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Help Me Select a Wagon



  • porknbeansporknbeans Posts: 464
    Having two kids the exact same age and knowing how much "stuff" traveling with that number can entail, I would not recommend the A4. The Passat is better for room, but personally for me is too small (you may be different). If you choose the Passat definitely go with the V6. 4 people and air conditioning with a 4-cylinders don't mix, IMO. The Volvo is a nice car and since you already own one, I'm sure you know what it can cost to maintain one (I don't but have heard it can be high). It's roomy, safe and more than powerful enough for what most of us need it for.

    If you are looking to buy right now I would like to add two other options to your list. The first is a 1 or 2 year old Audi A6. Super refined, super safe, big, powerful and very comfortable. The second would be a Subaru Outback. Safe, AWD, ABS, can come with a 6 cylinder however the rear seat may be too cramped.

    If you can wait even 12 months your options could increase with the introduction of some new offerings. What I'm talking about is the crossover type of vehicle. These will include the Ford Crosstrainer, Chrysler Pacifica, Nissan Murano and the Mitsubishi Outlander. Also Mazda will be coming out with a station wagon for the redesigned 6 (the 626 replacement).

    Hope this helps, good luck and let us know what you choose.

    Grand High Poobah
    The Fraternal Order of Procrastinators
  • dudleyrdudleyr Posts: 3,469
    How about a Subaru Legacy L. You can get a brand new one for about $18,500 (with automatic tranny). It has a large and torquey engine, has AWD, ABS, Power everything. With the AWD it could literally replace the Explorer. Drive one, and see for yourself.

    This car does well in safety tests, and is also more reliable than the vehicles you mention above, and would have a full new car warrenty. You never know the full history of a used car. You can buy the new Legacy for the same price as the used vehicles you mention.

    This is mechanically the same as the Outback, but with a slightly lower ride height.

    I am not one of the raving Subaru loyalists, my father even owns a Passat wagon), but the value of the Legacy is hard to beat especially when the alternative is a used car. You can get a very reliable used car (I have bought several) but you are much safer with new.
  • leslierlleslierl Posts: 1
    I've recently test driven a few wagons and am trying to narrow my focus. I also want to make sure I haven't overlooked one. So far, I've driven the Passat, the Saab 9-5, the Volvo V70, and the BMW 525i (no wagon on the lot for this one - drove the sedan).

    The BMW was by far my favorite. The salesman said I might also consider the 3-series wagon, a less expensive car (go figure). He says the size difference is very little and the performance is much the same. I'm not so sure about that. We'll likely go back and test drive the 3-series for a better comparison. Would appreciate anyone's knowledge about the two.

    Are there any other wagons I should be sure to take a look at before deciding? I need more room than most sedans offer and do not want an SUV or minivan. Thanks for any info you can offer.

  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Well, while the BMW is definitely topsd in the "fun to drive" category, they really don't offer a whole lot of cargo room. In that department, I'd have to say (without consulting any data, going from memory here) that the Passat would offer the most room, followed by the Volvo and Saab. Something I do like about the 9-5, though, is that cool sliding load floor. I don't really think you could go wrong with any of the choices.
  • JBaumgartJBaumgart Posts: 890
    If you're looking at models as expensive as the 525i you should also test drive the Audi A6 3.0. Here's a link:

    The 2002 A6 Avant

  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    I'd highly recommend a Buick Roadmaster Estate.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 20,309

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • aphroditesaphrodites Posts: 1
    We are thinking about either buying a toyota camry wagon, volvo 240 or 740 wagon. Any suggestions? Advice. We are looking at a used 1991sh. We need something reliable and want the third seat.

    thank you
  • linsavylinsavy Posts: 13
    I have always likely the Camry wagon especially the V6. When looking at a car that old it comes down to condition and service history. If it has been well maintained and is in good shape take it to a trusted mechanic and have them go over it. Any of the above would be ok if they check out.
  • jsminjsmin Posts: 11
    Has anyone seen a Matrix in person? Not sure what Toyota was thinking with this one. I have seen boats with less freeboard. Makes an Aztek look like a Ferrari.
  • hpulley4hpulley4 Posts: 591
    The Matrix does not look good in person IMO, nor does the new Corolla its sedan cousin. The ad photographers use the camera to their advantage with it, that's for sure. I'd take the Vibe version if I wanted a small, tall wagon. Eyes of beholders and to each their own of course.
  • jmessjmess Posts: 677
    Now for something completely different. A little smaller in back and little more go power than a 325 for less money. You don't see very many around town; easy to find your car in the parking lot.
  • ern56ern56 Posts: 3
    Has anyone compared the W8 to the Allroad? It seems the W8 can compete, at least in performance. Will either have enough longevity to justify the expense?
    Ernie in Alberta
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'm one of the "raving Subaru loyalists" Dudley was talking about, LOL.

