2013 Arizona International Auto Show – A Second Opinion

If you haven’t read Trevor‘s piece on the 2013 Arizona International Auto Show, I would suggest you go ahead and read it first because it very accurately describes the experience  of being at the show and driving the cars, but I figure I might as well chime in and give my take on the test drives as well.

Trevor and I drove exactly the same cars, except he opted for the Hyundai Equuis, while I drove the Genesis R-Spec, and I also drove a new Jeep Wrangler. I am going to just give a short review of each of the cars I drove in order:

2013 Ford Mustang GT 5.0

Out of all the cars available to drive at the show this year, the Mustang was my favorite. That’s not much of a surprise I guess, given that the Mustang was already one of my favorite cars. It took a while for the new body style to grow on me, but now that it has, the previous S197 models just look goofy and square. Also, the new Coyote motors are pretty sweet. The Mustang may have felt a tiny bit slower overall than the Charger that Dodge showed up with, but the power delivery was a hell of a lot more exciting. The Mustang just felt more aggressive. The exhaust also sounded much nicer.

This doesn’t mean I like everything about the Mustang though. I still think the front end looks a little goofy and depressing (somehow simultaneously) . And styling of the tail lights, although impressive at night, doesn’t look quite right to me when the sun is out. And this whole retro thing? Come on guys, don’t you think maybe it’s time to start looking ahead? Am I the only one out there who thinks the New Edge styling still looks better and more advanced than the new body style?

Pros: It doesn’t look like/isn’t marketed by a child’s toy, you can actually see out of the windows, it comes in a color other than piss yellow, and did I mention it hauls ass?

Cons: The styling takes a little getting used to, and let’s face it, everybody already drives a Mustang so you definitely don’t feel like anything special when you’re behind the wheel of one.

Verdict: I like the Mustang better than the Camaro and the Charger. I’d buy one if I had the money and actually wanted a new car. But for $33k, you could build one hell of a 347 stroker for your fox body.

2013 Lincoln MK-S

It was obvious that Lincoln was focusing most of their promotional efforts on the MK-Z and not the MK-S for this show and I can see why. It actually looks like something that isn’t for old people. I mean, it still doesn’t have anywhere near the appeal of a CTS to me, but it’s pretty clear that Lincoln is planning on working their way up to that point. To me, the MK-Z kind of reminds me of the Mark VIII- not because it physically resembles one in any way, which it doesn’t, but because it signals Lincoln’s return to making cars that look like weird-ass space ships again. And old people don’t like space ships. Ever seen Cocoon?

Having said all that, I didn’t drive the MK-Z. I drove the MK-S. Why? Because the MK-Z, although much more extreme looking, is actually considerably slower than the MK-S. The MK-Z is available with the 2 liter 240hp EcoBoost four cylinder, a 300hp 3.7 Duratec V6, and a hybrid version of the 2.0 four. The MK-S can be ordered with either the 3.7 Duratec or the same EcoBoost 3.5 motor that’s in the Taurus SHO, similarly available with all-wheel-drive. You can see that it was kind of a no-brainer to pick the MK-S.

A few things really stood out about the MK-S. The first one was that the car is in no way, shape, or form ever going to take the place of the Town Car. It just looks like a mid-sized car no matter how you slice it. It also still seems to have a little bit of that “front-wheel drive plastic piece of shit American car” look to it. That sounds a little harsh I guess, but it truly is the way I feel when I look at the car. I have a feeling that in 20 years, this car could be sitting in a junkyard next to a clapped-out 96 Lumina and nobody would really think twice about it or notice because it would kind of fit right in.

However; I was impressed with some aspects of the car. The interior was very nice, and the turbos made a nice sound under boost. It accelerated decently enough, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help thinking that it kind of doesn’t feel much more powerful that my Mark VII. Yeah, it pulls pretty hard once the turbos spool up, but you can really feel the weight of the car slowing down the whole operation. And as nice as those turbos sound, I’d still take the sound of a healthy 5.0 any day. Basically, what I’m saying is that although it’s fast, it certainly doesn’t feel like it has 130 more horsepower than my old Lincoln, which it does.

