Ask Bark: Time to Cart Off the Cartier
I’m currently driving a car that’s outlasted jobs, girlfriends, friendships, an Obama presidency and a Harper administration. I am rolling in a 1998 Lincoln Town Car Cartier — and boy do I love my ride!
From my pic, you can see “Mitzi” is a well taken care of lady. 446,000 kms later, I still love her as much as I did when I bought her. However, after 18 years, the undercarriage (despite yearly rust proofing, thanks southern Ontario winters) is becoming brittle and I feel like I’m getting repairs on a bi-weekly basis. If not for this being my first car, I would have moved on a long time ago. Aside from heated seats, a gold dash analog clock, a six-CD changer in the trunk and an unmistakable ride, it offers little else (aside from being insanely dependable for most its life).
My question: What should I get next?
My only stipulations:
- $15,000 or under
- 2010 or newer
- Comfortable and spacious
- Fuel economy on par or better than my beloved Town Car
- Lack of intensive, obstructive, or complicated technology
Some technology is okay. I can handle UConnect on a bad day and Cadillac’s CUE on an exceptionally good day with all the time in the world.
I’d buy another Panther in a heartbeat, but they’re difficult to find in good condition.
Careful, sir — your little lady hasn’t outlasted Barry S. yet! Martial law could yet be declared if The Donald wins PA, OH, and MI. Also, words cannot describe how creeped out I am by the photo above, which you attached to your e-mail.
Looks like you’re writing to us from the Great White North, what with all those mentions of kilometres and whatnot. I assume, therefore, that you’re talking Canadian dollars. I used my Canuckistan-to-Freedom calculator to determine that $15,000 Canadian equals about $12,000 American, so that’s the barometer I’m going to use for my recommendation.
You’ve also provided an interesting set of qualifiers. I figure that your Town Car probably gets a combined 19-20 mpg, based on the data available from Fuelly. So what’s less than $12,000 USD, gets decent mileage, is comfortable and spacious, has non-invasive tech, and rolled off the line during this decade?
One car immediately springs to mind — but before I get there, let me go through a few options with you.
If you’re willing to go back to the beginning of the decade, a 2010 or so Subaru Outback might be a good way to go. I would imagine these hold their value very well in Southern Ontario, but in my home state of Kentucky, 2.5i Premiums can be had with less than 100,000 miles right around that $12,000 target. You’ll get all-wheel drive for those lonely Canadian winters (I assume that they’re lonely), and the fuel mileage should easily exceed that of your Cartier. They’re plenty spacious and comfortable, too, and the tech is completely non-invasive. However, it won’t be as luxurious as your Panther.
For good fuel mileage and great value on a relatively unloved car, why not look at a second-generation Scion xB? You’ll get a bulletproof motor, a spacious interior, and just enough tech to make life a bit more modern. Not only that, you can find extremely low mile examples within your price range — maybe even low enough to help you get another two or three presidents out of a car (more if Hill-dawg kicks it, fewer if she declares herself emperor). However, it’s going to be a pretty low-powered car, and won’t chauffeur you around in the style in which you’ve become accustomed.
You could even go with your car’s spiritual successor. A 2010 Ford Taurus Limited can be had under your target, and while they aren’t rear-wheel drive, or spacious, or great on gas … actually, never mind. That’s a terrible idea. Nobody should buy one of those.
So what’s my obvious answer? The W-Body Chevrolet Impala V6 LT/LTZ. They’re so cheap. LTs or LTZs are available in your price range with low miles and leather interiors. You’ll get that big, floaty American car vibe that you’ve loved for a long time, and you’ll have 305 horsepower to boot. You’ll be able to coax 31 mpg out of one on the highway. Most importantly, there’s no reason to suspect that car won’t be on the road for decades to come. The W-Body is low tech, and everything that can break on it is a relatively easy and well-documented fix. (Not to mention, you’re buying local. The Impala Limited, which is the previous-generation W-Body Bark is talking about, is still built in Oshawa. —Ed)
If you choose to go that route, there will be an endless supply of them available, so you can afford to be picky and get exactly the color/package combo you want — but beware the fleet vehicles! I’ve personally hooned the hell out of some V6 Impala rentals. They can break the front wheels loose from a standstill without much effort, so any rental is likely to have seen some abuse.
I think once you get behind the wheel of a W-Body, it will feel very much like home to you. Send Mitzi off with a proper celebration, and then go Impala shopping.
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