By on March 15, 2016

2013 Subaru BRZ. Photo courtesy Subaru.

Conner (Conner? Is that a real name?) writes:

Hey Bark,

Twenty-three-year-old car buying millennial here.

I recently got my first big boy job that pays big boy money. But because I’m definitely not a big boy yet and have nearly no responsibilities other than making rent, I’m going to spend it on silly things like cars and candy. (Effing bravo! –Bark). 

I bought my first car three years ago, and I’m possibly the only person to win German luxobarge reliability roulette with an ’03 Audi allroad 2.7TT. (Brown: Check. Wagon: Check. Sorry B&B, not a manual diesel.) It has yet to lunch a turbo, and I’ve learned a lot by fixing the little things that have come up. I love this machine and will be keeping it as my dedicated AWD winter wagon/shit hauler/adventuremobile in addition to whatever I get next.

However, the winter-limo is neither the most fun nor most practical thing to scoot around my central Idaho ski town during the non-winter months. So, I’m looking for something much more fun and slightly more economical to become its stablemate.

My budget is around $17,000, with $20,000 on the higher end. I think that I would prefer a hot(-ish) hatchback of some kind where I can row my own, but am open to pretty much any and all suggestions. The Audi has spoiled me in terms of comfy seats, a quiet cabin, and a good stereo. Stuff like this would be certainly appreciated in whatever comes next. New or used is fine, and I have no allegiances or aversions to particular brands. American, German, Japanese, whatever.

The shortlist I’ve got so far goes something like this:

  • Fiesta ST (frontrunner)
  • Focus ST (bigger than I need)
  • Mk. VI GTI (VW sucks for cheating, but this is still a good car)
  • S2000 (I’ve just always thought these were cool for whatever reason)
  • WRX Hatch (least favorite, but it checks nearly every box)

I know that this list is likely missing a number of great candidates, so please help me either expand or narrow my search! As mentioned, I live in central Idaho, but would have no problem traveling just about anywhere in the northwest for the right car.

Many thanks in advance!

 

Oh, Conner. You’re just so Millennial-ish! You might not realize this, but us Gen Xers used to be young, too. When I was your age, my choices were not anywhere near as good as what you have available to you today. When I was 23, I bought a freaking Hyundai Tiburon with 140 horsepower — and my friends were completely jealous because I had a new car. I paid $13,000 for it. Oh, those were the days.

Where were we? Oh, yes, I was saying that it’s unbelievable how far we’ve come in the last 15 years. It truly is a golden age for cheap, safe speed. Also, get off my lawn. Seriously. I just had TruGreen out to treat it.

I know that you aren’t going to drive this car much in the winter, so I don’t think the driveability of the car in the cold is a huge deal. That’s good, because all of the cars you mentioned are downright awful in the snow without an investment in winter wheels and tires. Having the Audi around will save you money and frustration, and it will keep the snow and salt off of your new toy.

I’m going to address your list from least preferred to most, and then we’ll talk about some additional ideas.

The newest S2000s are nearly a decade old now, and even in their primes, they are just not that great to drive on a daily basis. I have more S2000 seat time than most, and I wouldn’t recommend having one as a daily, even if you don’t have to drive it in the snow. I would imagine that a lot of the S2000s in your price range have been driven hard and put away wet, so get ready to get intimately acquainted with the differentials and axles if you decide to get one. Bark doesn’t recommend an S2000 for anybody who is not intending to use it as a dedicated track/autocross toy.

WRX Hatch checks all the boxes, I agree — except for the box of you actually liking it. For that reason alone, you should remove it from your list. If it doesn’t light you on fire, then why on Earth would you spend your money on it? Just because the Internet says it’s neat? Bah. Next.

This hurts me to say this, but the Fiesta ST doesn’t check any of the boxes you mentioned. Comfy seats? Not really. Quiet cabin? No. Good stereo? No. The FiST is about as close as you can get to the E30 M3 in a modern car, which is a great thing until you need to drive it every day. The suspension is mega-stiff, the brake pads wear very quickly (and are hard to source come replacement time), and you can’t put adults in the back seat for any length of time. While I love mine, I don’t think it’s the right car for you.

The Focus is a little more refined than the Fiesta. And while you might think it’s too large now, the first time that you have to take some friends somewhere, you might be glad that you have the extra space. It’s less bumpy and had a slightly better stereo, but the seats are still not super comfortable. I’m 5’9″ and 170-175 pounds, and I don’t fit in the FoST Recaros very well. You’re probably super fit and trendy and what not, so maybe that’s not a concern for you, but I wouldn’t want to drive it every day.

Which leaves us with the GTI. I find it amusing (in a good way) that you have a negative opinion of Volkswagen as a company for “cheating.” Personally, I don’t give a fuck if their cars pollute the environment, but I realize that people of your generation are programmed to look for micro-aggressions and triggers and whatnot, so you have to consider whether or not your Idaho ski town buds would leave nasty notes on your windshield, accusing you of being a dirty carbon-fouler, blah, blah, blah. I doubt if any of them truly understand the nature of the “cheating,” or how many cars other than VW are actually cheating cold-start tests and the like as we speak, but if it keeps some hot snowbunny from putting your legs over your shoulders in the back seat … well, we don’t want that. If I were the one making the buying decision, I’d go GTI. But, I think I have a better idea.

