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Give Your Friends Car-Buying Advice

It’s possible to lead the metaphorical horse to water. But, you should use your discretion if you do.



In all likelihood, you are the go-to person in your social circle for automotive-related questions from cousins, coworkers, and friends.

I was wondering how the RAV4 Hybrid was.

Asking, “Should I buy a Tesla to save money on gas?”

“How could a loving and all-knowing God permit BMW to use squeaky cheese curds in their 3-Series door clips?”

If you get enough of those, you’ll start to see people’s eyebrows raised after you give an answer. In most cases, the person looking to buy a car isn’t looking for advice, but rather confirmation that they made the right decision. “Will you judge me if I go ahead and buy this car that I really want, mister car expert?” That’s the implication, anyway.

A close friend of mine is a prime example. She is a great hostess and wine enthusiast who effortlessly managed a medical sales team for decades. In a word, good. Before purchasing her most recent BMW, a somber but handsome metallic grey E90-generation 328xi, she offered to sell me her pristine, one-owner, creampuff E30 (I told you, good people).

Ten years of stalwart service were put in by the E90 before its footwell finally succumbed to rain. In light of the fact that she had finally retired this year, my friend was looking for a change. Questions started piling up. She hoped to find a car that was easier to enter and exit than a BMW 3-Series. It was critical that people could see clearly. The unknown car would be pleasant to ride in and, most importantly, would sport the correct logo on the front grille. Her refined palette quickly disqualified the Lexus and Genesis brands, as well as Toyota’s benchmark SUV.

(Her attitude was similar to Kanye’s, “What you think I rap for / To push a f***** RAV4? “) This successful woman was clearly on the path to greatness.

She didn’t buy a BMW, Audi, Volvo, or Cadillac crossover. I was drawn to the Mercedes-Benz GLC because of its rock-solid chassis, impeccable build quality, imposing driving dynamics, and soundproof cabin with one of the more agreeable infotainment systems in the class. The hood also features a powerful three-pointed star emblem. The GLC met all of her requirements.

An eyebrow was raised. How about that Jaguar? It was almost like a purr came out of her mouth as she said it.

This didn’t cross my mind. The Mercedes seemed like the better option to me. Finer and more trustworthy in every way. I went on to describe how the GLC is essentially an E-Class on its toes, making it the clear cut winner of the luxury crossover class. I don’t think Americans fully appreciate the prestige of the Jaguar brand, so I wouldn’t recommend the F-Pace. The interior is also noticeably cheaper and less plush. In 2022, the prestige of the Mercedes name will have grown even further.

This time, another brow was raised.

Throughout the next few months leading up to the big decision, Benz and Jag talked back and forth frequently. I lobbied hard for the Benz, the sensible option, and begged her to take both cars for a spin before she spent her life savings on a retirement ride. The Benz’s obvious attractiveness had me convinced that she’d part with her cash.

To verify my calculations, however, I used Jaguar’s F-Pace as a loaner.

Jag’s F-Pace successfully neutralized much of my argument. After its debut in the United States in the summer of 2016, I drove my final F-Pace. That was a basic model, one of the first cars made for the North American market. Overworked 2.0-liter turbo four powered that F-Pace, which also featured tan synthetic-leather seats with all the tactile charm of a brown paper bag. From the get-go, the F-Pace didn’t feel like it belonged in the hands of a wealthy professional who was looking to settle into retirement.

On this occasion, however, Jaguar delivered a P400, the high-end version of the F-Pace that was within my friend’s price range. What a difference six years, some branding, and additional options made to the MSRP of the base model. The P400 is built around a state-of-the-art inline-six engine, which is more efficient than the previous generation’s supercharged V-6. This new powertrain is available on F-Pace models above the inline-four models. It’s an Ian Callum classic that stands out as the best in its category; the mill is brilliant, sonorous, and silky (and, quite possibly, the only truly good-looking crossover design).

The eight-speed automatic transmission mated to the F-fantastic Type’s engine is calibrated to shift gears quickly and smoothly without making the car feel sleepy when accelerating.

Former problems with the F-entertainment Type’s system have been fixed. Its latest screen-centric system, dubbed “Pivi Pro,” is much more streamlined and user-friendly than its predecessor. The system connects quickly and easily to wireless Apple Carplay, and otherwise feels very much like an iPad has been affixed to your dashboard, in all the best ways. Jag put in serious work over the years to elevate this cabin, and while there are some curious quirks here and there (such as rotary knobs that need to be actuated in unintuitive ways to control the HVAC and heated (and cooled) seats), it is still a very comfortable place to spend time in. Congratulations on a job well done.

Car and Driver agreed, saying that the Jag’s cabin is now quieter than the GLC’s thanks to the switch to an inline-six engine and other concessions made in the name of refinement.

While driving across Washington State over the course of a weekend, I found the Jaguar to be a more obliging companion in light cornering than the comparable GLC. The F-six Pace’s is the much more pleasurable tool to wind up to cruising speed when the road opened up and an interstate junction came into view, thanks to its abundance of glassy torque and genuinely pleasant exhaust note (in contrast to the Mercedes’ 3.0-liter V-6, which sounds like a muffled trumpet).

But I didn’t give in. From what I could tell, the Mercedes still had the more reliable drivetrain, the best interior quality in its class, and more than enough visual appeal to triumph over the F-Pace in a fair fight.

Later on, my wife and I invited our friend over for dinner. Into our driveway rolled a brand new Jaguar F-Pace, its driver beaming with happiness. Her F-Pace has a bright metallic white exterior, black wheels, and matching black trim. Extremely storm trooper-like and cool, and a surprising display case for that Callum creation.

Although the F-Pace wasn’t what I would have picked, I could tell by her happiness that she made the right choice. Everyone should remember this lesson. Sam Smith, who worked with me for many years as an editor at large, once said, essentially, “If your car purchase isn’t based on emotion, you’re doing it wrong.” That way of thinking has always struck me as luxurious and romantic but ultimately useless.

Sure, you can label me a hypocrite if you like.

My personal vehicles, as practical as I like to think of myself, are examples of emotional victories. Contrasted with my 2020 Toyota Tacoma, the Chevrolet Colorado provides more bang for the buck in terms of performance, comfort, and technology (plus American assembly, which the Tacoma abandoned). Still, I decided on a Tacoma because that brand ran in my family. To appeal to my sense of nostalgia, I needed a Toyota, and only the Tacoma did. I’ve spent the past three years trying to justify my decision.

There are too many good times associated with driving my Mazda Miata for me to let go. Even though my tall, skinny frame rubs up against the Miata’s shape and its minuscule size compared to the typical crossover gives me the willies at 80 miles per hour, I just can’t give it up.

When compared to one another, neither vehicle is a good pick. It’s just me, but I think they’re both ideal.

I can only imagine that retirement inspires a sense of fulfillment and introspection and gives us the opportunity to realize long-held goals. (Should I ever retire (however improbable that is), I plan to purchase a moss green Kirkham Cobra with a lunk-a-lunk-a-lunk 289 and side pipes that shoot flames at the pavement on downshifts. Why not let your emotions guide your decisions right now?

My friend’s heart’s desire, since childhood, has been to own a Jaguar. My point of view was a hindrance. In case anyone ever knocks on my door again, I know what to do. Unless, of course, you bring up BMW 3-series door clips. For the answer to that, I must turn to God.