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  1. #1
    nightflier
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    Mid-level car buying advice

    I'm in the market for a mid-level sedan, purchased second hand. I've done a bit of test driving, and as expected the usual suspects top the list: BMW, Infinity, Lexus, Audi.

    I like to drive my cars a bit harder than the next guy and would prefer a stick, but finding one here in cell-phone fairyland is next to impossible, so I'll settle for an automatic (even god-forbid paddle-shifters) if the deal is worth it. Don't care too much for all the techno-gadgetry as I believe that takes away from the driving, but if it's poorly implemented (like with the BMW-7 series) then that's a huge factor to the negative. I have about $30K-ish to spend and was wondering if any of you had some recommendations - would love to heard from across the pond as well. Here are my thoughts/concerns:

    BMW 5-series
    This tops the list, not so much because it's the fastest, but because it handles so well. Love the looks, the creature comforts, it's available w/o nav, and there's occasionally one with a stick out there. What concerns me is reliability and cost of ownership. They tend to have electrical problems and may be more complexly wired than needed. The i-drive is an exercise in frustration too - both times we were given a demo by the sales person they struggled with it - and these guys are supposed to be selling me on this "feature"! I know about the transferable 4-year service plan, but I plan to own this sucker for 10 years, so would like to know that this car will hold up and not cost me an arm and a leg to keep.

    Infinity M-series
    OK, am I the only one who sees that it looks like an Altima? Aside from the looks, I do like it. It's got a lot of get-up-n-go, and handles surprisingly well. Some concerns I do have are the road/engine noise (can this be made better with non-stock tires?), having to choose between the more sensible M35 and the more capable M45, and that Nissan is a bit new to the performance game. Do they do transmissions well and built to last? Do they do AWD well? Does all the technogadgetry last? I'm also going to hard on the looks a bit more - Nissan seems to have stagnated in the last few years and hasn't been able to come up with anything new and attractive design-wise.

    Acura TL/RL
    Hate the looks of the RL, so unless it's a real bargain that's out. The previous TL looks OK, but the new ones with that absolutely ridiculous smile grille make me wonder where Honda's head is at. That's the best they could do? Someone need to get fired. I just can't bring myself to go with Acura - too many compromises - and don't even get me started on the overpriced Crosstour-rebadged ZDX.

    Mercedes CLS
    Now that's a beautifully-designed automobile. I'm no fan of the recent re-design of the whole Mercedes line with those oversized emblems on the front (insecurity issues?), but the previous generation is Jaguar-like sexy without the latter's mechanical nightmares. But that's just the problem - it's too feminine. Of course, my wife loves the car and it's at the top of her list. Performance is fast but handling is typical Mercedes - wooly.

    Audi
    OK, ten years ago, the 6 series was revolutionary and beautiful. Today it is so dated, it makes me yawn. Performance is OK, but nothing to write home about either. The 8 is a bit better but still looks ordinary. Some other concerns I have with the 6 and 5 especially is the cramped interior - huge cars with way too much beef in the doors, sides, and around me. That said, the low road-noise was exemplary. Only the 8 series is roomy, but then I'm left wondering about cost of ownership again.

    Lexus
    The post-2006 LS is near-perfect, but a bit over my budget, even used, so that leaves me with the ho-hum looking GS. Performance is OK, but despite the specs, it just doesn't even come close to the Krauts. If I settled on this car, it would have to be for one awesome deal, and frankly the Lexuses stay pretty pricey.

    Anything I missed? I considered American brands, but frankly they don't even come close. Nothing from Ford or GM impresses, and I'm not ready to drive a Fiat made here.

    Ahem, so if someone owns a Jag and a Rover, can they say I bought myself a nice pair of Tatas?

  2. #2
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I would not buy a used German car unless it came with an extended warranty. Parts and maintenance are very expensive as is the insurance. My brother and his wife live in SCal and drive 350 sereis Mercedes and 5 series BMW's and they complain about maintenance costs and reliability issues. With that being said they still love their cars. I would strongly consider a used Acura TL which compares well with a BMW. The new Acura TSX now is available with a 270hp V6 and upgraded suspension would also be tops on my list.

    I recently bought the brand new Nissan Maxima with a 290hp engine (its a completely redesigned Maxima that was built to compete with the Lexus, Acura and BMW 3 series) to replace my Acura CL-S Type. It blows the Acura away in acceleration 0-60 in 5.8sec vs 6.5 and is better handling. I bought the mid level package and was able to get it for $29,600, down from the $34,000 list price.

    If I had the money though, I would buy the Infinity G37 coupe. Beautiful car, drives well.

