Ask Bark

Ask Bark In the Real World: Will Somebody Sell Me a Vette?

Some of you have been reading this site for a long time, and for that, I’m thankful. You might remember that I used to fly around the country to drive and review readers’ cars. It seems impossible that I wrote this post almost six years ago, but it’s true. On that day, I had taken a flight to Baltimore to do a pilot workshop for Autotrader, and was picked up at the airport by a loyal reader and soon-to-become new friend, Gene.

We had a marvelous time hooning around in his brand new Chevrolet SS. I think it was one of the first, if not the first “ Reader Ride Reviews” that we did on this site, a feature that I sorely miss. Seeing the pride that readers had in their own cars and watching their eyes light up as they saw what their cars were capable of doing in the hands of a (slightly) trained driver was always a delight.

Well, imagine my delight and surprise when our formerly SS-owning friend Gene emailed me out of the blue last year. He had read my commentary on the C8 Corvette and invited me to try out his new C8 when it arrived sometime in February. I gleefully accepted.

Well, we all know what happened next. First, there was a strike. Then, there was a virus. Gene began to suspect that his C8 would not be built in time for his delivery date — and then, perhaps not at all.

That’s when I had an idea.

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Ask Bark: Something About a Benzo

Let it be known: I’m not a fan of buying used cars. If you have ever read anything I’ve written, you’ve probably noticed that I nearly always encourage people to go with new over used, especially if the person asking the question lacks the time and capabilities to fix minor issues on his own. However, there are cases where buying used makes a lot of sense, particularly with models that experience extreme depreciation and have a good deal of anticipated longevity.

Today’s question deals with exactly such a situation. Or does it? Read on.

Hi Mark,

I love your columns and always look forward to reading them. My question for you:

I love cars but I am a very deliberative buyer. My wife and I usually drive our cars for at least 10 years if possible, maybe more if the car is holding up. My last car was a 2005 Lexus LS430. I loved that car, but it was finally getting too old and showed signs of impending unreliability. I recently sold it and got a 2018 Avalon. Not my dream car by far, but it is a solid ride until I can give it to my son when he turns 16 in a couple years.

When it comes time to hand down the Avalon, I want to buy a car I really want. Here’s what I really like in a car: rear wheel drive, V8, large luxury sedan. I also place a high value on reliability. I was settled on getting another big Lexus after my previous one, but I am kind of turned off by the lack of V8. Something about a large barge with a dinky V6 doesn’t sit right with me.

My original dream car of my impoverished youth was an early 90s Mercedes 560 SEL. What I am contemplating doing in a couple years is getting a Mercedes S-Class that is a couple years old (probably an S560 by the time I’m ready to buy).

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Ask Bark: Which Used Mustang Is Best Used Mustang?

I’ve been writing at TTAC for nearly eight years now, longer than just about anybody here, save for Sajeev and Murilee. I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go in that time, but one thing is consistent: y’all love Mustangs. My very first post was about my own Mustang, and since then, I’ve come to realize that if I want a guaranteed click winner, I can just put the word “Mustang” in the title. (Another sure winner? Anything about Accords, and not the type that were signed in Sokovia.)

As such, today’s Ask Bark feels a little like throwing a wounded hemophiliac into the Shark Encounter tank at Sea World. Nevertheless, here we go.

Our dear friend Luke writes:

Hi Bark,

I want a Mustang. I’ve had Camaros, I’ve had a Challenger, I’ve had other muscle cars and sports cars. But I’ve never had a Mustang and I want one.It has to have a V8. I’d like for my wife to drive and enjoy it too, so it probably has to have an automatic transmission. That’s okay.It will be used for some amount of commuting during the non-snow months, weekend back road drives, and maybe one to three track events per year. Not competition, just open lapping or driving schools.It will be stored during the winter. This will be a third car.I have a nice garage, tools, and some level of wrenching skill so I’m comfortable doing maintenance “bolt-on” type mechanical upgrades if necessary. This seems important in the Mustang world.The budget is $25K for the car itself. A little less would be better but $25k is the top.I’m reaching out because when I go on the web there are just so, so many used options. So many variations in trim and equipment. The car has changed a lot very quickly and I haven’t really kept up. So I put it to you…for my $25K which Mustang is best Mustang?I have thoughts.

