The BMW E39 5 Series – A Car That Changed The Automotive World Forever

It’s 1996 and you’re sitting in your living room watching the Olympics. During a commercial break, BMW’s award winning commercial for their redesigned BMW 5 Series shows the streets of New York City flooded with water, but most notably boats floating up and down city streets with the E39 540i navigating its way trough maritime traffic. It’s possible that at this point in time, the viewers who saw this commercial that summer had no idea of the ramifications the 5 Series would have on the automotive industry, while also ushering in an era of European luxury cars dominating the market.

Before dissecting this commercial and then fast forwarding to the present day, 1996 was a year of transition for the American auto market. Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda are continuing to grab market share away from Ford, GM, and Chrysler due to their cheaper and practical cars, which is creating a seismic shift in consumer behavior as even in the mid 90’s, Americans were still loyal to auto manufacturers based in Detroit. As history tells us 20 years later, this transition will continue at a rapid pace leading to Toyota and Honda becoming prominent brands in the US Market.

It’s in this same year that BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Porsche unleash two seater convertibles: the Z3, SLK Class, and the Boxster. The Z3, already receiving notoriety after being featured in the James Bond movie “GoldenEye”, arrives at BMW showrooms shortly after the release of the movie. The Porsche Boxster will soon play a significant role in the German brand’s emergence in the US, and is just one of the few surprises Porsche is going to release within the next 10 years. The Mercedes Benz SLK is often the forgotten one out of the three, mostly due to the Z3 getting the spotlight, but also by the new millennium the redesigned SL is going to take center stage, overshadowing the SLK’s existence.

However, there’s still one segment Ford and GM own with a tight grip, and that’s the luxury sedan market. Lincoln, Mercury, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler (to an extent) are the old giants that stand in the way, and BMW is ready to accept the challenge with their E39 5 Series.

Back to analyzing the commercial, the boats signify the American luxury cars of the day. We can joke about the modern day Challenger being a boat, but the Lincoln Town Car and Continental, Mercury Grand Marquis, Cadillac Deville and Fleetwood were all bigger cars with boxy exteriors. Seeing the BMW weave through traffic with ease was meant to show it’s maneuverability, and not be a huge car that couldn’t get out of its own way. The last statement made in that commercial was, “Why float through life, when you can drive?”. This would resonate with younger consumers who really had a limited selection of luxury cars to choose from, especially if they didn’t want to drive cars their grandparents and aging parents owned.

The E39 540i/M5 wasn’t just a four door performance car that even today we marvel at, but the E39 in general was a luxury sedan that would reshape the automotive industry forever. In 1996, Mercedes Benz and Audi hadn’t found their way yet, but they too would be emboldened to compete with BMW by the end of the decade. This would then lead us to almost 18 years of competition between the German brands, which eventually dragged Jaguar, Maserati, and Volvo into the mix by 2014. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

The 540i that was shown in that commercial was priced at $50k, but the 5 Series in 1996 had a base price of around $38k which was right in line with American luxury sedans. While the US economy was very different 22 years ago, the slow progression to European luxury cars dominating the market can easily be attributed to the E39 5 Series, and it was the beginning of bigger and better vehicles from Germany that would continue to put nails in the coffin of American automotive giants that ruled for over 60 years.

BMW E39 540i
BMW E39 540i

Too often we look at the E39 from a performance aspect, and some believe that the Chevrolet SS is the only car since 1996 that most resembles the E39 5 Series. However, when it comes to defining a luxury sedan, that’s where BMW reshaped an entire segment. Luxury cars in the 90’s were boats, much like their predecessors before them. While cars were slowly downsizing, the E39 accelerated the change by not only being smaller than a Lincoln or Cadillac, but also being sporty. If we walk into dealership showrooms today, luxury cars come with optional sports appearance packages and engines putting out impressive horsepower numbers. It wouldn’t be a stretch to go back 20 years and attribute that to the 540i.

