Saturday, August 16, 2008
All of you with $700 a month car payments on your 5 series BMW's, here's a flash. You are wasting your money. Oh, yeah, and the 5 series cars are ugly, but we'll save that for another post. I hate to bring this to your attention, but mid to large sized cars with hot motors, well designed spacious interiors, heck well designed sporty EXTERIORS and kickin' sound systems are now availalble - for about $25,000. All in.
My favorites are the Ford Fusion and the Chevrolet Malibu. First, both cars are at or near the top of J.D. Powers quality ratings, both overall and in powertrain quality, the two areas I consider critical. The Fusion SEL with the V-6, the sport package (17 inch wheels with Michelin rubber), Microsoft Sync, the upgraded cloth interior (if not the leather) is a tremendous car. The six speed automatic is rarely confused. The Fusion may not quite handle up to my Porsche 911 - but since it holds twice the people and about eight times the stuff, I'll give it a pass. The Fusion handles well enough to put stripes in the undies of your front seat passengers - enter a turn at sports car speeds, no one will expect the Fusion to be able to pull through. The car has little touches that you used to only find on luxury cars - lights to light up the street from under the side view mirrors. The fold down rear seats are a must - it'll hold anything you can put into it from Sam's Club or K-Mart. I had 40 boxes folded flat in the Fusion when I was moving. And very well designed - the releases for the seat backs are in the trunk, not the car. You rarely need to push the seats down from in the car, you need to do it when you're standing at the trunk with something that won't fit. The only thing that will fit in an SUV that won't fit in the Fusion is something big and square - like a old style television (with the large pass through, most of todays' 37" or 42" flat panels will likely make it home).
The steering is even communicative. Yes there is some front wheel drive pull, but when you feel it in the steering and it doesn't pull the wheel out of your hands, the car is telegraphing it's moves to you - you are in charge, not it. The car is also good in snow with front wheel drive, and AWD an option.
The Chevy Malibu finally addresses one of my key criticisms of General Motors cars. The two tone interior is beautiful, good materials and all.
The LTZ, shown at the beginning of this article and below, is striking.
My other favorite is the new Honda Accord. You get classic Honda reliability, and with the leather and aluminum interior, a very tasteful place to spend time.
I'm not as familiar with the details of the Malibu and the Accord - I don't live with one every day, and I don't have the press credentials (yet) to borrow one from the factory. But given the reviews of the Malibu surpass the Fusion, it looks as good or better and it's rated very highly by JD Power, I'm not worried that it's gonna be a winner.
And guess what - virtually no performance difference between your $50,000 (maybe $60,000) German wundercar and the $25,000 variety. The 2008 Honda Accord does 0-60 in 6.3 seconds and goes through the selected slalom at 66.6 mph. The BMW does 0-60 in 5.5 but does the same Edmunds slalom in 65.3 mph. Sally the soccer mom is never gonna notice the difference. The BMW - $61,000. The Accord - $28,000 and change. You can buy a spare for less than the BMW.
Differences - well, I'd like intermittent wipers. I'd like a little more support under my right leg for long trips. No distance sensing cruise control. But I can buy a Ducati's and two Triumph cycles every five years with the money I save. Keep your BMW.