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Car Corner
New Car Possibilities

April 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis

It has been a while since I looked at the prospects for my next new car. Since I am pretty sure I am 2-1/2 years away from making that buying decision (I expect to get a new car in fall of 2007) I thought I would look at the current crop of cars, a few cars due out soon, and maybe some crystal ball gazing at some cars not due out for a while.

This month I am just going to list the cars I am thinking about for my next "new" car. This is a bit premature, because I still want to get a classic old car, and I need to think how I can swing two cars... for the price of one. Tune in next month for more details on that.

Budget

I always try to set a budget when shopping for a car. I have already limited myself to approximately $30,000. I might go higher, but it will have to be a very special car to get me to go above 30K, and if I go over thirty large for my primary car I will be waiting until it is paid off before getting a classic old car. We'll see. Keep in mind that the average price of a new car is pretty close to $28,000, so I am not being unrealistic.

Top or Topless

Long time readers know I love convertibles. I have written in the past that I would be better off with a new convertible while leaving the coupe chores for a classic car. I have pretty much written off getting a classic convertible. They cost too much and make far too many compromises to be an enjoyable daily driver. Any new convertible I would consider would have to be as quiet as a coupe or I will stick with a solid roof. I also need to have a power roof that can be completely operated from the driver's seat. No funky gymnastic maneuvers to latch the roof to the windshield.

Warrantee vs. Mileage vs. Value

I am concerned that I am putting about 24,000 miles a year on my current car. That means if I buy a new car with a 3 yr/36,000 mile warrantee I will only have that "blanket of protection" for about a year and a half. If I buy a car with a 4/50,000 warrantee that only gets me two years of coverage. Remember, my mileage is "highway" miles. The kind of miles that are most mild to a car.

This has me wondering about an extended warrantee. The majority of people who buy extended warrantees do not get their money's worth. This is a huge profit margin for dealers and the like. But in my case it really is an insurance policy in case of a major repair while still making payments on the car.

The flip side is to buy a used car. I know, this is supposed to be an article about what new cars I want. Look at it this way, I could buy a car that is two years old. Maybe find one with low miles (under 20K) and get an extended warrantee. This means that hopefully any initial issues could have been dealt with and my "highway" mileage will not be a burden. Also, keep in mind that when I am ready to buy in late 2007 some of the "new" cars I mentioned below (Mustang) will be two years old in the marketplace. I must consider this possibility. Also, the used car option might be necessary if I am going to try and buy a classic car as well as a "new" car.

My Current Car

I have decided I will keep my 93 Camaro no matter what. It is a reliable car that is worth more to me in my driveway than the cash I could get for it. I am fully expecting my sons will be driving it to high school and college. I just pray they don't wrap it around a pole or something. Someday I may want to restore it to like new condition. Who knows, maybe it will be worth something when it becomes a classic. It is half way there already.

Lets get on with the possible new cars I am still considering.

Ford Mustang

I have written about the new Mustang before. I was very disappointed with the use of a rigid rear axle (no independent rear suspension, or IRS). If Chrysler can put an IRS under the Dodge Magnum and 300 why can't Ford do it for the Mustang. Well, it is a moot point now. Everything I have read said that Ford did a great job with the suspension, even without the IRS. They will probably add an IRS to any SVT models, but will there be one. I heard the SVT Lightning (based off the F-150 truck) was cancelled. SVT doesn't produce a large volume of vehicles, and the SVT Mustang was supposed to share engine components with the Lightning. Does this mean an SVT Mustang will not happen. Maybe.

Let's stick to what we know and what I can afford. The Mustang GT has a base price of $25K and it seems perfectly reasonable to expect one to sticker for $27-28,000 with a decent number of option. I have seen a convertible listed in a magazine with a sticker price of $31,000. I don't know if I want to go that high for a Mustang. I am also not completely sold on the idea of a convertible Mustang. I would have to drive one to see how quiet and rattle free it is. I don't mind giving up a little weight, and performance, but I need a quiet and comfortable interior.

The Mustang is very high on my list.

Shelby Mustang

Just a few days before posting this article news came out that Ford showed a new Shelby Mustang at the New York Auto Show. Oh My Gosh! 450 horsepower, a 6 speed manual transmission and classic Shelby stripes. Need I say more. O.K. I will. This would be a dream come true. I understand it will start at around $35,000. There goes my budget... and any hopes of getting a classic car before this beast is paid off. I love the idea. I would definitely maintain the condition of such a car (except for mileage, I will still put around 20K on it a year), because it will surely be a classic someday. Check out the New York Auto Show yourself to see this car.

Mini Cooper

Talk about convertible quagmire. I love the cute little Mini convertible. I tried to price out a Mini Cooper S Convertible on their web site. I was already past the $28,000 mark when I stopped. My guess is that a Mini Cooper S would cost at least as much as the Mustang in coupe format. Is the Mini going to be as much fun for me as a Mustang? That is a very good question. I could see be careful with the options on a Mini Cooper S with a solid roof and keeping the price under $25,000. But maybe I should give up on performance. I already decided I am definitely keeping my 93 Camaro Z28. I will probably let my kids drive it when they come of age. Surely if I need a speed thrill I can drive that. Maybe I can live with the standard Mini Cooper without the supercharger. Maybe a Mini Cooper convertible is the way to go. Just a great daily driving convertible as a reasonable price, with decent gas mileage to boot.

