By on June 23, 2011

TK writes:

I have not owned a car for ten years, having lived in cities where I could take public transportation to work. But now I’m being relocated to a large Great Lakes city where I will forced to drive to work about 25 miles each way. Despite my lack of car ownership, I love cars and I love motoring. Heck, I learned to read by subscribing to Car and Driver. However I don’t like spending vast amounts of money and the thought of burning capital on service costs really galls me.

The other wrinkle here is that I’m an up-and-coming young executive in my company, so it is probably a good idea to have a car that doesn’t scream ”schlub”.

I’ve been thinking about getting a gently used (2008 or so) BMW 5-series, but then I looked at its reliability history and I coughed up a lung. Other competitors: Lexuses seem like a snooze; Infinitis have bizarre interiors with lots of buttons; Audis have dreadful service records; Benzes are for old men.

Any suggestions you might have are welcome. Maybe I need to open my mind to Lexus and Infiniti. Maybe I need to suck up the BMW service costs and accept them in a zen-like fashion. Maybe I need to swallow my ego and get a Hyundai. Either way, please do share ideas!

Sajeev Answers:

Seriously? There ain’t no such thing as a luxury car for the cheapskate, hence the exclusiveness of the term. Except when considering the Lincoln Town Car, which normal people shall not.  And considering the flack I get for Panther Love, your average corporate “schlub” won’t schlep in a car so fantastically star-crossed. You my friend, are in a serious pickle.

Consider the Lexus IS: the interior and sheetmetal is right, performance is somewhat inspiring and you don’t look like a rich douche in a BMW or a poseur in a…BMW wannabe machine.  And while the IS should fit in the latter category, it really doesn’t.  Because, no matter what Pistonheads think, it’s a Lexus…a name that evokes 20+ years of nearly perfect customer service, a bulletproof mid-level manager luxury cache with performance and reliability that’s created a reputation that’s the envy of the world.  Whew!

And if you can afford a used IS-F, you get it all in one package.  So what was the problem again?

Steve Answers:

This one kinda got me: “The other wrinkle here is that I’m an up-and-coming young executive in my company, so it is probably a good idea to have a car that doesn’t scream ‘schlub’.”

For crying out loud! Who do you work for, Grey Poupon? Nobody is going to give a flying flip about what you drive unless regularly entertain folks with the last names of Trump or Huffington. In which case you definitely better get the stone-aged Lincoln that Sajeev just mentioned.

I am going to give you advice that you are going to hate. Buy a Camcord or a related mid-sized clone. The brand doesn’t matter. Most of them are reliable. Most of them can be had with leather seats. Most of them are virtually indistinguishable for the overwhelming majority of car buyers,

None of my friends ever bought a premium car until they ‘made it’. Even then most of them still never bought a fancy car. If your work requires it. Fine. But my advice is to buy a nice middle-of-the road midsized car that will let you concentrate on your work.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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122 Comments on “New or Used: The Wrinkle in the Luxury Cheapskate...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    A brand new, shiny Chevy Impala LTZ, hands down. It does have chrome door handles, after all. I’m assuming you’re going to be in the Chicago area or thereabouts. This car will give you decent fuel economy and adequate protection and won’t stand out like a sore thumb. Practical transportation – hey! you’re commutng and nobody will give a hoot to what you’re driving. Blend in, keep your mouth shut and stereo volume down and get to and from wherever you have to go and do it in reasonable comfort. Enjoy your new life!

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Zackman: How could you forget the most important part of the LTZ package?

      5.3L V8!

      • 0 avatar
        william442

        What is the option code for the LTZ V8. I cannot find it at the Chevy web site, or Edmunds.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @william442: Beats me. I guess I brain farted. The V8 hasn’t been an option for a couple of years. Unfortunately, I don’t keep up with the W-body love like I should.

        On the Edmunds website it’s only listed for the SS version. But I have seen LTZs with the V8′s. There’s a guy down the street from me who has one, I should ask him if he ordered it.

        Bummer. It would make for a sweet ride.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        The LTZ V8 sounds like a badge job to me. I think the V8 was only in the SS.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @segfault: Nope, it’s real. The guy lives down the street from me. I see the car pretty frequently when I’m walking the dogs. The V8 has a distinctive rumble the V6 doesn’t.

        We have a lot of current and ex-GM employees in the area, who knows? Maybe he got a special one?

      • 0 avatar
        william442

        Darn.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @geozinger:

        If you get chance, try to get more info on that car.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @ajla: I will make it a point to walk that way tonight with the doggies. I rarely see the folks who own the car, and I don’t know them personally. But now with this discussion, I’m curious now, too.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The 5.3 SS is history replaced in a few weeks by the 3.6 302 HP 6 speed sleeper for little coin 2012 edition. Hey at least you will be able to easily keep pace with most of the snobmobiles.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      No disrespect, but driving a fleet queen Impala probably wouldn’t be the best choice for an image concious employer/employee.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I gotta agree. I think the Impala is a fine choice for some people, but not if you’re looking for something that screams up-and-coming. Of course, depends on who you’re trying to impress. If it’s a guy who loves American cars and thinks Beemer drivers are posers…

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Zackman, I KNOW you love you some Impalas, and dont get me wrong, I understand enthusiasm for your ride of choice. But you are starting to sound like the Pather love crowd!! :)

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “rub it in, rub it in…”

        Yeah, I was dimly aware of that when I posted. I suppose I’ll have to dial it back a bit, but, hey, the “panther love” crowd has theirs, so why not the “W body” crowd, too?

