By on August 17, 2010

TTAC Commentator trailertrash writes:

I am hoping to save a little research time and thus allow me more actual “behind the wheel time” when looking for my next car. I have lots of wheels, from the Tiguan, MKS, 2010 Mazda6 and even a Trailblazer. My next purchase needs to be affordable, FAST, fun and carry everything (within reason). This is a wagon or hatch. The latest sportwagen by Caddy is awfully slow by my standards. The MKS has me even wanting more off the red light. The Audi3 is a little small. I WISH the G series was a hatch! Or the Mazda still had one.

Steve Answers:

You have likely spent right around the six figures on all your recent rides. You have a Trailblazer for hauling. An MKS for luxury. A Mazda 6 for perhaps a wife or high maintenance girlfriend (both?). And an overpriced Volkswagen whose name instantly reminds me of my daughter’s favorite Winnie the Pooh character. As the great philosopher Ron Simmons would say, “Damn!”

I would just soup up the Trailblazer. Chevy released a 395 hp SS version during it’s last couple of years and that thing is an absolute torque monster. I’m sure you can get a few healthy modifications for your own ride and perhaps get some good seats and adornments from the junkyard. The cost of doing this is mere pennies on the dollar. But you’re not going to listen to me. So go ahead and buy a Magnum or a Grand Cherokee with a Hemi. In fact forget that. Don’t buy anything.

Except perhaps a Saab SportCombi wagon. With a stick and a $10,000+ discount that particular model would be quite an interesting addition. True it may have close to a hundred fewer horsepower on paper than the top of the line Cadillac. But the key to enjoying any car is driving it..and Saab wagons have amazing power in the 30 to 70 mph stretch. We’re talking near-Porsche levels. The Cadillac may have slightly more oomph off the line. But with a drive out price that will likely $15,000+ more than the SportCombi, I would opt for the Saab.

Sajeev Answers:

Oh no he di’int just recommend a SportCombi to…anyone! To “Steve”, if that’s your real name: what have you done with the Steven Lang we all know and love?  You’re supposed to tell people to buy a 2005 Buick LeSabre for $4000, from a grandma who lovingly preserved that Miami-Vice blue, rat’s fur velour while giving it stem-to-stern scratches from garage mishaps and on-road miscalculations.

So let’s make things simple: trailertrash has far too many NSFW-ing cars.  And at least two are so wrong they might as well have square wheels. Dump the MKS, buy a Taurus SHO or another MKS with EcoBoost.  Lose the Trailblazer, buy the “SS” version or a Grand Cherokee SRT-8.  Sell them both on Craigslist and buy their hi-po replacements when a good candidate shows up on the Internet.  Plus, finding a used EcoBoost, LS-X, or HEMI motor’d vehicle with modest bolt-ons (tune, exhaust, even power adders) is way easier than you think. And they make a huge difference.  Not to mention that modified machines rarely sell for more than a stock version plus 20% of the original cost of those aftermarket upgrades.

These lateral upgrades will keep you content for a year or three. After that, sell all of ‘em and get a certified pre-owned Porsche Panamera turbo: lotsa power and versatility, with no compromises.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to [email protected], and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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55 Comments on “New Or Used?: Best-Hatched Plans Edition...”

  • avatar

    fast, fun, affordable and hatch or wagon; the choices are clear: MazdaSpeed3 or Subaru Impreza STi.

  • avatar

    The G does come in a hatch– it’s called the EX.

  • avatar

    It looks like you have plenty of cars for the moment; if I were you, I’d considering waiting around for the upcoming Acura TSX wagon. If that doesn’t float your boat, or if you’re on a tight time line, I second Steve’s recommendation of the 9-3 SC, for the reasons he gave. We recently reviewed the 9-3 and the Volvo V50 (used models) for the student market. If you’re interested, the piece can be found here:

    On an only slightly related note, it’s a shame Saab doesn’t still make something like the 9000 Aero. Hatch + Porsche-like performance + a little more space than the 9-3. But, I digress: what about getting a loaded, very lightly used Dodge Magnum? Drive it for a year or two then, as Sajeev recommended, ditch it for a CPO Panamera. Something to ponder.

