Patrick—I did not think that the Mercedes was nearly as sporty as the TL (the BMW 3-series probably is)—plus it cost more. I guess that I’d consider it closer to the ES300, but I thought that the workmanship was a bit better on the Lexus.
We picked up the "anthracite" Acura TL yesterday, It is very fast and very fun. It accelerates so quickly that you are easily going 80 before you bother to look. The car feels no different at 85 as it does at 40.
And its been a pleasure to have DVD audio and XM. Overall, a fantastic car.
Avoid Mercedes like the plague. My friends father has worked for a local dealership for about 20 years doing roadside assistance and is very familiar with MB quality. Just for the record his father drives a honda and refuses to buy a mercedes, even with his generous discount the dealership offers him.
Patrick, I did get a new car, but none of the ones listed in my original list! Instead, I ended up leasing a 2004 Mini Cooper S. Here's a shot of the one I test drove:
Mine will look just like that, but with the 8 spoke wheel style seen on the red S in the background. The Mini doesn't have the greatest reliability ratings, but it has one of the highest owner satisfaction ratings of any car going. The reliability concerns are what made me decide to lease instead of buy. If it does in fact turn out to be problematic, I'm only stuck with it for 36 months.
If I hadn't gone with the Cooper S, the next choice would be the new Volvo S40 http://www.allnews40.com. I got to see one of the first of these to hit the U.S. in Vegas and was very impressed. Didn't get to drive it, but from what I've read it's a definite winner.
Yeah, I know :b I had my eye on a Mini when they were first announced a few years ago, but I had decided against it for the reasons above. I kept looking at them online though, so for Valentine's Day my wife decided we should go test drive cars (the nearest Mini dealer is about an hour and a half away). As soon as I drove the Cooper S it was all over; none of the other cars created the same feel of excitement. I hate to sound like a fanboy, but all the "motoring" hype about Minis is true, for me at least.
I own a 2003 Saab 9-3 and think it is a fantastic drivers car. And like mentioned above not everyone and their dog has one. Seriously consider test driving one. It already comes pretty loaded with nice features standard. If fits 4 very comfortably and comes with a refridgerated glovebox