Daniel was ready to buy the new Bronco but canceled his order after coming to the conclusion that, for him, the cost wasn’t really justified. He is looking for a boxy, luxury, 4x4 for around $30,000 - $35,000. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario -
I just CANCELED my 2021 Ford Bronco Order. I just couldn’t justify paying $50,000 for a cool looking vehicle with cloth seats and average at best creature comforts. I get it, its an an off-roader, you are paying for its capabilities and style, but that just doesn’t fit my 9-5 lifestyle.
I am a 30 yr old architect living in Nashville, TN. I have never bought a new car, and I live in fear of immediate depreciation. I have always liked a vehicle that has an identity and a strong personality. My first car was an ‘87 Saab 900 Turbo convertible, I’ve owned 2 Land Rover Discoveries (1999 + 2003), and currently drive an ‘07 BMW 328i (Manual). I’ve had my fun driving around a small manual car, but with a family in the near future and my 6'2" 230 lb body, I dearly miss the size and ride height of the Discos.
I’ve always loved old LR Defenders and the new Bronco seemed like my ticket to Defender looks with modern amenities....but at 50k I feel like I’m too close to a new Defender 110 (which I can’t afford) to justify moving forward with it. I also fear that with time, the Bronco will just be the new Wrangler and be everywhere. I’ve decided to go a new direction and spend +/- 30k on a lightly used luxury SUV that still has some off road abilities. What should I buy?
Budget: About $30,000 - $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Nashville, TN
Wants: Luxury, Boxy design, Off-road capability
Doesn’t want: A car
Daniel, it seems you are looking for a combination of boxy styling, luxury, and the ability to get dirty for about $30,000. This may be one of those situations where you need to prioritize two of those features. You mentioned that the Bronco doesn’t really fit with your “9-5 lifestyle”, you don’t feel it’ll be comfortable and that you would be paying for capability that you may not be taking advantage of.
Perhaps leaning more on luxury is the way to go for you. If you want a box that is pretty plush on the inside I would say go for the Volvo XC90. These aren’t exactly “unique” and you will want to push your budget a bit since the cars in the low-mid $30k range are 2016 models that are known to be troublesome. However, for around $37k (still cheaper than a loaded Bronco) you can get a certified 2018 model with all the features you could ask for. You can use the remaining savings to pick up a serious off-roader like this 1995 Pajero!
Tom may be right about having to prioritize the requirements on this one, Daniel. But if you’re willing to get a little less luxury from the likes of a Volvo, and a little less off-road capability than the Bronco, you could go for a Subaru.
No, not the Outback. I’m gonna throw another Subaru at you, which is kind of underrated but still popular. I’m recommending a Subaru Forester. It’s become less boxy as the generations moved forward, but it still has some of the Subaru ruggedness.
It has modern amenities and starts just under $25,000 new, which is half what you’d have paid for the fully-loaded Bronco.
Best of all, though, the Forester has some potential off-road, and it totally looks the part once it’s outfitted correctly. Just look at what is possible with a humble Forester if you tap the aftermarket! And with its reasonable cost of entry — even when buying new — you can build the Forester into a capable machine both on- and off-road.
It sounds like you want something that has some luxury, has decent off-road chops and won’t be as ubiquitous as a Jeep Wrangler. I respect that. Here’s a vehicle the likes of which you’ll probably never see made again: The Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI.
Just mentioning this vehicle has probably scared many readers, but hear me out. Under the hood is a 5-liter V10 turbodiesel making 310 horsepower and 553 lb-ft torque. With good maintenance, these engines can reach some impressive mileage. The Fast Lane Car proved that despite its less-than-rugged appearance, the Touareg is an absolute beast off-road. Plus, it can tow about 8,000 pounds!
These aren’t super luxurious — remember, they come from nearly two decades ago — but they have modern amenities.
Most Touareg V10 TDIs come in far under your budget. This one can use some interior refreshing and maybe a few luxury upgrades if you want, but its at low mileage for its age.
You should go with something that’ll be just as dependable on-road as it is off-road. Look no further than the Lexus GX460. Sure it has a front facia that might be a little hard to look at, but once you get past that, it’s probably one of the most capable SUV’s you can buy.
Aside from the typical Lexus luxury features like leather this and wood that, you get a whole host of off-road goodies that will help you feel a little better about canceling that Bronco order. Standard 4wd, downhill assist control, plus tons of aftermarket support. All that paired with its 4.6-liter 301 horsepower V8 and its body-on-frame construction means that it’ll get you where you want to go if you venture off-road. Even though it’s a Lexus, finding one used within your budget shouldn’t be a problem like this 2016 example I found for just over $32,000.