Category Archives: Used Car Gems

Late model cars that we have deemed worthy to road test. You will have to buy these pre-owned, but it may be worth it.

The Subaru Baja From Hell, Reviewed!

Subaru Baja From Hell by Area1320

This is a heavily modified, fire breathing example of Subaru’s lukewarm Outback-pickup-thing, which they called the Baja. It belongs to my friend, Rob, who has spent the last eight years corrupting every last inch of this once awkward and unassuming ‘Ute toward the dark side of The Force.

Why… Just why?

Because things like this need to exist. Subaru never made a blood thirsty rally version of the Baja, so Rob has taken it upon himself to make one.

What is the main thing I need to know about the Baja From Hell?

It is different, and its entire identity revolves around being so. Rob’s Baja is a car that is bursting at the seams with “special” and it has proven able to draw a sizable crowd at any sort of automotive gathering.

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2008 Subaru Legacy GT – Al’s Daily Driver (GRADE: B+)

Considering the time frame I had to buy a car back in May 2012, I lucked out rather well.  After narrowing down my choices of chariot to just two cars via figuring out that a Pontiac G8 GT would bankrupt me in fuel costs and a Dodge Charger was too much to insure, I was stuck between two cars after driving plenty, including a Volkswagen R32 (which turned out to be a dud with repairs needed immediately) and this black Subaru.  I almost didn’t even look at it.  It took a win by the New York Mets (yup, those 2012 Mets, not the 1986 squad) and some poking and prodding by my brother Matt, who knew I was still looking into this very car, to even dial up the dealership.  In the end though, the rest was history, and now, more than 18 months later, I’m making payments on this black bundle of joy and driving it constantly.  These are my thoughts.

Continue reading 2008 Subaru Legacy GT – Al’s Daily Driver (GRADE: B+)

Nick’s new daily driver, a 2012 Volkswagen CC Sport

Nick's 2012 Volkswagen CC

Those of you who routinely follow us, here at Mind Over Motor, may have noticed that my posts last week were a bit light. It wasn’t because I was nodding off, it was because I was going through the process of purchasing my new (but used) daily driver, this beautiful 2012 Volkswagen CC Sport.

I, like many car enthusiasts,  am seen as a sort of car guru by my friends and family, who often turn to me for advice on all things relating to automobiles. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back too much here, but they all know that I am quite well informed on many aspects of automobillia, especially when it comes to buying the right car.  So when I actually wind up signing papers on a car for myself, I always get a lot of questions as to why I chose the car I bought.

My purchase of this Volkswagen CC is the result of over a year of serious consideration, as well as many years of playing “what if” games on Auto Trader. Given that this blog is largely about documenting our lives as they relate to our passion for automobiles, I wanted to do a post that shows you, the reader, my thought process for the purchase of my CC.

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2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 Used Car Review

2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 reviewed by Mind Over Motor
2004 Volkswagen Mk4 Golf R32 reviewed by Mind Over Motor

What is it?

This is the original R-rated Volkswagen. After four generations of GTIs, VW decided that something more was needed to compete with the more serious performance cars of the world. Interestingly, the R32 was the first production car to feature a dual-clutch gearbox, although the US only received R32s equipped with manual transmissions. In total just 5000 mk4 Golf R32s were imported to US shores, making them one of the rarest cars in their range.

How’s the R32’s driving experience?

In short: fantastic, and a lot better that I had thought it would be. I’ve driven both of this car’s successors, the Mk5 R32 and the Mk6 Golf R, and I have to say that the Mk4 R32 has a certain something that its replacements do not.

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Nick’s 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Review

2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

It has been nearly three years since I began working on Mind Over Motor, and for some reason I have not gotten around to reviewing the car I know the best in the world, my 2004 Subaru WRX STi.

For most, it would’ve been the very first car to review, but I wanted to focus more on finding ways to get other cars and setting our foundation around that. Having said that, I do think it is high time that I do a proper article on my beloved Subaru, and what better way to begin 2014?

Incidentally, this article will also debut a new style of car review for me, on Mind Over Motor. It is one with a question and answer structure that will hopefully be more conversational in feel. Let me know what you think of the new style, and any suggested improvements you may have in the comments.

So with that, lets start talking Subaru.

Continue reading Nick’s 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Review

A Quick Drive In My Uncle Bill’s Mercedes 560 SL

1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL

Recently my family and I went up to Minnesota and visited my Great Uncle Bill. It was my first time at Uncle Bill’s house, a beautiful log cabin that he built with his own hands. Uncle Bill is a bonafide car guy, who still owns the Ford Model T that he bought when he was in the 8th grade. He also has another Model T, a Model A, and the silver Mercedes 560 SL you see here. After showing me around the garage, he asked if I wanted to take a drive in the Mercedes. Me being me, wanting to drive anything and everything, I jumped at the opportunity. Nice day, beautiful car, and some solid quality time with my uncle Bill, the situation was pretty ideal.

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Road Review: 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera (9.5/10)

1999 Porsche 911 Carrera 996
Photo by Dan Valanzola

The essence of the Porsche 911 hasn’t changed all that much over the years, and when something does change it usually stirs up controversy. The car you see here is my Dad’s 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera (996 generation), and it marks one of the most drastic inflection points in the 911’s history: the switch from air-cooling to water-cooling. Here in 2013, early 996s haven’t had the most love from collectors, and their value has fallen far more than most 911s. That said this is still a Porsche, and Porsche doesn’t make bad cars. I have driven many Porsches, ranging from a Cayenne V6 to the mighty 997 Turbo S. All of them have been extremely entertaining within their own context, and my dad’s car is far from an exception.