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Ask Bark: When Ask Bark Happens In the Real World

You would think that I would know better by now, right? That after literally years of doing this whole “What Car Should I Buy” thing (which sounds a lot like the name of a series on a competing blog that started after “Ask Bark” become the most widely read feature at TTAC), that I would realize people always take immense amounts of my time and virtually never follow my advice. But when I had a close friend ask me for help with buying a car for his wife, I mean, of course I said that I’d help. As I recently saw a fellow automotive writer say, I guess I’m a “gluten for punishment.”

Sounds painful.

Not because I actually expected them to take my advice, of course, but because this was going to be a chance to actually negotiate a deal in person. And if there’s one thing Ol’ Bark loves, it’s going toe-to-toe with a car dealer — it’s literally my favorite thing to do. Since I’m not planning to buy a car any time soon, this would be the next best thing.

So here’s the situation: my friend got married a couple of years ago to a young lady from his home country of Colombia, who is relatively new to the States and doesn’t have much credit history. Unfortunately, prior to this, my friend had also gone through a nasty divorce which caused him to declare a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so they were in a bit of a pickle when it came to financing. They had bought an older Nissan Versa for cash last year, but the transmission was on its last legs, and the cost of fixing the car would have been 2-3 times the actual value. Buying that car had eaten up nearly all of their cash on hand, so they needed to find a cheap, cheerful, and reliable car that would allow her to build up some credit history and also provide solid transportation — all for less than $250 a month.

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Ask Bark: Why Won't They Buy Back My Lease?

As I look at all of the questions I’ve received via the Ask Bark inbox over the years, I find that a disproportionate number of them are on the topic of leasing. In all honesty, leasing isn’t that hard to understand. You’re paying the cost of depreciation over the time you use the car, plus interest. Of course, there are other factors involved, and one of those is what happens when a leased car is returned to the dealership. Our friend, Brian, a longtime TTAC reader, turned in his Buick Regal recently and was a little compuzzled (that’s a word my son made up, but I think it fits perfectly here) about what happened. Let’s read.Hi Bark:I had previously asked this to a certain Jalopnik car sales expert and got a bit of a glib, didn’t really read my question answer so I thought I would take another stab and reach out to an actual expert.Back in May I turned in a leased 2016 Buick Regal GS (FWD – auto – black) and I got stuck with the $495 disposition fee. I took over the lease from someone else and I got a pretty darn good deal so I really can’t complain too much.I took the car to several GM/Buick dealers toward the end of the term to see if they wanted to buy it. It was in good shape and it was almost 10k miles under the maximum. The residual was $19k and change plus taxes and fees. I knew I wasn’t going to make money on it, I really just wanted them to take it at residual and relieve me of the disposition fee obligation. The closest offer I got was $18k with most around $16k. One dealer told me they would pay the leasing company the residual themselves in order to keep it on the lot if they wanted to sell it.Is this true? The dealership I turned it in to wouldn’t buy it from me but they kept it and sold it on their used lot. Did they actually pay the leasing company the residual to keep it and if so, why not buy it from me at the same price?Can you enlighten me?Thanks,BrianCan I? You bet I can.

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Ask Bark: Let's Make A Deal (On Leftover Inventory)

When it comes to getting a deal on a new car, I’ve definitely been at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve paid MSRP for cars that were selling well above (see: Boss 302, Focus RS), and I’ve negotiated like crazy to save thousands below sticker, too. But my best deal I ever got was on a 2004 Mazda RX-8 that was still on the lot in June 2005. I ultimately paid $23,000 for a car that had an original MSRP of $31,500.

It wasn’t easy.

It took visits to three different dealerships, multiple return visits to the dealership where I actually purchased the car, and some, er, creative paperwork on the part of the dealer to get the deal through financing (I signed up for a LOT of credit cards on Ohio State’s campus when I was a student. Don’t judge me, they were giving away 2-liters of soda). All in all, it took about three weeks to get the Sunlight Silver RX-8 touring to its permanent home in my apartment complex’s garage.

But if you really want to steal a car, buying the previous model year is always a great way to get an initial win, especially if you plan to keep the car past the majority of its depreciation curve. Today’s Ask Bark deal’s with just such a scenario, but will our shopper be able to find the deal he wants? Click the jump to find out.

