Every year we anoint a select few vehicles we test with the honor of a place on our“Id Buy It list”, which is to say it’s good enough I would buy it. These are vehicles that hit a magic mix of aesthetic qualities, value quotients, fun to drive factors, or maybe it was just downright likable. This means like most beauty contests it’s both thoughtful and measured, but ultimately subjective.
This year of the nearly 100 vehicles tested we came in with just eight winners to our Id But It dream garage and one vehicle on the list made it to our own garage. That’s right, we put our money where our mouth is. So far we haven’t regretted it.
It took two years and testing a couple different models for the all-popular Ford Bronco family of off-roaders to make it to my buy list. I really liked it from the start with its modern take and new thinking to the basic formula that the Jeep Wrangler has made famous for decades.
Available in basic four-cylinder models all the way up to the fire-breathing Raptor I tested this year and just flat fell in love with, the Bronco can be had in a way that fits in most households. Yes its costly, especially these days with dealer market adjustments. If you are willing to wait for this toy, be sure to spend a little extra for the Sasquatch Package or Raptor.
Back on our list for the second year, the Ford Maverick has been a break-out success for the Blue Oval quite literally selling out both in 2022 and just last September the 2023 model year sold out in pre-orders in just one week – even with a healthy price bump.
Fact is, Americans want a smaller, less expensive, less complex basic truck they can put in their garage, park in tight spaces and not go broke to feed. The Maverick Hybrid we purchased ourselves has averaged 43 mpg over a year and 18,000 miles and cost us $20,000. So yes, it’s a vehicle that we actually bought and still recommend.
Having tested three variations of the Civic including the sedan, the hatch and most recently the Si I can say that any version of this car will be a good choice. Combine legendary Honda build quality inside and out with a new design that stands out and how can you go wrong?
Handling is sublime, performance is pleasing and its overall character is definitely a step up from most of its peers – and you will pay for that step up in most cases. But still, the Civic remains a hard core value even if it costs a few pennies more. Worth the wait.
Hyundai Santa Cruz
Having tested the bargain argument Ford Maverick and even purchased one, I can tell you the Hyundai Santa Cruz is the upgrade premium choice between the two. Its sense of style inside and out, an upgrade in total quality of materials and features makes it worth the extra $6,000 it will cost you across the board.
It’s available with both front-wheel and all-wheel drive with both of its engine configurations and offers levels of performance and power that Maverick can’t beat. It also offers options and features that Maverick does not. If you want to spend more and get more, this is the choice between the two.
There is a growing list of all-electric luxury cars on the market, many of upstart manufacturers like Tesla, Lucid and more. When it comes to the EQS, the way to really put this in a place is to say it’s the Mercedes-Benz S-Class of EVs. Period.
The EQS in all its forms brings the most of Mercedes-Benz has to offer from its century plus of automotive engineering prowess. It just happens to be electric. From behind the wheel it looks like a Mercedes, smells like a Mercedes and most important drives like one. It’s expensive yes, but you know what you are getting.
Having driven every engine configuration available in the GLE series SUV from Mercedes-Benz this luxury SUV comes back to our list again. This year we tested the GLE 53, the more powerful mid-grade inline six variation in Emerald Green.
Like all of the others tested I loved its combination of solid quality to the bone, exquisite detail in the finish and fit, an interior that’s a study for how it should be done, and a level of driving joy that is just hard to find in an SUV at any price. It doesn’t matter whether you get a base model four-cylinder at just under $60,000 or a fire-breathing V8 for twice that, this one is a winner.
Another repeat showing for this generation of the RAM pickup, this year I tested a well done mid-grade Big Horn with the Back Country package. With all of the get there hardware underneath from the off-road RAM Rebel and less of the fluff that costs a mint, I loved the plain wrapper combination.
This generation of the RAM pickups for me represents likely the best of the Big Three American brands for overall design, appeal, quality and value when it comes to being just a good ‘ol truck. Obviously not everyone would agree, trucks have loyalties after all. RAM is hardly the best seller out there. If I were buying a new full sized pickup, I’d most likely start right here.
A pleasant surprise this year was the all new Subaru WRX with its turbocharged flat four and six-speed manual transmission. Honestly, I’ve never really at all been a Subaru guy but this one really turned my nuts in a way that made me a believer.
It has a visceral sound and feel, a power curve that’s not only accessible but explosive at an instant. Sharp grippy handling, yes. It’s level of fun and simplicity in a world full of semi-autonomous automatic dulls-mobiles makes this car a standout from the rest.