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Well, the problem is, around here anyways, the Impala is a favorite of rental car fleets and the elderly bingo crowd. And even the SS simply doesn’t stand out enough.

        Related to the Impala though is the Bonneville, which I happen to just love. There are a few Bonne GXPs around here and they look and sound awesome, especially with the V8.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      ZACKMAN:

      If you really DO want to be dead..
      Then drive a car that’s coming on 30yrs old.. on a FWD platform, that inspires all of the driving characteristics of pointing a shit into a hole.

  • avatar
    bytheway

    Swallow your pride any buy a Hyundai?? Having ANY car is a million times better than having to take public transportation so swallowing your pride shouldn’t be a problem. Get an 06 Avalon Limited if you dont wanna spend the $ on a new car.

  • avatar
    rem83

    Get a Volvo – they’re very nice, quite reliable for a luxury car, FWD will be a benefit in the Great Lakes climate and will keep you from needing AWD and they don’t have the same douche cachet as most of the other “traditional” luxury brands. I also might recommend MKZ (Ford Fusion reliable but with a luxury nameplate and some added amenities) but it is quite a bit less appealing than the Volvo imo.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Great Lakes City that will require driving….Cleveland? The majority of the nice locations are about 25 miles away and aren’t served by the RTA. Consider a previous generation TL? You can get a stick shift. You can get AWD. You can even get FWD if you aren’t comfortable in the snow. Save some scratch and ever consider the TSX. Or Honda Accord V6 6MT sedan [though hard to find].

    I only speak from what I’m exposed to, but I feel like many places in the midwest aren’t quite as image-conscious. So like Steve said, unless you’re entertaining clients or something, don’t stress too much on the car.

    Also consider the generally terrible roads due to salt & cold weather. You might feel a tightly sprung sport sedan is too harsh for these roads.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      I was guessing Chicago. And with a 25 mile commute through the Chicago ‘burbs, I’ll give him 5 years before he no longer “love(s) cars and … motoring”. I speak from experience – I now take Metra.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Oh yeah, no fun like commuting. Now that I live in a medium sized midwestern town, commuting is not so bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        I’ve been driving ~ 35 ea. way and I love it. Work your schedule around the traffic (hit the gym early AM and it doesn’t suck).

        Metra on the other hand……super-high diesel pollution levels found in Ogilvie station. Someone suicides in-front of a train at least once a week (hope it isn’t yours). I think there have been 2 derailments in the last 6 weeks..? And the train schedule outside of rush hour absolutely suck.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      I like the previous gen TL recommendation. Should be relatively cheap, sufficient luxurious, reliable, and good looking.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “Nobody is going to give a flying flip about what you drive unless regularly entertain folks with the last names of Trump or Huffington.”

    Steve, as much as I find you a kindred soul when it comes to cars and finances, you’re wrong on this point. As one rises in the corporate world it becomes increasingly important to present an image of commensurate comsumption, whether it be in cars, clothing or housing, and I believe that TK recognizes that sad fact. As much as I want to live in a world that values substance over style, it’s a rare company whose mgmt will not silently judge its junior ranks based on style. Show up at work in a Camcord wearing an off-the-rack suit from Penney’s and you’re not going to be considered as suitable for the next level of mgmt as the person in a Bimmer wearing a designer label. Sajeev is right, TK needs to drive something more upscale, and a Lexus probably hits the mark well enough while avoiding the other issues (like service costs) that trouble him.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      Could not disagree more. When I see mid level managers making maybe $120k and driving a 5-series I immediately think “overextended”. I’ll avoid turning this into a personal finance forum, but what will your style versus substance interpretation be when the 5-er breaks down, you’re late to work, and calling said co-workers for a pickup at the dealership, since you have apparently done some research on 5-er reliability.

      The camcord advice is sound — although I clearly think the “cord” side carries a much better perception. Keep it in pristine condition and colleagues will realize you are not overextended, and take perfect care of your world.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        I’m with vbofw even more than I’m with Steve on this point. In the real world of mortgages, hospital bills, childcare and tuition bills, a lot of very senior folks at very big companies end up driving plain-vanilla cars. In fact, I’d go a step further than Steve: you won’t look like a schlub driving a responsible, middle-of-the-road car, but “an up-and-coming young executive” _will_ look like a d!ck if he shows up to work driving a nicer car than his boss. As vbofw notes, you want to appear responsible as much as ambitious.

        Rent a car for your first week (or month) at your new job – it looks like you can afford to spend a few hundred bucks while you get the lay of the land – and see what your coworkers drive. If everyone’s driving fine German steel, than go ahead and buy that Bimmer; personally I’d go for a new 3er as some of the commenters below advised, for the same reasons, or maybe pick up an IS350AWD or a new TL SH-AWD for more reliable long-term prospects. But if your boss is driving an Accord and you show up in a BMW, take a step back, take a few test drives, and figure out what less flashy transportation you can live with. I like the last-gen Acura TL (I have one myself), as it’s fast, comfortable, inexpensive to maintain, and barely gets noticed on the street. A new Sonata would be another good choice.

      • 0 avatar
        eldard

        Driving a nicer car than your boss could leave you being passed over for a promotion.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I honestly don’t see how someone with a 120k salary would be overextended with a 5-series loan, especially a 535i. No worse than someone with a 60k salary buying an Accord.

        If the BMW breaks down, they’ll tow it and give you a loaner, or at least shuttle you to work and back. Unless you’re buying a very used model…which then you should not be overextended.

