2019 Car Review: Best Buys for Your Buck
After all the saving, investing and tedious money managing, it can feel really good to buy something you want. It feels even better when that want meets a prioritized need. In short, buying a new car is a lot of fun.
When you buy a new car, you commit to paying a ton of money for something that depreciates at the speed of light. As such, you need to have a clear idea of what you want and why you want it. The right car, even if it costs $80,000, can last 20 years and have you feeling great about your choice the whole time. The wrong car… I don’t even want to get into buying the wrong car.
Each year, dozens of exciting new models hit showroom floors and sprawling car lots. The automakers highlight the best features and stress how driving away in that particular vehicle will instantly turn you into a superhero. Clearly, you have to do some work sorting fact from fiction. Luckily, I’ve done some of the work for you!
You have a lot of options in 2019, most of which have already landed at your local dealerships. Out of all the new arrivals, the following makes and models have, in my mind, shown themselves to be worthy of your consideration. If it’s time for a new car but you aren’t sure where to start, this post should at least help you dip your toes in the (car)pool.
1. Ford Ranger
I was a little surprised to hear that it had already been eight years since the last Ford Ranger was released. Ford was getting outpaced by other truck makers in the years immediately after the recession and halted Ranger production in the U.S. while continuing to sell the truck abroad. However, people loved their old Rangers and it looks like demand is finally leading to reinstated supply.
The new Ranger enters the competitive midsize pickup field with lots of gusto. You’ll get a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and the convenient 4-door design that looks more and more like the future of midsize and larger truck design. While Ford’s release targets a buying group from the past, the reconfigured Ranger can absolutely compete with today’s trendiest trucks.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in today’s automotive markets, with innovation constantly changing the landscape and international markets playing such a big role in pricing and sales. By putting a splashy new truck into a market, Ford hopes to capitalize on Americans’ love of trucks and the growing popularity of spacious midsize vehicles.
The 2019 Ranger starts at $24,300, a noticeable jump from the asking price for the older, basic model. The higher cost reflects the obvious upgrades in power, performance and high-tech features in the cab (blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, etc.). You can’t replace the convenience of a good pickup, and the Ranger looks like it will provide all the necessities plus a few bells and whistles any driver can appreciate.
2. Infiniti QX50
After so many years of manufacturers making each utility vehicle bigger than the last, the compact SUV has settled atop the food chain. With the latest QX model, Infiniti brings a design upgrade to match the brand’s traditional luxury components.
Like with most Infiniti models, this SUV is very easy on the eyes. Every inch of the exterior features sleek lines and aesthetically pleasing dimensions. The interior doesn’t disappoint either, with ergonomic seats, loads of leg room and all sorts of dash-controlled features. Passersby and passengers alike will take their time scoping your new ride.
As much as I like the looks, I think you get your money’s worth with what’s under the hood. The car’s variable compression engine assesses the driving situation to determine whether you need performance or efficiency at any given moment. The complaints of fuel efficiency relating to the last model have been addressed, and done so in a way that hasn’t reduced the car’s giddyup.
With the amount of driving we all do and the ever-fluctuating price of fuel, efficiency is no longer an added bonus. You need a car with decent gas mileage, and the Infiniti QX50 offers that on top of everything else you might want from an SUV. Starting at $36,550, you get a lot of luxury features at the lower end of luxury pricing.
3. Jaguar I-Pace
Most every car lover has at least a brief affair with a certain Jaguar model. Whether it's an old XJS or a modern F-Type, the Jaguar brand has released some of the all-time great automobiles. In 2019, a new generation of motorheads might fall in love with the I-Pace.
This SUV takes the idea of fuel-efficiency head on, with an all-electric design and a 240-mile range on a single charge. While releasing zero emissions, the dual electric engines still manage to shoot 394 horses to all four wheels. All of this amazing innovation in the motor has relatively little effect on the I-Pace’s design, as the body looks a whole lot like the non-electric E-Pace.
Automakers expect this car to rival Tesla’s Model X, which has about the same mile range. The biggest difference is that you can save about $15,000 on your Jaguar, with the I-Pace starting around $70,000. People don’t usually buy Jags to save money, but if you’re looking for a fancy electric SUV, this might be the most cost-effective option on the market.
4. Audi A6
The last A6 redesign was done in 2012 and did very well in the American market, as Audi actually set a sales record that year. Half a dozen years later people are starting to ask what Audi’s done for them lately, and a revamped A6 is the answer.
You won’t buy an Audi for the fuel economy I mentioned with other vehicles. This car is designed to meet your performance needs while making you feel like royalty, with swanky features that border on ridiculous. The number of computerized innovations in this model makes it sound more like a spaceship than a car, but maybe I’m just getting old.
If you aren’t packing a family into the car every day or looking for extra cargo space, Audis are a lot of fun to drive. Made for those speedy Autobahn roadways and packing a twin-turbocharged engine, a new A6 will get you from here to there in the flashiest way possible. Even the head and taillights feature dynamic indicators and animations that will put onlookers’ heads on a swivel.
You’ll get your new A6 for about $50K. You won’t necessarily feel like you saved money, but you will feel like you own a car worth every one of those 5,000,000 pennies.
5. Cadillac XT4
If you can’t tell already, compact SUVs have captured the hearts of American consumers. That makes for increased SUV sales, which in turn leads to more money going toward improving the latest models, like this beauty from Cadillac.
