The automotive landscape is changing, but are your tastes? Do you think there's a car (or truck!) out there that might be your "forever" automobile? Better yet, can you buy it for $68,000 or less? That's this week's installment of "Here's some arbitrary amount of fake money: go buy something."
Here are the rules; they're a bit intricate this week to keep things interesting.
Your choice will replace your existing vehicle(s) and it will be the last new car you buy. It will also be the newest car you ever buy, because while you may purchase another used car, it cannot be newer than your selected vehicle. If your needs change dramatically in 2045 for whatever reason, you are limited to the options available in 2023.
You may not sell, trade, gift or otherwise dispose of this car. You must maintain, insure and park it for the rest of your life whether you drive it regularly or not. If you total it, Byron will hand-deliver an exact replacement to your driveway with the exact same mileage, wear and quantity of petrified farts lurking in the seat cushions. Our advice? Don't let anybody puke in it.
You have $68,000 to spend. You may leak over that by some hundreds of dollars, but if your total before taxes and fees starts with $69, you've done it wrong. You can spend less, but remember, it's your last new car ever and whatever you don't spend at the dealer merely vanishes.
On to the staff picks!
2024 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 4x4
Senior Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski: Yep, I'm going with a van. I looked at all my available options that fell under our $68,000 price cap and narrowed it down to two choices, the Ford Transit Trail and the Sprinter I ended up ultimately choosing. In standard 2500-class 12-passenger form and optioned with Mercedes' four-cylinder diesel engine and all-wheel drive, the Sprinter 2500 4x4 starts around $65,000. That leaves precious few dollars to spend on options, but even in completely base form this is a very useful vehicle to park in my virtual driveway. It can seat a dozen people, or have seats removed to open up a whole heck of a lot of cargo space. The diesel powerplant's 332 pound-feet of torque can haul over 3,000 pounds of max payload or tow up to 5,000. I know from experience that the Sprinter is a comfy platform in which to watch the miles go by, and as much as I wouldn't want to deal with diesel emissions equipment over the life of the vehicle, at least I'll be rewarded with reasonable efficiency. All-wheel-drive traction will come in handy on both dirt roads in the summer and snowy roads in the winter.
Acura Integra Type S
Senior Editor James Riswick: I used the following criteria when making my choice: It must be special today and must continue to be special in the future. It must be enjoyable to drive because I'm going to be driving it forever. It must be reasonably practical and versatile since who knows what can happen in the course of "forever." Reliability would be nice since I will be keeping it forever. A manual transmission sure would be nice since those definitely won't be around, well, forever. Finally, I must actually like the thing since, again, forever. The answer therefore is the Acura Integra Type S. It's definitely special now and I can't imagine a world in which a well-maintained Type S won't still be turning heads at the 2045 Cars & Coffee. It is phenomenal to drive and a manual transmission is obligatory (it's even easy to drive, so traffic isn't such a worry). It's an Acura and I've recently been made aware of how well old bright-blue Acuras can age when taken care of. And yes, I definitely like this car.
Now, I'm very under budget here with a base MSRP of $50,800, but that's OK. With the leftovers, I got the $2,186 copper wheels that'll definitely increase its specialness, and the $399 roof rack for increased versatility. As you can see, I also added a kayak attachment because the Acura configurator lets you do that, I had the cash and the visual is amazing. So, that would be $54,701. Keep the change. I could love this forever.
2023 Ford Mach-E GT Performance Edition
Senior Editor John Beltz Snyder: If I’m keeping this new car for a long time, it’s gotta be fun, but practical doesn’t hurt, either. After all, I have two kids whom I take on multi-hour highway drives fairly often. Oh, and I want it to be electric. The Mustang Mach-E GT Performance is quite the package: fast, roomy, attractive (I really like the look of the Mach-E in Carbonized Gray Metallic in person), all-wheel-drive, with MagneRide included and room in the budget for BlueCruise and the Nite Pony Package. With 480 horsepower and 634 pound-feet of torque at the ready and a 0-60 blast of 3.5 seconds, an EPA rating of 260 miles ain’t bad. That comes in at $67,895 before destination and possible incentives, so I’m leaving a mere $105 on the table. Where do I sign?
2024 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
Associate Editor Byron Hurd: OK, if you're a regular reader, you're probably rolling your eyes. Yes, I came up with this week's challenge, but believe it or not, it was not with my current car in mind. For the uninitiated, I ordered a '22 CT4-V Blackwing immediately after driving it for the first time at VIR back in late July of 2021. I didn't utilize our entire fantasy budget because, well, my money is real and I do this (gestures around) for a living, but for the purposes of this exercise, I can't come up with a better answer. After all, the same things that are driving my decision-making today were core to my purchase decision two years ago: ICE and manuals are dying. Fun cars will be going through growing pains as the world adjusts to battery-electric. ICE cars, on the other hand, have never been better, and as they go, this one is really, really good. Sadly, from a glance at the current build tool, my money wouldn't go quite as far on a 2024 model as it did two years ago, but a pretty close approximation can be had for $68,220. I'd have to settle for Cyber Yellow (pictured) as Blaze Orange is gone after 2023. Shame.
2024 BMW M2
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: I don't really give a hoot about practicality. If I need a truck in the future, an old used one is much more my style than any fancy, new truck-mobile that'll come out in 2040. James took what would probably have been my first pick, but I was heavily considering the new M2 over it anyway. The last M car with a manual transmission sounds like a superb way to start and end my new car buying career. It's got mega performance that I already know will keep my happy for years to come, and the tech suite onboard is modern and snappy enough that it'll hopefully still be manageable in the future. But mostly, I love the way this M2 looks, particularly with the Zandvoort Blue paint over the tan interior. It's an edgy – verging on E30 throwback – design with beautiful colors to go with. I skipped all the carbon because a moonroof makes me far happier than a lighter roof will, and the standard seats will allow old me to get in and out of them without requiring a back replacement in the future. Final price after options is $66,300.