If you think back to 1988, when my Mark VII was made, it’s pretty clear that Lincoln was kicking Cadillac’s ass pretty bad. A rear-wheel drive luxury car with the same engine as a fast (for the time) sports car vs. a front-wheel drive Eldorado with an oddball 4.5 making 155 hp? Well this time around, Cadillac definitely has the upper hand with the CTS-V. Lincoln, it’s time to quit fucking around. Make a two door car and drop a Coyote motor in it already.

Pros: Very stable on the road, fast for what it is, not terribly ugly, nice interior, and all-wheel drive is cool.

Cons: Could be a lot more interesting looking, could do with being a little less refined, and the controls for the power seat massage function are absolutely impossible to use.

Verdict: CTS-Vs are pretty cheap on Craigslist.

2013 Chevrolet Volt:

What really needs to be said about the Volt at this point? I’m sure you have already heard all about it. It’s pretty much old news at this point. This year’s example felt almost exactly the same as the one they showed off last year. Chevy had a weird rule that you had to drive a Volt before you could drive the Camaro. So we abided.

Except, after we drive the Volt, we kind of stopped caring about the Camaro for some reason and just wandered away from the Chevy tent. We had both already driven Camaros anyways. So anyways, on to the Volt…

It’s an alright car, it’s got a little bit more power than you would expect and the torque definitely feels strong from a stop. And yeah, it gets good mileage. Like, really good. The trouble is, it’s expensive. How expensive? Chevy lists an MSRP of $39,145 on their site. That’s a lot of money. Is it worth it?

I don’t believe it is, and I’ve done the math to support my conclusion:

The 2013 Volt costs $39,145. A 2013 Camaro SS costs $33,535. That means there is a $5,610 dollar difference in cost between the two cars. If you were to put the amount you would save after buying a Camaro into an account that you only used for gas, it would buy you 1,870 gallons of fuel, at the current rate of $3.00 a gallon.

Based on fueleconomy.gov‘s rating of the Camaro at 19 miles per gallon combined between city and highway usage, 1,870 gallons of gas would net you 35,530 miles of driving. And since the average person puts 12,000 miles a year on their car, this means you could drive for 2 years and 11 1/2 months using the gas money you saved from buying the Camaro. And since most people trade their cars in after three years anyway (I never would, but the type of people who buy new Volts and Camaros probably actually do), this means that you end up paying for about 15 days worth of gas in order to drive a Camaro SS instead of something lame. To me, it’s a no brainer.

Pros: Good mileage (obviously) and decent power for what it is, it looks worlds better than the Nissan Leaf.

Cons: Way too expensive, usually covered in tacky decals, and the iPod ripoff interior is lame.

Verdict: If you can afford one, you can afford the gas to just drive a regular car. It’s not worth it.

2013 Kia Optima SX Limited:

The Kia Optima actually impressed me. It was basically the same car I drove last year, except this year they put some much more appealing wheels on the car. That was the only real difference that stood out to me.

I’ve got to say, up until last year, when I first drove the turbocharged Optima SX, I considered Kia to be probably the bottom rung of the auto industry. They were known for pumping out car after car that exemplified the word “shitbox” better than probably any other brand. And I don’t know when they started getting their act together but I’m glad they have.

The Optima felt like a real car. The materials inside seemed to be of high quality, the motor pulled pretty good, and the styling of the car is great. I actually think it is one of the better looking four-door cars out right now. A lot of companies are starting to embrace a weird combination of futuristic creased bodywork awkwardly combined with unnecessary 90’s-esque curves. I can’t stand that. But then again, I’ve always had a thing for cars that look like they were designed by Ian Mackaye.

The motor is a turbocharged 2 liter that puts out 274 horsepower, which doesn’t sound all that impressive in today’s world of 400+ hp everything. But it actually moves the car along nicely. It’s just enough power to have some responsible fun. And that might be enough for some people. Once people start finding cost effective ways to crank the boost up (I guess the Optima uses the ECU to control the wastegate, which is nothing new, but apparently the way it does this is pretty hard to work around at the moment- it seems people have done it, but it isn’t a commonplace thing) I think things will get pretty interesting.

Pros: Nice styling, the interior looks nice, it’s decently quick.

Cons: None really, unless you’ve got qualms about the fact that it’s a Kia, and and then there’s the fact that unless you are truly in love with Kia you could:

Verdict: Just buy a Mustang.

2013 Subaru Legacy CVT

Oh Subaru. I really want to like you.

