Dear Tom and Ray:
I'm a business owner and a mom who has been driving a '98 Honda Odyssey since our daughter was born because it was a practical choice. Now I'm earning some money and want a sexier car, but I can't decide what to buy. I'd like to spend around $30,000, and I'm interested in the Audi A4 3.0. Is that a reliable and affordable choice? I love the features, but when I dress it up the way I want it, it comes up to about $34K, and I like to buy "new." Any advice? -- Renee
TOM: Well, you're very lucky, Renee. When you decide to spend 30,000 bucks on a car, you have a lot of very nice choices, and the Audi A4 is certainly one of them.
RAY: Is it the most reliable car on the planet? No. If reliability is your primary concern, above all else, then you should look at one of the Japanese cars in that price range, like the Lexus ES300 or IS300, the Infiniti G35 or the Acura TL or TSX.
TOM: But before you do that, remember the first thing you said to us, Renee: You want "a sexier car." And "sexy" is purely in the eye of the beholder. I mean, look what my brother's wife picked. I rest my case. And the fact is, your eye was drawn to the Audi A4.
RAY: And I happen to agree with you, Renee. I think the A4 is a very good-looking car. It's also a great-handling car, a comfortable car and a safe car. So if you think it's sexy, Renee, don't let the fact that it's less reliable than Japanese cars get in your way. Remember, it's got a four-year warranty. You only kept your last car for five years, so you're not taking much of a risk here.
TOM: And if $34,000 for a dressed-up A4 3.0 is a little pricey for you, get the A4 1.8T, which is the same car with a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine instead of the six. It's plenty of engine, in our opinion. And it should keep the final tab below $30K. You might even get enough change to afford a "Sexy Mom on Board" bumper sticker. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, a "personal ad."