New or Used: Spring Fling, or Calculated Partnership?

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used spring fling or calculated partnership
Robert™ (yes, really) writes,

Sajeev & Steve:

Even in Seattle, it’s springtime and for the first time in a decade I find myself without either a woman or a convertible in my life. The woman’s best not replaced too quickly, but going a summer without a convertible is a sacrilege I’m unwilling to commit. I’ve gone through my finances, and about $25K – $27K is my price range. I know I’m buying at the wrong time; both because it’s spring and because the supply-side guys are winning, but spending a summer without going topless just feels … dirty.

I’ve had a few convertibles in the past decade and the BMW’s aside I’m not sure I’d repeat any of these: an original Sebring, two differnet body style 325i’s, a first year SLK, an ’05 Mustang, a brief affair with an early 90’s Celica and finally a Z3.

With my budget, and my preferences I’m looking at the last gen Z4, or the C5, or possibly an ’05 targa C6) Corvette. While the C5 interrior is every reason I’ve never bought a GM car is the difference between the C5 and early C6 that significant on the road? The ’05’s interior is much better…even though it still has the “headless gnome” steering wheel. I’d also consider an ’05 Jaguar or a 280 SLK, where reliability is improved over earlier models. The obvious choice is to go back to the BMW well, and track down a non-trashed M3, should they exist. But that’s so obvious and the only thing more prevalent than 3-series where I live are Subaru’s.

I considered the Porsche, but I’m unwilling to play the boxster engine-failure lottery. The most current MX-5’s looks just leave me cold, but I’d be open to a Mazdaspeed. The TT roadster similarly doesn’t appeal on looks and on account of me not being a hair-stylist.

Everything else on the market seems too much like a boulevard cruiser or with little driving joy or doesn’t like to go around a corner. Have I missed something? Given that I’ll actually be financing the car, it will be one that I’ll hold onto for a while. I’m not overly concerned about maintenance costs as much as I am reliability. Nor am I terribly concerned with it being all that practical. I’ll be buying within the next few days, so your thoughts and feedback are really appreciated.

Steve Answers:

I take it this is the Sybil version of choosing a convertible.

You pretty much ran the gamut on this one Robert. All of these vehicles are worth your consideration. The best? Well it depends on what kind of drive you want for the long-term. Each of them are the kings of one niche or another.

Jaguar XK: I absolutely love these models. The design is gorgeous. The powertrain is almost as bulletproof as a C6 if you opt for a 2005 or later. Plus you get all the luxury of a British cruiser with a far better level of durability than most German marques. These cars do have their issues over the course of time. The XKR in particular has frightening repair and maintenance costs. But if you want the best interior and a design that endures, I would put a low-mileage 2005/2006 XK on your list.

Chevrolet Corvette: The interior can easily be primped up if you want. The Vette’ trades in the luxury of a Jaguar for the fun of a super car. There is an ample supply of low-mileage C6’s in the used car market. To be blunt, the Corvette would be an outstanding value in this price range.

But what would be the best?

The BMW 645i. But it has I-drive which was an absolute abomination of annoyance. Plus it’s expensive to keep and… I like to have my cars over-engineered and devoid of doo-dad’s. My pick? My only choice as a ‘keeper’ convertible would be a Mazdaspeed version of the MX-5.

The 2004 versions came in red and silver. The 2005’s in orange or black. Stick with a 2004. Upgrade everything you wish because your list will be a very short one. I guarantee you will never want to sell it. But first you’ll need to find one because Mazda only made 4000 of these models over a two year period. Good luck!

Sajeev Answers:

Test drives are free in this country. We should take advantage of that, especially in cases like this. I feel like an English teacher that just told you to re-write your book report with more insight than what’s in Cliff’s Notes or Wikipedia. You need to form a stronger personal connection to each of the cars listed, good or bad. These are passionate vehicles!

