I Want a Car That Can Handle the Beach and Dress Up As Well! What Should I Buy?

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Photo: Travis Okulski

HD’s Maserati caught fire on Father’s Day. The ideal replacement for HD would be a vehicle that can hang out on the beach but also can find a place in a fancy restaurant’s parking lot. He is flexible on his body style and has a budget up to $60,000. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario:

Father’s Day fire! I have long been a reader of your column and it looks like it’s my time to ask for (all of your) expert advice. Our 2015 Maserati Ghibli SQ4 was involved in a small fire yesterday. First of all, I am grateful that no one was hurt. Now that the flames are out though, I am processing the consequences (and am quite sad, to be honest)! If our insurance company does “total out” our only car, I am going to be in the market a lot sooner than I expected/wanted to be. We need a single “Swiss-army knife” of a car to potentially replace it. The car is ideally both fun to drive, yet relatively fuel efficient/practical for a family of 3 (2 adults + a 4 year old). I would love a car that is at home by the beach but is also cleans up nice and classy for a cocktail party! I have always owned a sedan, but would lean towards a SUV/wagon to be able to carry items like bicycle(s) inside (with the seats folded). I grew up driving stick, but my wife cannot and don’t want to force her into learning at this delicate time! We are also moving cross-country in a couple of weeks, so the timing is sub-par, to say the least. That said, since we are moving to a warmer/more suburban location with much more driving/larger distances, we can take this “opportunity” to re-evaluate our priorities. Looking forward to your suggestions. My budget is up to $60,000

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $60,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Chicago, but moving to South FL

Wants: Beach cruiser, but also a bit fancy

Doesn’t want: Another fire-prone Maserati

Expert 1: Tom McParland – It’s a Jeep Thing

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Image: Jeep

HD, I am sorry to hear about the Maserati, though perhaps the car gods are sending a message that it’s time for something different. Since you are trading chilly Chicago winters for sunny Florida beaches you want a vehicle that can take full advantage of the new climate. There aren’t many models that can kick up sand but still look “presentable” with the local valet. The Jeep Wrangler can do it all. The Wrangler is really a “classless” car as you can find them in driveways from working-class folks all the way up to the super-rich. They can be bare-bones or spec’d out in a way that rivals luxury cars with a price tag to match. A $60,000 budget should get you into a pretty nice one.

Also, in this bonkers market with difficult inventory and jacked-up prices, I have found that Jeep is one of the few brands where sourcing cars is less challenging than others. I’ve also encountered a number of Jeep dealers willing to sell for MSRP and some shockingly even offered to discount their cars if you can wait for an order. Here is a Wrangler Unlimited Sahara that looks to be on the ground right now in a very nice color.

Expert 2: Lalita Chemello – Something for Everything

Look, even the back drop on this Subaru Baja has beach town vibes.

There are few things in this world that can check all the boxes for every driving occasion. And while I do agree with Tom on his Jeep Wrangler suggestion (having just purchased one myself last week), I think we can have more fun with this. Why not the ultimate “mullet” of cars, with a fascia that means business, but a rear that offers parties and beach fun? How about a Subaru Baja?

Hear me out for a moment. Sure, the Baja hasn’t been produced in nearly two decades (2006 was its final year), but there is one thing we all mostly understand in this car community, and that is that Subarus, for some reason, can be nearly indestructible. This also helps check off your box for something that “won’t catch fire.”

There was one of these in yellow for sale at a dealership not too far from where I am in Michigan, and each time I was in its presence, I imagined the off-roading and beach adventures it would likely thrive on. It’s an odd little thing, sure. But it was built for the beach, and taking people with you.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of them out there, but if you can find one with lower mileage, you might be in for a treat. I discovered this Baja for sale, just within your price range, with only 8,254 miles on the clock. It is a little out of your way on your move to Florida, but I’d say the attractive, insanely low mileage on it makes traveling a few extra hundred miles worth it.

If it really isn’t your cup of tea, I guess you could do a Wrangler, or a Bronco. But they wouldn’t be as uniquely odd, or fun.

Expert 3: Owen Bellwood – Go for the O.G.

A photo of a red MK1 Range Rover parked near palm trees.

Photo: daste-2639 via eBay

HD, it definitely sounds like you have some pretty big shoes to fill when it comes to buying a replacement for the lovely Ghibli. Thankfully, with $60k to spend and an open mind, there are some great options out there.

But, you say you want something that’s at home at the beach as it is at a cocktail party. In my mind at least, that really leaves you with one option. The original premium off-roader and a car that was respectable enough to show up wherever and whenever its owner wanted. HD, picture yourself patrolling the streets of Florida in a pristine MK1 Range Rover. It’s the dream, for sure.

This wonderful 1992 example instantly caught my eye. It’s got that excellent 3.9-liter V8 engine, an automatic gearbox and every luxurious option you could have hoped for in 1992. What’s more, it’s finished in a gorgeous red color scheme with tan leather interior. Meaning that if, on the off chance, you do run into any reliability issues, then you’ll still have a nice place to sit and something lovely to look at.

There are a couple of other great prospects out there as well. And, if you want something with a bit more grunt, this MK2 Range Rover from 1995 would also come under budget and looks ready to hit the trails.

Expert 4: José Rodríguez Jr. – Get A Drop-Top Rover

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HD, sorry about the fire in the Maserati! I can’t shake the feeling that going from a Maserati to something more beach-friendly like a Wrangler or Bronco would be too big of a difference. Owen is absolutely right! What you need is a Rover. I’d say go with a classic Land Rover Defender, but the Defender’s cabin is far from refined. The obvious choice would be something like this 2017 Land Rover Range Rover.

But, if you wanted something a little less obvious, and more in line with Florida beaches, then this 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque could be the thing. Don’t let its long make and model name scare you off. The Evoque is a two-door Rover… that’s a convertible! It’s hard to conceive of this, let alone imagine what it must be like to drive. All that luxury, all that sun and sand. It’s too much.

It’s the right combination of all the wrong things, and I bet it would stand out at any fancy restaurant parking lot. Of course, the Evoque is in a different class of vehicle than a full-fat Range Rover — skip the Sport, if you can. The Evoque will will fit considerably fewer passengers, but that’s the cost of entry for the unique Rover with a drop-top.

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