Thursday, August 29, 2013

Please Re-Lease Me

Twelve months after leasing our 2012 Buick Regal Turbo, we are still in love. Every time we drop it into third and let the turbo sing, every time we quietly cruise in isolated comfort, and every time a passer-by or valet gives us a thumbs-up, we are reminded of solid choice we made in adding this car to our driveway.

GM and Buick have proven to be good partners in this transaction, too, after a recent service appointment nearly resulted in some out-of-pocket expense. With a few calls and tweets, GM covered the expense, reinforcing the fact that they value relationships with their owners.

This is my first lease, and it's already been quite a learning experience. I made some mistakes, mostly in the negotiation and fees departments, but also in grossly underestimating the amount of driving we do. Here we are at the halfway point in a 2-year/20,000 mile lease and the odometer is pushing 18,000. This leaves us with a number of options:

1. Buy more miles from GM at 20¢ per mile
2. Buy the car for about $24,000
3. Pay off the lease and get into something new

None of these thrill me. We would have to buy about $4,000 in miles if we do a comparable amount of driving in the next year. Buying the car would result in a monthly payment close to twice what we pay for our lease (but far less than the final cost of buying miles). And early payoff would cost $2,700, plus whatever we are required to put down on the subsequent vehicle.

And speaking of subsequent vehicles, changes in offerings from some of our favorite brands have created some new opportunities that didn't previously exist for us, and fulfill the needs we compromised on in our 2012 Car Search. Namely, all-wheel-drive. Here's what the early contender landscape looks like in my head:

1. 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD - Sticking with the family that has made us happy this last year seems like a good idea. We really wanted the top-of-the-line GS back in 2012, but shied away from the expense. For 2014, Buick has actually dropped the horsepower a bit on this model, but has added a bevvy of safety features, cool gadgetry, and all-wheel-drive to the mix. Getting into a GS would give us everything we wanted back in 2012.

2. 2014 Cadillac ATS AWD - Cadillac's new and highly acclaimed 3-series fighter offers everything the Regal GS has, and more. While a slightly smaller car, the same engine and transmission combo from the Buick is tuned for another 20 horsepower in the Caddy. And, well, it's a Cadillac. I've always wanted one. The main obstacle is the price. Building one with content comparable to the GS commands a $50,000+ price. YEESH.

3. 2014 Volvo S60 T5 AWD - The S60 and Regal were a dead heat for me last time. But our lust for a manual transmission led us to Buick. While I still adore choosing my own gears, the T5 is now available in all-wheel-drive. I loved everything about the Volvo last time, so I already consider it stiff competition.

4. Wildcards. In 1996, I set out to buy a Jeep Wrangler and came home with an Infiniti G20. Who knows what I'll see at the next car show or read about online that will become a must-have?

So we evaluate. And calculate. And once again mediate our own heated debates about the convergence of what we want and need in a car. I saved a seat for you, as a new blog begins, soon!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Regal Turbo 11,000 Miles Later

We're worried. Seven months into our 24,000 mile lease and we already have 11,000 miles on the OD. So we either have to start driving more conservatively or we will have to bring a large check with us at turn-in time (August 2014). YIKES.

It's getting harder, however, NOT to drive the Regal Turbo for a number of reasons. One is that our fleet is shrinking with the Lincoln being sold. Another is that the warm weather is coming, so our Explorer's snow-rover duty is done for the year. But the biggest reason is that we LOVE driving the Buick.

Probably 10,000 of those miles were clocked by the other half. You might now I travel a lot and spend more time as The Rentalist, behind the wheels of the finest cheapies in Enterprise's fleet. But recently I became reunited with the Buick on some back-to-back tours of the highways connecting New York and New England.

The Regal Turbo is so smooth that I regularly surprise myself looking down at the speedo. Feels like it's going 65 when it's going 90. Its quiet, refined ride and stable stance really feel good on the highway. And it's always ready to lay some passing power down when dropped into 4th or 3rd gear, a faint whistle from the turbine accompanying the increasing thrust. It's great at bobbing and weaving through traffic, too. I do wish the seats had better bolstering, however. During spirited driving I feel like I have to brace my backside more than I should.

A friend and BMW 3-series owner came for a ride with me and was impressed by the design, appointments, and power of the Regal Turbo.

We allowed our XM subscription to lapse. Mixed feelings about that service. Maybe it's just me but I want pure music and NO DJs. We had a hard time finding that. OnStar continues to serve us well, though we get a few too many "all operators are busy" messages. Even when we only have to wait a few seconds, it's an irritating message to hear. Regular vehicle status updates via e-mail from OnStar are pretty cool. We are surprised that we are still running on the original oil. Current status is about 15% life, so I'm sure we'll get told to change it soon.

Compared to the others in our fleet, the Buick's seat heat is SUPREME. It gets very hot, and pretty quickly. It's a good thing it has 3 levels of adjustment. We continue to be impressed by the appointment, equipment, and quality of the build in the Buick. By comparison, our seven-year-old Lincoln is showing some terrible quality issues, like cracking and blistering chrome on interior door handles. I just don't see that happening with the Buick. Of course, we'll never know. One continuing gripe on the Buick is the lack of seat memory. It's such an inexpensive and useful feature for multi-driver families and something we enjoyed in both the Lincoln and Explorer.

In comparing the Explorer to the Regal Turbo during daily driving, Anthony made an interesting comment: "I have to remember the difference in travel time when driving these two vehicles. I always get there MUCH faster when driving the Buick." Truer words...

There's great satisfaction in knowing that you have made the right choice. I still look longingly at the Volvo S60 T5 and VW GLI every time I see them on the road. But then I remember the cost difference with the Volvo and the refinement gap with the GLI. And while I wish our budget had allowed the badass Regal GS, we are absolutely confident we landed in the right place with our Regal Turbo.