Today’s Ask Jack, just like the calls in those old teen horror movies, is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.
I’m a woman in her 30s with four cars — Chevrolet Tahoe Z71, Ford Fiesta ST, Chevrolet C5 Corvette with 421 rwhp and coilovers, as well as an MX-5 Cup race car. The Fiesta was a great car to get started in this automotive hobby but I’m no longer very excited by its performance on or off the racetrack. So I’m looking for a faster, more interesting, more capable car for those off-the-cuff track days where it’s too much hassle to trailer the Cup car or deal with the Corvette’s voracious appetite for tires and brakes.
I’ve been thinking about one of the last six-speed Chevrolet SS sedans. I can get one pretty easily for $38,000 against a sticker of $48,900. But I’ve also been thinking about a Civic Type R. It looks like they will be priced around $35k. I’d get similar performance, although delivered in a very different fashion. But which one is really faster around a track? Which one is more fun to drive? Less hassle to own? A smarter financial proposition? Also, would you mind getting all your BMX bike stuff off the dining room table? Three weeks ago you said you’d have that done by Sunday. Sincerely … the anonymous reader who wishes to be known as, um, “Peril Chica”.
Well, Peril Chica, I’m glad you asked this question! The answer is … Buy a lightly-used Snakeskin Viper ACR. What? You’re not happy with that answer? Alright. Let’s take a serious look at this, and then let’s get the readers involved.
Let’s start by considering the absurdity, and hilarity, of the way these two cars are currently priced. The SS is still taking up room on dealer lots even with a sub-$40k out-the-door cost. The Civic Type R, when it arrives, is likely to cost at least $35,000 and there will be a solid year or so where the additional-dealer-markup stickers to the right of the Monroney have five-figure (on the coasts) or four-figure (in the Midwest) numbers on them. But let’s compress time here and say that you’re looking at $35-40k either way, just to get the purchase price out of the way.
Next, let’s consider performance. The nice people at C/D have the six-speed SS running a 13.0 @ 111 mph. The new Civic Type R will be a 306-horsepower car, and will likely benchmark the Ford Focus RS and Golf R, both of which turn a quarter-mile of about 13.5 @ 105 mph. There’s more gap between these cars and a properly launched Chevrolet SS than the numbers seem to indicate. There truly is no replacement for displacement — not even boost — and the Aussie Chevy has three times as much of it.
Peril Chica isn’t necessarily obsessed with quarter-mile times, however — and either of these cars will seem downright sluggish next to her Corvette. What she wants is a car she can fully exploit on a racetrack like Watkins Glen or Mid-Ohio. And here is where I think the Type ARRRRRRRRRR Pirate Edition will shine. It’s going to have all the proper suspension credentials, to say nothing of a curb weight more than half a ton below that of the SS. It should also be easier to drive hard, since the power goes to the front wheels instead of the rear.
What about running costs and resale value? I think the SS is going to be one of the all-time great residual-value champs, particularly if you’re starting $10,000 below MSRP. But it’s almost impossible to overestimate what the secondary-market interest will be in the Civic Type R. I think either one will be an easy sell 5 or 10 years after the original purchase date, but I’d give the nod to the Civic for absolute value retention. I also think the Civic will be far cheaper to own, operate, and repair.
Let’s talk daily driving. The Civic will be easier to operate in bad weather, and easier to park. It will have more usable cargo space, at the expense of rear-seat room. The SS will be quieter, more relaxing, more of a grown-up’s car. Either one is going to give you plenty of chances to interact with the local street racers and/or the hometown police. Build quality is surely going to be on the side of the Honda, even though it’s assembling the thing in the God-forsaken hamlet of Swindon instead of the tidy, fully-robotized facility at East Liberty, Ohio, where you can eat a hot meal off the floor with no concern and IQS numbers are off the charts in the right direction.
In the end, this has to boil down to what’s a more stirring proposition. Do you want a big, rip-roaring V8 sedan that feels like a rocket-powered locomotive, or do you want a hot hatch with a massive aerokit and a teenaged attitude? If you had to pick one to be your only car, I think I’d have to recommend the SS, no questions asked. Every serious enthusiast who fails to buy one in the next three months or so will come to regret his (or her!) decision.
For Peril Chica, however, the SS will be a watered-down set of thrills compared to her tinnitus-inducing road racer of a ‘Vette. There’s no situation where you would voluntarily drive the SS over the C5, unless you wanted to put people in the back seat. So why not get the car with lower costs and better all-weather, all-around usability? I’m putting in my vote for the Civic Type R. But we run a liberated household around here, and Peril Chica is free to listen to other opinions. What say you?