The RX8 — Mrs. Big Picture’s daily driver — went back off lease this week. In addition to being a well  handling, balanced, 6 speed with a 9,000 RPM redline, it also had a nicely integrated GPS.

We’ve narrowed down the replacements to three choices: The Acura TL (great interior, but essentially a purtyified Honda Accord — with no stick), a Chrysler 300 Hemi (Gorgeous exterior, lousy interior quality, also no stick) , and (1st preference), a BMW 330i 6 speed (the non-track car at Skip Barber Lime Rock, which does everything very, very well).

None of the packages we like have GPS. In each case, an absurd set of option packages (about $4-6,000) needs to be bought — that then gives you the privilege of overpaying another $2000 or so for the GPS.  These combinations of options turn each of the cars from a not-cheap-but-reasonable-for-what-they-are into a ridiculously over-priced set of wheels.

I love the GPS technology in general. Regardless of which wheels we take, I want to grab a portable unit.

I’ve been leaning towards the Garmin Nuvi 360.

Anybody have thoughts, suggestions or alternatives?

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  1. beechdriver commented on May 10

    Consumer reports gives great marks for Acura lineup: TL, TSX, etc. They typically do not have much praise for Chrysler line.

    Seems like Honda/Acura Nav systems also get high marks as well. The Nav in my TSX works well.

    As a pilot I can also say Garmin is first class.

  2. Chuck Ponzi commented on May 10

    Have Garmin 2720 and Honda.

    Garmin beats installed hands down.

    Newer versions have phonetic pronounciation of street and POI names. Don’t underestimate the value of that handy feature. The cord/speaker and lack of battery are the only minor gripes. Otherwise, I will never again buy a factory option – installed GPS.

    Just my $.02

  3. KP commented on May 10

    The 300’s are notoriously problematic.

    I’ve heard wonderful things about Acura’s Navi systems. But between a TL and 335i….BMW all the way.

  4. johntron commented on May 10

    BMW 335i coupe….or if you can wait ’til the fall, the Infiniti G37 coupe.

    Though w/335i since maintenance is included, the variance of ownership costs = 0…can’t beat that.

  5. Craig commented on May 10

    No GPS, but pass up the Chrysler. They all have tranny problems.

  6. Leon commented on May 10

    Garmin 360 is a risk free choice, I am using nuvi 310 now(which is european version of 360), best in this price level.

  7. barnaby33 commented on May 10

    Seems like any integrated GPS is a bad idea. Its like an integrated TV/DVD combo. If one goes bad you are screwed. Why not just buy a portable and a good mount?

  8. dimitris commented on May 10

    No first hand/foot experience, but the current 335i has consistently been the gearheads’ darling since it came out. Its 07 EPA rating is 29mpg on the highway, which ain’t that bad for a 300hp machine. Skip the GPS (and thus the stupid iDrive) and go for a portable unit instead.

    If it’s important, the sedan is now available with all-wheel drive.

    On portable GPS, when the others were getting out the door, tomtom had already been around the block a couple times. My personal preference would be their Navigator software on a nice smartphone, and a Bluetooth GPS unit – even if the phone has its own GPS receiver – to allow for enhanced placement and so better satellite signal reception.

    It you prefer, they also have standalone units. These also have Bluetooth and can play the role of a handsfree with, for example, text message display. Their platform is reasonalbly open so there are third party apps for them as well.

  9. V L commented on May 10

    I second BMW 335i Coupe or 335i Convertible (hardtop).

    BMW is a little bit more expensive (the combination of a declining dollar and more of standard equipment) but she is the best in this price range (elegant exterior and interior, good fuel economy, compelling driving experience, superb speed gearbox, good resale value, etc.)

    I have GPS but I rarely use it — not sure why I got it (other than for the girls to play with it; I do not know why but women like GPS)

  10. Winston Munn commented on May 10

    I have a portable, which makes it nice as it can be switched between two cars, depending on who needs it.

