By on December 30, 2010

John writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve: Currently, I’m searching for a car based off of the car’s perceived personality. This might turn out a bit vague, so I’m going to have to force you to bear with me, here. I currently do all of my balling in a ’00 Avalon. In gangsta’ white. It’s a bit septuagenarian, yes, but it can be loved. I compare it to an old Akita Inu – loyal, honest, obedient, but also a bit too lazy.

Most of the meaning drawn from this car and my resulting attachment to it stems from the four passenger seats, and the friends that I haul about in those seats. Because of the Avalon’s general blandness in most other areas (although I can get a pseudo-tail out experience when gunning it around corners in heavy rain), I’ve found virtue in its people-carrying, tool-for-transportation mentality. I’m forced to focus on the people I drive. Now, though, I’m looking for a car that’s a bit more playful (something other than FWD and some actual *gasp* sporting intent), a bit more earnest (six-speed, three pedals), but just as honest as the Avalon. I’m also looking for a car that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That means: if I pull up next to someone who is driving this hypothetical car while at a stoplight, the driver shouldn’t be able to scowl at me and have it look natural. This car (ideally) should be one that can complement a goofy smile, but still haul a considerable amount of arse.

When I stop at an intersection, waiting for the light, and look at the faces of the people around me, I find that they’re usually all grim and silent. I’m the only fool who’s blasting “We Are the Champions” and smiling. So – it’d be nice if my next car had a decent audio system also (exhaust sound counts as an audio system, preferably in V8 flavor).

Road-trip ability is also a must. Bonus points are awarded if the car can look natural while parked outside a diner in Arizona. All this searching leads me to a Challenger (SRT-8) or Mustang of the V8 variety, because I don’t gel with the Camaro that well (and I don’t want to even think about the Charger). Or maybe a Subaru, just because.

Am I on the right track, here? Are there any options that I’ve overlooked? I’m looking for something with personality. Goofiness is accepted. Passenger-friendliness is a must. Performance, too. I’m looking to adopt the automotive equivalent of an eager, seven-month old Golden Retriever.

Thanks, and remember to smile more often when you drive (if you don’t already).

Sajeev Answers:

Your take on life is wicked cool. As a classy example of the male species, you need a ferociously geeky muscle car to complement it. You are the reason why I spent big money and countless hours on a “High Output” 5.0 upgrade to my Fox Body Mercury Cougar XR-7. And, in the end, a T-56 stick to be “Tru 2 It.” It’s part Mustang Cobra, part old school Toyota Avalon. Sort of. Plus, the re-popularization of the Cougar name makes it all worthwhile. A friend once admitted he’d rather have my Old Lady’s 6-speed over my brother’s 2005 Ford (not Mustang) GT on name alone. You see, some classy and sophisticated men want a Cougar in their home, even if it’s just in the garage. He was also drunk off his ass at the time. Super classy!

Soberly speaking, you don’t need a Cougar with a T-56 transmission. Sanity suggests a newer Mustang purchased according to your budget. I’d go for the 2008-09 Mustang in Bullitt form, with a short shifter, 2010-up Mustang GT mufflers (trust me on that), SCT re-flash and an extreme Steve McQueen makeover for your entire life. I’m talkin’ haircut, sideburns, wardrobe, and irreverent coolness that only comes from such a universally-heralded B.A.M.F. Don’t forget to load up the iPod with everything Lalo Schifrin; otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time here. Good luck to you, my good man!

Steve Answers:

What’s your budget? I take it you can spend upwards of 30k on this vehicle given your aspirations. There is a lot of car that can be had at that range. Especially a lightly ‘used’ car with an even stronger warranty than the new car deal.

The Pontiac’s G8 and GTO would be near the top of my list. You get enough power to lift a small NASA rocket and the Q-Ship factor of the G8 makes it a very worthy companion. They are also a bit rare so the price to value ratio may not be as strong as you imagine.

