Ask Bark: The Supercut, Episode One
Since we’ve been doing these Ask Bark columns at the beginning of the year, I’ve received well over a hundred questions from you, our loyal readers. While I truly want to answer all of them, some of them don’t need a 1,000 word response, so they’ve been languishing in my inbox because I can’t turn them into a full column on their own.
So, today we’ll be doing some quick hits and answering several questions in one column. In other words, here’s your chance to call me an idiot multiple times, which I know that some of you are already quite giddy about.
Let’s get to it.
My wife has a 2004 Camry that her old man’s passed down to her for the very reasonable price of free. It’s been in her family since new, but it’s absolutely beat; the paint is in horrific shape, there isn’t a body panel that isn’t dented or cracked, it burns more oil than gas, and on and on and on. Her round-trip commute is 5 hours a couple of times a week, and we’ve been known to go on long (12+ hour) road trips.
I need your (and the B&B’s) help. We need to replace this car with … something.
Budget is $30,000 or under. New or used, AWD/FWD/RWD, two-door or four-door, are all fine. I want something comfortable, relatively quiet, and fair or better on efficiency. Extra points awarded to cars that aren’t boring to drive.
It’ll be her car and, though I have veto power, I know where to limit my input. I’ve got my eyes on a Mazda6 or Accord Coupe. What else am I missing?
It sounds like comfort and fuel economy are your two biggest concerns. While not being boring to drive is a bonus, the suspension stiffness that often defines “not boring to drive” can make a car feel like an Indian train ride. Because of this, I’m going to recommend either a Chevrolet Impala LT V6 or a Toyota Avalon. Both of them have enough straight-line power to make the occasional stoplight launch fun, but they can also deliver 30 miles per gallon on highway commutes. There’s even an Avalon Hybrid if you want to stretch your gas tank a little further. In addition, they’re all blessed with comfortable seating and supple suspension tunes.
If your wife feels comfortable with another Toyota, go Avalon. If she’s willing to consider domestic, go Impala.
I daily drive a Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera and I love it. Eventually, I’ll retire it, throw up a middle finger to the purists, drop a 993 engine in its derriere, and turn it into the thing I’ve always wanted.
But, for now, it’s perfect. I love driving down the highway and listening to the sound of the engine as it redlines from second to third to fourth.
Here’s the thing: I really don’t want to keep putting 40 commuter miles on it each day. I think the car manages it fine, and I can work on almost everything myself with a good set of tools, a floor jack and some jack stands. But, I was thinking of taking the money I saved up for upgrades and getting something else to beat on.
I don’t want to drive something I hate, and I’d rather have something pretty mechanical that I can wrench on myself. I see some fairly low-mileage Mercedes 300Es, and some W126 S-Classes. Paying cash for something under $6,000 is appealing.
Do you know anything about those cars? Any other suggestions?
I think you meant to send this to a columnist elsewhere who will gladly tell you that you can buy a Bentley Arnage for the price of this Versa! (Hi, Freddy!) But, in all seriousness, there’s nothing wrong with buying something like a W126, if you can accept that you might end up sinking a lot more than that original $6,000 into it — not to mention all the time you’ll spend working on it. Also, the W126 was a fairly advanced car for its day, so there could be maintenance issues that will exceed even your considerable skills.
Here, let’s watch this video and then decide.
Hell yeah, let’s go buy a Mercedes and fight Ivan Drago!
Seriously, if you want one, go buy it. Also buy a service manual. Keep that 3.2 around though. There will be days when you’ll definitely need it.
Dear Mr. Maruth,
Which electric car should I buy?
Now, hear me out. First, I live in America’s hat, where gas costs $1.00/L (and electricity is cheap, and generated by waterwheels and smugness).
Second, I don’t go far away. I don’t leave town, so even the hapless Mitsubishi i-MiEV could cover almost all my range needs. Range anxiety isn’t a factor.
Third, I drive around in a Versa, which is pretty much the best shitbox ever made: quiet, stupidly roomy for backseat adults, free of bad habits, and able to hold two Christmas trees, three adults, and a small dog.
