Posts Tagged ‘Buyer’s Guides’

Buyer’s Guide: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R129 Generation (1990-2002)

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.

Subaru Outback: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

One of the most popular crossover SUVs in America is actually a station wagon. Well, sort of. Defining the Subaru Outback has never been easy. Is it a wagon? Or an SUV? The answer has always depended on who you ask. Its appeal, however, is undeniable.

Today, after nearly 30 years of sales success, the Outback seems like a no brainer. But it was a radical idea at the beginning. Back then, most SUVs were trucks. Car-like crossovers — which combined the cool rugged image of an SUV with the more refined road manners of a sedan — weren’t commonplace. The original Subaru Outback helped invent the genre, and it remains one of Subaru’s best selling models five generations later.

Buyer’s Guide: Ford Mustang GT SN95 Generation (1994-1998)

The now iconic 5.0-liter V8 equipped “Fox body” Mustang, whether in plain Jane LX or gussied-up GT form, has seen its stock rise quite a bit in recent years. We like these frisky, squared-off “Box body” ponies as much as the next car buff. But these days it’s getting increasing tough to find one that hasn’t been ridden hard and put away wet, modified in questionable taste, or priced too optimistically.

On the other hand, the Fox’s successor, the ’94 to ’98 Mustang — known to pony car fans by its “SN95” internal factory moniker — is, in GT form, something of a dark horse that is currently an outstanding value.

Buyer’s Guide: Acura TL 3rd Generation (2004–2008)

For the last few decades, Honda’s influence on the auto industry — and its corresponding sales volumes — has been nothing short of revolutionary. Consider that the latest Accord just made Car and Driver’s 10 Best list for a record 32nd time; meanwhile, the Civic recently became the top-selling car in America.

This makes the underperformance of Acura, Honda’s luxury division, somewhat puzzling. Acura was the first premium Japanese marque to launch in the US, with sixty dealerships by 1986, and its early years were heralded by world-class machines like the Legend and the NSX.

Buyer’s Guide: Porsche 911 Type 996 (1999-2004)

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.

Buyer’s Guide: Toyota FJ Cruiser (2007-2014)

The FJ Cruiser began life purely as a design concept. It’s retro lines — penned by then 25-year-old Jin Won Kim of Toyota’s Calty design studio in Newport Beach — recall many elements of Toyota’s iconic FJ40, the original Land Cruiser.

Even though Kim was born a quarter century after the original FJ rolled off the assembly line, he nailed the look. In fact, it wowed people so much at its 2003 debut at North American International Auto Show in Detroit that Toyota greenlit the FJ Cruiser for production.

Three years later, a new icon was born.

Buyer’s Guide: Toyota 4Runner 3rd Generation (1996-2002)

The Toyota 4Runner is a legendary rig. One of the last SUVs still made with rugged body-on-frame construction, it pairs off-road prowess with Toyota reliability and longevity. Indeed, iSeeCars ranked it as the longest-lasting midsize SUV in a recent study. As a result, it remains not only a top seller at dealerships, but used 4Runners also command significant demand and thus tend to retain their values surprisingly well.

Buyer’s Guide: BMW Z4 E85 / E86 Generation (2003-2008)

Imagine a spirited drive along your favorite road in a top-down roadster. The scenery rushes past, and there’s nothing but sky above you. With nicely weighted steering and near 50:50 weight balance, the chassis becomes an extension of your fingertips, while your feet coax beautiful arias from the smooth-spinning inline six under the hood.

It’s no pipe dream. Thanks to the magic of depreciation, this fantasy, in the shape of the E85 generation BMW Z4, can be yours for less than $10,000.

And considering that buys you a premium German roadster with some of the best powertrain options ever offered in a BMW, we think it represents an outstanding buying opportunity in today’s market.

Buyer’s Guide: BMW 1 Series E82 / E88 Generation (2008-2013)

Many enthusiasts hold that the E46 3 Series is the pinnacle of the BMW formula: a marvelous combination of sporting character and everyday usability in a timeless design. In fact, we heartily sing its praises in our E46 buyer’s guide, calling it “one of the most enjoyable drives available in an affordable used car.”

But there are downsides. For example, the E46 interior can age poorly. Rubberized plastics on the center console and the door cards tend to scratch and flake; headliners are prone to sagging. And there are a few dogs in the range with sub-200 hp ratings that can feel pretty anemic compared to more modern machines.

Fortunately, the next generation 3 Series, the E90, along with its shortened-wheelbase cousin, the E82 / E88 1 Series, largely rectified these problems. Both are terrific cars. And the latter, with its tidy, E30-sized footprint and significantly lower price point, is possibly the last, best way for a budget-minded enthusiast to experience the purity of BMW’s original engineering magic, which has sadly been diluted in most of the automakers’ more recent models.

Buyer’s Guide: BMW 3 Series F30 Generation (2012-2018)

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.

Buyer’s Guide: Pontiac Trans Am (1970-1981)

Originally the Pontiac Trans Am was a flop. Launched in 1969, just 697 were sold that year.

But the highly stylized and high-performance version of the Pontiac Firebird would soon become the automotive icon of the following decade and a bona fide favorite of car collectors all over the world.

Named for the Sports Car Club of America’s popular “Trans Am” racing series, the model cost Pontiac a $5.00 royalty for every Trans Am it sold. It didn’t add up to much at first, but in 1970, Pontiac redesigned the Firebird, along with the Trans Am, and its second generation would go on to sell in huge numbers.

Best known for its massive “Screaming Chicken” hood decal, the second gen Trans Am was produced for more than a decade, making it one of the most successful American muscle cars ever. And today, after several decades of middling interest, their values are on the rise.

Here’s everything you need to know before you buy yours.

Buyer’s Guide: Volkswagen Golf / GTI Mk6 (2010-2014)

Suppose you’re looking for one car that’ll do it all. Slip into compact spaces with ease. Accelerate and handle with grace. Fit four adults and their luggage in a well-appointed interior with little apparent cost-cutting. Command the road at highway speeds. Let’s throw in 30 MPG fuel economy for good measure.

Now suppose you’re looking to spend $15k or so, and the cheaper the better. If you’re thinking about new cars, don’t waste your time. Even the cheapest new car on the lot will likely surpass the $15k threshold, and the only boxes it’ll check are the ones pertaining to parking and fuel economy.

Buyer’s Guide: BMW 3 Series E46 Generation (1999-2006)

Long a favorite of driving enthusiasts, BMW’s 3 Series has nonetheless gotten bigger, heavier and less engaging with each successive generation. Nowadays, even a car buff could easily mistake a newer 3 Series sedan for a 5 Series.

Make no mistake, the 3er’s performance is still impressive, but for many who relish time behind the wheel, the less quantifiable “fun to drive” factor has dropped off. Indeed, many enthusiasts feel that the E46 generation marks the last time the 3 Series was truly engaging and true to its roots — a spry athlete of a car that offered not only quick reflexes but communication through the steering wheel and seat of one’s pants that let you know in no uncertain terms what the tires were doing.