There’s a brand that’s so popular in the Pacific Northwest that if one were to live there full time, you’d think that it actually had a non-trivial share of the automotive market. Of course, I’m talking about Subaru. I know that you don’t care for the WRX hatch, but why not consider a BRZ? They’re in your price range, they’re attractive, and they really do check every box that you have. If you want to get into a little bit of modding, there are oodles of forums that will help you turn your BRZ into a rip-snorting mountain road scalpel. The ladies will dig it. You’ll have fun driving it. It’s a win-win.

Go find a lightly-used BRZ, save some loot for some power and suspension upgrades, and you’ll be the happiest millennial this side of Justin Bieber. Christ, I’m old.

Please make sure to drink your Ovaltine, and also to email your questions to Bark at [email protected] He also dispenses wisdom 140 characters at a time on Twitter, and he takes terrible quality photographs on Instagram.

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119 Comments on “Ask Bark: Hi, I’m A Millennial Who Likes Cars!...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    I’d say Fiesta ST, or if you can find an S2000 that hasn’t been sh!t all over by an idiot owner you might go that way. Not my cup of tea but I can see why one would find it appealing.

    “Comfy seats? Not really.”

    seat comfort is one of those things you can’t evaluate on behalf of another person. I’ve been in several cars with supposedly “awesome” seats and they set my tailbone screaming within about 45 minutes. it’s one reason I traded away my Mustang; it was a fun car but it was physically painful for me to drive long distances.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Focus ST more luxurious than that list?

  • avatar
    Driver8

    If you’re getting a second car, and the first one is already a wagon (doubleplus good, btw), the answer is Miata, or at least another impractical two seater ‘vert, not a hot-hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Absolutely agree. If you have the practical wagon, no need to compromise on the hatch. Get the pure 2 seater sports car.

      • 0 avatar
        Wagoon2.7TT

        OP here. I noted this below, but the main reason for hatch consideration is that it would be nice to have something semipractical for if(when) the allroad gobbles up some hilariously expensive parts. If I had more confidence in the Audi I would go dedicated sportscar all the way, but its known issues give me pause.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          If you happen to have an issue with the wagon, the Miata can still function pretty well as a DD. There are a few compromises that you have to make when DAINGERFIELD one, but sacrificing so much driving fun on your fun car is pretty pointless. Whatever function you will need the wagon for will likely wait until you fix it. If you are that worried by the wagon, trade it for something more reliable like a matrix that will serve the same function.

        • 0 avatar
          vlangs

          Don’t be dumb, join your C5 brothers on the audizine and get some big ole’ turbos for your allroad and learn to love it.

          http://www.frankenturbo.com/new/F21BT.html

          if you really feel compelled.

          You know you want to.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Worked for me!

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I’m surprised Bark didn’t mention the Mazda Miata. One of them should check every box. Any time you need something bigger, you have the Audi. To me, a BRZ/FRS is the coupe version of the Miata that Mazda never got around to building.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Of course the answer is Miata. He already has a winter/bad weather/hauling stuff around car. He needs something fun for under $20k. Hence a Miata. Sorry about the quiet cabin request but top down driving may be its own reward.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        What always bothers me with the Miata answer is that people seem to completely ignore the fact that there are originals out there. Why not try out a Lotus or MG? Something honest, real, and vintage. He wouldn’t need to spend his full estimate of greenbacks, and I think there’s a lot of potential fun in these choices. Also, having whole winters to twist out their troubles is just about right.

        • 0 avatar
          Mark_Miata

          The reason is simple. If you want to work on a car, get an old British roadster. If you want to drive a car, get a Miata. I owned British roadsters of various types for more than twenty years. Once I got my Miata I swore I would never go back.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Exactly. He wants a car that he can drive.

            The Miata is a British sports car, made better. Unless you can get a unicorn like a Triumph Stag with the required upgrades, or a Sunbeam Tiger. And both of those are far outside of the stated budget.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            You’re missing out on the fun of having your friends over for a couple of beers to work on your car. Well mostly we just bs.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          Why not? Because at any comparable condition, a Miata will be cheaper to buy, require far less maintenance and repairs (for which parts will be more readily available and cheaper), will run for many more miles, use less fuel, and in the case of MGs and Triumphs, will run away and hide on any road, straight or curvy.

          In 2007 I drove maybe a thousand miles through the Swiss Alps in a nicely-sorted ’73 Spitfire, and while it was fun and charming in a nostalgic way, and definitely offered thrills at accessible speeds, part of those thrills lay in the fact that the unassisted brakes are somewhat terrifying, the unassisted steering a workout at low speeds, the cornering grip lower than what you’d expect, and the handling less predictable. Older Miatas are by no means rockets (newer ones are pretty brisk, though), but they’re still on a different performance planet compared to a vintage British roadster.

          For me personally, that’s not what I look for in a car that I’m going to drive on a regular basis. Add in the fact that the Miata doesn’t require you to fiddle with the choke on every cold start and lets you drop the top in 20 seconds without leaving the driver’s seat, and for me it’s not a tough decision.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            Ok, you guys make a compelling argument. I’m not particularly fond of all the fixing that follows old cars, but servoless and thus, direct (!) mechanical steering, the lightness of these machines, the smells and looks of it – this is really hard to let go. Yes, bad brakes can be upgraded, but it’s all work and money.

            On the other hand, opposite of the entire English speaking internet population of the global car web, I have never driven a Miata. So I’m lacking in that end.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            You can get older Miatas without power steering, and newer ones can be “depowered” by removing the PSČ components from the rack and looping the pump.