  11. Chad commented on May 10

    Have you looked at the Audi A4? The 2008 model is going to have the S Line trim standard, Tire Monitoring System standard, will move the front wheels up about 4 inches for better balance, and will FINALLY have an iPod hookup as an option. If you are leasing, try the 3.2 V-6. They are pretty nice. For wife and I, it is between this and the BMW.

  12. Pat McKim commented on May 10

    I was only thinking that if you haven’t tried the Audi A3, you might want to give it a look. First it has a good GPS. It has the DSG transmission that is an automatic, but has the paddles and a six speed to shift manually, when you wish. Thus it is the best of both worlds. It shifts manually when you want and then doesn’t when you want as well. It is the fast shifting car in the world as it has two clutches. It gets 26/31 mpg and is about the same size as the Beamer — maybe a little smaller, but makes up for it as a small staionwagon. It has great looks IMHO. It is the best driving car I’ve had and I used to have a Porsche 911 and Merc 320CLK. Between looks, driving, mileage, comfort etc — and price you can’t beat it. You might want to test drive for fun. The 2.0 litre 2WD is best for mileage and Pep. the 3.2 litre 4WD for overall performance without the milegage. Again they all have GPS. You should just drive for fun.

    That’s nicer than talking a screwed up Fed and economy.

  13. JQ commented on May 10

    I have an RX8 and a Nuvi 350. Love ’em both. I wasn’t willing to pay the $2K for the Nav in the 8, and I’m glad I didn’t. Echo the sentiment about portability. Took it on vacation and stuck it in the rental car and away we go. Great for finding restaurants, gas stations, etc. Too bad you had to give up the 8.

  14. Caleb Lawrence commented on May 10

    Take a look at the Lexus IS350. I have a 2007 with the luxury package, high end sound and nav system. Cost ~44k, loads of fun, drives well, rates well and a real head turner.

  15. Hans1 commented on May 10

    I agree on the BMW. And, if you buy instead of lease and find a willing dealer (very hard to do)you can custom order one like I did when I bought my 3-Series sedan in 2002. Visit the German BMW website first and see what is available. I was able to pick and choose certain items from the Premium Package without getting the sunroof and was able to add cool stuff like a black headliner. Beware the new convertible – it’s 400 pounds heavier than the Coupe!

  16. D. commented on May 10

    Have owned the Garmin Nuvi 350 for several months now. Didn’t get the 360 because we already had Bluetooth installed. Nice part about the stand-alone GPS is that you can link it up to your computer for updates at your leisure. My assumption is that you have to take a pre-installed GPS back to the dealer for updates. Although the Nuvi is not without its quirks (it sometimes chooses streets I wouldn’t choose), we’ve always gotten where we needed to go, despite making occasional wrong turns. The size makes it ideal for moving between vehicles, and you can program it for separate vehicles (favorite locations, etc.). All around, excellent for the price.

  17. Guy Lerner commented on May 10

    Mercedes C 280 or if you want a little more room, try the E class

  18. Jason commented on May 10

    We bought a Garmin 330 a few weeks ago and love it. Got it online for $260.
    I think it’s similar to the 350 or 360, except that it doesn’t pronounce the names of the streets (i.e. you just get “turn left”).

  19. V L commented on May 10

    “Beware the new convertible – it’s 400 pounds heavier than the Coupe!”

    Not a big deal at all!

    Yes, the convertible top adds 300-400lb; however it retains a 50-50 weight distribution and she dances nicely on a twisty road (maybe just a touch less-edgy than the lighter coupe but most drivers will not notice the difference)

    I have driven one with the top down and windows up on a relatively curly road (mostly left lane, only moved to the right lane when a couple of crazy Porsches wanted to pass me) between Frankfurt and Wuerzburg, even at 140-160 km/hr the cabin was reasonably quite — I could even use a speakerphone.

