In the race to establish premium Japanese automotive brands in the US, Honda was first with its Acura division. In 1986, Acura debuted its flagship model, the Legend, alongside a sporty hatchback, the Integra. Both sold well and established Acura as a top luxury marque in North America practically overnight.
The Legend was a truly remarkable car, deserving of its rather ambitious name. Shortly after its debut, it found a place on Car and Driver’s 10Best list three times in a row (1988-1990), and its second iteration, which first appeared in 1991, was even better. YouTube car reviewer Doug Demuro profiled the second gen Legend in this video, calling it one of the coolest cars of the era.
The RL was born when Acura changed its model naming convention, moving to alphanumeric monikers in the mid 1990s. Thus the third-generation Legend, which first appeared in 1996, became the Acura RL — or, more specifically, the “3.5RL” since Acura wanted to call attention to the new 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood.
While the RL was technically a new model, it built upon the essential goodness of the Legend that preceded it, featuring top-quality Honda engineering in a handsome and highly-functional package, with plenty of luxury touches to make it feel special.
And those are the qualities that make the RL an interesting used car purchase today.
The ever-increasing mania and resulting skyrocketing values of air-cooled Porsche 911s have put those cars way out of reach for most buyers. Meanwhile, prices for the 996 generation, the first 911 with a water-cooled engine, have languished, in part because the prevailing wisdom among Porsche collectors is that the sun rises and sets only on the air-cooled cars.
Values are depressed, too, because of a known design flaw in the standard 996 engine that can, if not attended to, lead to a catastrophic failure, costing tens of thousands to repair. While this understandably gives most buyers pause, the truth is that a preemptive fix is readily available — and, even better, that many 996 examples on the market today have already had it applied.
This is all great news for the more practical enthusiast who wants to get in on the all-around goodness of Porsche’s iconic and entertaining sports car but without breaking the bank.
If you’re in the market for an inexpensive Porsche 911, there is no better choice than the 996. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.
Produced from 2003 through 2011, the Honda Element is practical, quirky, and unique. It’s also impressively space efficient. A full eight inches shorter than a Civic, the Element still has enough room inside for four six-footers to ride in comfort thanks to its boxy form and tall cabin. With a pair of smaller, reverse-opening doors next to the front doors and the absence of a “B” pillar, the Element offers a nearly 56-inch-wide opening with all the doors opened up, making it easy to load up passengers or cargo.
As far as styling, the Element is pretty hip for a squared-off form. Honda stated at the press intro that its design was inspired by a beach lifeguard station along with a surfboard, the latter’s influence evident in the curved roofline. They also noted that the Element was geared towards young and active sorts, including campers, dog owners, skiers and snowboarders, and of course surfers. As such, the front and rear ends are comprised of unpainted plastic composite panels, the idea being you didn’t have to worry about scratches or dings while exploring the great outdoors.
Yet, despite Honda’s diligent demographic angling, many older folks also have found the Element to be ideal for their lifestyles, which may or may not involve visits to antique shops, wherein the Element’s large portals and tall cabin can swallow up large pieces with ease. Of course, the Element’s elemental all-around goodness factors in as well, contributing to its popularity among the young and old alike.
These qualities, along with its solid Honda engineering, make the Element an excellent used car buy, with outstanding examples available for $10,000 to $15,000. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.
The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class traces its roots all the way back to the 300 SL Gullwing, a 1950s style icon that drove even better than it looked, capturing the checkered flag at storied races like Le Man and the Carrera Panamera. These days a Gullwing will set you back a cool million. But there’s another SL out there that’s not only a deserving heir to the name but also a great value: the R129 generation.
Produced from 1990 through 2002, the R129 Mercedes SL wears classic lines that look sharp to this day. Famed designer Bruno Sacco called it his masterpiece. And its beauty isn’t skin deep. Under the hood you’ll find a number of legendary engines, including V8 and V12 mills with their own impressive racing pedigrees.
The supply of nice R129 SLs is quite good, thanks in part to its long production run and also to the fact that many owners kept them as second or third cars, driving them only on special occasions. Now, thanks to the power of depreciation, these excellent roadsters are also about as cheap as they’ll ever be.
So if you’re in the market for a classic roadster that looks like a million bucks but only costs about $10-15 grand, you’re in the right place. Here is the Klipnik Buyer’s Guide for this thus-far overlooked generation of Benz’s iconic luxury roadster.
The BMW 3 Series is as storied as they come. Spanning seven generations, from the E21 of the 1970s to the G20 of today, it boasts a legendary combination of athleticism, style, and livability. In fact, Car and Driver has named the 3 Series to its annual 10Best list a record 22 times in a row (from 1992 to 2014). No wonder it’s BMW’s best selling model, accounting for about a third of its worldwide sales.
The sixth generation, dubbed F30 for sedans and F31 for wagons (or “Touring” in BMW speak), carries the 3 Series mantle quite well, despite some notable departures from prior versions (which we’ll discuss below). And now that most are at least five years old, the F30 generation has gotten quite affordable, too, with excellent examples available for as little as $15,000.
So if you’re looking for a great used car that excels at almost everything — from commutes, to road trips, to backroad blasts — an F30 generation 3 Series should definitely be on your list. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.