I have a couple of dozen (about 50 really) CarMax unicorns tagged but wanted to open with a sampling of what’s on the lot today. Again, my bar is $35,000 or less, 60,000 miles or less, an enthusiast car, and relatively exclusive. Your standards may vary. So here they are in no particular order:
2007 Mercedes CL550 – The “big coupe” from Mercedes – the two door version of the S-class, originally a $100,000 car. You can read the review from the link below. It’s the third generation CL and has everything a top of the line Mercedes should have – in 2007. What I like? It’s big, exclusive, comfortable, well-appointed with Distronic auto cruise control, cheap, low miles (driven only 3,400 miles yearly), and you can get a warranty for the next five years. I like that with only 34,000 miles CarMax will likely give an affordable warranty to 75,000 miles – but I would take all they offer that I could afford. What I don’t like? No bluetooth. Ad says rear view camera but I doubt it – CarMax photo spread almost always shows a shot of the rear view camera in action if it has one. Rear view photo of the car doesn’t show one. I don’t like less than 400hp but 382 ain’t bad. I also don’t like that this car is not transferable and is 3,000 miles away from me. I would give it serious consideration. I’ll bet it’s gone in days, although there’s also a 2009 CL550 on the lot at $32,998 that hasn’t moved in a week. We shall see!
2011 BMW M3 – The “benchmark” sport coupe per the review below, and the best everyday sports car I can imagine. I’ve owned a 3-series. Everything is in the right place. M3’s are tough to find in my unicorn category. Once a $70,000 car, most are close to the $35,000 unicorn limit, have 70-80,000 miles on them and are 8-10 years old. I have a hard time paying that much for that old with that mileage. So I like the balance of price and mileage here. I like the SMG transmission and 400hp. I’m not a big fan of the hard top convertible only because I own a convertible. Otherwise it’s the best of both worlds. Don’t know why, but the hard top convertibles sell at a discount over the hard top coupes. If you like these then you’re in luck! A little short on amenities but you can’t have a bad day in an M3.
2011 Jaguar XK – If you read anything about my search to replace Guenther, my S55, you’ll know I have a thing for Jaguar XK’s and XKR’s. As a teenager I fell in love with the Jaguar E-type and this is the modern-day voluptuous equivalent, or as close as we can get. Maybe a poor man’s Aston Martin. This car is reasonably priced and has mileage low enough to make you choose between the 75,000 and 100,000 mile warranty. Buy as much as you can. What I like? It’s beautiful. I need a moment. It’s affordable and I don’t care if it throw’s a rod through it’s pretty Jaguar bonnet – the warranty will cover it! Having driven a bunch of these, can tell you it handles great and with “only” 385 hp it has just enough punch. The sound system is worthy of British rock. Heated steering wheels and adaptive cruise control never get old. But – pretty sure there is no rear view camera (as advertised) and I’m not sure on the blind spot monitor. If it had both I’d get over the idea that it’s not the 500hp XKR – but I’ll bet it rides more smoothly than the hotter coupe. Did I mention it’s beautiful?
2007 Audi S4 – This one is a bit of a stretch. Audi S4’s wander in and out of my unicorn stable based on rarity, since there are so many late models reasonably priced. Audi A4’s and S4’s are decent, spacious cars well equipped and fairly fast. But S-series Audis are all about 100hp short of their M-series and AMG-series German counterparts. Why is this one on my list? Because it has the 340hp 4.2 liter V8 also found in the S8, and that has to make it a little badass sounding and unique, if not any faster. Not one to judge, but regular old modern A3’s and A4’s with the 2.0 liter turbo are as fast as the older S4’s, even the V8 – but with this you get V8 bragging rights. It’s also cheap at $20,998 – listing in the high $40’s when new, and has a meager 4,200 miles annually on the car. And you can get five more years of free repairs under the MaxCare warranty. Sure, for $5,000 more you can get a modern S4, but who doesn’t like a little affordable vintage rumble under the hood? I couldn’t find all that many great reviews on the car when new, but give it some thought?
2007 Chevrolet Corvette – Corvettes earned my respect when I traveled to Le Mans and Daytona and watched them kick Ferrari and Porsche butt in endurance races, and the factory yellow stirs my soul. There are so many Corvettes available in unicorn territory I may not include them in the future, but I wanted folks to see what can be had at CarMax. Here’s one I would seriously consider if I wasn’t so tall and I didn’t already have a yellow sports car (with 300 less hp). And it’s within the free transfer zone from me. Where else can you find a 400hp American icon for the price of a used Camry, driven 3,700 miles yearly, and get the five year 100,000 (maybe 125,000 or 150,000!) mile warranty? Zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds. Originally sold in the mid-$50’s. With the 6.0 liter V8, the clutch eases out as patient as a grandfather matched by a baritone exhaust. We’ll ignore for the moment the Chevy Celebrity (remember those?) entertainment console and that the plastic trim in all Corvettes rattle and squeak incessantly. This is a man’s car, and not just for divorcees sporting gold and polyester. It’s a world-class sports car and I would be proud to own one. If I fit. I don’t.
2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport – I know I said first five. We’ll call this 5B – I added it to my first five just to give a sense of a higher-end unicorn. The Grand Sport version is not much faster with 430hp, but is said to handle remarkably better in pseudo-track ready guise. This is a five-year old model driven only 28,000 miles, and I while I suspect the warranty choices are relatively low the total cost will probably be closer to $40,000. This is a car to keep and hand down to the kids, except the kids will be aghast at no bluetooth or rear view camera. Maybe the heads up display will offset that. Go to Best Buy and get a new entertainment system and all will be well.