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Best AWD Performance Wagon under $40k

ccd1ccd1 Member Posts: 140
edited July 2014 in Audi
I'm searching for the best AWD performance wagon under $40k and, far as I can tell on the US market, it comes down to 3 vehicles: Volvo V50T AWD, the BMW 325ix Wagon, and the Audi A3 3.2 Quattro.

First of all, I know the A3 is classified as a hatch, but the line between a 5 door hatch, particularly one with a relatively straight roof line, and a wagon gets pretty fuzzy. Also, given the price of the A3, its competitors are wagons like the Volvo and the BMW.

I've driven the A3 and the V50. The A3, to me, is much more of a "driver's car" that has more versatility than you would associate with that kind of car. The thing is just fun to drive, has excellent cargo space for its size and has some all weather capabilities. Cars like these, for me, are a balance of performance and utility. The A3's bias is toward performance.

The V50 is fast, but not as much fun to drive. It impresses me more as a fast wagon than a sports car. The Volvo has more cargo space, and probably a much better bad weather car. The V50's bias is more towards utility.

The Bimmer can be had under $40k if you are careful with the options. I'm hoping it is a better blend of performance and function than either the A3 or the V50.

What are your thoughts? Did I omit any car I should be considering???


  • patpat Member Posts: 10,421
    Just a housekeeping note - if you want folks familiar with the vehicles which interest you to help you out, you need to enter those vehicles in the category section when you create the discussion. I've entered the three you named for you, but I just thought I'd mention this for the future. Good luck with your decision making process.
  • tazerelitazereli Member Posts: 241
    In limited form it comes with leather, sunnroof, climate control and should come dang close to being the best all around performing wagon for under 40K or even 30K for that matter. I guess the Dodge magnum R/T could be mentioned as well, but i prefer to cut my steak with a knife and not a chainsaw; if you catch my drift. The three mentioned are definately worth checking out but I'm extremely weary of European vehicles with their spotty reliability (you hear me audi/vw????). Maybe I've nothing to fear, just my own opinion.

  • ccd1ccd1 Member Posts: 140
    Tbank you for the housekeeping note and entering these vehicles in their respective forums.
  • ccd1ccd1 Member Posts: 140
    Reliability is a concern. The A3 is too new to have much reliability data in the US. However, the car has been available in Europe for several years and my lurking around various forums, including this one, has not turned up many complaints.

    Safety is another concern and the A3 got a good rating from the Insurance Institute (don't remember the exact name, but Audi is touting it at their website).

    I also caught your "drift" on the chainsaw comment. All of these cars are fairly sophisticated sport cars, not brutish hotrods. I would submit that even the WRT lacks the "polish" of the 3 cars I've mentioned.

    Perhaps the best of the bunch will be the VW R32 which is rumored to be a '07 or '08 model or the S3 which may be an '07 model in the US. Little is known about the R32, but the S3 will be released in '07 in Europe by all accounts and the talk is of a base price of $30k if it gets to the US. That could be a hot little number. But the "devil is in the details" and precious few details are available at the moment.
  • ccd1ccd1 Member Posts: 140
    There are several things not to like about the A3. Pricing is first and foremost in my mind. The car is priced right up to my "choke point." The lack of connections for Ipod, MP3 w/o the pricey navigation system is ridiculous and the lack of passenger side power seat in the premium package is just cheap. This is a car that people will do what I'm doing: thinking long and hard about the car and exploring all alternatives before making a purchase.

    The A3 is a unique blend, at least on the US market. It is a hatch, but far more sophisticated (and expensive) than other hatches on the market. Whether you think the sophistication is worth the price of admission is a personal decision. I compare it to small sports wagons, but the A3 does not make the compromises that you find in such wagons: this is a sports car with added cargo space. If you doubt this, jump from a Volvo V50T to the A3, particularly the 3.2, and the differences are readily apparent.

    Whether you think the 3.2 is worth the extra money over the 2.0T is also a personal decision. For me, it is. DSG and AWD is what distinguishes Audi for me, and I like the schizoid nature of the 3.2 between the normal drive and sports mode.

    The A3 is Audi's statement about where the balance between utility, performance and sophistication should be in the $30-40k market for this kind of car. People will surely differ on whether Audi got it right.

