The Search Is On – Looking For The Next Federmobile

As some of you know, I sold my Jeep. Funny thing is, when I put it up for sale no decision had been made on its replacement. Now that the dust has settled and my Jeep will be going to its new owners this weekend, it is time to get serious about what my next vehicle will be.

Over the past three weeks I have narrowed the choices down. Some were impractical, while some were going to just be money pits. In the end some clear winners have emerged – unfortunately they are all so different and I am having trouble deciding. Each choice has an upside and of course, like everything else, a downside. Lets get right to it.

Current Contenders:

Jeep Grand Cherokee- Finalist

Yes, I am considering replacing my Jeep Grand Cherokee with another Grand Cherokee, though I would be going for a 2008 or newer with lower miles. The 2005 to 2007 models had some pretty low rent interiors. From 2007 to 2008 a diesel was available as an engine option. Not many were made and they are rare when looking for one used. Sadly, after doing the math the better mileage you get with the diesel fuel doesn’t add up with the difference in the price of gasoline. You merely break even. If I go the Grand Cherokee route I won’t lose any of the capabilities I am used to when it comes to cargo hauling, towing, and winter driving. I am already used to the craptacular gas mileage so there will be no real shock at the pump. In the end if I go with a Grand Cherokee I know what to expect, and I will someday hand it over to my fiancée Karen when it comes time for her to get another vehicle.

Dodge Charger SRT8- Finalist

I know what you are thinking, “um Joel, isn’t that a huge gas guzzler with a big 6.1-Liter HEMI V-8?” If that is what you were thinking, then yes you are correct. But know this, when I had the Charger SRT8 last spring for a week, I averaged similar gas mileage in the city as my Jeep, and slightly better on the highway. That means I won’t really have sticker shock at the pump, and I am already used to the frequency of filling up. The SRT8 is fun, loud, and comfortable. It is also quite large, which is nice if you are hauling around, say a child. If I go this route I would probably be looking for a 2008 or newer since they had a slight refresh on the interior in 2008 that ditched some of the low rent plastics. Sadly, gas prices are going to continue to rise, and I have to question if I will at some point get frustrated in the future with the SRT8 if I end up choosing it.

Subaru WRX Hatchback- Finalist

Notice this is a completely different direction from the two above choices? Quick run down of why this is a top pick. The Subaru WRX is fun, fast, handles well, has awesome all-wheel drive, and the hatchback has quite a bit of space. It would be terrific in the snow, get amazing gas mileage compared to my other choices, and still be a livable daily driver. This option does have me wondering how I will feel about it in four to five years…..will my love fade? Another question that comes to mind is if I will get tired of driving this with all the highway driving I do. It is not exactly a grand tourer and in reality has a lower rent compact car interior.

Mazdaspeed3- Barely A Finalist

Like the Subaru, we have another hot hatchback with similar gas mileage and cargo hauling capacity. The main difference comes in to the drivetrain. This is a front-wheel drive torque steering beast. This will not be as good in the snow as the WRX – it’s a plain fact. That doesn’t mean I still don’t want one.

Subaru Legacy GT Spec. B- Barely A Finalist

Hard to find is a good way to describe this option. They were originally a special edition model in 2006. For 2007 they became a regular production model, but they are still considered somewhat rare, and definitely special. In 2008 they lost the MOMO steering wheel and became a full fledged production model. I would be going for the 2007 if I had the option. It only came with a near-black exterior and a black and blue leather/alcantara interior. It had the WRX engine and WRX STI six-speed transmission. The problem is that these  hold their value.  As a used car , that doesn’t help its case against some of the other models, specifically a new WRX hatchback. The interior space, and trunk space, is within a few tenths of an inch as the current generation Impreza, which is what the WRX is based off of. Just not sure on this one. I keep going back and forth as to if it is a finalist. I love it’s rarity, but that makes it difficult to find.

Dodge Magnum SRT8- Barely A Finalist

Read the above paragraph regarding the Charger SRT8. All the same pros and cons, only with a ton of added functionality in the rear. The rarity of this model also makes it very cool.

Eliminated Contenders:

Challenger SRT8 –

Lord I want one of these. If I wasn’t getting married and probably going to have a kid before I get my next car, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I would be buying one of these. But the reality is, I am getting married, and probably will have a kid before getting my next car. From what I am told by pretty much everyone, rear facing child safety seats are no fun. They are even less fun in a two-door.

Ford F-150 Raptor-

I have absolutely no reason to need one of these. In fact, it is probably the opposite of what I need. Still want one. Wont be getting one.

2001 Audi S8- This falls into the troubled money pit category. The transmission will go and I’ll have a nice bill to pay.

2000 BMW M5- Another money pit. The rear main seal will go, or a myriad of other components and I will have a rather large repair bill.

Jaguar XJR or S-Type R

The Jaguar XJR is a total sleeper. Made from aluminum it is fairly light for its size and with the right driver can be a ton of fun. The S-Type R for some reason always appealed to me. Both of these somewhat scare me for reliability. At least with the XJR I would never have to worry about it rusting.