        • 0 avatar
          robc123

          this is a not realistic suggestion, having owned a ’70 split bumper mgb. They are fun but terrible,expensive and rusty with tons of small issues.Google the shocks and you can see the 1930’s design. Its all around garbage- don’t give me i can do the repairs myself- its the parts that cost because of the number needed. Paint,re-chromeing, massive body work all super expensive relativeto a max resale value.

          second, the lotus- again nothing good sub $40k (warping, bubbling, crazing, mechanical, rust on shock towers, bits missing) and even then, the chassis is considered a wear item. Best way to go with this, is full new, spyderco chassis, and brand new body- basically build a new car- and about $70k.

          I say get 80% of the experience at 20% of the cost. Miata- the NC I drove was fun, reliable and was everything the mgb was but more powerful and modern.
          OR if money to burn on repairs, a 128i. BRZ is also a solid choice.

          • 0 avatar
            Wagoon2.7TT

            OP here. THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS MIATA!! And I don’t disagree!

            Thanks for the ideas, but I’m not really looking for classics at this stage. A Miata could end up being the ticket, but I also want to see what else is out there.

            I don’t mind working on the car, but I’d much prefer to be able to drive it as much as possible. (This coming from the owner of an Audi 2.7TT, I know how painful the irony is)

  • avatar
    Eric M

    Get an S2000, next question. Use the Allroad in winter with good snow tires.

    Now is the time of your life to have a sports car. You already have the people/stuff hauler in the Allroad, no need to get two of them. That eliminates the FoST, WRX, and GTI. I think the FiST would be a penalty box compared to an Allroad. For this much money I’d take almost anything over a BRZ, starting with an S2000, then Mustang, hell even a late model Miata.

    $17k would get you a nice S2000 (~2005 model year) with good maintenance records. (I know because I sold my 2002 model for $14k this summer due to kids) Find one unmodified and 50k miles or less, they are out there. The other $3k would cover a lot of maintenance. The diff and axle are fine unless the car is launched hard regularly. I would plan on replacing the soft top and possibly clutch with the extra money.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Getting 2 cars that are alike makes no sense. I would want the second car to be as raw and uncompromising as possible. Miata sounds good, as does the BRZ and S2000.

    Here is a REAL dark horse though. 996 Carrera anyone?

    *EDIT* Removed the link but search Ebay/classifieds

    You can definitely get one in your budget with $$$ to spare for IMS seal insurance and light mods. The market is way wrong on this one and will correct soon. I am sad I can’t take advantage of this because we have been here before with previous 911s. But yea, it’s a FREAKING 911 dude. You could get one, have the seals replaced, get some coilovers, an exhaust and wheels/tires well within your budget. Something to think about.

    Since you have a daily I would look back further. E46 M3, Z3M/Z4M, C5 Z06 (if you can get insured), 350/370Z… hell, we could get really weird…. FD RX-7, etc etc. Maybe think about getting a motorcycle? With the Audi in your stable I see no reason to compromise at all. You need to haul, you have a wagon. For giggles and thrills you can get something else.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The budget would buy a nice Z which fills the sporty hatchback box, however it does not offer a quiet cabin nor a good stereo. While the latter is easily corrected the former is not. Same goes for the S2000 and Miata, those convertibles are rather noisy so you get a sport car, but have to give up some things.

      Actually the Carrera is a good suggestion since the Audi can serve backup duty leaving the Porsche for those perfect driving days. I had a student with 99 Carrera a few months ago during a track day. The car was clearly used, but in good daily use type condition and seemed to move (accelerate, brake, handle) about as well as my 350Z, but dude… you are driving a PORSCHE! Thus you can check that off your bucket list.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        To me, if he is in the mood for a quiet cabin, he should just drive the Audi. When he wants something rawer, go for the sports car. In my experience it just doesn’t make sense to have more than one vehicle that is a lot like another vehicle you have. For a brief period of time I had my Civic, my motorcycle and my Z. When I had all 3 at the same time I never drove the Z. Civic was way more comfortable, bike was way more thrilling when the weather was nice. Combo still works for me now though I do want to replace the Civic with something a little sportier.

        • 0 avatar
          Wagoon2.7TT

          OP. Good advice, thanks for the input. I think my original email came off too strong in presenting the luxuries as something I HAVE to have. I understand that the class of cars I’m looking at requires sacrifices in those areas (which is absolutely fine), but it would be a nice bonus to hold on to some of the creature comforts.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Mazda 3?

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. I have briefly looked into a MazdaSpeed 3, but for whatever reason I just can’t get into the styling. I’m probably just being a superficial millennial, but my mind’s pretty much made up. Thanks for the idea though!

  • avatar
    Sobro

    From the OP: My budget is around $17,000, with $20,000 on the higher end. I think that I would prefer a hot(-ish) hatchback of some kind where I can row my own, but am open to pretty much any and all suggestions.

    And the most obvious answer is 2012-2014 V6 Mustang Premium package. Many listed for under $17k, and topless for around $20k.

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      Winner. But I bet Millennials hate Mustangs.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      No one wants to say their pride and joy is a V6 Mustang. 5.0 or bust.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Just like the other day the right answer is Mustang (or Miata). No need for a hatch which is too much like his other car. I do have to agree that since he wants to spend his big boy money on cars then the MPG of the 5.0 shouldn’t matter that much. Plus with both the Miata and Mustang you have a good excuse to spend more of that big boy money on upgrades and personalizing it since both have lots of aftermarket support to do that.