    For me, this car is worth the asking price to the degree that its balancing act works for me. Put high performance tires on the car and it tips too much in the direction of performance as would the S3 if it every reaches these shores. There are cheaper performance vehicles to be had. If I was into modding cars, I'd never start with an A3, I'd pick something cheaper and spend the savings on performance parts.

    The 3.2's added value comes down to whether you agree with the balance Audi has attempted to strike between the normal drive mode and the sports mode: whether you feel the 3.2 is tame enough for everyday driving, but beastly enough when you want to drive hard. For me, the two driving modes is Audi's attempt to stretch the kind of sports car that is not so "on the edge" that you would not want to drive it every day. Some would say the 3.2 which is available only with the S-line suspension is over that line. I'm not saying Audi got it right, opinions will differ.

    I'm exploring the alternatives, but each one gives me insight on the A3's balancing act: whether I would want to live with it or pay for it. In the end, I may not purchase this car, but there is nothing quite like it as far as I have seen, particularly in 3.2 trim.
  • allhorizonallhorizon Member Posts: 483
    Other options:

    - Legacy GT. Disadvantages: no manual available, pretty bad gas consumption, so-so interior, big outside but somewhat tight inside for the package. Great engine, good handling.

    - Passat 3.6 4Motion. Put a sports suspension in this one, and it should be a competitor. No manual available, as far as I know. Great engine, incredibly good gas mileage. Nice interior.
  • volvomaxvolvomax Member Posts: 5,238
    Another Volvo to consider is the V70R.
    If you are careful with the options, that car can be had for less than $40,000. Plus it is available in a manual and has very good room and cargo capability.
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Member Posts: 1,798
    This is a newbee but sounds very promising, especially if the (most likely Mitsubishi sourced) AWD works as well as promised. Its interior's not as luxurous as the Audi or Volvo, but you are paying thousands less!
    Also, like Volvo and BMW, Dodge is allowing owners to choose between all around performance, or focused driving (SRT models).

    The Audi A3 Quattro is sold _only_ with sports suspension and tires.
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    The problem with the Dodge Caliber is that it is part of the Dodge/Chrysler family. Thats a HUGE problem, especially for a first year car.... anyone remember the 95 Neons released in 94. The chances of NOT getting a lemon on the new Dodge Caliber are probably about the same as winning the lottery in California.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Member Posts: 1,798
    we'll have to wait and see. The Caliber's apparently to be built in the USA.

    But I agree, the Neon was dogsville (though its PT Cruiser variant does well in reliability studies).

    VW's not particularly good on reliability; ConSumUnion's latest survey had VW and some Audis in the cellar, along with Mercedes and some GM products.

    Does reliability matter in a performance mini-wagon?
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    Does reliability matter in a performance mini-wagon?

    I think reliability and durability always matter. The have an effect on resale value, and money matters. But mainly, even in a performance/sport car, which maybe you are just using as your weekend driver, reliability still matters!

    Well, your 0-60 MPH performance time on a car that is broken down is infinity. Even a BIG SUV with a small 4 banger can beat you!
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Member Posts: 1,798
    USA TODAY (3/3/06) reviewed it. In nutshell, coarse engine, no racy feeling, unpleasant controls, but uplevel interior, regular grade gas, and rich materials.

    I hope Edmunds will have a hot-hatch comparison soon; will be fun to see how all the players stack up.
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    Edmunds' review didn't care much for the crappy Dodge Caliber either.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Member Posts: 1,798
    Apparently the AWD Pontiac Vibe is not selling well, so says autonews. So Pontiac will discontinue the AWD version _and_ the GT version after 2006.
    These models inability to meet ultralow emissions standards for 2007 was also a factor.
    Cutoff for dealer orders is end of May, 2006. Only model to be sold from then on will be the Base version.

    Sad to see the AWD model go, though it was badly underpowered.
  • allhorizonallhorizon Member Posts: 483
    So, since several quite different cars have come up, recently, and I just happened to drive a Cobalt (not Caliber) for a week, here is a mini-review. (2.2 liter engine with ATM – not an SRT-4).

