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Audi A4 Avant (Audi)
Audi A4 Avant (Audi)

Best of the lot

Subaru fan wants to get hitched to a wagon Add to ...

We are dedicated Subaru drivers. I have a Legacy Spec B, my wife has a Legacy GT wagon and our daughter drives a Legacy GT. The wagon is six years old, with 300,000 km, and I am thinking about replacing it. Should be a no-brainer, right? Any engineering undergraduate can tell you the horizontally opposed engine is the best of all layouts and Subaru durability and value for money cannot be beat. But the Legacy wagon is no more in North America! We do not want to drive a top-heavy short-wheelbase tank (read SUV); we want a high-performance, semi-luxury sedan with cargo room (a station wagon). I know that BMW makes a wagon, but I associate BMW with status seekers who have more money than sense. Is there anything else? Four-wheel drive is also a prerequisite. – Tony in Kingston, Ont.

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Vaughan: Ah, yes. Station wagons are so useful. What other vehicle allows you to do a Romney and drive from Boston to Grand Bend with your dog strapped to the roof? But it's not like the good old days when every car company had a wagon. I think a Buick Roadmaster would suit the Kingston scene, but they're extinct.

Cato: We get a lot of mail about station wagons, from a vocal minority: “Love my wagon, love my wagon, love my wagon.” So why is it that some 22 Canadians actually bought a station wagon last year?



Even at that, Tony can do a lot better than a Dinosaur – uh, Roadmaster. Audi, for instance, has the A4 Avant ($42,800 to start). And if it's a Subaru Tony wants – and Subaru does have the best resale value among mainstream brands, says ALG Canada – then the 2012 Subaru Legacy Outback is there at $28,995. ALG says the Outback has the best resale in its class, too.

Vaughan: The devotion to Subie displayed by Tony and his highly conformist family cannot go unnoticed.

Cato: Conformist? Subaru sold just 267,000 cars in the United States last year, and another 27,000 in Canada. This year, Subaru Canada wants to move 30,000 here and some 500,000 or so in Canada and the U.S. combined by 2018.

Vaughan: True, the automotive division of Fuji Heavy Industries is tiny for a car company. The car business is all about economies of scale and you don't get much when you're only building a touch more than 600,000 a year.

Cato: A million by 2018 is the goal.

Vaughan: But the big car companies all want to be doing eight to 10 million vehicles a year.

Cato: And your point?

Vaughan: Toyota already owns 16.8 per cent of Subaru and I'm expecting it will soon own or at least control a lot more. What I'm telling you, Tony, is that if you want a real honest-to-goodness Subaru, move fast.

2012 Audi A4 Avant

Cato: Tony, don't pull the trigger on yet another Subaru until testing the A4 wagon. I have a sawbuck that says he'll be astonished by the interior, by how much more attractive it is versus the Outback. The 200-hp turbo under the hood – an efficient four-banger – is smooth and responds like the PM to the tiniest slight.

2012 Subaru Outback

Vaughan: The Outback – billed as an SUV, but in reality nothing more than a tallish station wagon with all-wheel-drive – has a 170-hp four. As you said, Tony, it's a boxer and a good one.

But let's go in a different direction and send you out to Kingston's Princess Street to that Cadillac dealer. I think Tony should take a look at the Caddy CTS Sportwagon. A lot of manufactures are going to find their way back to station wagons in the near future, but Cadillac has one now and I like it.

Cato: Are you kidding? Tony, the Subaru devotee, is as likely to jump into an edgy Cadillac as I am to invest in RIM stock using my Palm Pilot profits. Wait, I don't have any Palm Pilot profits.

Vaughan: Then a BMW 3-Series touring wagon. I really like that car and there are so few around it's almost a collectors' item, though I'd choke on the price.

2011 Toyota Venza

Cato: The sticker is $45,700 and that includes AWD, or xDrive, as BMW calls it. Two more affordable alternatives: Honda Accord Crosstour ($36,990) or better still, the AWD Toyota Venza ($30,875). The Venza fits Tony's budget and should appeal to his reliability/resale value sensibilities.

Tony, test the Outback, the A4 Avant and the Venza. See, you can still find a nice cross-section of wagons.

Vaughan: Cato, it's the Outback.

It's close enough to a real station wagon, it's a Subie that's still a Subie and, as we enter the Romney era, there's nothing better to attach your dog cage to the top of.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2012 Toyota Venza AWD base

2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Convenience Package

2012 Audi A4 Avant Quattro 2.0T

Wheelbase (mm)

2,775

2,740

2,808

Length (mm)

4,800

4,780

4,703

Width (mm)

1,905

1,820

1,826

Track, front (mm)

1,610

1,670

1,436

Engine

2.4-litre four-cylinder

2.5-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

182/182 lb-ft

170/170 lb-ft

211/258 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed manual

Eight-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,790

1,543

1,730

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.2 city/7.2 highway

10.6 city/7.4 highway

10.0 city/7.0 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$30,875

$28,995

$42,800

Source: car manufacturers

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

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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