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2011 Ford Mustang GT .

Ford/Ford

Gentlemen,

I'm a guy in my mid-30s looking for a semi-functional new vehicle. Although I've always wanted a sports coupe, my current car - a 2002 Acura EL - has served me and my family well.

However, my wife drives the "family" car - it's functional and we don't have a need for two such vehicles. This allows me to pursue my dream to finally own that sports coupe I've always wanted.

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As a loyal Honda/Acura driver, I've looked at Japanese models first and foremost, although I'm trying to approach this with an open mind. I'm looking for a sports coupe that has a semblance of a back seat, and trunk space is a bonus. I'm looking to spend $35,000-$45,000.

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Unfortunately, Honda doesn't make the Prelude or the RSX any more, so I'm a little lost. I've been looking at the Lexus IS250 and Acura TSX.

The Buick LaCrosse intrigues me, but I'm not sure if I trust GM products. The Ford Mustang seems to be an option, but that may be a bit too much of a departure from what I'm used to. Any suggestions?

I'm not ruling out convertibles, either.

Thanks,

Martin

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Vaughan: Be careful with this one, Cato. This looks like a midlife crisis in the making.

Cato: Midlife crisis? Are you kidding me? Martin obviously is married to a sensible, reasonable woman who understands that after years of denial, he needs to drive something sporty.

Vaughan: He wants to drive something sporty and yet …

Cato: … he's looking at the LaCrosse, which is a pretty big boat of a sedan, but at the same time he's put the IS250 and Acura TSX on his list. Confusing to say the least.

Vaughan: He says he's looking for a sports coupe with a back seat and a semblance of a trunk. Then he rattles off three sedans.

Cato: And takes a shot at Honda and Acura, to boot. Now he has a point there. Somewhere along the line Honda apparently gave up on sporty cars altogether.

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I know, there is a Coupe Si version of the Civic, but it's pretty tame by sporty standards. What boggles the mind further is this new gasoline electric hybrid, the Honda CR-Z. Honda says it's the 21st century successor to the classic CRX Si. And I'm the 21st century successor to, oh, Tom Hanks or Jack Nicholson.

Vaughan: Try Boris Karloff.

Honda's claim isn't as preposterous as yours, but it is a stretch to suggest the CR-Z is a CRX Si for the "green" buyer.

But back to Martin. Here's what I think he should do: test drive the 2011 Mustang, which has been significantly upgraded. Then forget about the LaCrosse and instead test drive the new Buick Regal.

Cato: And then to really give him a cross-section of what's possible, let's send Martin for a test drive of the Audi A3 - the quattro version with the turbo motor and that slick S-Tronic paddle-shifting transmission. Being a two-door hatchback, it's almost a coupe, yet it has the cargo space and back seat he says he wants.

At about $40,000 plus fees and taxes, it's in Martin's ballpark. Very slick little ride. I know the A3 is starting to get a little dated, that a totally updated version is due in a year to 18 months, but I really think this German car will catch his fancy.

Vaughan: My bet is that he'll be most surprised by the Regal. This is the Opel Insignia in Europe, the 2009 European Car of the Year. The four-cylinder turbo model is just under $35,000, so it fits his budget.

Cato: The sleeper here is the Mustang. I want Martin to drive the coupe with the V-8, but I really want him to get some wheel time with the 2011 Mustang GT convertible, which at $42,899 before fees and taxes still fits the budget.

Ford, defending its pony car turf against the Chevrolet Camaro, has tucked in a new 412-horsepower V-8. If Martin is in a midlife mess, that new V-8 will sing to him. Look, Martin says he's after the sort of car he's always wanted. This Mustang ragtop might be it.

Vaughan: My vote is for the Regal, Cato. If a Buick can help with a mid-life crisis then GM's really made some progress.

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

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HOW THEY COMPARE



2010 Audi A3 2.0T Premium quattro

2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo

2011 Ford Mustang GT convertible

Wheelbase (mm)

2,578

2,738

2,720

Length (mm)

4,292

4,831

4,778

Width (mm)

1,765

1,857

1,877

Height (mm)

1,534

1,484

1,412

Engine

2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-charged

2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-charged

5.0-litre, V-8

Output (hp/torque)

200 hp, 207 lb-ft

220 hp, 258 lb-ft

412 hp, 390 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel

Front-wheel

Rear-wheel

Transmission

Six-speed auto-shift manual

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)

1,570

1,665

1,639

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

9.6 city

7.5 highway

Not available

12.2 city

7.6 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$39,950

$34,990

$42,899

Source: Car manufacturers

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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