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The BMW 5-Series touring wagon is not available in North America. (BMW)
The BMW 5-Series touring wagon is not available in North America. (BMW)

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Family guy wants a European sport wagon Add to ...

Hi guys: Due to family expansion, my wife and I are looking to replace one of our rides. She has a 2005 Escape Hybrid and I have a 2002 Escape V-6 (guess which one we're keeping?).

After studying all kinds of options (including the oddball idea of selling both to get a Flex and a Fiat 500), we seem to be settled on the type of vehicle Europeans love and we sorely lack in Canada: the estate vehicle.

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We're not talking your run-of-the-mill Subaru wagon or ugly crossover. We are eyeing-up the Audi A4 Avant. It meets the criteria of transporting car seats and stroller while allowing me to believe I'm driving a sports car again.

The prices of the few used models on the market tell me that they're a solid resale value, too. Our Euro friends get incredible estate choices like the Audi RS6, BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz AMG63. Over here, other than the BMW 328xi Touring, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there to compare to the Audi. What few choices there are have no options when it comes to engine and transmission.

Audi is not bringing over the 2012 A6 Avant, BMW is not shipping the 535 Touring, and Volvo wagons have basically disappeared (mainly because the new owners don't know what to do with themselves). The estate seems to have so much to offer over getting another SUV like an Escape or Edge. Your thoughts? - Lee in Calgary

2011 Ford Flex

Cato: Okay, Lee, buck up. This wistful longing for European station wagons you can't buy in Canada, not to mention the joys and freedom of a long, lost time when you could drive a sports car - well, grow up, my friend. You're a family man now; you have responsibilities.

Vaughan: Maybe the roots of Lee's melancholy lie in having not one but two Ford Escapes in the family. One Ford Escape is enough for anyone.

Cato: And it seems obvious that Lee will be keeping the Escape Hybrid and that this lovely Audi Avant he's been eye-balling will be his to use as the daily driver. Or perhaps Lee's all hot and bothered because his wife plans to make him drive the Escape Hybrid and she's taking the Avant?

Lee clearly is suffering from unrequited automotive lust.

Vaughan: Cato, we can see where your mind always wanders. Lee wants an interesting and useful estate; we call them station wagons. Look at the list of his "family" cars - Audi RS6, BMW M5, and Mercedes-Benz AMG63 - all high-performance monsters you can't buy here as he dejectedly points out.

The Avant is an acceptable alternative and he should consider the BMW 328xi Touring, but neither represents the performance ideal of the family cars his "Euro" friends enjoy.

Cato: To be honest, why is the Ford Flex/Fiat 500 combo such an "oddball" idea? Look, Lee, here are the facts: North Americans in general - and that includes Canadians, too - aren't silly for station wagons. We don't live in Europe where the roads are tight, the distances relatively short and the parking is near to impossible in any of the big cities.

Lee, you of all people should be able to appreciate the differences between our cities here and those of Europe. You live in Calgary, with its view of the Rockies and its wide-open spaces.

2012 Fiat 500

Vaughan: The Avant, Cato, should he get the Avant? I say yes. It's a lovely, well-crafted family car. Nimble to drive yet solid in crash protection. After living with the duelling Escapes, this Audi wagon will feel like the sports car Lee longs to drive.

Cato: Just for argument's sake, let me throw out some numbers. The least-expensive Audi Avant in Canada is $42,800. And Audi Canada isn't doing much discounting. Lee might be able to grind down that price a little bit, but not much.

Now consider this: the least-expensive Flex lists for $29,999, but with Employee Pricing in effect, Lee can take $1,655 off that starter price. If he's a Costco member, take another $1,000 off. Then add a $1,000 discount in what I see is a factory-to-dealer sales sweetener and perhaps a few hundred more in a dealer discount.

I'm betting that if Lee is any good at deal-making, he should be able to get a Flex for something in the $26,000-$27,000 range. The base price of the Fiat 500 is $15,995. If Lee can get his Flex for $26,500 and pays full pop for the 500, that comes to $42,495 - which is less than the least-expensive Avant.

Vaughan: Long winded as he may be, Cato has done the math, Lee, and I suppose that's worth something. I say buy the Avant, however.

Cato: I say, think outside the box, Lee. Escape from your Escapes. The Flex is big enough for your growing family and the 500 will put a smile back on your face.

Audi A4 Avant

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Ford Flex SE FWD

2012 Fiat 500 Pop hatchback

2011 Audi A4 Avant 2.0T

Wheelbase (mm)

2,994

2,300

2,808

Length (mm)

5,125

3,547

4,703

Width (mm)

1,927

1,627

1,826

Height (mm)

1,726

1,520

1,436

Engine

3.5-litre V-6

1.4-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

262/248 lb-ft

101/98 lb-ft

211/258 lb-ft

Drive system

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

all-wheel drive

Transmission

six-speed automatic

five-speed manual

eight-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,027

1,072

1,730

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

12.6.7 city/8.4 highway

6.7 city/5.1 highway

10.0 city/7.0 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$29,999 *($28,344 Employee Price)

$15,995

$42,800

Source: car manufacturers



Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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