        I understand your point, but don’t neccessarily agree with all points. And I’m no fan of Euro cars either.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “When I see mid level managers making maybe $120k and driving a 5-series I immediately think “overextended”

        Exactly, which is why a Lexus makes sense; sensible luxury at a more practical price, without looking like he’s compensating for, uhh, some kind of shortcoming.

        There are many other good choices as well, and seeing what cars other mgmt are driving is good advice before making a purchase. Bosses promote employees that they can relate to more often than those who are different.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “As one rises in the corporate world it becomes increasingly important to present an image of commensurate comsumption, whether it be in cars, clothing or housing, and I believe that TK recognizes that sad fact.”

      I would say this depends on the corporate (and national) culture, and also to some extent the nature of the job.

      A few years ago I worked in a big corporation, my boss was a director who drove a seriously well worn and rusty 10+ year old base model Cavalier. I was commuting in an old Pontiac. My direct reports had between them two brand new 330i, an E Class, and an A6 4.2.

      The director was well respected by all, due to his competence and his interactions with people – his choice of transportation wouldn’t change that one way or another.

      The suggestion to rent a car for a while and get a feel for the culture is probably a good one. But I suspect that if the quality of your work is consistently good and you get along well with your coworkers, your choice of car won’t matter much.

      • 0 avatar
        hachee

        TEXN3, Maybe it costs so little to live in the midwest that you can afford a 5 Series loan on an income of $120,000, but that seems like a big stretch to me. Or maybe it’s ok if you’re living in your parents’ basement.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        BMW advertises ‘well equipped’ 535i leases for $629 a month. I could have done that while living alone in Manhattan and making less than 120K, if the two thousand a month I saved were any indication. Most such cars are leased.

      • 0 avatar
        hachee

        Probably true, but TEXN said “loan”, and a loan on a 535, even with low rates, has got to run a minimum of $1,000 per month over 60 months. But I did forget that the OP is (we believe?) single, with disposable income, so yeah, a lease at $650 or so is doable.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        True. Buying one would cost more, but when I see someone driving a new BMW, I think its leased. The buyers are the exceptions. Whether or not it is smart to lease a car that sucks up a meaningful percentage of your take home pay is open to debate, but I do know that people in sales professions LOVE to employ people whose reach exceeds their grasp. They think it proves that people are motivated. I was a head hunter briefly when I first graduated for college. The guy who hired me was disappointed to find out I didn’t have a cocaine habit or a car payment.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Hyundai Sonata 2.0T. An SE without nav stickers for under $26k, if you must have leather, get the Limited for $28k. 274hp, 33mpg, huge interior, 18″ wheels and dual exhaust, 100k warranty. You have style, and are smart with money. And trendy, too. Done.

  • avatar
    Rory_Carroll

    If you have even a passing interest in cars, there is no reason to buy something you aren’t excited about. I would reconsider this whole thing.

    If you are a young up-and-coming executive, you are probably in a position to get something cool. When you start buying houses, and feeding kids, your freedom to have a car that excites you is going to start eroding, and if you are like a lot of people, it will probably go away until your kids are out of the house. I am making a lot of assumptions here, but I say strike while the iron is hot. Buy something cool, don’t worry as much about maintenance costs or learn to do it yourself. You have plenty of time to drive a CamCord or an IS-F.

    • 0 avatar
      hachee

      Great advice.
      Why I didn’t buy a 911 with every bit of my surplus cash when I was young and single around 1990! I swear, I’d still have that car.

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        Tell me about it, the car to buy was the RS America which was cheaper and faster than a standard 911 and has since retained much of not most of its initial purchase price, as opposed to the standard 964 variant…
        When they say kids a priceless, I never imagined that “priceless” meant you could not count so high as to add up all of the costs… :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      In that case, I’m glad my wife doesn’t want kids. More discretionary income for cars and other toys.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    Great Lakes city = snowy winters. Try a Subaru Legacy GT of the previous generation. Fun, reliable (maybe), it will fit in just fine with the local automotive fauna, and AWD.

    If you’re moving to Rochester, the east side of downtown is pretty nice and, depending on where you work, may allow you to ride a bike to work when weather permits.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Ever read The Millionaire Next Door? Panthers all the way. Up and coming young exec, eh? Well wait until the valet at the racquet club sees you pull up in a Crown Vic LX. Pay cash and grin when you see your associates driving their $6,000 down $699 a month leased douchemobiles.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      Great book. Full of good advice. The average millionaire is totally sleeper (in car terms). On average, s/he drives a domestic at least five years old. It’s paid for, zero payments. And not Lincoln or Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        IMO, the data is a little outdated. I remember reading an article that said a lot of the millionaires have moved from full-size cars to full-size SUVs. Also, the data in that book is skewed by the amount of compensation that the subjects were offered to participate in the study.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        So that still leaves them to drive a full-size Ford or Chevy/GMC SUV with all the luxury trappings.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      What is the point of a car enthusiast ammassing wealth and then not spending any of it on a nice car? I could see not wasting the money if you don’t give a lick about cars, but if you do why wouldn’t you get what you want?

  • avatar
    twotone

    Three – four year old BMW 3 Series — done!

  • avatar
    Burnout Dave

    Wouldn’t a recent CTS/STS fit the bill?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The guy says he is an enthusiast who taught himself to read with C&D – why on Earth would he want to drive a biege-mobile??

    My recommendation (and what I have done for myself) – if you can comfortably afford the price of entry, skip the used 5-series and get yourself a NEW BMW 328i in whatever bodystyle works for you. I bought the wagon. BMW covers everything but gas and tires for the first 50K miles.

