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It’s that time of year again. The boys are back from the beach, the days are growing shorter, the leaves are threatening to leave their branches behind.
And new car dealers are looking to get rid of their 2005 models. Make way for the future, for 2006 is here!
Actually, with the funky annual labeling system employed by most manufacturers, I believe the 2006 model year started sometime back in 2003. Nevertheless, the point is less that a new year is here and more that the old year hasn’t quite left.
That means it’s an excellent time to see if you can get yourself a deal. And, barring that, at least a nice new car.
A few weeks back, I put forward a rule for sports car shopping: Thou shalt not buy a sports car for its luxury. Well, every rule has its exception. Even if you love the speed, you may not love the rough ride and Spartan finish that accompanies it.
The Infiniti G35 Coupe is the refined older brother to Nissan’s 350Z. Where the younger sibling is all two-seater braggadocio, the G35 is a more practical approach. Well, as practical as a cramped backseat can be — but, like a dependable older brother, it’s there if you need it.
The Coupe shares external design cues with its own family member, the G35 sedan. The trapezoidal headlamps and distinctive front end keep things distinctive on both models, while the Coupe has a far better design on its back end. But, like most Infinitis, every time you tap the brakes it looks like the taillights are signaling that your table is ready at Bennigan’s.
The Coupe 6MT sports a 6-speed manual transmission, all the better to test out the quick engine and firm suspension. The seats could use a bit more side-to-side support, but unless you plan on thrashing it every day, the plushness they offer should be enough.
If you’re looking for a more practical approach to your automotive life, the 2005 Subaru Outback may be your ticket. With a new design for the year, the Outback (along with the Legacy) left behind the sometimes aggressively ugly Subaru design for a sleeker, sexier look (a design choice that didn’t carry over to the Tribeca, Subie’s new SUV, but more on that later).
On the inside, the Outback offers a nicely appointed interior with room enough for five — or four, if you have a lot of luggage. It was just big enough to haul me and three others plus tennis equipment, a large cooler, and four-gay-men’s-worth of luggage to New York City, so I’m not sure what it can’t hold at this point.
The turbocharged engine in the Outback 2.5 XT I tested rates 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 24 on highway. As always, there’s some turbo lag as you accelerate, but once you reach your cruising speed, it’s a smooth ride. The base MSRP for the XT is a little over $28,000, but the 2.5i model — sans turbo and some other XT options — comes down to around $24,000.
Finally, one of the more surprisingly entertaining rides I took over the summer was the 2005 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner. It was also about the least gay thing I drove, giving me a little butch uplift for the sunny weather.
Essentially just a sportier version of the popular Tacoma mid-sized truck line, the X-Runner runs lower to the ground and tunes its suspension for some aggressive driving, not hauling (not that you’d want to take too many corners at high speed — it’s still a truck, not a sports car). It sports enough body cladding and bulges to make a Pontiac Grand Am blush, but the effect comes off as more charming. The 6-speed stick makes things fun and keeps the MPG up to 16 city/21 highway, although with current gas prices, those numbers are less attractive than ever.
Correction: The August 25 review of the Saab 9-2x incorrectly stated that the car was based on the Subaru Outback/Legacy platform. The Saab 9-2x is based on the Subaru Impreza platform.