Confused with vehicle choices

Help our letter sender decide
by Botchi Santos | Nov 17, 2011

Hi, Botchi!

I am an avid reader of your column here and in the magazine, and I need your help.

I bought a CLC 180 Kompressor from Mercedes-Benz Global City back in March. Unfortunately, the car became a victim of a flash flood in Mandaluyong City at the height of Typhoon Egay. Fast-forward to a few weeks back, I got an approval from my bank for my total-loss claim. However, they had already effected some depreciation. At that time, the CLC was going for P2.78 million. I was able to negotiate it down to 2.48 million, but thetotal-loss liability of the bank is P2.315 million after depreciation.

I've come to my final list of options. Some of them are really available options, some of them are still subject to confirmation. I really can't decide well on this since every time I try to shorten the list, the longer it gets as long as I realize new strengths and weaknesses of the things I review.

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There is also strong competition between brand new and preowned. So all the entries below are strong contenders on both brand new and preowned vehicles.

I scored them according to my 3 priorities (not one outweighs the other criteria): presence, performance, comfort. I can give up some comfort for performance. For some other car types, I can give up performance for comfort and presence.

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Also, I have no particular preference so I may get an SUV or a sedan. This makes the decision process harder, and at a lowered price point due to the premium's depreciation.

Here are my brand-new-car options:

1. Nissan Teana 350XV (P2.048 million)
2. Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8L V6 with Brembo brakes (P1.99 million)
3. Mitsubishi Pajero 3.8L (P2.45 million)
4. Dodge Nitro 3.7L V6 (P1.8 million)
5. Ford Explorer 4.0L V6 (P2.395 million)
6. Volvo S60 2.0L (P2.795 million)

And my pre-owned options:

1. 2009 Jeep Commander 5.7 HEMI Overland (P2.58 million, negotiable)
2. 2010 Audi A4 3.2L Quattro (P2.78 million)
3. BMW 320d (P2.4 million)
4. 2010 Mercedes-Benz C200 (P2.45 million)
5. 2010 MB C200 Kompressor AMG at (P2.6 million)

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Here's how I rank the cars:

1 brand-new Volvo S60 2.0T
1 pre-owned 2010 Mercedes-Benz C200 AMG
1 pre-owned 2010 Audi A4 Quattro
2 brand-new Hyundai Genesis Coupe
2 brand-new Mitsubishi Pajero 3.8L
3 pre-owned 2010 Mercedes-Benz C200
3 brand-new Nissan Teana 3.5XV
4 pre-owned BMW 320d
5 pre-owned 2010 Jeep Commander 5.7L HEMI
6 brand-new Ford Explorer 4.0L V6
7 brand-new Dodge Nitro 4.7L V6

Now, I can't decide which car to go for. What do you think?


Hi, Pao!

Thanks for your email and we're very sorry for the late reply as we've been inundated with emails as of late--a sure sign that the motoring industry is growing!

You've got a very nice set of wheels to chose from, making most of us rather green with envy! Good for you, Pao!

If you're going for the sedans, my top pick is the Audi A4 3.2 FSI because that is a very rare car. PGA Cars-Audi only brought in 10 of those units. In my opinion the Audi interiors are the best designed, best made using the best and most tactile materials that are very pleasing to your hands. I'd give this perhaps a 4 in terms of driving feel and enjoyment, 5 for the interior, and 4 as well for the exterior design.

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The Merc C200 with the AMG package is also a good option since Mercs of late have been steadily improving in terms of driving dynamics and driving enjoyment as a whole. I've got a a soft spot for Mercs since I remember when I was young, it was the gold standard of cars back then, even if the competition has caught up with it. I give it 3.5 for driving dynamics, 3.5 for the interior and 5 for the exterior as Benzes always have that classy, swoopy shape.

The BMW 320d is a finely-built car--perhaps the sharpest to drive among these three German sports sedans. But BMWs of late sold in the Phillipines tend to be pretty bare in terms of options and goodies like big alloy wheels and surround-sound system. In my opinion, they're using hard, unpleasant-feeling leather for the interior. You pay a lot of money for a nicely-built car, and you want to feel that even when you're just stuck in traffic. Plus BMWs are becoming quite common. Just so you know, a new 3-Series is looming in the horizon so keep that in mind. The BMW gets a measly 2.5 for the interior, a 3.5 for the exterior but a solid 5 for the overall driving experience.

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The Volvo S60 is new to me. I've yet to drive it so I can't comment on the driving pleasure part. The looks says it's a solid 4, perhaps even a 4.5, the interior maybe a 3.75. Generally, Volvos feel happier being driven 7/10 to 8/10 driving rather than truly flat out like the Germans, especially the BMW which truly excels when you crank it up to 11!

As for the Nissan Teana, unless you prefer being pampered while riding in the back, it won't deliver the same driving pleasure as the other cars. I'd pick a Subaru Legacy GT over the Teana because it offers more thrills and a driving experience rivaling that of the Germans.

Now, I love the Hyundai Genesis coupe! Very fast, a great sense of occasion surrounds it even while it's parked. I'd give it a 5 for looks, 5 for performance and 5 for presence. Unfortunately, it still doesn't possess pedigree to rival the established European brands.

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As for your SUV selection, I'm sorry but I can't recommend any of them at all because they are all gas guzzlers. The 5.7 HEMI-engined Commander is a dream--a great SUV for both on- and off-road with real character and brutish charm. But after a while, the rather cheesy American interior gets to you, and the gas bill is a huge wake-up call to reality! If you can find a diesel Commander for sale (CATS brought in a handful, very rare and even better than the HEMI), that's the SUV to have!

The Explorer is old and a new one was just released. It apes the look of the Range Rover Sport. Wait for that one if you really want an Explorer!

The Pajero 3.8 V6 is a fine SUV with the wrong engine. Get the 3.2 diesel or, if rumors from Japan are to be believed, the Pajero will receive a swan song model with a 3.2 CRDi engine equipped with VGT pushing over 200hp and close to 500Nm of torque next year. That's THE rally-bred SUV to have!

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Aside from the macho looks, I can't think of anything positive to say about the Nitro because it just guzzles gas like crazy and is quite tight inside. Or maybe I'm just fat, overweight and oversized. Who knows?

To recap, any of the three German sedans are pretty good, with the A4 being my top pick. The Legacy GT is a good Japanese alternative, however, that delivers fantastic value for money when you consider the performance potential available as well as the price, comfort and refinement available. And it's AWD. Another Subaru alternative will be the STI A-Line, which is surprisingly capable and decently fuel-efficient on long-drives. Perhaps the most exciting, engaging and highest-performing car in this entire list, it is now available with a five-speed automatic transmission plus paddle shifters.

As for the SUVs, if you consider the diesel variants, the Pajero and the COMMANDER are damn good SUV's. But do you really need a cumbersome and thirsty daily-driver?

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You might also want to consider diesel variants of the Pajero and the Commander, which are both damn good. But do you really need a cumbersome and thirsty daily-driver?

Hope this helps, good luck and God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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