After rising and falling like the pitch of Niki Minaj’s auto-tune machine, oil prices are now in full out ‘tanking hard’ mode. The internets say that this is a terrible thing that will ruin the economy, result in street-level anarchy and probably cancel Christmas for the foreseeable future, though there is one positive: prices at the pumps are lower than ever.
If you decide to keep the fuel-efficient daily driver or weekend play-car you bought to keep costs down when gas was pricier, you’ll save money on fuel, which basically makes you a genius. It also means that, for some, now’s the time to sell that wimpy rig with its four or six-cylinder engine and get something with a proper gentleman’s V8 instead.
Here’s a look at a few of our favourite V8-powered rides from the used marketplace, should you be interested in leveraging lower oil prices in the pursuit of horsepower-derived happiness.
Car: B6 and B7 Audi S4
Why: Because your A4’s 2.0T engine just isn’t cutting it. The Audi S4 instead got a throbbing 4.2L V8, Quattro AWD, and looks discreet enough not to generate too much suspicion from the wife, or the local radar cops. You could have a wagon too, which is slick. The compact and potent V8 loved to rev, sounded lovely, and made 340 horsepower: the correct amount required for snow-drifting around the WalMart shopping-cart return after the lights go out. Also, S4 has room for your kids, room for your things, and can be driven easily, all year round.
The Test Drive: Start your test drive with a full check of the S4’s tires and brakes, ensuring the seller isn’t hoping you’ll pick up the bill for the parts they’ve worn out. When shifting an S4’s manual transmission, ensure the clutch bites hard, and works without slippage. Some owners report electronic dialing back of engine power when shifting quickly if the clutch is slipping, intended to increase durability. Note that hesitation, lumpy acceleration and poor performance could be the result of bad coil packs, so if any of these problems is apparent on your test drive, be sure to have the problem fixed. Check the oil level and condition, and be 200 percent sure to do some homework on potential well-documented issues with the engine’s timing-chain tensioning system, which can turn your wallet inside out.
Car: C6 Corvette Z06
Why: Because the new one just launched with a relatively accessible price tag, 650-freaking-horsepower, killer looks, and brain-scrambling acceleration that’ll leave all but the toughest of tough-guys mumbling jibberish and licking the drapes. Translation? Used Z06 models from the previous C6 generation are going to start piling up in the used market, probably for a deal. You want one, because you’re a badass, a champ, and you appreciate the merits of owning an LS7-powered rocket coupe with 505 all-American ponies to lay down the smack. Apparently, this was an easygoing and laid-back performance car to a degree, and one well suited for daily use.
The Test Drive: Make sure the tires, brakes, clutch and fluids are all present and in good shape. Then move inside to examine the seats for signs of ripping, cracked leather, seams separating from one another, and the like. Try the windows, the stereo, the remote, the lights and anything else that runs on electricity. Non-functionality of any of these systems, possibly accompanied by one or more warning messages in the driver computer readout, can be the result of poor electrical grounds which can wear and corrode and prevent proper operation of affected components. Check the Z06’s tow-hook implements for signs of use, which can raise the concern that the model you’re considering may have once, or repeatedly, been yanked via tow-truck out of a ditch after a failed attempt at being the next YouTube drift celebrity. Finally, be sure to take the Z06 candidate you’re considering into a GM mechanic for a full going over, ensuring maximum peace of mind.
Car: Chrysler 300 SRT8
Why: Because new or used, a Chrysler 300 SRT8 is a tasteful deal on a sophisticated business sedan that’s comfortable, handsome, and capable of on-demand burnouts when you kill the traction assist and leave the office parking lot early on Friday afternoon. As easy to drive gently as it is to drive hard, this one came automatic only, but got a firebreathing HEMI V8 with no fewer than 425 horsepower, Brembo brakes, track-tuned suspension and more. All of that in the most discreetly up-styled SRT model out there: most people can’t tell an SRT8 from that V6-powered base model their neighbour’s wife drives to yoga. Neither can the cops, unless they hear the machine-gun exhaust note. Look for a big-ass stereo system, navigation, heated leather and plenty more.