Indirectly, the success of the 5 Series kickstarted the beginning of an arms race between the German auto manufacturers which then got the rest of Europe involved by the late 2000’s to early 2010’s. Mercedes Benz and Audi started producing sleek cars to compete against BMW, Jaguar then replaces the S-Type with the XF and later the XE enters showrooms, Maserati releases the Ghibli, Alfa Romeo reemerges in the US with the Giulia, and now under the ownership of Geely, Volvo is ready to be a legitimate threat to German manufacturers with a very impressive redesigned S60.

Jaguar, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Volvo were really niche brands, and even today they still are to an extent. I’m not going to downplay the effect crossovers have had on these brands, which is a story for another day as BMW and Mercedes Benz could be the patriarchs of a luxury SUV craze that swept through an entire industry with the X5 and ML Class hitting the market in 1998-1999. However, the E39 has certainly played a role, whether directly or indirectly, in the decision to produce four door sports cars that also have luxury car qualities, and the Audi B9 S4 is the perfect example of that.

At the end of the day, no matter which car you want to pinpoint as the culprit for the modern day four door luxury sedan, the E39 5 Series challenged the status quo, making luxury cool for younger consumers and not just a vehicle for aging Americans 65 and older. The performance side of the 540i/M5 certainly helped grab attention from drivers who wanted an exhilarating and engaging driving experience. This car’s massive impact on the automotive industry shouldn’t be overlooked, and as car enthusiasts who now have a variety of luxury sports sedans to choose from, we owe that to the E39 5 Series.

The Potential Is There For Toyota To Be A Fun Brand

For almost the past 20 years, Toyota has been looked upon as being the reliable, safe, and least fun brand in the automotive industry. Appealing to the average consumer rather than giving at least some attention to car enthusiasts can either be seen as smart from a business perspective, or a mistake by not creating an excitement that would extend to all car buyers. From an enthusiast’s perspective, utter the word “Toyota”, and there’s two cars that come to mind. The Supra and the Prius. Vehicles from two different extremes and eras, marked as either a car most recognized from Fast and Furious, or the hybrid that’s the bane of car lovers existences.

Toyota has made attempts through commercials the past three years to seem more exciting, as they released an ad for the Camry where two brothers are racing on the streets of Monaco. At the time, it didn’t make any sense why a brand that’s not recognized as being race oriented in the United States outside of Nascar, would try to change the direction of a brand despite the vehicles being no different than their predecessors. That all changed late last year with the introduction of the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE, and since then the brand that brought us the Supra and MR2 seems to be heading into 2020 with the potential of being a very fun and exciting automotive manufacturer once again.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE
2018 Toyota Camry XSE

Starting with the Camry XSE, Toyota surprisingly stuck with a V6 engine that gets 301 hp instead of following rival brands who are moving in the direction of turbocharged 4 cylinder engines. The XSE trim also comes with an optional two-toned exterior and red sports seats, which just feels really out of character for a Toyota vehicle. The only drawback is that fully loaded, the Camry’s price is around $40k, which many consumers have voiced their discontent as they believe it’s too high of a cost.

Around the same time the new Camry was hitting showrooms, Toyota added the GT86 to the brand, which was formally known as the Scion FR-S. A small coupe that has a cult following, it’s actually a fun and attainable car for young enthusiasts, and adding to the appeal is the list of aftermarket parts and modifications that can be done to the GT86 to enhance performance and appearance. Honestly, this little coupe is a throwback to what JDM culture was all about in the 90’s. I would never go as far to say that it’s this decade’s Honda Civic, but the GT86 does give you that sense of being a pure Japanese compact sports coupe.

Back in late March at the New York Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the all new Corolla hatchback which will come with an optional manual transmission. At this point, their vision for the next few years is becoming more clear as boring may no longer be an adjective associated with the brand. A few minutes later, the re-designed RAV4 was also unveiled and that’s when the energy in the room was lifted to a whole new level.

The new RAV4 is much more rugged than last generation, taking on the appearance of the Highlander, which was a very smart move by Toyota. For 2018 and beyond, crossovers are no longer just a family vehicle as the automotive industry is moving towards bringing either sporty or off-road elements to a segment that is actually quite bland. Toyota decided to go with more of the off-road look, which is a jab at Jeep. They’re also setting themselves apart from Ford, GM, and Honda who really haven’t drastically changed the styling of their crossovers. While it could be perceived as a major risk, Toyota could certainly be a legitimate player in stealing market share from rival brands in the crossover segment.