    From the outside, in real life, it does not look all that much different from the Neon, except for the higher body line and lower roof line that leave little visibility. Speaking of which, the rear window is tiny and obstructed by that huge trunk handle, so don't plan on parking this car anywhere. At any rate, the car suffers a bit from the "baby of" look, as in baby of other dodges, like the Polo compared to the GTI, or the Mazda3 compared to the 6, or the discontinued small Mercedes compared to... you get the drift. The interior looked like what to expect from the car I got: a rental.

    Steering is direct, so is handling under normal city driving. When push comes to shove, push wins and there is absolutely no support from the rear suspension. My ’93 Golf with torsion beam axle handles better under power, and even more so does the first generation Focus. I am starting to wonder how many parts they needed to (or actually did?) replace for the SRT-4.

    The engine has enough torque for everyday driving and makes the tires chirp easily in first. Driving up a mountain at moderate altitude is another story. Don't try passing another car above 60 mph going uphill, even if you have no other passengers or luggage in this car. In other words, plenty of low-end torque for everyday driving, but not much power at higher revs – reminds me of the 2.5 Jetta. Except, you would not really want any adult sit in the rear seats, in this car.

    The suspension is supple and forgiving, but allowing for somewhat above-average noise to penetrate the cabin. Reminds me of mid-to-late 80's Saturns; just a tad stiffer.

    I got 18 mpg average, largely highways at decent speed, including mountain passes. A bit much for a 4 cyl. that already had 25,000 miles on the clock.

    Sorry, but a bare-bones Focus wins over this one any day, in any category.
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    I vote my 2.0T A3 sport package in ocean blue as car of the year 2006.

    But Audi and it's dealers better watch those fit and finish issues!!!

    Most irritating (less than perfection issue) so far is the rattle coming from the back of the car. Can't locate exactly what it is yet, but its noticeably loud over bumps and vibrations. (Damn shame I didn't notice anything during test drive, or for that matter in the other 3 A3's I drove before deciding to buy.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • bristol2bristol2 Member Posts: 736
    Is there a reason you are excluding the Subaru Outback?

    With your financial requirement you would be in the top of the line model with cash to spare. Either the H6 or the I-4 engine are great and the Outback is larger than the previously mentioned WRX.
  • ronsteveronsteve LooavulMember Posts: 930
    Good question.

    Now I can see the argument that the WRX might not be big or luxurious enough for this discussion, but if the Vibe is in the mix then surely the Rex should be.

    I would definitely suggest the Outback XT, which you can get into around $30K with little difficulty, especially with a manual (tho finding them can be a trick). If a manual was easier to find, I'd probably be in one now. The power and torque numbers suggest that the 2.5 turbo H4 would have a nicer power band than the H6, which can't be had with a manual.

    Instead, I ended up getting a 2006 Volvo V70 2.5T... it's a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing and leans a bit more practical than performance, but I like it a lot. AWD was a bit easy to sacrifice here on the coast of North Carolina. I don't pine for a manual like I would with an Outback, because the Volvo turbo is so well-suited to the auto-tranny.
    2015 Acura RDX AWD / 2013 VW Jetta 2.5SE
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Member Posts: 1,798
    AWD performance wagon seekers get more choices; revamped Subaru Impreza, Saturn Vue, Saab 9-3 combi, and (possibly) the Chevrolet Equinox SS.
    Saturn's opting for Euro calibration of its suspension. The Saab is essentially an Opel in disguise.
  • theericharris1theericharris1 Member Posts: 13
    I know this is a way old thread, but I don't understand why no one mentioned the Dodge Magnum R/T. I have this vehicle (2006 Magnum R/T AWD) and I love it! MSRP for fully loaded R/T with all the goodies can be had for well under $40K. It comes stock with a 5.7L HEMI with 340HP and 390LB/FT. Most magazines had it doing 0-60 in under 6 seconds and the 1/4 in mid 14's at over 100mph. Also plenty of aftermarket to make it faster if you want.

    It shuts off 4 cyclinders to save fuel, so you will get acceptable gas mileage when not flogging it.

    I live in Colorado, where AWD vehicles are popular, and I had to drive 200 miles to find my AWD R/T. So they are hard to find, since most Magnum R/Ts tend to be RWD.

