Each year Cars.com names a " Best Of " winner that our editors pick as the ultimate car we've driven over the past 12 months. This year, the award went to two cars, the nearly identical Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ sports coupes. Before we determined the winners, we had already decided that whichever car won our Best Of award would get a spot in our long-term test fleet.
Our winner was decided late on a Friday, and we put a deposit down by the following Thursday.
I was tasked with buying one of the two cars, and it turned out to be one of the simplest car purchases I've ever made. Here's why.
This was an unusual car purchase in many ways. We knew the two cars were hot commodities and often required a wait to get a manual version, especially the Subaru. We checked on forums as well as our own data and came to the same conclusion: If we found one on a lot we should buy it right away because it might not be around for long.
Helping shape the timeline, there were about six weeks before our award and the car were to be unveiled under bright lights in Detroit.
I started by doing what any good online car shopper should do: I sent some queries to dealers listing FR-S and BRZ coupes on Cars.com. There weren't many cars available and half were white or silver — two colors none of the editors were interested in.
We found a Firestorm red Scion FR-S with a manual transmission at the base price of $24,995 at Schaumburg Toyota in suburban Chicago. This is a dealership that one of our editors and his family has purchased cars from for years and had only good things to say about it. Less than an hour after sending a query, we had an email back — I used a personal email account — saying the car was available.
A follow-up call came minutes later. The salesman seemed upfront about the car and said that it might go quickly.
Because it was a Scion with its no-haggle policy, the salesman happily sent me the price quote in electronic ink.
Editors Joe Wiesenfelder, Joe Bruzek and Editor-in-Chief Patrick Olsen gathered around my cubicle and debated the FR-S' color; we had our hearts set on black or dark blue, but there just weren't many manuals available.
We were almost ready to go for it, but we figured a few more email queries wouldn't hurt.
I sent an email to Evan, a salesman at Evanston Subaru who sold me and my wife our last two Outbacks, to see if he had any info on the lone BRZ in his inventory. It was fully loaded with a six-speed manual and Crystal Black Silica paint color, but it was a much more expensive $28,68828688 before tax, title and license fees.
I did not have to pick up the phone once in my exchanges with the Evanston Subaru salesman. Everything was done via email, including getting a full quote, the price we'd need to write a check for and, of course, the fact that we weren't getting any kind of deal on this specific car. It would be priced at the MSRP.
The fact that the FR-S was a no-haggle Scion and the BRZ was an in-demand Subaru effectively took negotiating on price out of the equation.
The first time I bought a car from Evan he did not know what I did for a living, but since then I've disclosed where I work and what I do. I would say the only preferential treatment we received was due to the fact that I was a loyal customer who had also referred others to him to get their new cars.
We had a delivery date three weeks out but also three weeks from our awards show; Evan said the BRZ was likely to get in on time or earlier.
With that fear out of our minds, Joe, Joe, Patrick and I once again huddled and discussed the value of buying the value version of the Scion versus the more expensive, decked-out Subaru. The low starting price was one reason that the two cars won us over in voting for the Best Of title. Could we really justify spending nearly 15% more for heated sports seats, keyless start and entry, and navigation — all in the color we wanted?
Well, yes. Yes, we could.
It took another day of emailing Evan about the deposit check and how and when to get it to the dealership, so it was essentially two days from beginning the search to having the car reserved. The final price after the 9.5% local sales tax and various document fees was $31,826.
The salesman from Schaumburg Toyota followed up with a phone call. I explained why "I" made the decision to go with the BRZ, and he was understanding about it, saying he didn't blame me for making that call in the least and to enjoy the car.
The BRZ arrived at the dealership while I was on vacation, so Patrick, Joe and Joe headed there to take final delivery. With check in hand, it took less than an hour to process and sign the paperwork. Then they were handed two fobs to our new baby.
We've put only light miles on the car since then; it's still in the 1,000-mile break-in period, so we're not going to make any judgments about whether we made the right decision with our Best Of award. After we have a year of driving the BRZ in all four seasons, testing its performance, evaluating its comfort as a daily driver and finding out if any of us get aggravated enough with the nav system to rip it out of the dash, we'll know for sure if it lives up to our expectations.
We'll be writing regular reports for the next year. If there are specific areas you want us to write about leave your suggestions in the comment section below.