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Help Me Select a Wagon



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    True, but there are also scores on the structure, and the Forester did better than the heavier trucks.

  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    There's a lively debate on this very subject over at the "Station Wagon vs. SUV" thread if you're interested.
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    I posted a response to your wagon question on the E-Class Wagon thread. I'm going through the same thing, and you seem like you're looking to spend around the same amount of money. You should check into the Subaru Outback VDC, the VW Passat GLX or W8, and the Saab 9-5 Sportwagons (don't be scared by the MSRP, they go for a lot less in reality).
  • revkarevka Posts: 1,750
    If you have any insights to share on the Protege5 vs. Matrix XRS vs. 2.5TS Impreza vs. PT Cruiser, please join us in this new discussion. Perhaps you can help thenebean9 make a decision.

    Thanks for your participation! ;-)

    Hatchbacks & Wagons Boards
  • tlr5tlr5 Posts: 6
    I'm in the market for a wagon and was sold on the 2003 Passat GLX AWD (@$32,000) when I found a 2000 iAt wagon with all the bells and whistles, 50,000 miles, almost perfect condition, with a 2 yr/50,000 mile warranty for $27,000. I loved that, too. Do you have any advice about what to consider as I make my choice? Any wise insights or enlightening experiences? Many thanks for your help.
  • jontyreesjontyrees Posts: 160
    I like those BMW 5-series wagons, but $27k just seems like a lot of money for a 50,000 mile car.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Question is are you ready to put up with the lower reliability of any used car. 50k is significant, at least, and you know how parts start to fail between 60-80k miles from wear and tear.

    Also, and probably a bigger factor, is that the current 5 series has a $4000 dealer incentive, since the new ones are coming soon. In the What did you Pay? threads, many folks are getting them for $2600 under invoice.

    I just did some quick math, that puts a base 525i wagon at $34 grand. IMHO, that's a much, much better value than the used car you are considering.

    Look at it this way, the seller paid just $7000 for 4 years and 50k miles of use. Bare with me, that's not what he actually paid, but you get my point, I'm comparing what a new model would cost now.

    You get the full warranty, 4 years of free maintenance even (imagine what you would spend in the next 4 years on that used one).

    Then consider you'll easily recover most of the difference when it's time to resell it, it'll be 4 years newer and have 50k fewer miles.

    The only trick is finding a lightly equipped model, Edmunds says options typically add $5 grand to the price.

    Otherwise I'd get the 4Motion, it has a nice Torsen center diffy and truly full-time AWD.

  • hesitanthesitant Posts: 17
    Help. I have a family with two teenagers, a pre-teen, and a child. I have driven a full-size van for the last 12 years and now want a smaller vehicle that has fun new features, a sun roof, a comfortable ride, is quiet inside, gets good gas mileage, has rear air conditioning control (I would also prefer dual front air control), and really fits the 6 of us. I do not want a mini-van (just tired of vans). I have been searching and comparing vehicles on this site for quite a while, but I have to go a long way before I find out if it only seats 5. For example, I just decided to consider wagons since many of the new ones are quite sporty looking. But they don't tell me right off how many they seat. Or if I ask for comparison vehicles to something like the Honda Pilot which seats 8, it puts up others that only seat 5.

    I have driven and considered the Chrysler Pacifica, Volvo S80 (actually can get 4 in the back seat), and the Acura MDX. I would like to see a Honda Pilot but can't locate one in my area, and received a message from Edmunds that local dealers would contact me, but that was a week ago and I haven't heard anything.

    I have not driven them yet, but I understand that I can get a bench front seat for the Toyota Avalon and the Dodge Intrepid. But Edmunds comments that the Avalon is pricey and I suspect that the Intrepid is not close enough to the luxury ride that I would like to come close to for an in-between price. My husband wants to consider a Ford Expedition because they are on sale in our area for about $6,000 off right now, but I haven't driven one and your site says that it drives as big as it looks. I don't want another BIG car! We've looked at vehicles priced up to $40,000, most being in the $35,000 range. However, my husband would like to stay in the $25-30,000 price range, and I suspect I may need to go with a used vehicle to hit that.