Lastly we have the long awaited arrival of the Toyota Supra which details have been leaked pertaining to performance and pricing. The new Supra is rumored to get a turbocharged inline 6 that gets 335 hp and 369 lb ft of torque, with a 0-60 time of around 4.5 seconds. Unfortunately as we all feared, it’s not going to be cheap. From the leaks, a starting price of $63,500 is to be expected. We won’t find out for sure until the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, but to know that the Supra is making a return is definitely something to look forward to.

The last 10-12 months for Toyota has certainly been exciting. Unfolding in front of our eyes the emergence of an auto brand that was once looked at as being dull or not cool to now being rather interesting and also a bit of a mystery. What is Toyota’s long term vision and plan? Is sports cars something we can expect from the brand moving forward, or is this a five year window of hope and change but then will fizzle out by the time we get closer to 2025? There’s so many questions that haven’t yet been answered, but for the time being, let’s take in the complete shift in culture at Toyota and enjoy every minute of it.

BMW 3 Series vs BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe – Why the 4 Series Is Better

I’m never one to get caught up in the slight upgrades, face lifts, and body designs when it comes to comparing consumer vehicles, but for the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe I’ve been hooked since it’s arrival to showrooms. In an automotive segment that has seen an increase in competition, the gran coupe/sportback is without a doubt the most interesting market for 2018. BMW made the first move with the 4 Series Gran Coupe, shortly after Audi followed suit with the A5 Sportback, and then Kia comes out of nowhere with the Stinger which has taken the segment by storm, outselling their competition in a few short months.

Despite Audi’s recent unveiling of the all new RS5 Sportback at the New York Auto Show and the Kia Stinger GT which offers a twin turbo V6 engine that gets 365 hp, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe continues to grab my attention. While it may be outperformed on the track or in a straight line by the quicker S5 Sportback and Stinger GT, the Gran Coupe provides style, luxury, and class that I can’t ignore.

When parking it next to a BMW 3 Series, the minor changes in the front facia are enough to make a big difference. It has the front end of a 4 Series coupe, and when walking around the side of the vehicle, the sloping sportback design cues makes the car look so much better. Recently, a friend received a 430i Gran Coupe loaner vehicle, and no matter what angle we were standing at, the car still looked good.

BMW 430i Gran Coupe
BMW 430i Gran Coupe

Personally, it’s not about the performance or even the style that I find appealing. It’s the fact that the 4 Series is a viable option if the 3 Series isn’t enough car for your tastes. For instance, the 330i sedan and 430i Gran Coupe overlap in price point, and if you’re willing to sacrifice a few optional features then the Gran Coupe comes into play for your next vehicle. For the same price tag, choosing the Gran Coupe will increase cargo volume and overall interior space which gives it a more than entry level luxury feel, and that’s what I believe BMW is trying to achieve here.

There’s no difference in fuel economy or engine size so you’re not sacrificing anything in terms of practicality. Optional features and packages however are a different story. The 430i Gran Coupe offers the Track Handling Package which provides Variable Sports Steering, M Sport Brakes, and Adaptive Sports Suspension, along with the ability to upgrade to 19″ wheels with all-season or performance run-flat tires. Additional safety features includes the optional side and top view cameras to aid in parking. It’s these small things that really make the Gran Coupe more appealing, especially since it’s in the same price range as the 330i. To receive any of these features on the 3 Series, you’ll have to upgrade to the 340i, and with that being said, we would then have to start looking at the 440i Gran Coupe as well.

For car enthusiasts, the 340i would probably be the better option because of the optional 6 speed manual transmission. However, the Gran Coupe would get additional points for luxury and class, and obviously consumers looking for comfort and additional size would gravitate more towards the 4 Series.

When it comes to performance, you’ll get 248 hp with the 430i and 320 hp on the 440i. Again, the Gran Coupe won’t be taking on the S5 Sportback or Stinger GT in a race, but if horsepower isn’t a priority you’ll still have fun behind the wheel of the 4 Series. One thing to remember is that for the time being, the Gran Coupe doesn’t have an M variant, whereas the 4 Series coupe and 3 Series do. BMW isn’t trying to take on Audi or Kia in this particular segment, and instead is focusing more on the comfort and driving experience for consumers.