The Challenger is a bit softer in today’s market than the Camaro and Mustang. As for the Mustang, I would consider a loaded up V6 model over the V8 since you will still have 300 horsepower and features can be added up with aplomb for the V6. The Camaro’s styling doesn’t do much for me and Subaru has pretty much become the new Yuppie brand. I’ve had dozens of them and the new ones seem to be a bit Camry-ish for my tastes.

What else? Well you have a near-new Audi A4, VW GTI, a 6-speed A3 in diesel form. They all offer nice interior accommodations and plenty of hoon factor although you will pay a bit more for maintenance. The BMW 3-Series was leased to the hilt a few years back which means there’s plenty of supply right now. I would consider a two year old 5-Series, and get a strong CPO warranty with it as well.

There is also practically any two to four year old used vehicle that was sold in the 40k to 70k range. You name the ‘prestige’ brand. They sold at least one two door and one four door model that can be had in that range used. In the end you have to find what makes you happy and I’m sure that 90+% of what I just mentioned will do exactly that. Good luck.

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43 Comments on “New or Used: Classy Moves, Perceived Personalities...”


  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Steve nails it.  When I read everything you’re looking for.  Q factor.  Power.  RWD.  Seating for four in absolute comfort.  Trunk to carry stuff.  But when the windows are rolled up and the stereo is on the people next to you go, “dayum, what is that,” a Pontiac G8 GT is all you need to know.

    Look for a 9L2 or L93 car (mid and end production 2009, the 9L3 cars are listed at 2009.5 models and add Bluetooth compatibility to its list of options).

    As for the stereo you will have to add a subwoofer and upgrade the speakers.  You cannot replace the head unit on the G8 (well, you could if you’re technical, ready to pay the bones, or don’t care that your HVAC controls are in the trunk) as they are integrated into the head unit and no one makes a straight rip and replace in-dash kit to swap out for it (and never will).

    Steve is also correct in that because they are rare (relatively speaking), and because they are in high demand visions of finding a cream puff 2009 G8 GT for a 50% discount because, well come on, Pontiac is dead is delusional.  I know of one that just sold for $17.8K on eBay as a major outlier to this (idiot put it up with no reserve and a 3 day auction – no idea if they honored the sale).  Craig’s List and eBay pricing from private sellers is more realistically between $22K to $24K.  Dealer pricing is between $24K to $28K depending on miles, condition, and if the dealer knows what they have. To give this some perspective wrecks that need repair and have a salvage title are selling for $15K to $17K, unrepaired. The 2008 model pricing is also holding steady above $20K; they are rarer (only 13K made) and have some early production kinks (lower control arms are junk on many of them and they are riveted to the balljoints).

    L76 6.0 V8 tied to the Corvette shared 6-speed auto with four modes (auto, sport auto, manual shift, track manual shift) is good for 0 to 60 in under 5.4 in stock trim.  Buy a CAI (the stock box is incredibly restrictive), get rid of the stock resonator/cross pipe (even more restrictive) and go with a simple 91 Octane SuperChips tune (can buy a used tuner for $250 to $275 all day long) and you can tickle 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds. Even beating on it you’ll get 15 in the city, play nice on the highway and the 24 MPG on the sticker is quite realistic. Because the Chevrolet Camaro SS shares many of the same performance parts and suspension pieces, what will fit on a Camaro will fit on a G8. You can buy 20″ Camaro rims all day long for $500 to $700 on eBay (knock offs) and they will bolt right up to a G8, front and rear; dayum do they look nice.

    The only way to get a manual is to go GXP; but there were only 1,829 GXPs built total, I know of at least 20 that are wrecked, 16 that were supposed to go to auction that never did, etc. etc. I am aware of a GXP manual for sale in Hawaii, including shipping to the mainland (west coast port only) for $37K. The car has less than 1K miles on it and never modified, climate controlled stored. GXPs are selling for $33K to $40K depending on private vs. dealer and in the case of dealers, if they know what they have. Read a story recently about a GXP that sold for just $30K off of a lot in Albama simply because the used car lot it ended up on somehow had no clue what a GXP was versus a GT. The LS3 equipped GXP gets many upgrades, but isn’t as kind in the fuel department.

