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Window Shop with Car and Driver

If Window Shop had gone to Uncle Ben’s school of general ideas, the theme of today’s show would have been: “With heavily underpowered engines comes great reliability.” Since it is much easier to answer a challenge than moral obligations, the assignment was to buy the most reliable car with a budget of $10,000.

Road & Lane senior editor John Pearley Huffman took a trip into The Internet Wayback Machine — or to an estate sale — for a 1992 Toyota Camry. The XV10 has never enjoyed such hyperbole, compared to the Lexus LS400, Toyota’s winning GTP race cars, overbuilt Mercedes engineering and the Platonic Form of Toyotas. Shame on those potentially dried seals.

Pearley “Thunder-stealer” Huffman chose the exact Camry that senior editor Joey Capparella planned to feature. Capparella switched to his Plan B, a second-gen Lexus GS300 powered by Toyota’s legendary 2JZ. Despite concerns about an ugly steering wheel cover, a propensity for foggy taillights and Capparella’s insider trading in choosing a version of his own car, the GS won reserved praise.

Contributor Jonathon Ramsey asked: “What’s the point of a reliable car I don’t want to be seen in?” The answer took him first to a Land Cruiser in Ontario that was disqualified for being too awesome. He settled on a 2008 Subaru Outback in excellent condition. Others have noted that the risk of a blown head gasket is against reliability, proving that Ramsey will never give up his mantra that it’s better to look good than get where you’re going.

Executive Editor KC Colwell rolled up in the kind of unexpected gem he’s known for, a Honda Element with a manual transmission. The banter immediately turned to the seating arrangements, the cup holders, the cleanliness of the intake manifold, and why no one ever sees the Honda Element anymore. At no point did anyone discuss or even mention the Element’s reliability.

Editor-in-Chief Tony Quiroga thought he could take the win in a Lexus GX470. He answered every challenge to its four-wheel-drive complexity, Walmart service history and suspected missing tow nut with, “It will never break.” Considering the source, used GX prices should shoot to nosebleed heights and Lexus should sell every GX it can make once this show airs. But would TQ be on their way to a win?

Strength and reliability live in inverse relationships, the same relationship that reliability has with joy, adventure and excitement. However, this episode of Window Shop proves that boring cars are directly proportional to the chances of a crossfire gabfest.

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