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Test Driven: 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS (9/10)

Chevrolet Camaro SS

At the airport terminal, having just arrived in Jacksonville Florida for our weekend at Amelia Island, we came to the the point in our travels where it was time to rent a car. The attendant asked us, in an ever so friendly manner, “Now, what are you boys in town for this weekend?” We told her about the car shows on Amelia Island, and a smirk came to her face. She had us right where she wanted us and she damn well knew it. “Well, have I got something extra special for you then. Are you Ford or Chevy fans?” We opted for Chevy. “Well guess what. I just happen to have a pretty little yellow Camaro SS on the lot for you”. We exchange glances, and then she said, “It’s normally pretty expensive, but I can give it to you for an extra $20 a day.” Considering we had booked an economy car, liable to be a Chevy Spark or some other gutless mode of transportation, it was a very solid offer. We accepted, and went out to the parking lot to see if the car was actually an SS. To our surprise it was, bright and yellow as described, with a big V8 under the hood. So with that we loaded up our bags, and set off in our 400hp rental car.

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Test Driven: Ferrari 360 Modena F1(8/10)

Ferrari 360 Modena

I remember when I was first coming down with my major case of the car bug, the Ferrari 360 was the first car I saw that had a paddle shift transmission. While the F1 gearbox was offered in the F355, the 360 was the first model where enough of the kinks had been ironed out to make it a viable alternative to the traditional manual. Technology has come quite a long way since then, and the 360 is no longer on the tip of the technological spear. But once a Ferrari, always a Ferrari, and it still has quite a lot of appeal for buyers on the secondhand market. With this context in mind, I went into my drive in this 360 Modena ready to judge how it stands in our current day and age.

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Test Driven: 2010 VW CC 2.0T (10/10)

Volkswagen CC front

Volkswagen had a bit of genius when they built the CC. Obviously they took the coupe-sedan idea from the Mercedes CLS, but unlike the Mercedes, the CC was generally affordable. It sold like hotcakes because, while underneath it was just a VW Passat, its exterior appearance was nothing short of magnificent. Now many of the early CCs are coming off lease, and are available on the secondhand market for what seems to be a great value. So now the question is, what lies under the CC’s pretty facade, and is it worth spending your money on?

I should disclose that I am considering getting myself a CC like this one, so this drive was as much for me personally, as it was for this article. I love having two sports cars, my Subaru STi and Mazda Miata, but lately I have wanted something a bit more comfortable for daily driving. It would be nice to have a car I could go places in, and not have a little devil on my shoulder, constantly telling me to break the law. That said, I don’t want some gutless econobox either, I want a proper luxury car.  Continue reading Test Driven: 2010 VW CC 2.0T (10/10)

Test Driven: Lotus Elise (9/10)

Photo by Santiago Heyser

This isn’t a car you are looking at, at least not by most modern definitions. Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, had a famous philosophy for building a car, “Simplify and add lightness”. The idea was that in racing, having a lighter car made for a faster, better handling machine. In the context of a modern road car, things don’t get much lighter, or simpler than a Lotus Elise. Most car buyers these days want all kinds of fancy features that add weight and complexity to a car. They want big leather couches to relax in, they want to text and check Twitter while on the move, and then they all want the car’s safety systems to save them when their own inattention to driving causes a massive accident. The Elise has none of these things, and it appeals to a more competent, more serious sort of driver. So, here in 2013, if this Lotus Elise is not a bonafide “car”, what is it?

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Test Driven: 2011 BMW E90 335d (10/10)

BMW 335d 1
The 335d was a bit of an oddball on the American market. It was the highest performing diesel version of the E90 3 Series, and BMW sought to see how Americans would receive a top range diesel car. Diesels are huge in Europe, but have a much smaller market share here in the States. Considering that, along with the fact that the 335d was a higher-end model 3 Series, it comes as no surprise that they were not BMW’s biggest seller. That means that today, here in 2013, 335ds are rather uncommon on the used market. It also means that we have to change the way we look at the car now that it is only available pre owned.

Those people who did buy 335ds will absolutely swear by them. To most uneducated Americans the notion of diesel power evokes thoughts of black smoke and the loud rattle of a dump truck. Anyone with actual experience in a modern diesel car will tell an entirely different story. They will tell you about the solid performance, and incredible fuel economy, about a car that both runs clean, and is great fun to drive. Diesels like the 335d are sort of a insider secret in America, those who know, know, and those who don’t know waste their money on (mostly) gutless hybrid cars.

I had driven a 335d once before, but only very briefly. I decided to go out and try another one for two reasons: First, to see how it fairs in the context of the used market. Second, to compare it to the new F30 3 Series that I reviewed recently. Lets face it, BMWs are very overpriced brand new, with all kinds of options that nickel-and-dime you to death. A smart car buyer knows that BMWs should be purchased secondhand, with low mileage and some remainder on the factory warranty. By doing this, you save yourself the vast depreciation that comes from spending so much on all of those fancy options, as well as the BMW brand mark up. I will go into the specifics of this for the 335d later on All you need to know for now is that 335ds are currently right in the sweet spot of the secondhand BMW market.

Continue reading Test Driven: 2011 BMW E90 335d (10/10)