  • avatar

    I just sold my 07 GTI today. It was fantastic when I only had one car to choose from, but when I picked up my SUV for “stuff carrying” duties, the hatch became redundant and I’m on the prowl for a less compromised sporty car (S2000, MX-5, etc). But as far as cars that do anything go, it was pretty hard to beat. I’m going to miss that 2.0T growling and that smooth 6MT.

    So, my suggestion would be an Autobahn package GTI 4 door. The 2010 model is particularly nice.

    • 0 avatar


      I got the ’10 earlier this month, sans Autobahn package (need to tote 100 lbs of dog meat in the back.) In two weeks I put about 2k miles on it ripping up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yes, we’re having too much fun this summer.

      Your advice is spot-on, but it appears that he has ruled out the A3. I would suggest to the positor to re-think his stance, there are worse places to put your backside in than a German hatch.

    • 0 avatar

      +2 to Quentin

      As my user names implies, say yes to the GTI. I have a 2007 4 door, APR tune and a bigger rear sway bar. Plenty of oomph and stick, and I had my kids’ ATV stuffed in the back yesterday.

  • avatar

    get back a couple years and get an RS4 / RS6 Avant. It will be faster than all the vehicles you’ve mentioned and will be fun for years to come. Hell, even an S4 / S6 wagon if you are too friggin cheap.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Last Mazda6 Wagon? Oh wait, that’s not fast enough for you. (But does handle pretty stinking awesome, zoom-zoom.)

    I understand the drive and passion of people who are NEVER satisfied but, come-on, enough is enough!

  • avatar

    Get an 07 or 08 Saab 9-3 Sportcombi Aero with the turbo V6 and V-tune it. Stage 2 is 390 hp.

  • avatar

    @ dcdriver: How did I not mention the EX? It’s a great vehicle, definitely something for trailertrash to consider.

    Also, a quick search of AutoTrader reveals that, in my part of the world, you can get an ’08 Magnum SXT w/ AWD, 20,000 miles, for around twenty grand. SRT-8 and R/T models are harder to find and will set you back more, but they are out there.

  • avatar

    I LOVE wagons. I don’t know why more people don’t drive them.

    Do not discount the little audi A3. My wife has been tearing around in one for better than 4 years. IT’s been stone reliable, comes with a stick shift, it’s fast, has excellent road manners, averages 30mpg wihtout batting an eye, and holds more cargo than you’d think. They can also be had new for less than $30k. I think that if more people were honest about what they actually needed to haul and how often, more people would drive an A3.

    I’ve also been through a 2008 Passat wagon, which can be had new or used for well under $30k and also averages better than 30mpg while being very fast. Loved that car, it was taken from me by a careless driver.

    The Passat was replaced with a Jetta TDI wagon, which is be a nice car on paper, but is actually a piece of junk by both construction and design.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree the A3 is a great little car, made even better with the TDI.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 with Sundowner’s statement about about the A3. I’ve had mine for five years next week and 76,000 miles and the car has been very good to me. Not Honda-levels of reliability, but very solid overall. I regularly get 30mpg on the freeway and can push 33mpg if I’m frugal with my foot, routinely haul two 90lb dogs around in the back, plus have filled the hatch with everything from mulch to 8ft pieces of lumber to a new table saw.

