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Fun, fast (ish), AWD car to satisfy the frustrated racer in me (that still has to haul a family)

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta



Looking for fun, sporty car that's:
1) AWD
2) Manual
3) has descent horsepower (above average), turbo is fine
4) I'd _like_ to get > 20 mpg
5) 4 door sedan, hatch, or wagon
6) good reliability

This is my "oh shit I'm almost 50 and have been driving family trucksters for the past 15 years" car. it should be fun, and maybe have a little prestiege to it.

My current considerations are along the lines of: Subaru WRX, VW Golf R, or some flavor of sporty BMW or Audi. On the Beemer and Audi side (and a bit less for the VW) I'm concerned about reliability and cost of repairs.

I'll do new or used, up to about $35k for new, and maybe $20-25k fr used (but certified pre-owned preferred).

Any good options that I'm missing, or any suggestions from folks who had similar list of 'requirements'?

Thanks in advance!

Priorities: Powertrain performance / Safety & braking / Reliability & durability

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 30000
Maximum age: 3 years

Maximum price: US $ 32000

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Response from mkaresh

7:03 pm March 8, 2017

The WRX seems the obvious answer. The 2015 and up handles much better than earlier non-STI WRXs.

Are you sure you need AWD? Unless you drive some especially curvy roads, the GTI is more fun than the Golf R. You have more chance of getting a bad one than with a Subaru, but most are reasonably reliable.

Audis and BMWs will be considerably more expensive to maintain as they age. I generally only recommend these once over six years old to people willing and able to perform their own repairs.


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Response from mab007

10:44 pm March 8, 2017

Thanks for the quick answer! Yes, I'd like AWD. I have a 2003 forrester now and love the AWD not just for snow and wet, but the handling in teh turns is much better with AWD (not that the 4 banger w/ 130000 miles really provides much excitement, but I've pushed it now and then :) ).

The WRX is currently at the top of my list. The turbo on the 2.0 liter engine kicks in at around 2000 rpm, as opposed to the 2.5 liter STI which only provides boost north of 4k rpm. How often to I hit 4k?? Not often in my daily driving. Plus, a neighbor who has one tells me he gets 17 mph on average with his STI unless he is doing a long trip. I'd rather not burn that much dino flesh on a daily basis.

The alternative would be the Golf GTI mainly because I can't see paying $40k for the Golf R!

Again, thanks!


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Response from Dnslater

6:40 am March 9, 2017

WRX is a solid option, but as a 40 year old, I thought I was too old for one, so I went with a GTI in a similar predicament as yourself. Love the Golf R, but at this stage I couldn't see paying the extra $10k, so I bought a set of snow tires instead for 1k. Also, I can easily get 35mpg highway, which the R can't do.

FYI - in terms of handling if you get the performance pack GTI, it has an electronically controlled, torque sensing limited slip differential that makes the handling very good around turns. Read up on it. Most automotive journalists rave over the lsd.

Good luck! Enjoy the process and test drive some fun cars!


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Response from 83gmc1500

12:10 pm March 9, 2017

I'm past 60 if it matters, and love my WRX. Had one for ~3 years. The handling and body control are amazing on the stock summer tires. Above average road noise is my only complaint; greatly outweighed by fun in twisties and open spaces where I live.

My commute is 12 miles, mostly highway, mostly flat. I have achieved 30mpg there, but real-world for me is 27, give or take, depending on the available fun factors.

A common owner complaint; the shifter and clutch are rather clunky/notchy on the 15-17's, Subaru will improve shift feel & road noise on 18's, they should be out in a few months. Put me down for an 18 WRX with Recaro seats and sunroof delete!!

Tires are a consideration with your snow, I sprung for extra wheels and performance winter tires. (This car can be even more fun on snow and ice with the right tires)

I also did a couple of easy shift mods from Perrin, around $60 total, they helped smooth out my shifting a lot.


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Subaru WRX

Response from mab007

12:29 pm March 9, 2017

Dnslater -- too old for a WRX at 40??? WTF? ;-) Yeah, the "kid" down the street (my nieghbor's son, who is about 22) has one. And I don't even own a hoodie so I might look weird behind the wheel but whatever...

83gmc1500 -- WRX at 60! That's the way to do it!

I've heard lots of talk about road noise issues, but I have a 2003 Forrester... can't even hear the radio at 70 mph, so just about everything is an improvement. At this point I'll wait for the '18s and see what changes around interior noise and the general clunkiness.

