Sajeev and Steve,
I’m almost done with my tour here in Korea and it’s time to return to “America-land.” That means it’s car shoppin’ time! So if you’ll remember, I still have my S2000 that my father-in-law’s taken care of but I don’t want to use it as a DD. And my wife wants a car of her own as well. We’re going to Ft. Huachuca, AZ and lots of road trips to TN and other lands are in our future. I want a spacious (read: wagon and AT) highway cruiser for the wife and something cheap and cheerful (read: MT) that I won’t mind baking in the AZ sun.
So here’s the ROE (rules of engagement):
Wife’s car: $30K-$40K, wagon-y, AT, luxo-ish
My DD: $10K max, MT, beater-ish
The definition of “Cheap + Cheerful” is way too subjective, but my interpretation for a Honda S2000 owner is something pure: crank windows, boring styling, totally forgettable yet fun to thrash because its so slow and nearly impossible to drive fast enough to raise an eyebrow. So it comes down to availability in your area: Focus sedan, Versa, Elantra, Sentra or any non-Toyonda with its unnecessarily high resale value and brand recognition. You don’t need a good car for normal people, you just need a good car!
As for the wifey, you gotta do it right and proper. You can’t be rolling around in your shitbox, hate it, switch to the S2000 and make her jealous! In the spirit of marital bliss, I’d recommend a TSX sport Wagon, used 3-series or A4 Avant with the mandatory CPO warranty or a handful of crossovers that just have the stuff you don’t find else where: panoramic roofs, amazing ICE, gigantic chrome wheels, nutzo styling, etc. Then check out a slightly used Lincoln MKX, Infiniti FX, Mercedes ML (CPO only), BMW X5 (CPO only), or maybe a Northstar-powered Cadillac SRX.
Since you are a “regular” I think I know you very well (and your wife too, natch) I’ll demand you buy these two cars: a shift-it-yourself Versa with no options and an Acura TSX Wagon.
“Wife’s car: $30K-$40K, wagon-y, AT, luxo-ish”
The Honda Odyssey would be at the very front of that list. If you are going to do very long road trips nothing beats the space and comfort of a minivan. You should also consider a Chrysler Town & Country. They now have excellent handling (see Jack Baruth’s recent review here) and are every bit as luxurious as the Odyssey when fully optioned out.
My DD: $10K max, MT, beater-ish ‘cheap and cheerful’
I would test drive a long list of Honda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford (the rare 1st gen Fusion comes to mind), Scion Xb, and any other model with a manual transmission that strikes your fancy. I like the Xb if you are going to do a lot of in-town driving. Highway driving would encourage a midsized sedan like the Fusion with a 4-banger.
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