Mary is a cool mom who hustles her three hockey loving boys around in an Audi A6 wagon. Unfortunately, the Audi is getting up there in miles and it’s starting to become too costly. It’s time for a replacement. What car should she buy?
Here’s the scenario:
I am a working mother of three boys. I need a car that is upscale for work but reliable, spacious enough for sports equipment, not costly to maintain, and rugged enough to haul around my sons. All three play hockey, so my car needs trunk space to haul all three of their (quite large) equipment bags. I love my 2010 Audi A6 Avant but I’m looking for something less costly to maintain as the car has had multiple very large issues over the last few months and now needs a lot of costly service work as it has hit 100,000 miles.
I know I could just easily buy a big truck like a Tahoe or something that would fulfill my utility needs, but I like driving nice cars that are also interesting and practical. I would also prefer something with a unique color or style. All wheel drive is a must since we often have to drive in Pittsburgh winters to hockey matches. While I like luxury cars, I don’t want something that is too costly to maintain and it would help if it got decent fuel economy. My budget is up to $60,000.
Budget: up to $60,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Average Miles Per-Week: 200 - 300 miles
Wants: Something upscale, unique, but not costly to maintain
Doesn’t want: The same old SUV
Expert 1: Tom McParland - So I Hear You Like Wagons
Mary, first of all, my hats off to you with your impressive taste in family hauling vehicles. The Audi A6 Avant was really an excellent blend of luxury, practicality and a little bit of sportiness. As we all know Audi no longer sells Avants in America, nor will BMW offer you a longroof in anything above a compact size. Those brands would prefer you to suck it up and get an SUV.
Now, Mercedes will gladly offer you the excellent E400 wagon, but with a starting price of about $63,000, that will get pricey real quick once you start adding options.
Luckily our friends in Sweden have come to the rescue with the Volvo V90. A T6 AWD car has a twincharged four-cylinder that makes 316 HP and also manages a respectable 30 mpg on the highway. You can have it in two flavors: the sporty R-Design or the luxurious Inscription. The R-Design is the cheaper of the two and definitely looks better. It has a starting price of $57,540 including destination and if you are careful with the options you can keep it under $60,000.
Now the only downside to the V90 is you can’t just stroll into your local Volvo dealer and buy one. They are factory-order only. So if you don’t think your Audi can last the few months it will take to build your sexy Swedish wagon, you can immediately buy the V90 Cross Country which is essentially the same car but lifted a few inches and had some extra cladding slapped on the fenders. It has a starting price of around $56,000. Both the V90 and Cross Country have comfortable seating for five and around 55 cubic feet of cargo space for all that hockey gear.
Expert 2: Patrick George - If You Need A Large Car At Least Get A Fast Large Car
Mary! This is a tricky one. You love your Audi wagon but it’s... doing the things that Audis do when they get older. And the wagon market isn’t what it used to be. I fully endorse Tom’s selection of the new Volvo V60, but in the interest of giving you options, let me suggest an SUV that doesn’t suck.
So $60,000 will get you a ton of car, but I think your best way to maximize that value is to go used. And since you want a luxury car, go certified pre-owned to mitigate some of the repair headaches you’re likely to encounter.
Maybe I have them on the mind a bit since I just covered the unveiling of the new one, but a CPO used Porsche Cayenne S seems like a fun deal to me. The outgoing one—the one you can get used—can be had with either a 400 HP 4.8-liter V8 or a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 with 420 HP from 2015 and beyond. If you need a fun, fast people mover with room for your hockey sons and their gear, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Here’s a 2014 Cayenne S with just 30,574 miles for sale for $52,495. You’re even coming in under budget now. Have fun.
Expert 3: David Tracy - Hey, This Is What My Computer Simulation Spit Out
So you’ve got 60 large to drop on a big vehicle that’s not only “rugged” and “upscale,” but also “interesting” and “unique.” Well, out of laziness, I decided to plug those requirements into my What Car Should You Buy-O-Meter, and after running the extremely data-intensive simulation overnight, I’ve come up with an answer: the Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
And I think my simulation tool is dialed in well, because if you think about it, this Jeep basically fulfills all of your requirements to the T. It was designed specifically for classy parents like you, who want to look snazzy during the workweek, but cool and outdoorsy on the weekends. Not only are its solid axles, body-on-frame construction, and leaf springs the most rugged things automobile-dom has ever produced, but the interior is among the car gods’ greatest gifts to humanity.
You can get brown, tan or red interiors—and I don’t mean just seats and small bits of trim (like on newer cars)—I mean entire interiors in those colors. The door trim, the entire dashboards, the steering wheels, the seats, the carpets—everything. These Jeeps’ cabins look wonderful, and most importantly, they’re amazingly comfortable.
Between that interior, all that chrome, and that hood emblem, the Grand Wagoneer definitely has the “upscale” requirement down pat. As for the “unique color or style” bit, just look at the wood (vinyl) trim on this thing! How many styles are more “unique” than fake wood on a giant body-on-frame SUV with tiny pillars, a big luggage rack, tons of chrome and one of the most badass hoods of any truck ever built.
Sure, fuel economy is bad (okay, horrendous), but you can find Grand Wagoneers for much less than your top-dollar, so you can pony up a bit on fuel here and there and still be on top.
And yeah, these Jeeps went out of production in 1991, so you’ll probably be in the shop every now and again. But, there’s an outfit in Texas called Wagonmaster that restores these things to perfection, meaning you could maybe snag a Woody that’ll serve you for many, many years without falling into pieces.
The blue one in the picture above costs just under 60 grand. Here, just look at this magnificent machine.
Expert 4: Andrew Collins - Mercedes Makes The Best Multi-Passenger Muscle Cars
Let’s see, something classy and fun that can carry a bunch of people and things. That’s a tall order unless– wait, you said $60,000? Step right this way, young lady!
A second-generation Mercedes ML AMG is safely within your budget, has one of the best feeling and sounding engines on Earth, and is only an aftermarket warranty away from being easy to maintain. Probably.
Joking aside, the ML matured a lot by the time the second bodystyle was born. And though it may be Alabama-built, that AMG heart was still lovingly assembled by one very fastidious artisan mechanic in the car’s motherland. This era of Benz also predates the company’s stupid tacked-on-tablet infotainment system, so the dashboard is still nice and tidy.
If you’re able to stay soft on the gas pedal, you might even eek out... ah, shucks you said fuel economy should be good, didn’t you? Well, keep those tires over-inflated and you might be able to hang out in the high-teens. Good thing you’ll have some money left over in the budget because you’re buying used!
I myself often fantasize about having one of these as my ski taxi, but I’ve got to wait a few more years for them to depreciate into my budget. Maybe you can sell it to me once you’ve thrashed it and put a couple more zeros on the odometer.