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a drivers car for fun and travel for retired seniors

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Stan P.

Looking for a sport touring roadster for seasonal use. Have driven sporting vehicles most of my life and value good handling and reasonable performance. My current go car is an 05 Passat TDI which is the best overall vehicle I have ever owned. My warm weather car is an 03 Toyota MR2 Spyder which excells in fun but is short on touring
qualities. I bought it for the mid-ship engine placement and go cart handling but 50 miles is it's comfort limit. I was thinking Honda S2000 for a while but that's long on sport and short on touring comfort too. My current focus is on late model Mercedes SLK 350 and BMW Z4 retractable hard tops. Had a Z3 a while back and found it uncomfortable. Audi TT is too small and Porsche Boxter, too expensive. I would appreciate suggestions and comments about the SLK 350 and the Z4 or possible alternatives. Stan Payson

7/1/15- Have searched, thought and re-thought the above issue for months while awaiting good weather for road tests. After examining my total needs, I've added a 2nd car to the mix. My daily driver 05 Passat tdi has 125k on the clock and will be facing a new exhaust system, shocks replacement and tires in the forseeable future. Current worth is between 6-8 K, so $2000 spent updating will benefit longevity but do nothing for the value of a 10 yr. old vehicle with a limited future. Logic would make a fun daily driver a priority with the sporty cabreolet a lesser obsession except on a sunny day. Long distance travel will be accomplished in my wifes 2015 Accord. So the updated search is for 2 vehicles, a new or near new fun car daily use and a moderately new drop top warm weather vehicle both to be used for local and regional drives only. Am thinking a hatchback such as a GTI for the DD but also considering BMW 128i/135is coupe as possibilities. Am in more of a quandry about the convertable. Nothing has a greater "fun factor" than my 03, MR2 for except for the other mid engine powered Boxter and Ferraris. Unfortunately, the seats are killers. I enjoy small engines and great shifters and don't want/need big power. Options appear to be very limited. Maybe the new Miata or a Z4 roadsters or a late model BMW 328/335, Audi A5 or Infinity cabriolets. Am daunted by the questionable reliability reflected in the True Delta data on many of the options.

Thanks all for your thoughts and suggestions. I have broadened my search with a greater emphasis on creature comfort for touring and am rethinking soft top as well as retractible hard top converts and roadsters. Reviewing the True Delta reliability data was eye opening and removed Audi and Mercedes from my "possibles" list. Reasonably priced older 911's with moderate number of miles driven are fewer than "hens teeth" as well. My search keeps circling back to Nisson/Infinity offering a pair of contenders on both the reliability and performance fronts plus a decent price structure for preowned vehicles. What has been the experience with the late model G37 Infinity converts and the 370Z roadsters? These vehicles were designed for different drivers, with the G37 being a luxury 4 passenger retractible hard top and the 370 Z being a 2 seat roadster.

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Convertible

Car Needs: Fun toy / Long trips / Errands about town

Primary Driver(s): Senior driver

Need minimum of 2 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 25000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 30000

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Response from MarkFMoore

11:52 am February 20, 2015

Response from mkaresh

12:07 pm February 20, 2015

I haven't driven a recent SLK. The Z4 can be fun and is definitely much better for long drives than a Miata or S2000.

You might also consider the BMW 1-Series.

Going larger, perhaps an Infiniti G37.

I'd suggest a Chevrolet Corvette as an outside alternative, but road noise can be high and it probably feels too large for your taste.

Overall, it sounds like you're on the right track. I'd drive the SLK, Z4, and 1-Series, and perhaps some of the others, and see which you like best.

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BMW Z4
Mercedes-Benz SLK
BMW 1-Series

Response from wcpowell12

1:38 pm February 20, 2015

Stan, you are correct about the suspension in the Z3, but the change to it in the Z4 was huge! My Z3 would change lanes if the bump in the road was big enough, and the new design smoothed it out. The SLK will provide a comfortable ride but check reliability ratings. I hear and read about a lot of small and "all the time" issues that will keep it in the shop. Drive the Miata for a good, long test drive. Yes, a lot of fun but the suspension will soon tire you out.

