That means you can effortlessly scoot away from traffic lights and oftentimes don’t even need to downshift to pass someone.
  • Diesel powered trucks are a superior choice for towing and hauling
  • Diesel engine cars and trucks are known for being reliable for hundreds of thousands of miles
  • Diesels use simple, proven technology that has powered commercial vehicles like buses and dump trucks for decades

Intrigued? Good. Here are our top picks for diesel cars and trucks for 2013.Mazda diesel

Best Small Car: 2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Update Dec. 2016: If you purchased one of VW’s diesels, we’re truly sorry you’ve had to deal with the fallout of their now acknowledged software designed to evade EPA emissions testing. Learn more about your options here.

The Golf hatchback is one of our favorite small cars no matter what’s under the hood, because you just can’t get its combination of versatility, European dynamics, and upscale ambiance anywhere else. But when you thrown in Volkswagen’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter inline-4, the pot only gets sweeter. Rated at a modest 140 horsepower but a robust 236 pound-feet of torque, the “TDI” diesel motor gives the Golf great get-up-and-go around town. What’s more, the EPA says it’s good for 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway. Real-world results approach 50 mpg on the open road.

Best Midsize Car: 2014 Mazda6 Skyactiv Diesel

You can’t even buy this car yet, but it’s worth waiting for. The Mazda6 is all-new for 2014, with beautiful styling and a much nicer interior. The big news though is that it’s going to be offered with a 2.2-liter turbodiesel inline-4. Based on early reports, you can expect around 280 pound-feet of torque from the Mazda diesel, as well as fuel economy in excess of 40 mpg.

If you absolutely need a midsize car right now, check out the VW Passat TDI, which shares the Golf’s motor.

Best Crossover/SUV: 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC

No Mercedes-Benz comes cheap, and the M-Class crossover is one of Benz’s pricier models. But if it fits your budget, you can’t go wrong with the diesel-powered ML350 BlueTEC. Blessed with an ultra-smooth 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that cranks out 240 horsepower and an incredible 455 pound-feet of torque, the ML350 BlueTEC delivers executive-grade acceleration and refinement. It also returns 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway, which is pretty amazing for a big rig like this.

Best Truck: 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax

If you haven’t been paying attention to diesel powered trucks lately, let us bring you up to speed. There’s a diesel fuel arms race going on between GM, Dodge, and Ford, and the horsepower and torque figures are completely insane. But it’s not just about the numbers. At 397 horsepower and 765 pound-feet of torque, GM’s 6.6-liter “Duramax” turbodiesel V8 trails Ford’s entry on paper (believe it or not). In the real world, however, it’s the strongest truck motor you can buy. And compared to a gasoline-powered V8, it’s going to give you significantly better fuel economy, too.

The Great Debate: Camaro vs. Mustang vs. Challenger

Ford Mustang Convertible in a show room

Source/Paulius Malinovskis/Flickr

The great thing about classic muscle cars was how honest they were. What you saw was what you got. They were built for speed, but they weren’t trying to be fancy like a Ferrari. Automakers took a blue collar car, dropped in a V8 engine, and added some muscle car parts. That’s all there was to it.

Muscle cars have come a long way since then–for better or for worse. For one thing, you’ve got traction control to keep your tires from spinning, and you can’t even hang your arm out the window anymore because the doorsills are too high!

But that got us thinking. How do three of the 2013 muscle cars stack up against their historic counterparts? It’s an epic showdown between Comaro vs. Mustang vs. Challenger.

Chevy Camaro SS

#3. 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS

There’s not much that’s “retro” about this Chevy. Yeah, you can get a four-pack of gauges inside like the old cars had, but from the outside, the 2013 Camaro looks like a Hot Wheels car. The original ‘60s Camaro was beautiful. This one’s a cartoon character.

The power’s still there though. Big time. Wood the throttle and you’ve got 426 horses to play with. The exhaust sounds like it can barely breathe, but you can still find plenty of muscle car parts in 2013. A nice cat-back Flowmaster would do the trick. But you’d still have to crane your neck to see out of this thing. Visibility’s terrible, and the doorsill is at shoulder-height.

 

Dodge Challenger R/T

#2. 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T

Now we’re talkin’. This thing’s huge, just like Challengers used to be. It sounds great right from the factory; love that V8 burble out the back like old school muscle cars. The ride’s super smooth, unlike the overly stiff Camaro. You can even fit adults in the back, and there’s plenty of room for their stuff in the trunk.

So why isn’t it number one? Just think about the movie Bullitt. Remember how McQueen was in a fastback Mustang, and the guys chasing him were in a Dodge that took up half the road? The new Challenger’s an honest muscle car, that’s for sure, but drivers want something that’s at home in tight corners, too.

 

2013 Ford Mustang GT

#1. 2013 Ford Mustang GT

You gotta hear the noises this V8 makes, first of all. They say that Ford did something funny with the intake to make it sound better, and you know what, we could listen to this thing run toward redline all day.

But the best thing about the 2013 Mustang muscle car is that it’s a sports car, too. See, even the sportiest Mustang muscle car from the ‘60s was happiest when the road was straight. But the 2013 model will go around a corner with the best of them. It’s smaller than the other two, so that helps, and the visibility’s better as well.

On the downside, the Mustang’s still got an electronic throttle, electric power steering, and a whole bunch of other unnecessary stuff that gets between the driver and the road. Those are rental car parts, not muscle car parts.

What do you think? Camaro, Mustang, or Challenger? What’s your preference? Leave us a comment.