To pass the time I'll definitely give the GTI a road test as well as the current WRX's.

Thanks gents.


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Response from avshelden

1:18 pm March 9, 2017

No first hand experience, but usually the Focus RS comes up in the Golf Rvs WRX conversation as the other AWD hot hatch out there.

In fact, my quick search found that very 3 way comparison from Car and Driver

Does the Focus ST potentially fit if you're going to consider the GTI?

Again, with lack of 1st hand experience hopefully someone else will chime in on the pros/cons.

I'm a 2007 A4 (wagon) driver and am heading in this direction when it's time to replace (hopefully a few years down the road still).


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Ford Focus

Response from mkaresh

2:18 pm March 9, 2017

WRT Golf R pricing, don't just assume they sell for close to MSRP. I haven't heard what the current ones are selling for. In the past there were few buyers for a $40k Golf, so dealers ended up having to discount them to within $2k of the GTI to get rid of them. History could repeat itself in the future if it hasn't already.


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Response from zcd1

5:26 pm March 9, 2017

If you're willing to give up the manual transmission (a big "IF", I know...), you might be able to squeak into a CPO Audi SQ5...

The supercharged V-6 3.0T motor is a real sweetheart, and you'll be surprised at how quick it makes the vehicle. The smoothness, refinement and luxury of the SQ5 are on a different plane than the other cars you're considering, with the possible exception of the Golf R.


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Audi SQ5

Response from mab007

8:44 pm March 9, 2017

I haven't even considered the focus... not sure why. Maybe I'll try and get out this weekend to a Ford dealer and see. As for the Audi -- I can't go automatic on teh trans... I just can't. Even the manual shiftable automatics are just no replacement (in my mind) for the manual transmission.

So my new to-do list:
-- check out the Focus
-- drive a Golf GTI
-- see what kind of pricing there is GTI vs Golf R

And do all of this while sitting back and waiting on the '18 WRXs to appear in the wild!


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Response from mkaresh

11:00 am March 10, 2017

I reviewed the GTI against the Focus ST here.

I've only driven the Focus RS briefly, one lap around a track, but even that clearly suggested it's a more hardcore car than the others discussed here. Beyond the STI, about at the same level as the discontinued Mitsubishi Evo. A lot of fun, but reviewers who have driven them on the street tend to report that the ride is far too firm.


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Response from Dnslater

4:44 pm March 10, 2017

MAB007 I retract my statement about being too old at 40 for a WRX :). Being an architect and business owner I'm probably way too image conscious and worrisome about what my clients think.....and the versions I generally see are all stanced up and have giant wings. My wife drove a 14' Impreza for a couple of years and if they only made a 5 door WRX again without the wing, I might consider it. I do strongly prefer the interior of the VW, but I think Subaru is improving that with the new version.

I've enjoyed reading these comments by all.


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Response from jsmcol

10:44 am March 23, 2017

One car you may want to consider is an infiniti sedan. I used to race Corvettes (and still have 2), but my daily driver is a 2006 Infiniti M35X. I bought it used, it has been a very reliable car, has good pickup, is quick, very luxurious, and gets 20mpg. The newer ones get better mileage because they put 6 speeds in them, mine is a 4.
It is automatic, but you can go into manual mode to "play", but in traffic, auto is so much better.

Get an "X" model, it is AWD and has a very secure feeling on wet/snow roads. Just something else to look at.
I have 140k on mine and the engine/tranny don't show any sign of slowing down... Lots of creature comforts like leatherheated/cooled seats, sunroof, premium sound system, and has a big trunk. It just looks way better than many of these other cars too, in my opinion.

Good luck.


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Response from NormT

8:13 am July 12, 2017

As former racing school instructor who likes the ingress of getting into something is not a foot off of the ground, the Buick Envision Premium has allot to offer. It has a slightly narrow chassis which helps offset it's weight. The torque vectoring AWD provides a very neutral grip on highway ramps with traction control off.

But when you are in between the turns the ride is relaxed and Buick's Quiet Tuning works wonders to save your hearing. The rear axle disengages at 44 mph to give you 30+ at highway speeds. The 2.0T has plenty a scoot and can further be enhanced with a ecu tune.

But if you are still hankering for a sedan, the ATS4 2.0T with automatic 6-speed is ready for anything road going curves or track duty you can throw at it.


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Buick Envision
Cadillac ATS
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