Our Two Cents: The most underrated vehicle on the market?
Challenging the staff at Hagerty Media with loaded questions has become a thing here at Our Two Cents. The mission is to inform and entertain the reader, and this time is no different. I asked everyone for their opinion on the most underrated vehicle currently on the market. Not a very loaded question, you say?
Consider the fact that we are staffed with several overachieving over-thinkers. There were concerns, as it wasn’t clear if I meant a new, used, or properly classic vehicle. Okay fine, you guys can pick one or give me all three. We have experienced some seriously underrated new vehicles, we all know what we’d buy if a used pre-owned car was in our future, and we all believe there’s a classic that’s clearly in need of more recognition.
Sam Smith: C5 Corvette
The mythical man himself, Editor-at-Large Sam Smith, came in hard with one of the most underrated performance cars on the market. Nicely done, Sam:
“Most underrated vehicle new or used? For real people? The C5 Corvette. Period, bar none, full stop. If you know, you know; if you don’t, you probably read that line and made a face.
There are cars with better steering and more refined ride and handling, cars with interiors that don’t feel ported over from some forgettable 1990s GM SUV, cars quicker off the line and more forgiving at the limit. But in dollars per horsepower, in reliability, in all-out (and accessible!) pace, in moddability, in the ability to make you feel special at the wheel. They should be more expensive. The only reason they aren’t: GM built a lot of them, and Corvettes carry a certain…image. Which not everyone wants.
Whatever. Great car. And they’re everywhere, at reasonable prices, in good shape.”
Conner Golden: Lexus LC, Shelby GT350, Bentley Continental R
Our Features Editor decided to present a new, used, and classic offering for this episode of Our Two Cents. His points are rather convincing:
“New: I can’t really think of an underrated new car, considering you are still unable to walk into a dealership and purchase a new, enthusiast-oriented vehicle without additional dealer markup or some other hassle on the showroom floor. Maybe the Lexus LC 500? It’s very much an Aston Martin as told by Lexus. Incredibly special interior for a mass-production car, distinctive and original design that borrows from nothing, incredible fit and finish, and a wonderful high-revving, free-breathing V-8.
Used: pre-owned metal that’s underrated has to be 2016–2018 Shelby Mustang GT350. It’s an incredibly cool car that absolutely will be a collector’s favorite in the near future. Cars with modest miles (sub 30k) are still “only” hovering at or around $5000 above original MSRP. Get ‘em while you can, folks…
Classic: The most underrated collector car has to be the 1993–2002 Bentley Continental R. My God, this was the most expensive production car for a few years, and you can purchase a nice-ish example for between $35,000–$50,000. These things were $271,000 when new—in 1992 dollars! They have incredible road presence, and were handcrafted at every detail. They drive like the nicest, softest F-150 you’ve ever experienced, but I can’t think of a better trans-continental bruiser for road trips. It’s ruinously expensive to maintain, but for $45,000 or so, you should have plenty in the budget left to keep it chugging along.”
Eddy Eckart: 1993–02 Camaro/Firebird (F-body)
Senior Editor Eddy Eckhart hit the same nail that Sam Smith did, only at a more affordable asking price, with an extra pair of seats for kids. (Or very compliant adults.) Not showing appreciation for these F-body products would be a crime, even the earlier models with the LT1. Perhaps especially the LT1, as they are much less desirable but still pack a helluva punch. No matter, here’s what he said:
“Fourth-gen F bodies are one of the most overlooked used/near-collectible performance cars right now. The highlight—for me, anyway—is the 98–02 Camaro SS (I’ll take a ’99 in Hugger Orange with t-tops and a six-speed, please). Third-gen cars, led by the IROC Z, have seen values take off, but the better-in-every-measurable-way 93–02 cars have remained relatively steady. They’re excellent cruisers, and with the manual transmission can get close to 30 mpg on the highway. Go to a drag strip or a road course and you’re bound to see one—Camaros and Firebirds of this era are excellent platforms for any kind of racing. And who doesn’t like T-Tops?
The only downsides are that they’re a little under-braked and the looks—especially the WS-6 Trans Am—aren’t for everyone. Go get you one before the word gets out!”