    Any comments from anyone else about the vehicles that I have mentioned, or about any wagons or other vehicles, new or used, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Volvo S80 (actually can get 4 in the back seat)

    So which kid goes without a seatbelt in this case? You need a minivan, Pacifica, or two ways about it. The rear-facing "tail-gunner" third seat offered in some wagons is really meant for smaller children, and then only occasionally. Here we have a case of having your wants trumping your needs. Take care of your needs first, and within that subset of vehicles, choose which one you want. Don't cram four kids in the back of a sedan (I don't care if it is a Volvo; that's plain unsafe; and doubling up two kids in one seatbelt is just plain dumb) just to satisfy your desire not to be seen in a minivan. As well, you'll find having a kid riding up front with you in a bench seat-equipped sedan on every single family trip will get annoying.
    A Honda Pilot, Pacifica, Odyssey, or even a Trailblazer with the optional third row seat would work. You're right when you say the Expedition is just too darned big. Although I'm a big fan of Hondas, if you can't find a Pilot and an Odyssey is out of the question for fashion or vanity reasons, then a Pacifica would be a good bet.
  • hesitanthesitant Posts: 17
    Ouch! Ok, good point, although I love the quality of the Volvo, I agree that four in the back is not the best option. That is why I am looking for other ideas. I don't know what an Odyssey is so I will check that out. One of the discussions suggested that the Trailblazer was junk, but of course, others may disagree. I understand there's supposed to be a new one so I can check that out too. I did get to see a Pilot yesterday, but they don't have one yet that I can test drive. Our local dealer has a waiting list of 8 ahead of me on a Pilot. We tried the Pacifica, but the roof heads downward at the back and the 3rd row is only fit for smaller children due to the decreased headroom. Otherwise, I would probably be driving it now. I'll keep looking for that vehicle with reasonable gas mileage and comfort for 6.

    P.S. We currently have a Ford crewcab pickup so we do the family trips with a teenager in the middle of the front bench seat.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Well, I don't have a high opinion of the Trailblazer myself, but I was trying to leave all options open. The Odyssey is the Honda minivan. It's built on the same platform as the Pilot. It'd have more than enough room for your needs, and it'd come in well under your budget, even with a top of the line model. I've driven one, and it does NOT drive like a van (especially the full-size models you're used to.) I'd highly recommend checking one out.

    ps. I realize I might have sounded a bit harsh earlier. Sorry. I really think an Odyssey would be your best option. I'm a big Volvo fan '89 Volvo 740 simply will not die. :-)
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    You might want to take a look at a used Mercedes E320 Wagon. I just test drove one this weekend that was a 1999 priced at $35K (about 42K miles on it). They hold 5 adults easily, and have a third row bench for two additional kids. Beautiful car. If we weren't still paying off my wife's car, I'd have probably bought it.
  • snmatsnmat Posts: 7
    Hi All,

    I've been test driving wagons for a while, and need to hear some opinions, pros-cons, etc. I need to upgrade in size from my 99 Honda Civic Si Coupe to something that can more comfortably accomadate my two 80-lb dogs. (I didn't have dogs when I bought the Honda...and interestingly, one dog fit fine, but as the puppy grows, two won't fit much longer). I've decided that a couple-year old car makes much more sense for me than buying new, so I've been looking at mostly used wagons.

    I've driven the Volvo XC70 (both 2000 and 2001), the Subaru Outback (both 5spd manual and LL Bean H6), and the Saab 9-5 Wagon (all three engine versions). I haven't driven the Passat and won't (I know some people love it, but I just don't). Audi's are out as well for reliability concerns.

    While the Volvo was a very nice ride, I can't justify the money for the car given it's CR reliability record. And although the value of a 5 spd Subie is good, it's just not enough fun for me to drive after my little "sports" car. That leaves the LL Bean and the 9-5 Wagon. I think they are relatively comparable in terms of cargo room, though I think the dogs may actually fit in the back of the 9-5 Wagon with the rear seat up and I don't think they'll fit in the LL Bean that way. Honestly, I like the look and drive of the Saab a bit better than the Subaru, but am worried about long-term repair costs and reliability. (My problem with the H-6 is the acceleration...don't know if it's because the torque is at the high end or what, and it also doesn't seem to shift as smoothly as other automatics. I'm also not used to driving automatics as I've never owned one). But, I like the AWD of the Subie, and they hold their value much better than Saabs, even though it seems that every other car here in Colorado is a Subie. I know Subie owners LOVE their cars, but it seems that many Saab owners do too, so who knows who to believe! :-) Oh, and when asking a mechanic which wagon he'd get....Subie. Sigh....