    Seats four in absolute comfort, five if you have to (significant tunnel hump in the back seat), huge trunk (the spare tire well is basically empty, great place to put a subwoofer as it is big enough to fit a fullsize 19″ wheel with tire mounted, along with jack kit) with a low lip and wide opening.  Doing stereo improvements is quite possibly the easiest car to do it on because the battery and all stereo connections are in the trunk.  You don’t have to run wires to add bass; which is what the G8 sorely lacks.  Also, look up “bass bias mod” on the Internets, a lot of the G8s came with the bass gain turned all the way down out of the factory; just tweaking the gain (a five minute project) helps.

    G8 – you’ll be left scratching your head on why GM ever walked away from four-door Zeta in North America.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Honestly, the Ford Lightning sounds almost perfect here, but you can’t get one with a manual.
     
    The Caliber SRT4 is awesomely goofy, and has a lot of personality, but it also isn’t a great car. Ditto with the Crossfire and Ion Red Line.
     
    Maybe the Solstice/Sky Turbo? There is also the SSR, but expect scowls from F-body owners.
     
    The G8, GTO, and Bullitt are all fine suggestions, but I’ll throw in a homer pick with the Firebird too.

  • avatar
    twotone

    2002 — 2004 Maserati Coupe GT — seats four (check), 6 speed manual (check), 400 HP Ferrari V8 up front (check), RWD (check), awesome looks (check), unbelievable sound (check), street appeal (double check). A $100k MSRP car now selling for $30k or less. This is were my money would go (with an appropriate savings account for annual maintenance). Service and repairs are fairly reasonable (for a high-end Italian stallion) with easy engine access and robust running gear.
     
    Twotone
     

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a good reason those cars are so cheap. They are an absolute nightmare to maintain, and require just as much TLC as any Ferrari of the same vintage. Plus, they have the terrible first-generation F1 transmission. If you’re spending $30k on the car, prepare at least an extra $3-5k every year to keep it running, more if you plan to daily-drive it.

  • avatar
    Guzzi

    Godfrey Daniels, Sajeev. That was your post of the year. BAMF makeover, indeed.

  • avatar

    “…..He was also drunk off his ass at the time”
     
    That explains it.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    If you are looking for perceived personality the most BAMF car you can get id the Charger in my opinion. Off course it has to be all black, and I mean everything. And maybe make some more noise than stock. Most people will think you are either a hitman or the FBI, but what’s more BAMF than that. Camaro’s and Mustang (allthough probably better cars, and sportier) are so often bought by posers and women that you’d need something more than a stocker to impress or scare anyone. With a Charger all you need is black. (and yes, black wheels and tints and everything)

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Charger SRT-8, Magnum SRT-8, 300 SRT-8 or G8 GT or GXP.  Plenty of carrying capacity.  If you enjoy depreciation get the Chrysler products.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …i don’t know that i’ve ever read a more compelling case for a genesis coupé, and i’m honestly suprised that nobody’s suggested it yet…

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    “I currently do all of my balling in a ’00 Avalon.”
     
    So I’m guessing that the term ‘balling’ means something different now than it did when I was in high school?

    I used to do all of my balling in a ’68 Plymouth Fury III and it worked out very well for me.

  • avatar
    spyked

    Used MB CLS550/AMG.  Doesn’t have three pedals, but WhoTF cares in this case!

  • avatar
    dculberson

    Goofy but fast with a manual and seats four in comfort?  Volvo V70R.  Or S60R if you don’t like wagons.  300hp, awd, manual available, and reasonable pricing on the used market.  NOBODY scowls while driving a Volvo.  It’s just not done.
     