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Ask Bark: Breaking The Cycle Of Negative Equity

When I was in high school, many moons ago, I had to recreate an historical debate in front of the class as part of a project for my American History class. I was assigned to take a “pro” position on the Three-Fifths Compromise (I don’t imagine that these sorts of things happen much in high school today). My opponent in the debate was a young lady who was, shall we say, a little different. She didn’t have many friends, she was socially awkward, and I’m not entirely sure that I’d ever actually heard her speak before.

We picked numbers out of a hat to see which one of us would go first, and she won. Right from the beginning, it was evident that things weren’t going to go well. She starting mumbling, inaudibly repeating the same thing over and over. Our teacher, a kind, and gentle man, asked her to speak just a little bit louder.

“Three fourths of a person, that’s all they were. Three fourths of a person!” And then she broke into hysterics and ran out of the room. The teacher sprinted out the door after her, returning after a few moments.

“Now, everybody,” he began, “Mary (not her real name) is our friend. When she comes back in the room, I ask each of you to treat her as our friend.” Let’s be honest. She wasn’t our friend. But in that moment, thanks to a kind word from our teacher, we did our best to treat her as one.

Here at Ask Bark, we get a lot of emails. As the curator of said emails, I do my best to answer all of them personally, even if I can’t dedicate precious ones and zeroes to them in this space. Some of them just aren’t interesting enough for me to dedicate an entire column to answering — it’s often as simple as “Don’t go to that dealer if they’re pulling that garbage on you,” or, “No, it’s never a good idea to spend all of your money on a used German car that’s out of warranty.” Stuff like that.

But every so often, I get an email that both excites and terrifies me, because I know that there is sufficient content within for a good column, but will also likely expose the writer of the correspondence to the combined vitriol of TTAC’s Best & Brightest. Today is such a day. So, everybody, Tom is our friend. After you’ve read his email, I ask each of you to treat him as our friend.

Here we go.

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Ask Bark: Did I Throw Away The Key To A New Car?

If there’s one thing I loved about spending time in the offices of General Managers and dealership principals, it was hearing about the harebrained schemes they had to bring customers into the dealership. GMs see an average of 80 or more vendors every single month — there’s always a new piece of software, a new way to buy inventory, even a new way to wash the windows. Invariably, due to some combination of pressure to meet unrealistic sales goals and the attractiveness of the sales rep, managers would fall for something that would make me shake my rather large head in disbelief.

The tough part was always maintaining a straight face when they told me about their plans. One of my fondest memories was listening to a GM explain that he had canceled all of his third party advertisers and ordered two Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubemen. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see that the store was out of business 90 days later.

But one of my all-time, tried and true favorites is the “gypsy sale.” Click the jump to see our friend Greg’s question about these direct mail pieces and whether or not they actually work.

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Ask Bark: Why Don't Dealers Just Make Better Deals?

“I’ll tell you something.”

Normally this sort of phrase is followed by, well, something. But the grizzled old dealership veteran seated across the desk from me seemed to be sizing me up a bit, seeing if I was worth the time it would take for him to dispense some of his six decades’ worth of wisdom. After a deep sigh, he must have decided that I was, because he continued.

“This is the worst business. The absolute worst. I invest $30,000 to make $500 — if I’m lucky. Even Vegas would give me those odds. If I had any sense at all, I’d liquidate every car on the damned lot and put all of my money in the stock market. If I had done that at the beginning up the year, I’d be up a couple of hundred grand right now.”

I sensed that I was supposed to say nothing. So I did just that, silently encouraging him to continue.

He noticed my obedience and nodded gently. “Of course, I’d never do anything of the sort. I was born into it, you know. I’m a little bit older than most people think. My father opened the first of the Japanese stores here in (undisclosed state). Then he opened another one. I opened the first Korean store. And now look at me — master of all I survey, owner of ten points.

“As much as I want to get out the business — as much as I wish Daddy had never even thought about buying a car lot — I can’t. But you, young man, you should get out now. I mean now.”

It only took me about seven more years to follow his advice. I am officially out of the car business — kinda. I still have clients who have automotive clients. But I don’t directly sell to car dealerships anymore, which is why I have no problem pulling back the curtain in answering this next question from our friend and reader, Bart.

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Ask Bark: Don't Call It a Comeback

Yes, dear readers, I’ve missed you. More importantly, I’ve missed your questions and the opportunity to provide my occasionally helpful feedback. So we’re rebooting the “Ask Bark” column, which will run approximately as often as I have time to write it (hopefully 3-4 times per month). But I’m going to be doing things a little differently than we were doing them before.

