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.
Do not understand the lack of love for the Shelby GT500s. I have had, and continue to love, my 2007 Shelby GT500 convertible for over 16 years and a little over 37,000 miles. It has been a fantastic, fun, rare and very dependable ride that still draws stares, questions and requests for photos.
The Corvette C5 rattly plastic interior and body kills it for me.
I think that many of the vehicles chosen have merit, and I too question whether the GT350 is “underappreciated.” I think it’s superior to the GT500 for an overall driving experience. I own an E36 BMW M3 convertible, and I believe this 2nd generation of M3 is vastly underappreciated. The high strung E30 original M3 and the E46 3rd generation get far more love than the subtle and well balanced 2nd gen, which was considered the best handling car in the world when in production…besting such vehicles as the F355 and original NSX. Classic BMW appearance and fabulous performance for the price of a new compact.
Was never a fan of the C5 body. Has the power but that rear end is butt ugly.
Most under appreciated is the C4 ZR-1, specifically the ‘93-‘95 model years. I have owned a ‘93 from new, little problems, great motor and corners like on rails. It’s a real sports car experience. It still turns heads at car shows and the low production numbers the last three years add to its rarity.
Nathan’s choice of the Honda Element gives me courage. I have a 2005 PT Cruiser Convertible with the turbocharged engine. My wife and I bought this a few years ago because we wanted a convertible with a good back seat that we wouldn’t mind putting our friends in just for fun in the summer — also thought that the convertible version was sort of cute with its “roll bar” and all (don’t like the regular car). The car had never been winter driven, had only about 50,000 on it, and was like new in every respect. Cream with tan interior. To our delight the car has proven excellent. Very peppy and a good handler, real fun to drive. Paid $4000 for it. The seats are armchair height, very comfortable, and allow very easy entrance and exit. We think it is the automotive world’s best kept secret. Only flaw — it has a terrible turning radius.
Sajeeve, I totally agree the Mark VIII is under rated. I’ve owned my 94 Mark VIII since 1996 and still love it. While not the fastest car out there which I don’t care about, it is comfortable to drive, has more than adequate power, performs well and gets an actual 29mpg on interstate driving dividing miles driven with gas used and not the computer’s 30mpg display. I have had no serious problems only normal maintenance. Other than the oil filter an issue to remove the only complaint I have is the headlights.
I have the best of both worlds. The engine and transmission out of a 94′ MK VIII in my 66′ Mustang Fastback.
Runs great and looks good
Under rated? The 2002-2007 Maserati Coupe Cambiocorsa. a super clean conservative design by Giugiaro.
Tweaked and built under Ferrari management (including engine and transmission). EXCELLENT performance.
Get a pretty good one for under $20K, an excellent one for $30K. A little tricky to maintain, but, so what?
Fiat Dino Coupes are the most undervalued by a mile. Ferrari derived engine, classic 60’s Italian Bertone design, great drivers and a engine note that composed by the gods. It’s been stuck at the same general price for a decade and should be 3 times what it is. The link to Ferrari should be enough but its not. If a good one rolls through Jay Leno’s Garage – watch out. Until then none of the ones listed so far are even close to being the steal that these are.
People have wet dreams over the mid 90’s Supra’s, but will have to part with a well functioning kidney to afford one. But look close at the Lexus SC300 from the same period and you might be surprised at the similarities with that lauded Toyota coupe. Engineered to the hilt and built like a brick sh*thouse, these luxury sport coupe’s can be had often in 4 figures. Leave it stock, or build the crap out of it, you have one of the most respected sport coupe’s on the road.
For me its the 2003/2004 Mustang Mach 1’s. They were produced in very low numbers, very few clean survivors and quietly, their values are steadily rising. They just never seem to get any love even though they rock the super cool shaker scoops, had the 4.6 Terminator engines with 32 valves and DOHC’s and were amazingly fast with factory under reported HP levels. The “bang for the buck” factor is off the charts with one of these.
This really hit home for me…..I special ordered a 1999 Camaro SS in Hugger Orange, 6 Speed, Hurst Shifter, wind up windows, cloth interior……no T-Tops…..still have it; great car, no issues and a blast to drive. I also special ordered a 2003 Z06 Corvette in electron blue……still have it, amazing performance and handling.
Neither one has a scratch on it, are driven in the summer and have never spent a night out of the temperature-controlled garage. Miles of smiles and bang for the buck.
Corvettes are never underrated. They are just so common that maybe they have not hit “critical mass” for values to rise.
LC may be under-appreciated by customers but magazine testers seem to highly rating it. So not really underrated.
Sajeev, the Aztec? Looloolololololololol
I can see the Mark VIII as underrated. It’s a great car and kind of ignored.
1987 Buick WE4 Turbo T. Basically a lightweight Grand National. Compared to all Turbocharged Regals, only a GNX was quicker. Only 1547 WE4’s were built vs approximately 50,000 Grand Nationals and TTypes. Rare and quick is a great combination.
Fiat Abarth 500 (last-gen). More attitude than anything else you can get for three times the price…and the BEST exhaust note under $100k!