An Exhaustive Look at Cars
April 23, 2019
Trucks are awesome. They're big, tough, and muscular. If you want a car that has the delicate touch of a sledgehammer, then you want a truck ... and a big one. Too hard to park one in a city? If whining's your thing then you can't handle the macho, doesn't-give-a-darn, subtle-as-a-punch-to-the-face personality of a pickup truck. Trucks don't do it halfway, don't hold back, don't know the meaning of minimalism, don't care about the latest apps, and let freedom ring. Trucks like the Ford F-series live large, and when push comes to shove, they can really shove.
The Ford F-series is the best-selling vehicle in America, with approximately 0.9 million being sold domestically in 2018. The F-150 is the lightest vehicle in the F-series, but don't let that deceive you; the F-150 can tow up to 13,200 lbs and haul up to 2,311 lbs. The F-150 currently starts with an MSRP of $28,115 for a base RWD XL model with a single cab and 3.3L V6 engine. A 4x4 truck with a back seat offers incredible versatility, because in addition to being a nice toy on the trails, you can also haul cargo in the bed without encroaching on the passengers, unlike a three-row SUV or minivan and deciding if you need to fold the seats down. Because extended cab trucks have three-seat benches in the front and back, you can seat up to six people, making them capable family-haulers. While this truck can be a cowboy limo with a price of over $70,000, it can also get a spartan workhorse for $30K, or anything in between. Here's how I would do it:
Start with a SuperCab XLT with the 6-1/2' bed and get the 4x4 drivetrain. Next go for the 301A equipment group, which adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, storage under the rear seats, and a larger screen on the instrument panel among other things. Just in case the need to tow something arises, I would add class IV trailer hitch for $95 but skip the trailer tow package which costs $995, since I won't likely be towing frequently. I would snap-up the 5.0L V8 engine in an instant, simply because it's a V8 and the highest output engine available on the XLT. Because I enjoy going off-road, I would get the FX4 off-road package, which most importantly adds skid plates and off-road suspension. I would then add the 18" wheels with the 275/65/R18 all-terrain tires due to their larger diameter, since it is a truck after all, with a 3.73 electronic locking axle and top it all off with the spray-in bedliner, leaving the final price at $45,970. The result: a nicely optioned 4x4 truck that can tackle the trails and work hard, while having a lively engine to make for some fun driving.
Now you may find yourself thinking "Why only the F-150? Why not an F-250 or something even bigger?" Excellent question, and true to the nature of my original point. An F-250 would be an excellent choice if all you want is a giant beast of an automobile, and don't care about the likes of infotainment systems, leather seats, and fancy power features. After all, the F-250 comes with a 6.2L V8 as the base engine! While the F-150 is big and tough, the F-250 is an unstoppable monster for someone who either really needs some extra hauling power, or someone with the guts to drive the beast. Stay on the lookout for related test-drive reviews.
Sooner or later, almost everyone is going to get a car. This will likely occur sometime between 16 and 19, so that is the age-range that will be targeted in this article. In this article we are going to exclude premium brands (BMW, Lincoln, Lexus, Buick, Genesis, etc.) due to affordability.
These little things are cheap, and I mean cheap. Like $12,360 cheap. The Versa doesn't offer too much, but it's small, has a surprisingly spacious interiors, the cloth seats are relatively comfortable, it offers good gas mileage (27 city / 36 highway MPG), a manual transmission comes standard, it doesn't drown you in expensive technology that you don't need, and if your really want you can get it with a spoiler. While this sounds great, the Versa has some drawbacks. The gear selector looks awful. It's made of cheap plastic, and has a two-tone silver and black color scheme that doesn't work at all in real life. I've driven a lot in these things, and while comfy, aren't exactly lookers, inside or out. They're also short on power, 1.6 liters of bland producing 109 hp. I nearly had to floor it once to climb a hill at 35! Only once did the gas pedal stop working completely while I was driving. However, if you want something with a manual transmission that gets the job done for cheap and is a little fun to drive, and don't care that it might not be prettiest, most reliable, or fast, then the Versa might be the car for you.
