Gentlemen: I’ve run into some headwinds locating a second vehicle for a growing family and could use some advice. I have three main requirements: 4WD/AWD, at least 200 hp, and a manual transmission. That last requirement seems to be a sticking point. Why does no one sell a stick shift any more? I’ve been eyeing the Audi A3 and BMW 3-Series Touring; however, they do not fit all of my parameters. The closest I can find would be the Subaru WRX five-door, though I believe the current model is a bit dated, and am not familiar enough with quality history. I drive a 2002 BMW 320i owned since new with 165,000 kilometres, which I can see going to 250,000; it’s been a great car. – Chris in Toronto
Vaughan: Way to go, Chris. You’ve got more than a decade on that Bimmer of yours, with more years to come. People trade too soon. If you buy a quality car, buy it brand new and look after it, you can easily expect 10 to 15 years out of it. So you’re right about that.
But you have some misconceptions, which I will graciously correct. However, Cato is huffing and puffing over there and I’d better let him burst in with some platitude before he blows a gasket.
Cato: My dear Vaughan, you’ve grown temperamental of late and it’s hard to understand why. As you say, I do most of the huffing and puffing in this partnership and there’s a reason for it: I do most of the heavy lifting. True, you jump in with the odd witticism – odd being the operative word, of course – but for the most part, you live the life of a country gentleman.
To keep you in your relaxed mode, I’ll wrap this up right now: Chris should buy the WRX. Like your wardrobe, it’s a little dull to look at, but for $33,395, Chris gets all-wheel-drive, a bulletproof build, 265 horsepower and a five-speed manual gearbox.
Case closed. Next letter.
Vaughan: The all-knowing, all-seeing Cato has spoken. Except there is more to say.
First, far too many people pay for AWD when all they really need is front-wheel-drive and good tires. Second, 200 hp doesn’t matter; it’s weight to hp that counts. Third, manual trannies are good. but so are paddle shifters.
Having said that, Chris, I must say, you astutely came up with the Subie that fills all your misplaced wishes. Yes, I’d call it dated, too, but it does hang on to its value, which means a good reputation for quality. Now if you were a “real man” like Cato, you’d go for the 305-hp STI – the one that’s like the World Rally car.
Cato: Since the late Johnny Esaw and his U.S. pal, the late Roone Arledge, moved on, we don’t get Wide World of Sports on TV, and that means no one has seen a World Rally race in 20 or 30 years. The great wash of people who care about rallying are rally drivers, navigators, their families and the people who also watched the barrel jumping and cliff diving on Wide World.
Chris, forget about spending $42,000 on an STI. You and I are both man enough to live with just the regular ol’ WRX – and maybe try barrel jumping, too.
You also mentioned the A3. Don’t think so. It’s pricey, given a new version is coming soon. Ah, but there is an Audi worth a test: the $45,100 Audi A4 allroad wagon. It does everything you want, except deliver on the manual. Drive it and you might choose to live with that eight-speed automatic, Chris.
Vaughan: Cato, see point three above. There is no manual on the allroad, but it does have that brilliant Tiptronic automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel. You can shift all you like without wearing out your aging left knee on the clutch. It cranks 211 hp, which gets you over your arbitrary threshold (see point two above), and you get the quattro that you don’t really need (see point one above).
Cato: I’m tempted to suggest the under-appreciated Infiniti EX37 wagon – 325 hp, $39,900 – but it’s not sold with a standard. Love it on many other fronts, though.
Vaughan: Not a bad suggestion and one I wouldn’t have thought of myself. It’s stylish, powerful, fun to drive, but inside it’s surprisingly tight for a “growing family.” I bet you’ll find some great deals out there because this vehicle will soon be replaced in the latest Infiniti makeover.
Cato: Okay, my last suggestion: the Mini Countryman ALL4 John Cooper Works: 208 hp, a manual six-speed, room for the growing family and AWD. The $38,500 price tag is steep, but it checks all the boxes, Chris.
Vaughan: I must say, Chris, if you choose to take my excellent advice and scrap the AWD notion, your best option is a Volkswagen Golf wagon, the diesel. I’m a Golf diesel fan (I keep my cars as long as you, Chris) and there is a TDI available, but it’s an extra 3,500 bucks – $27,025 to start for the Gold wagon diesel. I think VeeDub is getting greedy charging so much.
Cato: Nope. It’s the WRX or the Countryman. Being a German car fan, Chris might prefer the Mini.
Vaughan: They’re all good choices so drive them all.
HOW THEY COMPARE
|2013 Subaru WRX AWD hatchback||2013 Audi A4 allroad quattro 2.0T||2013 Mini Countryman ALL4 John Cooper Works|
Track, front (mm)
|2.5-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged||2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbo||1.6-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged|
|265/244 lb-ft||208/258 lb-ft||208/192 lb-ft|
|All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Five-speed manual||Eight-speed automatic||Six-speed manual|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|11.1 city/8.0 highway||NA||8.1 city/6.4 highway|
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.
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