    I’m more of a “right tool for the job” kind of guy, though, and I would buy a 2000 LS400 for the four-seater and a C5 corvette for the fast car.  Yes, plenty of Corvette drivers scowl, but you won’t care once you hit the road in one.  The LS400 is incredibly competent, surprisingly fast (14-second quarter mile!), v8 powered and rear wheel drive.  NOT sporting, NOT manual, but very honest and capable of fulfilling its role, which is a big fast luxury car.  The rear seats are roomy enough for Shaq, even if his taller brother is driving.  They’re stone cold reliable and available for around $10k if bought right.
     
    A Camaro, Challenger, Mustang, Charger, Maserati?  None of these are remotely goofy and they all are driven by scowling people.  Especially a blacked out Challenger.  Well, I guess the Maserati is kind of goofy looking with the snout grille.

    • 0 avatar
      findude

      +1 on the Volvo V70R.  While I admire your aspirations, BAMF indeed, keep your dear friends in mind. A Mustang (or pretty much anything with only two doors) will drive your friends away unless they are still in elementary school and sized accordingly. You can pick up a last-year (2007) V70R in the mid twenties. (Your friends are obviously important to your motoring–it’s the wrong Queen song, but you definitely paint a Wayne’s World moment there.)  You will have to hunt to find a manual, but once you drive it you will understand fully. When you’re not showing off its performance to your friends, you can soften the suspension on the fly and substitute your favorite classic composer for Queen to suit the mood. Depending on your definition of balling, the back seat folds down to offer a good six feet of working space–tint the windows, put on Ravel’s Bolero, and you’re good to go.
       
      In fact, it was from a search for V70R reviews that I first discovered TTAC when I hit upon this review: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/04/volvo-v70r-awd/
       
      I didn’t actually end up buying the V70R I drove as it had myriad signs of abuse that raised too many red flags for my taste, but it was by far the most engaging station-wagon test drive I’ve ever had. Avoid the S60R sedan-equivalent as the rear-seat legroom is just enough less than the wagon that you’ll have to ditch the friends and get a small dog instead.
       

  • avatar
    JMII

    Your local BMW dealer would like to talk to you. Used 5-series… after picking up said ride swap the wheels out for 20″ chrome jobs, the large trunk means half of the space can be used for subwoofers and amps, go for multiple smaller subs, think four 8″s versus the traditional two 10″s, way louder this way. Try to find a black one then tint windows to the level of welder’s mask. Add a complete ground effects kit too if really want people’s jaw to drop.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Thanks, and remember to smile more often when you drive (if you don’t already).

    Best. TTAC. Post. Ever. If you didn’t say manual I’d suggest a 2003-04 Marauder, which would make everyone look at you like you’re a cop with a subwoofer. For a manual, I think the posts above have it covered fairly well. BMW 5 Series w/ a V8 and stick or a Pontiac G8 GT or GXP.

