By on March 26, 2010

TTAC contributor jrominski writes:

My close relative is professional engineer, leaving his posting in the rust belt at a soon-to-closed, Tier 1, UAW supplier factory. Not wanting to move to Detroit, he accepts a promotion out of the quickly settling debris implosion, to run engineering in a component plant in Saltillo. Which was formerly the Athens of Mexico, but is now the Detroit of Mexico. So he stays employed. But wait, it gets better: a car allowance, 45k USD. He loves RWD and AWD in that order. Had plenty of FWD. He is an AWD drivetrain engineer. Taste runs to BMW and Audi.

What to buy? Cars there are 30% more than in US for comparable. Not quite the same lineup. Below are his first thoughts and my responses.

Him: Passat CC AWD and slushbox?

Me: Warned him against kidnapping danger. And slushbox? Reminded him that he hates em.

Him: BMW 125?

Me: I suggest low (hah!) hp with RWD is good. He can drive full throttle and have fun and not go too fast.

Him: Audi S3? Nice, but it is $500 over his limit.

Me: I suggest pay the extra. Or get A4 2.0t 6m and tell me how good it really is.

Him: Cadillac XLR but its way over budget.

Me: Awkward silence. I think this is a Cadillac Corvette. Why not just buy Corvette. But in Mexico? And it’s still over budget. I am pretty ignorant of Mexico but foresee run-down roadways, even worse than snow belt US, and slow moving multi-color wrecks everywhere. Refer to kidnapping above.

Me: I suggest brand new Nissan B13. Send to Japan for SR20VET power plant and maybe 1991 AWD rally setup. Have his prototype shop do the conversion for beer money and you tube photo ops. He laughs this off.

Me: I suggest he might need to maximize his suspension and tire structural integrity to maximize hooning around. Ford Raptor. No, he has work trucks to bash around in.

What does TTAC think?

Steve Lang replies:

I happen to do be a bilingual auctioneer. But when it comes to los coches de Mexico, my knowledge amounts to Jacko Squato. So I can only comment on the US versions.

Let’s stick with late model vehicles since virtually all of the new near-luxury cars are headlong into depreciation hell within two years these days. If he buys a year old model his discout will be about 20% to 35%. Two year old models will give him all the features and performance he would want out of any car with discounts of up to 50%. That level of savings buys you an awful lot of car and perhaps a bodyguard fluent in return fire.

If your friend is scared of being kidnapped I would steer clear of any status symbol. BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Cadillac all espouse the wealth of the bourgeois and none of the ones in his price range are bomb or bulletproof. So what to do?

I would consider an Infiniti. Huh? Yeah. I believe it was Ricardo Montalban who made the off-hand remark that Infiniti’s are built for axe-hoes (to put it in engineering terms). But a 2009 G37 AWD would run right at that price range and with that you would get a body that is twice as nice looking as a GT-R without the snobbery of a German luxury ride.

Another possibility is a Lexus IS-F. It doesn’t appear to be a car from a luxury maker from the exterior. But it drives like a damned demon from hell… or Germany. Yeah, I know it’s not AWD but with the way that thing goes your friend probably won’t even care.

By the way you can also go for a late model Eos, Tiguan, or Phaeton if you must align yourself with the Axis power. Those all came with AWD but they’re not cars that I can endorse from personal experience since I’m Jewish. Actually, VW is a passing thought here, but the G37 and IS-F are true rockets with the performance and handling your friend will desire. I would put them on the short list.

Sajeev Mehta writes:

Ricardo Montalban said WHAT? Oh, but that’s so not the point. A Pontiac G8 is the only choice for a close relative en Mexico. GXP or GT at a minimum, since there’s no replacement for displacement. It goes like stink, drives the correct wheels, handles good for its size and comes with an obscure badge on the grille. Most importantly, it’s so damn boring (or is that BORA?) that kidnappers won’t give it a second look. And the interior is totally VW worthy, in an oversized Golf kinda way.

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36 Comments on “New Or Used?: South Of The Border Edition...”

  • avatar

    Rough roads, don’t want to stick out in traffic, RWD or AWD?

    Subaru Outback XT/3.6
    Subaru Impreza WRX
    Ford Explorer
    Ford Mustang GT(if you want sporty)

    I agree on the Raptor comment, yes I do like my blue ovals (both kinds).

    Dodge Charger
    Dodge Challenger
    Pontiac G8 GT
    Cadillac CTS

  • avatar

    I’ve been to Saltillo before, quite a while ago & still have (Mexican) friends who live there. It’s a small city. But, being Mexico (and I say the same about Brazil where my wife is from), don’t buy ANYTHING that says “I’m a rich foreigner you can kidnap!”.

