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  • Scott

3 - Exploring my Options

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Converting my Dart to a space age flying brick was officially out of the question. I knew the conversion would cost at least $75k and the cost of a divorce would be infinitely more. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of another Fiat, Bolt, or Leaf, but hadn’t completely given up on the idea since they were way cheaper and more practical than converting the Dart, getting a divorce, or a $147k Tesla.

A Fork in the Road

I decided on two general paths, 1) buy a cheap EV, allowing me to keep both my Dart and Challenger or 2) buy a more expensive EV and bid a mumbling, sorrowful goodbye to my Challenger. The compact EV route was quite enticing because I would be able to keep my Dart and my Challenger. It just wasn’t in the budget to keep the Challenger and an expensive new EV. Both cars were important to me and it would be hard to part with either. My Chally was the first new car I ever owned, it had a lifetime warranty, and I took excellent care of it. That big buxom pumpkin was 8 years old, in great condition, and paid off. By 2019 I had owned the Dart for about 17 years, and it had been with me through all of life’s ups and downs. My Bundy-mobile was 46 years old, in mediocre condition, and I only had 28 more payments left.

Tabula Not So Rasa

I owed it to both cars to explore all options, so I decided to lay it all out on the table. Literally, below is the table. I started scouring the internet for options on what car to buy. The options ranged from the downright impractical to something Ned Flanders would find quite sensible. My preference was for a full EV but couldn’t knock the practicality of a hybrid with good EV only range. Since my commute to the train station is less than 12 miles, I could get back and forth to work every day on a single charge for most hybrids, but still have the range of normal gas engine for road trips and family visits. It was fun seeing what I could dig up and there were some pretty good used options.

All the Styling of a Golf Cart but Without the Range

All the low-priced options were very reasonable, but range was a huge issue and none of them were going to win any beauty contests. Another downside to most of them is that due to the adorable styling and compact lines, I may very well be confused for a demure and slight beauty show contestant while driving one of them. I don’t mind the cat calls, but would-be gentleman callers are usually deterred when they excitedly pull up to the driver window of cute little Fiat 500 to realize a husky middle aged dude with 5:00 shadow is sitting behind the wheel. But, enough bragging, back to the topic at hand.

All the low cost EV’s, the Fiat, Soul, BMW i3, Leaf, were decent cars at reasonable prices, but aside from the styling issue, there’s the range issue. I had my Fiat 500 for 3 years and range anxiety is serious business. I only got stranded once, driving home at 11:00 at night after a 15-hour day, uphill, on a corner, 30 seconds from home. It was an unpleasant experience, but at least the tow truck driver got a good laugh out of the 200-yard tow he made that night. It just didn’t seem practical to deal with a sub-100-mile range vehicle again.

The Bolt is a cool little car with great range, but it just didn’t feel like the right fit. A new one was just too expensive, and there weren’t too many used ones out when I was looking. While I appreciate what GM did in such a short time frame, I just didn’t want one out of some misapplied set of stubborn principles. In an odd sense, GM proved all the foil hat wearing, 99-mile carburetor hypothesizing, EV1 murdering conspiracy theorists right. For years they’ve been fighting EV’s and hybrids, saying the public doesn’t want them, the range isn’t livable, they’re too expensive, and so on. All of a sudden, they realize there’s a growing market for EV’s and that Tesla may actually be a real threat, and in less than a couple years they churn out a very viable, long range (yet flammable) candidate for the market.

The Middle

I basically decided anything above $20k meant moving into path 2 (getting rid of the Chally). If there was something really cool in the $30k range, it could work for the right car. The middle of the range basically consisted of the Ford Fusion, Cadillac ELR, BMW 330e, Mercedes C350e, and a Tesla finally squeaking into the rankings. The Fusion appealed to my inner accountant, but it wasn’t much of an EV. The BMW and Mercedes suffered from the same fate, definitely a little cooler, but not much of an EV either. Now, the Cadillac ELR…actually had some appeal. I looked around and found some pretty sweet used ones in red with chrome wheels, that looked nice. Aggressive lines, decent EV only range, drop it an inch or two, in the right color, and it could turn out to be a pretty cool looking car. I liked the Cadillac so much, my wife and I actually took one for a test drive and really liked it. My wife wasn’t too keen on the 2 door layout, but I thought it was a nice car, cool tech, and fun to drive. Rounding out the top of the middle, or…the bottom of the top…was a Tesla Model S 70, 85, etc. By that time in 2019, the used Tesla’s were just starting to drop below the $40k range. Given the circumstances, the Model S at this price range was a serious contender. Powerful, fun to drive, all EV, decent range, it checked all the boxes, but there were still some other options to consider.

Oktoberfest Brawl

I’ve always leaned towards Mercedes in the ongoing cage fight between BMW and Mercedes. I drove a lot of Mercedes in my days working for a press fleet management company and they really grew on me. That lead me to explore other similar options like the various series of BMW and Porsche’s. The Panamera was really appealing because it’s just such a cool looking car, comfortable, and it would be equivalent to a grown-up version of the 924 and 944 I had back in the day. The BMW i8 sounded like fun for the value, those doors are pretty sweet. I couldn’t imagine paying $160k+ for a car that pumps exhaust-like sounds into the cockpit, but at around $60k, it seemed like a pretty good deal. The BMW 330e and 530e were especially enticing, especially the 530e because they had a crazy lease special at the time, which made the car about $10k less than the regular price. I had a hard time getting over the styling on the 5 series, it just wasn’t sporty enough, and the 30 miles of EV only range wasn’t a huge plus. The Mercedes S550e was definitely a front runner, I liked the styling and a fully loaded one would almost be as luxurious to drive as my Dodge, again, couldn’t get past the range.

The Brit in the lineup was pretty cool, the I-Pace. At the time it was brand new and there weren’t a lot of purchase/lease options in my price range. That left the Tesla, Model S P90DL at the upper end of the price range, but the absolute top of the cool factor, and a full EV to boot. Decisions, decisions, decisions…


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