Sunday, October 7, 2012

His First Used Car... Ever!

I don’t like used cars and I don’t like used women.  Someone very close to me used to say this and although the second half of the statement is rather crass I included it so that you get the idea of how this man perceives used cars.  He has never owned a used car and his reasoning has always been that he’d rather pay more and get something new than save money and get something with problems or issues.

His reasoning has been rather sound but in the last decade or so, used car reliability and reputation has dramatically changed.  In fact, the entire used car industry has changed and as such more and more would-be new car buyers are turning to pre-owned and certified cars.

I am happy to say that I finally convinced him to buy a used car two weeks ago and as it happens his first used car came from eCarOne.  He was in the market for a new E-Class Mercedes and of course he visited Mercedes’ website and built one that ended up having a $67,000 MSRP.  As he was ready to pull the trigger, I said Wait… you can get the same year car (2012) with plenty of warranty remaining and barely any miles for at least $12,000 to $15,000 less.  Why would you buy brand new, especially since you’re building a very standard color combination (silver on black) and this very same car should not be hard to find.  After discussing the economics for a bit, he finally said, ok can you see if your friends at eCarOne can find one for me and how much would it be? 

I called them and put them to the task.  Less than a week later, they had the car at their location, detailed and ready to go.  I picked it up and brought it to him.  He drove it and after realizing that this car has only 8,000 miles, three years of remaining warranty, an MSRP of nearly $70,000 and he can have it for $52,000 it was not long before he had wired the money and owned the car.  I had eCarOne add a bumper to bumper warranty that extends another 2 years beyond the factory warranty for less than $2,000 and for a total of $54,000 he had a “new” E350 Sport Package with Pano roof and almost every available option; not to mention five years of warranty and $16,000 less than he would have paid at the dealer!

I can go into great detail about the economics of buying used vs. new and I’m sure you can read tons of articles and opinions about the same subject… it’s been beaten to death.  Without going into much detail, I can tell you that the current low interest rate environment coupled with a huge US trade deficit is making new foreign cars depreciate like rocks.  With that in mind, why would anyone pay a hefty premium just to be the first owner and walk away with a large loss!  In my humble opinion, I’d rather be the second owner than the first sucker!

Maybe 15 years ago, buying a used car was a hassle.  Interest rates were high, history reports were non-existent, and the whole business had a shady reputation but today you can get sub 2% interest rates for five years on used cars, you can get not one but a handful of history reports and records, and last buy not least, most dealerships are now more focused on the pre-owned cars than they are on new ones!  The buying experience has changed and if you walk into a place like eCarOne or even Park Place, Sewell or any other reputable dealer you’ll find that buying a pre-owned car is every bit as rewarding of an experience as a new one.  Try it out and see for yourself. 

Jaguar Reinvented Itself

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the drastic changes Cadillac underwent with the introduction of its CTS line and particularly with the CTS-V.  Today I’d like to talk about another luxury car brand that has all but reinvented its cars from the bottom up… Jaguar.  Before I start, let me fully disclose that of all the cars out there I know the least about the British ones and particularly about Jaguar.  Prior to this last Jag I drove from eCarOne I had only one experience with Jaguar and it was a horrible one at best.  I needed a car to get me around for a few months and I purchased a 2002 Jaguar S-Type 4.0 from a local auction.  The car ran for two days prior to completely shutting down because it needed a new Engine Control Module (ECU).  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, let’s just say it’s the car’s brains and it’s expensive to say the least.  After nearly $4,000 of repairs, I sold it quickly for a hefty loss.  That was the last time I ever thought about owning a Jaguar.

On the other hand, I always admired them for the way they look and what they stand for, so when the guys at eCarOne told me they had a 2012 Jaguar XF with only 2,500 miles on the odometer I decided that I need to give Jag another shot and see what they’ve done in the last decade.  Although I don’t have the knowledge to tell you everything they’ve changed, I can tell you that this car felt one thousand times better than the S-Type I had.  Of course, it’s a new car but that’s not it.  Everything about it is better… fit & finish, brakes, power, ride, seats, controls, lights, ELECTRONICS, and everything in between.  Essentially there is no comparison so rather than comparing, let me just talk about today’s Jaguar and what I thought about it.

Since I’ve talking about a British car, I’ll use a British term to describe it…. Brilliant!  It truly is.   What makes this car Brilliant is how Jaguar was able to put together the perfect combination of luxury, comfort, sportiness, and all out driving enjoyment.  From the minute you get in the car, you know you’re driving something special.  It’s a Jaguar but it feels more like a BMW with more luxury or a Mercedes with more style or an Audi with more character. 

When I drive a BMW, I love the driving experience but I miss the luxury amenities and flare of the Mercedes and when I drive a Benz I miss the sportiness of the BMW and when I drive an Audi I get a truly nice cabin but I don’t get the name brand respect.  So no matter which of the big three I drive, I’m always missing something.  The Jaguar somehow is able to combine all three into one.  Although it does not have particularly stellar performance, it feels planted to the road while maintaining excellent composure and comfort.  The cabin surrounds you with tasteful chrome accents, polished trim and luxurious wood and of course as you would expect, top notch leather.