Overall, what competitors are putting on dealerships’ lots doesn’t effect my thoughts, good or bad pertaining to the 4 Series Gran Coupe. As a daily driver, it offers everything consumers are looking for. Having driven the Audi A5 Sportback recently, I wasn’t overly impressed despite being a fan of the updated interior from a few years ago that was first present on the Q7 and A4.

From a car enthusiast’s perspective, of course there’s better options out there, and in the $50k price range the Kia Stinger GT would certainly be my pick because of what you’re getting for the price. On paper, you’re making sacrifices on both sides, but at this point it comes down to personal preference. No matter what the decision is, there will always be that one person who will say, “But for this price, you could have bought (insert competitor model)”.

At the end of the day it’s not what your gaining or losing, it’s what fits your daily lifestyle. For me, the BMW 430i Gran Coupe provides more than the 330i with additional safety and technology features, it looks great, and has unannounced and subtle performance that will allow me to enjoy my driving experience behind the wheel.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE – Redefining Entry Level Luxury

2018 has started with a few surprises in the automotive industry. First, Buick comes out with their all new station wagon, the Regal TourX. It’s very possible and not too far fetched to say that the TourX could reshape the opinions of consumers on whether crossovers are the best option when shopping for a vehicle that provides cargo space, practicality, and a relative sense of performance. The all new Kia Stinger GT is setting out to take on the likes of the Audi S5 Sportback, as it provides a surprisingly great driving experience and performance. Then you have the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE. The sedan that just might redefine the term, “entry level luxury”.

When you think of the Toyota Camry, performance and luxury are probably not the first adjectives you’d use to describe this sedan. In fact, most likely it’s practicality and reliability that are the more accurate terms. However for the 2018 Camry XSE, it feels as though Toyota has made a sedan that challenges all preconceptions, opinions, and perceptions that it’s just a car that will get you from point A to point B. Having had the opportunity to test drive this car at the New England International Auto Show, I can no longer look at the Toyota Camry as being a means of transportation for the average driver. Instead, the Camry has given me hope that during a daily commute to work, I can still have some fun behind the wheel and enjoy the driving experience without having to pay $45k+ on a new luxury vehicle.

With the very distinct and almost retro-like two-toned exterior, which is optional on the XSE, the Camry looks much more aggressive than in previous years. A black mesh front grille and 19″ wheels also adds a sporty appeal on this trim. For performance the XSE comes with a 3.5L V6 engine that gets 301 hp and 267 lb ft of torque and is paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission that do come with paddle shifters. You’ll go from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds which is 0.1 seconds slower than the Honda Accord 2.0T Touring but faster than the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

Inside you’re greeted by a very comfortable and spacious interior. For a car that’s not considered a full-sized sedan, the Camry comes with a lot of arm room. You don’t feel cramped, and you’re not so close to your passenger that it begins to feel uncomfortable. The most important aspect of the interior are the seats. Along with the two-toned exterior, you’ll get red sports seats that literally hug you while driving. It surprised me that I was behind the wheel of a Toyota with paddle shifters and was actually comfortable during the test drive.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE
2018 Toyota Camry XSE

I don’t know if it’s almost the two decades long biases I’ve had against the Camry or Toyota in general being a car enthusiast, but I was genuinely impressed with both the looks and driving experience.

Toyota has been marketing themselves lately as being more sporty and cool which didn’t make much sense to me prior to spending time with the Camry. However, I’m beginning to buy into their latest changes as the XSE is surprisingly fun to drive and provides a comfortable luxury-like driving experience.

The Camry XSE comes with a base price of $35k and can reach $39k fully loaded. While it could be argued that the Camry is reaching entry level German luxury sedan territory, what can’t be denied is that Toyota is beginning to offer some sense of luxury with performance. It will be interesting to see where the brand goes from here, as the redesigned Toyota Avalon shares the same design cues as the Camry, and the facelift looks just as good.