Here is an off the wall suggestion that you should not discount without doing some research first. I know you wanted a vehicle no older than 5 years of age, but if you will double that and start looking for a Porsche 911 Cabriolet (model year 2004-2005) you will find some in your $30k price range that have lower miles. I just saw one with 47k miles and listed for $31,000. Most 911's have been taken very good care of, have shaken the old history of drive during the week and work on 'em on the weekends. They have become extremely reliable. The Tiptronic's (automatic) will be a little less now that the PDK's are out, but running through the gears of a manual is, well, you have to experience it. Peppy when you need it, but reasonble with fuel consumption. Now - the important issue. The ride. Take a test drive in a 10 year old 911 and you will be hooked. At the end of every trip you will arrive refreshed, except for your jaws. They will ache from all the smilling you will have done. All I would ask is that you try this exercise before you rule it out.

I have had 3 - my only regret to this day is selling them.

When you drive one and the bug bites, you can reach me on this web site for the "Thank you".

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Porsche 911

Response from Member2899

3:00 pm February 20, 2015

A little more touring with a bit of hustle. Audi A5/S5. Back seats, a decent trunk, even Quattro.

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Audi A5 / S5
Ford Mustang

Response from mkaresh

2:00 am February 21, 2015

One possible issue with Porsches from the early 2000s: a bearing in the engine is prone to fail, and when this happens it often takes the $20k engine with it. A number of companies run preventive fixes for this that run about $2,500. The odds of a failure, based on our survey, are about one percent per year. Fear of this issue has made these cars much more affordable than more recent Porsche sports cars.

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Response from Stan P.

11:18 am February 21, 2015

I am in awe of the thoughtfulness put into all the responses. WOW, real auto buddies ! Of course price is an issue but reliability even more important. I started my sporty car life with an MGB Limited Edition, rubber bumper and spent most week ends looking for parts. I literally had to rebuild the vehicle to make it roadable. No more ! I am currently running an 03 MR2 Spyder and heartily recommend it for the most driving fun, short of at risk for loosing your driving license. It is Lotus design and Toyota reliable. Unfortunately the fun factor does not mitigate physical discomfort after an hour or 2 nor the lack of storage space beyond what you're wearing. Drop top Sport Touring with a bit of luxury is where we're at now. Audi TT is one consideration but my review of reliability raises a huge question mark. The weather in the northeast is not conducive to road testing right now but will be on the agenda in a few weeks. I definitely want a vehicle I can live with for awhile and am willing to wait till the right one comes along. I will be exploring the G37, BMW 1 series, 911 and Audi A5/S5 suggestions. Again thanks and happy driving. Stan Payson

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Response from don1936

9:56 pm February 25, 2015

I have been through a number of sports cars, ranging from an MGA to an Acura NSX (the first one, not the current version). I have has some nice touring sedasns as well (Infiniti Q45, Audi Quattro, Volvo Turbo) but am now retired, drive less and budget is somehwat different. I recently found a certified MINI, 2012 with 15,000 miles and since it is certified, paid maintenance through 2017, and warrantied through 100K miles. I thought it might be uncomfortable as I am 6'1" and 235, but it is as comfortable as any car I have ever had. It isn't an NSX, but it is damned near as much fun to drive, and a lot easier on the gas (and maintenance).
If you reallly want wind in your hair (if you still have hair) look for a convertible. Try it, I'm not crazy!

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Mini Hardtop

Response from Stan P.

12:20 pm March 12, 2015

Thanks. No question about the Mini fun factor but I want it all. A medium size touring roadster of good heritage is my goal. Enjoy !

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Response from don1936

1:17 pm June 30, 2015

Response from Stan P.

12:47 pm December 31, 2015

Thanks All. Many trials, much disappointment! Close on a 03 Z4 with all the goodies but lost trust inthe seller. Have been idle since. Availability is biggest issue. Have learned a lot during search and have become very fussy. So, am back to basics and starting over.