Kyle Smith: Honda XR650L
Editor Kyle Smith does a good job representing motorcycles amongst the car-obsessed masses here at Hagerty Media, and he certainly picked a winner in our book:
“For me it’s the Honda XR650L. I admit my bias as I am a documented Honda XR fanatic, but the tried-and-true nature of an air/oil cooled 650cc thumper that can still be purchased right off the showroom floor for $7k is pretty amazing. It’s a go-anywhere, do-anything machine that (for someone with a tall enough inseam) can be a one-bike solution for any two-wheel fun you seek. Throw in that the 650L has been relatively unchanged since its 1993 introduction, so parts and knowledge are plentiful, and suddenly low-mile used 650Ls become an amazing deal.
New or used, I just can’t see a situation where an XR650L is a bad choice for a person looking to have fun on a motorcycle.”
Nathan Petroelje: Honda Element
Associate Editor Nathan Petroelje has utility on his mind. It’s snowing at his house in chilly northern Michigan right now, and we’ve had to deal with him complaining about subjecting his Mitsubishi Montero‘s carpeted interior to the salty, sandy mix of crap underfoot more than we deserve. But we’re starting to think all of his whining was just him setting up the long game to swoop in and pitch this loveable toaster—well played, sir.
“I tend to think of underrated as it relates to the whole ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ sentiment. Yes, the Honda Element was nearly peak toaster-on-wheels (though the outright throne belongs to Scion’s xB in that department), but it was also deeply utilitarian, friendly as the day is long—this was a Honda, after all—and neat and funky in its own way. Folks drove the wheels off these things—several hundred thousand mile examples are commonplace. But if you could find a low mile example, particularly one with all-wheel drive? Between four driven wheels (with good winter tires!) and those plastic floors, and you’ve got yourself a wicked little winter warrior that will put a smile on your face perpetually. They’re not terribly expensive—four-figure ones are plentiful, and a great daily driver can be had for right around $15,000.
They have cult followings in certain areas, but by-and-large, I think they’re overlooked and underappreciated by society in general—for the mindset of the product planners, and for how useful they were.
Now, if only we can get big H to gin up a modern take on this quirky design!”
Sajeev Mehta: Elantra N, Aztek, Mark VIII
Okay here’s the deal: I don’t think my beloved co-workers are taking my questions seriously enough. A Corvette’s depreciation curve very rarely sinks low enough to reach that true “bargain” status. Everyone’s gonna want a Bentley in theory, and there are plenty of repair shops that will keep them running for a reasonable fee (considering the asking price for parts, that is). My beef stems from underappreciation via depreciation and neglect.
New: The Hyundai Elantra N has all the car guy cred needed in its track-tested bones, and they come with a manual transmission and a wicked pair of front buckets. But will people line out the door for one like a Mustang, VW GTI, or more expensive metal that provides no more fun per dollar than the little Korean that could? Well, perhaps that’s a possibility. But while all new cars seem to hold their values better these days (when’s the last time you saw an advertisement for Truck Month?) it’s a safe bet that the N-spec Hyundais will depreciate harder than anything else in its class. Which leads to neglect . . . and scrappage . . . and a seriously rare and underrated classic in the coming years.
Used: Do you think all crossover utilities are kinda awful? If so, how much worse was the Pontiac Aztek? Sure, the styling is disturbingly crude, which is what we all focus on. But the absolutely vulgar commitment to functionality and practicality cannot be understated. It’s based on a GM’s ubiquitous U-body minivan platform, so the seats pop out with ease. The Aztek was designed for camping, for crying out loud! Be it classic Fiat Multiplas, Malaise-y AMC Pacers, or the Pontiac Aztek, these underrated statements to neglect and depreciation usually get their day in the sunlight—eventually. But the Pontiac can’t get there soon enough, because I reckon it’s aging better than your average crossover utility from the 2000s. Simply put, it deserves better than a death next to an early Ford Escape in the junkyard.
Classic: The Lexus LC reminded me about my personal bias toward the Lincoln Mark VIII. I’ve owned two, and my current one feels as good as a new car (ancient four-speed gearbox notwithstanding) in terms of performance and eye-catching styling. Yet these minimalist, 280-plus-horsepower machines lack the classic car cache of their wood-paneled Lexus and Mercedes counterparts. I reckon they sell for less than a Northstar V-8-equipped Cadillac Eldorado that’s about to munch on a head gasket, too. If I’m right, that’s the textbook definition of an underrated automobile.
Sorry Sajeeve. While we frequently agree, in this case I think you have a “DER” problem: As in confusing unDER appreciated with un appreciated. The only Mark VIII worth mention is the amazing prototype with the disappearing doors:
Otherwise, just one of any decent generic coupes.
