Geoff has had absolutely terrible luck with WRX: multiple accidents, several major repairs, and to top it all off he is getting knee replacement surgery so he can’t drive a manual anymore. He is looking for another four-door car that is fast and fun with all-wheel-drive. 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:
My WRX is cursed! In almost exactly 2 years, I’ve been hit 3 times, two while the car was completely stopped. I’ve also had transmissions work for faulty parts, (throw-out bearing recall x2) issues with the cable shift connection, and a turbo leak on top of that. The car is 100% stock, save some window tint! When we bought it originally, the idea was to keep it around 3 years and then trade it for something my wife could also drive. She can’t /won’t drive a stick despite my threats for divorce... On top of that, I’m going to have left knee surgery in about 6 months for severe patella tendinitis and a misaligned knee-cap, so I’d have to abandon rowing my own gears anyway.
I want a 4 door sport sedan/hatch that’s got as much or more power than my WRX. Has to be AWD and unfortunately, needs to be a slushbox. I don’t mind doing work on it, I change fluids, brakes, plugs on our vehicles now but anything that’s super unfriendly to work on would be a minus. The goal would be to keep the car well past its payoff, 10 years +/-.
I’ll have a good down payment from the WRX because I’m well above water on it, but I still don’t want the car to be above $30,000. What’s the fast, fun, flappy-paddle’d car for me?
Budget: up to $30,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: AWD, performance, reliability
Doesn’t want: Something slow or with 3 pedals.
Expert 1: Tom McParland - Go For The Swede Spot
Geoff, sorry to hear about your Subie and your knee. I too had some bad luck with a Subaru with my Legacy GT wagon and I still miss that car sometimes. Now as much as I try to avoid making a repeat recommendation, I just can’t get around it this time.
What you need is a Volvo S60 T6 R-Design. It has four doors, a six-speed auto with flappy paddles on the wheels, and a 300 horsepower silky-smooth inline-six under the hood. These S60s are the last of their kind, now that most new Volvos have these newfangled twin-charged four-cylinder motors.
Now the best part about this car is not the combo of speed, practicality, and safety... it’s the seats. The S60 R’s seats are worth the price alone they are the perfect blend of bolstering and comfort. With your upcoming surgery, you want to sit in your ride and not struggle to find the right position.
While S60 R-design cars are a bit rare, here is 2015 model with a Volvo CPO warranty for under $23,000. That’s plenty of budget leftover for either a warranty extension or a rainy day fund for future maintenance.
Expert 2: Patrick George - Go For German Luxury, Hope For The Best
Hey Geoff, I’m also sorry to hear about your Subaru troubles. I absolutely loved my WRX but had occasional weird shit with it too. Sometimes the ABS, traction control and hill assist would just switch off. Three dealers couldn’t figure it out. Then right after I sold it, the engine exploded. They’re great cars but they’re sketchy as hell sometimes!
I will say that AWD, reliable, powerful and four doors under $30,000 is a tricky combination to nail down. I suggest you go the used luxury route here, ideally certified pre-owned if you can. In your case I’d recommend a used BMW 335i or 340i with xDrive. They’re almost always automatics (the ZF 8-speed auto is one of the best out there), they’re usually within your price range, and with at least 300 horsepower on tap from the turbo inline-six, you won’t miss your ‘Rex at all. And you’ll look like a grown-up in one.
Here’s one I like near you for $29,995, with only 16,000 miles on the clock. As for reliability, BMWs have gotten better in recent years, but I think expecting this to last perfectly for a decade like it’s a Honda is one hell of a moonshot. Try and get a CPO or extended warranty, stay on top of the scheduled maintenance and say your prayers before you go to bed.
Expert 3: Erin Marquis - The Power of Cadillac Compels You
Mon Dieu! A cursed car? It makes my Detroit/French-Canadian heart quake with fear. There’s only one solution, as my grand-mère would say, and that is the power of Christ. Or a voodoo doll, the specifics weren’t clear.
Failing that, try the Cadillac ATS.
The ATS can be had in optional all-wheel drive, as requested, with either a turbocharged four-cylinder or a V6 engine. Both are automatic only. Not only does it fit your bill, it bears the family crest of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. The original crest has been highly stylized on modern cars, but it once looked like this:
See those three birds? They are, as Jason Torchinsky pointed out years ago, called martins. Apparently martins once denoted a younger son without lands, so one who would travel. Perfect for Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who saw most of the New World during a time when most people died in the village they were born in. The number of martins is the key here. It reflects the Christian holy trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.
My point is this: If you are a driver who has experienced curses, that’s all that matters. You’re hashtag-blessed because you can pick up last year’s model for under budget with barely any miles on them near you, usually in the form of former leases that were babied through their short miles on their earth.
The ATS died earlier this year and it has since been resurrected as a hell of a good deal! This way, you’ll be driving around with a holy seal of approval. Plus whenever a bird shits on your shiny, fast Caddy, it will feel more like a blessing from above than just another reason to hit the car wash.
Expert 4: Jason Torchinsky - What is Already Cursed Can Never Be Cursed Again
Geoff, I’m not sure who put the whammy on you, but you must have done something to piss off some sort of supernatural entity, based on your WRX luck, there. I’m not sure there’s a way out of whatever spell you’re under, so you need a car that’s immune to a curse. And the only way to get immunity is via inoculation, which means this 1986 AMC Eagle has every anti-curse antibody you’ll ever need.
AMC was easily the most cursed of all car companies, at least in America, so you can be safe that any other curses will just bounce off this thing. Even better, this AMC Eagle meets all of your desires—automatic, all-wheel drive, reliable (that AMC straight-6 is bulletproof), and it technically has some sort of performance!
This 1986 Eagle is in truly immaculate condition, and is charming as all hell. Look at that red interior with the gingham seat inserts! Look at that wood paneling! This is a handsome, practical car that can go anywhere and has plenty of room and old-school American comfort.
AMC Eagles were way ahead of their time, and I think are under-appreciated classics. Parts are still pretty easy to come by, it’s easy to work on, and I think this thing would be absolutely delightful to drive around in.
In the condition this one is in, it’ll easily last you those next ten years, and its value will only go up. At $13,250 it’s less than half of what you’re willing to spend, too, and an extra $15+ grand in your pocket is a great hedge against any kind of stupid curse.
Get the Eagle, and your cursed days will be over.