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Entry Level Luxury Performance Sedans

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  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Well I'm a Benz fan first and foremost, but the A4 3.0 CVT just offers more for the money. The A4 has a better interior, the top A4 engine (compared to the C240, which is the base C) and it's styling is at least as good as the Benz if not better. Both makes pay for scheduled maint during the warranty period. Neither car will be "low maintanence" after the warranty runs out, especially the Audi with it's fairly different transmission. If you're priced these cars and they've come out equal go for the Audi it's the better value here.

    M
  • popovspopovs Posts: 3
    I think both are excellent(sp?) cars, however neither one is a low maintenance automobile. That is to say neither brand is known for low maintenance. What they do offer is luxury and performance in an aesthetically pleasing package and, some would argue, a superior ownership experience.

    As someone has said before, every manifacturer makes lemons - some more than others - but the internet is not the best place to find information about that. Most people are just venting and are not representative of the owner community.

    Although I can not speak as to the driving merits of the cars, I suspect that they are similar since I've heard (read) good things about both the A4 CVT and the C240. Something to keep in mind is that anytime a new product is offered by the industry, it usually takes a couple of years for the company to work out all the bugs in the technology.

    Both cars are relative newcommers to the market. The facts that they are made by distinguished companies and use proven powerplants does not speak conclusively as to how reliable the cars will be as a whole.

    Since you are already looking for alternatives to the MB because of reliability concerns, it may be worth your time to look at other alternatives than the Audi. As someone has suggested in the Help me Choose! forum, try looking to Lexus for the answer. They seem to make reliable cars that are also cheap to keep running. Of course now we get into the issue of European vs Asian luxury ...
  • popovspopovs Posts: 3
    It has come to my attention that as of late MB has taken a hit in its reputation. People have been quick to point at the recent survey results - both European and Domestic - that say Mercedes is no longer reliable. These surveys show that statistically speaking MB has as much as doubled the amount of repairs that they do under warranty. I won't deny these findings, but I will try and justify them.

    1st and foremost, MB has and is comming out with newer designs every year, updating the cars both inside and out. Anytime that a new product makes its debue it takes a couple of tries to get all the kinks worked out.

    Secondly, according to mbspy.com, Mercedes accounted for ~half of the profits by DCX last year. I think MB is being used as a cash cow to keep Jeep and Co affloat, thereby driving Mercedes to cost-cutting through corparate pressure. Lower quality parts equal lower overall car quality.

    These two should get things going ... Feel free to agree or disagree.
  • mvargo1mvargo1 Posts: 298
    There is not much to debate on this subject. If you want a reliable car you buy Japanese. If you want a drivers car you used to have to buy european. The Japanese just do quality better and more consistantly than anyone else. You also get a lot more car for your money with a Japanese vehicle. There was a time when the europeans built the best driving cars in the world. Sadly for them those days are passing. The Japanese keep building cars that are closer and closer to european driving dynamics (IS and GS series Lexus(Lexi?), and Q45 and G35 Infiniti's) While the europeans quality especially Daimler/Chrysler just is not keeping up.
  • wishnhigh1wishnhigh1 Posts: 363
    gave up nationality based generalizations a couple of years ago.
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    I'm interested more towards performance than luxury. Also value is an important component for me. Although I have the money to buy these cars, I also have other fun things and places to spend it. I'm looking to buy the car and keep it for around 7-10 years. Its very sunny with no snow here as well. I also want an automatic or CVT(gasp).

    So right now, the five I am going to look at more closely are as follows:

    1) BMW 330i
    2) Audi A4 3.0 CVT
    3) Infiniti G35
    4) Acura TL-S
    5) Nissan Altima 3.5 SE

    The BMW represents the top of the class, but it also has the highest price. The Altima represents the most performance oriented family car, which is a cheaper class of cars. The BMW and Altima will bracket the value equation. The other three all have the potential to compete for my dollars.

    Cars that are missing, IS300 too small, while the styling of the CTS, S60 T5, and 9-5 Aero are not for me. The ES300 and I35 don't have enough performance for me. Everything more expensive than a comparibly equipped 330i was also excluded.

    What do you guys think? Anything missing?

    Thanks,
    cybersol
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cybersol... I can't fathom why you would want to go with slushbox, but that is your loss.

    Comparing FWD to RWD is like apples to oranges.