Hemi

That's right... HEMI! Not a specific car, but something with a Hemi. I like the 300C, but do I really want something that big. I like the Dodge Magnum RT, but again, do I want something that big. How about the upcoming Charger with a Hemi. Hmmm. I really like the front end of the Magnum RT... better than the new Charger. I will have to wait until I see a Charger in person to be sure. Chrysler has hinted at a coupe version of the 300 and even a 4 door convertible. Let us not forget the barrage of SRT-8 cars that will have a 425 horsepower version of the Hemi. I would really like that... if I can afford it.

By biggest problem with the Hemi cars is the lack of a manual transmission. Also, a Hemi powered anything will force me over $30K. That means no classic car for a long time.

Pontiac GTO

This is a difficult one. The GTO sucks. O.K. It doesn't suck, but it is totally uninspiring. Plus, the 05 Mustang with 300 horsepower is faster than an 04 GTO with 350 hp. The 05 GTO with 400 hp is slightly quicker than the Mustang, but at what price. Why doesn't the GTO smoke the Mustang with 33% more power?

There are two big reasons for considering the GTO. 1) It has the independent rear suspension lacking in the Mustang, and 2) the GTO is supposed to be redesigned for the 2007 Model year. I will be ready to buy at the end of the 07 model year just as the 08s start hitting the showroom floor. The GTO is over my 30K budget, so getting it would mean drastically postponing buying a classic car. I just watched an episode of American Muscle Car were they covered the new GTO. This car is good, but is it better than the Mustang? Is it so much better than the Mustang to justify spending $5-8,000 more than an equivalently optioned Mustang? Is it better than the Hemi powered cars that I would be shopping it against? These are important questions I will be asking myself as I test drive these cars.

Pontiac G6 Convertible

The new Pontiac G6 convertible is going to have a retractable hard top. Wow! Like a Mercedes. I drove a G6 at GM's Auto Show In Motion, and found it to be a pretty decent car. Lots of potential. If they can refine the car a little, and put in a smooth engine with enough power I might consider this car. I would expect coupe like quiet with the top up. I am concerned with the warrantee on this car. I drive almost 25K miles a year. With a 36,000 mile warrantee I would be on my own for repairs in a year and a half. If there are any issues with that retractable top I could be screwed. This car will actually get me to think about an extended warrantee.

I really like the idea of this car. A retractable hardtop in a decent American car. I would not be getting a performance car here, but it should hopefully be sporty enough and a great convertible. Only time will tell if this car pans out to be a good car. I have my hopes up for this.

Pontiac Solstice

This is going to be Pontiac's Miata killer. In case you don't think so... just make note of the fact that the next Miata due out for 2006 is getting a 170 horsepower engine. The Solstice is supposed to get a 170 hp motor. Coincidence? I don't think so. I really like the styling of Pontiac's new sports car. I also understand they may put out a supercharged version with 240 hp. Wow!

In the past I have said that I could not get a two seater while I have to take my two boys to school in the morning. Well, by the time I buy a new car my oldest son will be in middle school (junior high to you Yankees). I may only be taking one child to school in the morning. This opens the door to the possibility of a two seat sports car.

Mazda MX-5

They say not to call it a Miata anymore. Too bad! The new Miata will get a bigger, more powerful engine (see above). It is supposed to recapture the simple sports car it was in the early 90s. Gee, that's what the Pontiac Solstice is going to do. I see a serious comparison car shootout coming. Car and Driver, I can hardly wait. As an American I am rooting for the Solstice, but if Pontiac screws it up we can always look to Ford's Mazda division.

Honda Accord Coupe V-6

I generally like the Accord Coupe. It is decent looking and gets decent performance with its 240 hp V-6 mated to a 6 speed manual transmission. Buying a car like this would be to lock in a reliable car for the duration (kids through college) and hopefully be able to get a project car going at close to the same time.

Chevrolet SSR Pickup

I know... I have dogged this vehicle in the past. They left it under performing with only 300 horsepower to push over 4500 lbs. around. The retractable hard top is a an expensive gimmick. The lid over the bed of the truck is not removable. And this thing is damn expensive. So why is it here. Because I hope that Chevrolet will come to its senses and make a normal pickup out of it. By normal I mean removing the lid over the bed, and having a regular metal bed floor. No carpeting. And a fixed roof. If that retractable top is so expensive can you image how fast this "El Camino" like pickup would sell if it had 390 horsepower (new for 05) and was priced just below $30,000.

It would sell like hot cakes. Hey, Bob Lutz, are you listening? Put a fixed roof and an open bed on this thing and sell 70,000 units a year... easy. Maybe even a 100,000.

Conclusion

The Shelby Mustang came well after I wrote this article. It really does change everything. My old mechanic in New York is a huge Ford fanatic. He has already informed the dealer that he has known and trusts for decades that we are both interested. Hopefully the cost will not be to far over budget to drive me out. I really like the idea of this future collectible car.

Next month I will address a different perspective on the new/classic car situation.

Stay tuned...

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