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Can you recommend a year round muscle car?

Posted by John Paul  December 19, 2011 04:52 PM

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Q. I'm currently looking at a modern “muscle car” for a year rounder, and yes, I know that doesn’t sound like a smart decision living in the Northeast. I’m not interested in a Japanese or European hot-rod; I’m looking for “American Muscle.” What I’d like to know is if you’ve heard anything about which one might handle best in bad weather conditions. We're not talking about a blizzard, just a couple of inches of snow.

A. Today, a high performance muscle car, when equipped with four winter tires and traction/stability control, works pretty well in poor weather. In my opinion, the Ford Mustang is one of the best values. The 5.0 liter V-8 is powerful, the handling is quite good and the interior is well-finished. For something a little different, I have driven the all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger with a 370 horsepower hemi engine. If you are not hung up on the idea that a muscle car can only have two doors, it certainly is worth a look and can easily handle winter weather.

Q. While driving on the highway in my 1990 Buick Century for about 3/4 hour, or approximately 30 miles, I slowed down to make a right turn. The car’s engine just stopped. I pulled over and it started right up again, then stalled. I had it towed to a garage, and after four days they could not figure out what was wrong. Fast forward two weeks later - while driving on the highway and making a right turn onto a bridge, my car did the same thing. After I waited a few minutes the car was fine again. At 21 years old I don’t want to spend a lot on this car. Any thoughts on this problem? A.

A common issue with some of these General Motors cars was the transmission torque convertor goes into its “lock-up” mode but doesn’t release as the car slows down. Have your repair shop look at the transmission; a few simple tests should identify the problem. If the transmission is a three speed (no overdrive), the shop may just unplug the electrical connection to the torque convertor to fix the stalling symptom.

Q.I own a 2008 Toyota Tundra with 44,000 miles. Recently my steering failed. The dealer said my intermediate steering shaft seized, which caused the rack and pinion system to fail. The cost of repair was $2200.00. The dealer said I am the only one who has this steering failure. Toyota merely apologized. With such a significant failure, do you think Toyota should step up even though the truck is just out of warranty? Or am I just unlucky?

A. It certainly is unusual for a steering shaft to seize up at this low mileage and age. I’m more concerned about why it was necessary to replace the steering rack along with the seized shaft. At this point, it certainly couldn’t hurt to contact Toyota customer service to ask about reimbursement for at least a portion of the repair.

Q. I know this sounds decadent in a time when the economy is not at its best, but I’m looking for a luxury car. I’m thinking of perhaps a Mercedes Benz, Audi A8 or BMW. Here is the weird/quirky part: I don’t mind spending $100,000 on a car, but I hate the idea that some of these luxury cars require premium fuel and get such poor fuel economy. If you had a spare $100,000, would you buy based on my frugality?

A. One car that is worth the look is the Mercedes Benz S350 diesel. It has all the latest comfort and safety innovations, and although it uses pricey diesel fuel, it does get pretty good mileage. The ride is very good, and the handling is rock solid. This modern diesel is quiet, doesn’t smoke or smell, and has more than enough power to satisfy most drivers. During my mostly highway drive, it averaged a very reasonable 30.5 miles per gallon.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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