    Not sure what sort of real price range you are looking at. The 330i with options might push $40,000. You might really consider the much less expensive 325i. An Altima 3.5SE with few options might have a $25,000 MSRP.

    Read Motor Trend's review of I35. Their's had more than enough performance. 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds, fastest in their comparison test. And it can be had with a Sport Package. But you might be better off with a loaded Maxima SE or GLE, saving thousands off the I35.

    You might also consider Volkwagen Passat. That can also be had with AWD. If you like AWD, the Jag X-type should be on your list.

    From the domestic corner, you might also consider a Lincoln LS 6 or 8. Or Chrysler 300M.

    Surprised your list excludes the Mercedes-Benz C-class.

    And if you can live with a FWD automatic, a loaded Camry or Accord V-6 or Avalon might be acceptable near the Altima's price range.
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    Sorry to disappoint with the slushbox, but if we were all the same life would be boring (and there would only be 1 car type).

    I would prefer RWD, but the best FWD's (torque sensitive steering) are getting close enough to bring the acceptable price premium for RWD down. Price range is 25-40K as you mention.

    Passat, 300M, 325i, are too slow for me. The C Classes are either too slow or more expensive than the BMW. I would choose the BMW over the X-type, as they are similarly priced and I live in sun country.

    The maxima (better value than the I35) is a good suggestion, and I am considering that equally with the Altima at the lower end.

    My wife loves Camry's, but I'm looking for excitement. slushbox or not.

    Thanks,
    cybersol
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    The new Altima is great as my friends just bought one. However, dollar for dollar I think the Maxima is the over-all winner for a FWD car. If you can live without the amenities of the I35 the GLE with leather, sunroof, BOSE can't be beat. I've owned two Maximas. Me! I recently made the jump to the 330i, and it's been worth every penny. However the G35 owners are very passionate about their choices. For a couple of dollars more than the Maxima, hovering around the I35 I guess, the TL-S can't be beat either.

    I understand when it comes down to it, you pick what you think has the right combination of value, performance, luxury and the right type of car for you. For every person it is different. When I got the BMW I was cross-shopping SUVs, mini-vans, and FWD passenger cars to see what struck my fancy, and I was ready to get an Explorer.
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cybersol... Excitement and slushbox don't seem to be compatible. I can't get too excited about FWDers. Certainly not a slushbox FWDer.

    Not sure what you mean about "the best FWDers (torque sensitive steering)".

    Very powerful FWDers tend to suffer from severe torque steering. Use of equal length half-shafts and limited slip differential can help, but not completely eliminate. The laws of physics remain. When the drive wheels and steering wheels are one and the same, and you have a powerful motor, you'll get some torque steering.

    Do you have kids? Plan to in near future? If not, have you considered any coupes or convertibles? They can be a bit more exciting.
  • dave330idave330i Posts: 893
    "Excitement and slushbox don't seem to be compatible."

    Agreed. Unfortunately, most American drivers don't seem to get it. They care about silly stuff like 0-60, 1/4 mile, hp & torque numbers, but choose to miss out on the fun part of driving.
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    Riez, you have heard of speed sensitive steering? This varies the power steering boost as with the speed. Acura claims to have torque sensitive power steering on the TL-S (not the TL though). This would supposedly vary the power steering boost with the torque being applied. And that in theory could eliminate a large amount of torque steer found in powerful FWD cars. It still doesn't eliminate the FWD tendency to under steer due the the drive wheels being the same as the turning wheels.
  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cybersol... There are two types. Those tied to engine output and those tied to road speed. I have heard that the latter are superior, since you can vary engine speeds (RPMs) a lot, depending upon gear being used and speed, even while driving relative steady speeds. Better systems vary boost on road speed, since you normally need more assist at low speeds, regardless of engine RPMs.

    Here is all that the lengthy full-color TL brochure says: "Steering: Variable Power-Assist Rack-and-Pinion". This is off the tech specs on page 30. I cannot find a single mention of the steering system anywhere else in the brochure. So if Acura thinks its variable assist power steering system is special, they are keeping it a secret. This large brochure covers both the TL and TL Type S.
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    Yeah, I have that brouchure and they don't mention the difference between the TL and TL-S, though they say both have variable power assist. They do not say how it varies.


    But on the Acura website. TL -> Specifications -> Body/Suspension/Chassis it says:


    Steering Type

    TL Type S - Torque-sensitive, variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering

    3.2TL - Speed-sensitive, variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering


    Here's the link if you want to check it out:

    http://www.acura.com/model_TL/tl_spec_results.asp


    Hard to find, but not a secret.

