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Car Quest 2004 - Do you own any of these cars?


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#1 of 28 OFFLINE   Jonathan DA

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Posted January 05 2004 - 07:52 AM

It's getting time to replace my aging 98 Honda Accord LX, so I have started to hunt for a new car. When I bought the Accord I was looking for something that was going to be a good, solid, reliable car with a low total cost of ownership. I'm pleased to report that it has been exactly that, with only one mechanical (clutch) problem in 88K miles. This go round, however, I'm looking to move up a bit. I still want reliability, but I also want a more performance oriented package, nice styling, and a few luxury features I couldn't afford last time. Specifically, I'd like to have dual climate controls (I'm always hot and the wife's always cold), leather, and a satellite navigation system. I'd like a tiptronic/manaul shift mode automatic transmission if possible but I'll settle for a regular automatic if needed (I like manual transmissions, but all the stop and go driving around Austin is getting old). A quiet ride is of paramount importance, I'm tired of road noise on long drives, and I want to be able to hear the quiet passages in music without having to crank the stereo. Budget is limited, so there will be no BMW 745's, instead I'm looking to stay as near $30K as possible.

The contenders:
Acura TL
Audi A4
BMW 325i
Cadillac CTS
Honda Accord EX V6
Infiniti G35
Mercedes C230 Kompressor
Nissan Maxima SE
Saab 9-5
Saab 9-3

I plan to test drive all of these in the coming weeks/months leading up to my purchase. Comments from current owners are happily encouraged, I'd like to know other people's thoughts on preformance and reliability. I think there are some archived comments as well, so I'll look those up too.

First report:

Nissan Maxima SE
On paper I really like this car. Plenty of power, nice exterior styling, all the options I want, and a price that comes in around $33K loaded. Unfortunately, when I sat down in it at dealer I wasn't at all impressed with the dashboard layout. What was Nissan thinking? The cheaper Altima has a much nicer look. Silver painted plastic does not a sports sedan make. Luckily on the road the car proved to be more my style. Acceleration was fast and easy, though the automatic's down shifting was a little rough. I liked the manual shift mode. Coming from a 5-speed, the manual mode made me feel more at home. The seats make you feel like you're sitting way up high though, kind of odd, because from looking at the outside of the car the driver appears normal. In short, nice car, wish the downshift was smoother, lame dashboard/console.

Saab 9-5 Aero
While normally outside my budget, I get a supplier discount on this car that brings it back into my price range. On the outside it looks like a fairly good sized car, however the interior felt a little small. The dash/console layout was okay, though a little cluttered looking. This feels like a very gadgety car even though most of the other models have the same features. The ride was nice and tight, the turbo charged engine was fun. There was more wind noise than I expected; it sounded like it was coming from the air flowing around the front pillars. When idling you could feel the engine vibrations in the steering wheel and seats. This bugged the wife but didn't bother me. The seats we rather stiff and both my wife and I felt that our hips were a tad sore after only 20 minute drive. That would probably improve over time as the seats molded to our bodies. Overall, though, I really felt this car should have a more refined interior and luxurious feel for its price. The only thing that really set this one apart is the air conditioned seats.

Cadillac CTS
We looked at both the Luxury and Luxury Sport models. The first time we looked at the CTS we were in a hurry and just took a quick 5 minute drive. I think the exterior styling on this car is very cool, but I have heard others disagree. To each his own. The interior is also very refined, the dash and console layouts are functional and attractive. Seats, both front and back, are very comfortable. Kudos to Cadillac on a well done interior. Curses for the stupid steering wheel design! The wheel is thicker and a larger diamater than most others, which is no big deal, just took a minute to get used to. The real problem is that it doesn't telescope, it only tilts, and then only has a few stopping positions. The first drive I felt very uncomfortable with the whole thing, I felt like I was reaching for the steering wheel instead of it being right there. I pretty much ruled out the car because of it. However, at my wife's urging we went back the next day and I played around with the controls for a while and landed on some settings that were pretty good. We took off for another drive and this time I was much more at ease. The Luxury and Luxury Sport models do handle somewhat differently. As expected, the sport model seemed to stick to the road better, had less body roll, and a slightly rougher ride. I preferred the sport ride over the luxury ride, but I really need another drive with both to determine if the handling improvements are worth the extra $2K for the sport package. The biggest drawback to the CTS at the moment is the price tag, $42.8K with sport and navigation packages, though I am eligible for about $4.5K worth of incentives, so that helps, but it's still at the high end of the price range.

I'm off to CES this weekend, but in the next couple of weeks I hope to do at least one or two more test drives.

Comments welcome...

#2 of 28 OFFLINE   DavidMich

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Posted January 05 2004 - 08:22 AM

Go for the new redesigned Acura TL. You will not be disappointed....