The Mark VIII set a speed record in its class of 182 mph with its stock drivetrain (with limiter disabled and high-speed tires…source: Hemmings). It was also the ONLY car in the world (at any price) to have all the following features: Xenon headlamps, neon-brake light, 4-wheel air-suspension with aerodynamic speed-lowering, 4-wheel independent suspension, 4 valve per cylinder V8, and key-panel coded entry/locking. This was no ordinary car, in fact, it was one of the most advanced cars in the world at the time.
James , I think your off by “1” the mark VIII should be mark VII, and the car that set the record also did 6, 360 degree spins on the track when it lost control doing 168mph (driver error)
I Agree with sajeev. Article is about undervalueed/ underrated cars. A c5 is less then a c6 but it has always had lots of respect. Etc…
Just curious, why is 1966 Toronado overlooked, unlike maybe Rivera or Eldorado in terms of valuation and collector status. Motor Trend car of the year, engineering breakthrough, beautiful design. 385 hp, lots of torque, your thoughts welcome
Sorry NAMiata, don’t know what Mark VIII you speak of, I was one of the team that built the Mark VIII prototype/concept car, the only thing that disappeared was the top , it was a convertible…
Leatherbender, not to dispute your Mark VIII cred, but there’s this:
“This 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII Was Built By Ford To Go 183 MPH”
Sajeeve, what are you smoking?
I like your Miata, but I still would like to keep my dental work intact. My friend loves his, me not as much.
I loved my C5, it was a 99 hardtop w/6 speed. Comfortable enough to be a daily driver, fast enough to satisfy my need for speed and still able to give you over 23 mpg. I honestly didn’t like the looks of the when I first saw it in print. I saw one on the street and my opinion was immediately changed. One of the few cars I miss. I’ll agree, defiantly underrated.
I owned a 1993 Pontiac Trans-Am. I hated it. They are complete rubbish. The power window regulators die so you never have both windows working at a given time. And the Opti-Spark distributor was placed UNDER the water pump. Buy a 98 and up with the LS-1 if you need to recommend anything from Garbage Motors.
I had a Mark VIII, and I appreciated it a lot when I first had it. But, when it got 10 years old, the interior disintegrated, leather splitting and delaminating, vinyl shrinking and sagging, multiple tape players disintegrating, and so on. Then the mechanical failures, like the broken rear sway bar (corroded internally because Ford didn’t paint the inside of the tubular bar), corroding wheels, brake rotors that warped every year. Multiple alternator failures stranded me a couple of times. The headlights were so dim I added aftermarket lights. Exterior door handles broke, despite my careful operation, and the anti-rattle springs inside them broke even more frequently.
The killer was an exhaust leak that would have required the removal of the engine to fix.
Mark VIIIs are unappreciated for good reason.
Sorry but I absolutely must disagree Bob elton
I had 3 Mark VIII’s a 93 a 96 and a 98 LSC. The 93 was purchased with 170,000 kms on the odmeter and retired with 300,000 on it when the transmission failed. ( I blew 2nd gear by manually shifting it). My 96 was also purchased used with 60,000 kms and until it was hit and subsequently written off I enjoyed it for another 60,000 kms. I will agree that the headlights were weak, but my 98 LSC fixed that issue. I drove it from 40,000 kms to 160,000 and then gave it to my daughter when I purchased my 2007 F150. I loved that car and I do agree with Sajeev Mehta it is one of the most under appreciated cars of the 1990s. As for the Muscle car era I think the Mercury Cougar was underappreciated along with the AMX from American Motors.
I took a “Toreador Red” ’98 Mark 8 LSC to about 108K miles in the 2000’s and thought it was a great car. 290 Horses on the LSC. Nice combination of comfort, handling, and power. An interior that a friend of mine told me resembled the bridge decor of the Star Trek Next Generation Enterprise, good factory JBL sound system, etc. etc. My biggest issue with it was the often failing and expensive to replace air-suspension system on each of the wheels (about $1,200 a wheel even then). That said I would consider buying another one. BTW, my daily driver now is a 1990 35th Anniversary T-Bird SC. Found her in rural Pennsylvania in the fall of 2021 with 8,912 miles on the odometer.
Thanks for sharing! By the way, with your new daily driver in mind, you might enjoy the photos here: https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/vellum-venom/vellum-venom-1990-ford-thunderbird-35th-anniversary/
The air spring are manufactured by a company who deal with truck air bags in Florida ( I can’t remember the name) . I only had to replace the front ones on my 93 Mark VIII actually very easy to do and less than 1/2 the price from Ford for the parts with 3 times the warrantee.