The exterior is even more impressive.  Unlike Josh Hamilton in the Ranger’s wildcard game (which sucked), Jaguar hit a homerun with the exterior styling of the XF.  It is a beautiful car that I found myself staring at every time I got out of it and before getting into it.  From the mean looking headlights to the beautifully sculptured body panels to the roofline and trunk line… it’s really stunning.  And although I’m not a big fan of chrome accents on the exterior of a car, this Jaguar pulls it off very well and the chrome is located in all the right places and it blends in perfectly with the body of this car.  In a nutshell, this car makes a statement.

I’m not sure what I disliked but then again I only had it for a week so I’m not sure about long term reliability.  I did notice that the sound system is controlled via a touch screen and that was a little annoying.  Also, it’s a V8 and very thirsty for fuel.  I also didn’t care for the alarm confirmation chirp… rather than using the horn, the chirp uses another horn that belongs on a Fiat 500; not a V8 Jag!

All aside, I truly enjoyed this car and I may even consider owning one some day especially that I can get this car today for around $46k.  That’s a steal.

Hope you found this a little informative and if you were on the same boat with me regarding Jaguar, I urge you to reconsider.  Thanks for reading and happy driving.

Finally.... A Proper Swedish Sports Sedan

Swedish meatballs, Swedish massages, and the Swedish swim team… that’s all I liked from Sweden…. Until I drove Volvo’s newest competitor to BMW’s 335i and Audi’s S4.

A couple of weeks ago I went to eCarOne to pick up a BMW M3 but it had sold earlier that day, so I ended up with a 2012 Volvo S60 T6, optioned with the R-Design package.  As you would imagine, I was rather disappointed.  However, believe it or not, my disappointment vanished shortly after I got behind the wheel of this beautifully designed sports sedan.

Volvo has long been known for making safe, dependable cars that you can drive for 200,000 miles and then give to your teenager as a first car.  While Volvo has a small niche market in the US, it’s worldwide market share is rather large… much larger than its Swedish counterpart Saab.  Why then is Volvo not as highly regarded in the US as BMW, Mercedes, and Audi?  The answer is simple….  Not enough gusto!

With fuel prices in Europe and Asia being relatively higher than the US, fuel economy is much more important and performance tends to take a back seat to practicality, compactness, and fuel efficiency.  Ultra high performance is reserved for the ultra rich… Go to Europe and try to find an E550 Mercedes or a 550i BMW... they almost don’t exist!  Instead, you’ll see E200 and 520i sedans everywhere.  This is where Volvo has always thrived Europe; by making no nonsense cars that deliver excellent quality and excellent value and for the same reason Volvo has not done so well among American consumers because those who want quality and value in the US, usually turn to Japanese cars and those that want a European sedan will turn to the usual three or perhaps take a look at VW if the budget is a concern.

In the past few years, it appears that Volvo has been trying to break into the performance sports sedan & coupe market in the US but in my opinion has not been very successful.  I don’t know if you remember a move called Crazy People about a group in a mental hospital who was asked to put together advertising slogans for car commercials.  The one that comes to mind is “Volvo; they’re boxy but good.”  This is what Volvo has always been but no longer.

With the introduction of the C70 coupe, the S40, S60, and S80 sedans Volvo really showed the world that it can make very sporty cars that not only perform well but also deliver excellent value and safety.  The car I had from eCarOne, the S60 T6 goes even further and delivers all the above plus true sports sedan feel and performance.

Prior to getting in the car, I gave it a good walk around and I really liked the styling.  It’s sleek, sporty, and very well proportioned.  I loved the red exterior with the dark wheels and the dual exhaust with the darker rear valance show that this car means business.  And this car is certainly not a poser… it’s powered by a turbocharged high revving power plant that delivered a very respectable 325 HP and the same amount of torque at a fairly low rpm… this translates to excellent acceleration and wonderful drivability.  Once I got in the car, I was pleasantly surprised by the fit and finish of all the controls, the seats, the steering wheel and the electronics. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is seats that are not supportive; especially in a sports car that’s supposed to be…. Well, sporty!  This Volvo’s seats were fantastic; to the point where I didn’t notice the seats at all… and that’s a good thing.  My other pet peeve is skinny steering wheels that make you feel like you’re driving a 1982 Fiat.  This car has a proper steering wheel and for that I was happy.  As for other controls, I had no complaints; although I was not particularly impressed by any one feature… I was overall happy with everything.

I’ve talked a lot about the car’s history, looks, features but none about the driving experience.  In a nutshell, this car is a very well balanced sports sedan that I would have no problem placing in the same class as an Audi A4/S4 or a BMW 3-series.  It’s very quick, sharp, stable, and most of all fun to drive.  And here’s the added bonus… it’s all wheel drive so you can drive it hard in all weather conditions and it doesn’t lose a step… look out Audi!

As for things that I didn’t care for, well I sort of alluded to it before: the car is very nice and does everything well but it’s missing a little bit of luxury and a little bit of style inside the cabin.  I love the exterior, but the cabin could use maybe some chrome accents, some rich dark wood or better yet carbon fiber, maybe an Alcatera headliner and perhaps some contrasting stitching.  I’m sure if Volvo keeps pursuing this market segment, these things will evolve with time but for now it’s a great sports sedan and a fantastic value.  This 2012 had only 2,300 miles and is listed with eCarOne at $39,000.  That is a bargain for what you get.

Thanks for reading and happy driving.