Forget getting preachy or writing some kind of prose…this is a straightforward question that deserves a straightforward answer. What new 2023 model year vehicle would be worth actually buying and owning? Since “worth looking at” is subjective, this will be from my own viewpoint, but feel free to agree (or prepare the boiling tar and feathers) in the comments below.
All images are raided from their respective websites after I’ve “built” my dream machine.
I will be skimping obvious “ultra” brands like Aston Martin, Ferrari, Bentley, etc. because let’s face it…precious few have six or seven figures to nuke on a car payment alone. Let’s get started, shall we?
I was ready to accept the Integra because of the six-speed manual transaxle, but when I went to build a copy on the website, that option was MIA. Instead, I was offered roof racks and all-weather floor mats. Pass.
Gulia Quadrifoglio is tempting…until you see a price in the low $80K range. Pass.
Audi’s A5 series of two-door coupes are handsome, it must be said. While the RS5 would have my attention, in reality the A5 Coupe would do just fine. R8 is dream material, and I wouldn’t turn down an RS7 either. But if it’s my wallet, I’ll stick with an A5 Coupe as a premium option.
M4 Coupe is too pricey, M2 too small. 8-series cars are just right size-wise, but again, pricey. Pass.
CT5-V Blackwing is $90K…too far. CT4-V Blackwing it is then…six-speed, climate package (ventilated seats) and little else. $67,890. Could do better in the used market, I think. Maybe a nice CTS-V…
Silverado, Tahoe and Suburban don’t inspire desire like older models did. Corvette and Corvette Z06 would be fun if the dealerships didn’t try to lottery them off like gold lots. Everything else, including the “how is it not dead yet?” Malibu, doesn’t cut it. My pick here would be a Camaro 1LT coupe with the V6, six-speed manual trans, RS package, heavy-duty cooling package and Brembo front brakes. At $35,825 for the example I built online, there is your fun-to-drive daily driver that can be good on fuel if you drive it sanely. Shame it dies next year, I’ve had a lot of fun in the sixth-gens.
300C V8. Comfort group, skip SafetyTec Plus group. $48,030…and I’d take it over an equal 5.7L Charger. Shame it dies this year, bigger shame that only a tiny handful of cars got the 6.4L. The Pacifica is competent for a van, but it just doesn’t do it for me.
Last year of the Challenger? Ok, here’s how I’d lay it out: Challenger Scat Pack Widebody with the T/A appearance package, six-speed, Harmon Kardon sound system, and Mopar front strut tower brace. $64,925. Will shed a tear when the Challenger and it’s Charger sedan mate is finally retired for good. On that thought, I wouldn’t kick a Hellcat or Scat Pack Charger out of the driveway, either. Until they start building Hornet GLHs from the factory, not interested.
Ford is a mixed bag: There’s still quite a bit to like, like the S550 Mustang (Mach 1, anyone?) and most of the F-series/Super Duty trucks, but then there’s a lot of “no”. You pay to play, but that’s no shock. I’m intrigued by the Bronco lineup, but since the 7-speed manual is on hiatus, that forces my hand: Maverick XLT with FX4 Off-Road package, 2.0L engine with all-wheel-drive, the 4,000-lb. tow package, and the 17″ machined-face wheels. Add in a spray-in bedliner, a tri-fold tonneau cover, and splash guards, and the damage comes to $33,360. No wonder Ford can’t build them fast enough.
Remember when GMC meant “work truck”? Nah, me neither, but I’d rather have a work truck than a leather-lined luxury Chevy. Using the 2WD Sierra 3500HD regular cab (remember those?), the decisions were: 6.6L gas V8 and Allison 10-speed automatic, the 14,000-pound GVWR rating, cargo tie-downs, a spray-on bedliner, and the chicken lights for the roof. Toss in “Downpour Metallic” paint, and you’re out the door for $50,080. Nice. You want a foofy truck or SUV? Go find a Land Rover dealer.
Who would’ve guessed that Hyundai would build an ass-kicking luxury brand?! While the Genesis X and Speedium X concepts have my full attention, “concepts” means unavailable. The SUVs even look good, and that’s not something you’ll see me say often. My choice would be the G80 3.5L AWD Sport. Only option: paint mine Hallisan Green. That’s 375 horsepower and one exceedingly comfortable interior for $65K. If you don’t want AWD, you can step down to the 300hp 2.5 turbo engine and save yourself $12,000.
I dig the Santa Cruze ute, but for me, I want the Elantra N. Any car riotous enough to have California cops threaten you with fines and impoundment seems right up my alley. 276 horsepower, a six-speed, and a limited-slip diff for $32K works for me! Just paint mine black, please…that Easter-egg blue isn’t my style.