      • 0 avatar
        Wagoon2.7TT

        OP here. I like this idea! And it’s one that wasn’t even on my radar, thanks!

        Not to speak for all millennials here, but I don’t think we all dislike cars like the Mustang. However, we don’t have the historical attachment to them, and we question their practicality. This just means we aren’t really attracted to them, but not that they really draw any ire from younger people.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “Not to speak for all millennials here, but I don’t think we all dislike cars like the Mustang. However, we don’t have the historical attachment to them, and we question their practicality.”

          That’s the problem with kids today (says the 34y/o), no imagination” And stuff you need today is so much SMALLER than when I was a teenager/college kid. Try bringing your 32″ TV to school with you, back in 2000 when I went you needed a box the size of a washing machine, now it’s just a little flat panel. I brought a giant 4-piece stereo to college, I get better sound now out of my little Bose Soundlink. And on and on. All you need space for is some clothes and an iPhone and a laptop. Practicality is crap. Go buy a sports car and make sure you pay it off before having any kids so that no one can make you sell it.

          Hrmph hrmp off my lawn etc.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    While the Fiesta ST would also be my first choice, as a fellow millennial (although a decade older), let me add the car that I ended up buying to the list – a Fiat 500 Abarth. The depreciation on them is atrocious, which makes them a helluva bargain used. I got mine a year ago from a Fiat dealer, and it was a 2013 with 24k miles for $15k. A lifetime unlimited mileage comprehensive extended warranty from Fiat is $3200.

    While not as good as a FiST, the car is a blast. It’s lightweight and tossable, the steering isn’t bad in sport mode for EPS, the unmuffled exhaust sounds fantastic (and gets all sorts of compliments), and I actually find it surprisingly comfortable. I’ve put 24k miles on it in a year, and I’ve spent many days on 150 mile trips to and from my boyfriend’s place, sometimes making the full round trip in a single day. The longest single day of driving I’ve done was a 400+ mile drive roundtrip from Jacksonville, Fl to Lakeland, Fl and back. The car was fine for that. I will sometimes even drive it from the boyfriend’s place straight to work, a 3 hour commute (and mind you, I work a 24 hour shift and always have a busy start to the day, so arriving beat up by the car isn’t an option). The seating position is awkward at first, but you quickly adjust and get used to it. Mine has the upgraded sport seats which I am very happy with. It also has the optional beats audio system which does great. My only recommendation is to play your iphone through the aux instead of the USB because USB seems to limit the volume.

    Fuel economy, especially around town has been impressive. It’s very easy get 28-30 mpg while still driving enthusiastically. Exceeding the 34 mpg highway rating is very easy if you keep it at 70 or below. Above 75 and it starts dropping to 30-32 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. Thanks for your suggestion and thoughts on the Abarth! It’s not really on the top of my list right now, but definitely on my radar.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I have to second this. I LOVED mine, and absolutely nothing went wrong with it. The FiST is a better car, but the Abarth is WAY more fun. It’s just so ridiculous. And silly cheap.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m leaning BMW 128i.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I like the GTI suggestion but will also throw in the 2 door accord w a stick , after all the Audi may turn into a ticking time bomb at any time, or maybe a volvo c30, a funky car but may fit him.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My wife has a Volvo C30, its almost never mentioned by people because its so overlooked… its basically a softer GTI but from Volvo. The downside to the C30 is they are rare thus parts can be difficult to source and expensive. The major greasy bits are from the S40 sedan but its the various odds and ends that prove challenging.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I really liked the C30. Almost bought one instead of a GTI. The GTI was a bit more practical, and they were really trying to get rid of the model end MKV GTIs at the time. I wish I would have chose the C30 instead. I really wish I would have bought a Mustang GT, but let’s not get too far down that rabbit hole.

        • 0 avatar
          Wagoon2.7TT

          OP. Thanks for the thoughts on the C30. I’ve always really liked those cars, (especially in R-Spec, or whatever it is) but the rareness factor definitely is that is keeping it off the shortlist. However, I’ve yet to drive one, so that all could change if I can get behind the wheel of one.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Miata, S2000, BRZ, FR-S. You don’t need 2 hatch/wagons. If you are actually going to get a newish hatch/wagon, ditch the A4 while you can still get a couple bucks out of it.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Would the OP consider a lease? That would open up a world of choices and give the OP time to try before buying.

    With the Allroad, excess mileage on the leased car would be a non-issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. I’ve thought about it a little bit, but I think I’m too attracted to the idea of real ownership and the ability to make a car truly mine.

      But, for the sake of argument and options, are there any cars in the lease ballpark that I should look into?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Alphabetically: Abarth, Boxster, GTI, M3 (or decent sporty 3 series), TT, 370Z (not 350Z).

    Do some test drives, see what you like, have fun.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    To add to the Miata love: $17-20k buys a lot of used Miata and mods (or a properly-sorted one already done by someone else), if the OP is so inclined. A low-slung sub-2,600lb topless 2-seater with forced induction, grippy tires and baller suspension is not to be underestimated. With the kits and knowledge out there, they can also be economical and reliable to run.

    Hot hatches are great for their own reasons, but if you’re after an involving driving experience, an actual sit-in-the-longitudinal-middle-of-the-car, rear-wheel-drive sports car, where your eyes are at the same level as the door handles of the other cars around you, gives a different feel, even when performance is similar.

    Of course, if you go this way, you forgo the cushy seats and lack of noise, but when you already have a car that does that, why not get something that’s more exciting and raw?