    Just as a side note, I did just test drive the 2004 Forester XT to see how I liked it. It's fun to drive, but I don't like the dark interior, or the Turbo gauge. I'm hoping they put that engine on the re-design of the Legacy/Outback so I'll have a good upgrade in the future!

    Any opinions/advice? Thanks!!

    Steph & her big red dogs
  • fauxpawsfauxpaws Posts: 11
    Steph, many of us have recently gone through this. It's a tough decison, but there's so much info out there compared with a few years ago, that there's hardly any excuse for buyers remorse.

    I was just out judging a two-day AKC agility trial at the Western Expo Center in Denver. Subies are as common out there as in VT. Gotta be a reason or three for that!

    Then again, look at the vehicles in the parking lot at any dog show and without a doubt, the official dog-mobile is a Dodge Grand Caravan! Cheap, car-like ride, holds lots of dogs and STUFF. Very reliable, too.

    I ended up buying the Saab 9-5 V6 wagon, which I plan on owning 10 years like all other cars I've had. Have you read the posts on the Saab 9-5 BB, specifically on wagons? Good stuff there.

    You've just gotta drive them both a couple of times, preferably set up the way you'll travel with the dogs (red...Irish?). Can you fit two crates in the back?

    You've done your homework (mechanics, CR). You can't go wrong with either, if the cars are certified and have good warranties.

    Have you had/heard good experiences with Sub/Saab dealerships in your area? Loaners?

    Frankly, if I were between 25 and 40, I'd buy the Subie. It's a super car, driven by thousand of intelligent people who've done as much homework as you. Then you've always got that carrot, dangling out there to dream about. Past 40, it's easier to justify all the little touches that make the Saab such a joy to drive every day. First test: get in both cars and **close the door.** Which makes you feel better about quality and workmanship?

    OK. I fly alot. Driving the 9-5 wagon is like being upgraded to first class on every trip. You get to your destination the same as everyone else. You just feel much better when you arrive.

    Happy hunting!

  • Im in the same boat, but ive always been wary of saabs. Actually, my Lab would create an aesthetic challenge to any Audi, Saab, Volvo or even a nicely equipped Passat. She rides in the trunk of my wife's A6, with one of the rear seats folded forward!
    If you buy well used, you can unload any car in a month or ten years without the anxiety of buying new and dealing with the instant depreciation.

    Subaru is coming out with the next generation Outback and Legacy.They're available in Asia now Europe in the fall and here next spring. They are slightly bigger, roomier, with much more powerful engines available, and they will probably be a few thousand $$ more than current models. Check out the future models boards at Subaru.

    Depending on how big your dogs are, taller wagons make things a lot easier.
  • ptrekkerptrekker Posts: 51
    The only two negatives of the Subaru versus the Saab are:

    1. No pickup. I imagine that the Saab would slay it in a 0-60 test.
    2. Gas mileage. I get about 17-21 MPG in local, hilly traffic; 27-28 on an extended highway trip. I also imagine that the Saab would do better here too.

    Otherwise, roomy, comfortable and reasonably priced.
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    I'm currently making this decision as well (also considering a used MB E320 Wagon). I'm really torn, but haven't driven the VDC or the Saab yet. The reliability of the 9-5 seems to be better than any Saab ever made, so that isn't as much of a "pro" for the Subaru as it might have been a few years ago. I am, however, concerned about how much turbocharging Saab uses, and its effect over the long haul on the engine.

    AFA passive safety goes, the Subaru is a safe car, but there may not be a better crash-tested car out there than the 2002-2003 Saab 9-5.

    Pricewise you can get a new Bean/VDC for what you would spend on a 2 year old Saab, so that's a bonus for the Subaru.