      New they’re around $30k lightly optioned, but you can find some *excellent* deals on 2008 or 2009 models for significantly less money. A lightly used A3 in the low to mid $20s is a fantastic deal, especially the 2008+ models that have the updated 2.0T which has proven itself to be rock solid.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Sundowner…because for most Americans (incorrectly), wagons and hatches have an air of “cheap” to them. I personally love my Lancer Sportback Ralliart…just wish they would have brought them over in ’04 with a manual tranny. But, the Corgis are hauled just fine in back, and I get the benefit of the utility of the wagon without the fuel thirst or ueber-sized road wallow of a SUV.
      As for the original question…yikes…and I thought I had car ownership issues! What he sounds like he wants is a car with near-Corvette speed with Tahoe-like utility. Good luck on that front…

    • 0 avatar

      err… The Audi A3 is based on VW golf frame. So is the 2009 and later Jetta Sportswagon. The Audi is just a gussied up VW. The A3 TDI is a rebadged high end Jetta TDI Sportswagon. The major difference between the gasser is that the indifferent 2.5 is standard on the VW and the 2.0T is standard on the A3. The Audi also differs from its Jetta brother in that it is imported directly from Germany instead of Mexico.

    • 0 avatar

      Add me to the list recommending the A3.
      Took delivery of my built-to-order MY2006 in August 2005. Stone cold reliable. I’ve got 120k miles on it and it pulls 30+mpg around town. Less in the South Carolina summers because you risk being fried to a piece of bacon in the summertime without the AC on.
      The car has a lot more usable space than you think. I haul my two retired greyhounds around all the time (140 lbs, total) plus can carry a fall football tailgate and another passenger to boot. Wouldn’t want to do a long drive like that, simply because the canine passenger would be a little unhappy, but 30 minutes to the game is easy-peasy.
      Plus, even on regular fuel (premium recommended, but not required, thanks to the DI 2.0T), it has a heck of a lot of get-up and go.
      The 2008+ 2.0T switched to a timing chain. the 2006-2007’s had a timing belt. Very very expensive service, even if you can find someone other than the dealer to do the work. I had to take it to the dealer because the independent German shops refused to even think about doing the job, because it is that much of a PITA.
      As noted above, a used unit is really affordable. I own it free and clear and yes, I am planning on driving the wheels off of it. 250k+ miles here I come.

  • avatar

    Awesome dilemma you’ve got there.

    If real hatchbacks are out (anything smaller than the A3 for sure)… Also, I’m assuming you want a manual, and a turbo 4 is the minimum drivetrain. The A4 and 3-series still both come with auto’s I believe, and both engines can, with minimal love, put out good power.

    Used avant A4, expensive to own as a used car, and most manual wagons on the market seem to have the 1.8T. This would have to be a tuner car to get power. Forget about finding a bigger displacement wagon with a stick at a reasonable price and good history.

    Used bmw wagon, it’s been awhile since the wagon/stick combo was offered, unless you’re into buying very used it’s tough, just like the Audi’s. Also expensive to own used. Still, along with a used A4 the best fit.

    Saab 9-5’s…just don’t. Sure they have nice torque , but they understeer like pigs and aren’t really set up right in general. Unless you plan on extensive tuning that is. Used Volvo’s are a similar proposition…work required.

    Used Magnum R/T, SRT-8, Great if you want awesome speed in a straight line, but no manual option and trips all over it’s fat self on bumpier roads. Smooth on-ramp mastery is yours though.

    • 0 avatar

      On the other hand, you could make that Tiguan perfect. Chip the Haldex to give a rear bias (you’re at 90% front w/AWD), get coilovers, brakes, bigger/wider wheels and at least a stage II tune and you are in some serious business.

    • 0 avatar

      The 3 series sport wagon was available as recently as 2007 because I nearly ordered one. I’m 95% certain it is still available. The problem is that you have to get the 328 instead of the 335 that is available outside the US. Also, you’ll never find one on the lot, so you pretty much have to order. A great reason to take advantage of the European Delivery program.

    • 0 avatar

      My bigger concern with the 9-5 is the age of the design, rather than the torque steer. I’ve never found ours to be particularly bad, mind, it only has the 220 hp engine (’05 Arc.) A Volvo V70R might be a better bet, overall.