The Ford Explorer has been around the block a few times. It's been in production since 1990, is currently the top-selling 3- mid-size SUV, and features a fancy full-time 4wd system that utilizes torque vectoring. The Explorer can seat up to 7 passengers, and can be outfitted as a luxury SUV, economy hauler, rugged crossover, or anything between the three. Due to the nature of its size, the Explorer tends to cost a little more than compact crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, although the difference is not as much as you might expect. The Ford Explorer has a base price $32,365 MSRP, although you can easily crest $50,000 with the available trims and options. The Ford Explorer is a great family car, has plenty of space, great safety ratings, drives smoothly, and is reliable. The downsides to the Explorer are byproducts of its strengths, mainly its size. The Explorer costs more than many smaller vehicles, and its width is noticeable when you are maneuvering in parking garages and on narrow roads.
The Jeep Cherokee (KL) provides great off-road abilities in the package of a compact crossover. The KL is cheaper than a Wrangler (MSRP: $24,795 vs $28,045) and has better on-road handling. The KL gets decent gas mileage, 23 city / 31 highway MPG, versus the Wrangler's 23/25 MPG. The Cherokee Trailhawk comes with a 3.2L V6, producing 270 hp, or a 2.0L turbo-4 with 271 hp and better gas mileage. The Trailhawk costs $33,945 with the V6, and $33,445 with the turbo-4. The cons of the Jeep are that it gets worse gas mileage than many of its competitors and the KL has had a history of recalls related to bad transmission programming, causing the engine to stall.
Toyota re-designed their compact crossover for the 2019 model year, making it look almost like a baby 4Runner. The new RAV4 is meant to be more rugged than the outgoing model, and is surprisingly capable for a compact crossover. While its not Jeep Cherokee level, the RAV4 Adventure can handle some rough stuff. The RAV4 carries an MSRP of $25,500 in the base FWD model, the base hybrid is $27,700, and the off-road Adventure trim costs $32,900. The RAV4 is a bit pricier than other compact crossovers by about $1,000, although if you love Toyota, want an off-road crossover, and don't want the Cherokee's transmission or the Subaru Crosstrek's weak engine, then the RAV4 might be the car for you.
While Ford may be ending the Fiesta sometime in mid 2019, there's still time to buy one of these great little subcompacts. The base S sedan has an MSRP of $14,260, and the Fiesta ST hatchback goes for $21,340, which is surprisingly affordable. The S, SE, and ST-Line get a 5-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed PowerShift automatic for $1,095 extra, while the ST gets a 6-speed manual only. The PowerShift has had a history of issues, although Ford is said to have resolved these problems following a lawsuit regarding rough shifts. In any case, the manual is my recommended option for the Fiesta. The Fiesta ST gets a 1.6L EcoBoost 4-cylinder, which produces 197 hp, versus the 1.6L Ti-VCT 4-cylinder on all other Fiestas that produces 120 hp. The Fiesta can also come with Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system, which is one of the best on the market. Even with the base engine, the Fiesta still feels peppy, and is a great choice as a cheap car especially considering all the tech you can get in it.
The Hyundai Kona is awesome. It has fun styling, an AWD option, an optional electric powertrain, it gets great mileage, and the 1.6L turbo is pretty peppy. If you got an extra 3 grand to pay over the price of a normal top-model Kona, then you can opt for the Iron Man special edition Kona, which gets sweet styling and an Iron Man color scheme. Styling modifications include a redesigned front bumper. Unfortunately and confusingly, this trim deletes the sunroof and fog lights. The Kona's sporty handling is excellent, although comes at the cost of reduced cargo volume and ground clearance relative to competitors such as the Ford EcoSport. The Hyundai Kona starts with an MSRP of $19,990, although the Iron Man edition goes for $30,550.