    It’s just not worth it.

    See what is most popular with the locals and buy that.

    • 0 avatar

      Inasmuch as São Pauio or Rio you may have a point. But please don’t confuse the rest of the country from the point of view you have from Avenida Paulista. This country is just too big. And crime levels are everywhere from very high to almost though not quite (even in S. Paulo or Rio) Mexican levels to arely Scandinavian levels. Ita a poor country and opportunity will make a thief, but outside those 2 critical cities I do n”t think you’ll ever be in any real danger. It’s almost apples to oranges really.

      Then again YMMV.

  • avatar

    I lived and worked in Mexico City for a year and five years in Moscow and drove very inconspicuous cars. I second the above suggestions — buy whatever car blends in with traffic and don’t stick out from the crowd. Don’t be a kidnap or drug lord target.


  • avatar

    It’s Mexico… go inconspicuous. The G8 is a great idea. Get the GXP with the stick and debadge it.

    • 0 avatar

      Ay Dios mío!

      A G8 will stick out like a sore thumb. Too big. Badges or no badges (you think that’ll fool the pros that target foreign execs? Dream on)Talk to locals. Think Jetta or smaller. That’s the ticket.

  • avatar

    “Don’t be a kidnap or drug lord target.”

    Or end up having something nice enough to steal. Especially outside Mexico City, many of the policia (including Federales) roll in cars stolen in AZ/TX, or in Mexico from some tourista.

    Yes, they know they’re driving a stolen car. Who’s gonna stop them?
    Pretty much if you aren’t in Western Europe, lo-pro is the way to go.


    Is that red S4 one of the ones that you push down on, and the LEDs on the roof flash? Just curious…

  • avatar

    Kidnapping is more related to how much money they think you have than how boring the car looks.

    Here in Venezuela, a late model Mustang, Tahoe, Expedition, 4Runner, Mercedes or BMW means money. And risk.

  • avatar

    Well my heart says buy an Alfa 159, because I think it’s the most beautiful car in the world, and I think you can buy them in Mexico. But my mind says buy a fifteen year old Ford Explorer and don’t ever wash it so that you stay safe.

  • avatar
    John R

    Yeah, keep it low key. Late model Lan-Evo should do the trick, especially with the rear wing removed.

  • avatar

    Ok, some advices from someone who lives in Mexico (me) but not exactly in Salitllo Coahuila, in a big city actually.


    Infinity and Lexus do not exist here, just the cheap parents, Nissan and Toyota. There are some old Infinity’s around, mostly Q45’s that were officially imported through Nissan dealers, but not anymore. The only Japanese luxury brand that you can buy new is Acura.

    As far as I know, you can’t import luxury brand new vehicles, but if you can, you will pay a lot of taxes (around 20% or more of the value).

    There is another thing about owning cars in Mexico, an annual tax called “tenencia vehicular”, that you will pay for the first 10 years since the car was purchased, that means: if you buy a 2010 model you will pay tenencia until 2020. For the first year you will pay 3.5% of tax over the car’s final price, and the tax diminishes about 10% after each year, i.e. if you pay $5000 pesos of tenencia the first year of ownership, the next you will pay about $4500, and so on…

    That is with cheap cars, if the price of the car passes the 400,000 pesos threshold (about 30k US Dollars) you will pay 8.5% of tenencia tax, and it raises until about 20%, but that is for cars of 100k dollars and up.

    Unfortunately, Saltillo has become very dangerous lately, so if you want RWD and inconspicuous go for Detroit Iron: Charger, Challenger, Mustang, Camaro……..and that’s about it, any other RWD would be BMW or Benz.

    For AWD we have almost all the options sold in the US, in luxury brands.

    Hope it helps

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Keep it low-key… You don’t want to be seen around anywhere in Latin America (from Ushuaia to Rio to Mexicali) on anything fancy.
    Repeat: Not. Worth. It.
    Get a Nissan Tsuru with crank windows and 5 on the floor, in white, and live a happy and relaxed life till the contract is over.

  • avatar
    Cerbera LM

    Like everyone else has said buy an inconspicuous car. One couldn’t pay me enough to drive anything worth $45k in Mexico. It is not a place to draw attention to ones self. Anything previously listed by name is too conspicuous.

