Our Two Cents: The most underrated vehicle on the market?

Josh Sweeney

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)

Formulas break the algorithm? Pontiac

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

2022 Honda XR650L ©2022 Honda

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

2002 Honda Element debut side profile
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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

LSC is the OG Lexus LC? Sajeev Mehta

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.

2000 Pontiac Aztek

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.

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    I can’t agree that a Shelby GT350 is under-appreciated. Everyone appreciates those. I regret not getting one because I couldn’t find one that had exactly what I wanted. I should have compromised and accepted a missing option and an extra option. At the time, the Shelbys were nearing the end of production and the premium over MSRP was gone. I could have picked up one for a little less than MSRP. The regret is high.

    I feel like those who own them appreciate them, those that owned them and sold them probably already regret it, those who wanted one but didn’t buy one also regret it, and those who want one certainly appreciate them. The only under-appreciating people are Ford/Mustang/Shelby haters. 🙂

    An under-valued, under-appreciated Classic car list has GOT to include the 1969-1976 Triumph TR6. I’ve had mine for 20+ years and never a problem with it. Parts are plentiful and cheap for any repair needed. When maintained and repaired correctly, they are as reliable as an old broom. The technology in these cars far exceeds many of the same era and they sell for a fraction of the cost of comparable vehicles (Austin Healy 3000, for example).

    The 1996 C4 convertible Collector Edition with the LT4 engine. A clean, beautiful design with plenty of horsepower. They are slowly creeping in price but still an outstanding value.

    GEN two Cadillac CTSV are super underappreciated in my opinion. They have incredible horsepower, and produce enough torque to reverse the rotation of the earth. Used coupes could be had in the mid 30s. One of the few cars I’ve driven that makes other cars disappear in the rear view with alarming speed. All while feeling very comfortable and planted. Add to that a very pleasing, silhouette, and a bit of a rarity factor.
    A Gentlemans hot rod in all the best senses of that phrase.

    The Lincoln MK VIII was by far the best daily driver I have owned. Smooth and comfortable for even the longest trips. Made the LA to Dallas trip several times with a smile. Even got pulled over by a local Texas policeman and he admitted that he just wanted to check out the car! I would still have it if it wasn’t for the pneumatic suspension repair challenges.

    In 2001 my wife and I had a daughter. We loved our Miata so much we made it five weeks using it as a family car before reality made itself clear and my wife approved–unbelievably–the purchase of the only four seat convertible that made any sense at all at least to me: a Camaro SS. Black. Oh My God. What an amazing machine for the money. It was everything it was supposed to be, until an unfortunate dealership experience toasted the camshaft. Helpful hint: always, ALWAYS wait while your car is serviced. I was willing to re-motor it until a house renovation issue got in the way, common sense re-asserted itself, we sold the motorless hulk of this beautiful car and with the proceeds purchased in full its replacement: a Scion XB. How the mighty are fallen. Unlike the Camaro, that car still won’t die and won’t be stolen no matter how hard I try. God I miss the Camaro.

    2005-2006 MINI Cooper S (R53)
    Loads of supercharged fun, easy to work on, still relativly inexpensive to buy and maintain.
    Internet ‘Experts’ give these cars a hard time, but most have either never owned one or owned one that was neglected.
    Those clowns are helping me out by keeping the prices down.

    Agree and disagree on the 4th gen F-bodies. Due to their unfortunate 90’s jelly bean styling, they are often overlooked as performance bargains (although I think the WS6 TA is the looker of the group). As far as superior in every way to a the 3rd gens, I would say no. The 3rd gen is considerably better looking inside and out, and handles a little better with its lower center of gravity. Straight line goes to the 4th gen though with their 275-325 hp motors vs the 205-245 of the later 3rd gens.

    After owning 2 Lexus SC300 models, I would definitely say this vehicle is under appreciated. You want to see door hinges, these are massive and totally over-engineered like the entire car. Unlike the Mark VIII, they don’t disintegrate with age. If maintained, they will last! A great combination of luxury and performance (especially for those with turbo mods!)

    Compared to a Mark VIII, the SC300 or 400 might as well be gold plated and coated in chocolate in today’s market. 🙂

    2nd generation C4 is sweet for me. I have more collectible cars, but I’ll usually take the 92 LT1 six speed because it’s a fun car to drive. Replace Optispark with a properly sealed unit, neuter the skipshift, and a few performance tweaks. Economical, head turner.

    Right there with you on these. I have two 92’s. A Quasar Blue convertible and a Bright Aqua Metallic ZO7 coupe. Both are 6 speeds. A lot of people are afraid of the Optispark but with a proper replacement they become a non issue and what a joy to drive. Yes they have there issues with interior fit and finish but you can’t fault the performance and handling. Best bang for the buck in the price range and great support on the forums and the aftermarket parts vendors have about anything you might need if no longer available from GM.

    Don’t forget the 2002-2008 Mercedes SL55. Nearly 500bhp in a hardtop convertible where solid drivers can be had for less than $20K.

    1988-1992 Toyota Celica All Trac Turbos don’t get much recognition on any of the collector car web sites despite being extremely rare and arguably the first AWD Turbo rally-derived car to combine performance and solid reliability. Both generations were the basis for WRC championships for Carlos Sainz Sr.

    Really, these cars are underappreciated, HA! How about the ’66/’67 Oldsmobile Toronados? Lead the US into FWD. Styling then was copied by today’s Japanese car makers. You guys don’t know innovations that were worked for, but ignored.

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