They seem to make a lot of enthusiast cars. People really get into their cars. Most of them seem to be the type of guys who are still into water cooled PCs and like to wear t-shirts with clever sayings on them from ThinkGeek. Someone please send them an AOL instant message that it’s not 2003 any more.

That being said. I like Subaru. All-wheel drive is cool. Turbos are cool. I like the color blue. I even like gold wheels. So when we discovered that Subaru was going to have some cars at the event, I was excited. I figured if there was going to be any chance of driving something with a manual transmission at the show, it would be a Subaru. There are rarely any manual transmission cars at these type of shows, presumably because so many people these days never bothered to learn how to drive them. They did have a Fiesta  with a 5-speed a couple years ago that Cameron managed to abuse the hell out of despite the obvious disapproval of the poor girl who was trying to sell us on the car and too timid to ask him to stop. That was fun.

Well, there were no manual transmission Subarus at the event. There were also no turbocharged cars. All they brought were some lame-ass, underpowered family sedans.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Subaru at one of these type of events, and it’s obvious that they weren’t prepared for it. Everyone else had tablets or laptops to register you for the drives, while Subaru had a sheet of paper and a clipboard. All the other brands had a tent you could hang out under while you waited for your test drives. They also had enough staff to have someone near the cars to let you know what was going on, and most importantly, they all brought at least one semi exciting car for people to drive. Not Subaru.

We signed up for the Subaru drive and waited by the cars for a while until it was time to drive. They only had one or two people to go out with the drivers, but it didn’t matter much since nobody was waiting in line to drive them anyways. We went on a drive in the new Legacy with the CVT transmission. It was probably the most forgettable drive I’ve ever been on in my life. The car felt terribly slow and because of the CVT, I couldn’t even make it downshift in order to do something that could sort of resemble acceleration.

The car also had the lane departure warning option, which I had never experienced before. What an annoying feature. Luckily, you can disable it pretty easily. I can totally imagine it becoming one of those things that becomes part of your routine every time you get in the car. Unlock the doors, get in, put your seat belt on, adjust your mirror, make sure the radio is turned down, turn off that fucking buzzer that makes you actually just want to crash the car to not have to hear it any more

It was by far the shortest test drive out of all of the drives we went on, and I’m thankful for that. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.

Pros: You can tell people you drive a Subaru. I guess that’s a good thing. All-wheel drive is nice if you live someplace with actual weather.

Cons: It sucks, it’s slow, it’s ugly, and that lane departure system is a frustrating crock of shit.

Verdict: Just get a fourth-gen Legacy GT. It’s a much better car.

2013 Dodge Challenger V6

As Trevor already mentioned, we actually ended up in the wrong line at the Dodge tent. There was a line for the V6 Challenger and another for the Charger SRT8. The signs got switched around, but apparently we were the only ones who didn’t realize it, so we got in the longer of the two lines. I think we kind of just assumed the long line was for the Charger. I mean, seriously, why would anybody wait in line to drive a fucking V6 Challenger?

I’ve got to say- and I don’t mean for this to sound too mean- but man, the people in line for the Dodge test drives were odd. It seemed like everyone around us in all the other Manufacturer’s lines were just a bunch of goofy football dads and other regular, boring people like that. When we got to the Dodge area, we found ourselves surrounded by …I don’t even know, really.

It kind of felt like going to Bookman’s or Del Taco, or maybe a bus stop. In all of those situations, some social reject you would rather not have to interact with is going to start talking to you about about something that you are quite obviously not interested in at all, and somehow they will fail to notice this and just keep right on going. That’s kind of what waiting in line at the Dodge driving event was like. And yes, I understand the implications behind admitting that Trevor and I also found ourselves in this line. But we aren’t like that. Seriously. No, really, we aren’t.

The car itself wasn’t bad. The exterior looks alright, but like I mentioned in the Mustang review, the retro thing needs to go away. I do like the fact that Dodge generally doesn’t cover their “retro” themed cars in a bunch of fake louvers and scoops and the lines on the Challenger look very clean. It is starting to look a little swoopy compared to some of the cars out right now, however. It’s definitely time to restyle it.

The V6 actually had okay power. I don’t know who would ever want it though. If you are going to spend that much money on a car, you’re going to be paying for it forever anyways, just get the fucking V8. There really isn’t much more to say about the car. It’s a retro styled rental car.

Pros: The design looks okay.