  20. VSM commented on May 10

    2 things, why not release an RX8 if you liked it so much? we have a BMW and Westchester BMW in White Plains is very friendly (its owned by BMW) and they will let you order exactly what you want. They give great service and have great prices. The salesman that we used has left to go to a Lamborghini dealer in Greenwich though.

  21. Roy commented on May 10

    I have a Garmin Nuvi 660 and its great, but the extra features over the Nuvi 350 or 360 are pretty useless. Even the extra wide screen on the 660 doesn’t add much value, its the voice and the database that’s really great. All in all, any Garmin Nuvi is an excellent choice , but if I had a do-over, I’d save a few hundred $$ and buy a 350 or 360.

    By the way, the portable GPS models are a LOT more useful for most people, i.e. people who don’t drive around for a living. You mostly drive your personal car around home where you know the routes. The best part of a portable GPS is taking it on trips and using it (and its familiar interface) in rental or borrowed cars in unfamiliar places.

  22. Barry Ritholtz commented on May 10

    The RX8 was fun — and as I wore the rear tires down to near slicks, she became a great drifter with the DSC off. The car really needs another 50HP, and some more torque. But she was great.

    We really need a 4 door for her daily driver. The weekend car is a classic old Mercedes SL (annual insurance: $224), so the convertible option is well taken care of. The 3rd car is a PT Cruiser, which I hate, but grudgingly admit is very functional and has been reliable.

    Each morning, I take whichever car is left in the driveway to the train station 5 minutes away.

    BTW, this is a BWM 330i, not a 335 — If I were going to go that far up price wise, I’d go all the way to the M3.

    The short list was simple: 4 doors, 6 speeds. That eliminated most of the MBs, Lexus, Infiniti (no sticks!), and the coupes (A3/5). I like Audis, spent time in an RS4 on the track — but the missus finds them ugly.

    Then again, this question was about GPS!

  23. Rich commented on May 10

    I’m currently leasing a 2007 328xi and like it a lot. I don’t have a GPS because I don’t drive much, but it would only have cost an additional $3000 prorated over the life of the lease.

    My friend bought a portable GPS and installed it in his SUV.

  24. V L commented on May 10

    If you take your car and leave it at the train station, you could get a SmartCar by Mercedes (I think it is around 10-15K)
    I would not take and leave a nice car at the train station. I think SmartCar would be a nice train station car.

  25. tw commented on May 10


    There was an article today talking about how GPS packages actually lower the resale of vehicles, which is not a big issue with a lease, but an interesting conclusion about the relative value of the technology and it’s massive price. I think GPS is the next thing to become highly PDA adaptive and much cheaper. For now, a map is the best $5 you can spend.

    As for a car, I recommend the BMW having driven one for several years. It will take everything you throw at it and more. The new engine is terrific, but is still quite new and I would think a little more time might be warranted before buying. The previous engine, 3 liter 6, is outstanding, long standing and very reliable providing you look after it. That means religious oil checking and topping up where necessary. The 330i gives you the old engine in the new package and more likely at a much better price.

    Look forward to more on your choice and the reasons.


  26. mla commented on May 11

    I did a fair amount of research and went with the nuvi 350. We’re very happy with it so far. Garmin’s site has a nice page where you can compare the features.

    We didn’t need the bluetooth which is why we opted for the 350 over the 360.

    Amazon has a ton of reviews. Dell was offering 10% off a couple weeks back — not sure if that’s still available but they had the best prices on the nuvi I could find anywhere.

    I think you’ll be happy with that series. Let us know what you decide.


  27. Mike commented on May 11


    I bought a Garmin iQue a few years ago ($500?) and it is excellent. The major gripe I have with it (and I am surprised NO ONE has mentioned this about portables in general) is that unlike the GPS systems that come with the cars, the portables are easily washed out in certain sun angles. And I don’t mean “if the angle is JUST right it gets washed out.” I mean the odds are good that at some time during a daylight trip you’ll be wondering where the hell you are.

    Maybe it is the iQue (which is PDA based) and the other systems like Tom Tom don’t suffer from this? I have nothing to compare too.

