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2013 Mercedes-Benz B250 (Mercedes-Benz)
2013 Mercedes-Benz B250 (Mercedes-Benz)

Best of the Lot

What car should they buy to tour North America in style? Add to ...

Hey, Michael and Jeremy: The kids have fled, Cathy and I are nearing retirement and we are looking to reward ourselves for an industrious life and tour North America in classic style. Cathy’s a capital-D driver and likes the Volvo C30. I like the Audi TT myself, but we suspect neither may be entirely practical for long-distance touring. Sticker price not so important, but we’re both concerned about going into too much gas mileage shock after living with our Prius for so many years. We much prefer foreign movies to Hollywood and our taste in cars is the same. Nothing derivative. We’re originals and our car needs to be, too. Cheers – Tim from Port Perry, Ont.

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Vaughan: I like the idea of reward cars, especially if they cost six figures. Nevertheless, we’ll do our best to find something you’ll enjoy and still have enough dough left to tour in classic style.

Now you want your car to be like a foreign movie, not Hollywood. Maybe James Bond’s Aston Martin? Cato’s the film buff …

Cato: Do not, I repeat, do not even consider a 1963 Aston Martin DB5 for your road trip, Tim. First, a recovering Prius owner like yourself can’t afford one – and certainly not the DB5 that starred in 1964’s Goldfinger and 1965’s Thunderball.

As The New York Times reported, the car sold at auction to Ohio businessman Harry Yeaggy for $4.6-million (U.S.) in 2010 – along with Goldfinger’s 1937 Phantom III Rolls-Royce.

Because you asked, I will argue that the DB5 is the No. 1 movie car of all time. I mean, James Bond drove it in not just Goldfinger and Thunderball, but also Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale and the most recent Bond of them all, Skyfall.

Oh, to have a car with an ejector seat. Makes me think of you, Vaughan. And revolving license plates, machine guns. … Imagine what you could do in traffic if your car blasted out an oil slick and a smokescreen.

Vaughan: Cato, why you are not a movie critic or a sports columnist, I’ll never know. We pinned the words “VW Golf TDI” to the board when we started to mull over Timmy’s question, and here you have launched into the history of cars in secret agent films.

2013 VW Golf TDI wagon

Cato: Good as it is, the diesel Golf is not a car 007 would drive – not even the Roger Moore Bond, who was more Monty Python-ish than the ruthless predator of Ian Fleming’s spy novels. But the Golf’s ideal for retired road-trippers who’ve been snoozing around in a Prius hybrid hatchback.

The price of a starter Golf Wagon diesel, for instance, starts at $27,025 minus discounts. That price lands exactly on the Prius. This VW oil-burner is ideal for your little Cannonball Run, Tim. Great fuel economy, magnificent seats and cargo room at the rear for your gear. It gets an Oscar for best supporting road car.

Vaughan: I’m sure there have been lots of Mercedes (the car, not the girl) in movies, although I can’t think of one at the moment.

Cato: There was the late Mercedes McCambridge, who did the chilling voice in The Exorcist.

Vaughan: Oh, no. Cato can’t get off the red carpet.

Tim, if you want a Benz on a budget you need look no farther than the all-new 2013 B-Class. What a huge improvement. It’s still a tall wagon, practical, and it starts at $29,900 before options. Despite being small, the B-Class is spacious and comfortable inside.

Power from a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder producing 208 horsepower is just fine through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. You’re used to a hatchback in your Prius. Here’s a hatch with a three-pointed star. Is this classic enough for you?

Cato: Too bad Mercedes Canada doesn’t sell the CDI diesel version. It’s all over Europe and certainly popular for cruising Europeans. I think the gas version sold here is excellent for city driving, but not so much on a Fast and Furious run. The seats, in particular, lack long-range padding.

But Ford – Ford likes to place cars in Bond films. How about a Focus hatchback?

Vaughan: One Ford, Cato, One Ford. They sell the same car everywhere, as you know, so it looks Euro; that’s good enough for me. I like this car, but as you say, only in the hatchback version – the sedan doesn’t look right.

This car was designed hatchback first I’m sure. And if you’re touring in the States, you’ll stand out because Americans hate hatchbacks. They’re so wrong. Besides we’re trying to keep you around the 30-thou price point and you can get an absolutely loaded Focus hatch for 30K.

2013 Ford Focus Titanium hatch

Cato: $25,799 for the Titanium, plus options like the $1,200 sport bucket seats, to be exact.

Vaughan: Cato, the Mercedes B is the answer. I’m sure someone will put one in a foreign film soon.

Cato: Nope, the Golf Wagon – it’s a Cannes-do road car for Tim and spouse.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2013 Ford Focus Titanium hatchback2013 Volkswagen Golf Comfortline TDI wagon2013 Mercedes-Benz B250

Wheelbase (mm)

2,6492,5782,699

Length (mm)

4,3594,5564,359

Width (mm)

1,8241,7811,786

Track, front (mm)

1,4661,5041,557

Engine

2.0-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbodiesel2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

160/146 lb-ft140/236 lb-ft208/258 lb-ft

Drive system

front-wheel drivefront-wheel drivefront-wheel drive

Transmission

six-speed auto-shift manualsix-speed manualseven-speed automatic

Curb Weight (kg)

1,3801,4941,475

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

7.3 city/5.2 highway6.7 city/4.6 highway7.9 city/5.5 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$25,799$27,025$29,900

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Send your automotive questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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