While I’m still happy to answer your “What Car Should I Buy” questions (which is, coincidentally, the name of a series on a competing site that is probably in no way, shape, or form a ripoff of the original “Ask Bark”), I also want to answer more of your “how do dealerships work” questions. A recent job change has moved me outside of the world of directly selling advertising to dealerships, so I no longer feel that I have any conflict in revealing all of my dirty little secrets to you, the people. So if you’ve ever wondered exactly how a foursquare works, or why you never seem to be able to get KBB Excellent for your trade-in, or anything like that, shoot your questions to barkm302@gmail.com.

And if you’re a recent TTAC convert, you’ll get the idea after reading today’s question, which comes to us from long-time reader and commenter, Sobro. Click the jump and let’s get to it.

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Ask Bark Brief: What's as Great as a G8?

Cory writes:

My 2009 Pontiac G8 GT is finally getting to the mileage where a replacement may soon be needed. It has 103,000 miles on the odometer but still runs fine and has not been abused. Just the random aging that comes with a high mileage car that I’d prefer not to deal with (headliner coming down, seats lacking support, ride getting softer, leather on steering wheel coming off, side mirror motors not working, dents and dings). I’d love to go the SS route, but can’t support the price tag. I need four doors and like larger vehicles — new Chevy Malibu Hybrid, new Mazda 6, Acura TLX, used Volvo S60 (doesn’t hold resale), used Maxima (ditto)?

I know, none will be as fun as the G8 (I love it), but it’s time to update.

Ugh, this letter depresses me. Why? Read on.

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Ask Bark Brief: Midlife Crisis Sedan?

Mattias writes:

I’m doing my responsible midlife crisis thing, and I’m wanting a V8 sedan. My budget is around $40,000, and I’m looking at used examples of the Lexus IS-F, Cadillac CTS-V, and Chevy SS.

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Ask Bark: Ordering Vs. Buying Off The Lot?

Dave writes:

Should we get a better deal on a special order car vs taking one off the lot? The dealer wants MSRP and won’t budge giving us some story about special orders affecting his allocation. We can’t go to another dealer because the other Lexus dealer in town has the same owner.

We’re looking at an IS 300. The reason for special order is my wife wants an exterior/interior color combo (from the standard colors) that the dealer can’t find in any U.S. or inbound inventory searches.

She’s flexible on other options, just has to have her color combo and is willing to wait for approx 90 days to get it.

Thanks,

Dave

Dave, you seem like a sensible guy, and not a dope fiend at all. So let me drop some knowledge on you about how dealer allocation and special ordering works.

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Ask Bark: The Thrill Is Gone (Or Will Be Very Soon)

Charles writes:

Dear Bark,

The 1986 silver, manual Accord Yokohama company car I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on in rural Ohio still comes to me in my dreams as I’m nigh on middle age. Here I am back in Ohio, and I’m sitting on the theoretical cash for my ’15 Golf TDI. My neurotic self vacillates far and wide: country boy F-150, Tacoma, Fusion Sport, Mustang GT, Civic Type R, Accord V6 Touring? My wife will have the family hauler, but I need something fast and mature that will occasionally accommodate my milk-chugging sons.

My wife says I’m too old for a civic, and she thinks a truck is “trying too hard.” The joy of the car fantasy ceases as soon as you drive one home. This is my struggle: once I choose the car I lose the potentiality. What’s my problem? What’s my car?

Oh, boy. Here comes some tough love. Buckle up.

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Ask Bark Brief: #screwthemanuals

Nick writes:

Hi Bark,

I’m a #savethemanuals sucker. My daily driver and only car is a damn Miata Club six-speed, but I’m getting married in a couple of months and my fiancée is not so stubborn. I’ve taught her how to drive stick, and she’s pretty good at it, but it’s not her thing. Driving really isn’t her thing, in fact. She doesn’t now have a car. When she used to live in a part of the country where you need a car, she had some plain Kia or whatever. Her only strong preference is for smaller cars over larger ones, as we live in a dense urban area.

Let’s say for argument’s sake I knock her up in the next 12-18 months. We’ll be in the market for another car. I wouldn’t be the primary driver, but I’d drive it often enough. She wouldn’t mind if it’s “fun and nice.”

I would keep buying stick shifts until they stop selling them, and I’d resent any car if I could have in a stick yet passed on the option in favor of a CVT. Still, I understand that’s not how the world works. I think the best compromise, then, is to get a car that isn’t available with a manual transmission.