    The biggest question you have to answer for yourself is what you want from your wagon. The Saab is more of a road machine, while the Subaru gives you an extra dimension of "go anywhere" capability. I know that the Bean/VDC probably rides and performs pretty well, and that the Saab has ESP and TCS to handle adverse weather conditions, but that's the basic distinction between the two. If you live in the snowbelt, or like to go off road a lot, I'd go with the Subaru. If you strictly want to stay on pavement, for everything but 6+ inches of snow, I'd go with the Saab.

    Maybe someday I'll be able to answer that question for myself.
  • rob999rob999 Posts: 233
    ....and although I like both cars a lot the Saab would be my first choice.
    Granted, I have a base Outback and not a 6 cylinder version, but I have looked carefully at the LL Beans and VDC. These are nice cars, too, and would be a good choice. But in terms of overall comfort and driving fun, the Saab 9-5 wagon does it for me.

    We have a 2002 Saab 9-5 Linear (base model) wagon but even with the least powerful engine that Saab offers I have never found it lacking. I've driven over a good number of the largest mountain passes in Colorado and have been amazed at the power this car has in accelerating up long uphill grades. The turbo helps deliver the horses even at 10,000+ feet. On downhill grades it's easy to hit 95 mph without even knowing it - the car is extremely stable at high speeds. Road trip gas mileage is very good, too. I average about 30 mpg on the expressway at 75-80. Our best mileage was 35 mpg on a trip between Vail and Ouray with a mix of express and 2-lane driving. On several occassions I've spent 18-hour days driving this car and have found it to be about as comfortable a car as you could want.

    Reliablity of our Saab has been very good so far. If you are looking at used Saabs, you might skip the 1999 model year (no offense to any owners) as it was the intro year, and not rated very well by CR. The 9-5 has been continually improved over the years and according to some consumer organizations is one of the most reliable European cars.

    My sister drives her 9-5 Arc in West Michigan during the winter, which gets considerable amounts of lake-effect snow. She's been been quite happy with the traction that her OEM tires deliver and says the car pulls right though heavy drifts. If you are considering a 9-5 Aero wagon, you will probably need to consider snow tires as the sport tires on the Aero are not recommended for snow use.

    That's just my $.02, though. You'll need to get out and do some test driving on your own.
  • I, too own both - 2000 Outback wagon and 2002 Saab Linear, both with manual trannies. I love the Saab - it's my second one. It is a far better road machine, slightly roomier, and has a killer sound system. Safety is key, and the Saab is unsurpassed. I bought the Subie used for my kids - highly rated for safety also. We're active skiers, and the Subie with awd is probably better in treacherous driving. Get snow tires for the Saab - the regular M + S rated ones are ok, but snows make all the difference in the world. The Subie is underpowered (it's the 4) which is ideal with younger drivers. There has been criticism of the Subie manual transmission, but I've had no problems. I have had nothing go wrong with the Saab in 25,000 miles. My wife likes the Subaru much better, which is fine with me! Drive both, and find which one suits your personality. Donn
  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    thanks for that info, that helps me a lot as well
  • snmatsnmat Posts: 7
    Thanks everyone for all the input!! I was actually a bit surprised to find out that there are folks who have both Saabs and Subies. That insight definitely helps.

    I brought a crate with me to test drive the Subaru (but it was a standard collapsible-- 28 in high...not a skinny travel one...oh, and I have Rhodesian Ridgebacks...reddish wheaten....and though I didn't, I wanted to name my new pup Clifford with an AKC name of Windy Ridge's Big Red Dog)...anyway...the crate fit, though two of that size would have to be turned sideways and be side entry, or would have to be the skinny ones (distance between the wheel wells in the Subie, in case you're interested, is 42 in....only 40 in the Saab, both are about 32-33 in high inside). Since I'd likely crate only for long road trips, which don't happen too often, am I crazy to take my dogs to the dealer and ask if I can see if they fit?

    What I'd really like to do, but can't figure out how, is to drive them back-to-back just to cement what I like and dislike about each (without time, or my own car interfering with my memory!), but the Subie and Saab places are a distance from each other. Suggestions?

