Firstly, let me introduce myself my name is Matthew and as my handle suggests I hail from the land of breakfast tea, fish and chips and Lucas electronics. There maybe a few of you on Oppo that might remember my posts on Drivetribe where I mainly wrote about a certain (now very) expensive red Italian car that my father brought 46 years ago and is still in my custodianship today. Beyond the photo below I will save writing about that car for another post, as now I want to talk about the fact that as my Wife and I have recently relocated from good old Blightly to the hot and humid climate of Atlanta, and how this has impacted me as a car guy.
Now let’s get the obvious question out the way. Having the steering wheel on the left and driving on the right is no big deal despite most of my driving having this reversed. I’ve driven all over Europe many times in both left- and right-hand drive cars and is just is not an issue. The only slight problem I have really had with driving here, is to be mindful that street furniture – especially traffic lights - are often placed differently and there are far more stop signs here where the junction would often be covered by a give way (yield) sign back home. I also have to say the condition of the roads in the Atlanta area is far worse than the roads back home (for the British readers yes really). Potholes and bumps are everywhere and the solution to drop a big metal plate over some of the worse ones rather than fix the holes is a new one on me.
It is interesting to note that far more people seem to break the speed limits compared with back home especially on the interstates and by quite large amounts too. In the UK there are speed cameras everywhere which do a good (perhaps too good) job of curtailing speeders but here it still seems to be mostly state troopers with a speed gun.
There was obviously no point in us bringing our daily drivers from the UK (a Jaguar XE diesel and a Smart Forfour) and even if we wanted too, I doubt either could be registered here anyway. So, one of our first tasks after arriving here was to buy new cars. On one of the house hunting trips we had made prior to the move we had rented a Mazda 3 hatchback which we both really liked. It was fun to drive for a grocery getter but was probably not quite big enough for us especially if my wife’s relatives (she is American incidentally) are going to make regular visits and we need a car to move people around in. With that in mind our first purchase was a new Mazda CX-5. For it’s type it drives well and has an interior at least as good as the far more expensive equivalents from BMW and Audi that I’m used to back home. In the current crazy market, there was no discount, but no mark up either and the monthly payments are quite reasonable.
The practicality of the Mazda also freed up the second car to be much more interesting. The Italian car more than provided for my fun car driving back in the UK, and in my perfect world something of a similar vintage would be great here, but it is just not practical for us. The house we have rented has secure off street parking but no garage to protect cars from the elements, which are also more extreme than the UK. The second car would need to serve as my prime daily driver for the 30 minute commute through Atlanta traffic to the office (or be usable by my wife if I took the Mazda), and that means it must be reliable and as someone who is not yet used to the heat here, have excellent a/c.
Back home a family friend who lived in America for thirty years said that I would do what all the Brits do when they first move to America and buy a Mustang. I did think about it a bit and whilst the latest Mustang is quite a handsome car it is also a familiar one. The latest gen Mustang has been available in the UK for a few years now in RHD and has sold reasonably well. Coming to the States they are everywhere, and I have always liked cars that are a less familiar site on the roads. For the same reason I dismissed the Challenger which if anything is even more common in Atlanta than the Mustang (its lengthy production run probably having something to do with that). I did give the Camaro more serious consideration as it seems from reading the motoring press that it is the best of the three to drive but I just cannot get on with its looks. The C8 Corvette is out of my price range and the C6 and C7 seem very expensive used in the current market.
Other cars on the short list that came and went were the new Nissan Z (I didn’t want to wait), Toyota Supra (don’t like the looks), 2009ish Maserati Granturismo (too scared of the potential bills), 2008 Aston V8 Vantage (the bills and most seem to have the single clutch paddle shift gearbox) until it finally came down to a Porsche Cayman or Jaguar F Type
Now the Cayman seems like the rational choice, the motoring press on both sides of the Atlantic rave about them, they are reasonably practical and surprisingly fuel efficient in this era of rising gas prices. However, their huge desirability has translated into very high used values. For my budget I was probably looking at a 2014 base model 981 Cayman. That’s the one with the 2.7 litre flat six. I know a few people who have owned them, and they really like them, but they all say the 2.7 lacks torque and must be really revved to get the best out of it. That’s all well and good on a Sunday drive but less appealing sitting in traffic. Also, every Porsche sports car I have driven (and even owned) has suffered from terrible road roar off the tyres which when mixed with Atlanta’s rough roads might make the commute tiresome.
Just before leaving for Atlanta I happened on a Jaguar F Type whilst running an errand. I admit it is a car that I had rather forgotten about as despite being its home market it has not been a big seller in the UK on account of Jaguar asking too much money for them. It is however a great looking car especially in coupe form and, thanks to Jaguar’s legendary ability to depreciate, used examples are surprisingly good value compared to the Porsches. Reliability was a concern but looking through the forums and you tube films on them they do not seem to have too many major issues and the XE I had back in the UK was far less problematic than the BMW that came before it.
Scouring the classified all three engine choices of turbo four, Supercharged V6 and Supercharged V8 were available in my budget although for the latter they tended to be high mileage examples and often with salvage titles. The four cylinder turbo version seems to have fairly mild performance although most reviews hinted that the lighter weight of the engine improved the handling a bit. In the end I settled primarily on the middle ground and searched for a V6 (340bhp) or V6S (380bhp). I ended up buying a 2017 V6 in premium trim in a very fetching shade of metallic British racing Green and silver painted alloy wheels. The best reason though was it had than 12,000 miles on the clock and looked basically brand new, it even still had the protective plastic on the door sills in place from when it was first delivered. When new the sticker price on the car with all the options it has fitted would have been around $80,000 but despite the low mileage I was able to pick it up for little more than half of that.
So far I’m loving it, the V6 is not super powerful but has a very flat torque curve and is more than fast enough for me Even better it makes an epic noise (IMO the V6 versions sound better than the V8 R), and the interior is a lovely place to be. Thanks to the subtle paint color it doesn’t scream look at me either but at the same time does draw appreciative nods from those in the know. I’ll put more detailed impressions in my next post about it.