Not too far into the future, 300 million vehicles will be registered in the United States. More than 30 current car manufacturers have lineups currently available; plenty of other carmakers are defunct and either revered or best forgotten but with models still driven.
The staggering number of vehicles on the road and hoarded in garages further dilutes an often-asked question: “If money were no object, what car would you buy?”
There’s no right answer, but vintage simplicity is far more appealing than impress-the-neighbors bling. A 1954 Kaiser-Darrin, 1967 Mercedes Benz 250 SL Convertible or a 1991 Nissan Figaro? Yes. Any new Tesla, Hummer or tanked-sized family SUV? No.
A $15,000 Chevy Spark and its 40 miles per gallon has plenty to offer. A $150,000 BMW 8-Series does a lot right, too. And it would likely require more servicing the Spark.
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New or vintage car choice?
Selecting a favorite 2022 vehicle is an automotive enthusiast’s treat. One buyer’s treasure for his or her family may a solo buyer’s dread.
But the list for a potential new favorite is varied: Here are three offerings, two new for 2022, that could easily be a favorite:
• Hyundai Santa Cruz — Introduced for 2022 as the manufacturer’s first pickup truck, the Santa Cruz addresses a niche market. It’s a pickup truck for buyers who don’t want a truck—or at least as previously defined.
Available last June as this year’s model, the four-door, front-engine, all-wheel-drive truck is marketed as an Adventure Sport Vehicle.
Like the Honda Ridgeline and Ford Maverick, the Santa Cruz has a unibody chassis design, not the ladder frame featured on most pickup trucks. The back seats are comfortable only for children or petite adults.
The standard Santa Cruz engine is a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder setup with 191 horsepower, 181 lb.-ft. of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s based on its sibling, the Tucson crossover sport utility vehicle.
New car or truck, check out Hyundai
The Santa Cruz packs a lot into its unique dimensions. It has a 118.3-inch wheelbase, it’s slightly longer than 16 feet, it’s 6.2-feet wide and 5 1/2-feet tall. It has a 4.3-foot-long bed.
In the front-wheel-drive SE option, the The Santa Cruz has a starting price of $23,990. The SEL Activity starts at $30,460, and the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine is available in the SEL Premium and Limited, respectively priced at $35,680 and $39,720. Optional all-wheel-drive adds $1,500, and it’s the only choice on the turbocharged trim.
• Lexus IS 500 F Sport — A small sedan with a V8 engine is uncommon and it’s further rare with 472 horsepower with acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds. The new, top-model level in the IS lineup is fast, upscale and comfort-oriented.
Lexus had fun with the IS 500’s debut. It’s fitted with a sport-tuned adaptive suspension, a Torsen limited-slip differential, larger brakes and 19-inch Enkei wheels fitted with performance tires. It’s a smooth driver albeit it also has a bravado-laden exhaust note.
The 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance is available in three trim levels: base, premium and launch edition. The premium option offers plenty with its 5.0-liter, 395 lb-ft of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
• Mazda CX-9 — A family SUV/crossover with seating for seven and a luxury feel and drive and a lot of standard stuff for a decent price? That’s what the CX-9 offers for about $47,000.
The top-line Signature trim, one of six, has Nappa leather seating surfaces with diamond-patterned stitching for the first two seating rows. Santos Rosewood trim and aluminum accents give the interior a classy look for a family hauler.
All-wheel-drive is the new standard equipment for 2022, although further charges should commence since the second generation of the Mazda CX-9 debuted in 2016. The turbocharged 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine produces 227 horsepower and is fun to drive. Any notion of SUV boxiness has been dismissed for a surprising amount of spunk. The maximum cargo volume is 71.2 cubic feet, substantially smaller than competitors.
Article Last Updated: May 16, 2022.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.