  • avatar

    goofy? the faces on the late model mazdas are plenty goofy

  • avatar
    mazder3

    If it wasn’t for the 3 pedal requirement, I’d say first gen M45. People will definitely say “What the heck is that?”. Slap a couple Cherry Bombs on it and you’ll really turn heads.
    Failing that, the goofy smile of a Mazdaspeed3 is in your future.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    I say get the ‘Stang and if you like using your hands for things other than shifting with your, ahem, companion…well that says auto. Everybody loves Mustangs, young, old, even Camaro owners appreciate the pony (more than Mustang owners appreciate Camaro owners….we don’t wear mullets). GT’s have more aftermarket parts than all the pay stubs you’ve ever earned. Since people like Mustangs, you can always sell a used Mustang. If your hauling 3 other people around, I say buy them a bus ticket ’cause their devoted to “Baller Transit” whatever that means. I may be old fat and gray, but the lime green 06 GT with shiny fan blades still outlooks and smokes by 90% of the other iron on the street.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    GTi has way more rear seat room than a mustang, other than that a total McQueen makeover appeals to me.  A Pontiac GTO or G8 also, but oooo the fuel costs. Old maseratis, of course, a ferrari engine!  wow.  The used 5 series BMW?  With the bangled rear its FUGLY and would result in stares.  A Challanger?  Not too shabby, but get the RT, tone down the paint color and exterior jewelry, its an extremely good choice.  Or a dark color used Audi A6 wagon…er “estate”.  Now we’re talkin.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, what’s different and appealing with the 2010 Mustang GT mufflers?
    If you do go with the s197 mustang gt, I’ve started collecting a list of common problems.   Let me know if you find others and I can add it to the list.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2010 mufflers sound a little deeper, and from the looks of them back-to-back with the older ones, have a bigger tailpipe diameter.  And they are stupid cheap, many Ford Motorsport dealers have them lying around for scrap. This is a purely subjective commentary, and to prove the point, I absolutely love the 2010 GT mufflers I used on my Dad’s 2006 Town Car.
      Another common problem are taillight wiring harness problems on 2005-2008(?) models. 1-4 of the six taillights may not work, our S197 was fixed under warranty for this problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I absolutely love the 2010 GT mufflers I used on my Dad’s 2006 Town Car.
       
      Dropping into the mental file – “potential Town Car mods/reasons to buy one.”

    • 0 avatar

      Adding the wiring harness to my list…  Deeper v8 rumble ftw!
      I looked up bullitt prices on autotrader, and as much as I love the look and bump in power, and it costs way more money for a comparable mileage GT.

    • 0 avatar
      Spencer Williams

      You may already have this, but offering it up just in case: a list of all the TSBs associated with the S197 (pretty complete for 05-07, not quite all of them after that.) They are great cars, and yes, I’m greatly biased, but they aren’t perfect.
      http://www.s197forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=61
      I’ve never noticed much of difference between 2010 mufflers and the 05-09s, but people do seem to prefer them, so there must be something to it. The hangers are positioned differently, so you’ll have to work that a bit, the diameter on the tips is about a half inch bigger, but they also stick out about an inch or inch and a half farther, which doesn’t look so clean in my opinion.
      I also wouldn’t go for the Bullitt, as you can add the go-fast parts to a GT for a lot cheaper than you can buy a Bullitt. And the Bullitt, amazingly, has a weaker exhaust note, as they tried to mimic the car in the film rather than just making it sound good. But I do like the green pain and spoiler delete, no doubt.

  • avatar
    ez3276

    From what he says about attitude, sound, V8, stick etc. the only two choices are the Mustang GT/Bullitt or Challenger R/T. Camaro? Lame.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I’ve had the same deliberation and the conclusion I’ve come to is an E60 550i.
    Candidates:
    CTS-V: 1st gens have fragile differentials, 2nd gens are pricey.
    G8 GXP: Almost non-existant, more expensive than the 550i.  Lots of people at work have G8s.
    E39 M5: Probably the best, but they’re getting old.
    M3: Douche level to high for me even, high RPM engines scare me.
    E60 M5: Pricey, engine seems a bit radical for my taste.
    Quattroporte: Do it, if you’ve got the balls.
    E60 550i:  Cheaper than the GXP, less douchey than a 3 series maybe?
     

  • avatar
    Loser

    John,
    GTO is the way to go!! But I’m a little biased. I only have 2 complaints about the GTO, the shift action isn’t the best and getting in and out of the back seat is a pain. It does have good room for 2 adults once you get back there. It’s a comfortable road trip car. Do yourself a favor an at least check one out.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Lots of great suggestions have already been made, and I will add one more off the wall one: A 3 year old off-lease Jaguar XJ8. No manual, but loads of cool and comfortable for taking your friends across town or cross country.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    rpn453

    . . . although I can get a pseudo-tail out experience when gunning it around corners in heavy rain . . .

    If you continue to drive the Avalon for a while, you should probably get some new tires.  You really shouldn’t be able to get any oversteer out of that car without heavy trail braking!

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