You might be shocked based on a third of my suggestions so far being Fords, especially considering I drive an Explorer, however the Chevy Camaro is a killer performance car. While the interior isn't stellar, it's certainly not bad, considering that the 2018 Camaro SS with the 1LE package could lap the Streets of Willow at 1:20.67 in a Motortrend test, which is faster than the Porsche Cayman GT4, 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus, and Ferrari 458 Italia. A $46,000 muscle car beating a $230,000 Ferrari! For the 2019 model, a Camaro 1SS 1LE with leather-trimmed cloth RECARO seats and a manual transmission carries an MSRP of $44,495. If you want a convertible I recommend a Camaro 3LT Convertible, that will cost you $38,990, although that includes leather seats, an automatic transmission, and a V6 to replace the V8 from the SS. You can get all versions either as convertibles or as coupes, but a convertible SS would break the bank.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
No surprise here based on the cover image for the article. It seems like the Miata should be on every best list. It has two seats, limiting the number of friends/maniacs that can ride with you. It only comes as a convertible or a targa top, meaning you don't have to shell-out more than the base price to get the open-air feeling. Want something Eco-friendly, then get a Miata. Sure its not a hybrid, but maybe you should actually enjoy the environment instead of getting a hybrid that only tries halfheartedly to save the Earth. Plus, the Miata is actually pretty great in terms of efficiency, getting 26 city / 35 highway MPG, and doesn't have lots of NiCd or Lithium batteries that can leach toxic chemicals. Notice we haven't even gotten to what a great driver's car it is. Back in January, Car and Driver wrote a stellar review of it in their 10Best Cars of 2019 list. The Miata doesn't have the best roadholding ability, or the best 0-60 time by far, 0.92 g and 5.7 sec respectively, however that's not what the Miata's about. The 2019 Miata gets an upgraded 2.0L 4-cylinder, with its power raised from 155 hp @ 6000 rpm to 181 hp @ 7000 rpm. The new engine has a higher redline, 7500 rpm vs the old 6800 rpm, and has 3 lb-ft more torque at a lower rpm than the old model. The Miata also helps you exercise restraint when shopping. You can't buy too many groceries that aren't on the list because they won't fit in the Miata. It only has 4.59 cubic feet of trunk space, so you don't have much space for junk. Now, this sounds great, but you're probably scared, since the only other car celebrated this much was the $45,000 Camaro. No worries, the Miata starts at an MSRP of $26,650 for the soft-top Sport trim, however unless money's really tight, I recommend the Club trim, which comes with sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks, and a limited-slip differential. You can get Brembo brakes, although they're probably not worth a premium of $3770.
I was tearing down a small, windy road. There's a sharp turn ahead! Speed limit: Legally 35mph although the orange signs said the so-called “safe” speed was 10, maybe 20 tops. I can't be sure because I didn't care. I pressed the brake, slowing the little yellow Nissan Versa from 40 to about 30. I released most but not all of the brake pressure as I entered the turn. I cranked the wheel and then transitioned from braking to coasting to four cylinders roaring as I went through the turn. By keeping some pressure on the brake I was improving the grip of my front tires by shifting the Versa's weight distribution towards the front, especially helpful for a front-driver like the Versa.
What I just described to you is the perfect driver's ed behind-the-wheel lesson - one where your teacher is an advanced vehicle dynamics/high-speed driving instructor whose weekend job is teaching driver's ed. It feels incredible to blast through a turn like that, when you're moving fast but in total control.
Driving in general is fun if you do it right, which is why everyone should learn to appreciate it. Just take a car, (Anything works, although ideally not some giant land-yacht SUV.) and go for a drive on some back-roads. Get a feel for the car, see how it responds to steering, braking, and accelerating. Pay attention to things like how much the body rolls when going around corners and how much it leans when braking and accelerating. Then you will enter the realm of the driving enthusiast, where you realize the true purpose of driving: enjoyment. Suddenly, that Miata or 911 you always wanted will start becoming less of a "want" and more of a "need". Once you gain a bit of mastery of your car, you’ll get so much more out of driving to the point where your daily commute might actually feel fresh. You might find yourself gravitating towards the scenic route, you're early, you have time to have some fun. If you have been particularly touched, you might even want to pay a visit to your local car dealer and test-drive some hot-hatches or convertibles. Most of you thought you did everything right by slowing down for a turn, but now you realize that you were dry.
Now that you have a few pointers, you have your foot in the door for understanding other articles that might be a little more advanced, and use them to get from dry to fresh at the drop of a dime.
I am a high-school student who enjoys almost anything mechanical; cars, robotics, drones, etc. I also enjoy plain driving, vehicle dynamics, and off-road trips.