Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mid Week Match-Up: SWM Seeks Fun Car To Drive & Own

Today's Mid Week Match-Up comes to us from  Evan in Pendleton, OR who is seeking a car that is both fun to drive and fun to OWN.  From Evan:
My current stable includes a black 2012 Toyota Sienna XLE and a white 1989 Saab 900 Turbo convertible. Polar opposites in terms of purpose, driving dynamics and reliability. Although the Sienna can hustle when pushed. :) I’m looking for something in between.  I live in a small town in the middle of nowhere. So whatever I get has to be generally reliable except for basics I can do myself.

I value handling over straight line speed. If it’s as fast as my Sienna to cruising speed, that’s just fine.
It would be nice if I could throw a bike in it, even if I have to take the wheels off. It would be nice if it’s not a handful in rain and snow like my old 323 Baur. Regular unleaded.
Three pedals preferred, but will settle for two (big fan of the Lexus IS300 Sportcross).
I’ve owned my share of cars that were fun to drive: Alfa Romeo Milano, Ford Contour SVT, Acura Legend Coupe, two Saabs I’ve owned a succession of three Toyota minivans that were fun to own: a Previa All-Trac and two Siennas. Would prefer to stay under $10k, the less the better.
Considerations thus far include but are not limited to:
Lexus IS300 Sportcross, Infiniti G35 sedan, Saab 9-2x Aero, Pretty much any other Saab with a stick (may not meet reliability criteria though), Jetta wagon, Mazdaspeed 6,Volvo 850 and V70 wagon, Legacy GT wagon, BMW wagons, Ford Contour SVT w/3L swap,
I’ve driven a Mini Cooper S and was unimpressed.
So want a 540i but worried about cost to own. Same goes for a C43 AMG.
What am I missing?
Unfortunately, in this particular case, Miata is not the answer.

If you ask me for an opinion, I'm going to suggestion Evan takes a close look at the 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32, like this one bidding here on eBay for $10,500 reserve-not-met with $11,995 buy-it-now located in Whitefish, MT.  These are great little cars equipped with a 6-speed manual gearbox, a nice 3.2 liter VR6 engine, all-wheel-drive, and decent German build quality.

What do you recommend for Evan?  Comments below.  Want to be the subject of a future Mid Week Match-Up? Send us an e-mail with your vehicular requirements to


  1. I see you have the Saab 9-2x on there. That would be my vote--in the Aero (WRX) trim. I had 2002 WRX hatch/wagon for a few years and was very impressed with reliability, performance, and practicality.

    I have not owned a Legacy GT, but the consensus around here seems to be that they are quite unreliable.

    I agree on being wary of the 540i, but you could consider a 530i or even an E46 Touring (fairly common in AWD).

    1. I owned a 2005 Legacy GT. Great car, but I agree on the reliability, at least in my experience. I burned a valve, and later and at the end it was burning through 1qt every 300 miles.

  2. What about a Subaru STi or Mitsu EVO? Get one with higher miles and you can meet the price requirements.

  3. You've just about listed all the fun modern sedans for around that price range. You can get a manual gearbox on some of the late Mercedes models like the W202/204 C-Class. What about an Acura Legend or Honda Accord with 6-speed manual. Those are around.
    -JJ Mc

  4. 1: Go test drive a TL-S or CL-S manual.
    2: C43's are plenty reliable. Waaay more reliable than VW's and Subarus i've owned. A lot of 80's mercedes carried over into that car (which is good).
    3: Miata is always the answer. I keep trying not to buy them and I can't.

  5. What about a Mazda 5 mini van ? Must be cheap since they quit making them or importing them lol zOOM Zoom..


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