2023 Rebel 1100 – just over $10K after a couple of accessories. Wait, was I supposed to stick to cars? Oh, well.
Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer are eye-wateringly pricey. Cherokee dies soon, Compass is competent if you want a smaller CUV, and I’d avoid the Renegade like the plague. I was ready to build up a Gladiator Willys Sport for about $44K, right up until I saw that both the Pentastar 3.6L gas and the EcoDiesel 3.0L V6 have start/stop systems, even with the manual transmissions. What?! Nevermind. At least Jeep was nice enough to say something. Auto start/stop systems are the worst idea to have afflicted the automotive world since the 1974 ignition interlock systems.
I said I’d rock a Stinger when I test-drove one back in 2018, and I stand by that. Paint my GT2 green and keep it RWD. $53,065. I’d also recommend the Carnival if you’re in need of a van. After that…it’s not that they are bad, just meh.
Nobody wants a small Lincoln. $80K for a Navigator is not my style. Take a hint from Genesis, Ford. Pass.
Laugh all you want, you can’t deny the Miata’s fun factor compared to its size. A Grand Touring Miata RF for $37K is about what I’d work with, though in hindsight I probably should go for the roadster. And goggles. And a facemask. They do make other cars, but…eh.
The GT-R gets it done but that car hasn’t changed since the end of my second deployment. The Z is intriguing, but it’s a re-skin of the 370Z. I do have a positive track record with smaller trucks, so let’s look at the new Frontier. Take a bare-bones 4×4, add black paint, a sport bar for the bed, a tow package, wireless phone charger and remote engine start and the tally is $36,105. Shame there’s no manual trans option, or I’d be all about the rebirth of the Hardbody.
Considering that I ordered and took delivery of a 1500 Laramie last year, this should simply be a “yes” and move on moment. But I’m going to take this opportunity to build my dream example, not the vehicle that both my wife and I agreed upon. Starting with a Ram 2500 Big Horn regular cab, the box for the 6.7L Cummins diesel was ticked, along with the limited-slip rear axle and 3.73 gears. A 20,000-lb. Mopar 5th Wheel Hitch, tow hooks up front, the spray-in bedliner and bed step, a package deal that ensures that the interior is a nice place to be, premium exterior lighting, a set of black tube steps, a 115-volt outlet inside, the smaller infotainment screen with maps available, and parking assistance and the bill runs up to $71,470. Which is right about where our nearly loaded-out 1500 ended up.
Skipping the SUVs, the station wagons pretending to be SUVs, and the basic Impreza and Legacy models, and you end up with two options: the WRX and the BRZ. Historically, the WRX would get the nod, but this time around the BRZ wins. Don’t bother with the base model…everything you could want is pretty much standard on the Premium. Adding one option, the “V-bar” (read: front strut bracing), brings the price to $30,045. Nice.
Toyota has plenty of solid options to choose from. The Camry is competent, the Corolla is a great entry-level option, the 4Runner is as granola-adventurous as ever, and the Tacoma is still a popular option. But…and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this…once the 2023 Prius Prime comes out, there you go, the replacement for the last-generation Chevrolet Volt. A hybrid that makes sense and doesn’t look like rolling birth control. Laugh, talk shit, do whatever you must. But for a daily-driver that you just use around town, trust the Volt owner: putting gas in the car maybe four times a year does have advantages. You know…like feeding that other beast in your garage. This build is an XLE (not a Prime), so you’re stuck with MPG figures that can only get into the low-50s. An audio package and a stainless-steel catalytic converter shield and you’re in it for $32,925.
A fully kitted-out VNL. Because it’s my freaking list. And because the Polestar 1 coupe is out of production and in six-figure territory. If I’m going to spend that kind of money, then living in it and earning money from it sounds pretty good to me.
Every vehicle selected was built to what I felt was the best mix of options, utility, fun and cost. But when the entry level price for this list either the Honda motorcyle or the 30K Scooby, maybe it’s time to re-think buying new. I’m not being facetious in the least when I suggest instead turning that $40K towards a project vehicle. Think about it…if you were in the market for a fast four-door that the family could ride around in, what could $40K do to a mid-1990s Impala or 1980s Caprice? Do you shove $35 grand into a second or third-gen Camaro and have more fun for your buck? I’m almost convinced you could buy two Dodge trucks for the cost of the Ram…one first-gen Cummins truck with a rotten body, and a 1972-1980 W-series with a solid body to roll that chassis under. Just some food for thought, BangShifters!