The Test Drive: Blah blah fluids. Blah blah brake pads. Blah blah make sure the rear tires don’t look like a velociraptor used them as a chew-toy. Once you’ve made these all-important standard checks, be sure all of the 300’s electronics stuff works as expected, checking steering wheel controls, navigation, lights, the stereo and anything else that runs on electricity. Moreso in second-generation models, a check of the battery and charging system is advised, as infrequent driving and lower-than-required battery voltage can cause niggling issues. Mechanically, listen to the rear diff for signs of unwanted noises while turning sharply at low speeds, and have a Chrysler mechanic check the driveshaft for signs of wear on first-generation models. This looks like a solid performer in a used luxury rocket sled.
Car: Porsche Panamera
Why: A wise man once asked me at the gas station: “Why the hell would I want a Porsche that has room for the wife and kids?!” Forget the wife and kids – I’m taking the Panamera to Vegas for a week of debauchery with my buds. Whatever you’re planning to use your Panamera for, you’ll get one of the most gorgeous four-seat cabins in the business, ride quality and comfort levels that are road-trip ready, and plenty of selection on a V8-powered model in the used market. Look for a PDK paddle-shift transmission on all used models, available all-wheel drive, world-class stereo systems and plenty more. With a 4.8L V8 under the hood, you’ll get no less than 400 horsepower, that figure bumping to 430 in the snorty Panamera GTS, and past 500 if you’re looking for a Turbo or Turbo S.
The Test Drive: Ensure the Panamera you’re considering isn’t suffering from a coolant leak, possibly from a cracked thermostat housing or leaky water pump. Check the coolant level and condition, and if you’re unclear or concerned, be sure to visit a Porsche dealer’s service centre for a full going over. Some owners of earlier models have reported excessive oil consumption, though given the limited number of Panamera owners, and even more limited number of them taking to the web to share their stories, it’s unclear if this is a worrisome issue. Run the air suspension, if equipped, through its standard and ‘lifted’ settings several times, checking for any warning messages in the process.
Note that the demanding and complicated electrical system in the Panamera can suffer issues if the battery isn’t fully charged, perhaps if the seller drove the car on an infrequent basis. If you’re planning to leave your Panamera in the garage for extended periods, consider investing in a trickle charger. Finally, examine the exterior for missing or damaged badges and ornamentation.
Car: Ford Mustang
Why: The new one is out, and the old ones are going to turn rapidly into trade-ins as owners upgrade. For you, the used shopper, that means better pricing, better selection and easier shopping to upgrade from that V6-powered, cheerleader-grade model you’ve been rocking for years.
Perhaps you’ll go for a GT model with the lusty, free-revving 5.0L V8? Or even the supercharged Shelby GT500? Look for 411 horsepower as a minimum, and over 660 from a newer used Shelby. (Cue evil laughter here). All Shelby units came with a six-speed stick, and so did the GT with the 5.0, though you can get an automatic on the 5.0L if your back sucks and your non-stick partner has to drive it. Feature content included heated leather, mood lighting, navigation, premium audio and a slick available glass roof if you can’t decide between a coupe or convertible.
The Test Drive: Think TRANSMISSION if you’re opting for a model with the manual. Numerous well-documented issues with the manual gearbox in this generation Mustang have been discussed at length in owner’s forums, with those owners suggesting that used Mustang shoppers feel very carefully for signs of slippage, biting-back, grinding, popping out of gear, and the like. Especially from first to second gear at or near full throttle, a consistently difficult or rejected shift is a sign of trouble. Note that although transmission related issues may stem from abuse and not favour any specific given year or model of Mustang in this generation, earlier 5.0L Mustangs (2011 and 2012) and any Shelby GT500 model are the prime candidates for a very careful and thorough transmission check.
If the Mustang you’re considering performs poorly or sporadically, possibly with a Check Engine light illuminated in the instrument cluster, a bad engine control sensor may be to blame. Be sure to investigate and diagnose sporadic performance issues or warning lights before agreeing to purchase.
Finally, be sure to feel and listen for any unwelcome vibrations from the used Mustang’s drive line on a test-drive, which could indicate a problem with the rear differential or driveshaft.