Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I could drive one of those...

As you may have figured out by now, cars occupy a lot of my thoughts. And not just the cars that I have owned, or do own, but cars I might own. Anyone can dream of a new Ferrari or a vintage Aston Martin, but what about practical real cars?

At any given time I have a few cars in mind that could join my current fleet if one of those fails, the families' needs change (this happened recently), or my wife and I just want something else. Here are a few cars I like in the affordable range...

2005-2008 Acura TSX
Some of you probably know this, but the TSX is actually the European spec Honda Accord. Gussied up with an Acura interior and the top range 200 horsepower VTEC four cylinder engine, they are a very nice ride. Under strong acceleration there is some torque steer and the rear seat is a little tight compared to Camrys and Accords, but the overall driving experience is outstanding. These are tight, well-built, and attractive cars.

I prefer the first generation TSX. Starting with the 2009 Acura went all samurai in their design language and I just don't like the heavy front end and needless overstyling. The first generation's styling is clean and simple.

Full disclosure: my daughter and her husband have a TSX. I find excuses to drive it when we visit.

2002- 2009 Toyota 4Runner

I consider the vast majority of Toyotas to be soulless automotive appliances. Sure, they used to be rugged and reliable. But that's no longer true compared to other cars available today. It bothers me that people still think  they are great cars and buy them simply for that reason, passing by Fords, Hyundais, and Mazdas that are just as reliable and well-built, and far more interesting in terms of design and performance. But I digress...

A few years ago on a business trip to Houston I wound up in a rental 4Runner for a few days. That truck amazed me. I don't know that I have driven a vehicle better screwed together and solid this side of an older Mercedes. The standard 4.0 liter six cylinder was more than adequate and it was easy to drive around town. Looking more closely I was surprised to learn that the Japan-built Toyota weighed in at only a little over 4,000 pounds, fairly lightweight for a vehicle as large and as solid.

The 4Runner's styling is attractive, tall and sleek. The interior is just simple truck, with lots of space and big dials and knobs for everything. The exterior features a smooth and industrial look with a few graceful curves that serve to make it seem trimmer in width than the truck really is. And of course the optional rear spoiler is cool. I'll take a later production (2007-10) Sport Model in red... Sport gets you a fake hood scoop!

A few other cars from my ongoing interior monologue include the BMW 335i sedan, MazdaSpeed3 hatchbacks, either of the Ford Bullit Mustang models, and the Fiat 500 Abarth.

What cars catch your eye?


  1. The Pontiac G8 GT is a car I wouldn't mind owning. They are fast, good looking and it goes around curves too. To bad the economy tanked and took many auto brands with it. Pontiac was starting to produce a few interesting cars.

  2. Agree! Any time GM shoves a Corvette engine into a sedan good things are bound to happen.

  3. From a styling perspective, I have always liked the Scion tC. Good thing I don't have a taste for electronic music and skinny jeans.

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  5. When I daydream about cars I hope to own the list is topped by hugely expensive vintage and exotic motors, although I can populate the "I could drive one of those" list with any number of twitchy high-strung mounts without resorting to automobiles with six and seven figure price tags. Here are some of the highlights:

    The Mini Clubman S probably tops the list. Having grown up in a family that always had English cars and being a recovering Land Rover owner you'd think I'd have learned my lesson....

    The Alfa Romeo 164 has always intrigued me. It's the most modern Alfa in the States, although the styling hasn't held up as well as that of German sedans of a similar vintage. I may also be the the only Alfa Romeo owner in the US that only has one Alfa in the garage.

    I also ascribe to the opinion that Japanese cars are soulless and completely devoid of character, but the Renault-Nissan Alliance of 1999 has resulted in the development and release of some interesting vehicles. It must be the Gallic influence. There are even a couple of these Sino-Frenchist hybrids I have even considered at various points.

    Infinity G35 Coupe (2001-2007) Even though it wasn't introduced to the North American market until 2003 I had the opportunity to drive one in either 2001 or 2002 thanks to an acquaintance who works for Nissan NA. Their marketing folks decided it would be a good idea to send an entourage to Monterey for the classic car weekend to test reactions to the G35. They parked in the paddock for Concorso Italiano across Valley Greens Drive from the Lamborghinis. The blue G35 garnered a significant amount of interest, much to the chagrin of the Countach owner across the road.

    Nissan Versa (2004-2012) For all intents and purposes the Versa is a Renault Megane. For anyone in the USA who would consider buying a French car, this is your voiture.

    The Nissan Leaf (gasp) Yes, I have had a momentary thought of an automobile without an internal combustion engine. It must have been the Leaf's introductory commercial playing on my heartstrings. Damn Nissan, their polar bear and their emotional blackmail.

    Scion FR-S. The styling is evocative of the Toyota 2000GT Coupe. The 200GT is the exception exception to Mr. Moore's hypothesis that Toyotas are "soulless automotive appliances."

  6. I still cannot fathom Toyota's decision to brand that wonderful sports car an Scion alphabet soup, rather than the obvious Toyota Celica. If Toyota;s goal was to bring younger drivers to the brand, why didn't they just bloody well do that?

    As for the Mini, several people I know who have very nice cars tucked in garages daily drive a Mini Cooper S. Most interestingly, a friend with a trophy earned at Pebble Beach drives a Fiat Abarth to work every day. There are great, fun cars for sale on dealer lots today, far more than ever before.