The trend with SUVs keeps moving toward the smaller end of midsize, and it only took Cadillac a year to release a subcompact version of the XT5. While the design reduces the overall mass, the XT4 looks to lead its class in legroom and interior spacing. That interior also includes an 8-inch infotainment screen, 4G LTE and a rear camera mirror.
If horses are your thing, the 237 inline-four of the Cadillac XT4 might not be enough for you. However, the reduced juice of the engine means this comfortably spacious car gets about 30 mpg on the highway. A starting price of $35,000 puts this SUV on par with some of its bulkier rivals, so you get a little more control and better mileage at around the same cost.
6. Honda Insight
Don’t worry, I’m not avoiding sensible sedans altogether. I just didn’t want to start with a handsome, reliable, efficient Honda, as you might have stopped reading and headed straight for the dealership.
Like the Ford Ranger, the Insight has been on hiatus for a few years and is making a much-anticipated comeback. If you remember the older models, the body was a little more bulbous, similar to the first-generation Priuses. The 2019 Insight unveils an entirely new look, with a long, elegant frame and sharp, clean contours. This model can easily match style with sedans coming from luxury brands.
Best of all, you still get everything you expect from a Honda. Standard models come loaded with lane change warnings, automatic emergency braking and traffic sign recognition. The interior is spacious and appealing, with 50 mpg combined fuel economy. With all those important features met, Honda sweetens the deal with things like hotspot Wi-Fi and folding back seats for added cargo.
For less than $25,000 you’ll be hardpressed to find a car with so much upside. The Insight might be a little small for a bigger family, but any other prospective buyer should at least give it a once-over.
7. Lexus UX
The smallest SUV in the Lexus lineup has received lots of recognition for its big impact on drivers. The UX falls squarely in the crossover category, with an extended front and understated height. In a dark lot, this car could sneak in with a bunch of 4-door sedans and you might not even notice.
As is becoming the norm with so many Lexus models, the UX comes available with a gas-power or hybrid engine. Neither option delivers much in the way of horsepower, but Lexus has unveiled a Direct Shift CVT component that will supposedly help with power. Even if your UX comes with a gas engine, the expectation is that the model will still deliver fuel economy that’s superior to its competitors.
Lexus loves to emphasize the sports portion of sports utility vehicle. The modestly sized exterior and flashy interior design give this model a performance-first vibe. You might not get a lot of towing capacity, but the UX will definitely let you dart around bends and beat a lot of bigger SUVs off the line.
You’ll pay $35,000 or $40,000 for this model, depending on your choice of engine and other amenities. The pricing is competitive with most cars in the class, hybrid or otherwise, and the Lexus UX offers some unique style points you won’t get from another SUV.
8. Mercedes-Benz CLS
The 2019 CLS improves upon a fairly popular model, with upgrades in both performance and appearance. This car looks fast while sitting in a parking lot, and it feels just as fast when you’re behind the wheel.
The 3.0-liter inline-six engine is impressive enough, throwing down 362 horses and a whole lot of torque. However, you might be more impressed to hear about the complementary electric engine that gives the CLS just enough hybrid power to be economical when you need it. There aren’t many 4-door sedans that offer this kind of power, space and efficiency in the same compact frame.
When the doors close, you get the luxurious detailing you expect from Mercedes-Benz. A 12-inch touchscreen, automatic climate control and a plethora of safety provisions. The back seat can feel a little cramped, but that’s the price you pay when you get four doors on a 2-door design.
At $76,000, you pay a premium for a performance vehicle made by a luxury brand. The silver lining comes by way of the innovative engine design that saves you money at the pump without costing you anything when it comes to performance.
9. Volvo V60
This is not your grandfather’s station wagon. In fact, you might not recognize the Volvo V60 as a station wagon at all. You’ll get your hatchback, you’ll get the interior space and you’ll definitely get the safety features you want from a family vehicle. After that, it’s a long list of enticing features made for car lovers.
For starters, you have multiple engine options, ranging from 250 to 362 horses. The sleek, aerodynamic design pairs sporty style with the V60’s performance. A sloping roof, similar to that of the Mercedes CLS, enhances the design without reducing the interior space.
That interior features an understated design, with a large touchscreen and comfortable seats that remain stylish without becoming excessive. Excellent safety features come standard, protecting precious cargo even as you enjoy the car’s driving capabilities.
The Volvo V60 somewhat blurs the line between a station wagon and a crossover, and the starting price of $37,000 undercuts some of the fancier competition while still delivering the qualities you need.
10. Toyota Avalon
Toyota redid the Camry a year ago and it looks like the feedback has influenced plans for future sedan designs.
The all-new Toyota Avalon has been completely reconfigured to work on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, making popular features from the Camry and other Toyota and Lexus models available. Such elements include a 3.5-liter V6 or a four-cylinder hybrid engine, giving owners the power to match performance with personal driving preference.
Part of the platform upgrade is a massive step up in style. The new Avalon has an imposing front grille and defined lines along the wide frame. This is the body you might expect from Audi or Lexus, but with that familiar Toyota emblem on the front. And, as opposed to the notably upscale brands, the Toyota Avalon can be had for less than $35,000.
For those of you who need a minivan or a bigger truck, I apologize for leaving them off my list. We certainly do have our pick of the litter when it comes to cars and trucks, and one can only review so many in a single article. I feel like the ones I’ve mentioned have pretty broad appeal, and hopefully this info provides some useful guidance.
Remember to shop within your means and please, please don’t let your heart drown out your head when trying to pick a car. It’s easy to fall in love with a shiny toy on a car lot, but you’ll prolong your happiness if you choose the vehicle that truly belongs in your driveway.