    If you want to keep the car long term, get it as simply equiped as possible. If you really are an enthusiast, the manual transmission is the way to fly. The 328i is quite reliable to start with, though certainly post-warranty servicing costs will be higher than a Toyota product. A good independent mechanic will help with that. But every time you drive it you will smile.

    Life is too short to drive boring cars. And I travel for work 25 weeks a year so I get to drive ALL of the biege-mobiles, courtesy of Hertz. And the occasional Corvette.:-)

    • 0 avatar
      talkstoanimals

      Good suggestion. My father lives in a Great Lakes city (Rochester) and bought himself a new 2008 328xi wagon with few options. The thing has provided 60K of absolutely trouble free motoring, and he loves it. But they are pricey…

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      It isn’t bad advice as long as you can live with the small interior — he is aiming for the 5 so I assume the tiny 328 is insufficient.

      what gets me with the 3-ers are those standard plastic/vinyl seats, $400 for satellite radio, and $500 to make the rear seats foldable. Although they are throwing substantial cash on the hood these days as the new version is on its way.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The current 3-series is about the size of the previous couple generations of 5-series, so you have a funny definition of small. Not bloated, but hardly “small”. Leather is currently free in the 328i as part of the value package. Yes, you pay for options, but the magnesium-alloy engine is included gratis. You get what you pay for.

        I’d like to know where that substantial cash on the hood is, I got an “OK” discount on mine, but nothing to get excited about. I paid a little over Euro-delivery invoice, call it $2500 off Euro-delivery MSRP, $4500 off US MSRP. The next gen will not be here for nearly a year, and given that BMW is seriously pushing build-to-order, they have very little inventory to get rid of. My local dealer keeps maybe 10 cars in stock, 70% of thier sales are BTO these days.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @krhodes1:

        Whatever the size of the current 3-series is, it’s not much of a people mover…I’m about six feet tall, and if I put the seat back to where I fit, the back seat becomes a grade-schooler-only zone. If I were an up-and-coming exec type, I’d rather have a car that I could pile three co-workers in comfortably for trips to lunch / dinner / meetings. The 5-series would do that, but now you’re talking 60 large.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        Maybe tiny wasn’t the right word but the 328′s ceiling is low even compared to the 335 I think. In any event the OP is targeting a 2008 5-series, which is the same generation as the current 3-series, so one can only assume today’s 3 is too small.

        Agreed you get what you pay for. I do like your definition of “free” if included within a package!

        Near me they are offering $2k option credits on 2011s

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        ” I do like your definition of “free” if included within a package!

        I can’t argue with that – kind of like the only thing better than free beer is COLD free beer!

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Note that the “Value Package” while technically an option, is in fact free. At least on the 328i Sport Wagon, if you tick that box it costs you nothing extra, but you get leather, the ipod/usb integration, a heated steering wheel, and 17″ wheels.

        No such option credits on the 328i (or in my case, 328i SW) in New England, maybe on the 335i. They do have a cheap 27-month lease deal right now, but the residual was far too high for me to be interested. Plus the 1.9% financing was a great incentive to buy it.

        I am 6’2″, and I can sit behind myself in a 3-series. I would not want to drive coast to coast that way, but it is entirely adequate for jaunting off to lunch. Or in my case, cruising around Europe with a couple friends and luggage in six weeks. The 5-series has more back seat room for sure, but the price for those occasionally used extra inches is pretty darned steep.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I’d personally pick up an IS350. To a shallow soul, it says you didn’t buy the cheapest Lexus (IS250) you could find since you went with the 3.5L V6 but it doesn’t punish you on the road the way an IS-F apparently does. Should be very reliable. The engine is a gem, showing up on Ward’s Best Engines 2 or 3 times. Certified pre-owned models are advertised country wide with under 40k miles for under $30k.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Used 2008 Acura TL. Last year of the good looking body style, comfortable with a sporty edge, reasonable gas mileage, impeccable reliability (check TrueDelta), a step up from an Accord without the arrogance of a Lexus or German car and good resale when you decide to move on.

  • avatar
    eldard

    He dismisses Benz as for old men yet he’d be open to Lexus?

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Why not a CTS? RWD or AWD. AT or MT.

    Or something more economical but still classy…maybe a TSX or A3?

    I can’t really justify needing such a vehicle, I’m a lowly PM for an engineering/consulting firm (utilities are the main client) and we wear jeans/shorts mostly. And in the upper Rockies, the truck still rules. But I’ve always had praise from coworkers and clients on how nice my 98 TL is…maybe low expectations.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The OP really doesn’t give us a clue as to which Great Lakes city he’s being posted to. Could be Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, Buffalo, or even Erie, PA. I’ve spent time in all of those places. The definitions of ‘up and coming’ and ‘schlub’ (I love pseudo-Yiddish. Not.) vary greatly in all of those places.

    To that end, I was thinking something old school and high performance: a Buick Regal Turbo. German pedigree, North American name (highly valued in most of those locations), high boost turbo, FWD, good overall size, 4 doors. Get it in black or a dark presidential blue with a nice black leather interior. Stylish and conservative. And, as new car, in his price range.

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      You’re the one who got it right. Great Lakes, up-and-coming? Buick Regal Turbo is exactly the right thing. Could try a LaCrosse too for more size, but if the OP is in his early 30s as I’m guessing he is, a Regal would probably be better.

      Unless, of course, the company is full of Wall Street Journal readers who reflexively refer to GM as “Government Motors”, in which case all GM and Chrysler products are to be avoided. Then you have to go with the Lexus IS.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Not to worry. If a ‘Government Motors’ parrot should appear, park a Taurus SEL in front of them. Still has the North American name. Same deal, dark blue or black, black interior. If you’re not confident in snow, go with the AWD version.