All Mercedes-Benz sedans made prior to 1995 or so. W123, W108/W109, W114/W115, W124, Ponton, take your pick.
They are basically the finest mechanical conveyances ever built (there are grease fittings on the door hinges, for goodness sake) and most of them can be had for a pittance on your local FB marketplace.
Agreed. Underappreciated here in the USA, but can never say they were underbuilt. Also add the W201 “Baby Benz” to the list. Many still used as taxis around the world. Diesel Benzes were made to outlast Armageddon.
Agree 100% on these. My 225k mile 95 E320 wagon is smooth and powerful (217hp M104 engine), quiet, and supremely composed, making it a great road trip car that can haul loads of stuff. The MB Tex seats show zero wear, and are great. These cars came with the notorious disintegrating wire harnesses, but most have been replaced by now.
I agree , I live in Switzerland an the suppliers in the 70s-90s said to Mercedes we want them all under costing or we don’t want them- Mercedes said u must pay for this – no stress just get it done – so if ur looking for an immaculate old Mercedes’ that’s the place to go. The Swiss really look after there cars also as it’s shame if your car is dirty. I think the prices there arnt bad either compared to other eu countries.
I agree , I live in Switzerland an the suppliers in the 70s-90s said to Mercedes we want them all under costing or we don’t want them- Mercedes said u must pay for this – no stress just get it done – so if ur looking for an immaculate old Mercedes’ that’s the place to go. The Swiss really look after there cars also as it’s shame if your car is dirty. I think the prices there are not bad either compared to other eu countries.
You mean the ones that have not crumbled into piles of rust on the floor of your garage, and need to be removed with a shovel.
I had two Corvettes, a 1965 365 hp convertible and a 2003 , I enjoyed driving the 03 so much that I sold the 65. The 03 automatic was almost 2 seconds faster in the 1/4 mile and rode better and handled better. It also had A/C
I too enjoy driving my 2003 Anniversary Red (Burgundy) manual transmission convertible.
But Albert, the 2003 didn’t have the sound of a solid lifter cam that the 365 ‘Mouse’ gave you…Had one…
I love the newer Vette’s also ( own a 22′ currently ), but boy do I love the looks of the old ones. Impractical, poor handling, no technology, no A/C, but the aura about them is something else. And the value they hold is crazy. Always wanted one. The oldest I owned was a 92′ in mint condition. Black on black, boy what a car. It is owned by a collector now. Someday I will own an old one, if I can’t get a Vette, maybe a Pontiac (LOL)
I’ve owned a C5 since new in 2000. It’s the most enjoyable car I’ve ever owned and it still gets looks everywhere I go AND best of all…It was paid for years ago.
See it at http://www.americantorque.com/page/0/3910/
We still have our 00 (also 96 Collectors). Bought it from original owner with 24k in 2010. Now have 75k m/l & it has had few problems, drives good, enough power, & gets 25mpg combined (automatic). Been thinking of a C6, but just because it has a little more power & has regular headlights. (retractibles; have had 4 with them & all 4 had to have motors replaced) Currently looking at a couple 02 Camaros with very low miles. I like all vettes up to C6. After that my “like” goes down & wouldn’t have any of the last 2 iterations. Look like any other eurotrash sports cars. Of the ones I owned, 65 was fav, but….My all time fav is a 62! C1 front, C2 rear & a trunk! And the 327 was a great little engine. Would really like one, but they are way to much now.
Tom, I have a triple black 2002 Z28 convertible, showroom condition with only 3,700 miles I’m thinking of selling. My neighbor bought it new locally and I purchased it from his widow about 3 years ago. I’ve been thinking of selling it. Believe it or not it still has the original tires on it.
I’ve owned my red 1997 Camaro SS for about 20 years now. Its only modification was to get rid of the 2 on the left exhaust and change it to an SLP Loudmouth. It’s been great to me. Yes, I did have to replace a window motor once but nothing else. Rowing that 6-speed puts a smile on my face every time. I hope I can find a black 2002 Trans Am WS6 before the prices go sky-high.
P.S. I sponsor a US Air Force cadet here in Colorado Springs. I took him and the Camaro out last weekend and taught him how to drive a manual.
@Steve Van B–thanks for teaching the cadet! Amazing how few younger people know how to drive a stick. Personally, that’s pretty much all I’ve driven for the last 50+ years (and I’m a girl!). My current daily drivers are a 2015 MINI Cooper S and a 2002 Porsche 986 Boxster S. Which one depends on the weather at the moment.
Excellent! Good to see manual transmission fanatics are out there!