1999 Mercedes-Benz E55- Man I’ve wanted one of these forever. Again, the money pit scenario.

There are some wild cards thrown into the mix such as a used Audi S4 Avant, Infiniti G37x, or BMW 335i. Though for the most part these vehicles seem to fall out of my price range, and so they have for the most part fallen off my radar for now.

For those that do not know exactly how I use a vehicle in my daily life, here’s a quick break down of my driving habits. Most of my summer driving is on the highway back and forth to my cabin. This is where I question how in love I will be with the WRX long term. During the week I do not actually drive much other than errands in the evening. Of course we do get some hairy winters here, so some (most) of these choices will be getting snow tires. And of course, we head to Iowa to visit my future in-laws quite often. So I would say most of my weekends are highway miles, and in town I maybe average 200 miles a week running around.

At the end of the day I have absolutely no clue what I want. As you can see above, I am completely all over the place. I was once told don’t buy something unless you are sure it is the right thing. I feel that is actually pretty good advice, which is why there isn’t a new vehicle in my driveway right now.

As I’m sure some vehicle has been left off the possible candidate list, please do leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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9 Responses to “The Search Is On – Looking For The Next Federmobile”

  1. Chris Mattson #

    Hi Joel – great list. It’s always fun car-shopping, isn’t it? I had a Charger as a rental car when my Suburban was in the shop this last winter (damn basketball pole just jumped into my front fender while backing out of the driveway). I haven’t driven a rear-wheel car since owning a 1979 Camaro back in my high school days. I swear I could hang that car up on a single snowflake. The car was a thrill a minute in the summer and white-knuckled every second in the winter. Swore I’d never own a rwd car again in Minnesota’s climates: until having that Charger for a week. I can’t believe what a difference the stability control provides. First time I tried to get it loose on a corner, nothing happened. I thought to myself “Heck, I’m not trying hard enough”. Really bent it around on the next corner. Same results. This time, my eye caught the stability control light on the dash. Found the button to turn it off and started reliving my youth. Really a well mannered car with the stability control on and a blast with it off. Tons of room. Interior wasn’t quite my thing (a lot of black plastic) — but overall, not terrible. My bro has an Acura and surprisingly, that thing isn’t remarkably better for interior material quality (tons of hard black plasticy parts). Enjoy the car-buying process and good luck!

    03/03/2011 at 10:14 am Reply
  2. Travis #

    Hey Joel after driving my grandparents jeep and my moms explorer, i see both are great vehicles. i was wondering why you haven’t considered an explorer. they have a 3rd row seat option in a lot of the explorer, they hold their value pretty well, and they have decent offroad and towing capabilities. i think its something to consider even if i am more of a mopar person, my moms 2006 explorer has been rock solid.

    03/03/2011 at 6:50 pm Reply
    • Travis the honest answer, I like the Grand Cherokees better than I like the Explorer. They are similar vehicles (last gen), but just a preference thing. Can’t afford either new, but if I could, I’d go Grand Cherokee for the real 4WD instead of the sophisticated AWD. Nothing wrong with either really. Just personal preference.

      03/03/2011 at 7:01 pm Reply
  3. Gavin #

    Joel, as an owner of a Magnum RT and living further north than you, I would recomend the Charger. The traction control is awesome and the V8 causes me to look at my wife and tell her “I love this car!!!”

    There are lots of SRT8’s driving around here (Calgary) all year round.

    That would be my pick.

    03/04/2011 at 2:04 pm Reply
  4. RWB #

    If you’re looking at a Legacy Spec. B, why not consider a regular 2005-2009 Legacy GT? While the Spec. B has a few enhancements, if you’re just looking for a daily driver the standard GT is still a remarkable car, and much, much easier to find.

    03/08/2011 at 11:40 am Reply
    • I considered the standard Legacy GT but love the idea of a manual in that car. The 2007+ had a six-speed while the 2006 had a five-speed. Plus the Spec.B is rare which definitely makes it more desirable for me.

      03/08/2011 at 11:50 am Reply
      • RWB #

        I suppose, if you’re set on the extra gear and rarity factor.

        Very nearly bought an ’06 LGT LTD w/ the 5MT a couple years ago. May do so for real soon. The 5-speed in the normal LGT may not be an STI unit but I don’t think I’d have missed the extra ratio.

        03/08/2011 at 2:37 pm Reply
  5. Brandon Johnston #

    My vote is on the WRX. Fun. Nimble. Great AWD. And there really isn’t anything else like it. If you get tired of it, you’ll likely want to keep it as a weekend 2nd vehicle. The Cherokee is a nice car now, but the last several years were yawn inspiring at best.

    04/07/2011 at 5:26 pm Reply
    • Brandon you make valid points. But I am very nervous that in 2-3 years I’ll both outgrow and be sick of the WRX. Also think I’ll hate driving it on the highway all summer to my cabin every other weekend.

      04/07/2011 at 5:28 pm Reply

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