        I wish I had a better idea of a dollar amount this guy would like to spend. I’m thinking $25 to $35K maybe? The Taurus SEL AWD is about $30K. Still should be in his ballpark…

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Naah forget what I said earlier. The roads and weather here in the midwest will destroy a car in about 3 years. You need something tough as nails. Fuel is cheap in the US, and something with a turbo diesel will get excellent mileage. Four wheel drive will get you out of anything you get into, and towing capacity is always a plus. Used units are even more economical and even green.

        Ergo, he needs a Navistar CXT.

  • avatar
    MoppyMop

    IS250, G25, or TSX. Any of these would be far less dull and boat-like than a loaded Camcord but won’t cost much more, and won’t nail you on maintenance costs like the Germans.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If you’re in the Great Lakes “region,” you’re in for apocalyptic winters and horrible roads, so I’m going to disagree with Sajeev here – stay away from a hopped up super-sedan like a Lexus IS-F. Problem is, if you opt for a high-performance sedan that will be 100% usable in winters up there, you’re looking at something like a BMW 335 or Audi S4, and now you’re looking at fifty large.

    Solution: Acura TSX. Fun to drive, prestige brand, plenty of room when you need to take someone out for lunch or dinner, reasonable price, and very reliable. And you can get it with a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      TSX all the way. It has a better interior for ferrying clients and coworkers than other sub-$50K luxury cars, it doesn’t scream ostentation or whisper poverty, it won’t break, it will move in all conditions, and no eco-warriors will key it or light it on fire.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckR

        The OP could survive in a Great Lakes city with a harsh;y suspended car – all he needs is a set of -1 or -2 sized snow tires and rims. Taller narrower tires provide the suspension the manufacturer forgot.
        My memory of Rochester is that when you saw white stuff on the road, it wasn’t snow, it was salt. My brother had a ’72 Duster and if you wanted to inspect a front tire tread depth, you merely had to look down through the gaping hole in the top of the fender. No fender liner, no galv steel, sand blasted with salt. He finally junked the car years later with the slant 6 still providing reliable service, but the body (what was left of it) providing an entirely too flexible ride.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    ’03 or newer DTS. You’ll always have room to take 4 adults out to dinner and you’ll likely actually make the Northstar scream like GM engineers intended. ’03 and newer should be as reliable as most of the competition.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @Dan:

      He said he was an up-and-comer, not “the old man.” :)

      (Then again, “the old man” probably drives some hyper-lux barge like a S-Class Benz today)

  • avatar
    tced2

    Used certified-pre-owned Lexus ES. A bit upscale but has the “bones” of a Camry.
    For the same reason an Acura TL – a bit upscale with the “bones” of an Accord.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Look at the company parking lot, see what the execs drive, then buy a notch or two below that. If they’re Buy American types, then avoid Asian or European branded cars (even if the “Asian” car is made in Ohio.)

    If there are no such restraints, the Infiniti G’s are a reasonably stylish, reliable alternative. The G37 is obviously a better performer than the G25, but the fuel consumption of the former can be horrifyingly bad.

  • avatar
    SWComp

    CPO CTS AWD 3.6 V6
    - prices are reasonable for a 2-3 year old one.
    - in the rust belt, driving a domestic may look better than an import, depending on the city/industry you are in.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    My vote goes to the Ford Fusion hybrid or MKZ hybrid version, especially if your great lake city is Chicago. Why let operating costs eat you alive. If you spend a lot of your commuting time going nowhere or creeping along at 5 mph, you will appreciate the hybrid even more.

    • 0 avatar
      alex_rashev

      +1 on that. Fusion is a bit, um, non-executive-looking, but a new MKZ hybrid or, better yet, a gently used Mercury Milan hybrid (I think it has the best looks of the three) is a sure bet here. Segment-leading fuel economy, lots of luxury bits, stone-reliable drivetrain and a great price. If you want to save lots of money while still rolling in style, MKZ is the car to get.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    TK-

    Get was ever YOU like. Just accept whatever labels come with it and drive with frickin’ pride! You’ll be glad you did and may get that promotion because you’re obviously your own man. It’ll make the other aspiring VPs look like carbon copy, cookie cutter me toos. Is that who you would promote?

    They will secretly envy you if you show up in an F-350 XLT 4X4 (regular cab, non diesel, non dually & vanilla white of course). Just to see the look on their faces…
    You’ll spend a little more at the gas pump but your payments will be half. Yes there will be physical challenges in the city but it’ll give you a reason to get the hell out on the weekends. Plus chicks at work will wonder what it is you do with the rest of your time.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      Yeah, he should get an F-350. Equip it with a plow and in the winter he can make extra cash plowing. It would at least pay for the gas he used the rest of the year.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yeah but don’t expect great gas mileage from a 3 or 5 series BMW. Mid teens around town usually but not caring about fuel mileage carries it’s own ‘devil may care’ clout and indicates power and infuence plus also, they’d look pretty funny with a snow plow strapped to them.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Yea Steve, I gotta disagree as well. People in corporate America do tend to judge at least a little bit. I think the point he was making is that he cant buy a very old, or old looking, car for cash, or maybe he was trying to avoid the stereotypical “Get a Panther” answer that tends to come from this column!?!?!