Cons: It might as well be the featured image for the Wikipedia entry for plastic. It just looks like one solid piece of it.

Verdict. I’d love to see what Dodge will come up with when the retro bullshit thing dies and  they are forced to make futuristic looking cars again. I think the Challenger will actually look pretty cool then.

2013 Dodge Charger Super Bee

The Charger was what we were actually waiting in line to drive. After we got suckered into driving the weak-ass Challenger, anything probably would have felt fast, but the Charger didn’t really need any kind of lame introduction like that. It was seriously fast. I really could have done without all the bee imagery everywhere but other than that, the car looked okay.

I liked the screen in the dash, the one that tells you how many lateral G’s you are pulling and how fast you can do 0-60 and stuff like that. It’s pretty neat, but really, it’s nothing you couldn’t just do on your phone.

It felt like the traction control was really holding the car back, and I would have loved to see what it could really do but there was no way the guy riding with us would have let that happen. It still felt really fucking fast though. I wouldn’t mind owning one in a color other than yellow without all the bee crap on it. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d probalby just rather get the Chrysler version (the 300C SRT8 wasn’t at the show because someone at a previous show wrecked it, which to me, makes it seem pretty badass).

Pros: It’s really fast. It sounds good. That’s really the only reason someone would buy this car.

Cons: The goofy over-the-top paint pretty much guarantees that the cops are going to follow you until you do something wrong, every time you happen to see someone driving an old Charger, you will get to listen to them talk about how Chargers are supposed to only have two doors or something.

Verdict: If you have to have a fast American sedan, and don’t like Cadillacs for some reason, get a Charger I guess.

2013 Jeep Wrangler

This one doesn’t really even need a review. It’s a Jeep. It felt like driving an old, or new, or medium-aged Jeep. It’s really the only vehicle that is deserving of it’s “retro” bodywork. The girl riding with us wouldn’t let me try and take it up a square curb, but I’m pretty sure it could have handled it.

2013 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec

What can I say? It’s a 429 hp Hyundai. Imagine a pretty decent mid sized car. Now imagine that it can accelerate really fast. That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s a nice car. I like it. But if Hyundai could figure out a way to not make it cost $46,800 dollars it would be a lot nicer. I hate to keep comparing everything to the Mustang, but seriously, $46,800 is $16,500 more than the price of a new Mustang GT. It’s pretty out of control. Yeah, the Genesis is a lot cheaper than a CTS-V, but of course it would be, we are talking about comparing a Hyundai to a Cadillac. I don’t know, I’d rather just have a used CTS-V and a bunch of extra cash.

Pros: It’s a fast Hyundai.

Cons: It’s a fast Hyundai.

Verdict: I’m impressed by how far Hyundai has come, and I have nothing against them, but seriously, who would ever want to buy this car at this price?

I guess the theme behind this article is not so much me reviewing these cars as it is me reviewing the idea of buying a new car vs buying a used one. Obviously, I’m biased against  new cars because the fact that they lose so much value so quickly, coupled with the fact that when I buy something, I plan on keeping if forever and not selling it makes buying a used car so attractive to me. There’s also something nice about not having a $400+ payment every month just to be driving a car that smells like fresh glue inside. I seriously don’t understand how everyone else is able to feel good about themselves every day knowing they have to spend that much extra money every month just to have the ability to drive somewhere, something you can also do in a car you spent $1,200 on. Sure, it might break down on you eventually, but there’s nothing that can break that can’t be fixed, and you can buy a whole lot of tools with all the money you’d be saving.

I guess I need to quit beating around the bush. The bottom line is that brand new cars are for fine if you have lots of extra money and don’t like working on cars. But if you consider yourself a car enthusiast, quit being a little pussy-wussy and get yourself a used car.

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About Mike Ross

I love anything you can drive. But I love it even more if it has a small block Chevy or Ford motor, a turbo, four wheel drive, is a hatchback, or was made in the 80s. My ideal car would be a combination of all of these things, and I'm working on building a time machine so I can go back to the 80's and convince Chevy and Ford to collaborate on a twin-engine, single turbo 4x4 XR4Ti/Fox Mustang/Third Gen F-body and hide one in a mineshaft for me to recover in brand new condition. Look for a blog post about it just as soon as it happens. Or maybe it already did, and I've already posted about it in the future and the internet just needs to catch up with it. Okay, my head hurts, never mind.