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More fun to drive than you are likely to expect.
I am a big Audi fan and currently own 2. You can't beat them for interior, fit and finish, and performance however, I trade often so don't experience problems that might come after more miles. I have also owned 3 infiniti's and feel that they are a great value. super performance and didn't have one single problem with any of the 3.
You're an automotive engineer - I would suggest driving something that exemplifies good automotive engineering. Something that pushed the envelope for performance, styling and reliability over what had existed before. Not the newest and most expensive incremental improvement on last years model; or; because of your budget, the newest and most expensive incremental improvement from four years ago. Know your automotive past or you will be doomed to repeat its mistakes in the future, right? Stand up for a car the automotive industry has gotten right and drive it. And if you're an automotive engineer you should be able do some basic stuff on your car, and doing that will likely help your hands-on automotive knowledge and thus your career. Buy a high milage NSX. A Lexus SC300 or IS300. A last gen Prelude. Maybe even the G35/37. I don't know; those are the cars I think were well done, and which I might drive if I were in your industry. You may not value reliability and low-cost as much as I do, though, so maybe there are some German or American cars you appreciate as well. IMHO, the fit and finish of a car with a blown engine is irrelevant.
What about driving something cheap for a few years and getting a Tesla when their used prices drop?
On the other hand maybe you should mess with people and drive a Pontiac Aztek. It would certainly be a conversation starter. Drive something bad for a while as a kind of visceral experience of how your industry can go wrong.
I also like how the ATS drives, and also wish its reliability was better.
The A4 and A5 look good in our survey back to and including the 2011 model year. The 2010 used to look better than it has recently. The A5 you're considering is likely to be good until it turns six, at which point I believe the CPO warranty ends. After that it becomes more of a gamble. They are gorgeous.
The G37 tends to be a good value for what it costs used. It could be your best bet.
Have you considered the current VW GTI?
Less expensive possibilities include the Kia Forte Koup and Scion tC.
I'd check insurance rates before buying anything, to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
The 2013-2014 Cadillac ATS is a really good deal under $20K or $6,000 less than your target. The handling and braking is not matched by others and AWD is really good with a rear bias.
If you run Premium fuel of 92 octane or so and have the sparkplug and ecu update the car takes to aftermarket tuning well and with AWD just hooks and scoots.
The 2014 Regal AWD had Haldex4 AWD and has won over journalist like Consumer Reports saying to skip the Benz, BMW, and buy the Buick.
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