    I would also consider the V6 2 door Honda Accord. It basically is an outgoing Acura CL/TL. It handles well, is fast (0-60 about 6.6 seconds) and good looking.

    Another car to look at if you really want a nice handling car is the new Hyundai Genesis V6 coupe. All the car magazines rave about it and say its a BMW 3 series beater.

    The new Ford Taurus SHO is worth a look. 367 hp, very stylish.
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  3. #3
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Have you looked at the Hyundai Genesis? My dad loves his.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  4. #4
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    My experience with Infiniti has been pretty good.

    To address the transmission issue...I've owned three Nissan/Infiniti cars in a row with automatic transmissions and have not had a issue with the transmission. With a 300ZX and a Q45 I had fuel injuector issues. With the 300ZX, Nissan paid to have all of them replaced. With the Q45...when I had an injector go bad, I got that one fixed and promptly sold the car to Carmax.

    My current car is a Q45, so it might be hard to relate it to the M series...and certainly to the G series. The Q45 is a nice car. Its performance is just about insane for a luxury car...especially one with its somewhat stodgy styling. I understand it has a top speed limiter at 155 MPH. I'd never have the guts to test that, even on a track. But I will say this...I was driving along at 110 MPH in west Texas one day, while the wife was reading a book. She hadn't even noticed.

    Besides the fuel injectors, the things I've had a problem with have been the anti-lock brakes on my first Q45...they locked at low speeds on slick streets...and the headlight ballasts on my 2nd Q45...they are notorious for going out. The 300ZX was trouble-free, other than the one bad fuel injector. It was actually not as fast as my 2nd Q45, which I still have.

  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I'm in the market for a mid-level sedan, purchased second hand. I've done a bit of test driving, and as expected the usual suspects top the list: BMW, Infinity, Lexus, Audi.
    ...

    Mercedes CLS
    Now that's a beautifully-designed automobile. I'm no fan of the recent re-design of the whole Mercedes line with those oversized emblems on the front (insecurity issues?), but the previous generation is Jaguar-like sexy without the latter's mechanical nightmares. But that's just the problem - it's too feminine. Of course, my wife loves the car and it's at the top of her list. Performance is fast but handling is typical Mercedes - wooly.
    ...
    The CLS is my favorite based on looks (if nothing else). Handsomest sedan in the world today in my esteem. Absurdly beyond my price point, unfortunately.


  6. #6
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    Have you looked at the Hyundai Genesis? My dad loves his.
    I liked that car alot until one of my friends had mentioned that it looks like an autistic kid on a really fast speed boat.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular frahengeo's Avatar
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    Is reliability a factor? If you haven't already done so, do yourself and favor by reading about this in Consumer Reports. Your local library should carry the Auto edition. When I was shopping for a new car in 2005, the European models did not fare well when compared to the Japanese where reliability was concerned. BMW, Mercedes, Audi/Volkswagen, & Jaguar had really poor scores. I think that it shows in their resale value.
    On the other hand, if it is driving experience that matters to you most, then by all means go for the Mercedes, Audi, or BMW. Those cars are more fun to drive.
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  8. #8
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    Tall order to fill, but I would put my money on the Audi models or the Ford Taurus SHO. If you were looking in the beater area and if you could still find one still in good shape I offer you the Original M3 killer:

    98-00 SVT Ford Contour

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  9. #9
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Hey Flier, this guide is put out by Consumer Report and would probably be of help. The cost is nothing vs. what can be learned from it.



    Personally, I'm not big on Consumer Report. Here in Canada, we have The Lemon-Aid Guide. It's put out by an industry activist, Phil Edmonston. He's like the Canuck Ralph Nader. For $35 it gives me more knowledge than even some bad salesmen have. Great tool.


  10. #10
    nightflier
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    I didn't know about the Lemon-Aide. I'll see if our local B&N carries it.

    Regarding Hyundai, I will never buy one again. I've owned two. The first one, back in college, I knick-named "fall-boy" because things would just randomly fall off (rear-view mirror, back bumper cover, window shade), spring loose (glove compartment cover, seat belt buckle clip) or just disappear altogether like the side view mirror (I seriously doubt someone would want to steal that). What I could still duct-tape together I sold to a freshman even poorer than me with due warnings. The second Hyundai seemed to be better for about a year until one day it just blew up on me, literally. I was driving down the 405 and the explosion blew the hood open, fire came out of the vents and I was seriously burned before I got the car to the side of the road. The insurance company gave me pennies on the dollar for it. What happened you ask? The fuel line caught on fire: a recall that Hyundai was supposed to have notified me about and replaced. Now the Genesis may be a whole new "beginning" for Hyundai, but I'm not risking my life in it ever again, especially now that I have a family. Let someone else be the bean for the risk-statisticians.