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. This is definitely a very compelling argument. If I feel like driving a squishy comfy car, then I take the squishy, comfy car. That’s pretty simple logic.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    You already have a car. Fight the urge and invest the money in something that appreciates. Now’s the time to do it when you’re young.

    Just like you when I was 24 I was looking at a newer car to replace my old Volvo. My dad gave me the most boring advice ever and suggested I invest the money in a triplex instead. I followed his advice and could not be happier with the outcome. That “new” car would be long gone by now, while the triplex is worth about twice as much.

    Some would cry WOWBORINGYOLOetc… don’t listen to them. Make rational choices and forget about toys.

    Edit: I’m also a millenial, though not as young as you are.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Investing that money in a down payment on real estate is a good idea in most cases though being in ID means that if he needs to sell because he wants to move, or his job wants him to move if he wants to climb the ladder means that he could be stuck with it. A duplex or triplex is a good starter if the rental market in the area is strong. With that if he can find a reasonable property management company there should still be positive cash flow with a reasonably strong rental market.

      I bought my first house at 24, and I know own several, many of which are multifamily though those are all going to closing in a couple of weeks, though replacing them with more multifamily is likely.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Also, if this central ID ski town is where I think it is, the money he has budgeted for this car will hardly make a down payment on a small condo in the real estate market there. Maybe in 2009.

        • 0 avatar
          Wagoon2.7TT

          OP here. Ha, you are certainly correct. 20k does not go very far here. It’s pretty nuts. But the thing about being here and 23 is that I have not a clue in the world if that’s where I want to end up. Fast toys are about the only thing I feel comfortable spending nontrivial sums of money on right now.

          Although I’m definitely poo-pooing the advice to sit on the money and be responsible, I suppose that I want to do something dumb and fun while I still can.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    As a millennial this is your chance to be different than your peers.

    You are looking for a summer driver, have some wrench skills and a big boy job.

    Easy. 67 Camaro. Plenty available in your price range, you are willing to travel, oodles of go fast parts, oodles of suspension parts to get them to like the twisties.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Problem: 67 Camaro will get stolen in 15 minutes if left parked outside. This was even true 25 years ago. My friend’s was stolen twice (second time I don’t think he ever got it back).

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    “The newest S2000s are nearly a decade old now, and even in their primes, they are just not that great to drive on a daily basis. I have more S2000 seat time than most, and I wouldn’t recommend having one as a daily, even if you don’t have to drive it in the snow. I would imagine that a lot of the S2000s in your price range have been driven hard and put away wet, so get ready to get intimately acquainted with the differentials and axles if you decide to get one. Bark doesn’t recommend an S2000 for anybody who is not intending to use it as a dedicated track/autocross toy.”

    Bollocks, all of it. I daily drove an S2000 for 4 years in Chicagoland, putting about 65k miles on it in that time (60 mile round trip commute for 3 years). I hit redline every time the thing left the garage, unless there was precipitation, and it was a joy. And when he doesn’t feel like squeezing himself into a small cabin packed with awesome, he’s got a nice comfy Allroad to fall back on. It will eat tires and keep an eye on the oil level, but other than that, near-zero maintenance concerns (I had to clean the MAF once to cure a stall, and sandblasted the timing chain tensioner worm gear. Also replaced a leaky differential mount). Stay off the power when it’s slippery, keep an eye on rear tire condition, check the oil level regularly, and have a blast with an amazing sports car.

  • avatar
    redliner

    “Personally, I don’t give a f*ck if their cars pollute”

    I lost a lot of respect for you with this one sentence. That’s like saying, “I don’t give a f*ck if people throw trash on my lawn.”

    The air belongs to everyone, and polluting it is akin to throwing our trash into other people’s air. I’m not saying we need to be eco-terrorists, just decent people.

    Also, I am a millennial, so feel free to stereotype me into some neat little box with all the other “special snowflakes.”

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      Agreed, although I’m not sure how much respect there was to lose.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      My reaction to that was similar.
      “My marginal driving enjoyment is more important than breathable air” is a pretty pathetic mentality, especially considering how plentiful clean, fun cars are today.

      Go to a large Chinese city to see the results of everyone not caring about cars (and everything else) polluting, and see how much you enjoy having to wear a mask in order to take a jog. See also: California in the ’60s (you know, before we collectively started caring about our cars polluting).

    • 0 avatar
      ckb

      Indeed. The reason Bark doesn’t need to care is because a bunch of other people did. Some local history:

      “In the 1970s, the air in Ohio’s cities was so dirty that people had to use headlights to drive in the daytime.”

      “In 1975, 44 air pollution alerts forced facilities to stop production until the air cleared. Ohio has had no air alerts for decades.”

      http://www.epa.state.oh.us/40YearsandMovingForward/AirPollutants.aspx

      Even recently things have been getting better:

      http://www.southwestohioair.org/uploads/PM2.5%20History.pdf

      Its not like environmental concerns are an either or. You said yourself, there are more enthusiast choices today than ever. And they are cleaner and more fuel efficient than ever too!

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “The reason Bark doesn’t need to care is because a bunch of other people did.”

        This, this, this. Sometimes I wonder if our success at keeping our environment livable – and I’m not talking about saving every damn weird toad species living in some little habitat somewhere, but *livable enough so you can go outside without a hacking cough* – will doom us to repeating the cycle when people like Bark forget what their own attitudes would have doomed us to had we not changed our priorities when we did.