  • riezriez Posts: 2,361
    cybersol... From what I've read, the better variable power assist system is tied to road speed, not engine RPMs. Once you get a car up to 25 mph or more, there isn't much need for assist, even if your RPMs decline due to turning or downshifting. And certainly once you hit 45 mph or more there isn't much need for assist no matter what happens to your RPMs.

    But keep in mind that torque steering isn't due to the steering system. It is due to other factors. Can be very pronounced in powerful FWDers. Corrective actions include limited slip differentials and equal half-shafts. Need to provide equal power simultaneously to drive wheels.

    From standing start, floor your car. See if the wheel pulls in one direction. You'll have to correct with the steering wheel (to keep the car straight) but by then you'll have already encountered the torque steering. You can also notice it if you are aggressively accelerating in a curve. Wheels pull you out of your intended direction and you have to correct.
  • So, if you read through most of this group, alot of references went out to Audi... give a guy a hand here and compare an Audi A4 3.0 to an Audi S4... I see a difference of about $5K, 30hp, and a sporty suspension. Why shouldn't I load up a 3.0, rather than going after the S4?

    Oh, and does anyone know on possible improvements for one or the other for 2003?
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    Have you driven them both? The S4 really moves. Even by Audi's own 0-60 times the S4 manual is 1 second faster and the S4 tiptronic is 1.2 seconds faster.

    Yet, the S4 is currently based on the 2001 A4 platform, and it is scheduled to be upgraded to the new platform in the 2003 model year. Expect the performance difference to increase as the indications are that the new S4 will pack 300 or more hp.

    Hope this helps.
  • I've tested the 3.0, not the S4. Hmmm... new S4 in '03, huh? Maybe I should just wait. What do you think, cybersol? Right now, th3 current S4 states 250hp, yes?
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    Yeah, the current S4 has 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The torque is fully online by 1850 rpm. So this is why it scoots.

    The new S4 should be really nice. If you have the time to wait, it might be worth seeing. It might move up in price a little if the performance gets closer to the BMW M3, but then the old S4's should be easier to pick up at a good price right as the new ones are coming out. So many decisions.

    Have fun making the right one for you!
  • 1pierce1pierce Posts: 284
    Not so fast. There is merit to the "nationality based" debate. Let me explain to you why Japanese cars have higher quality (in terms of reliability) than American or European cars. The reason is cultural.

    Americans have always had an adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit. We take chances. Its not in our nature to "accept" things as they are. I think this is somewhat genetic, since the vast number of us are descended from immigrants - aren't we all, really - people who took tremendous risk, and had great courage to brave the unknown for the promise of a new and better life. As such, in areas of design, we bore very easily. Americans are always looking for the next great thing, the next new design, the next technology breakthrough. Europeans, especially Germans, are like this about cars, if not about everything else. The US auto industry is always ready to chuck the old and start over from scratch - witness Chrysler and Ford over the last two decades. As such, our products are usually stylish and inventive, but not very refined - see minivans, SUV's, cab-forward, night-vision, etc..

    The Japanese by comparison have a culture that is traditional and thousands of years old. They have made an entire culture out of honoring tradition and the status quo. We had to yank them kicking and screaming into the 20th century after world war II. I know this is somewhat simplistic, but bear with me. What the Japanese are good at is taking an idea and refining it year after year, until it is near perfect. There is very little innovation or risk taking. That is why the cars are so bland. When was the last time you saw a new technology invented in Japan? VCR's, computer technology, cell phones, the microwave oven...all American inventions that are better built by the Japanese. The same goes for cars. Most innovations come from the US or Germany, with some safety innovations coming from Scandinavia (give up the turbos and 5-cylinders, already those are as refined as they're going to get!).

    Anyway,...when you distill it down to its essence, this is why Toyotas and Hondas never break. Its also why they are no more than transportation appliances. And, this is why the best performance cars from Japan will always be knock-offs (albeit sometimes very good ones) of something somebody else does better and more originally.

    I'll step off my soap box now, and await your wailing.
  • wishnhigh1wishnhigh1 Posts: 363
    The problem is that they are HUGE generalizations. Also, you are talking Japanese as almost exclusivly Honda and Toyota. What about Subaru, Mazda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Daihatsu, and Suzuki? So far the only makes that seem to keep with that Japanese Culture are Toyota and Honda.

