I previously mentioned my hunt for a new car, with prioritied on comfort and good visibility for my 6′ 5.5″ frame, long-term reliability, and performance, with secondary emphasis on price and gas mileage, and the understanding that it may need to accomodate children in the next few years. Here’s my take on the cars I looked at:
- Acura TL – I tried to like it. The styling still calls to me. In the end, it just doesn’t compare to the Infiniti G35, all a matter of taste. The Acura is more of a sporty luxury sedan, while the Infiniti is more of a luxury sport sedan. Sport matters to me, luxury… not so much. Acura is voted off the island. The gas pedal responds slower, and there’s no reason I should pay this much money for front wheel drive.
- Acura TSX – Inferior, smaller brother of the TL. All of the TL’s weaknesses, plus smaller space and less power. No thanks.
- Audi A4 (2.0 CVT) – A blast, even without quattro (AWD) or a bigger engine. The best interior of any car I looked at, and well-engineered ideas throughout. Also had the most legroom due to the broad range of the power seats. I can’t wait for CVT to become more pervasive – it makes so much sense vs. the standard automatic transmission. Unfortunately, Audi’s reliability record and price killed this one. Especially as they sponge parts from the abysmally unreliable Volkswagen parts bin.
- Ford Escape – Good legroom. Abysmal performance from the 4 cylinder necessitates the V6 engine. Handles great for a small SUV. One of the 3 vehicles that made my short list (shared platform w/ Mazda gives acceptable reliability).
- Honda Accord – my first victim of the “stop light problem”. At my height, when in this car at a stop light, I have to slink down and tilt my head sideways to see whether the stop light I’m at is green or red. If I’m buying anything more than a value vehicle, this isn’t something I want to deal with. Bye bye accord.
- Honda Pilot – Visibility problems of the accord with worse legroom. I expected better space from an SUV. Oh welll.
- Infiniti G35 (sedan) – Fun to drive rear wheel drive sedan. Good legroom and visibility, and fun to drive. Gas mileage isn’t great. 2005 has a great interior compared to 2004 model. A bit on the pricey side. Also makes the short list.
- Mazda3 (5 door) – very nicely powered sporty compact. Definitely the best value for money of anything I saw. Very narrow legroom and a gas and brake so close that my size 13 shoes tried to push both at once knocked this out of contention. Wish I fit – would be a great ride at a great price.
- Mazda Tribute – slightly better handling cousin of the Ford Escape. On the short list as a couterpart of the Escape.
- Nissan Murano – Nice looking smallish SUV, but the handling is mediocre and the CVT is far less refined than Audi’s. The fit is okay, but it feels like I’m driving an oversized, overpriced, hard to handle Nissan Altima. DQ’d on bad value for money and blah handling.
- Subaru Legacy (GT Limited) – An absolute blast to drive. 250 HP and full-time all-wheel drive on a direct injection engine make for an enjoyable, if a bit cramped and spartan ride. Scared my wife on this test-drive while pushing the limits of AWD. Everything it lacks in polish, it makes up for in fun and responsiveness. The more raw driving experience tells you exactly where you stand on the road.
- Toyota Camry – Thought I’d give my former ride a chance at being my next ride. Though it looks roomier, it has the same “stop light problem” as the Honda Accord, my old Camry, and my wife’s 626. Like I said, turning my head sideways at each green light isn’t worth my dollar.
- Toyota Highlander – Once again, the SUV actually fits worse than the company’s sedans. In a rush to accomodate a 3rd row of seats, the front legroom on this is possibly worse than a Ford Focus.
So to recap, the short list came down to the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute, Subaru Legacy, and Infiniti G35. The best looker and driver, with a premium on price, was the G35. It matched the Tribute and beat the Legacy on driver space. I decided the Legacy wasn’t worth the slightly cramped space, no matter how fun. The Escape/Tribute lost out on minor reliability concerns, and the fact that the G35 gets much better performance from similar gas mileage.
Make no mistake, I’m looking to pay nowhere near the $35k sticker price of a well-equipped new Infiniti G35. I decided I’d prefer a new G35 to a new or used Escape or Legacy. I’m probably actually picking my choice up tomorrow, so I’ll conclude part 3 with my shopping process and maybe a photo or two of the new ride, an Infiniti G35 Sedan.