I drove one, and was VERY impressed. They certainly have done a great job on the redesign....it's beautiful inside and out.Acura also has the hands-down best navigation system on the market.


It's got 270hp, manual shift mode, and dual climate control. There's a bunch of other standard features, too much to list here, and you can bet the resale value is huge. And I don't have to tell you about Acura/Honda reliability.....top-notch.
The choices we make define our lives, because choice, not chance, determines destiny.

#3 of 28 OFFLINE   LDfan

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Posted January 05 2004 - 08:30 AM

Look at the Acura TSX. Fully loaded with the Nav system will run about 28k. My wife has had one since April and it's a nice car.


Jeff

#4 of 28 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 05 2004 - 09:24 AM

I own an Acura TL, which I chose over a Lexus, BMW 3-series, and the Mercedes C series, which were on my short list. I have also driven the Cadillac CTS, another fine car.

For me, the Acura came closer to a performance sedan with the fine car features that were important to me (leather, etc.) than any of the others except the BMW. And as the BMW cost a bit more and I felt was a bit more cramped in the rear, I chose the Acura. I got the navigation system, which both my wife and I love now, but which we both thought was a bit of an expensive toy when we got the car.

The TL does not have dual climate controls (though the ’04 models may), but they do have individually heated front seats, so your wife might be OK. The TL does have an automatic that you can shift manually (except the first upshift from 1st to 2nd), though I’ve become mostly satisfied with it in full automatic mode.

I love this car, but I’m sure that the others on your list would fit the bill as well.
¡Time is not my master!

#5 of 28 OFFLINE   Todd Hochard

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Posted January 05 2004 - 09:36 AM

Another vote for the Acura TL. I own a 2002 TL-S, and I'm dying to upgrade to the '04. I'm too much of a tightwad, though, so I won't.

The engine is basically the TL-S, which is silky-smooth, quiet, and rev-happy. It pulls like a turbine all the way to the 6900rpm redline. 3rd gear full-power passes on the highway are a hoot for a family car.
The '04 has the very-nice Panasonic-designed DVD-Audio 5.1 system as standard. It sounds lovely, much nicer than my decidedly average Bose system. I'm so happy that Acura strayed from Bose, that I feel compelled to buy the new model on that basis alone, simply to encourage them.Posted Image
They also come with 6-speed manual, but you don't want that.

Probably the best road feel in any front-wheel-drive car I've driven. My '02 is pretty nice in that regard, as well, for having 260hp going to the front ('04 is 270, mainly due to intake tract and compression bump from 10.5:1 to 11:1).

Todd
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#6 of 28 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted January 05 2004 - 04:12 PM

I'd go Acura TL, 2002+ Maxima, or G35. Do you have a family Jon? The G35c looks sweet & comes with 280 horses, but only has 2 seats.

I'd like to recommend the Audis but only their A6 line is comparable to the Japanese cars, and they're way overpriced.

Test drive the TL and tell us what you think.

#7 of 28 OFFLINE   Howie D

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Posted January 05 2004 - 08:12 PM

I have the Infiniti G35 Coupe. It actually seats 4 but not comfortably. My fiance and I also just purchased an Acura TSX. The TSX has a much nicer interior than the G35 but the seats in the TSX are a little thin for my taste. We looked at the '04 TL and if I was in the market for a new car that would be in my top 5.

#8 of 28 OFFLINE   Jonathan DA

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Posted January 06 2004 - 02:44 AM

Scott, no family, and no plans for any kids, but we're leaning towards a sedan because we like to entertain and it seems like we're always piling people into cars to go to a show or out to eat, etc.

I'll see if I can get a TL drive in over the next week. I considered the TSX, but its 4 cylinder seemed iffy to me. Looks like you have to rev that thing way up to get real power out of it.

#9 of 28 OFFLINE   Shawn C

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Posted January 06 2004 - 04:25 AM

If it were me, I'd go for the SAAB 9-3. IMHO, it a real looker.

It's a unique car and you won't see them at every stop light. From all of the reviews that I have read, it's an outstanding car.

#10 of 28 OFFLINE   Matt DeVillier

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Posted January 06 2004 - 03:25 PM

Jonathan,

Test drive an A4. I'd recommend the 1.8T model with the CVT transmission or the 1.8T FWD tiptronic, with either the sport or ultra sport packages. While most people associate Audis with their Quattro AWD setup, on the 1.8T it adds 250lbs and you lose more power in the drivetrain (since you're powering 4 wheels instead of 2), so I'd stick with the FWD models. Quite possibly the cleanest looking car of your group. Audi interiors are the industry standard - functional not gadgety, and oozing of quality and fit-and-finish. If the 1.8T seems a bit slow, a $500 aftermarket ECU program will boost it ~35HP and ~70lb-ft of torque, making it an absolte joy to drive =)

and yes, I am a bit biased:
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#11 of 28 OFFLINE   Jonathan DA

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Posted January 06 2004 - 04:59 PM

Matt would you take a 1.8T FWD over a 3.0 AWD, or just over a 1.8T AWD?

