Now let me tell you why, as I think it’s an interesting look into need vs. want. If you are reading this, you probably like fast cars. Or Miatas. Just kidding, don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with the reader. I recently decided it was time to trade in the 2014 Ford Focus ST. I can already feel the ire, “you traded a FoST for a damn SUV?” Stay with me here.
The purchase came at at time where we needed to save some money. My ex-Wife is an awful person, and after spending the equivalent of a new BMW M3 in legal fees, I still wasn’t able to get the time I wanted with my two older kids. But that’s a story for a different blog. So away via trade went both a 2009 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ and a 2003 Ford Mustang GT convertible, both of which we owed money on. Payments shrunk and I had a fun new, economical’ish, commuter car to play with. And RFD had a new long-term test car.
Fast forward nine months and I’m tired. Maybe it’s because I’m old (38) and can’t take the punishment of a daily driver with a stiff suspension and a 6spd. Maybe it was trying to shoehorn a big-for-his-size newborn into a postage slot rear opening between his Recaro seat and the door opening. Maybe it was trying to drive through DC dodging potholes and praying it wouldn’t snow because my FWD car sucks when it gets slippery out. Regardless of what combination of those things came into play, I decided it was time for a change.
Admittedly, I love car shopping. It’s fun and I don’t mind it one bit. The thrill of building the criteria, narrowing down the list to what I want, and then searching for the perfect vehicle is great. I can take or leave the dealership experience, but it doesn’t bother me and I’m pretty good at haggling. No haggle pricing my ass. So what were the criteria? Well that gets me to need vs. want.
What do I want? Something attractive, fast, a bit ostentatious and loud. A modern day Shelby GT500 or GT350, maybe a Corvette ZO6. What do I need? Something reliable that can carry a family (Wife, 3 kids, 2 dogs, and all the crap that goes with them), and will brave bad weather without issue. Sort of sounds like a minivan.
Obviously there is a happy medium to be found somewhere in between. Regardless, it had to be attractive, much like real live human relationships, you want to find yourself looking over your shoulder at your car when you are walking away. The “look back” test is something we use at RFD in any vehicle review. Do you like what you see when you look back or do you not bother looking after a while? I look back over my shoulder at my Wife, but the car, sometimes.
So I headed to cars.com to start looking at options. I started with broad search terms like “all 4-doors (sedan, wagon, and SUV) around $30,000, with 50,000 miles or less, that are 3 years old or less”, etc. I don’t have time to spend with my daily driver in the shop, so I limited the mileage and year search and the price point is the price point, it is what it is. I didn’t want to pay a lot more than I was for the Focus, but was willing to bump up a bit. So since the broad search didn’t work, I found myself going automaker-by-automaker and researching various models. As with any large purchase, I didn’t want to miss anything that could be a contender. Here are some that made the initial list:
- Audi S4 – I’ve had some bad VW-Audi Group experiences, but the S4 is a nice car. Didn’t really matter though, for 2-3 year old models, pretty much anything starting with “S” or “RS” was out of the price range.
- BMW 535i (sedan or wagon) – A real contender, I love the twin turbo engine, it has a lot of potential. Plus I liked the size of the 5-series and that it was available as a wagon. Unfortunately there weren’t many interesting candidates in the model years I was interested in. For the price point, you’ll get a 2011 or older, or something a little newer with higher mileage. I briefly considered a V10 M5 but shuddered in fear at the potential for costly repairs. Oh and as much as I wanted one, the M3 sedan is just too small unfortunately.
- Cadillac CTS-V (sedan or wagon) – I really want a CTS-V. Badly. But I prefer the 2009 and newer which are holding their value pretty well and were not realistic in this scenario.
- Chevrolet SS – For this to be a real solid contender, someone would have had to buy a new one and trade it in or sell it. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened often, and I didn’t find many on the used market near DC.
- Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300C SRT-8 – There is something cool about these big Mopars. And, as you’ll see, I ended up with something similar, but in SUV form. Unfortunately, getting a hold of the SRT model proved a bit difficult in the price/year range for this purchase. Still a solid contender.
- Jeep Wrangler Unlimited – Certainly the most dissimilar option on the list, but the 4-door Jeep is a great vehicle. We owned one in 2012 and many times I have regretted trading it in. However, the IIHS crash ratings are awful and kind of scary. Like doors opening, passengers injured, scary. 5-star it’s not. Which is too bad because they are a lot of fun, I just don’t want to load up a bunch of kids in one.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee – This initially made the list for the SRT version. But a quick search proved that only something circa 2007 or older is reasonable around this price point. But while I’m on these Jeep dealer sites looking at Wranglers, let’s check out the new and slightly used options. Hey, nice. More on that later.
