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Feature Listing: 2001 Mercedes-Benz S430

Right now, the least expensive car you can buy in the United States brand new is the Nissan Versa Sedan, which rings in at a very budget friendly $11,900. For that you get such amenities as wheels, seats, mostly translucent glass and an engine. Sounding a bit like a sewing machine with a hangover, the Versa’s 1.6 liter inline-4 struggles to produce 109 horsepower. Inside are cheap plastics, cheaper fabrics, and plenty of toxic new car smell. Okay, I’ll admit it does come with a warranty which, judging by the used Nissan products I see covered in soot and broken down around me, you’ll probably need at some point. You know those commercials for the toy (Flashing Lights! Realistic Siren Sounds!) you always wanted when you were a kid that they made seem so cool, but if you were lucky enough to get one you found out it was pretty much complete crap and broken immediately? Claiming that you’ve achieved something in buying the Versa as a new car is pretty much the same thing. I’d say it was a toaster on wheels, but I wouldn’t want to insult toast.

On the other end of the spectrum is the luxury executive market. Cars in this realm are crafted to be silent but perform like Swiss watches; powerful, smooth and seamless. They are expected to bathe you in luxuries; supple leather, the tactile feel of real wood – an airy feel of a ski chalet in Saint Moritz, but with the computing power of NASA and the convenience features of a Brookstone catalogue. They are made to have presence but not in a showy, pay attention to me way; more often, a regal, stately suit to brush the pedestrian cares of life away as you isolate yourself from traffic. They’re transportation cocoons spun by silk worms, and as such if you’re budget says “Versa”, they’re thoroughly out of your price range. Or, are they?

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Feature Listing: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL

Hard to believe though it may seem with today’s plethora of topless options, back in the early 1980s your selections were quite limited. Bucking the belief that the convertible would be killed off, Volkswagen emerged with a Rabbit Cabriolet that featured a massive rollover hoop for protection. Porsche entered the fray in 1982 as well, bringing back the cabriolet model that had been missing since the 356. But the only choice if you wanted a luxury convertible was the Mercedes-Benz SL. From 1971 to 1989, this car was the undisputed king of open-air motoring, and for good reason. This weekend, I walked by a Buick Cascada and thought “Wow, that looks cheap”. Though the 1980s were accused of being the era of rampant consumerism, the reality is that it was a very narrow window of incredible products. In the 1970s, for a new car to last a few years and maybe up to 100,000 miles was semi-miraculous. Yet suddenly in the 1980s we as consumers were presented with a number of cars that would run for three times that amount with little difficulty. They started every time, were mechanically well engineered and even got reasonably good fuel economy. It was the brief period where the engineering overtook the penny pinching accountants, when cars were made well and to a standard that would last. By the 1990s, cars had become much more disposable again – the reality of keeping a car company afloat, unfortunately. But looking through the photos of this 1985 380SL, I happened across the sticker bearing the signature of Gottlieb Daimler. The sticker is a bit worn and peeled around the edges with a slight discoloration, but on that sticker are the words “a DAIMLER-BENZ product”. That meant something in the 1980s, because these were simply the best engineered and constructed cars in the world. You were buying one for a lifetime of service, not two years of commuting. They were expensive, but they were the benchmark by which all others were measured. I still remember when the Cadillac Allante debuted in 1986, aimed to compete against this very car. Now, by that time the R107 was 15 years into production and probably 20 years from original sketch, so it was pretty tired as designs go. But Car and Driver compared the two and walked away saying that the Mercedes-Benz was still the car to get. You know what? They were right, because here we are 31 years later and this 1985 380SL still looks lovely, fresh and ready for top-down action:

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Feature Listing: 2007 Audi S4 Avant

Our own Paul has recently spent a few posts outlining some gripes he has with the current Volkswagen/Audi lineup, and in all honesty I have to echo him. With the exceptions of the TT-RS and Golf R, VAG has really left our market wanting. For some time, it was the niche-ness of Audi that made it so appealing. Where else would you get a turbocharged, all-wheel drive manual wagon? Ironically, it’s most recently been rival BMW that has offered that package in the 535xi Touring as Audi has steadfastly removed the fast 5-doors from North America. Okay, we get the beautiful A7/S7/RS7 lineup, but they’re exceptionally tech-heavy and….well, just plain heavy, as well as being (like nearly all of the Audi lineup) automatic only. Now, if I’m honest some automatics aren’t that bad and I think even Paul admitted the most recent generation of BMW autos were pretty impressive. The same goes for recent turbo motors that manage to produce both stellar fuel economy and outrageous power (for how long, I’m tempted to wonder as I saw yet another 2.0T apart on a bench today). But the synergy of naturally aspriated mechanical noise, three pedal engagement and a weighted lever to mesh them together is something enthusiasts will always want. That combo, when coupled with the equally sought fast wagons from Audi, creates a legendary package that has really few equals and a presence second to none. Last offered in the B7 chassis, the raucous BBK-code 4.2 V8 coupled 11:1 compression with variable valve timing for a screaming 7,200 rpm redline and 340 horsepower. The numbers were close to the S54 in the E46 M3, but the delivery is completely different. While the M3 is a high-revving race feel, the Audi positively comes across like a freight train when you’re behind it. Mash the throttle and there isn’t an explosion of speed – indeed, you might be disappointed at first. But keep watching that needle, because that silky smooth V8 has already propelled you past legal speeds and is showing no sign of slowing down:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Audi S4 Avant on Denver Craigslist

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Feature Listing: 1999 BMW M3 Convertible

It seems as if winter decided to hang on for another weekend on the east coast of the United States this week. However, summer will be here before we know it and with it comes the desire for open top motoring. This 1999 BMW M3 for sale in Arlington, Virginia is on offer from the second owner who has had the vehicle in his possession since it was a year old. While the M3 Convertible might not be the first choice for the hardcore //M enthusiast, this one is perfectly suited for those lazy jaunts to the beach, especially since these E36 convertibles have more than adequate rear seat and trunk space for those weekend jaunts to the beach.

1999 BMW M3 Convertible

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Feature Listing: 1995 Audi Sport 90 quattro

Back in February I took a look at a very rare and somewhat obscure end to the B4 Audi lineup, the Sport 90 quattro. The A4 that replaced it would become wildly successful, but really it was the underpinnings of the updated 90 that carried the dynamics of the A4. With a stout V6 under the hood and old-school mechanical all-wheel drive, these well built 90s have remained very attractive alternatives in the marketplace. I originally took a look at this car back in February, but the owner contacted us to feature the car and I was more than happy to as I really have a soft spot for these 90s.

Due respect to the E30 ix crowd, if you were to consider the 325ixs that we’ve posted and not consider this 90 quattro, you’ve got a few screws loose. The 90 quattro was long derided as underpowered compared to the competition, but in ’93 that was at least partially rectified with the addition of the 2.8 V6 motor. Though the power output wasn’t outrageous at 172, it was a robust and torquey motor that was easier to run around town than the peaky 7A 20V. Change from the B3 to B4 chassis also included substantial revisions outside, giving the 90 a new lease on life. They were well built, well engineered cars and have stood the test of time very well. Unlike their E30 ix competition, the B4 quattros were manual only. On their way out (to be replaced by the mechanically similar A4), the 90 got a special package in the “Sport 90”. Renamed from the previous 90CS models, externally there was only a subtle change to body-color side molding on the Sport models. Available in either front drive or quattro configuration, the latter included Jacquard quattro-script cloth that helped to set it apart from the regular 90s:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi Sport 90 quattro on Los Angeles Craigslist

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