    My advise, buy used since they depreciate quite a bit, but makes a great bargain if you don't have to have new. I got my 2006 with 12000 miles a few months ago for $18,000. Has everything including Navigation/Sirius/Rear DVD.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    I'm no fan of the Dodges, however, I've always had a soft spot for the AWD Magnum RT. Great car!

  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    is that most need 4 to $5K in repair costs by the time you hit 65K miles. More expensive to maintain and repair than the worst and most expensive cars.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Member Posts: 1,798
    The reviews of VW's 4-motion version of its Tiguan have generally been very good and it easily fits into this price range.

    Still, I wonder how the Tiguan's AWD compares to the Audi A3, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester XT
  • doc_kentdoc_kent Member Posts: 2
    edited April 2010
    WHY is it so hard to find the car I want? I'm currently driving an Audi A6 Avant wagon. Bought it 2nd hand for about $25K with 40K miles on it. Now has 180K miles and I'm thinking about replacing it. I've grown to love the convenience of a wagon and I love the room and luxury of the Audi. What don't I like? MPG (about 20) and repair frequency/cost.
    I NEED AWD and a big back seat. I WANT good gas mileage and some luxury. I would not be caught dead in an SUV or "crossover."
    Are Europeans the only ones who like wagons? I see Honda will be selling a wagon next year as the Accord TSX but no AWD. BMW is unreliable. Mercedes is too expensive. I test drove a Volvo XC when I bought the Audi (I'd had 5 Volvos) but it handled like a hippo on rollerskates. The "perfect" car for me would probably be a VW Passat wagon with AWD and a turbodiesel but that doesn't exist. I'll probably end up with another used Audi A6 but why can't they build one with better gas mileage (or diesel)?? And if there were a good American station wagon with AWD and decent MPG & reliability I'd jump on it.
    Anyone know of a nice roomy AWD wagon that's not a fuel pig?
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    I think you need Audi to bring you a brand new A4 avant over again. The new A4 is quite a bit larger than the last generation. Convince them to bring back the Avant to the A4 and you'll be happy.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJMember Posts: 3,516
    Chrysler makes what you want... they just don't sell it in the U.S.

    Remember the Dodge Magnum wagon? Well, in Europe, it's the Chrysler 300 Touring (300 front clip and interior, Magnum outer body), offers AWD and a 3.0L V6 diesel (215 hp/375 lb-ft torque).

    Tell Chrysler you'll buy one tomorrow if they certify it for North America.

    kcram - Pickups/Wagons Host
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    Ummm... I don't see how you can recommend Chrysler unless you work for them or own stock in their shares.

    First, Chrysler wouldn't know luxury if it hit them upside the head.

    Second, they have never been known to qualify as even remotely reliable. If he's not liking the repair frequency and cost of his A6, he's going to be absolutely miserable with your typical Chrysler quality product (or lack thereof).

    What happened to that "lifetime" warranty by the way? LOL. Chrysler is a joke.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJMember Posts: 3,516
    Mine have been rather trouble-free for the last 14 years...

    Opinions -good and bad - exist on all automakers. Ownership is another story, though... what's the last Chrysler product you owned?

    kcram - Pickups/Wagons Host
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    I had a 1995 Dodge Neon Sport (the top trim line) was my first and last Chrysler product, at least for me and my families' and friends' lifetimes.

    I can't see any of my friends or family buying a Chrysler ever again after witnessing first hand how often they end up in the shop or tow truck hook. A typical teenage conversation with a friend of mine would go something like this:

    Friend: It's your turn to drive tonight by the way.
    Me: I would, but I can't because my head gaskets are being replaced.
    Friend: Dang, your Neon's always in the shop!
    Me: I know, it's a POS :sick: !!!
    Friend: Okay, my Prism hasn't had any issues whatsoever, I'll drive.
    Me: That's cause it's a Toyota with Geo labels on the outside.
    Friend: I got a Toyota for thousands less than a Corolla AND all I'm missing is the nameplate.
    Me: good deal!, but I can beat you in a race when my car is running!
    Friend: "When" is the key word there.

    I stuck with that car for a long long time through many repairs. I kept thinking, now that THAT is fixed, what else could go wrong? Well, something always answered me with failure when I asked that question within 4 months. I think I had it almost 6 years, but could never get it past 65,000 miles. Had to get rid of it when it required its 4th tow truck lift at that mileage of 65K.