- Lexus IS-F – A cool car to be sure, but they are holding North of $30K pretty well and after owning a 2009 IS250 I can already tell you, the back seat is tiny. Next.
- Mercedes Benz E55/E63 AMG (sedan or wagon) – A beast of a car, but for $30K, you’re looking too far back in the lineage for me. No warranty, no thanks.
- Tesla Model S – Sorry, just dreaming, but I did search for used ones. No dice.
- Toyota 4-Runner – Well if I’m considering Jeeps, why not the 4-Runner? Oh, the interior. That’s awful. Next. The FJ Cruiser got a quick look as well, but they only seem to sell them in cartoon-like colors.
On a lark, I probably went through just about every other manufacturer out there looking at used Jaguars and other cars I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. So that’s the list folks, which one would you have chosen? Here’s my choice, and why.
I present to you, the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude Edition:
So why, with all those enthusiast models on there, did I get a damn Jeep SUV? Some of it was the aforementioned need. Most of the sedans I looked at were either too small or wouldn’t stand up to winter driving that well. I love me some RWD, but it normally sucks in the snow (I know, snow tires, blah blah). Not that I’m in the snow belt or anything (is that a thing?) but I need to be able to get to work when it’s messy out. I really liked the Wrangler, as did my Wife, and it was the leading contender at one point. But once I sifted through the crash testing data, I decided to take it off the list.
What came next was just a quick analysis of what we liked about the Wrangler. Rugged, not that expensive (unless you option it up to $50K, which you can), room inside for people and stuff, and a certain cool factor (it drives over shit). It was as simple as “oh, hey this Grand Cherokee is around the same price and does a lot of the same stuff” and it went from there. It’s got more room than any of the other options, looks fantastic (dare I say one of the best looking SUVs on the road), comes with a very upscale interior, and can haul all our stuff through any weather conditions. Not bad Jeep, not bad. It feels like a Range Rover at half the price. It was actually cheaper than the 3 year old RR Sport I owned and *knock on wood* more reliable.
As for for this specific model, I’ll admit it was aesthetic. I wanted black wheels, this had black wheels. I wanted leather, this came with leather (plus cool suede inserts, even better). I wanted to take off all the chrome trim on the Limited we test drove and spray them black, well Jeep already did that for us. So it’s an SRT-like look, at less than half the price. Cool.
So that’s that. I’m a fast car enthusiast and I bought a new Jeep. Just like the title said. The Jeep will be joining the RFD Garage, hauling our camera gear and likely chasing down some fast cars at VIR. So stay tuned for some driving impressions and overall long-term review. Oh, and leave a comment to tell me why the new Jeep rocks, or why I suck and should have chosen a 30 year old Caprice wagon or a Miata. Always happy to hear from the readers! Details on the new Jeep below. Keep an eye out for updates and modifications over on Wheel Well!
Packages & Options
• Engine: 3.6L V6 24V VVT
• Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
• Wheels: 20″ x 8.0″ Gloss Black Aluminum
• Tires: P265/50R20 BSW AS
• Black Headlamp Bezels
• Black Suede Seats w/Black Stitching
• Body Color Claddings
• Body Color Fascias
• Body Color Grille w/Platinum Accent
• Body Color Shark Fin Antenna
• Dual Bright Exhaust Tips
• Gloss Black Fascia Applique
• Jeep Black Gloss Badging
• Neutral Gray Satin Gloss Tail Lamp
• Power 4-Way Driver Lumbar Adjust
• Power 8-Way Driver/Manual Passenger Seat
• Rear View Auto Dim Mirror w/Microphone
• Security & Convenience Group
• SIRIUSXM Satellite Radio
• Radio: Uconnect 8.4A AM/FM/SXM/BT
• 9 Amplified Speakers w/Subwoofer
• Uconnect Access
• 115V Auxiliary Power Outlet
• Cargo Compartment Cover
• Heated Front Seats
• Heated Steering Wheel
• Power Sunroof
• Power Liftgate
• Remote Start System
• Security Alarm
• Universal Garage Door Opener
• ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera
• ParkSense Rear Park Assist System
• Security & Convenience Group
• 50 State Emissions