#12 of 28 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted January 07 2004 - 01:25 AM

I bought an '04 Accord EX V6 a few weeks ago, and looked at similar cars as you. Reliability and cost were my primary factors in reducing the list. My budget was about $25k. Some thoughts:

I wanted a moonroof and the Nissan Altima had too little headroom. It also allowed the most road noise through the cabin, in my estimation. Maximas pre-'03 also had too little head room with particularly cramped backseats, and seemed noisy. They area also less zippy than the updated Accord. New Maximas are out of my price range. So I dropped the Nissan Altima and Maxima. Since the Infiniti is essentially a more expensive Nissan, I removed it from my list.

I did not consider Saab or Cadillac at all. Cadillac seems to have a poor reputation and is still an "old man's car".

Mercedes' and BMW's reputation have suffered lately from reliability problems and I didn't think their lower-cost models were worth their still-heady prices.

The Acura looked fun, but it's fundamentally an expensive Honda, so I ignored it and looked at Hondas. (They were a consideration when I was still looking at used cars, though.)

Audi's are very attractive but have poor reliability reputations and are very expensive. You can get a 1.8T moderately equipped for about $25k, but that was not of interest to me. They are also rather small cars with cramped back seats. And I find the interior controls confusing.

The VW Passat is a better deal than the Audi, with almost all the features and substantially lower price. While a very comfortable ride, it lacks the zip of the other new sedans. I also thought the interior control layout was a total mess with particularly bad radio design. The steering-wheel radio controls and trunk-mounted CD changer would have driven me batty. And it's still a pricey car with a middling reputation for reliability.

The Mazda6 was a lot of fun, with a very well designed interior. This was my #2 choice.

The Camry was nice but felt a bit too "old man" for me.

The Accord V6 was the best compromise in price, features, and performance. The V6 is quite zippy while still getting decent milage. The interior design is sensible with almost all controls in smart places and easy to reach. It had almost all the features I wanted, lacking heated side-view mirrors and AWD (but the FWD traction control is competent). The interior is relatively roomy with adequate headroom even with the moonroof. I didn't opt for the Nav system. The stereo is nice, if not the best. I really like the in-dash CD changer. The cup holders and storage bins seem abundunt.

Some negatives:
Leather seats are cold! I don't know why these are considered "luxury". I think I'd be happy with non-heated cloth seats. Or even better, heated cloth seats. But "luxury" cars have "luxury" seats.

I forsee the LCD display in the Accord having problems after a few winters.

The detente for the shifter is at D3, not D. This makes no sense; I don't know why D3 would be the default instead of (over)drive. At least it doesn't have the maze of a gate that Nissan and Mazda have.

I like the Accord. It's a good all-around performer and should age well. Good luck in your search!

#13 of 28 OFFLINE   Craig

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Posted January 07 2004 - 01:29 AM

I've got a 2003 BMW 325i and I love it. I had previously owned a 1989 525i that I bought new. I wasn't that impressed with it compared to the Acura Legend. Not a bad car mind you, just that the value to cost ratio was not impressive in my mind. I almost didn't test drive the 325i due to my memories of the 525i.

I've owned Acuras, Maximas, 300ZXs, etc, so I've been a big fan of Japanese cars. The 325i seems to be right up there in terms of build quality. It's very tight, fit and finish are first rate, just a very high quality auto.

The 2.5 liter engine with the 5-speed has plenty of power, it really feels like there's a bigger engine in there. Of course I'd love to have the 330i but don't feel I made much of a compromise with the 325i. Handling is terrific and the car is quiet and comfortable. It really eats up the miles on the interstate but it's also fun to drive around town.

The only negative is interior space. It's fine for one or two people, but I'd consider the back seat suitable for only for short trips or occassional use. There's not a lot of cubbyholes for things like sunglasses or cell phones.

So, two thumbs way up for the 325i from someone who was skeptical before test driving it. I've had it 3 months and enjoy it more every day. I traded a two year old Honda Accord EX V6 coupe and have never regretted it for a second. The 325i is smoother, quieter, and handles better.

BTW, I had a friend who went to look at the '04 Acura TLs, he found them in very short supply. In fact there weren't even any available until Feb. The best he could get was an offer to sell at the sticker price on the TL with the navigational system, and $700 off sticker on the regular model. In spite of that I'd definitely be looking at these based on the reviews in the car mags.