I have owned my 1996 Z28 SS for 13 years. Convertible, 6-sp, 7400 miles. It is subjective of course, but I prefer the 93-97 looks by a mile. Lt1 sounds better, very nearly as fast. Camaro’s look much cleaner than Firebirds with all those doo-dads plastered all over them. Only 264 1996 Z28 SS convertibles made, about 6th lowest production Camaro ever.
I’m still disappointed I got rid of my Honda Element AWD 5 Spd manual, that thing went through anything/everything, super adaptable. Oh well…
2007, 2008, and 2009 Saturn Sky Redline Turbo for the win!
I would have to agree with Bruce Smith. I would also add the Pontiac Solstice, especially the 2009 GXP Coupe. It’s so unfortunate that most people don’t even know these cars exist or at least don’t remember them existing. Maybe I’m biased since I have one of each. 🙂
The solice was based on the opel gt, they didn’t really take off. Opel also made what was called the speedster/vx220 which was based on the lotus Elise an you could get that with a turbo also
S-197 GT MUSTANGS
Hi Matt, I’ve owned a 2008 California GT convertible since 2012. It has 41,000 miles on it. It still has it’s original brakes, clutch, and exhaust. I’m 70 years old and I have never owned a vehicle with an automatic transmission. I love my GT, but it’s a car, that with a little more effort by Ford, could have been great and not just very good. The brakes are powerful. The steering is really good. It’s handling is composed even in challenging situations. They are stone reliable cars. The S197 gave you decent performance at 1/3 the cost of a Corvette and 1/6 the cost of a Porsche. The convertible top functions excellently. It looks like a 68′ Mustang. Now the bad. The clutch pedal is numb. The electronic throttle is way too zingy and sensitive. The only thing you can hear when driving is the much too loud, whining transmission. There is no engine sound in the driver’s seat (which could be good, because the engine sounds uncomfortable above 2,500 rpm. I also own an old pick up truck with a lightly souped up 302 I built thirty years ago. The engine came from a 1970 Mustang. So, it’s an old pushrod 302. It sounds 100 times better than the 4.6 modular motor even at idle. That type of deep, rumbling exhaust note is exactly what the S197 needs. Especially in the cabin.
I should have bought a used Honda Element four years ago, when I needed an around-town utility vehicle. But I’d never driven one so didn’t realize how good they were. Oh well!
Underrated. In my VERY biased opinion, the MGB.
They’re still so dang cheap for what you get. My $850 rust free body got earlier chrome bumpers, a $3200 used supercharger, and other off the shelf wear items (gas tank, exhaust, brakes, etc.) for probably about 6 grand all in. 0-60 in a hair under 8 seconds. Heap loads of fun to put together and drive around all summer top down. Very few 40+ year old cars out there are better supported (almost EVERY part available new) and plentiful (there’s probably a dozen or two for sale within 100 miles of you).
Smokey (one wheel for now) burnouts in a B raise a lot of eyebrows.
The ho-hum automagic domestic 4 seat sedan stuff will never appeal to me (sorry Sajeev), though the 5.0 from my old ’89 towncar will happily live on in my second MGB that’s getting slopped together.
Heh Matt, have an 80 now, have had 5 or 6 since the early 70s. It’s bored, had a hi dollar EFI (gone now, long story), 280Z 5sp. (in a shop figuring out if putting another EFI or back to side drafts is best) It was a real screamer & you can not beat running the mountain roads with them. Have 2 vettes, 68 Mustang & rather drive the MG when just tooling around!
Don’t want any of them. Maintenance nightmares all. Either broken easily or high priced unavailable parts. Honda Element probably the best for reliability and utility, but BUTT UGLY.
Not as ugly as the Aztec. They weren’t called Azcracks for nothing!
I’ll take butt ugly when I still get 21-25mpg on my ’06 AWD 5-speed with almost 200k on it.
I have a 1994 Camaro Z/28 with the LT-1 (warmed over that is…can, heads intake ported, 1.6 RR’s and so on) with all the bolt ons, BMR suspension, drilled and slotted Power Stop brakes and a top off 150hp N02 and this car is simply incredible fun! It handles so well, it’s so reliable and goes like a scared rabbit! These cars are going to go up but I certainly do not see many or any in my area.
C6 through C8 Corvettes are all notably better than C5s, reflecting the effort invested in their engineering. Also the Pontiac Asstech was born dumb and hasn’t improved through the ages. The single reason for owning/driving one is because you are a devout Breaking Bad fanboy.