  • avatar

    MB E55/E63 Estate should be quick enough.


  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    I like the picture ;)

  • avatar

    With your requirements and current list of cars, it’s obvious you aren’t going out to fulfill an actual need, so just do us all a favor and wait for the CTS-V wagon.

  • avatar

    Volvo V70R AWD, 2004-2007. Get the newest one you can find with the lowest mileage and the manual transmission–some will still be under warranty. It’s a great 300HP sleeper.

    Nice review here:

  • avatar

    I am humbled by the attention by the TTAC top brass as well as the B&B.

    First, I am starting to get a little bored with the anti MKS ecoboost trash.
    In fact of ALL my cars…this is my very favorite. Every time I get back into it after driving anything else, I am reminded of my good decision.
    And once and for all, it is NO Taurus.
    I have driven the MKS series for more than 30,000 miles.
    This is more than a review, it is knowing the car.
    The Taurus simply does NOT have the same comfort or feel.
    There is nothing to this very day that any of the previously thanked can offer in its place for its 48K price.
    Nothing wing with as much power for the money.
    Nothing with as many bells and whistles.
    Enough now of the MKS nonsense.

    The trailblazer has been shipped off to Florida as a college hauler.

    I have become close on my decision for the perfect Hatch/wagon…the GTI.

    Well, then again the A4 sportwagon.

    Did I mention it had to be an automatic?

    I love standard, but it has been ruled out by all other family members, otherwise the Mazdaspeed3 would be in the running.
    I wish the 3 series had rear knee room.

    So, next to the Audi A3, which is over priced when compared to the GTI, I think these are the last 3 cars I will concentrate on.

    Finally, I just might wait for the Focus change over and hope they have a hatch PLUS ecoboost.
    I was at the Ford dealer today and walked away wondering why anybody would buy the Fiesta.
    Even the old and grey Focus is a better buy.

    Thanks to all.

    • 0 avatar

      As I said upthread (didn’t wander down to the bottom until a second ago) the A3s are nice, I’d second the GTI.

      Inexpensive, yet with equivalent refinement, very comfortable with four adults and/or dogs and/or crap. You’re not going to find a FWD car made in the last decade that is more fun to drive <$30k.

      Didn't test drive an automatic, but the folks have been talking up the DSG. The dual-clutch has better economy/acceleration than the stick.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on your love of the MKS EcoBoost. I was in one earlier this year (haven’t driven it) and was really, really impressed. It’s miles better than the Taurus.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s been pretty well established that a 5 door hatch will be one of the models available at introduction for the 2012 Focus. I am holding out hope that the rumors about the wagon variant making it to the US are true, but that might be a bit of a longer shot. In either case the Focus is going to be a very early 2012 model, possibly as early as 2nd quarter next year. Ford has been tight lipped about engines, but I’m predicting the 2.5 liter 4 cylinder, the 1.6 liter Ecoboost, and potentially a 2.0 liter EcoBoost as a performance model down the road.

      You are right, the current Focus is a great buy with the incentives available. The Fiesta is stroking some people the right way though, we had a guy come in and buy three of them over the weekend – one for himself, one for his son, and one for his parents.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Nullo-

      Question for you about the Fiesta; is FMC principly pushing the sedan version here in the States?

      I drove through three different Ford dealers last month, hoping to test drive the Fiesta. In each, they only had the sedan versions, the sedan versions and salesmen who shrugged when I asked when the next truck was going to bring the hatches.

    • 0 avatar

      cackalacka –

      I don’t think Ford is trying to push the sedan, though I did read an interview with someone from Ford corporate where they said that they had been surprised how many of the Fiesta pre-orders had been for the sedan version.

      We seem to be selling close to even numbers on sedans and hatches right now. The sedan can be had for a lower overall price, and in an odd change of pace, I think it actually has more useful cargo room.

