Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

September 26, 2021
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An Italian stallion, a German explorer and an English baron top the list of the year's new cars

The car is back! Who'd have thought? Just when it looked like gas prices were headed for the stratosphere for good and the internal combustion engine was destined for the scrap-heap of history, we're driving again and buying new cars like never before. Led by GM's precedent-setting zero percent finance charges -- quickly matched by other domestic car makers -- customers are back in the showrooms and are scarcely taking time to kick a tire before signing on the dotted line. And why not? Where else can you borrow tens of thousands of dollars, for as long as five years, with no interest charges? The more pertinent question is, perhaps, what should I buy? Here are a few modest -- and immodest -- suggestions.

35th Anniversary Camaro SS
Why? Because, as Canadians and especially Quebecers (where the car is built) well know, the car is about to go out of production. More important, it's the end of an era. The Chevy Camaro and the Ford Mustang were the muscle cars of the '60s. More dates were brought to a happy conclusion in a Camaro than any other car on the road.

What's it got? How about 0 to 60 in 5.19 seconds, a 12-CD changer and six-speed manual transmission. Plus fancy-schmancy logos and crests that say "35th Anniversary."

How much?You can drive a nicely equipped Camaro home for under $40,000.

Why not? It's hard to get in to and out of; the seats aren't great; there's a big hump in the middle and the control stalks are cheesy. Also, a lot of people prefer the current Mustang.

Volkswagen Beetle
Why? Because it's incredibly fun to drive. If you've never been in one, you can be forgiven if this is a car you just "don't get." Owners, though, are so nuts about this vehicle there are three monthly magazines devoted to it. Meticulously finished, its wide stance and tight German steering makes it feel like a mini-Porsche on the highway.

What's it got? Try the 1.9L Turbo for quick getaways; admire the finishings, including the built-in sunglasses case; marvel at the vast amount of headroom; everything except leather and a sunroof is standard. It also comes in a 1.9L Diesel that will give you up to 700 kilometers on a full tank.

How much? $25,000 or less and you're driving out of the showroom.

Why not? Because you can't get your mind around driving something that looks like this; higher than zero percent finance charges; there's no CD changer. You'll also wonder about the long, long way from the dashboard to the windshield but -- surprise! -- you stop noticing it after about three blocks.

Bonus: Fisher-Price has an electric model for kids as young as 18 months and up to four years old. It runs at four kilometres per hour on a rechargeable battery. Think of the smiles you'll get when you bring home both an adult's and kid's version. Visit www.fisher-price. com to see it. Sells for about $170.

Mercedes-Benz G-500
Why? Because there's a glut of SUVs on the market and if you're going to have one you might as well get the one that makes all the others look like sissy pants. Resembles a child whose parents were a Hummer and a Range Rover and rides like the Mercedes it is. Motor Trend says it "may be the best off-roader in the world."

What's it got? Superior four-wheel drive; engineering in a class by itself; spray wash for the headlights; deluxe fittings and feel.

How much?You might get one for less than $100,000 if you're a good bargainer.

Why not? The price. That and the fact it's a genuine gas guzzler. Plus you need a certain arrogance to carry this off in these conservative times. If it's value you're looking for you might prefer the GMC Envoy which, they say, is a good deal, dollar for dollar. One other thing: Porsche has an SUV coming late next year.


Ford Thunderbird
Why? Ford has revisited the original T-bird with spectacular results. This is the two-seater to have this year. Behind the wheel, "guys and chicks will get their kicks," as in days of yore, until "daddy takes your T-bird away."

What's it got?Pretty much everything you could ever want in a fantasy road car that will still turn heads 40 years from now. For starters there's a great canvas rag top with a glass window complete with defrosters. Don't like that look? Then slip on the hardtop with the classic porthole side windows, just like the original. It comes in that wonderful cherry red (and lots of other colours) that's been doing it for owners and onlookers since model one. It's got good power and can trace some of its better elements back to Jaguar, which Ford now owns. One other thing: Motor Trend named it Car of the Year in late November.

How much? You can likely drive one away for under $50,000 but, hey, spend another few thousand and get the hardtop ($3500) and red leather seats.

Why not?Because you've got six kids and a mortgage and no driver's license. Those aren't good reasons.

Honda Insight
Why? Because the car gets almost 20 kilometers per litre, causes hardly any pollution and by purchasing it you'll encourage more research into the next generation of planet-friendly cars. You'll feel proud of yourself and get more questions about this car from friends and acquaintances than any other. The electric engine is practically inaudible.

What's it got?Runs on an electric motor in the city which it charges while on the highway using a second internal combustion engine. You don't need to plug it in to recharge the batteries as you would in conventional all-electric cars. Other than that, it's got everything else you'd expect in a well-built small car.

How much? $30,000 or less.

Why not?Because if you're into this kind of car you might prefer the Toyota Prius with its more conventional exterior styling. Me, I prefer the odd, dashing, post-modern looks of the Insight.

Bentley Arnage Red Label
Why? Because you would prefer a great car to a nice house. This is a vehicle that says so much about who you are that nothing else really matters. From the moment you take delivery you'll be known as "the doctor who drives the Bentley." 'Nuff said, nudge, nudge.

What's it got? What hasn't it got? A 6.75L turbo-charged V-8 that feels more powerful than a locomotive. It weighs in at almost three tons. Inside it's all leather and wood and feels like what it is: one of the finest car interiors made.

How much? $300,000, perhaps a little more.

Why not? The controls are a little old-fashioned. Many doctors prefer to make their largest single lifetime investment in their homes, not their cars. How conventional.

Lamborghini Murcielago
Why? Because cars are your life. This is the first new Lamborghini in a decade and you must have one. It's barely a metre high and two metres wide, making it one of the lowest and widest motor vehicles on the road. It's entirely assembled by hand, one automobile at a time.

What's it got? A V-12 engine with a top speed of over 300 kilometres per hour, for starters. A rear spoiler that pops up for the first time at 135 kilometres per hour and keeps adjusting its angle from 50+ up to 70+ when you hit 225 kilometres per hour. The 580 horsepower engine emits a blood-curdling roar.

How much? Starts around $300,000.

Why not? Because you may not be able to get one. The car is slated for 2003 delivery with sales beginning in the spring of next year. Plans are to build no more than 400 a year.

Toyota Camry '97-'01
Why? Because you want basic transportation; hate the idea that a new car depreciates 33 percent the moment you drive it off the lot; and you're not tempted by zero percent financing. That and the fact that the Camry is one of the most predictable vehicles around.

What's it got? A good, reliable, durable car -- what more do you want?

How much? A Blue Book value of $10,000 to the low $20s depending on age and condition.

Why not? Are you kidding?


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.