    We have a '98 Forester L and just got our 2nd Soob. 2002 Legacy L 5 speed wagon, for $17,827. That included ABS, AWD, keyless, cruise, carpets, power everything, even 4 disc brakes.

    I bought OE take-off alloys used, the OE leather shift knob, and a rubber liner for the cargo area. Then I eBay'd a 6CD changer from a WRX owner (he got XM satellite) for $150 and installed it myself.

    So for a total investment of just $18,150 or so, not bad eh? What else has AWD, ABS, 6CD, and alloys for even close to that price? Nothing.

  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    Am I wrong or is a better comparison between the Passat and the A6? Isn't the A4 more in line with the Jetta? My mother in law is looking for an AWD wagon with a 6 cylinder (don't agrue anything but those specific options, she's very set in her ways!) She will pay up to about $20,000 used or $24,000 new. She has a Sable wagon now and just wants AWD. We figured the Outback is a no-brainer but the lack of a 6 cylinder until the last year (and it's almost $30,000) puts it on the "no" list. So I see A4 wagons with the 2.8 and AWD quite a bit for under $20,000 used around here, but think that she may be a bit cramped coming from the big Sable wagon. How long has the 4-motion been available in a Passat wagon? Or maybe we need to look for A6 wagons. What am I missing out there that maybe is a crossover type SUV, the Saturn VUE? (no dealer near me though). She is not into little gimmics, just nice easy to use, simple controls. What do you all think?
  • mikenkmikenk Posts: 281
    From a size perspective, I agree that a better comparison is the Passat and the A6. Last year, we were in the market for a wagon for my wife (age 58) to replace her increasingly unreliable Volvo. The A4 was too small; the A6 was too expensive and potentially too unreliable.

    We narrowed the search to the Outback VDC and the Passat. My wife preferred the ride and feel of the Outback. She thought the Passat's ride was too jiggly for her as she put it. With your mother-in-law moving from a Sable and guessing her age, I would bet that the ride will be a big differentiator. I would strongly suggest quick side by side compares of your choices.

    Also, you will get good husbanding points for recognizing the likely importance of ride quality in her important feature list.

    BTW, I don't think you will find a new 6 cylinder AWD wagon for $24,000. I would suggest that after the drive in the H6 Outback, you suggest a test drive in the Legacy so she can see the acceleration difference (and price difference). My wife is also paranoid about getting on the freeway; I'll bet that your Mother-in-law also remembers how slow the old four bangers used to be. Modern 4's don't have that problem.

    I would suggest that you not recommend a used car. That is a losing proposition for you. The first problem with the car will be your lack of knowledge on picking cars.

    Sorry for the long post, but I feel I know your Mother-in-law. I have been living with one for a lot of years.

  • hpulley4hpulley4 Posts: 591
    Old 3.0L V6 engines got 140-150HP -- some even less. Today that is what medium sized 4's get and big ones get even more. I think most people who own 10+ year old cars will be surprised at the get up and go of 16V OHC 4-bangers. They pull around wagons just fine with the AC on and merge into the highway no problem if you remember that you need to use the high end of the RPM range with a 4-cylinder powerplant. I think some who demand 6's just think the engine should never go above 3000RPMs and should never be heard so they are surprised when they need to take a small engine up in the power band.
  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    Like I said though, you can't argue this one with her, I have tried. She was dumfounded initially that the Outback was a 4 cylinder, but once she knew it, she said no way. It also has to do with a very bad accident she had when she was 18, and she like more mass in front of her, true some small cars get high crash ratings but they run them into a barrier which simulates hitting something of equal size, not a F250. Once again not something you can argue with her. I have to pick my arguments carefully or I end up arguing everything with her! So anyway back to wagons, I did see quite a few 6 cylinder Outbacks on autotrader for under $25,000 used that looked good, but most are in NY state (what's up with that?) So that is a possibility when they start showing up more here (we do have a very high volume Subie dealer here in our town). It looks like 2000 was the first year of the V-6 4 motion Passat, and they are a little more. You can go back quite a few years with the Audi A6, but to get something 98 or newer, under $25,000, they mostly have over 50,000 miles on them. The Saturn is a v-6 with the AWD version and under $24,000 new but I hear the AWD system is not very good, Motor Trend said it spun the front quite a bit before engaging the rear, definitely not seamless like our AWD Caravan is, or my brother's WRX. I should go find some used Volvo prices, but there is no service center here. My wife's boss just bought a Cross Country and she has to drive it 250 miles for service. At least the VW/Audi has an authorized warranty service center although no dealer here.