    And many American and European makes are now capable of having higher quality than more than 70% of Japanese cars. Doesn't help your generalization that much, does it?

    So where do the generalizations stop? They should stop with brands, and not nations.
  • kd6aw1kd6aw1 Posts: 116
    Have found out that with some of the more powerful cars like the G35 or Corvette the difference in performance from a practical standpoint isn't really an issue because these cars are faster than we can ever dream of driving without either killing ourselves or getting tickets all the time. I have an automatic G35 and love it. Being that it is an automatic I can enjoy my coffee, shave, talk on my cel phone and hug my wife while driving in rush hour traffic. If I feel the urge which I don't very often I can shift the manumatic and pretend it is a stick. When I get my Ferrari it will have the paddle shifting because I don't ever want another clutch! Just my opinion!

    Paul

    El Cajon, California
  • fwatsonfwatson Posts: 639
    How does your theory explain English cars? A country steeped in tradition producing poor quality cars with little inovation? Look what a traditionalist country managed to do to the Acura Legend when they produced it as a Stirling. LOL

    ====================================

    Quote wishnhigh1: "What about Subaru, Mazda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Daihatsu, and Suzuki? So far the only makes that seem to keep with that Japanese Culture are Toyota and Honda."

    ====================================

    Those cars in general reflect the perfectionist attitude of 1pierce's post. With virtually no exception, the overall quality of Japanese brand cars, especially fit and finish, considerably excels the American brands. From what I have read, this is due to the attitude of Japanese management in not accepting mediocre craftsmanship. Not the abilities of the assembly line workers. You may have a point though, that some of the Japanese brands show as high a level of innovation as the American and German brands. After all, which country has used the Wankle rotary, and Miller cycle engines? And who introduced us to the VTEC engines etc?

    American management leans strongly to the bottom line and CEO bonuses, with refinement and polish falling by the wayside as a casuality of the heavy handed management style.
  • dave330idave330i Posts: 893
    "Being that it is an automatic I can enjoy my coffee, shave, talk on my cel phone and hug my wife while driving in rush hour traffic."

    Truly critical things to do while one's driving.
  • blueguydotcomblueguydotcom Posts: 6,257
    He did mention "in rush hour traffic." Like there's anything else to do in bumper-to-bumper. Not like rush hour demands anything of the driver. I've read books while in traffic. Let out clutch, apply gas, push in clutch, glide, repeat. Snooze.
  • fredvhfredvh Posts: 853
    Edmunds has a new feature called "True Cost To Own". It is listed when one researches out the various vehicles on the new car heading. It is one of the 13 subjects when you click on a particular vehicle. It is very useful when comparing one vehicle to another. "True Cost To Own" takes the purchase price and adds things like depreciation, insurance, license fees, etc. and gives you a figure for 5-yr ownership. They even tailor it to your particular zip code. I tried it on a few vehicles and it is very useful.
  • cybersolcybersol Posts: 91
    I have not had a chance to look at it in person, but does the 38K Passat W8 fit into the entry -level performance luxury sedan category? Any other upcoming (next year or so) vehicles fit into this category?
  • blueguydotcomblueguydotcom Posts: 6,257
    But it's not really a performance sedan. Drive one and then take on a Bimmer or G35. Night and day. VWs are nice inside and good for cruising but their handling's akin to riding a pig in a hurry.
  • rayainswrayainsw Posts: 2,580
    I beg to differ.

    While I admit that I am biased (obviously, since I bought one!) I believe that the W8 is really a performance sedan.

    I test drove the G35, and several BMWs (and a few others) before making my final choice. I suppose the term ‘performance sedan’ could be defined in any number of ways. For me, the W8 offers everything I want – and nothing I don’t.

    (Isn’t that a recent Nissan ‘tag line’?)