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Ask Bark Brief: The Death of an Ion

Alexis writes:

I give advice to everyone about what to get and not get, and yet I’m finding it impossible to decide for myself.

I’m a moderately successful realtor living in Toronto, and my 2005 Saturn Ion is about to give up the ghost. Yes, I know, an enthusiast driving an Ion doesn’t really make sense, and I admit it’s a car for people who just gave up — that’s why I bought it four years ago.

Alas, it’s time for something else.

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Ask Bark: To Focus ST or Not (Plus An Update!)

Tommy writes:

I love reading your columns, and have a question that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. for seven years, about half of that time without a car. I’m planning on getting a raise soon, and with that, I’d like to buy a car. And not just any car, but an adult car that I can rely on to start when I need it, and not constantly have to wrench on the little things that break.

For so long now, I have wanted nothing more than a Focus ST. Everything I’ve read about them just screams to my inner child, and at 29, I think I can still listen to him because I’m not expecting a family any time soon.

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Ask Bark Brief: I've Got The Power (Or Do I?)

TJ writes:

Greetings Bark,

With a growing family, it’s about time for me to move out of my 2007 Frontier Crew Cab into something more family friendly. The crew cab has been great transporting our toddler, but we’re planning on having another one, and I don’t think the backseat will work for two little ones.

After a long search that has included newer midsize pickups without much more inside room, full sized cars (namely Impala, LaCrosse and Azera — nice car, horrible seats), I think I’ve settled on a V6 Accord. I have my grandfather’s old C10 for pick-up stuff once I get it running again, and my father is interested in buying my Frontier, so trade-in won’t be a problem.

I’ve test driven the Accord twice, and the dealer is absolutely pressure-free; which my wife and I appreciate. BUT…the dealer only has three V6s in stock — all standard, easy-sell black or silver. I prefer Honda’s Obsidian Blue, and the salesman said getting one shouldn’t be a problem. Am I setting myself up to get taken if I email him requesting the blue one?

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Ask Bark: Where Is The Dealer Screwing Me The Most?

Kori writes:

Hey, Bark! I’m a 37-year-old woman with a couple of financial degrees and a decade of experience in the world of money, yet I still dread going to the dealership. I know that they’re screwing me but I just don’t know how, and that’s the worst part. I don’t object to the dealer making his fair share of money (I’m a capitalist after all), but I just wish that there was a way to know how they were making that money, and where.

In your experience, where do most customers get the shaft in a car deal, and how can it be avoided?

Thanks for your question, Kori. Most customers feel uneasy about the whole purchase experience for this very reason. Let me see if I can help you feel a little better about it by breaking down the various money aspects.

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Ask Bark Brief: Should I Buy New Or Keep On Fixing?

Brian writes:

Hi Bark,

I’ve been a TTAC reader for a couple of years now and you seem to be the guy for the right advice here. The wife’s six-year-old CUV with 160,000 kilometers is showing signs of a problem that the dealer couldn’t reproduce, but said will cost upwards of $1,800 for parts (if I am right about it). This is after a different repair last year that cost over $2,000. I am wondering if now is the time to replace the car while it still has some trade value. My wife’s argument is that a repair still costs less than a year’s worth of car payments, but my counter is that a predictable car payment is easier to deal with than an unexpected large repair bill. This is especially true given our first child is due very soon.

I understand some people are serial leasers, but we tend to keep our cars well beyond warranty. So, when is the right time to replace a car?

Thanks‎!

160,000 kms? Hold up — let me get my Canadia-to-Trump calculator. Whoa — that’s only 96,000 miles! Which FCA CUV does your wife own?

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Ask Bark: Bad Cars That Are Actually Good

Thom writes:

Hi Bark,

Your RC F article got me wondering: what are some of the cars out there you think are actually good, enjoyable cars that get crapped on for no good reason other than inherent bias and/or groupthink in the automotive world?

I always wonder what’s out there that’s actually decent, if not outright good, that everyone seems to think is garbage. (Notwithstanding that sometimes everyone thinks a car is garbage because it actually is.)

This is gonna be fun.

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Ask Bark: What's The Best Sporty Sedan For Me?

