Michael, thanks for posting. Trans: I would strongly prefer a manual or double clutch but will accept an auto- I'm realistic.
I had mistakenly assumed the X1 CPO would be well over $30k- that is a good suggestion. I drove one once and was pretty impressed with the handling for a CUV and that turbo 4 is a really nice motor. On the downside the flat, fake leather seats were pretty bad support-wise. Seems like even BMW now assumes that seats must be modeled around a 250-lb+ driver. The worst seats in any VW are better. Also the interior was small relative to the exterior dimentions I thought. I will go drive one again.
I tried to drive a Focus ST but the dealers near me don't stock them and they are between models. Also, I'm a 52 year old manager/adjunct professor so I worry about the "boy racer" factor. I think it is a super sharp looking car, but one that is typically owned by a twenty-something wearing his cap backwards. Taking peers out to lunch or to the airport might make make me seem a bit silly- no? The GTI's reserved styling is an advantage for me there.
Visited the VW dealer- new GTI's with the performance package (highly desirable LSD) are very tough to come by and cannot be ordered. Maybe VW will give dealers a chance to order again in a few months. Maybe not. REALLY hate crap like this: I've got $30k to spend and you can't manage your production and order fullfillment any better than that? There are a couple dozen Golfs sitting on that lot, going nowhere fast. They come off the same line. In Euro/U.K. ALL the Golf purchases/production is custom. Grrrrrr!
Yes, the recent 328i wagon is soft- much softer than the X1 IMHO. And there are a total 5 of them under $30k/40k miles in the entire U.S. and all are the older 3.0 motor.
A 2012/13 Golf R (non-CPO) can be had for about $26-$28k with low miles. That's about $5k more than an equivalent GTI. The R started out $10k more expensive, is loaded, can handle mods much better as you note, has AWD and will provide much better % resale as a limited run model with AWD here in the Rockies. I'd guesstimate it will net cost me an incremental $2-3k in 5 years of ownership (including higher parts cost). $500 a year for an R over a GTI? Pretty good option to my thikning, especially since I can't get the new GTI with the LSD.