What's the best car for $100k? What our car journos would actually buy
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DRIVEN's headquarters is, generally, one rolling ongoing argument after another about all things four-wheeled. Whether it's cars currently on test or rose-tinted memories from years gone by, the next passionate vehicular debate is never far away.
It made sense to take this excitable energy and turn it into something (hopefully) useful. As such, welcome to DRIVEN's new online content series (published each Monday), where we pick out the cars that we would actually buy with our cold hard cash.
Off the back of last week's war of the medium-size SUVs, today the team dissects the cars they'd buy for under $100,000 — and it's a pretty wide spectrum.
Editor, Dean Evans: Tesla Model 3 long range
So clearly we’ve all won Lotto this week. I mean, you’d have to, to spend $100k on a car right? Or at least have that kind of disposable wealth, because the rule of money (and winning it) is that for every $10 you win, a wise investor spends just $1 on themselves. So with a $100k budget, even I can work out that I’ve just won $1m – which is statistically less likely to happen than being struck by lightning – twice! Nevertheless…
So with that very boring accounting topic dealt with, and a temporary suspension of reality, I’ve delved into the sub-$100k bowl of numbers and drawn out my personal pick.
This is like a lease deal, so I feel I need to spend as much as possible here because there’s none of this “I’d buy a Suzuki Swift Sport and I’d spend the rest on a holiday to the moon”… so no semi-sensible family cars/seven seaters, either. It also excludes the typical front-of-mind highlights: Focus ST (I wanted the RS), Cupra Ateca (almost perfect, but it’s an SUV), Audi RSQ3 (at $115k, just over budget), Mini Countryman JCW ALL4 or Merc-AMG GLB250.
Nope, I’m being selfish here, and I’m leaning towards a mix of comfort, technology, performance, being a little different and bleeding every last dollar from the account: so it’s a Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD. At $97,900, it offers everything I want and need in a car, a range of 620km, 0-100 in 3.4 seconds, it’s quiet, has almost too much performance on tap, and I’m sure I can option it up with the $1700 Deep Metallic Blue. Sadly I won’t be able to spring for the Full Self-Driving Capability (at $11,400), but at least the included autopilot feature enables it to steer, accelerate and brake; after all, on the road, I’m more than likely just commuting, so I want to make that as driver-friendly as possible. Plus the lack of petrol station visits will help me avoid the temptation of those $1 Cadbury Twirls at the counter.
At $99,700, that leaves $300 remaining to pay off the $200 order fee, and put towards the $1375 delivery fee and $236 registration fee. But we’re not considering those costs in our challenge, right…
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: BMW i3
A couple of years ago I had a BMW i3s as a long-term test car: the “s” being the more powerful version and the car in question being absolutely loaded with every conceivable option, including a remote-operated heat pump to warm your way in advance of those winter commutes.
At the time I rather thought it was about my favourite daily-drive car in the whole world. I’ve decided I rather still think that.
I know the pure-electric i3 hasn’t sold as well as it should globally, that the range is now only average compared with newer BEVs (around 260km “real world”) and that it’s right at the end of its model life.
And yet I still find it fascinating and brilliant. I love the high-tech carbon fibre reinforced plastic construction (including the ‘tub” that underpins it), I love the challenging styling and I love how much fun this lightweight rear-drive city car is to drive.
Yes, it’s expensive. But we’ve got $100k, right? For that I can get the i3s ($87,500) with the Suite interior trim package ($1750), Melbourne Red exterior with Frozen Grey highlights ($1490), 20-inch Jet Black alloys with mixed-size tyres ($500), adaptive headlights ($1200) and of course that heat pump ($1100).
I’m still way under budget at $93,540… although I’ve lost an afternoon’s work time on the BMW New Zealand configurator.
Senior Multimedia Journalist, Matthew Hansen: Toyota Land Cruiser 70 LT
Since Dean quite rudely stole my selection for this challenge, allow me to choose the Tesla Model 3's most violently binary opposite — the rough, rugged, old-school Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series.
Built like a bomb shelter and styled like one too, the 70 is literally timeless. Apart from a facial reconstruction this side of the new millennium and various tweaks to help it squeeze by safety and emissions regulations, it's hardly been changed since it first showed up on off-road trails and worksites back in 1984.
It's not nearly as high-tech as anything else on this list (or, come to think of it, just about any new-car on sale right now). But the 70 Series is not only the coolest thing you can buy for 100 grand, but also one of the most honest. Genuine off-road ability via a legendary platform, true four-wheel drive, and dual locking diffs. Let's not forget the diesel V8, either.
And, let's be honest, it's actually pretty good value when you consider even the priciest model is cheaper than a Ford Ranger Raptor.
You can get a single-cab LT like the one pictured for $68,490. At the other end of the scale is the $79,990 LW wagon. I'd grab the $78,490 LT wagon, keep it in true United Nations specification, and never ever wash it.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Ford Mustang GT
It might be the cliché answer, but I genuinely believe that a manual Ford Mustang GT is the best car you can buy in New Zealand for $100,000.
There’s no denying that it is an irresponsible choice given the Mustang’s practicality and fuel efficiency, but as a 23-year-old guy, irresponsible vehicle choice is somewhat expected, right?
In my opinion, the Mustang combines a plethora of modern safety tech with a sturdy chassis without sacrificing the pony car element. The V8-equipped GT does feel significantly heavier on track than the 2.3-litre turbo equivalent, but makes up for this with better straight-line performance, and an incredible soundtrack.
Ford’s iconic 5.0-litre makes a hefty 339kW and 556Nm of torque here, which is more than enough for most people, and will allow the coupe to hit 100km/h in a little over five seconds. This is sent through the six-speed transmission to an LSD at the rear, which is always a good time.
Starting at $82,990, this leaves a bit of budget to play within the aftermarket, and a lot is offered down here in NZ. From the Ford Performance range, to the plethora of RTR parts, it’s not hard to sharpen up a Mustang’s look.