    Absolutely do not get a new(ish) SUV/pickup because they will stick out like a very sore thumb. A new suv/suburban screams money like a Ferrari does here. If one has to have an suv/pickup get one that is 10+ years old and hasn’t been waxed since new. A 92-99 Suburban would blend in perfectly.

    The B13 Sentra seems to be the most popular car in Mexico. Best bet is to visit and see what is driving on the streets.

    When you tired of Mexican food and want some fast food USA style go to this Burger King. The staff is 904x pretty/cuter then the best US BK,-100.97973&spn=0.003735,0.004823&t=h&z=18

    Saltillo is a very nice town too bad the narco wars have made Mexico the wild wild west except one has spit balls against the AKs of the bad guys.

  • avatar

    Ever see the movie “Proof of Life”? Save your pesos for a nice car upon return to the US.

  • avatar

    The only expats I know in Mexico with nice cars live in guarded, gated compounds and have security details that accompany them wherever they go. If your friend is smart, he will say screw the car allowance, renegotiate his deal to get some protection, and drive a used VW.

  • avatar

    He probably shouldn’t drive a conspicuous car there. He should get something used, cheap, and common, like an old Nissan Tsuru.

  • avatar

    I personally wouldn’t buy anything available in the US.
    None of these really fit the given criteria, but here’s my picks:

    1. Ford Focus. (Mexico gets the Euro Focus, which is quite good.)
    2. Chevy Tornado.
    3. Suzuki Swift.
    4. Peugeot 207
    5. Fiat Palio Adventure

    • 0 avatar

      Man, you can’t be serious about the Tornado or the Palio Adventure.

      And if I were in Mexico I’d take the Chevy over the Fiat.

    • 0 avatar

      Man, you can’t be serious about the Tornado or the Palio Adventure.

      Admittedly, I don’t know much about either one. My main thought was that if I’m living in another country, I want a vehicle that I can’t have back home.

      -The Palio Adventure looks like a cross between the SX4 and XC70. I find that idea interesting, although the execution may stink.

      -The Tornado looks like a Dodge Rampage car based pick-up deal. I am a fan of those. Again the execution might stink.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious Stingray, why discard the Palio Weekend Adventure right off the bat? It’s certainly something never seen in the US, and is an eminently versatile vehicle that will give our US friend folding back seats that will give him a good load capacity (always ususeful when moving), high ground clearance to deal w/ (what I presume are very irregular Mexican roads and streets – if that’s not the case do forgive me), a gruff but long-lasting GM lump of 1.8L w/ high torque that’ll move him around spritely in the city, though he’ll surely lament at high speeds (if that’s possible in Mexico, don’t know forgive ignorance), but will also make him oblivious of local mechanics. All in all I think a Palio Adventure is a very good choice in Mexico (and is a solid middle class car that’ll say he has more wits and werewithal than to get a Tsuru but is not so vey rich) ’cause it’ll take the daily grind in stride, is big, but not TOO big, is attractive, but not overly so, is economic and easy to maintain, and doesn’t really have very many weak points (from a mechanical point of view).

      BTW, I gather your parents drove a sedan version of the Weekend oh many hundreds of thousands of km. And liked it. What’s w/ the hate?

  • avatar

    An older BMW with the badges removed. Preferably e30 body style with an upgraded m50 motor. You can find them for sale on some bimmer forums. Total sleeper, rwd, and pretty cheap compared to a post-2000 car. :)

  • avatar

    I did like the Pontiac G8 suggestion. I blends obscurity with fairly good (if conservative) looks, a reasonably well put together interior, and an excellent power-train. Additionally, it’s a great value for money. The G8, however, may lack some of the luxury features offered on the German cars. The G37 was also a good suggestion. On the Japanese theme, I would add an Acura TL, equipped with the 6M and SH-AWD. The looks are awkward at first, but work well the more you see the car. It looks excellent in metallic black.

    I do agree with the comment about steering clear of MB, BMW, Audi, and Cadillac. The more obscure brands are less likely to attract attention and offer excellent value for money. A Saab 9-3 with XWD and the manual would be a good buy. Of course, the depreciation issue and somewhat uncertain future of the company are drawbacks.

    Another good bet might be the Ford Taurus SHO, which is AWD and somewhat less obnoxious than many more expensive cars. The Taurus, of course, isn’t sold in Mexico. For that matter, the Lincoln MKS EcoBoost deserves consideration. Both are auto-only, however, which is unfortunate. What about a Lexus GS?

  • avatar

    I don’t know the inner details of your friend, but I’d have moved to Detroit, or kept in the US.

