Welcome to the first installment of “Ask AutoGuide!” a brand-new weekly feature where we help you find the right new car or truck. Think of it as internet community service, our way of giving back to the loyal people who share so much with us. Best of all the advice comes from the heart since it’s not court-ordered and we don’t have to check in with a parole officer.
Earlier in the week Rusty sent us an e-mail asking for some guidance. He’s in search of a new daily driver that he can have some fun with on weekends. He likes technology, performance and luxury but doesn’t want to completely torpedo his bank account. He wrote that a Lamborghini for the price of a Kia would be perfect. Sounds like a tall order to fill but there’s no challenge too great for the oracles at AutoGuide. These car clairvoyants are true motor-vehicle mediums, able to tap into cosmic energy in order to deliver the best possible advice.
Since Rusty is in search of a luxurious car with technology and performance we focused on some premium two-door models. One of the first that came to mind was the Ford Mustang GT. They’re a hoot and a half to drive and affordable, too. With a screaming 5.0-liter V8 on board they love to run, but at the end of the day they’re simply too crude to fit the bill.
Then there’s the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with a supercharged V8 that delivers NASA-grade power (580 hp) plus fancy magnetic shock absorbers that can perform some pretty nifty tricks. Still, the Camaro is letdown by a chintzy interior and bigger blind spots than a Brink’s truck.
Moving on, Nissan’s sporty 370Z could be a good option. It’s smaller than the previous two ponycars and more purposeful. Unfortunately its interior is also less than stellar. Remember, Rusty wants some luxury in his life. That did have us briefly considering the Mercedes SLK, but he made it clear convertibles aren’t his thing.
One exotic alternative the experts briefly considered and then quickly jettisoned was the Lotus Evora. It’s something completely out of the mainstream, which is its greatest asset and biggest drawback. You’re practically guaranteed to be the only guy in town to own one, but where the heck do you get it serviced? And besides, the words “Lotus” and “daily driver” are best in separate sentences.
SUGGESTION #1: 2013 Audi S5
Eventually, after more deliberation than a hung jury AutoGuide’s oracles settled on three finalists. The first one, in alphabetical order, is the Audi S5. This car is one of the most beautiful on the road today. Its bodywork is subtle yet sophisticated. The overall design is a textbook example of understated elegance. And that good taste continues inside. Audi is frequently benchmarked by the competition for its cockpits, and the S5 will not disappoint. It’s comfortable, high tech and just plain beautiful.
But don’t think this graceful car can’t move. She’s a runway supermodel that’s also an Olympic sprinter. Under the S5’s voluptuous hood rests a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with a numerically alterative 333 horsepower. Drivers can choose between a manual or automatic transmission; quattro all-wheel drive is standard (meaning it’s great no matter your climate).
The S5 was actually one of the suggestions Rusty provided, helping us benchmark the price point he’s looking at. Starting at about $51,000, interested parties could save some dough by opting for a pre-owned S5, or picking up a 2012 model that hasn’t moved off a dealer’s lot. Last year’s model featured an astonishingly good V8 engine that delivers similar power to the supercharged six. They’re less fuel efficient but they sound like an automotive symphony.
SUGGESTION #2: 2013 Infiniti G37 Coupe
Moving on, the oracles’ second choice is a bit of a dark horse. Yes, it’s another high-end two door but it’s from a manufacturer that many have not considered before. The Infiniti G37 is a premium rear-wheel-drive coupe from Japan.
This samurai warrior can go toe-to-toe with the Germans, and win. Think of the G37 as a luxurious Nissan Z-car with back seats.
The G coupe is moved by a burly 3.7-liter V6 that cranks out 330 horsepower, and it does it the old-fashioned way, without a turbo or supercharger. Power output may be competitive with its rivals but since it’s naturally aspirated torque falls a little short. The twist totals just 270 lb-ft. As you’d expect, this car is available with either two or three pedals.
One other thing about the Infiniti’s engine is that larger-displacement V6s tend to feel a little coarse, especially compared to some of the German competitors here.
Still, the Infiniti is not without its merits, and arguably its strongest is pricing. The G37 Coupe starts at $40,400, a relative bargain compared to the S5 or other German coupes. And if you want a little more than what’s offered on the standard model you can step up to the IPL version, which features a slight boost in power, a different suspension and a host of other upgrades. Pricing for this model is right in line with the Audi, though apart from nicer looks it isn’t really worth the added dough.
Additionally, if this sporty Infinity really floats your barge you might consider waiting just a little. Late last year the company announced it was reworking its nomenclature. In the future its G coupe will be known as the Q60 and if the Q50 (the sedan version) is any indication, it will be an even better reason not to buy German.
SUGGESTION #3: 2013 BMW 335is
Finally, there’s a BMW. (Isn’t there always)? The company’s esteemed 3 Series has long been the gold standard in the premium sports sedan and coupe segments and the 2013 model is no exception. Even in its most basic form the car is sophisticated and fun. But our friend doesn’t want an entry-level luxury model; he’s after something that really moves.
The company’s 335is coupe is just the ticket. And no, we’re not talking about the 335i, but the “is”. Trust us, that extra consonant make a difference.
This Bavarian ballistic missile delivers a host of BMW virtues in a neatly sized, two-door package that’s high on luxury and technology. From the way it accelerates to how it stops, steers and rides, everything about this car is engineered to delight the driver, something BMW is famous for.
The company’s rich heritage may write some pretty big checks but thankfully this car’s engine can cash every one of them. In fact, there may be an overdraft charge. The 335is is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six. Is there a purer expression of BMW virtue than half a dozen cylinders lined up in a row? This perfectly balanced engine layout is smoother than polished sapphires. With 320 horsepower on tap the car is guaranteed to have plenty of getup and go. That’s 20 more ponies than the standard 335i along with an extra 32 lb-ft of torque, making for a grand total of 332. Plus, it has a special over-boost feature that unleashes an additional 38 lb-ft of twist for short bursts. In total, that’s 370 lb-ft, or almost 75 lb-ft more than you’ll get in a vastly more expensive M3.
Base price for BMW’s impressive 335is is a little more than $52,000, slightly higher than the S5, but the difference is academic at this level. Of course that figure can grow by leaps and bounds if you get carried away with options, though you may also be able to get a decent price on this car as BMW plans to retire the 3 Series Coupe in favor of what it will call the 4 Series from now on. Watch for clearance sales and special financing.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When it comes to quality and reliability none of these cars should disappoint, though you may want to consider an extended warranty if you plan on keeping one for the long haul.
According to Consumer Reports Audi was the only European car brand to achieve very good reliability along with excellent average road-test scores. The influential magazine called Infiniti’s G lineup “excellent.” As for BMW, the company took home top honors from the magazine in the sports sedan segment for its 328i, a four-door, four-cylinder version of the 335is. This bodes well for the high-performance model.
As for safety it should not be a concern with any of these vehicles. Each one is armed with a battery of electronics and high-end features, not to mention enough airbags to go white-water rafting.
Hopefully these suggestions are helpful and informative. If you need a little assistance shopping for your next car just “Ask AutoGuide!” Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of the basics out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.