    But, I do not think that the other suits would bat an eye if he rolled up in a Camry or Accord, he doesnt NEED a “luxury” brand like Lexus or BMW unless he just wants it. So I would say go for a new Accord. Its frugal, reliable, sporty, and luxurious enough for all his needs, and he can get a 5-speed if he chooses. Why new?? Shopping for a used Accord is a waste, unless you drop back so far in years you no longer impress the suits… new ones are the way to go. Plus, finding a used 5-speed will be a challenge.

    If he simply prefers a REAL luxury car, then step up to Acura. TSX or TL, depending on budget and preferences, either of them will work perfectly. Still sporty enough, luxurious enough, and reliable, still can be had with a stick. Its basically an Accord with more brand cache. The German brands will require too much money to maintain, the Lexus IS is ok, but really does convey the image of a BMW wannabe douche, and they are cramped inside, eat tires, and are quite overpriced for what you get. The other Lexi are a snooze. Infiniti is OK, but really screams Jersey Shore douche these days. I am not impressed with the interior quality either. Benz is, well its Benz… say no more. The Hyundai is nice, no doubt, but still fights that cheapo image.

    So there you go… Honda or Acura, buyers choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Guess what? You just agreed with what I wrote!

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        haha, yea I guess I did!

        I was more referring to the intent of the OP and how he was defining “shlubs” cars. Typically, when someone writes in asking about a good car to commute 50 miles in, he gets recommendations for a 10yo Corolla (or a Panther!) that he can buy for as little cash as possible, no finance, no one to impress, etc. So I figure he was just trying to steer our recommendations towards nicer newer cars. So I guess I agree with your overall advice, but I didnt agree with your opening statement about no one giving a flying flip what he drives. I used to drive a Ford Explorer, and no one at work even knew which one was mine, nor did they care. But when I rolled up to work driving my daughter’s Daewoo Lanos, you can bet everyone noticed.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Buy a Camcord and get creative with the badge engineering like the guy did with the Santa Fe in Jack Baruth’s recent article. Only your hair dresser will know for sure…

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-ersatz-ersatz-edition/

    Or you could come north of the border and get yourself a nice little CSX (premium cache yet reasonably affordable and with Civic-like reliability).

  • avatar
    ocavac

    Did someone say prius.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think the point of the OP was to mesh his personal desires for automotive pleasure with a sensible concern about the message his choice would send to his superiors.

    Maybe I’m showing my own prejudice here, but based on a little observation, I would strongly suggest “Buy American” would be a good strategy here. The suggestion to do a weekly rental and check out what the “big guys” are driving is also a good one.

    Basically, in this situation, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself . . . especially in a negative way. Understated is the way to go. That probably leaves out BMW and BMW-wannabe machines, all sports cars and oddities like the Mini Cooper, and the Toyota Pious. It may leave out the otherwise qualified CTS. I would not obsesses over AWD, FWD, RWD, etc. The reality is, is that people did just fine with RWD cars and SNOW TIRES until the widespread availability of other drives beginning in the 1980s. If you’re in the snowbelt, you should own 4 true snow tires regardless of which wheels are driven because I assume you have a desire to be able to stop and turn. I also have a bias against any car, other than a sports car, that does not seat 4 adults in reasonable comfort. So, that leaves out the Lexus IS (which has a tiny back seat) and the BMW 1-series (ditto).

    The OP didn’t say how much of a fuel economy fanatic he is, but whatever. Having been mightily impressed with it, even as a rental, I have to echo esteemed Mr. Baruth’s conclusion that he would prefer the new Focus over the Fusion, even though the Fusion with either V-6 is quicker and has more room in the back. The Focus does not scream “econobox” from the outside, or the inside. The pre-beak Acura TL and TSX are also nice; if you can find one with a manual, they are especially nice, although the 4-cylinder in the TSX needs to be flogged to really step out. But these are Japanese cars.

    From the Detroit 3, in addition to the Focus (and I think the Taurus, whatever its merits is big and says “old”), the new Buick Regal could be right and then there’s my favorite big Detroit sedan . . . the Chrysler 300. Unlike some, I like the exterior of the original version; it’s the interior that lets the car down. The new model apparently fixes that problem and the new V-6 reduces the need to pop for the stonkin’ V-8. The 3.5 V-6 and the 4-speed autobox in the prior version were mediocre at best.

  • avatar
    truffle_shuffle_steer

    get a miata- your boyfriend will love it and they drive like a dream!

    Also considering your moving to Michigan- on a recent trip out there there seem to be only six or seven cars people drive- any mid size from the big three (2 years or newer), or a black 5 series. In Michigan… there are no other cars… so many cts, mustangs, chargers, impalas, etc… It’s so bad you often see 2 of the same car next to each other at stop lights…

  • avatar
    readallover

    A lot of people I know think this way. They feel they need to show off. Yet, to a man, most are jealous of me. Not because I drive a Mazda 6. But because of my Cuda. They are all stuck with payments on their Bmw or Audi or Lexus. They all say `I wish I could have a Cuda (or Camaro or Mustang or whatever)`. And they could have – but they bought a car for somebody else (and what they would be thought of) – not for them.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I’m with Clutchcargo on this one. (1) It’s important to avoid giving your coworkers any reason to disrespect you. Success at the new office is, in the early stages, mostly about being accepted. It’s their world, not yours. (2) You should always dress and behave like someone who would not look out of place interacting, at the next level or two up, with customers, suppliers, etc.

    The best guide is to take stock of what people there drive now. Then, go buy something similar that is also late-model and used. (As a future millionaire-next-door, you want to avoid pizzing money away. And the peace of mind that comes from not being financially overextended is priceless.)

