Monday, December 14, 2009

Lavishly Inexpensive


To the majority of car-buyers on the road today, the term “luxury” means that their brand new Buick LaCrosse is equipped with a windshield and seatbelts. If they spring for all the options, they might receive something known as cruise control. Ladies and gentlemen, this ought not to be.

We have travelled the world, and seen many things. Thusly, in this time of receding Walls and Streets, we feel the need to disclose options for those of you for whom a new Hyundai simply is not adequate (and leaves you with a revolting monthly payment to go with the cheap design) . Luxury, class and style can be had . . . and for relative pennies. Pennies in this case meaning, in an astounding fashion, under $5,000. Impossible? Read on.

Mercedes and their ubiquitous three-pointed throwing star are no strangers to those shopping for a bit of prestige in their marque. Without venturing into V12 territory, the top dog V8 has to be the spacious 1986-1991 560SEL. Where else could you find so many options for so little? Naturally, we got shafted engine-wise, with our 5.6 Liter V8 restricted down from 300 to 238 horses. Some aftermarket or Euro-spec parts can easily change that. A brief summary of features, many of which are market firsts: dual airbags, traction control (on 1990-91 models), ABS, door courtesy lamps, 8-way heated memory front seats, power memory steering column, 2-way power heated rear seats with 4-way adjustable headrests, automatic climate control, hill-holding transmission, self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension, and advanced cruise control.

Audis may be mostly driven by German cement salesmen, but they build some fantastic cars. Another thing they do well is superglue engine blocks together. The lauded W12 engine, for example, is simply a couple of narrow-angle VR6s ziptied together. Brilliant! Another great specimen hails from the late 80s, when the need for a V8 arose. Simply chain together two 16v Golf engines lengthwise and drop it into the top-level 200 model. Brilliant! The 1988-1994 Audi V8 was born. Our pick would be the 4.2 Liter version with 275hp. Understated in appearance, it featured all-wheel-drive, unlike most competitors. Don’t be fooled by the outward appearance, however. Many considered it to be a better full-size luxury car than the vaunted Lexus or BMW/Mercedes rivals. Brilliant!

Speaking of Lexus, they made their name as we know it today with the 1989-1994 LS400. This was among the first luxury sedans to feature digital A/C readouts, power adjustable shoulder belts, front seat heaters, an electrochromic rear-view mirror, auto-off headlamps, power-adjustable memory seats, soft-touch controls, electroluminescent Optitron gauges, and the first automatic tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with SRS airbag. You can have an air suspension to raise or lower the vehicle, a Nakamichi premium sound system, and an integrated cellular telephone with hands-free capabilities. Under the hood is a 4.0 Liter V8 that you’ll never hear because the cabin is completely quiet. Even by today’s standards . . . which Lexus set in the first place.

It may be hard to comprehend getting yourself a German V12 supersedan for under the five grand mark. But it is, indeed tangible, in the form of the excellent 1986-1994 BMW 750iL. Pamper yourself with such options as integrated telephone and fax machines, a wine cooler, double glazing, heated door locks and windscreen washer nozzles, electronic stability control, a system that automatically increased spring pressure on the windshield wipers, to keep them firmly pressed on the glass at Autobahn speeds, dual rear radio controls, dual independant rear climate control with coolbox mounted in the center console, electrically heated and adjustable rear seats, walnut veneer folding tables, two crystal glasses neatly placed in the coolbox, legrests, and sun shades all around the rear/side windows. Three hundred horsepower and a wall of torque will power you to infinity and beyond with remarkable calm and poise.

We’re going to shock ourselves and throw in the 1998-2002 Lincoln Town Car. Before you fume smoke out your ears and demand our somewhat attractive severed heads be delivered to you on pikes made of the finest bamboo, consider a few things. Town Cars of this era come highly praised from the chaffeurred among us in the areas of comfort, quiet ride, and interior space. So while every other car here will absolutely leave you for dead on any type of road (something our shop is working on rectifying shortly), you’ll be whisked along with just as much comfort, and be the envy of all the octogenarians in sight. Something you’ve no doubt always longed for.

Rounding out this group is another fantastic luxury sedan. When launched in 1990, directly on the heels of Lexus’ smash hit LS400, the Infiniti Q45 seemed a bit less posh and featured a muscular 4.5 Liter V8 with 275 horsepower. The minimalistic approach to luxury (still no Honda Accord, mind you) seemed to offput prospective buyers, so in 1994 Infiniti relented and added the chrome grille, wood trim and plusher seats that seemed to be preferred. In so doing, they dimmed the performance a tiny bit, so you are free to pick from either style. This is quite a quick car, besting most of its rivals you see here. We like the Q45t, which is the Touring model and keeps most of the sportier features.

The amazing deals above all feature boku horsepower, amenities that surpass even many of today’s offerings, unwavering build quality for several hundred thousand miles, and most of all, a spacious and comfortable passport to anywhere. Endless traffic will dissolve, velvet ropes will part, and your survival of lean times will be ensured with panache. And all . . . all for less than a downpayment on some new pseudo “luxury” econobox. Why does anyone buy new cars?

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