    And that brings me to another point. I am thoroughly pissed off at the trade rags because they focus almost all their attention on new cars. Of course the brand new Jaguar XJ, Hyundai Genesis and the BMW-7 are going to be fantastic, they're brand new! I realize they have to cover new stuff to get people to pick up the stupid mag, but a little more realistic reporting would be nice. Hardly ever do you read mention of the maintenance issues with these absolutely horrible models and makes. Thank god for Consumer Reports and the online world.

    I have another question: The wife has discovered Carmax and she just loves the "no haggle" line they throw at you, the fancy website where you can save your favs, and the wide selection. Their prices seem to be pretty good, but something doesn't add up if these guys want to stay profitable. So what's the catch?

  11. #11
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Regarding Carmax...It makes perfect sense to me. They pay average trade-in value and sell at average retail value in large volume. I really think it's a solid business model. There are definitely better prices out there, but Carmax gets a bit of a premium for having you know it's a good car and you're not getting swindled.

  12. #12
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I didn't know about the Lemon-Aide. I'll see if our local B&N carries it.

    Regarding Hyundai, I will never buy one again. I've owned two. The first one, back in college, I knick-named "fall-boy" because things would just randomly fall off (rear-view mirror, back bumper cover, window shade), spring loose (glove compartment cover, seat belt buckle clip) or just disappear altogether like the side view mirror (I seriously doubt someone would want to steal that). What I could still duct-tape together I sold to a freshman even poorer than me with due warnings. The second Hyundai seemed to be better for about a year until one day it just blew up on me, literally. I was driving down the 405 and the explosion blew the hood open, fire came out of the vents and I was seriously burned before I got the car to the side of the road. The insurance company gave me pennies on the dollar for it. What happened you ask? The fuel line caught on fire: a recall that Hyundai was supposed to have notified me about and replaced. Now the Genesis may be a whole new "beginning" for Hyundai, but I'm not risking my life in it ever again, especially now that I have a family. Let someone else be the bean for the risk-statisticians.

    And that brings me to another point. I am thoroughly pissed off at the trade rags because they focus almost all their attention on new cars. Of course the brand new Jaguar XJ, Hyundai Genesis and the BMW-7 are going to be fantastic, they're brand new! I realize they have to cover new stuff to get people to pick up the stupid mag, but a little more realistic reporting would be nice. Hardly ever do you read mention of the maintenance issues with these absolutely horrible models and makes. Thank god for Consumer Reports and the online world.

    I have another question: The wife has discovered Carmax and she just loves the "no haggle" line they throw at you, the fancy website where you can save your favs, and the wide selection. Their prices seem to be pretty good, but something doesn't add up if these guys want to stay profitable. So what's the catch?
    Sorry to hear about your burning session with a Hyundai. I wouldn't buy one after that either if it had happened to me. Something like that is hard to forget. If you are buying new, then the BMW or Audi would get my vote. If you are buying one a couple years old and plan to keep it a while, then I'd vote for the Honda, Toyota or Nissan (or the deluxe models). I had an Acura CL 3.0 for about 9 years. It was a great car and I miss it. Never had a bit of trouble with it. Just let it go last summer because it had 200k mi on it and we had a baby on the way. I'm with you on the new ones though. WTF is up with all the smiley faces? Right now I've been looking at the Subaru Legacy. 4 wheel drive would be nice for me with the two mountains between work & home. Plus it gets over 30mpg highway. The only other car that has both is the Audi but I'm not too sure about getting a 3 year old turbo. How long will that go before needing repairs?

    The Carmax gets you straight to the manager. No commission to pay a Salesperson, and it increases their turnover. Bigger numbers mean bigger kickbacks from the manufacturers.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  13. #13
    nightflier
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    Well I've been getting a lot of feedback (here and elsewhere) and it looks like if I'm buying used, these are the top contenders:

    - Infinity M45
    - Mercedes CLS500
    - BMW 530

    Originally the BMW was at the top, but the maintenance costs are a concern. The CLS is there more because of looks and my wife's insistence on it. Frankly, it's not that bad and still looks better than the Infinity's Altima body. I'll give Carmax a fair shake as well.

    GMichael, I presume you're referring to the 2010 Legacy. The older model was way, and I mean wayy smaller inside. I test drove the Turbo stick, but the noise, understeer and loose handling is a bit of a problem for me. Also, it's rather feature-poor until you add in the good stuff and end up with a near $40K car. I just can't bring myself to pay that for a Subaru.

