The “middle class” no longer drives the American economy. In too many cases, it comfortably cannot afford the average price of a new car or truck with options, taxes, and fees.
As a lifelong lover of automobiles and student of the global automobile industry, it pains me to write this. But it is what it is. I had a painful collision with reality.
It happened in what, to me, was an ordinary way.
For nearly 30 years, it had been my happy custom to welcome each week the industry’s latest wares in my driveway. Of course, I noted the prices, but thought nothing of them. I was writing about the things, not buying them.
Last week marked a similar occurrence.
There arrived an absolutely beautiful 2018 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 all-wheel-drive coupe. The car looked every bit like its name. The exterior red paint was the deepest, most luxurious red, so wonderfully deep, you could swim in it.
I found myself standing and examining its body. Inside was equally beautiful — a work of cream-colored, semi-aniline leather and silver optic carbon-fiber inlays. It was stunning.
I pushed the ignition button and fell more deeply in love. The car’s engine was strong, smooth, willing (a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6, with 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque). Everything about it was “Whoosh!”
I stayed behind the wheel of the Red Sport until I thought it was time to drive home and placate my wife of nearly 50 years, Mary Anne. Lately, she has been complaining that I have been “gadding about” the highway as if I were a teenager — not an argument I could win or would dare counter.
“Who can afford that car, anyway?” she asked. I hadn’t thought about it. I checked.
The answer was sobering — not many, not comfortably, which means they would have to struggle with mortgage and other necessary payments to meet the Red Sport’s estimated $600 monthly note.
The total transaction price of the Red Sport is $65,795, including a $995 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. According to conservative auto industry estimates, the average amount of money contracted for a new car or truck in the United States was $33,650. That was near the end of 2015. Today, according to industry analysts, we’re looking at $34,800 and monthly car notes of $400 or more lasting 70 to 80 months — not something most of us enter on a whimsy.
Not many U.S. buyers can afford such loans. They rely on used vehicles, not shiny new Red Sports. Automobile manufacturers and many of their dealers are experimenting with cost-cutting transactions — leasing, ride-sharing and similar programs.
There are about seven cars, mostly used models, sold in this country for under $15,000 — a price many of us comfortably can afford. They include late models such as the Nissan Versa — affordable, but not lovable.
I’ve fallen in love with items such as Infiniti’s Sensory Package, with rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning and backup collision intervention. I can’t afford them. Most of us can’t.
Bottom line: Is the Red Sport worth it? Yes, if you have the money and are willing to spend it.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Any nearly $66,000 car that can’t give you excellent ride, acceleration and handling, as the Red Sport does, is not worth the conversation.
Head-turning quotient: It is a child of Nissan/Infiniti’s F-Platform vehicles. Remember the G-35? This iteration is beautiful.
Engine/transmission: It is equipped with a twin-turbocharged, gasoline 3.0-liter, 24-valve V-6 with variable valve lift and timing. The engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Capacities: Seating is for four people. Keep in mind that this is a sports car, not for anything practical. Cargo capacity is a tiny 8.7 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is required.
Real-world mileage: I averaged 24 miles per gallon on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; traction and stability control; dual front-mounted side and head air bags. A full suite of advanced electronic safety items is available — for a price.
Pricing: The 2018 Red Sport starts at $54,000. Add an estimated $10,800 in options and a $995 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. As drive, it was priced at $65,795. This is a “want” buy.