C-MAX vs C-MAX, 20K Used Gold, No More Challengers and Big Truck Interiors [Ask Nathan]

2014 buick verano nathan adlen
Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.


In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • Awesome, used, luxury, sporty, AWD for $20K?
  • Pickup truck’s interior issues
  • C-MAX vs C-MAX Energi?
  • Enough with Dodge Challenger videos already!
2014 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro 0-60 MPH Drive and Review
2014 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro 0-60 MPH Drive and Review

This fan wants a little bit of everything for under $20,000. I suspect he wants it used. This is a tough one – maybe one of you can help?

Q: Hello there, I’m a huge fan of TLFLCAR, as well as my uncle. He’s a retired race car driver.
I’ve been waiting for forever to turn 16 and start driving. Almost there, I want a car. Something luxurious, hatchback/crossover/suv, sporty, AWD(something that can handle a little bad road) good ground clearance and affordable.. Something that’ll get me recognized. Budgeting for something $20,000 – less. I’d love if you guys would do a review and test drive of whichever car. You can e-mail me for more questions. Thanks sooo much!


A: That’s a hell of a hard question. Here’s what a bit of research has yielded: you might be able to find a 2009 – 2011 Audi Q5 for around your price – an older one with high miles. A 2007 – 2011 Acura RDX is a good possibility. How about a used Mercedes-Benz ML from 1999 – 2009?

The one that my friend’s kid (who’s about your age) just got was a 2008 Infiniti FX35 – and he loves it. The one they bought was part of a CPO (certified pre-owned) program with a beefy warranty. It ran about $19,000 when all was said and done.

Look kid, one thing I have to stress: these rides may be affordable to purchase, but they are expensive to maintain. Do some research and see what you can truly afford over the long run. I also recommend going through the automaker’s CPO program if possible.

Best of luck!


One of our viewers wants me to elaborate on my criticism of the 2015 Ford F-250’s (350 & 450 for that matter) interior. Ford is still selling trucks with hard door plastics that feel miserable when touched or rested upon. Hell, I just drove our ’14 Raptor over 3,000 miles (part of our Prague to Pebble Beach trip) and my left elbow regretted it.

2014 ford raptor svt

Q: Nathan can I ask you, Have you ever owned any HD pkup for 10-yrs or more? I know you favor the Chevys and Rams soft touch materials but I ask you, how well will that soft material hold up under extreme conditions where employees have little concern for the welfare of the interior? You glamor about the soft touch but fail to acknowledge the durability of FORDs Heavy Duty Plastic material used that embarrasses The competition in that respect. At 5:30pm when the Men are covered in grime, dirt and perspiration a HD plastic interior is the best interior to be in. Sure when purchased all that soft touch looks amazing but I’m certain they will not hold up well under daily abuse in a medium to extreme work environments.


A: Yes – I have seen interiors torn up based on hard use by drivers who are covered in filth. Sure, any interior can be destroyed by a hard working driver’s digs. I drove tow trucks, flat-beds, delivery vans, buses and just about every damn permutation of what a heavy-duty truck can be turned into. Those trucks didn’t care about tough plastic, vinyl, leather or steel – everything gets filthy, ripped, clobbered and cracked.

But, the trucks I refer to in the video are trucks for people who want luxury with their towing ability. They want to have a comfortable (expensive) place to roost as they tow, haul or simply cruise around. No one wants a raw elbow when driving in their 50,60 and $70,000 truck.

Now, what were we driving when I complained about the terribly plasti-clad interior? It was the 2015 Ford F-350 that was being tested by towing a 12,000 lbs luxury travel trailer. This was a top-of-the-line pickup truck meant for comfort-seekers. That’s where the Ford falls flat – bottom line. Its rock-hard plastic door panels and cheap plastics are uncomfortable and look terribly dated.

IF this was a base model Ford F-350, I would have no gripe, but it wasn’t. Even the hard working, grime-covered workers out there deserve durable soft-touch (yes, “soft-touch” CAN be durable nowadays) interiors. Ford has come a long way and makes a hell of a good powertrain – but their truck interiors seriously need to be updated and refined considering the price.

That’s my point of view and I’m sticking to it.



photo 3 (19)

This one just came in regarding my [First Impression] post of the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi vs the regular C-Max.

Q:So how does the C-Max Energi compare to the regular C-Max Hybrid when it comes to MPG, acceleration, fun to drive, etc.? aside from the much lower cost..


A: Let me start by explaining what the meaning of our [First Impressions] posts are: they cover the basics and the most notable idiosyncrasies of that vehicle in the first days of our evaluation. A full review usually comes later in the form of a video and a write-up.

I say this so you won’t be disappointed in my answer. As I write this, I am still in possession of the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi and I (now) have a real appreciation of what it is compared to the regular C-Max…

Here’s the most notable benefit to driving the C-Max Energi according to Ford: 40 combined for the regular C-Max and 43 mpg combined with the C-Max Energi. Sure, you can do a lot better with the C-Max Energi and drive it daily as an electric car under a certain amount of miles. That’s if you are serious about driving carefully and serious about hypermiling.

The regular C-Max is slightly more enjoyable to drive around, but the C-Max Energi has a better ride. I suspect the heft of the additional batteries may have something to do with that. The regular C-Max felt like an easier car to drive through traffic. Perhaps the lack of weight has something to do with that.

Ford says the C-Max Energi has an, “EPA-Estimated Miles-per-Gallon Equivalent (MPGe) – 95 city/ 81 hwy/ 88 combined MPGe.

Considering the hefty price difference and the fact that many people simply want a commuter hybrid – the regular C-Max is the logical choice. Besides, you get a lot more cargo room with the regular C-Max.

Hope that answers your question!


Dodge Challenger HC LSF

This last one comes to us from a viewer and half a dozen other (wink-wink) viewers who want us to stop our coverage of the 2015 Dodge Challenger.

Q: (statement) Enough challenger videos already!!!


A: No!

Nuff said?

Look, in approximately 12 hours of its posting, the video you’re complaining about has about 5,000 views and 180 “Likes.” In a few days, that number can expand exponentially. When we go to a press event, we cover the crap out of it! We know that thousands of people are not only interested in the 2015 Challenger Hellcat, they are interested in the whole line.

Believe me, if this were a Mustang or Camaro press event, we would be airing just as many videos.

There is some good news: we will be airing MORE Challenger soon! FCA will undoubtedly send TFLcar a variety of Dodge Challengers – including the Hellcat! Yep, once they make it up to our neck of the woods, we’ll test them with a all-out review, 0 to 60 mph, on a track, against an opponent and more!

We’re video-gangster like that.

Thanks for watching!


Nathan Adlen Bio Picture Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.