    Poppa, Lemon-Aid is on it's way to my local B&N. 'Should be good reading.

    Recovery, I test drove several Fords, and aside from the top-of-the-line Mustangs (which are not really practical for us), the performance just doesn't compare. Also, the sedans have impressive new looks, but the interiors feel cheap and low-quality. If I had to buy Ford, I'd rather buy a top-of-the-line Volvo S80, but in the end, I just can't get beyond the idea that Ford is no different than GM and that means that quantity is still the driving force over quality.

    Fra, yes I'm including Consumer Reports in my decision, although their track record on A/V gear is not as impressive. I'm sure if we were on a car enthusiast's forum, we would not consider CR's reporting very highly either.

    Blackraven, I hear what you're saying about German car repair costs, but you have to admit, they know a bit about performance. I have to draw that fine line between driving fun and reliability. That's what makes this so hard.

  14. #14
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    How did you decide between the M45 and the M35?

  15. #15
    nightflier
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    Performance. Several owners have said they liked the G35 better than the M35 because the latter seemed sluggish in comparison, despite the fact that it had more room. In contrast, BMW doesn't make that mistake in the 5 vs. 3-series - I guess that's were manufacturing and production experience comes into play.

  16. #16
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    I asked mostly because I've heard the M35 handles better than the M45.

  17. #17
    nightflier
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    Hmmm. That's odd since they are essentially the same car aside from the engine. I haven't heard that, but I'll have to give that some thought.

  18. #18
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    What I heard was just conversational/anecdotal stuff...no research.

  19. #19
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    Stick to BMW or Mercedes. I drive a BMW and I used to work valet parking so I know what is good and bad. if you wanna drive a good car take bmw or benz.

  20. #20
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    The G35 sedan has a sport suspension and rides like a rock where as the M35 and M45 has a softer suspension and is a larger car. The G35 is really cramped inside for a sedan but it is fun to drive.

    I would still give the 2010 V6 Acura TSX a drive. It's better looking than the new TL and has a nice interior IMO.

    You should check out the reviews of cars at www.edmonds.com
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  21. #21
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    CLS500 as I the number sugests is a 5L (might be more than 5L actually) V8, whereas the BMW is a 3L straight 6. I hear it's one of the lightest 6 cyl 3L engines ever made. The CLS will therefore no doubt be heavier, while outputtng more power. Therefore I'm guessing the BMW will handle better (which is generally true of BMW vs Merc) but won't be as fast in the straights. However, Im guessing you'll get much better mileage with the BMW.
    This is all speculation but probably close to the truth.

  22. #22
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    Here's a link I saw on another car site:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8489200/

    It shows a list of the worst German/Euro cars (luxury line/models)
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  23. #23
    nightflier
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    Well I test drove both new and used new MB CLSs and BMW 5s. The new 5 was a stick and man was that fun to drive. But on the way back to the dealership while my wife drove, I sat in the back of the cars while the salesman sat in the passenger seat. While the 5 felt tighter and more solid, another factor came to mind. The MB, while being a bit more syrupy over all, was also more quiet and comfortable, noticeably so; even my wife felt it. I'm starting to like the MB more and more. I did not notice a real straight-line performance improvement, though, even though it's supposed to have a more powerful engine. Perhaps it was a bit more effortless, but this new wrinkle is warming me to the MB a bit more - ironically, my wife said that the looks of the BMW were warming up to her, lol.

    I'm still waiting to heard the final verdict on Saab. While I realize my car isn't worth much (especially as a trade-in), it has given me a very nice baseline to shop around with. I've been driving it almost exclusively and it really is a marvel of engineering for a 4-cylinder engine to have so much get up & go (253bhp at 2000rpm-ish). And while it does cost a bit more to maintain (probably will continue to get more expensive now), it feels extremely solid, well-built and safe. I took it on the 5 freeway this weekend and really pushed it coming down an off-ramp (well into autobahn going-to-jail territory), and I just love the way is lowers and tightens at high speeds. The next car needs to be able to do that and more. While I really didn't get a good chance to push the Infinitys like that, I don't feel like they can handle it either. I'm going to have to give it another go.

  24. #24
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    It seems you got past the behavior of the people at the MB dealer, then
    Anyway, i'ts good that you're taking your time to choose. If you're going to go MB, you might want to check out their AMG devision cars, just to have a taste. It's usually the top of the line car that boasts the AMG badge, which is the sports devision of Mercedes. Until recently, the MB SL65 AMG was the most powerful roadster with 600+bhp and a mind boggling 1000nm of torque from its twin turbo v12.
    I got a ride in the this very fast C63 AMG on the track last summer for a few laps


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