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The premise is simple enough: If someone handed you $50,000 and told you to use it to buy a new car, what would you get? 

I chose $50,000 to kick off this series, because that’s basically the average cost of a new car these days. Is that ridiculous? Sure is! Are there myriad reasons beyond inflation for that, including supply shortages, automakers discontinuing cheaper cars and the mathematical realties of calculating “average”? Sure are! Nevertheless, let’s roll with $50,000 for this week. It shouldn’t be hard to get a sweet car for 50 large, right? Right?

There are some rules for this little game.

  1. The car must be within $2,000 of the price in question. You can’t say “I’d buy X for $30,000 and spend the rest on a boat.”
  2. The car must be new.
  3. Federal EV tax credits do not count / give you $7,500 worth of pretend money to play with. 

Go ahead and let us know what you’d choose and why we’re ridiculous for picking what we picked. – James Riswick

Hyundai Ioniq 6 SE AWD

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: The Hyundai Ioniq 6 is an excellent EV. It doesn’t have quite the utility of the Ioniq 5 (which I almost selected), but it makes up for that in range and a sportier feel going down the road. The SE with all-wheel drive is rated at 316 miles on a charge. I’d be tempted to choose rear-wheel drive to get the full 361 miles, but I’d rather have the better grip for Michigan winters, as well as the extra 95 horsepower that comes with the extra motor. When I do need to use a public charger (which will be more likely if I’m repeatedly taking full advantage of its 5-second 0-60 sprint), I’ll be thankful for its 800-volt battery’s quick charging capability. With a price of $49,000, I’ve got some leftover budget, so I’ll add a few accessories: the carpeted floor mats ($210), cargo tray ($120), alloy door sills ($180) and first aid kit ($30).

2023 Ford Mustang GT Premium Fastback

Senior Editor James Riswick: My family already has a practical electric car for commuting, errands and local adventures, so no need to go with something like a Hyundai Ioniq 5 here. Nope, this one’s almost entirely about me with just enough practicality that the kid can come along, too. Main criteria: I’m getting a damn manual. I was tempted by a sweet Eruption Green two-door Bronco Badlands for adventures further afield, but ultimately, my love of grand-touring coupes won the day. So did the fact that the 2023 Mustang was apparently available in green. Yes, “was.” I do acknowledge they aren’t taking orders for ’23 Mustangs any more so I’d be pretty lucky to find my exact build somewhere, but whatever, I don’t like the looks of the new ’24 and it doesn’t come in green. Also, this exercise isn’t realsies, folks. To keep it under $50,000, I had to skip the GT Performance pack, but I think that’s a bit tacky in appearance and would only want it for the further optional magnetic dampers. I therefore stuffed the build sheet up to $50,000 with the $2,700 GT Premium High package (various comfort/convenience niceties), $995 B&O sound system and active exhaust. This thing isn’t quite a Bullitt, but it’s close. I’d keep it forever. 

Tesla Model 3 Performance

Senior Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski: I mean, I just bought a Tesla Model 3, so this one was easy. There are several things I don’t like about the Tesla Model 3, the biggest demerit being the big ol’ screen in the center of the dash with barely a physical control in sight. I hate that, seriously. I also consider Elon Musk’s constant need to be seen and heard in just about every aspect of life tiresome at best and offensive at worst. But none of that was enough to keep me from buying the car, because it’s just plain better than competitors that are offered at a similar price, and the right car for my family. The Performance model I chose for this exercise (currently) costs $50,990 (not to mention the $7,500 EV tax credit that buyers could qualify for), travels 315 miles per charge and does 0-60 in 3.1 seconds, courtesy of a powerful dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain. I already have a big-block, four-wheel-drive GMC Suburban in my driveway; adding an extremely efficient electric car with strong performance credentials and comparatively very low running costs makes for a solid two-vehicle household. No, I do not want any of the extra-cost self-driving stuff. Yuck, and beta testing on public roads? *shudder* No thanks. In the end, though, the car at its base price is very, very good.

BMW 330e

Managing Editor Greg Rasa: When we first wrote up these choices, both Zac and I picked the Civic Type R. I’m switching to a BMW 3 Series for the sake of variety – but I’d still rather have the Type R. A decade ago, probably four or five of us would have picked the BMW, and I once owned a 3 Series. But there are a lot of other great choices now. Even within the realm of BMWs, my first choice was the i4, but its starting MSRP is $52,000. As it happens, Autoblog editors have spent a lot of time in the 330e, because one has been in our fleet as a long-term test car, where it has acquitted itself well and even proved capable of exceeding its electric-only range rating. And that’s right, having been denied the all-electric i4, I’d go with the 330e, the 3 Series’ PHEV version. The rear-drive model starts at $44,900, and you can’t add many options without going over budget, but a $650 paint color, the Premium Package (HUD, heated seats and wheel, lumbar adjustment) and all the driver assists takes the build total to $49,850. That’s a luxury PHEV with above-average performance and way-above-average fuel economy for the average price of new cars sold today. Also, BMW hasn’t messed up its nose, so points for that. 

Or, as Jeremy points out: If you skip options, you can get a rear-wheel-drive BMW M240i Coupe in Thundernight Metallic purple!

Honda Civic Type R

Honda Civic Type R

Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: There really isn’t a better answer to this question than Civic Type R. I recently got some seat time in the new one, and it’s as great as every review you’ve read or watched says it is. As for the spec,  Championship White is enticing as someone who loves old Hondas, but forget that, because Boost Blue is one of the best blues available today. Not only that, but it makes for a gorgeous combination with the red Honda badges and red interior. I skipped the grey forged wheels because I prefer the design of the black-painted wheels, but had to say yes to the carbon fiber rear wing to make sure the final tally came close enough to $50,000 to qualify. In reality, anybody trying to buy a Type R would be hard-pressed to find a dealer willing to sell for under $50,000, but maybe some of that initial demand will subside when the Integra Type S comes online. Speaking of the Integra Type S, the price is out there now at $51,995. I’m certainly tempted to choose it, but considering nobody has driven the production model yet, I’m going to stick with the Type R for the time being.

Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury RWD

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: Fifty grand for a sporty, roomy, fun-to-drive Cadillac seems like a decent deal. I’d go with the CT5 Premium Luxury RWD model, which checks in at $49,440, so I slip in just under the line (if I scraped the $750 purchase allowance, I’d go just over, but hey). The attraction here is the a rear-wheel drive chassis, interesting design and the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 335 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. I went with summit white paint, black badges and 20-inch black wheels (included with the $3,995-Onyx package), which I think is classy and highlights Cadillac’s most recent design language. It’s an athletic sedan for a reasonable price. It would complement the three-row family hauler that’s also in my driveway and would be amusing for a few years. I’d probably try something different at that point, but I think this would be good for a season of life. I could have fun on my daily drive, but still put people and stuff in it. Sort of the reason you buy a sporty sedan in the first place.

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