Nate writes:

Hi Bark,

I like to know your opinion on the subject matter of the email. My ideal car is a reliable all-wheel-drive, full-size sedan with more than 400-500 horsepower, similar 400 lb-ft of torque, decent average fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon, and it’s made by Honda/Acura with all the safety features (lane keep assist, front collision mitigation, blind spot detection, etc).

However, that vehicle does not exist, and I have a budget of $55,000 out the door.

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Ask Bark Brief: Crazy For Considering A Great Car?

Ryan writes:

Hey Bark,

I’m in the final year of my lease on a 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T and the itch to start shopping for my next car has kicked in. Ownership has not been perfect. CUE annoys me on a regular basis, the 2.0T noticeably shakes the car at idle when the engine is cold, it’s been recalled four times for its sunroof, and its automatic transmission is way too eager to up shift. While my wife loves how quiet and smooth the car is, I am a bit ambivalent. The handling is great, but the car itself lacks character when you cane it.

I’ve owned an E46 BMW M3, both eighth and ninth generations of the Honda Civic Si, and a Toyota MR2 targa top in the past. Recently, I put a refundable deposit on a 2017 Subaru BRZ with a manual transmission in hopes of getting back into something that’s a bit more raw, but it seems Canadian customers are not receiving some ’17 updates and my wife hates being a passenger in it.

I was eyeing the new Chevrolet Camaro SS, BMW M2 and used Porsche Caymans when, on a whim, I test drove a 2015 Lexus RC F.

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Ask Bark: G37S, IS350, 335i, or … Chrysler Two Hunnert?

sportyaccordy writes:

Hey Bark,

My current ride is a manual Civic sedan, which I’ve modified but in which I’ve lost interest. It’s just not powerful enough, and I think I want something a little more relaxing for the daily grind. I commute about 400 miles a week and offspring are hopefully coming in the near future. I’ve grown to accept that my next car may break my all-stick-shift streak (six since 2003). I don’t want or need all-wheel drive as I live in the South.

So what do I want?

Well I definitely want a sedan; preferably a smaller one. I definitely want something with six cylinders and liters no less than three by the Lor’t’s decree. I also don’t want to spend more than $20,000, so it will obviously be used. It wouldn’t hurt to have a decent aftermarket—I want to lower the car and put an intake and exhaust on it. The obvious choices to me are the Infiniti G37S, followed by the previous-generation Lexus IS 350 and BMW 335i.

Still, I just can’t shake the idea of at least checking out a 2015+ Chrysler 200S. Why?

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Ask Bark: How To Quench My Vehicular Wanderlust?

James writes:

I seem to find myself in an endless car-buying cycle of “I’ll finally be content if I buy X car”; get said car, get a year into ownership and dammit — I want a different car! Buyers remorse at its finest.

I don’t know what it is when it comes to cars, but I seem to have this blind spot for knowing what the heck I really want in the car, unlike everything else in life. Sigh.

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Ask Bark: Beater For The Kid, Bimmer For Me

Doug writes:

Hi Sanjeev,

(OH FFS)

I am coming up to a time that many of us must face. My son is about to turn 16 and will need to have his own ride. Currently, we own a 2012 Toyota Highlander that my wife drives, and a 2013 Honda CR-V that I drive. I am currently scheming to dedicate the CR-V to my son and then my daughter as they begin driving, then buy something for me to enjoy driving for a while. My sights are set on a used 2008-2012 BMW 328 that is in the 70,000 mile range. I have always wanted something like this, but would not be able to afford a new one.

So here is my quandary: my wife likes that the CR-V is well rated on safety and that it is not too powerful of a car. But, she and others think the car is too new.

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Ask Bark Brief: How Important Is the Dealership Experience?

Jeff writes:

I recently started shopping for my first new car in a decade. I have looked at Infiniti, Audi, VW, Cadillac, Genesis, Tesla and BMW.

Something that really stuck out about the process was the different dealership experiences. The quality and happiness factor of each dealership seemed to coincide with the price of their cars.

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Ask Bark: Living On The Edge - But Which One?

Michael writes:

For the past decade my daily driver has been a 2007 F-150, now sold. It’s time for something lighter and smaller to drive around the city in, not having enough need of a truck any longer to warrant keeping one. As an example of the drastic downsizing we were wanting to do, initially we’d ordered an Escape, believing it to be large enough to meet the need.