  28. john commented on May 11

    Barry I think you’re overlooking something with the Infinity G35 Sedan. MotorTrend and Consumers both gave it favorable ratings. While not a 6 it has an automatic 5 speed — the gearing is clustered together pretty tight so you’re not getting too “Bad” mileage at the lower speeds –According to the onboard computer I’m getting an average of 23 MPG at an average speed of 40 mph and the engine has a 7500 RPM redline. Mine has intelligent cruise control and also the camera that gives you a rear view picture on your navigation screen when the car is put into reverse, a navigation package (w/voice activation) and bluetooth technology.
    If you live in New York (presuming of course you dont already own an OPEC friendly SUV) you have the option of all wheel drive with VDC.
    The engine was from the 2003 design which also got favorable reviews– it’s since been tweaked up to 306 HP.
    Compare the reviews of the BMW in Consumers, MotorTrend ETC. with the 2007 Infinity G35 sedan and I think you’ll find it stacks up pretty well. You should be able to get the fully loaded version for $39,000.00, or less, out the door– taxes, tags (I got all 3 packages– premium, navigation and technology for $39,000 even).

    BR: I’ve always liked the entire Nissan 350ZX/Infiniti G35 Coupe/G35X Sedan.

    Infiniti did a real nice job on the new sedan — curvy nice interior, AWD. But its her driver, and she she didn’t love the styling. Also, the lease deals were only so-so.

  29. dave commented on May 11

    I’ve had two Saab 95’s and really liked them. Sporty with a nice interior and a good safety record.

  30. fiat lux commented on May 11

    What, no hybrid?

  31. FT commented on May 11

    Garmin Portable and a small engine high mileage car. I used to own a 540 and a 330. All that power is a perpetual waste of resources. just a thought.

  32. Miller commented on May 11

    I’ve had a Garmin i3 for 18 months and it’s great. Garmin’s customer service is outstanding.

    I misplaced my Garmin cable and used a cheezy USB adapter to do a firmware upgrade. It lost USB connection and I turned it into a paper weight –totally my fault.

    I had a busy week and didn’t get through to customer service until later in the week. It was about a week out of warranty and Garmin said send it in. In about 10 days, they sent a brand new replacement unit.

    One of my best customer support experiences evah! When I upgrade, I will only consider Garmin.

  33. jm commented on May 11

    It’s unfortunate that everyone uses ‘GPS’ as a generic term for car navigation units. An advantage of factory-installed units* is that they rely primarily on dead reckoning based on the vehicle speed pulse, turn-sensing ‘gyros’**, and ‘map-matching’ to compute the car’s position, with GPS as a supplementary input (except for initial position determination).

    Basically they’re doing what you could do if you were locked inside the back of a truck with an odometer readout, gyrocompass, and a very detailed map (and could calculate very, very fast). So they are not deceived when the GPS signal bounces off a mountainside or line of high-rise buildings, or can’t be received because the car is in an urban canyon or a huge parking garage. In Chicago or NYC the GPS-only units are often unable to compute a position for blocks at a time, and if you enter an large parking garage and later leave by an exit on another street, it may be many minutes before the unit figures out where you are. Driving through the mountains near Pittsburgh, a GPS-only unit thought I was on the other side of the valley. GPS works (in essence) by measuring the differences in radio signal time-of-flight from multiple satellites, so if one or more satellites’ signals reach you by bouncing off buildings or mountainsides, they travel a longer path and you seem to be somewhere you aren’t. And since the signals are extraordinarily weak, they don’t penetrate into buildings (sometimes not even through heavy foliage). The units that work primarily by dead reckoning aren’t fazed by such conditions.

    *And some high-end after-market units, especially from makers like Pioneer and Alpine.