Japanese and Korean car makers are stepping up their game, and with that comes better designed cars. The next few years are going to be exciting, and for me, I’m looking forward to what’s down the road as car brands that weren’t emphasizing luxury at all, are beginning to offer features, styling, and performance that’s hard to pass up if you’re a consumer in the market for a sedan in the $35k – $40k price range.

Upcoming Car Events and Cars & Coffees For August In Boston

Here’s the list of upcoming car events and Cars & Coffees for the month of August. If you know of any other large car events this month, comment below and I’ll add them to the list.

McLaren Boston
McLaren Boston
Herb Chambers C&C
Herb Chambers C&C
Boston Cars & Coffee August 26th
Boston Cars & Coffee August 26th
Tutto Italiano
Tutto Italiano

In addition to Boston Cars & Coffee at Larz Anderson, there’s special events held at the museum each weekend. Here’s the five car events at Larz for the month of August.

Larz Anderson Event Schedule of August
Larz Anderson Event Schedule of August
Seacoast Cars and Coffee
Seacoast Cars and Coffee

August 6th is Seacoast Cars & Coffee up in Portsmouth, NH.

For more information you can visit their website:
Seacoast Cars & Coffee Website

You can also check out their Facebook Page:
Seacoast Cars & Coffee Facebook Page

As always, I’ll continue to update this article if any large car events pop up within the next few days and weeks.

UPDATE

2nd Annual Shriners Donation Car Show
2nd Annual Shriners Donation Car Show
5th Annual Concorso Italiano
5th Annual Concorso Italiano

At Gilette Stadium in Foxborough, there’s Bass Pro Shops Cruise Night on Thursday nights from 4-8pm. This is a bi-weekly event that usually gets a turnout between 1000 and 2000 cars. Here are the two upcoming cruise nights.

Bass Pro Shops Cruise Night
Bass Pro Shops Cruise Night

Dream Ride August 26th and 27th in Farmington, Connecticut.

For more information visit:

Dream Ride 2017
Dream Ride 2017

Are Consumers’ Demand For Luxury Interiors Driving Prices Up?

In an age of living a luxurious life, even for those living well beyond their means, we’re seeing prices gradually moving up, pinching middle class consumers in the process. The automotive market is one of those industries in which we’re witnessing the inflation of car prices. Vehicles that shouldn’t be priced any higher than $16,000 – $18,000 are nearing $20,000+, and consumers are beginning see how buying a 1-2 year old used car is a better fiscal decision than walking into the dealer and driving off the lot in a brand new car. But are consumers partially to blame for the uptick in vehicle prices?

Europeans are known to prefer luxury and driving experience over flat-out performance, which is why European auto makers produce more expensive cars that capture the very best in what the automotive world has to offer. Over the years we’re seeing this trend beginning to grow in the United States as flat-out performance is not selling as quick as luxury, something Cadillac refuses to see as they’re marketing performance first and their sales figures are dropping because of that. Muscle cars have made a slight rebound with the emergence of the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats, the new fastback Ford Mustang, and the Chevrolet Camaro which will be sporting a new look next year.

If you’ve been to car shows recently you’ve noticed that interiors of low-end cars now have an upscale appeal. The Mazda3 and Mazda6 have very comfortable and luxurious interiors, which is a slight shock considering that they’re not a luxury brand. The Honda Civic EX-L, priced around $25,000, has an amazing interior, and if you forget about the engine that it has, you’d have to say that it’s a very impressive car. This leads me to the Toyota Yaris, which some trims cost near or exceed $19,000. That’s absolutely outrageous as this is the Hyundai Elantra GT’s price range territory. True, it gets less gas mileage than the Yaris, but why buy a micro hatchback when you can buy a full size for the same price?

The interiors and their infotainment systems are partially to blame, but so are the consumers. Bluetooth, navigation systems, electric sunroofs, touch displays, and premium cloth or leather seats all factor into the price. The reason why cars like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are considered economical cars is because they’re supposed to be cheap while also offering great gas mileage. Not in 2015. While you have the option to buy the base model, $16,000 is still no drop in the bucket either. Which raises the question as to why consumers would buy new in this current market? Leasing offers have become more appealing than buying, and you actually end up with a better car for 24-36 months than if you bought a car for $18,000.