  • avatar

    I THINK the confusion/misunderstanding by Sajeev is my question is rather old now.
    I have since gotten the MKS w/ecoboost and now have 15K on it.
    Fabulous car.
    (IF they would have just made the trunk opening large enough to actually use it!)

    Still haven’t gotten a new car, but this is because it is a dangerous move right now. To few choises with lots of new models coming this next year.
    I am trying to be selective.

  • avatar

    All those wheels and still missing cars. Wow. I think I rather have one car that does it all. 5 series wagon and done.

    • 0 avatar


      These are not ALL my cars, at least not in my driveway.
      In fact, several old(er) are in the hands of nephews and other family members.
      I keep all my cars like anyone born in my generation…as if they were THE priceless tickets to freedom they are.
      I even have a 1999 Caravan with 130K at The University of Illinois. It is THE perfect college car for that kid!

      And the joy of passing them down is something I cherish.
      When I was a little boy, I would actually ask if I could wash and wax older family member’s cars.
      It’s just a passion and I can do little about controlling it.

      As I explained, the trailblazer has now been added to this hand-me-down category and is actually in Florida in a grad student’s hands.

      There is NO Mazda3 wagon anymore, or all my troubles would be over. I simply love the 2009 6S…just not for long Chicago to MO or MO to Florida drives.
      I am a stickler for comfort.
      And it can’t carry large things, but it can carry a ton.

      The Tiguan is away at college.
      The Mazda3 hatch is away at college.

      All that is left is the 6S and the MKS.
      Not exactly the wagon capability cars I need.

  • avatar

    Or seriously I’d be ok with any car I could get that was fun, a GTI, 3 series, 5 series, mini, Porsche, Civic SI, mazda3, anything is ok as long as I’m having fun.

  • avatar

    The A3 looks nice, but what can you get in it that you can’t get in a GTI/Golf TDI?

  • avatar

    A3 has better interior materials/design, automatic dual zone climate control, better thought-out sunroof system, available with AWD, available fancy LED headlights (if you’re into that stuff), that Titanium option with the sweet alacantra sport seats, and you get the delete option on the gawd awful VW service.

    You also have psychology on your side; VW dealers LOVE to sell GTI’s for a profit, as anyone would expect. Audi dealers HATE to sell A3’s beucase the comission they make off you is a pittance compared to what that schmuck over there looking at the Q7 will pay. Most Audi dealers will part with an A3 for a song just to move them off the lot. you think you’re saving money by going for the boy-racer GTI, but you’d be suprised what a little haggling will do for you on an A3. Next year is the redesign of the A3, too. Dealers will be looking to move these when the news comes out.

    • 0 avatar

      I also love the looks of the A3 vs the GTI.

      I have always pined for it, but think the price is really a bit high for a small car.
      However, I am also stumpted with the engines.
      I cannot decide if a turbo is better than the TDI.
      I need to test drive both more.

      I was a strong supported of diesel…until the ecoboost came out.
      But I don’t think Ford will do the twin turbo in the smaller engines.

      Any word on this Ford route?

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re getting an automatic get the tdi, it comes with a DSG as well, and the lack of revs isn’t an issue. The 2.0T is a better engine to drive stick, but is down on torque obviously, a characteristic that auto driving doesn’t reward. The DSG’s rapid fire upshifts suit the diesel well, and more than make up for the lack of revs.

      The Golf tdi is basically/kind of a GTI with a diesel by the way, sport suspension etc…, it just doesn’t have the GTI’s interior cues (good luck getting a test drive). I think it’s a nice package, but it’s obviously smaller interior-wise than the Jetta wagon. The A3 really is just a Jetta sportwagon with some bolt on’s, unless you want the 2.0T the VW is a much better value.

    • 0 avatar

      Sundowner’s description of the difference between buying a GTI from a Volks dealer and an A3 from an Audi store is bang on. I bought a fully-equipped ’09 FWD 2.0T DSG A3 for almost exactly what it would have cost me for the lesser-equipped GTI, despite a difference of thousands in the MSRP.