When that didn’t work out as planned, we revisited the decision and decided to order an Edge instead. The extra couple of inches in every dimension makes for a much more livable vehicle for two large people and a dog, without sacrificing much suburban city maneuverability. Neither of us liked driving the Explorer much, and we don’t need the interior space offered by the Flex. We’ve decided on a fully loaded AWD model with all the latest electronic gadgetry as this will be another decade long ownership experience.

So the problem isn’t so much what vehicle to buy, but what engine, as the Edge is available with three.

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Ask Bark Brief: How To Replace Something They Don't Make Anymore

Austin writes:

Bark,

For the last two years, my daily driver has been a used 2006 Audi A6 Avant (bought outright in cash). Living in Minnesota and attending college in a rural part of the state, it’s the ultimate vehicle. It swallows 4 people and gear for a spring break Chicago vacation, gets through the snowstorms, and has heated seats and steering wheel. It even averages 24 mpg!

However, its mileage has reached the point where it’s no longer economically feasible to hold onto (repair-wise) going into the spring of 2017. I’m trying to hold off until used car prices fall, because of lease returns. With a budget of $15,000, I’m hoping to get five-plus years of use out of my next vehicle. My search has gravitated towards larger vehicles that are kinda low-volume players (with a slightly better reliability record) like the Lincoln MKT, Toyota Sequoia, Lexus LS/GX, Volvo S80, etc. Something bigger and a little more cushy. So, what do you recommend?

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Ask Bark: Should I Buy a Stick Sight Unseen?

Alex writes:

Hi Bark,

The lease on my BMW M235i runs out next summer and I’m looking at options for my next car. I’m mostly considering the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R, and Volkswagen Golf R, but also the Ford Fiesta ST (since you’ve praised your FiST so much) and Ford Mustang GT (because it’s a Mustang?).

I don’t really like the Golf R because it’s the only car on this list that doesn’t have Recaro seats and, well, it looks almost identical to the much cheaper, baseline Golf.

I contacted my local Ford dealer about the RS and they urged me to put down a $2,000 deposit since they don’t get many units and they’re selling fast.

My hesitation: I’ve never really driven a manual car outside of iRacing (online racing simulator) and an hour I had with a Corolla with 170,000 km on the clock, so I’m not sure that I’d like to drive a manual every day.

What do you think would be my best course of action?

Sincerely,
Alex

Alex, my friend, sit down. We need to talk.

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Ask Bark: Hot Car In The City

Micah writes:

Hi –

My wife and I live in New York City. For most people, this would mean no car, but our neighborhood isn’t on subway lines, necessitating wheels for errands, and we often leave the city on day trips. Our car – a ’98 Jetta – has needed nearly $2,000 in repairs over the past 18 months (and repairs are necessary, at an increasing rate), so it might be time to move on. We both agree that the best car for us is a Mercedes-Benz GLK Bluetec (yes, we test drove the previous generation), but that’s more for when we plan on moving out of the city next summer. We sorta need something until then. What are our options?

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Ask Bark Brief: Talk Me Out of the Lexus I Want

Mike writes:

If you were shopping for a reliable, full featured, cheap to own, and generally “good” car, why would you not get a Lexus? I’ve been struggling with this question for the better part of a year now.

The problem: I need a car I’ll drive every single day in God-awful urban traffic. There’s little to no fun had behind the wheel in congestion. No using the sporting personality of whatever machine I’m operating. The only reasons I want a Lexus are for the comfort and peace of mind that come with one, along with working AC and a great stereo that’ll truly brings out the subtleties in Jad Abumrad’s diphthongs. Since I can’t afford nor really want a brand new car, I’ve been looking at used.

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Ask Bark: Keep The Xterra Or Have A Fiesta (ST)?

John writes:

I guess I have some dumb questions here, but first some context: I’m 22, a recently certified teacher who can’t find a teaching job (thanks Obama and/or Chris Christie?). I have a full-time job as a line cook in the interim that pays Not A Lot but will suffice for the time being.

I currently drive a 2011 Nissan Xterra. It’s OK. It does things in an OK manner. It drives OK. It gets OK gas mileage. It’s just so… OK. It’s boring and I miss driving something even remotely interesting. I bought it after I wrecked my bright douchebag yellow 2006 Mustang GT because I thought I wanted to get into camping and off-roading. Well, best-laid plans of mice and men and all that. I don’t do any of these things and therefore I have a truck that, while competent and thoroughly OK, doesn’t really excite the senses.