    Adding to my previous comment, and supporting what other said about going inconspicuous, I’d like to add:

    1) Avoid cars that are popular choice among taxi drivers (from my country’s experience). I’m sure theft rate is higher on those for some reasons: cheap spare parts, cars sold in other state for other needing driver… To that extent the Tsuru/B13/Sentra is discarded. You’ll see on arrival that the Tsuru is almost the default taxi.

    2) Avoid expensive SUVs, as I said before, they scream money and kidnap me.

    3) Take a ride with your new colleagues and ask them for advice on local cars.

  • avatar

    I am pretty offended by the coments about Mexico, I live in Monterrey, just 40 km from salitillo and indeed, we are suffering the concequences of a drug war in wich USA has some fault.

    Anyway, having a nice care does not means that you WILL be kidnapped, it is not a garantee, i wish all of you could get rid of your ignorance and learn more about my country. I am not anti-american, in fact I have a cadillac cts and a ram truck. we also have a mazda mx-5 m/y 2008, and we dont have any problems. Neither relatives of friends that drive BMW’s Audi’s Mercedes etc.

    We as a country have crime problems, but just because you are on the street with a nice truck you WILL be kidnapped. You can get kidnapped in any car, kidnappers follow you home and learn your habits.

    Does he need to be cautious? yes but dont over react.

    As for a car, buy an mx-5 or a bmw, awd cars in Mexico are not so popular, Subaru is the only one that all its models are awd.

    We have many european brands, if you want good value for your money buy a new ibiza, vw good quality, audi tecnologi, cheap price.

    • 0 avatar


      No offense intended, but we are attempting to provide advice that will minimize risk for the old boy.

      I have a friend whom I attended highschool with. He lives in PR and his parientes own Benzes and Porkers. They also own a mountain, and have several dozen rather surly individuals with automatic weapons who are never far away. (Neither are the surly dudes’ MP9s.) I also have friends in Mexico City who live the same way.

      As f’d up as America is, CA and SA are light-years more dangerous. Sure, much of that is attributable to the “war on drugs”, but it is what it is…

  • avatar

    JR, one correction for the record – I never said XLR – I said SRT8, as in Grand Cherokee SRT8. Rational was that the WK’s are pretty common here, and the SRT8 to the untrained eye looks the same. And it’s faswter in a straight line than most vehicles down here. But it would have been 10k out of pocket due to the pricing structure in Mexico. Also I’ve never had a car with pushrods, a beam axle or an automatic, and this would end my streak. And it has more displacement than my first two A2 GTI’s and the mini combined. Not to mention more horsepower. And consumption.

    Yes, I’m driving a black German SUV and yes it’s stupid. Decided yesterday finally to dump it for something more low key. A colleague was carjacked in Monterrey last week – for his rental A4 Jetta (they’re still built here.) I do feel like an advertisement now – time to act.

    Back to the original needs – I’ve got to be able to tote 3 passengers and their luggage (in case you ever visit) and I want something which is not speed limited (most of the NA cars are limited at 99 mph/160 kph.) I want to be able to go faster – perhaps it’s silly, but it gives me a layer of protection. For the company stipend I was supposed to get a car with our content which is pretty much anything out of EU or NA, but very little from Asia.

    You forgot that one cannot by any Audi or BMW here (excepting the S- and M-line) with more than 140 hp and a manual transmission. They’ve caught our addiction with the slush pump down here.

    I’ve given up on having something which I like and is nice to drive, since by definition any such car would be coveted and therefore stolen.

    Now I’m thinking WK with the “small” 5.7 hemi. No out of pocket expense, it’s low key, and at least it’ll go in a straight line. I suppose I could find a chip to remove the limiter.

    Would love a G8, or any of a number of other rare-ish sedans, but this is not the US market – these things are nearly unobtainable. Same goes for all of the subies and lancers. One would want to bring such a car from the US, and that’s also a hassle – and necessitates US plates. I do not think that the NY plates on my SUV help my case.

    The real question is: What’s the best sleeper that I want to drive?

    Maybe I should get a GTI and just borrow a Tahoe when I’ve got guests? There are a pile of them at work. I’ll pop the chrome tip off the GTI exhaust and trade the badge for one from the ubiquitous Pointer. And hot-glue some old A3 Jetta hubcaps to the wheels. Then I’ll need a chip…


  • avatar

    Your best sleeper is anything low-key with a big-ass turbo or S/C bolted on.

  • avatar

    VW Bug, what else?! Where else, if not in Mexico?!

    It is RWD, too! No kidnapping risk whatsoever!

    For the budget he could buy three of them, just in case.

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