The luxurious lifestyle is great, but are we living way beyond our means? The Mazda3 was once affordable, a rival to the Ford Focus. Now a top trim Mazda3 is impeding on the Chrysler 200’s territory. For those who do have the money to buy a $25,000+ car, this is a great time to buy. Instead of spending $40,000 on a Mercedes Benz or BMW, you can get an upscale interior for a fraction of the cost. In the sure sense of practicality, a top trim Mazda3, Subaru Impreza Premium, or a Honda Civic EX-L is a much better option, and you don’t break the bank buying a car that offers every infotainment system on the market.

Car companies have their reasons for spiking the prices of cars, but consumers’ demands for luxury interiors and infotainment systems have been a cause for more expensive cars that were once affordable. Whatever happened to the days when we’d get in our cars, turn on the radio, roll the windows down, and enjoy the driving experience? Owning a luxury car is by no means a bad thing, but we’re continuously outdoing ourselves by demanding luxury in cars that are nowhere close to being upscale.

Are Sports Cars Becoming A Thing Of The Past?

Er hat bestimmt eine tolle Klimaanlage.
ingrid eulenfan / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As we’re heading into the fifteenth year of the new millennium, the automotive world has changed quite a bit from twenty years ago. Sedans have more powerful engines, which means more horsepower, smaller SUV’s and crossovers can be found in almost every car manufacturer lineup, and technology in both the engine and the interiors of vehicles have now taken precedence over power. When it comes to the traditional sports car, is their time coming to and end? BMW’s Sales Chief Ian Robertson thinks so.

“The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be,” Robertson told Bloomberg. “Post-2008, it just collapsed—I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover.”

To keep his comment in context, he’s not referring to the exotic luxury sports car market that includes Ferrari and other premium brands. Two-door coupes in general have been waning, and to take their place, sedans which used to be seen as for the average adult, now have sports packages that certainly would make a consumer question the long term value of buying a coupe.

Two-door coupes really aren’t that practical for families, or young adults who want to drive their friends around town. There’s less carrying capacity for both people and groceries which could definitely be a hassle if you’re moving into a dorm or shop frequently. Looking at how the automotive world has evolved over the past decade there are certainly better options out there for the average consumer.

Hatchbacks and sedans today offer everything the car enthusiast and everyday driver wants from a car. Cargo space, seating capacity, and more importantly stronger engines with more horsepower. While some would say sports car have a better center of gravity and can take turns better, how important is that to people who just want to get from Point A to Point B?

Sports cars have been on the downward trend. However, while the sports car market is slowing down for automakers, Ford, GM, and Dodge have re-introduced the muscle car to the American driver. Ford’s new Mustang that has the body style of the 1960’s, Dodge’s Charger and Challenger Hellcats that pack a whopping 707 horses, and Chevy’s Camaro are all grabbing the attention of sports car drivers. But other than the Americans, many car companies have turned their focus to serving the consumer who wants a four-door.

Even Porsche has slightly strayed from their identity as they’ve come out with to SUV’s and the four-door Panamera. Volkswagen is discontinuing their Eos, Volvo stopped producing the C30 and C70, Mazda has no plans to remake an RX-8, Chrysler is putting more focus on the 200 sedan rather than the coupe which they do offer, BMW is adding a four door to their 4series, and Audi has released sketches of a four-door TT. The trend in the automotive market is moving towards sedans and SUV’s, and whether that has anything to do with the fact that they’re more practical, or manual transmissions (which are usually found on sports cars) are becoming a thing of the past, we can’t lie to ourselves and think that Ian Robertson is wrong.

As I said before, he wasn’t saying anything about the exotic sports car market which is seeing strong sales numbers; he’s referring to the market that BMW is in. Consumers want smaller four-door cars, and that’s what we’re seeing car companies building. While Ian Robertson might be right about the sports car market, the four-door sedans of today have that sports car identity built in them that makes the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 200S, Audi S4, and the Lexus IS-F very popular cars.

Is Luxury Taking On A Whole New Meaning In The Automotive World?