So my advice? Terribly shocking: LSX-FTW even if you want a sports car with all the luxury and style of a touring vehicle. Maybe that’s the Jag, but I’d much rather have a Magnaride-equipped Corvette with not factory, non-run-flat tires, even if making such a Chevy takes extra effort. To answer your question, I don’t see much of a difference between C5s and C6s, if you’re more of a luxury-touring type. The C6 has more motor, more wheelbase, more height, more front suspension travel and a “smarter” Magnaride processor, but the differences aren’t terribly obvious unless you drive them back-to-back. I’d buy whatever Magnaride vette you can find in your price range, C5 or C6. I’d personally trade all the benefits of the C6

for the C5’s pop up headlamps, but that’s the Farago-like Brand Loyalist in me.

Now start test driving and let your gut make a decision.

Join the conversation
2 of 47 comments
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 11, 2011

    Beemers, Porsches, sheesh. How lemming-like. March to the beat of a different drummer. Buy a new Chrysler 200 convertible now.

  • Robert Robert on May 11, 2011

    For me, the C6 is a different drummer. :-) First GM car I've ever owned, and I've owned a LOT of cars.

  • Ajla I think a few of you guys need to try meditation or something.
  • SCE to AUX Historically, the Land Cruiser sold ~3000 units annually in the US for its last 15 years, so the answer is no.
  • Theflyersfan Oh boy - the sequential manual transmission. Otherwise known as "Your 16 year old driving stick the first time is smoother" transmission. I know automakers were trying new things out around this time and seeing what would stick (hint: the dual clutches won out), but even in testing, the Toyota engineers should have said いいえ、ジャンクです。(No. It's a piece of junk.) Is this seller going to get $8500? Doubt it. Way too much interior work is needed and it just looks worn out in there. St. Petersburg - salt air year round can do some wonders under the cover as well. But the exterior still looks good which makes me thing it was garage kept. So, for $8,500 - no chance. But for maybe $5,500 to $6,000 and the buyer doesn't mind some extra work to clean up the interior, maybe a decent top down sun down fun car. Just hope the transmission holds up.
  • Dukeisduke Only if there's a significant price difference between it and the Lexus GX. Otherwise, no. If they do bring it over, they'll have to ditch that ugly grille.
  • Theflyersfan Chris here just gave me a big old dose of nightmare fuel with this. Let me explain... This past Saturday, driving home after doing some furniture shopping. I-64 Westbound is closed for extensive repairs in my part of Louisville so I had to take surface streets home. No problem as it's basically a straight shot from said furniture store to my domicile. Now, I had that recent spinal fusion surgery in my neck complete with four screws, some plates, artificial bone, and the chance that things might not have healed correctly so things are a bit tender and sore still. Driving home in a part of the area named St. Matthews when I pass a Walgreens. Barreling out of this Walgreens and totally ignoring the stop sign, and situational awareness of ANYTHING around him is a truck, very similar to the one shown above. Same color even. It's a four lane road - main drag through town. I'm in the inside lane and this 7,000 pound monstrosity is suddenly feet from turning an MX-5 into shrapnel. Top is down, had my wits, quickly downshift and manage to do a wild u-turn like move into the oncoming traffic lanes but avoided the hit. The neck, however, didn't like the strain and trauma and sent parts of my body into fits of limited sensations and pain. The truck driver, realizing what he's done suddenly stops. My top is down, windows are down, and we make eye contact as I pull alongside the person I have suddenly wished death on inside a flaming pit. And if I repeat the sentences of what was yelled at that jack***es face, I'll be on insta-ban here in milliseconds. He yells over, "Man, I'm sorry...I didn't see ya!" Well, ***face, learn what a stop sign means and scan the scene first. And get something that you can see over and in front instead of the blind spots that hide everyone under the age of 14 in front of the truck. So, I'm all for forcing these overdone, oversized, overfed, overstyled, guzzling, tiny-genital compensating redneck wannabe road monsters taken out back and put to rest and we return to normalcy. Made it home hurting like hell and tests were done today to check for further injury. And that Mazda can turn and spin on a dime... Try that move in that Sierra AT4XBZQZW8! whatever.