        Read a ’70s car glossy and whining about how cars will NEVER AGAIN BE POWERFUL OR FUN because SAFETY AND EMISSIONS was rampant. It was a foregone conclusion that by the ’90s we’d all be driving grey, 50hp pods. We were doomed, doomed, doomed, thanks to the horrible environmentalists!

        Well, now we have 700hp street cars that cost less than regulation-free ’60s Detroit, get triple the mileage of regulation-free ’60s Detroit, and last five times as long as the cars of regulation-free ’60s Detroit.

        And we can put the top down without hacking up a lung.

        Please, enough of this reactionary, short-term-memory, meme-based rage politics. It ill-suits writers as smart as Bark and sites as smart as TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      sadly it’s a lot more like saying, “I don’t give a f*ck if people throw trash on the public park field.”

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez_Returns

        All of the above is true, but this is just Bark trolling. TTAC is more than ever all about generating fake controversy for page views. The Baruth bros know exactly what they’re doing.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      I don’t care if their cars pollute, either. It’s not because I don’t care about air pollution, though; it’s because of all the sources of air pollution to focus on, the NOx emissions from VW’s sparse fleet of US diesels is so negligible as to be immeasurable. The world’s 15 largest container ships create more pollution than all the cars on earth, for example. The entire transportation sector contributes somewhere between 24-34% of all air pollution, depending on your location, meaning the rest comes from power generation, industrial processes, etc. And yet, rather than actually identify and eliminate the largest sources of pollution, we act like VW’s cheating (and it WAS wrong) is the thing that’s going to doom the planet’s future, all while ignoring the things that actually might.

  • avatar
    jfranci3

    Even when I was 22, it was nice to have a fair bit of utility, so I’d definitely consider a hatchback. I can’t tell you how many times I had to cram my Mustang full of things I shouldn’t have.

    I’d cross the WRX off your list if you’re single, maybe the FIST too. These don’t give off a grownup enough impression that dates are looking for. Also, the short wheelbase and firm suspension will get your dates sick.

    If you’re buying a manual and can downshift, just cross the GTI off your list. TERRIBLE pedal positions.

    Otherwise, I’d go FIST (non-recaro seats) or GTI for the maturity, some utility, and performance.

    OR

    Get the cheapest new Fiesta you can find ($12K), finance that guy for 72mo AND a fun car (e36 m3, S2000, whatever). The Fiesta will last you YEARS and allow you to make STUPID decisions with the other car. Put some takeoff ST parts on it for CHEAP and it will be a great everyday car.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Basing your car-buying decisions on what you believe potential dates may think is a pretty sad way to live. Ditto financing a car over 72 months.

      These things apply regardless of age.

      Also: I’m reasonably sure you’re wrong about the priorities of 23 year-old girls who are shallow enough to choose their mates based on transportation choice. “Looks grown-up” is not a criterion they’re generally looking for.

      • 0 avatar
        Wagoon2.7TT

        OP here. This is a great suggestion, thanks. I’ve been thinking that the “responsible choice” would be to get a motorcycle as the fun vehicle and leave the Audi as the practical set of wheels. Then I could save/invest the remainder. But this has in my mind as something of a plan B.
        But I’ve had eyes for an old Honda CX500 for a long time!

      • 0 avatar
        robc123

        +1
        if you need a car to impress, you are picking up the wrong girl or you are playing the pick up game wrong.

        where then in the pickup-o-sphere is a zip or car2go car?
        -environmentally aware- check
        -confident- check
        -is fiscally prudent -check
        -has more money to spend -check

  • avatar
    Fordson

    A Fiesta ST rides hard, has a crappy stereo, kinda noisy – so don’t get one.

    Get a BRZ. That also rides hard, has an even crappier stereo and is even more noisy.

    I kinda get where you’re going with the RWD thing, but why not just say don’t get the Fiesta ST because it’s a FWD hatch, rather than rejecting it due to the same notable shortcomings that are present in the car you are recommending?

  • avatar
    Wagoon2.7TT

    OP here. Thanks Bark for taking my question, and for the suggestions. Thanks to you all in the B&B too, you guys have already thrown out cool stuff I wouldn’t have thought of.

    I should have been more clear about this. The creature comforts in the Audi would be nice to have, but are in no means dealbreakers. I can always put in a different stereo and Dynamat the hell out of the thing if it ever becomes too much of an issue.

    Thanks for all of your comments guys, please keep them coming!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    No love for the 8th gen Civic Si? Assuming you can find one that hasn’t been ragged on too much, they sold a ton of both the coupes and sedans. Screaming K20 and LSD front diff, Honda reliability and good fuel economy. Downsides might be a somewhat noisy interior, but I don’t recall too many people complaining about too-stiff of a ride in them. An older 8th gen would leave you with a ton of money leftover, to be spent on a nice stereo, some dynamat, new tires, etc. Or even…

    A motorcycle. Totally not what you’re looking for, I know. But the thrill of some fast riding on twisty backroads on a motorcycle will totally obliterate your previous definition of fun. The “connectedness” factor is 100x of a car IMO. Your Audi would make a good support vehicle to take your bike to track days if you so choose!

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. This is a great suggestion, thanks. I’ve been thinking that the “responsible choice” would be to get a motorcycle as the fun vehicle and leave the Audi as the practical set of wheels. Then I could save/invest the remainder. But this has been in my mind as something of a plan B.
      But I’ve had eyes for an old Honda CX500 for a long time!