    Personally I think torque is the more important then HP but that doesn't sell cars. HP is obviously derived mathematically from torque so they really go hand in hand. Late RPM torque is what makes for a good HP number, but I like those big, flat torque curves rather then just a peak. More displacement is where you get that kind of torque curve, or add a turbo, but once again, don't even go there!
  • dudleyrdudleyr Posts: 3,469
    Yes! In some cases even like an old v-8. 1984 Cadillac DeVille 4.1 V-8 135 hp. 1983 MB 380SEL 3.8 L v-8 155 hp (moving 3,800 lbs). 1979 Corvette 5.7 v-8 ~170hp. I even once had a '76 Volare wagon w/ 4.1 6 cyl and 110 hp.

    So how can a 4 cyl legacy/Camry/Accord/Altima etc. w/ 160 to 170 hp be underpowered. Less torque - yes, but also much lighter than the above cars.
  • hpulley4hpulley4 Posts: 591
    Actually, sometimes it is better to have the 4 than the 6 for crashes. In many modern FWD cars the V6 is really crammed in there and if the engine mounts don't break off correctly in an accident you can get footwell intrusion. 4-cylinder engines in the same cars often have an extra foot or more space behind them which means less chance the engine will go through the firewall. The engine mounts SHOULD do their job in a crash and drop the power plant right to the pavement but in offset crashes they don't always work.

    I agree that HP alone is a useless number but in a way, so is a torque number alone. Too bad more manufacturers don't publish HP/torque graphs.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    hersbird: the press killed Subaru when they saw MSRPs of $33 grand on the VDC. But shop for a Bean, they are $26k now with freight included. That's not much over her limit, and a new car carries a longer warranty.

    Even VDCs are about $29k now. 4Motions start there and go up, but they don't include stability control, which is what the VDC is all about anyway.

  • hersbirdhersbird Posts: 323
    Your guys modern -vs- old comparisions are only the very new angainst the semi-old. If you go back about 5 years and still call it new, but go back 30 years to get you old, the old will win hands down. The late 70's early 80's was when the government was really cramming down new emission laws faster then the automakers could deal with them. Today we have figured out ways to work with emissions and have entered into a new HP war. This is good in my book but feel it's only a matter of time before the government caves into to special interest and forces radical emission and feul economy standards. Then we will be right back to 1980. You can say a modern 4 cylinder compares well to a early 80's v-8 but just look at what the modern vette can do with it's 5.7 now. It's feul efficient, insanely fast, and reliable, effortless power. That's why the new GTO with that motor looks so good. Who wants a cramped, stiff 2 seater for a family? Now a good looking large sedan with modern v-8 power, that's cool. It's the same thing as the new Mercury Marauder. The Chrysler Intrepid replacement will be v-8 optioned and rear wheel drive in model year 2004 as well. I'm really excited to see all these new cars coming down the pipe. This is like 1966 all over again!
  • smangosmango Posts: 7
    I am pulling my hair out trying to decide what car to buy and am hoping some of you have advice!! I would like to find a reasonably priced car ($20K's) that is i) a wagon, ii) fun to drive with a bit of power iii) reliable iv) not too noisy. I don't think it exists. sigh..... I tried the vw jetta 1.8T manual, which i liked but i'm worried about the reliability issue. I just don't have the time for multiple trips to the shop for repairs, quite apart from the cost. The jetta had more life to it than the passat since it weighs less and has ~10 more horsepower and torque, which is why i'm leaning that way. The question is whether vw has improved reliability or whether this engine is better than you'd predict from their past history? It's curious that people i talk to who've owned vw's are all very positive but the numbers and discussions in these sorts of chat rooms are scary...... Next i tested a used, dealer-certified 1999 saab 9-5 4-cylinder turbo wagon. I liked that too but am worried about the repairs again - would they cost a fortune?Seems like saabs have fewer problems than vw and that saab owners are also pretty loyal..... At the other end of the spectrum was the suburu wrx, which was great fun to drive, all wheel drive and has great predicted reliability. I live in the mountains, so the extra power is nice in the thin air and while i don't have to have all wheel drive, we do get snow, so i wouldn't turn it down. It's only drawback is that it's a little small for cargo. I'm not sure i could manage trips to costco or packing up for a camping trip.

    Volvo was too noisy and has problems with repairs too. So, now i am stuck. I really don't want to buy an suv but am beginning to wonder if i should rethink the highlander. Or perhaps there's something else i should be thinking about??? i wish toyota made a wagon!!

    help, help! Thanks. susan.
  • jmessjmess Posts: 677
    If you want to stay in the $20-30K range then it is hard to beat the WRX wagon. The turbo and 4wd should be good for the mountains. One major fault I find with the WRX is you can't get a sunroof. I think long term the used Saab would be a risky proposition.