    • 0 avatar
      Suter

      I don’t understand why everyone tries to make “millionaire-next-door” out of this guy?

      We don’t know anything about his money habits. He’s a young wannabe executive who wants to buy a 5-series. Or any luxury brand in that matter. It seems to me it doesn’t matter for him what the car will be as long as it says “I was expensive to buy (or rather lease)” and is reliable enough. It’s all about the badge, not how it handles or if it’s comfortable.

      People like this are usually broke at the end of 2-weeks paycheck cycle. High-end life style costs a lot. Let him enjoy it.

  • avatar
    Drissel

    Some of you mentioned it, but the correct answer is Cadillac… Cadillacs have a comfortable and luxurious feel on the inside, they are stylish on the outside. GM actually does a very good job of equipping Cadillacs with lots of features and tech to make them competitive with the luxury set.

    Cadillacs however, depreciate quite rapidly in resale value, and that’s where you come in.

    The soon to be discontinued STS is the best kept secret in luxury sedans. You can get a 2 or 3 year old low mileage STS with AWD for around $25k. The 3.6DI V6 and the Northstar V8 are both great motors. The 3.6 is more efficient, but the Northstar makes a beautiful sound.

    The cabin is roomy, the BOSE 5.1 stereo kicks ass, and the chassis has a wonderful ride/handling balance that would make an E-Class quite jealous.

  • avatar
    fozone

    i’m going to make a (biased) off-the-wall suggestion of a Subaru Outback (or Legacy GT if you are into ‘fun’.)

    As Clarkson (or was it May?) have said, Outbacks are sort of like Land Rovers — they are the cars of the ‘Landed Gentry’, and are suitable both on the farm and pulling up to a 5-star restaurant without shame.

    They are comfortable, hold a lot, and also don’t cost a fortune to buy or maintain.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    It might help to consider in what industry TK is rising. A long time ago, the culture of Silicon Valley frowned on fancy cars, no matter how successful the company was. CEOs of the day insisted on sitting in a cubicle instead of a corner office with a window.

    If TK is in an industry where looks matter — design, fashion, architecture — then a MINI Cooper could work. Banking and finance? Then a douche mobile would be fine. Actually, I think BMWs are wonderful cars; I’m just not so crazy about the drivers.

    I am partial to a used first-gen Acura TSX with leather interior. Maintenance costs are relatively low and the first-gens were fun to drive.

  • avatar
    Suter

    Ohh, yeah! We need more people like TK that dump cash on luxuries to show-off. We need to keep this economy running, people!

    Get yourself the most expensive domestic model you can afford. Even better, lease it!

    With all the (pathetic) choices from domestic brands I guess only CTS-V would fit your (desired) status and winter conditions.

  • avatar
    redrum

    Who do you work for, Grey Poupon?

    LOL…best line I’ve read here in a while.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    You have eyes, no?

    If you want to fit in, why don’t you go out to the parking lot and see what everyone else is doing. Then do that.

    It’s silly that a lot of these articles end up with a lot of comments advising on the level of conspicuous luxury consumption. If you’re going to do that, at least preface it with with where you live and what industry in which you’re involved.

  • avatar
    obruni

    2009 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited (if fuel economy is a concern, try the 2.5 Limited, its somewhat better)

    all wheel drive, well equipped, slighty anonymous but still different, very nice interior, and it was built in Indiana

    all for about $22k, if you can find one

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    Can’t go wrong with an Infiniti G. It performs, it’s not ostentatious or a douchemobile, it won’t fall apart, it’s cheap relative to the Euro makes, and it has a back seat that will fit people. The IS350 costs more for less of just about everything except a bit of interior quality.

    It’s a nice middle-ground. Nice enough to take your bosses to a dinner party, but not so nice as to make them jealous.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Well except the G has become mostly a douchemobile, especially the coupes, but the sedans as well. They have become the car for youngish married middle management types to buy when they dont really care about driving but they want other people to think they do.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    The most important thing you need to know before you purchase anything is if there are any biases against foreign/GM/Chryco etc. products. Probably the only way you’ll know that is after you’ve worked there for awhile. Rent something domestic midline for at least a couple of weeks to find out before you buy anything.

    Last thing you want to do is buy something and then find out it was the wrong vehicle to purchase. You need to have a good feel for your corporate culture as it may dictate what you buy.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My first thought was a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee, but SUVs might not be your thing.

    My second thought was a Volvo S80 with the T6 or V8.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    TK sounds like a complete wanker so buy a BMW and at least look like one.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Camcord range, loads of extras, every original styling option, keep it looking immaculate.
    A BMW demands service costs and a more than ordinary interest in cars and their technical stuff, but they drive better than most cars when not being worked on or broken down. German cars are generally better (less problems) when it’s a cheaper model with a smaller engine, and they mostly look the same as their more expensive siblings.

  • avatar
    meefer

    I was kind of in the same boat the OP is when it came time to buy a new car for me 4 years ago. I moved up from an Accord cupe to a Lexus IS250. I thought it would make me appear younger and ready to move up while showing that I was a reliable guy (a co-worker had his share of not coming to work due to issues with his MKIV VW GTI). My director asked me point-blank how much I paid and what the sticker was. While it didn’t hurt that it was a Lexus (he had a ES350 as his DD), the part where he was really impressed was that I got a good deal on it. 4 years later I am at a different company through his referral. I’m not going to say it was only because of my car purchase, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

    I would definitely rent a car for a bit, feel out the culture of your peers/superiors/employees, then make a decision.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Lexus CT200h. Hit the ECO button, watch the snowflakes fall and save some gas on your way to retirement in 28 years.