I’d like to get into something different and I’ve been test driving a few different things to that end like a Fiesta ST and a Mazdaspeed 3, which I fell particularly hard for.

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Ask Bark: Cold Fusion or New Hotness?

MrKiwi writes:

I’m currently driving a 2011 Ford Fusion with 80,000 miles. It’s good, reliable, and utterly boring. I’ll have it completely paid off in a couple of months. Here’s where I’m going to get myself into trouble.

The responsible thing to do would be to keep the Fusion and enjoy a paid-off car. But …

While driving a rental car recently, I remembered how much I enjoy a manual transmission. There are also a couple of times a year when I could use the extra capacity of a hatch. I’m starting to look at the listings for lightly used Ford Focuses and Mazda3s with manual transmissions, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun?”

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Ask Bark: First Car For A Car Girl

Lichtronamo writes:

Hi Bark,

I’m starting the process of finding a used car for my daughter who turns 16 in September and will (hopefully) get her license afterwards.

She’s 5’3″ and about 90 pounds, so a B- or C-segment car would be right in terms of size. She’s also listened to me go on about how great it is to drive a manual transmission since she was born, and believes this to be a fundamental need of any car purchase. Our budget is upwards of $10,000 with driver safety the other primary criteria. Fuel economy and reliability aren’t negatives. While I should probably zero in on finding a nice Corolla, I’m looking for an out-of-the-box choice with some car-guy (and girl) cred. Golf? Mini? Mazda3?

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Ask Bark: Quick Bites

When we started doing Ask Bark earlier in the year, I had no idea that it would grow into a weekly column, nor did I know that it would become the most popular series on TTAC. It’s rare that an Ask Bark is not the most-read post of the day when one runs, and I know that has very little to do with me. Rather, it’s an effect caused by the great readership of this site. Without your questions and your responses, this column wouldn’t exist. I thank you for continuing to send your questions and for your continued participation.

As a result, I have over 200 unanswered questions sitting in my email inbox. Not all of them require a full thousand-word response, so I’m going to tackle a few of the shorter questions today. Oh, and the hero image is just a pic of my son with the vehicle he designed for Disney’s Test Track that I’ve wanted to use. Click the jump and let’s help our fellow readers together.

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Ask Bark: Is The General's Benefit Worth the Pain in the Tax?

An anonymous GM employee writes:

I have a field role with General Motors that affords me the luxury of driving (mostly) anything in The General’s portfolio. I can choose from any brand except Cadillac, and can’t drive a Corvette or pickup (because of retail demand and limited supply). I’m 22 with student debt down into the low four digits. GM pays for gas, insurance, and incidentals like oil changes and winter tires because I need a car to do my job. I live in a snow-heavy state where I’m expected to do around 30,000 miles a year for business travel alone. Finally, I switch out cars every four months because that means it remains eligible for new vehicle incentives and programs when it’s sold back to the dealer at a big discount.

Here’s the catch: the vehicle is considered a taxable benefit.

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Ask Bark: What's The Conclusion To My Saab Story?

Kevin writes:

Here’s my struggle:

I’m a Saab fanatic. Fanboi. Devotee. Whatever you want to call it. It’s a total #saabobsession. I’m currently driving a 2001 9-5 sedan, a 2.3-liter car that my wife and I have owned since new. I also own a 2006 9-3 Aero convertible, and I’m the vice-president of our regional Saab owners club. I’m in deep. We do have a 2011 Ford Flex Ecoboost as the main family hauler.

My 9-5 has just 118,000 miles on it, and has been meticulously maintained. For the first ten years of its life, it was my wife’s daily driver. When we got the Flex, I inherited it from her, got an ECU tune and upgraded the suspension. It’s nothing extreme, but it’s fast enough, plenty of fun, reliable, and I don’t worry about where I leave it parked.

A couple of weeks ago, the 9-5 started leaking oil onto the driveway. I took it to my good friends at my local Saab repair shop, and they told me that a seal needs to be replaced behind the timing chain cover, maybe between the head and the block? Whatever, the important takeaway is the repair estimate: $2,400. It also needs new brakes ($600), and a new clutch is on the horizon ($1,700) as the car’s still on its original clutch and it chatters when cold. So, here I am looking at over $4,500 in repairs on my beloved 9-5. Those repairs exceed the cash value of the car, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t think it’s worth sinking that kind of money into it.

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  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.