#14 of 28 OFFLINE   Matt DeVillier

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Posted January 07 2004 - 02:18 AM

Jonathan,

it depends on if you're going to "tweak" the 1.8T. Stock vs stock, the 1.8T FWD is slightly slower than the 3.0 AWD (~10HP). Getting the ECU reprogrammed changes that quite a bit in favor of the 1.8T. Even stock the 1.8T feels like it has a bit more pep, but it could just be that I like turbocharged engines.

It's a bit early to judge the reliability on the new A4's since they were completely redesigned in 2002. I haven't had any problems with mine in the 1.5yrs I've had it. Depending on how long you plan to keep the car it may not even be an issue, as the A4's 4yr/50k warranty basically covers everything except tire wear, and all scheduled maintenance is covered.

The back seat is large enough for 2 adults to be comfortable on short trips. I find the interior layout and controls to be almost perfect. I only had to look at the manual once or twice. I'd have to disagree on the Passat being a better deal, simply because Jonathan said he was looking for a performance oriented package. A Passat 1.8T with leather and sunroof will run you ~23K, and doesn't have a sport package option, which means you'll have to go aftermarket (whereas the A4 offers this as a package for less). And there's a big difference in handling between the sport/non-sport A4's.

#15 of 28 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted February 13 2004 - 03:00 AM

Reviving an older thread. I was going to start a new thread on this subject but did a search and lo and behold, a thread with the same set of cars we're interested in purchasing!

I've looked at the Volvo S60 and Cadillac CTS so far. I have to disagree with another poster in that I thought the CTS interior was cheesy. The seats were great but the dash just looked cheap to me.

I'm very interested in the BMW 325i however I have a concern on how a rear wheel drive car will perform in the nasty winters up here. Also, I'm interested in hearing perpectives on the BMW 325xi (the AWD model).

Besides the BMW 325i, really want to check out the TL and G35. The Volvo dealer admitted that they can't compete with the Japanese makers on price so I might end up going Japanese.

My wife is opposed to even looking at Audi since she is replacing a horrid VW Jetta. we'll never buy another VW again. It never had mechanical problems but many electrical issues and problems with molding fallking off.

Lastly, I'd really like to stay around $30,000 and it seems doubtful that we can get into a BMW at that price since everything is an option, including auto transmission!? Acura really seems to load up the vehicle. I think Mercedes might be an option but will probably be the same as BMW with optional equipment. Do BMW dealers work on price or is it MSRP or nothing?

Anything else I might want to look at?

Jonathan DA - did you buy anything yet? Posted Image

#16 of 28 OFFLINE   Brett_E

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Posted February 13 2004 - 05:22 AM

I do not own any of these cars (I drive a sports car) but here is a recent comparison of 5 of the cars you listed.
Car And Driver compares:
Acura TL
Audi A4 3.0 Quattro
BMW 325i
Infiniti G35
Jaguar X-type 3.0
Lexus IS300
Saab 9-3 Arc


It's a pretty good read.

#17 of 28 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted February 13 2004 - 08:06 AM

Yea great article indeed, for the price you can't beat the G35. Posted Image

Posted Image

#18 of 28 OFFLINE   Jeff_Krueger

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Posted February 13 2004 - 09:47 AM

How about checking out the Bonneville GXP has all features but Navigation and Manumatic. The 275HP 300lb/ft Northstar V8 should be plenty of fun too. Plus the GXP is not the plastic cladded pontiacs of yesteryear, it looks pretty hot. IMO
Even if you don't think you'd be interested check one out you never know.

#19 of 28 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted February 14 2004 - 11:31 AM

Update. Today we test drove the Infinit G35 (AWD model), the Acura TL, and the Lexus ES300.

All 3 were very impressive. This will be my wife's car and she was VERY impressed with the Acura TL. She was digging the ability to manually shift the automatic. It also had tons of power and really nice styling. The Infiniti had the same impression on her but overall preferred the Acura. The Infinit AWD model was in short supply and a rear wheel drive just won't cut it in our winters. The Acura also came STD with DVD-Audio and XM radio.

She really liked the Lexus too however its a different type of car. A smooth quiet ride. She's unsure whether she wants the sportiness or the luxury at this point. I think she's leaning toward the Acura. The thing is unreal.

We never made it to BMW today. I'm thinking that they won't be possible in our price range since it seems everything is an uprade. Acura and Lexus have no options. They come with everything (Except navigation systems.)

#20 of 28 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted February 16 2004 - 01:23 AM

Patrick I posted early on in the thread and your wife won’t be disappointed with either the Lexus or Acura. We chose the TL and absolutely love it, but either would be a fine choice.
¡Time is not my master!