So the obvious options I can afford are the Nissan Leaf, a used Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, i-MiEV, or Tesla Model 3 — assuming you don’t have another suggestion.
If you’ve enjoyed the Versa (how? why?), then it sounds like the Leaf is for you.
Full disclosure (nearly two years late): I tagged along with Caroline on this Reader Ride Review (photo credits: me) of a Nissan Leaf, and this gentleman’s situation was like yours. He didn’t really need an electric vehicle, he just liked the idea of one, and it made financial sense to him. I really enjoyed driving the Leaf. It’s torquey, quirky, and has enough storage capacity for the bizarre menagerie of things that you just mentioned.
I’m mad at you for even typing the word i-MiEV in your email to me. Seriously, dude. Quit it.
If I were you, I’d investigate a Leaf lease. EV leases can be incredibly cheap after factoring in all available credits.
This is a serious, completely time-insensitive question: What’s the best 5-seat GT car, at any price?
My wife and I live in the close-in suburbs of Washington, DC, and have all of our car needs met by a single Honda Odyssey. Between the Metro, biking, cabs, and the car (let’s be honest, not in that order), no more than once or twice a year do we alter our plans as a result of not having a second car.
But I desperately want a second car, and my wife is cool with that. After being truly honest with myself, the answer is not Miata. (I’m 6 feet, 5 inches tall, I don’t need more things destroying my posture.) I want a GT — fast, luxurious, comfortable.
Plot twist: We’ve recently added a third child to our family, and that has made me acutely aware of a phenomenon I hadn’t ever noticed before. Every cool car has four seats. Mustang? Four seats. Maserati GranTurismo? Four seats. Bentley Continental GT? Four seats. Even stretching out to four doors, the Panamera and Rapide? Four freakin’ seats. Five seats are a must.
I can afford any of the cars I’ve mentioned used (and could afford the eventual repairs), so here’s the “any price” teaser.
What vehicle, in your opinion, best embodies the spirit of a true Grand Tourer, but has five seats?
I don’t even have to think twice on this one: Audi A7.
Unfortunately, I believe that both the S7 and the RS7 remove the middle seat in the back, or else I’d recommend one or both of those. You’re still going to get a five second 0-60 time in the A7, and you can option it with the S-line package to make it a little sportier to drive. You can even add rear side airbags for extra protection. Go drive one and let me know what you think.
There you go! Four questions down, eleventy billion to go. Thanks for continuing to send them in. Without you, there is no Ask Bark. Well, I mean I could make up some delusional questions about what you should buy if you inherit an oil field, but that’s just crazy.
[Image: Top, © Bark Jr./The Truth About Cars; Impala, © 2014 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars; Mercedes, File; Leaf: Nissan; Audi A7, © 2012 Murilee Martin?The Truth About Cars]
Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine, or to send your favorite car buying quandary to Uncle Bark (literally, I have three nephews) at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on the Twitter at barkm302.
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- Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
- Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
- Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
- Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
- ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂
"Well, I mean I could make up some delusional questions about what you should buy if you inherit an oil field, but that’s just crazy." I'm hoping the one about the kid in mom's basement trying to get the math to work on a Viper ACR was something you made up
Martin, I just bought a w126 300se for daily use. The car is great but I've only had it for a month so I cant speak to its reliability. I also got one with lots of recent work. These cars are very simple compared to the later w140 in terms of electronics. The only real advanced technology that commonly goes wrong is the climate control system. Another issue is the self leveling system that is typically on the 560sel's. Look at the forums for all the usual quirks. My advice is to look for a 420sel. The 300se has a very short final drive ratio (3.46?) and mine runs 3600 RPMs at 75 MPH. The v8 models get longer drive ratios that improve their highway cruising abilities. The reason for the 420 over the 560 is that the 420's rarely have the self leveling suspension which I spoke to previously. Spending time (which it sounds like you have) to find the right one is key. I went with the 300 because the car was in such great condition and the price was just as good. The short wheelbase is also nice.