      I’m loving the A3 and it’s changed my perception of Audi. Solid as a rock and not a single issue of any kind in the first 38,000 kms. And with the back seats down it’s got a lot of very usable capacity (it replaced a Tacoma in our driveway, when I no longer needed to tow a boat).

      If I hadn’t intended to pass this car to my wife, I probably would have bought a manual (as tedward suggests), but as a long-time 4 and 5-cylinder turbo driver I’m very content ripping around town using the DSG’s paddles to keep the boost on. The TDI is technically interesting and economically persuasive, but my choice would be gas so long as there’s any performance advantage whatsoever. In fact, if the current model’s eventual replacement resembles the renderings that have circulated, I probably will buy again, but go quattro next time. The 2.0T has been very reliable when chipped up another 50HP, but I think it needs more than just the front tires to properly apply those extra ponies to the ground.

  • avatar

    You can move and buy one of these or one of these.

    If that is out of the question, then, going off your current Ford enthusiasm, I’d look into a Raptor or F-150 Ecoboost.

    We need more TTAC people that own Raptors.

    • 0 avatar

      Raptor? “Serious off-road?” Meh. I’ll be more impressed once I see at least one cross the finish line at a Dakar Rally.

      Hmmmm, maybe that could be the next assignment for the intrepid Mr Baruth …

    • 0 avatar

      Ford put a pre-production Raptor into the Baja 1000 (modified of course, but so is every vehicle in Baja or Dakar) and it did pretty well.

      It’s not a rock crawler, and its off road prowess differs a good bit from the Wrangler, but for desert courses, the Raptor is probably the most pure example of an off-road vehicle to be built in a long time.

      Now, I’m not saying that Trailertrash should get one, it wouldn’t seem to fit what he needs very well, but the Raptor is more than capable for what it is intended to do.

    • 0 avatar

      @Nullo, the Baja 1000 is a good warm-up, but only about 700 miles these days. This year’s Dakar covered 5,600 miles, including almost 3,000 miles of special stages.

      The winning VW Touaregs (and Robby Gordon’s Hummer) have little to do with their production cousins, but production-based Toyota and Nissan trucks are fairly common further back in the field. A great opportunity for the Raptors to show their stuff …

  • avatar
    Tailpipe Tommy

    BMW needs to bring the 1-series hatch in the photo at the top of the article over stateside. The 1er Coupe they sell here is HIDEOUS-looking, and the sales numbers would seem to reflect that. Apparently after their bad experience trying to sell a crappy 318ti hatch here in the mid-90’s, BMW still thinks that us ‘muricans don’t want hatches. Wrong, times have changed. And the 1er hatch we don’t get is 1000x better looking than the homely Coupe. Bring it over, Munich!

  • avatar

    Speaking as 2010 jetta tdi owner, skip the tdi and get the gas turbo 2.0

  • avatar

    I’ve seen a 1-series hatch, and it looked good. I think it was the sporty version. Anyhow. TrailerTrash, enjoy your trips and have fun with your whips. You have a lot to be grateful for.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Interesting side note… most Porsche dealers are still stuck with loads of 2009 inventory that they will need a heavy crane to remove.

    This is the one near me.

    The Audi A3 is a good choice although as everyone here already knows, I just can’t stomach the idea of buying new.

    Perhaps a used A3 or SportsCombi with a 100k warranty. Perhaps that would be a good fit.

    • 0 avatar

      On your sidenote, it is interesting that seems Porsche to think the solution to its problems is making its cars even more expensive. Do you think anyone at Porsche thinks that MIGHT be the problem to begin with???

      As for the question, once you factor in an auto, the GTI and A3 move to the head of the class because they both have the slick double clutch transmissions. Other worthy contenders would be the A4 Avant or BMW 3 Series wagon, particularly used.

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