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Dear Tom and Ray:


I am the not so proud owner of a 1982 Oldsmobile Toronado with 63,000 miles on it. I've had more than my share of major repairs on this car, and I no longer believe my Toronado is reliable. What car would you recommend as a replacement? Obviously, I'm inclined to keep a car for a long period of time. I am also used to a certain amount of luxury and spaciousness. Would a Jaguar, Mercedes, or BMW really be worth the price over the long haul, or are there better cars on the market these days (Lexus and Infiniti)? I'm willing to spend a lot of money, but I would like to get the most luxury for the least expense. Also, I'm very tired of frequent and expensive trips to the repair shop. What do you suggest?
Harry

RAY: Well, Harry, this is a dilemma many of our readers would love to be saddled with. So I hope you're not losing too much sleep over it. For the kind of money you're planning to spend, you're certain to get a wonderful car. The question is which wonderful car.

TOM: You say that reliability and infrequent repairs are two of your criteria. Unfortunately, that rules out the Jaguar. While the Jaguar, in my opinion, is the most beautiful car ever built, it has a reputation for being temperamental. The new Jaguars may be different, but until the good folks over at Jaguar lend me a nice little XJS V-12 convertible for a long term evaluation, I won't be able to verify that (are you listening, guys?)

RAY: My brother hasn't learned yet that when you write an extortion note, it's best NOT to have it printed in the newspaper. Nonetheless, let's rule out the Jaguar for you, Harry. The Mercedes 300E and the BMW 535i are also wonderful luxury cars. The question is whether they provide the right kind of luxury for you. The German idea of luxury is different than the American idea of luxury. German luxury cars emphasize performance, meticulous engineering, and a sporty, firm type of comfort. American luxury cars traditionally emphasize softness, plushness, and isolation. Since you've been driving an Oldsmobile, we're going to assume that you lean more toward the American definition of luxury. So let's take the Mercedes and BMW off of your short list.

TOM: Interestingly, that leaves the two least expensive (38,000 dollars) of the cars you mention, and probably the best values in high-end luxury sedans these days; Lexus and Infiniti. The Infiniti is one of the most awesome cars I've ever driven. But again, I'm not sure it's the car for you. It's a firm riding car, more in the German than the American tradition.

RAY: So our choice for you, Harry, to give you the most luxury and reliability for the least expense, would be the Lexus LS400. The Lexus does everything well. It's large, powerful, and quiet. It's too early to tell what its repair record will be like, but if you survived an '82 Toronado, this Toyota product is all but guaranteed to be a piece of cake. Compared to the Infiniti, Lexus has also gone for a some??what softer ride. They've sacrificed some of the sportiness for a more American sense of luxury. The seats are softer, the steering is easier, and road noise is all but shut out. I'm sure you'll love the Lexus.

TOM: Of course, another option would be to buy a '74 Chevy for 50 dollars, and spend the next six months on Wai Ki Ki beach. But you didn't ask what I'd do with 40,000 dollars, you asked what you should do.

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