I recently posited that the original Lexus IS 300 is the perfect car. Some of you agreed, some of you very much did not. Well, you were all correct! I admittedly struggled a bit with driving a 15-year-old car, but at least I got to do a little work on it. Actually, I stood around talking to the camera and dancing while my buddy Sean worked on it, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that, after a brief ownership period, it’s gone. In its place is a brand-new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Big Bear Edition. But there’s a lot more to the story than that, including a GMC Yukon with an exploding V8.
I’ll start with a proper sendoff to the Lexus. While I may not have always enjoyed driving a car with 138,000 miles, the IS 300 was a rock star for its age. And yes, I know, that’s not many miles in the grand scheme of cars. But for a coddled automotive journalist used to driving fully optioned press cars, it wore on me over time. And honestly, I wasn’t giving the car enough attention, as it regularly sat parked for a week or so at a time. So I decided to part ways with it and let someone else enjoy it.
So how did I do on the sale, you ask? Well, I pulled a DeMuro and did not exactly break even. Initial price, found right here on Autotrader, was $7,700, which was a fair price for a lowish-mileage manual IS300 with a recent timing-belt change and without a major accident. Over the time I owned the car, I put on a new set of tires (after both the driver’s front and spare tires blew on me) — and I added a new HKS exhaust. Final selling price in September 2017 was … $5800. So I didn’t exactly lose my shirt, but it shrunk a little.
Apparently, the market went cold. While I could barely find one in good condition when I was looking, the IS is clearly thick on the ground these days. IS 300 buyers are an odd lot, and I got a lot of strange trade-in offers for other vehicles I didn’t want, and plenty of "I’ll give you $2,500 and a set of Subaru wheels" offers. But a nice kid from Virginia Beach took her home, and I hope he enjoys the IS 300 experience.
The Yukon XL
About the same time I had decided to sell my IS, I was out for a drive in our family truckster, a 2011 GMC Yukon XL. It’s a do-it-all box of a truck that I hoped to own for a long time. Check out Tyler’s rundown of all the various iterations from GM. Ours was flawless — and at 128,000 miles, it was just broken in. Well, just that quickly, it went from "just broken in" to "just broken." After some mild lurching during acceleration, things went from bad to worse; mild lurching became wild bucking. I was just down the street from the GMC dealer when I began to hear some awful sounds coming from the engine bay. In the end, we had multiple bent rods — and in the words of the tech, "the top of your engine exploded". The words "replacement engine" showed up on our estimate, with a top-end price tag of over $10,000 for everything they thought needed replacing — $8,500 of which was a brand-new engine.
Obviously, many of you are saying "used engine" at this point — and after several sleepless nights and many calls, we found several options. Prices ranged from as little as $4,200 for a who-knows-what-you’re-getting used-engine install to $6,800 for a remanufactured engine. At this point it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the dealer would would buy it from us. The estimated trade-in value was $12,000-$14,000, and we received an incredibly generous offer of $9,500. Done, take it away, I don’t want to see this traitorous (once a beloved member of the family) SUV anymore.
The Wrangler Unlimited
But what to replace it with? I needed a daily driver to replace the Lexus, and I wanted something large enough to haul around three kids and a couple of dogs. Enter the Wrangler Unlimited. I drove one all the way across the country once, after all. Since then, I’ve been pining for the Jeep experience again.
As an enthusiast, it’s a hard pill to swallow not having a quick, manual-transmission car. But there’s something about the Wrangler. It’s visceral, but it’s oddly practical — and it’s a ton of fun. So is the replacement Wrangler Unlimited the perfect vehicle? With miles per gallon ringing in at 16 in the city and 21 on the highway, I think we know it’s not perfect. But I submit that beyond that flaw, it’s pretty spectacular. Keep an eye out for some future content about my Jeep ownership experience. And, if you’re interested in a Wrangler, you really should consider buying one right now, while prices are lower than normal ahead of an all-new model for 2018. I got mine for $3,500 off, which is pretty rare. Go check it out — just don’t put the angry grille and a giant LED light bar on it. Find a Jeep Wrangler for sale
Based in Northern Virginia, William is a professional writer and editor and acts as the Editor-in-Chief of Right Foot Down. He misspent most of his youth on tracks in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as killing cones in parking lots, and he once taught at a teen performance driving school.