    Oh, and price-wise, surprisingly enough, a 2000 Saab 4-cylinder is about the same, if not a little less than the 2001 LL Bean Subie. (I've been looking for a 2001-2 Saab, but can only find Aeros, which are obviously more expensive.)
  • ffsteveffsteve Posts: 243
    I haven't even ridden as a passenger in a Saab in years, but remember the smart acceleration and the positive comments of its driver. At the time, the car had 175k miles and appeared to give good service. So can't make any direct comparison.

    But today I have owned a 2001 Bean for 2 years, and have about 30k miles on it. I've found it to be a very good car, and enjoy the driving experience very much. OK, it does appear reluctant to pick up off the line, but once the engine is up to speed it performs very nicely climbing on-ramps to the freeway. It WILL move quickly, and the engine pulls strongly from 3500-4000 revs and up.

    I don't have dogs, but load it with camping gear quite often, it has lots of room and is quite a bit of fun driving on the local mountain roads leading to the California deserts.

    At 30k I've only had to resurface the front brakes and replace pads, and my only complaint is a slight whine above 70mph.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I like the 9-5 a lot, but...Colorado? AWD vs. FWD? I prefer AWD and I don't get half the snow you get.

    If you can wait 'til next year the 2005 Legacy will have a turbo option, imagine that Forester XT with more space and a nicer interior. That's your ideal car, coming from an Si.

  • snmatsnmat Posts: 7
    for the input. :-) Unfortunately, I can't wait too much longer. My 5 month old puppy is already at 57 lbs and will likely be about 90 when he's done growing. The dogs are fighting for space as it is right now! I am, however, dropping hints to my mom about the "redesign" option. I need to get her into something slightly larger than her Mazda MX-3 V6 without losing that fun drive. ;-)

    And juice, although AWD is apparently nice, I've never had it, and only rarely felt that I NEEDED it. And FWD gets better gas mileage!

    All of that being said, however, the practical side of me is leaning toward the Subie. I'll be test driving (again) this afternoon, and making some decisions!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Get your mom into an XT, those are a hoot. Good luck shopping.

  • ace1000ace1000 Posts: 151
    Hesitant - You didn't mention other possible requirements, such as how much cargo you need to carry with your family of six or how many years before the teenagers begin to leave home. Wagons with a third seat may not have enough room for cargo, or you may exceed the weight limit for a six-passenger vehicle or wagon and create a safety hazard. Also, you may just stick with a van until the teenagers leave home and then get a different type of vehicle that is more fun and economical.

    A used six-passenger Toyota Avalon may give you the passenger room and cargo space you need at a reasonable price and be more economical, reliable, and safer than some of the alternatives you are considering. The biggest problem with the Avalon may be that it is rated to carry only 900 pounds, which a family of six with cargo could easily exceed.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Well, it's been about a week, and you've posted your same question in about 10 forums...have you had any luck finding what you need?
  • sebberrysebberry Posts: 148
    know about mixing a turbo and 6 inches of snow.

    And as for safety, the IIHS has rated the Saab and Subaru virtually the same.

    If you prefer a more sporty feel, the Legacy might be the way to go. I have not driven a Legacy GT (or a Saab), but with sport tuned suspension, it will feel more like the Saab than the Outback does. And it still offers the same great AWD system.

    Just a side note, In my LLBean, I have managed to achive speeds of 100 miles an hour going uphill at 5,000 feet, so power shouldn't be a problem for you.
  • snmatsnmat Posts: 7
    the Saab. I figured it out when I went to the Subaru dealer to pick which LL Bean I wanted (they had 3 used ones from which to choose), and I just couldn't get excited about any of them. To top it off, the next afternoon, the nice Saab salesperson let me test drive the Wagon with my dogs in it, AND helped me load a crate in it afterward and measure if a second one could fit.

    I was hoping to find a 2001 base or V6 model, but there are just not many around. I've found two 2000 9-5 Wagons with 30,000 miles on them, and although they are both AT, the sport mode makes them relatively fun to drive. Now I just have to decide between the two -- one's a Gary Fisher with sport wheels, but it comes with snow tires...biggest downside -- it's black; the other is deep blue (love it), but doesn't have all the "extras" of the Gary Fisher. Probably can't make a bad choice there.

    Thanks everyone for your opinions and insight.