    If you shopped around you might be able to find a used BMW 325/323 sportwagon for under 30K. My personal choice was the Lexus IS300 SportCross but they are a little more than $30K; downsides are a smaller cargo area and you need to buy another set tires for the winter.

    Some people have good luck with the new Jettas. I think the wagon model is only built in Germany; historicaly VW owners have felt that the German assembled cars have a little better quality.

    At the end of the day it is hard to beat the bang for your buck provided by the WRX wagon.
  • Susan -

    Have you tried the Subaru Legacy GT wagon? A bit more sportier than the Outback, handles great and with the 5 speed it provides plenty of power for me without sacrificing mileage. Lots of cargo room and 2 moonroofs:



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The 2003 Legacy 2.5 GT looks even better. They're adding VTD AWD (45/55 rear bias) and shiftronic controls for the automatic. A manual will also be available.

    CR recommends every Subie, even makes them Best Best among used cars.

    Also check out the new Forester, which is sized like the Jetta, just taller.

  • allhorizonallhorizon Posts: 483

    No problem here with the tremendous value of the Legacy and some Foresters.

    However, the Passat does have ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation), EDL (Electronic Differential Lock), or ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) depending on the model. And Subaru's VDC gets poor reviews compared to other AWD systems like in the A4 or Passat 4Motion, in snow. So, while the Passat is pricey compared to Subaru's base Wagon models, I believe (and find from test-driving and experience) that it is superior when compared to the top Subaru models. Just my two cents. And personally, I have not found reliability to be different between VW and Subaru.


    The 6 cylinder AWD combination is tough in that price range. For safety and AWD, I would recommend the A4, Passat 4Motion, or Outback. Perhaps you can find a used one in your price range. I would not recommend a used A4 with auto before 98 or so. The 2000 4Motion (which I have) would perhaps be in your price range except that demand and very limited availability has increased the new and old prices in many regions, recently. Either way, you may just have to go up in price a couple of $1000.

    - D.
  • smangosmango Posts: 7
    thanks guys. I did try the wrx and i liked it a lot. The only problem was the cargo space. I really would like something a little bigger - for example, to throw my bike in the back or fill up at costco. But maybe i should check it out again. The other suburu's that i've driven seemed a bit rattley on the highway. That might be a high altitude thing, but they shook when i took them over a highway pass (my ultimate test!). And because i live in the mountains with some snow, i was hesitant to buy a rear wheel drive car. i guess i'll check out the vw's again. i did like the jetta wagon, it was great fun to drive. ANd i should probably check out the passat again too.

    jmess, why do you say " I think long term the used Saab would be a risky proposition."?

    cheers, susan.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I dunno about poor, the VDC was the only model C&D didn't crash into their snow banks. The Audi, Bimmer, and VW were all spending time in the body shop after that test.

    Some of that stuff is new on the Passat, right? Audi used to have some of it exclusively, didn't they?

    I think VW has come a long way, but still haven't quite proven themselves in terms of long-term reliability the way Subaru has, at least per CR's data.

    BTW, I saw an ad for a new VDC for $28k, and the price includes freight. It's from the same no-haggle dealer where I bought my Legacy L, so there are no hidden fees.

    Try a WRX wagon. Then maybe get a Thule box for the roof rack. A turbo would be better for that altitude.

  • jmessjmess Posts: 677
    I am not sure how things are in your area but there aren't alot of Saab dealers around and Saab cars tend to be a little different to work on. With any car like a Saab, BMW, and etc. it is going to be more expensive to fix things that are out of warranty. I find Saabs to be a little more exotic/rare than say a BMW, Audi, Lexus, or even a Volvo for that matter. Being exotic, IMHO, makes Saabs more expensive to own and impacts the resale value. You could check consumer reports to get some reliability data.

    I am also not a fan of the premiums dealers slap on used cars using the CPO label. The same guy that can't find/fix the squeak in your dash is checking out the used cars. Any good independent mechanic, that works that brand of car, could objectively evaluate a car for you at a much lower cost. You can easily purchase a 3rd party extended warranty from your lending institution or the selling dealer.

    IMHO, CPO is more of a marketing game than a real value to the consumer. CPO sounds better than "used car", "trade-in", or "lease return". Just like "Executive Demo" sounds better than "Dealer Demo". We all know that "Executives" take the time to carefully break-in their "Executive Demos" and they never lets anyone else drive the cars.
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