“I play with cars”… that is my standard answer when people ask me what I do for a living. Generally they raise an eyebrow and look at me like I should be placed in a white coat and sent to the group home, but after a quick explanation of my statement they then become intrigued. As an automotive journalist my job is to inform the general public about what is going on in the car world. We provide road test information, humor and try to the best of our ability to answer any and all questions that come our way. One such question pertains to what car we’d purchased if we could only have one car. For guys like me I’d rather take a shot at climbing Mount Everest than answering this question for the simple reason that there is really no right answer.
As individuals we all have certain needs and requirements that must be met. The key is finding that one four-wheeled ride that can meet those needs while at the same time providing an enjoyable driving experience. First off you have to drop back, take a look at your lifestyle and ask yourself a few questions. For instance if you have children and or a family then that Ferrari 458 Italia that you’ve been lusting after may not be the best choice for you. Sure it looks great, but odds are you’d have a heart attack as soon as junior decides to upchuck all over that beautiful leather interior. I understand you’re looking for performance but at the end of the day you might want to look elsewhere.
The same can be said if you’re a single guy shopping for a Chevrolet Suburban. I mean unless you’re going on some worldly expedition, do really need that much space for one person. Even with all the choices out there it can still be hard to find that perfect ride that will satisfy all your needs and wants. I have a real love hate relationship with the car buying process as I HATE to compromise, but at the end of the day, what choice to we have? I purchased my current daily driver last year but before I did I set some goals.
I was looking for a car that fit my lifestyle, my budget and daily needs but before I purchased it I made myself a little list that looked somewhat like this.
• Needs to be a great all around performer
• Must have ample room for 4 adults with storage space for luggage
• Must be able to handle occasional track day duty
• Must be reliable
• Must be under warranty or have a factory warranty available
• Must be comfy
• Must get decent fuel economy
• Needs AWD
• Needs to be within my budget
Sure, some of the items on this list were a stretch and at the end of the day I knew I wasn’t going to get them all, but at least now I had a better idea of what to look for. I did the usual research by reading all the publications, the blogs and reviews. I then went back to my list and began to check things off that I could possibly live without. AWD for example, sure up here in the North East it would be great to have, but since I don’t have an on-road commute I figured I could get away with a set of snow tires. Obviously fuel economy and fast don’t go together either, so unfortunately I had to chop that from the list as well. The others though, they needed to stay.
Since I had a budget of around $25k I knew that I wouldn’t be walking into the Porsche dealer and plunking down big money for the likes of a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Sure it would’ve been nice, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I began to look at Jeep SRT8s, older BMW Wagons and things like the Chevrolet Tahoe SS but for one reason or another nothing seemed to fit. Then I remembered that a few years ago Dodge had come out with their Magnum station wagon which was available with the SRT8 package. That meant a 6.1-liter HEMI with 425 hp and 420 lb-tq., Brembo brakes, performance suspension, room for four with luggage and a top speed of 170 mph, it was also within my budget AND had a warranty!
Dodge Magnums by themselves are not too hard to find, but as it turned out the Magnum SRT8 is a pretty rare beast and finding a clean one turned out to be a complete bitch. In the end though it was completely worth it as I now have a car that does everything that I could ask and more. The key here was making my list, sticking to my criteria, doing an IMMENSE amount of research and due diligence and lastly, I was patient. There are cars out there for everyone, in every budget but you just need to decide what you really need before you decide what you really want. Remember, they’re two different things. Hopefully, after your lists are complete and your research is done you’ll find that compromise car that fits your lifestyle.