If someone walked up to you fifteen years ago and said that Subaru, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota were making four door sedans that rivaled the Germans, would you believe them? Or better yet, if that same person told you Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW were offering smaller vehicles with starting prices near $30,000, would you think they were joking? The reality is, in the year 2014 the Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord and Civic, Mazda 6, and Toyota Camry and Avalon are all on par with German luxury vehicles, but for a fraction of the cost. While the big three German auto manufacturers are entering the cheaper luxury markets, the Japanese and even the Americans are meeting them with top notch vehicles that might make you question your bias towards a certain car brand.

The fact that any car can have an LCD monitor, leather seats, a spacious interior, and great fuel economy, really begs the question on whether it’s worth spending $10,000 – $20,000 more to get the same package and luxury you’d find on what used to be inferior car brands. For many, the dream of owning a Mercedes Benz or BMW will never go away, but when we were kids, who could have foreseen a Honda, Toyota, Mazda, or Subaru with a luxurious interior? What was once exclusive to those who were affluent, can now be found on most cars that were seen as average. Luxury really has taken on a whole new meaning, but it doesn’t stop there. Performance is also another feature that can be found on four door sedans that were 15 years ago, a family oriented vehicle.

You can own a Subaru Legacy with a 265 horsepower V6 engine for around $32,000, almost $8,000 less than the Audi A4 that has a turbocharged four cylinder engine with 220 horsepower. I must ask the question again, is it worth spending the extra $8,000 on an Audi when you can own a Subaru with the same comforts and styling? The Chrysler 200 has a V6 option which supplies a whopping 295 hp, completely blowing away any of the Japanese or German four door sedans in the price range of $30,000 – $35,000.

But at the end of the day, all the driver really wants is reliability with a combination of some form of luxury, and Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota can offer that. These brands speak for themselves as they’ve been known for reliability for years, but now that they’ve put in nicer interiors, leather seats, and performance for competitive prices, it’s hard to see why you’d pay extra for a car that offers the same. The only major difference is the badge on the front of the car and the recognition that brand has that catches the eyes of bystanders.

Heading into 2015, the consumer is going to have a boatload of options in the four door luxury sedan market in the $30,000 – $35,000 price range. Luxury is what you make it; the auto manufacturers are just making cars that help steer you into their direction. Owning an Audi, Mercedes, or BMW is a major feat, but when you see cheaper options that may offer more, it’s hard to say no.

The Volvo S40 2.4i: 2 Tons Of Swedish Magnificence

The Volvo S40 2.4i: 2 Tons Of Swedish Magnificence

Being an owner of the Volvo S40 has been an absolute pleasure. The comfort level, style, and feel of luxury is what makes this car so great. It’s a Volvo. Should we expect anything less?

At the height of it’s sales back in 2006, the Volvo S40’s starting MSRP was roughly around $25,000. However, for the price paid for it, you got a lot more than what the competitors were offering. A sunroof, power windows and locks, 16″ aluminum rims, and climate control.
The interior was clean and open, and for a compact sedan, you didn’t feel entirely close to you front seat passenger as shoulder room was quite impressive. Radio and temperature controls took time to get used to, but in the open backside, there was an added cargo space and a neat feature that hadn’t been seen in other vehicles.
With a five cylinder engine that supplied 168 horsepower, you never felt too underpowered and could always rely on the S40 to get you out of tricky situations. From 0-60 it took 8.1 seconds, but let’s remember, it’s a Volvo, and unless you bought the T5, there was no turbo charged engine. Fuel economy could have been better, but if only used on the highway the S40 had the potential to close in on 300 miles on a tank of gas. Premium unleaded always hurts the pocket, however the miles and hours spent driving are well worth the price.
Overall this car was and still is nice. For students and young adults it can be the prelude to bigger and better vehicles, but it’s hard parting ways with a small sedan that introduces you to luxury. Cargo space for the Volvo S40 isn’t the best for it’s class, but that’s not what this car was meant for. The drives on a beautiful warm day with the sunroof open and the windows down is what creates the lasting memories. This car is great to cruise around in and not feel uncomfortable while sitting in it.
Volvo got it right when they produced the S40, and if they ever decide to reintroduce it to their lineup, there would be no hesitation, I will buy it.

Introducing the 2015 Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk and Latitude Models
Chrysler Group / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)