I’m Upgrading My Nissan Z! What Car Should I Buy?

Naomi lives in Nashville, recently graduated from college, and has landed what she calls a “big girl office job.” She is looking to upgrade her Nizzan Z to something a bit more luxurious and practical. With a $35,000 budget, what car should she buy?

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Here is the scenario.

Hello! I’m a recent college graduate, that has landed her first ‘big girl office job’, so to speak. I currently drive a Nissan 370z, which was a great car for getting me to and from college and my retail job, but I’m looking to upgrade to something a little more spacious and luxurious. I don’t need it to be nearly as sporty as my fairlady, and would much rather have something that handles roads smoothly than quickly!

I want something that is enjoyable to drive – as subjective as that is, creature comforts (Back up camera, a proper infotainment display, the like), four doors. No crossovers or SUVs Budget is up to $35,000

Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $35,000

Location: Nashville, TN

Daily Driver: Yes

Wants: Luxury, four doors, nice to drive

Doesn’t want: An SUV

Expert 1: Tom McParland – Almost Luxury

Image for article titled I'm Upgrading My Nissan Z To Something With More Luxury! What Car Should I Buy?

Image: Autotrader

It’s certainly a good feeling to upgrade your ride now that you have a solid salary from all those years of education. The Z sounds like it was a great car for zooming around campus and beyond, though I bet it was a bit tricky moving your stuff out at the end of the semester.

Now that you are looking to swap out the Zoom for some room, there are many options available, and right now the pre-owned luxury sedan market is where some of the best values are. My choice for you is a car that could have been a luxury car and just ended up with the wrong badge. The Volkswagen Arteon is either a pricey Passat or a really affordable Audi depending on how you look at it.

The Arteon is a five-door fastback similar to the A5 and A7 but splits the difference in size. Under the hood is a turbocharged four-cylinder that is likely going to feel like a downgrade from your Z’s V6, but the VW’s motor is punchy enough for highway passing and returns a respectable 31 MPG on the highway. Inside you will find a spacious cabin with nice materials and a super roomy trunk due to the five-door design. These were not popular cars so you can find some great deals in the pre-owned market, like this 2021 Volkswagen Certified SEL Premium with about 31,000 miles for $31,460. You get lots of luxury and plenty of warranty on a car with an original retail price of almost $50,000.

Expert 2: Collin Woodard – Let’s Be Reasonable Here

2022 Lexus IS 300

Photo: Ford of Columbia

Usually, Tom steals the most obvious answer for himself, forcing the rest of us to get a little more creative. For whatever reason, this week he decided to get creative, which forces me to be the practical one. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it is what it is.

Naomi, I totally get wanting something more comfortable and professional than you 370Z now that you’ve started a big adult job. At the same time, you probably don’t want to risk facing massive repair bills on a heavily depreciated Mercedes-Benz CLS or deal with the hassle of importing parts for a Toyota Century. So we’ve got to find something for you that will be reliable while also not being a complete snoozefest.

The most obvious option coming from a Z is to just get an Infiniti Q50 and be done with it. You wouldn’t be wrong to go that route, but I suspect that in the long term, you’ll be happier with a Lexus IS instead. It’s not the newest, freshest sport sedan on the planet, but it’s well-built and reliable. Even if you went for one that was 10 years old, it would probably still feel newer than your Z, while still having more creature comforts than your current car.

With your budget, finding the right Lexus IS for you is basically a matter of how much you really want to spend since there are so many available for less than $35,000 in the greater Nashville area. If it were my money, I’d start by looking at this 2022 Lexus IS 300 with 20,411 miles that’s listed for $31,551. It won’t be quite as fun to drive as your Z, but it should check all your boxes without breaking the bank.

Expert 3: José Rodríguez Jr. – Modern Mazda Is Luxe Lite

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Image: Mazda

Naomi, you’d be amazed at how favorably modern cars compare to midrange and luxury cars of the last few generations. I think focusing on a compromise between more luxury and more space than your current Nissan 370Z would be a good idea. But you don’t have to get something from legacy luxury brands to feel like you’ve taken a big leap over the Z. That’s why I’m recommending the 2024 Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback.

Your budget has enough room in it to spring for the 2.5 Turbo model, which starts at around $33,000 but gets a power bump to 250 horsepower, as well as AWD. If you were to spring another four large (or found a Mazda dealer willing to trim some cost off the MSRP), you may be able to buy a Premium Plus, which is the highest trim in the lineup.

Regardless of which turbocharged Mazda3 you opt for, the new Mazda is going to be well-appointed while being a fun car to drive. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless in the 2.5T, and there are things like inductive charging.

This is your first “big girl office job,” and the handsome hatch would make an excellent partner. It will likely yield better fuel mileage than an older, more powerful luxury car — all while looking light years ahead of most other current hatchbacks.

Expert 4: Lawrence Hodge – Hear Me Out

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Image: North Georiga Auto Brokers

I know a used Audi from a decade ago might be sketchy, but it’s an RS7! Not only do you get the beautiful liftback body of an A7 — which always surprises me with how roomy they are — but you get insane performance.

Along with Quattro all-wheel drive, there’s a 560-hp 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 under the hood. Thats good enough for sub four second sprints to 60 mph and a 174-mph top speed. Sure it has over 96,000 miles and you might want to set aside a fund for repairs, but for just $32,000, where else are you going to find this kind of performance for that kind of bargain? Life is short. Have fun.

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