    **Nowadays implemented as nano-machined solid-state sensors.

  34. Steve Kline commented on May 11

    I know it might lack the cool factor of the other cars you mentioned, but why not get a Camry. I just got a loaded Camry, which included a touch-screen nav system (which also controls all the car’s electonics), bluetooth phone connection (which is also voice activated), XM or Sirius radio, and a remote engine starter. My company has the lease and the value was put at $28,000. With a very nice interior it seems like a much better option than the Acura. And, several of the guys at our office have the BMW and the Camry has every feature that those cars do (sans the incredible driving factor) at a much lower price. Plus the touch-screen nav of the Camry seems much easier to use than the i-Drive.

  35. Dapple commented on May 11

    I don’t know about you, but every year my eyesight gets a little more fuzzy. Too much time spent reading Big Picture on a small computer screen.

    Get the Nuvi 660 for the bigger screen. I chose it over 360 just for the larger screen. Both are great GPS units.

  36. sccofer commented on May 11

    You’ve got to go check out a G35, I think you and the wife would be more than pleased. I can’t recommend it highly enough!! Priced well and so much fun to drive. I have the sedan and it is one of the best cars I have ever owned.

  37. Anitra commented on May 11

    I’ve heard great things about the Garmin & TomTom systems. Personally, we have a much cheaper portable GPS (Mio CX something), but I love it, and wouldn’t go without it now.

    As someone else stated, a portable GPS is nice because you can use it in any car, and you can hook it up to your computer without any problems.

  38. buckykatt commented on May 11

    Get a TomTom 910 gps and go with the BMW.

  39. Greg0658 commented on May 11

    jm must be an engineer and thanks for the indepth reply

    remember GPS is a satellite reciever and needs line of sight like a laser not an omnidirectional radio signal

    another fact is you can bounce your tv channel remote off a glossy painted wall

    portables need to be in the windshield unless they are making them now with external antenna hookups

    I’ve had a portable for about 2 or 3 years and like it for boating, motorbiking and hiking too

    great for finding places in the big city – Chicago

  40. Bob A commented on May 11

    Why not just get one of the new phones that has GPS?

  41. msecc commented on May 11

    We bought the NUVI 350 a couple of months ago at for $350. We love it. We didn’t get the 360 based on the Bluetooth reviews (can only use effectivly when stopped or driving slow, doesn’t pick up the sound well when driving fast in a noisy car or with the windows down). GPS’s are like cell phones, once you use them, you can’t live without them…

  42. KB commented on May 11

    TL all the way! I’ve had my ’04 for 3 years with no problems. The interior is fantastic and very nice tech-wise. The Nav has one of the bigger screens available and it controls more than just navigation (also the newer one has the XM NavTraffic service). For the price of the car, you can’t beat it. The sportshifter isn’t bad either if you sometimes want the manual feel.

  43. KB commented on May 11

    Oh, and since its not my money ;), take a look at the Acura TL Type-S. More tricked out and with a 6 speed manual.

  44. Grant commented on May 11

    Get a Garmin, 350 if you don’t need the bluetooth, or a 360 if you do.

    At any rate, the portable unit is the way to go, and in looking for a new Honda Accord, I won’t buy one with the factory NAV. The current GPS technology will be obsolete long before the car will quit running.

    Like I said, go Garmin, and you can upgrade the portable GPS in a couple years when they come out with something new and fancy, but you can keep your Acura.


  45. Lord commented on May 12

    Cell phone navs run about $10/month plus time which could get expensive really really fast and have the tiniest of screens. Not really comparable.

  46. Loren commented on May 14

    I have the Garmin Nuvi 360, and the bluetooth is not worth the extra money. The mic is always picking up feedback from the speakerphone, so the person on the other end gets an ear full of static when they try to talk. Other than that, the Nuvi GPS units are absolutely awesome. Stick with a bluetooth earpiece and get the Garmin 350.

    Oh, and a portable GPS unit is def the way to go. I can’t figure out for the life of me why anyone would want one built into the car because you can’t take it with you! A fixed unit totally defeats the purpose of GPS. How do you find your way around when traveling in an unfamiliar city? Anyway, off soapbox…


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