It's time to shop for a new car. For the next few weeks I'm chronicling my search, reviewing the process, the products, the marketing, the sales experience and the transaction.
This weekend, I drove two more cars and passed on a third.
My day began behind the wheel of a Ford Fusion Sport. Excellent handling, a beefy, 263 hp V6 engine, aggressive styling and a comfortable interior, this is a nice package for anyone who likes to drive fast. Just a couple of complaints.
Like the Malibu LTZ, there is no manual transmission available in this Fusion. The 6-speed autostick was sharper shifting in the manual mode than others I've driven, but it's still not as fun to drive as the BMW and the Audi.
But my biggest complaint is in the packaging of the options. Because they build so few of these, they're hard to find. And they're hard to find without all the bells and whistles, which includes a backup camera and a blind spot warning system. I can understand these features for mini vans and big SUVs, but this is a mid-sized sedan, what the hell do I need a backup camera for? In spite of being over-featured, I liked the way this car drove and it's a finalist.
The other car I drove was a Mazda 6s. I owned the original Mazda 6 years ago and enjoyed it. I bought it because it was a little smaller, had a sporty set up, nice V6 engine, and a slick shifting manual transmission. Unfortunately, the new 6 is larger, a little softer set up and you can only get a manual transmission with the four-cylinder engine.
My final visit was to the Mini dealer in Milwaukee. I was excited to get behind the wheel again, but as soon as I pulled onto the lot and looked at the car, I knew it wouldn't work for me. It's just too small. Rather than waste another hour and give my phone number out to yet another salesman, I drove on.
So where does that leave me?
After considering 28 brands and driving ten cars I'm down to five: The BMW 328i Xdrive, Audi A4, Ford Fusion Sport, VW Jetta TDI SportWagen and the decidedly less sporty, but oh so practical Subaru Outback.
Today I contact the dealers, see what they can do in terms of pricing, incentives and financing and then I'll make my final decision.