    Oh, and sebbery, the Saab has TCS and a "winter" mode that starts the AT off in a lower gear...apparently it work pretty well in the snow. Granted, it is not 7.8 in of ground clearance and AWD, but my understanding is that it does a decent job in mild-moderate winter weather. The cars are, after all, Swedish. ;-)

    I posted this link on the 9-5 board, but I'll post it here as well. fauxpaws, here's one of my "big red dogs". No best in show jokes please. :-)

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Congratulations. Buy what feels right, you did just that. Enjoy it.

  • ncvolncvol Posts: 196
    Good luck with it.
  • revkarevka Posts: 1,750
    I thought some of you might be interested in checking out Edmunds' First Drive review of the 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback. Also, come share your thoughts, and see what others have to say, in our Mitsubishi Lancer Wagon discussion. Thanks for your participation!

    Hatchbacks & Wagons Boards
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    "Look at me, I'm a Volvo 850! No, really...come back here, guys!"
  • revkarevka Posts: 1,750
    Hi Lancerfixer- Not many people around here have been paying attention to new Mitsubishi Lancer wagon, so it took me by surprise to see the good comments from Edmunds First Drive of the Lancer Sportback (Ralliart version): "Its improved ride and handling make it a wagon worth driving."

    Of course, this (First Drive) is just their initial impression. Things may change with their Full Road Test, which will give a more thorough review.

    PS: Now that I've written this message, I've finally understood your post/joke, LOL. This late in the evening/morning, I'm a little slow. ;-)

    Hatchbacks & Wagons Boards
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Yeah, you've kinda got to look at the back end of the car for that one...
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The front styling doesn't seem to match with the rear. Oh well, at least it's nice and square, cargo space should be good.

  • hesitanthesitant Posts: 17
    I have looked at quite a few vehicles and narrowed down what some of the features are that I really care about. Some of those features have narrowed my choices.

    For example, I really want dual zone air up front. I hate it when my husband freezes me out or burns me up when he is driving and controls the air. Not too many vehicles have that. I found that the Buick Rendezvous has most all the features I want (comfortable seating for 6, luxury features, sunroof, good gas mileage, good suspension for a comfortable ride), but will have bad depreciation. I'm not too sure what I think of it's looks either. But that would probably grow on me. I did post a new note under the Buick Rendezvous category.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Prices are down on those, you can work a deal. Or get a slightly used one, then add an extended warranty.

  • lstar1lstar1 Posts: 5
    Help! What am I missing?? I'm having lots of trouble finding a wagon to fit my criteria. Specifically:

    (a) Midsize (not compact) wagon.
    (b) Manual transmission.
    (c) Cost not greater than $25-26K.
    (d) Attractive looking (and more for sporty purposes than for family use).

    If I were still a "young adult" I'd just pick up a Protege5, Subaru Impreza/WRX or similar compact wagon, but I'm looking for something a little bigger. It sure doesn't seem like finding a car to meet these specs would be all the hard, but I'm having a tough time with it:

    Audi / BMW: too $$
    Mazda Protege5, Toyota Matrix, VW Jetta, etc: too small
    Volvo V40: not manual transmission
    Volkswagen Passat: not manual transmission (though I don't know what "shiftable" really means)

    What's left? Subaru Legacy & Outback?

    I like the looks of the Mazda 6 Wagon, especially if equipped with the manual transmission and the more powerful engine, but it won't be out until sometime in 2004.

    Can someone point me in the right direction?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Test drive a Subaru Forester 2.5XT, that's the turbo. 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, per C&D. It's a little bigger than the WRX, quicker, just not as sporty handling.

    The Legacy only comes with the 2.5l engine, for now. The H6 is rumored to come soon, we're not sure when; they are waiting to sort out a 5 speed manual to go with it. That would be the ticket for you.

    Or, if you can wait, the 2005 Legacy will be very sporty, lighter (more aluminum) and offer two turbocharged engines, a 2.5T with 250-280hp and a twin turbo H6 with 350hp to go M3 hunting. The latter will be out of your price range, but the 2.5T should be close.

    The Outback H6 only comes with automatic, but if you like those you can now find cloth H6 models for $23-24k, LL Beans for $26k (leather/double moonroof). But...Outbacks have long travel suspensions, and the H6 is tuned for quiet/luxury, not sportiness.

