The New Car Wish List

I’ve decided to start looking for a new vehicle. My TL has served me well but it may be time to move on. But move on to what? Let’s start with the feature list and see where we land.

My TL already has a lot of features that I love and I’m reluctant to give any up. That means that my next vehicle must have all wheel drive, a premium audio system, leather, heated and ventilated seats, similar or better acceleration and handling, and high quality interior materials. I’m a huge fan of colored interiors (mine is a beautiful saddle brown) and I’m particular about ergonomics. A vehicle that only meets this criteria will simply be newer but not better than my TL. 

To make a new car truly worth it, I’m looking for the following:

  • All modern safety features including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, radar cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning, cross traffic alert, and parking sensors
  • An around view camera system because I’m terrible at parking and need side and front video feeds to feel like I’m not going to crash into stuff. Plus it’s kind of fun to turn on the front camera at a drive through and inspect the bumper of the car in front of you.
  • Apple CarPlay because it is awesome and because Sally has in her Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s one of those things that is a must-have after the first time you use it. It’s so much better than standard car interfaces for navigating my music, it lets me use Google or Apple Maps, it handles text messages well, and it won’t get outdated over the years like my current system has.
  • Upscale conveniences including a heated steering wheel, rain sensing windshield wipers, and automatic high beams. I’ve got baby hands that get cold easily and Sally’s heated steering wheel has me pampered. Flipping wipers and high beams on and off by hand is just annoying so why not let my vehicle do it for me. 
  • A Sporty looking exterior and something that isn’t black. My TL looks fine, but it’s not very sporty or aggressive. I want something that is memorable with nice proportions. I’m looking for a vehicle that is red, blue, or white. 
  • A heads-up display: Ohhhh technology! Show me my speed and next navigation instruction on my windshield please!

In addition, it would be awesome to have: 

  • Better performance and handling than my TL. My 305 hp non-turbo V6 gets me from 0-60 in 6.2 seconds. I’d like something with more horsepower, preferably a turbo, with a 0-60 in the low 5 second range. I’d also like the tight handling that those German brands are known for but other brands struggle to replicate. 
  • High end creature comforts including an LCD gauge cluster, adjustable thigh support for the driver seat, headlights that follow the curve of the road, power folding mirrors, wireless charging for my phone, and auto dimming exterior mirrors. The more features I can pack in, the better. 

Finding vehicles that meet those criteria isn’t difficult but finding something that has a design that I like, the reliability that I want, at a price that I’m willing to pay makes it much more challenging. I need enough space to tote the family around if I’m going to take it out on the weekends. My TL has enough space for that; anything smaller will be a challenge. 

I also need to factor in the amount (or lack) of travel that I currently do. For nearly 8 years I travelled 20 – 30 minutes each way to work. Now I live 5 minutes from my office, so I really only travel on weekends. I want a comfortable vehicle with a lot of features and solid performance, but maybe I don’t need everything if I’m mostly driving down the street. 

My final consideration is whether to buy new or used. I purchased a brand new car when I got out of college but then purchased used models after that to make my money go further. One of the challenges that I’m facing is that a lot of these new safety and convenience features are only available in recent vehicles, many only meeting my list of requirements in the last couple of years. There aren’t many used models on the market and it can be difficult to get the desired combination of trim, packages, and color that I’m looking for.

Buying a new vehicle can be easier but it costs more and loses a fair amount of value in the first year. If I buy a used car I’m willing to compromise a bit on feature set or color, but if I’m going to spend the money on a new vehicle, I’m going to be even more picky, which might make it just as difficult and more expensive. 

So where does that leave me? With limited and contrary options. I must have all wheel drive and I’d prefer to have a sedan because they have better performance and cost less. That knocks out a lot of good cars that otherwise have most of the features I want including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Nissan Maxima. I also want a powerful engine, so that knocks out the Mazda 3 even though it offers all wheel drive. That leaves me with luxury cars once again – the Acura TLX, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes C Class, Volvo S60, Lexus IS 350, and the Genesis G70.

I could be persuaded to consider a small crossover if I could get similar performance to my TL. Nearly every crossover offers all wheel drive and even smaller models from mainstream manufacturers include many of the features I’m looking for. There are tons of great options available including the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Chevy Equinox, Mazda CX-5, and Kia Sportage. Those models have been out for a few years so I could score good deals on used models too. They are similar in size to my TL (many are actually shorter and narrower) but provide more room and cargo space. Unfortunately many are powered by engines that are much weaker than mine and don’t have sporty handling. I could consider a luxury SUV but they get expensive quickly so I’d probably only consider a used 2019 Acura RDX.

When I bought my TL it ultimately came down to buying a brand new Kia Optima Turbo with front wheel drive or a used TL with all wheel drive. All wheel drive sealed the deal for me and I don’t regret it. Things are looking a bit muddier this time around because I can’t even settle on used vs new or sedan vs crossover. Time to build The Matrix and see where things land!

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