    Chrysler did not offer to contribute to the head gaskets at 42K, the AC compressor and system at 36.1K, nor the auto tranny rebuild at 60K. Had they paid for those 3 things, I may have had a different attitude.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJMember Posts: 3,516
    So you're basing your opinion of Chrysler's 2010 offerings on a 15 year old Neon...? I had some truly bad Fords in the early 90s, but I don't base my opinions of their 2010 products on that.

    That's the same mindset of people who dismiss 2010 diesels because they had a 1979 Oldsmobile diesel. Time to look at current offerings with a bit more of an open mind.

    kcram - Pickups/Wagons Host
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    However, a Caliber is just a Neon with another name. Same flawed design and engineering.

    The same tactics and shananigans have not changed at Chrysler.

    Also, it may be a 15 year old Neon today, but it's a memory of less than 10 years old from when I last drove it.

    All I have to do is open up CR to see how Chrysler is doing, just a bunch of black dots last I looked.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJMember Posts: 3,516
    And until this year, CR had Toyota right up there with sliced bread. I never found them too credible.

    kcram - Pickups/Wagons Host
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAMember Posts: 12,424
    I've found CR to always be credible. Funny you mention Toyota. I can vouch for their flawlessness. They were the OPPOSITE of the Chrysler experience.

    Camry = NO VISITS to the shop under warranty, flawless to 100,000 miles (only routine maintenance).
    4 Runner = NO VISITS to the shop under warranty, flawless to 100,000 miles.
    Another Camry = again, no visits required to fix anything under warranty (vehicle currently only has 74,000 miles though).
    My brother's T100 was never in the shop, he'd rub it in when my Neon was (you should of got a Corolla he said).
    His Tundra after that T100 was also flawless.

    All of these Toyota's deserved a full line of all fully red dots and got them from CR. The Neon deserved a full line of all fully black dots and got them from CR. Seems pretty credible to me.
    '15 Audi S4 quattro AWD Prestige, '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD 2.0T, Wife's '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD 2.0T
  • biancarbiancar Mid-AtlanticMember Posts: 965
    Doc kent, have you considered the Subarus at all? The top of the line Outback 3.6 is very nice.

    That and the Volvo V70 were the two I most strongly considered in my recent search. I ended up going with the Volvo, but that is FWD, not AWD, so maybe not what you want. With the deals on Volvo right now, price was competitive with the Subaru.

    The car I most loved, as in immediate heart-felt lust, was the Infiniti EX35. However, prudence once again won out. If you need a large back seat, neither the EX nor the slightly larger FX will likely do it for you, but man, what a sweet, sweet ride. Absolutely loved it. It's more of a sports car with some utility than it is a utility car with some sport, though. IF I ever trade in my Z and decide I don't want a convertible as a second car any more - which will not be happening anytime soon - the EX would be a great replacement.
  • chris_norcalchris_norcal Member Posts: 5
    edited July 2010
    Manual, AWD, GPS Navagation, and "fast" wagon ( 0 to 60 MPH at under 6.5 seconds)...can these four be purchased for $40K new?

    I drive a Titan 4WD pickup, so all these should handle better than my pu? maybe even more reliable?
  • doc_kentdoc_kent Member Posts: 2
    edited July 2010
    Anyone know much about the new Cadillac CTS wagon? MPG still sucks and the price is steep, but otherwise looks OK and it's American. Maybe if the Audi A6 Avant can last another year or 2 (it only has 180K on it) I can get a used CTS wagon for an affordable price.
    Looked at the Honda Crosstour. Nice, but strange looking and not really a wagon. The Toyota Venza seems to have less cargo room than the Audi (as do all those so-called "crossovers"). Looked at the Lincoln MKZ (not a wagon but has a big trunk) and may look at the Ford Fusion--same car I think. Was kind of excited about the Buick LaCrosse AWD but read it handles like, well, a Buick.
    I don't want or need mega horsepower or neck-snapping acceleration. Perfectly happy with the wife's Toyota Solara 4-banger. And no offense to the previous poster, Chris, but a built-in Nav system strikes me as dumb. A $2000 built-in option that will be obsolete in 3 years. I'd rather spend $200 every 3 years for a new Garmin.
    So any more ideas?
This discussion has been closed.