    The Mazda 6 is just about my favorite FWD sedan in that class, but it does still have torque steer and no AWD option. The wagon sure looks nice, I love the way the seats are spring loaded and fold down.

    You could get a Passat 1.8T and chip it, but that's still FWD. Audi A4 quattros are nice, but small.

    You're right - there is a bit of a hole in the market. Someone should fill it!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Get a Forester XT, 18" rims and tires, Whiteline adjustable sway bars (matching set). You could do that within your budget.

  • rob999rob999 Posts: 233
    If you are biased toward the MT (like me) that pares it down quite a bit. Here's the ones that I know of that fall within your specs, if you don't want to wait for the Mazda6:

    - Passat wagons are indeed available with the standard MT, although you might have to search hard for one.

    - Legacy/Outbacks have the MT in the 4 cylinder versions: Legacy SE, OB base and Limited

    - Saab Linear - disregard sticker price, 2002's have significant discounts right now - maybe you can wheel and deal a bit more and get within your price range, especially if you want one with a MT.

  • lstar1lstar1 Posts: 5
    Thanks to all of you for your feedback. My oversight about the Passat; seems it DOES come in the manual transmission. Not quite as fond of it's styling, but worth having a look.

    I forgot to include the Forester XT. I did drive one last week and really liked it. I was quoted a price just shy of $24K. My only hesitation is that it gets pretty poor gas mileage (I've heard it's not much above 20 mpg). The 0-to-60-in-5.3 performance certainly grabs your attention, but I'd prefer adding a couple seconds to that time as a tradeoff for better gas mileage.

    I guess it's like life - nothing's perfect...
  • lstar1lstar1 Posts: 5
    ... by the way, the 2002 Saab Linear is a wagon, or a hatchback? And is that the 9-3 or the 9-5. I've looked at the 9-5 wagon, but it's out of my price range. Thanks.
  • rob999rob999 Posts: 233
    I was referring to the 9-5 Linear Wagon, with MT.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Your actual mileage will depend a lot on your driving habits. Some XT owners get 18.5mpg, others get 23 mpg. These are on green engines, they should improve with time.

    The VW 1.8T, Subaru 2.5T, Subaru H6, and Saab all recommend premium fuel, which may be another consideration. Only the Legacy and Outback 2.5l do not.

    Go drive a Legacy 2.5GT, see if it has enough umph for your needs. If so, it meets all your criteria.

  • buddhabmanbuddhabman Posts: 252
    I second the Legacy GT wagon for the 25-26K range. We have a 99 Legacy GT wagon. It has the same room as Audi and Passat and Volvo. You can get it in manual. It's not the quickest but has good handles and brakes. Handling wise it is in the same league as Audi, BMW, Saab, plus it can be vastly improved for cheap. Larger Adj rear sway bar($125) to scale back understeer in corners, plus stainless steel braided brake lines($125), all for under 300 installed make this a great sleeper sport driver. If you add STi brakes($900)and suspension ($1300) you can handle canyons with the best cars out there. There are options like Stoptech Brakes or more expnsive AP Alcon, DMS Coil-overs. The Leagcy is a real sleeper.

    I like the Volvo S40, but it is not as sporty as it could be. Volvo might be fixing that in the 2004 model. I am surprised that they didn't make this a sport model as they race this in BTCC- Brittish Touring Car Championships. Parts to make this better can be found but not cheap.

    You might also look at the Ford Focus wagon and the new Mitsuibishi Lancer wagon. There are probably nice parts for those. But the Legacy GT is probably going to be the best drivers car for the money.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The Lancer Ralliart is a bit small, but at least they finally put some decent power in the Lancer.

    Focus wagon offers incredible space for its size, but reliability is a question mark.

    Too bad they don't make an SVT wagon, LOL.

  • bgabel1260bgabel1260 Posts: 135
    Third confirmation on the Legacy GT. It hits on all of your 4 points and adds another: full-time AWD! Definitely test drive one (2003s are eligible for combined cash rebates and low APR).
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587 has one for $23,458 with automatic. Heated leather and a dual moonroof are standard items, so are 16" alloys, AWD, ABS, CD, etc. That price includes freight, too.

This discussion has been closed.