    Lester Burnham: I figured you guys might be able to give me some pointers. I need to shape up. Fast.
    Jim Olmeyer: Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?
    Lester Burnham: I want to look good naked!

  • avatar
    George B

    If you’re commuting 25 miles each way in the Great Lakes, get something comfortable and economical. Probably a 4 cylinder FWD midsize sedan plus a set of snow tires. Most cars look more adult and upscale in dark colors and less so in bright red. I’d follow Steve’s advice and look at the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. I didn’t like the vague steering and floaty ride of the Camry LE, but found that the SE was acceptable. I also like the Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata. Want to like the Ford Fusion, but absolutely hated its electric power steering.

    You could also save up for a fun car for the weekends. The long commute gives you freedom to buy whatever you like without worrying about image for the car coworkers never see. Earn your money first before you buy toys. Don’t take on debt for anything that’s not absolutely necessary, especially something that depreciates.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Honda Accord EX-L V-6.

    If you want quiet above all else, Toyota Avalon.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Any corporate office I’ve worked in, there are unwritten rules. Executives need to drive nicer cars than the general plebes, wear nicer suits that don’t have pleats in the pants, have polished shoes and carry a moleskin notebook into the conference room. Unless you’re in accounting, you just can’t drive a Camcord. They were okay in the early 90s, but they have declined rapidly as the young executive’s car today. If you have a near-six figure salary, there are so many good choices that won’t even put a dent in your paycheck if you buy a certified used one. If you must have a sedan…

    VW CC
    Audi A4
    Infiniti G35/37
    Cadillac CTS
    Acura TSX
    Volvo S40/S60

  • avatar
    OmarCCXR

    I’d suggest a 3 year used 335i which should be around the $30,000 range or an IS350/Infiniti G37 for about $25,000. Or go the other way around and get a Hyundai Genesis.

  • avatar
    AKRonald

    As a variation on the theme, how about the Lexus RX450h? The hybrid electric system is excellent for crawling along in commuter gridlock but the hybrid system is optimized for performance, rather than Prius economy.
    AWD is available if desired, and the reliability/back seat comfort is excellent.
    Another advantage is that if the company culture smiles on having a life rather than 84 hour work weeks, hanging bike rack/ski rack/kayak rack gives the impression that you have wide ranging interests (don’t need to own bicycle/skis/kayak).
    If finances permit, having a convertible coupe (Miata/Mustang) for good weather and an older AWD/FWD for bad might be an option.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      AKRonald:

      Luxury isn’t a THEME. Lexus sells Luxury like Cadillac is the standard for the world = FALSE. When the underpinnings of the vast majority of what TOYOTA sells through Lexus is a lifted Camry with plastic wood and a system that doesn’t give you any actual savings (fuel eco), I don’t call that Luxury. P.S, Hyundai is on the phone, they are offering you a loaded Santa FE for as much as.. you want to pay.

      1. Explain the point of having a hybrid system on a vehicle with a 3.5ltr 6cycl. Having the weight of a battery on board diminishes any value of having the hybrid system.

      2. Any vehicle that has a FRONT BIAS awd unit is pointless, knowing that it doesn’t have the TIRES to do the job as designed.

      3. Explain the actual benefits in safety in having awd and knowing how to use it and drive it. On top of the few times a year when you THINK you’d actually use the system.

      4. EVERY vehicle in its size class, price class, construction category (FAUX Camry wagon for Lexus 5+pass, 40g, unit body) has the same abilities and or construction with roofracks and a awd unit that don’t get used.

      5. This doesn’t stand out. Buying a hybrid for the commuter gridlock doesn’t SAVE you ANYTHING. You get RAPED for the price that a “premium” Camry DOESN’T provide, on top of the false benefits of a hybrid. It doesn’t improve fuel economy, because the WEIGHT of battery is its own compensation.

      6. Ya could buy a Venza / Highlander — also made on the same frame as the Camry with which it shares motor, transmission, assembly and ALL bones under the plastic wood and overpriced TAG.

      P.S
      Ya could go out.. and actually find one of the FEW TRUE Lexus’ cars that were actually worth a shit — the rwd 01 Lexus Sportcross, 3ltr 6cycl motor right from the GS of the same model year. Its a low production car, with great power power to weight balance. Stick on a set of snows and you’d never need AWD. It’s got a hatch so ya don’t need a RX. Heck, ya could go older and buy a FWD WAGON from any of the japanese (going back 15yrs) and not have any awd / rwd issues.. with a set of tires and the ability to DRIVE THE DAMN CAR.

  • avatar
    AKRonald

    I was basing my suggestion on my experience with a ’08 RAV4 V6 AWD which I drove while living in Montana. On e 2 lane roads I could pass the rear bumper of a farm truck at 60 and the front bumper at 90. Pulled a tent trailer on dirt roads in the summer and handled snowy 2 lane roads in the winter with confidence. Reportedly 0-60 faster than a Miata.
    Having moved to NM, I no longer drive in the snow or on farm roads so bought a ’10 Prius and find it to be excellent.
    Went to a car show where the Toyota rep explained that the Highlander hybrid was their vehicle with the best pick-up, with the system shared with the RX 450h.
    Given the desire of the OP to impress his future cow-orkers with his vehicle, I thought the Lexus would be the better choice.
    I had a friend in college who had bought a very nice MG convertible anticipating her future great job. It didn’t come through and she couldn’t affort its mechanic bills. Lexus avoids that trap.


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