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Having dealt extensively with a CX500 in the past (my friend rode one across the continental US with me on an even older cheap UJM), I cannot recommend them. They have a few very annoying issues, one electrical (capacitor discharge ignition IIRC), the other having to do with the cooling system, a gasket near the camshaft I think?. If you want something cheap to start out on, I highly recommend an 84-86 Honda CB650 Nighthawk. Two friends that I helped get into riding started out on these. Cheap to buy, very little to go wrong, and actually pretty quick little things for what they are. If twins are your thing, a Yamaha XS650 is an excellent choice.

        • 0 avatar
          Wagoon2.7TT

          Thanks for the info. Yep, I think those are the exact issues they face. And being 30+ years old doesn’t help anything either. I appreciate the recommendations, I’ll definitely look into them. There is just something about the twisted twin look that does it for me.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I remember now specifically. When my friend first bought the bike, we went through it top to bottom, various shake down runs, etc in preparation for our big NY-CA and back ride. The bike turned out to experience all three common issues that they suffer from: a burned out stator (battery doesn’t charge), a malfunctioning CDI box (bike either won’t start, or won’t shut off), and a weeping water pump seal. Having fixed all that, we set off. By the end of our 10k mile, 39 day ride, the stator crapped out and the replacement CDI box was on the fritz.

            Really, you can’t go wrong with just about any of the air cooled parallel twins or 4 cylinders. I’ve owned a ’77 Yamaha XS500, rode it on the cross country trip, it needed a top end tear down to clean up the intake valves to restore compression in the middle of Kansas but ran like a top after that. Has 55k miles on it now, quite a bit for a ‘disposable’ 70s jap bike. I’ve also had a ’78 Suzuki GS1000C. Awesome, comfy proto-sport tourer, but a bit heavy around town. Super overbuilt engines, just a totally beautiful and awesome bike. I’ve had some newer stuff too (’01 Bonneville, ’99 KLR650, ’98 Bandit 1200S) but the old bikes are near and dear to me.

            I’d say scoop up a runner off craigslist for about $1000 or so and learn to tinker with it. The “smiles per gallon” of an old motorcycle simply cannot be beat. And compared to a car, they are super simple to work on and you don’t need a whole extra garage to do so. Hipsters have taken to these things en masse and chopped up a lot of otherwise nice specimens (and then try to sell their bastardizations for top dollar), the most common mistake is to start hacking it to pieces and modifying it right away. I’d say learn to get it running 100% in a stock state of tune, and only then start to open up the exhaust or modifying the fueling.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    As a GTI owner myself, I agree 100% that, if you already have (and are keeping) the allroad, a Miata seems like the obvious choice. Second choice, frankly, would be to sell the allroad and pick up a new, loaded, 4-dr GTI and buy yourself some snow tires.

    HOWEVER, if you’re going to take Bark’s advice on a used GTI, why limit yourself to the Mk6? Cars.com has a bumper crop of used 2015 Mk7 GTIs with 5-10k miles for under $20k. Shoot higher, child.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. Thanks for the tip, for some reason I thought I scoured for mk.7’s, but I musta dun goofed! I would take a mk.7 for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        I agree. As a mkvii owner I’d advise that it will end up replacing your all road. That’s not a bad thing but it’s not the same as buying a different formula car. I have an e30 to fill that role but those are getting overpriced.

        A used Carreras or boxster and get it some snows. It’s a great combo:

  • avatar
    Mathias

    “Having the [2003 Audi allroad 2.7T] around will save you money and frustration”

    Like, wow.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    “Having the Audi around will save you money and frustration…”

    Just look at that phrase all alone for a sec and think if this is EVER true. Also keep in mind that this phrase was used to describe an Allroad but a 2.7TT Allroad. Wow, just wow.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. Haha, I completely agree. Part of the interest in a hatch is for if(when) something on the Audi skilimo blows up in fantastically expensive German glory I’d have a semipractical ride to fall back on. I absolutely love this car, but have no illusions about its reliability and difficulty/expense of repairs.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    12-14 V6 Mustang, Miata, BRZ, Z, your list minus WRX, find a carmax that has them all, drive them all, buy the one you fall in love with and can’t leave without or keep looking. It’s not a now need, so don’t compromise.

  • avatar
    forzablu

    I found the FiST w/ Recaro seats decently comfortable…but then I’m only 5’10″/160 … if you’re already planning on keeping the larger all-road around…is there really any reason to keep size and practicality as a consideration in the second car… C5 corvette’s are fun but very dated…. Miata, 128i/135i or Z4M, have S197 Mustang GT’s fallen into your price range yet? V8’s are a special kind of fun.

    OT: What jobs are available paying big-boy dollars in a Central Idaho Ski Town… not throwing shade, genuinely curious, as I would like to pursue such opportunity immediately.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Big boy money is all relative.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. Good suggestions, thanks!

      It’s a software job. The guy who runs the office just really loves the location and decided to set up shop there. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

      • 0 avatar
        forzablu

        My first jobs out of school (v. recently) took me to Cincy (which I hated) and Atlanta which was ok… It’s nice to be in the right place at the right time, congrats on landing in something you like.

        I had this same dilemma when I left school, ~25k to spend on a fun car, a boring Fusion as a DD, and a new edge Cobra, I ended up spending 5k on a very clean fully sorted E30 325is, an equal sum on a watch, saved a bunch, took a few trips and quit my job when i realised I was not happy. I WOULD have bought a motorcycle if it wouldn’t have resulted in getting written out of certain documents.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        I have hedge fund clients out of Boise who make at least ten times what I make, and I already make Acela Corridor big boy money. Seems like a good gig.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “I’m possibly the only person to win German luxobarge reliability roulette with an ’03 Audi allroad 2.7TT.”