    Take straight line acceleration, for instance. VW literature quotes 0 – 60 in 6.5 sec. To me, this is pretty quick for a 4 door sedan. My fearless (?) prediction of future test acceleration numbers is: 0 – 60 in 6.5 sec., as VW claims. And a quarter mile in about 15.0 at 94 / 95. I base this on a number of things. For instance, in the May 2000 Car and Driver comparison that included the Lincoln LS8 Sport and the Audi A6 2.7TT, the Audi tested had virtually identical curb weight as the W8, identical final drive, wheel / tire size and Tiptronic. The HP / TQ for this Audi were 250 / 258. And their test results were: 0 – 60 in 6.6 sec. and the quarter mile in 15.1 at 94. Thus, my W8 with 270 / 273 ought to do slightly better. We’ll see. . . (BTW: in the same test, the Lincoln LS8 Sport they tested turned in acceleration numbers of: 0 – 60 in 7.5 and the quarter mile in 15.7 at 90. This was my previous car. So, it seems reasonable that my W8 feels quicker – setting aside the notorious un-reliability of everyone’s ‘butt dyno’!)

    Does it pull the same lateral G as the G35 or a BMW 3 series w/Sport Package. Almost certainly no. But with more aggressive rubber, I expect that it will provide enough grip for entertainment value at any sane public road speed.

    Just my opinions.

    Cheers,
    - Ray
    Off shortly to put on a few more ‘break-in’ miles at lunch . . .
  • cmnottcmnott Posts: 200
    I recently went through the list of entry level cars...I was in test drive heaven!

    325i - very nice car, best shifter/clutch of all, but not enough power for me. Great motor though as fas as smoothness. the interior is average, nothing better. With leather and wood it helps but you either dig it or you don't.

    330i - same as above but better power, although I find the power to be linear. You can really move in this car but the sensation of thrust is lacking. I like that sunroof and leather are std. Better value overall than 325i plus std. 17" wheels (although with all-seasons). Pricy.

    IS300- Nice manual tranny and smooth motor. That's about it. hate the interior, feels claustrophobic and chintzy.

    X-Type - I liked the 3.0L Sport, but did not like the grey stained maple. Didn't look like a jag. Very nearly purchased a 3.0L British Racing Green with Ivory Leather and beautiful walnut but with options this car is riciulously overpriced, makes the BMW look like a bargain hunter. Too bad, nice motor and very good manual tranny and ride. Brakes were strong. One thing about the motor was it just didn't feel or go like 0-60 6.5 as advertised. Nicest interior overall.

    A4 3.0 - Porky, ponderous even with sport package. Did not feel swift and easily the worst tranny available in this segment. Nice interior, leather was only average. you could barely tell the difference between the leather and leatherette, which is a good thing if you are cheap, but bad if you opt for leather. By the way, the leather in the BMW was much better.

    S4 (2001)- Nice but not as fast as I thought it would be (I did drive a 99 Mustang GT). It rockets off the line but it isn't that impressive afterwards. Nicer seats and support but interior is too gloomy. 250bhp and 258 lb ft. motor is not an audible delight, the 2002 A4 3.0 sounds amazing compared to the S4. I think the backpressure has gobbled up the exhaust note. An exhaust would be perfect here. They were giving them away (9000$ off MSRP - and people were definitely buying!) but it just looked dated now beside the new ones.

    G35 - went and looked at one in showroom and was not impressed and without a manual tranny, I wasn't interested one bit. I still managed to drive one and was impressed with the torque, it definitely had thrust that the others lacked (except the S4). Nice seats and neat touches for rear passengers. I really liked the dynamics of the car but the tranny left me cold. The fit and finish was poor, maybe it was an early model...no dicker sticker which made it cost as much as the A4 3.0 and BMW 330i was close.

    Lincoln LS V6 - very good handling and crisp 5 speed. Engine was thrashy at high revs which is particularly bad because it needs to be revved to really move. Torque is lacking here. But I liked the car overall, especially with the Sport susp.

    Acura TL-S, another auto tranny but an incredible motor, definitely my favourite V6 of all of them as far as sound is concerned. Interior average and handling so-so. Excellent price.

    Volvo S60 T5 - I chose this car for its thrust (come to think of it 3bhp less and 15 lb.ft less than the S4 is quite close to the S4, and it is lighter) FWD torque steer is evident only beyond 8/10ths, but it is there, no question about it. Best seats, best stereo, average steering feel falls behind the Jaguar and BMW. Brakes while strong are grabby but it takes getting used to. Amazing power and style. Seems decent off the line but after 100km/h it easily pulls the hardest. Price was also a consideration as it was cheaper than BMW, Audi, Jaguar.

    Didn't drive the CTS but I am sure it is excellent.

    In conclusion these are all excellent cars and even though we all nitpick this and that on all of them, I would be fine with any of them in my driveway. Honestly.
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