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BMW Z4
Audi A5 / S5
Mercedes-Benz SLK

Response from mkaresh

2:20 pm December 31, 2015

I think your approach is especially correct for a car like this. With patience you'll find the right car at tha right price.

Have you driven all of the contenders, and decided that the Z4 is the one you like best?

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Response from Stan P.

12:21 am January 3, 2016

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BMW Z4
Nissan 350Z / 370Z
Audi A5 / S5

Response from Stan P.

1:03 am January 3, 2016

Thanks to all. Gave up lookng for the winter but spring will be here in 4 months and I am already itching. Unfortunately I don't know where to scratch. I'm looking for the perfect vehicle and have decided that there isn't such an animal! I love to drive a good handling vehicle but also need to haul trash to the dump. I love the wind in my face but have the realities of a New England winters. I know that I don't like big cars; the size of my 05 Passat is perfect. I'm a senior, senior and don't need or want a full blown sports car any more but do demand precise handling, reliability plus comfort and decent performance in that order. My compromise vehicle will be my daily driver, my Friday night date car and my Sunday sunny day ride. However it must be fun lto drive rain, sun or snow. Q late model Audi cabrolet quatro, BMW 2 series AWD convertible, ditto Mercedes or Nisson. Any thoughts or ideas will be appreciated. Thanks and pleasant New Year. Stan Payson

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Response from mkaresh

12:27 pm January 3, 2016

The new GTI is a really good all-around car. It seems a strong candidate for the trash hauler. If you don't need that much power, a 2014+ Mazda3 hatchback is also fun to drive, and could be reliable for longer.

Are you looking for a manual or automatic? If the last, a 2013-2015 BMW X1 could also be a possibility. It's barely tall enough to be considered a crossover, and was essentially the last of the fairly simple BMWs.

Among four-seat convertibles, the BMW 2-Series probably handles best. The others feel larger and heavier. The Infiniti is pretty, though, would likely cost less, and could be mroe reliable (though the 2 like the X1 does better than other BMWs in our survey).

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Mazda Mazda3
BMW X1
BMW 2-Series

Response from Stan P.

11:15 am January 4, 2016

The one advantage for waiting, is seing options change. A year later and sore knees shifts preferences toward comefort vs performance. Drivability and reliability are key but seating,visability are important too. Much as I like the control and feel of a stick shift, a good manual-matic will have to do.While safety and operational ease are important for all drivers, it is critical for older drivers who love cars. I'm working on my "tryout" list and a "do it all" rag top heads my search (BMW series 2, Audi A5 quatro, Infinity and Z4).More conservative alternatives include; Audi 5 Quatro sedan or coupe, ditto BMW 2 series and Infinity. I like sporty rides and wonder if the BMW X1 would do it for me? Of course, the GTI is always an option too. Is there a "drivers car" for seniors??? Thanks for the advice.

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Response from mkaresh

5:47 pm January 4, 2016

I imagine seniors vary too much in their abilities and aches for one car to best suit them all.

The best approach is to have a good time with it, drive all the contenders as much as you can, and see which one suits you best. I'm very interested in reading your impressions.

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Response from Stan P.

5:25 pm January 5, 2016

Thanks for your comment, and I fully agree that driver capability is age independent. Having said that, it is a critical factor for "mature drivers" to weigh when considering purchase of a sporty vehicle; both in terms of driver capability and vehicle characteristics. Case in point, I recently tried out a late model Porsche S and quickly determined that It was not a ride I could live with comfortably; too quick, too powerful, too loud, long clutch reach and uncomfortable seating ergonomics, for me. A back to back drive in a BMW 335 retractable HT was disappointing as well; too large presence, uncomfortable seatinging, marginal rear visability, poor sence of physical parameters and "wooshy" acceleration. My preference has changed substantially over time with the Porsche mirroring my early adult and midlife interests. Now, I'm probably looking at my last "fun" car and have to be an optimistic pragmatist.

My criteria for a "best fit" personal vehical is applical to standard cars as well, unfortunately auto marketing strategy precludes educated choice. Also, driving has become a right rather than a privilige and the pre-requisits for obtaining a drivers license are a warm body.

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