    You are a braver man than I, sir.

    I salute you.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      (And I mean, I say this as someone who *loves* the Allroad and considered a new one before stepping up a size into an XC70.

      But the 2.7TT is … well, I’m glad for you that it’s working out.)

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. I don’t regret it, but in hindsight picking that car was likely a very unwise move. If I hadn’t gotten lucky with a good one, especially. Thankfully the little things that have come up I’ve been able to fix myself (albeit with certain amounts of McGyverdom.)

  • avatar
    RHD

    “…but if it keeps some hot snowbunny from putting your legs over your shoulders in the back seat … well, we don’t want that.”

    That’s one terrifying snowbunny!

    (Proofread your article before you submit it! It’s like double checking for tools before closing the hood – not very exciting, but pretty dang important!)

  • avatar
    Chan

    How about an old Boxster? The risk is high maintenance costs, especially as these cars start to age out. Not sure if you can get a Cayman for $17k, but I DD’d one for 4 years and it’s pretty much the perfect sports car as long as roads are not too terrible.

    For new-ish cars, +1 on the Abarth. It is a total riot to drive. Try driving one before going for the easy 2-seater answers such as NC MX-5, AP1 S2000, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Yeah this is what I was going to post and recommend. Maybe a 981 Cayman, since he’s inching into price territory where you can find a decent one with reasonable mileage.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    If you don’t mind another older German car, I should also point you in the direction of an E46 BMW. Either get the 325iT (wagon) or a 330i zhp. Pay $10k for a nice one and point $7k aside to pay for a few years of maintenance. I had an e46 330i zhp before my Abarth, and that was simply the best all around car I’ve ever driven and probably the best non m car BMW has ever made. The ride was smooth and quiet, the handling sublime, steering incredible, and the sound and power of that straight six was intoxicating. If I had all the $ in the world, I’d probably go buy another one or two.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. Thanks for those suggestions and input. I don’t know much about those cars (or BMW’s in general), but I’ll definitely do some research!

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Imagine that. The proud millennial gets pointed in the direction of the Toyo-Baru Twins.

    I’m wearing my shocked face.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      OP here. I’m not very surprised by the recommendation either, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a poor one. I’ve yet to sit in one of the Toyobaru twins, otherwise I would probably have more of an opinion on them. At the very least it means I have more options!

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        It drives/feels very differently from other cars. It feels like a sports car. You sit low in the car. It communicates everything that’s happening. The responsiveness in the turn instant.

  • avatar

    I had a Miata for most of my 20s, then sold it for a new FR-S in my 30s. I enjoy the fruits of the decision daily. The permanent roof and fold-down seats give the twins a surprising edge in regular livability, despite the similarities in driving character. Net result: I spend more time enjoying my “fun” car than my “practical” car (a truck in my case). A convertible sports car feels less a three-season daily and more a weekend car due to weather and security vulnerabilities.

    However, everyone should own a roadster at some point, and both the MX-5 and S2000 have a stable depreciation curve. If you don’t love it, flip it and put the proceeds into one of the other options mentioned.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned an Infiniti G35/37. Sporting enough to be fun, luxurious enough to not make you pine for the Audi, and Japanese reliability that will keep it on the road with few problems. Available in sedan and coupe flavors. AWD is even available, if you want to go down to one car and still be able to drive in the winter.

  • avatar
    manu06

    I bought a 2012 Miata 3 months ago for 14.5k and only 24k miles. I had crossed shopped
    it against the BRZ/FRS twins. The Miata just felt better and cost less. My only advice would be to go
    with the power hardtop.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Just because they’re stupidly cheap and no one else has recommended it, Mazda RX-8? Of course, I don’t know if your experience with the Audi means you’d be adept enough to keep a rotary running, or if you’ve spent all your reliability luck on the Allroad. Still, fun, but a touch more refined than a Miata (but thirsty).

    Mind you, as empathetic as I am to doing something irrational and stupid because you’re young, maybe budget for $5k of irrational and stupid instead of $17-20k? Just maintaining rainy day savings, have something set aside for if anything happens to the Audi, or just get started on retirement savings (boring, really boring, but 5+ more years of compounding interest helps). $5k will at least easily get you a motorcycle (and also gear and lessons, definitely get good gear and lessons).

    • 0 avatar
      Wagoon2.7TT

      An RX-8 has crossed my mind before. One of my good friends has one and loves it. She loves it enough to be on her third engine. I don’t know if I’m ready to take that on. (And I’m sure that my reliability luck has pretty much been spent on the 2.7TT)

      This is very good advice, and something I’ve been thinking a lot about. As has been brought up earlier, this is definitely not a “now need”, but a youthful want. I’m trying to balance rational planning and impulsive fun having, which I’m finding to be kinda tricky. Thank you for the input.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    You could nicely fit a 2007+ Jaguar XK into your budget, either coupe or convertible. I didn’t see any XKR’s it the budget, but you might in time. The XKR is the supercharged version, initially 420 hp, after 2010 the 5.0 is 550 hp. Normally aspirated is 300hp (4.2) and 385 (5.0)

    Aluminum body, and very reliable, you will be spending a lot less on repairs and parts than for the Audi (been there, done that as a former VW owner). I think the 2007 and up is nicer than the earlier cars. I know 3 owners and their cars have all been trouble free in 5+ years of ownership.


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