New or Used?: German Car Lover Wants Germanic German From Germany
TTAC commentator tedward writes:
I thought I’d finally throw my hat into the ring as my wife and I are on the hunt for a second family car.
We currently own a ’91 BMW 318is and a ’13 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen 2.5 — both manual, of course. In our previous lives as NYC residents, this was an extravagant stable that required personal sacrifice and demanded constant justification in casual conversation.
On one hand, we find ourselves with one real life car that fits us all; on the other, a relatively unsafe car that shouldn’t be relied upon (at 200,000+ miles) for day-to-day duties.
The big change here has been the average speed the cars are driven (at 20 mph, an E30 is acceptably safe for car seat duty) and the number of mission critical tasks we set for them. It’s no longer a duty cycle of joy rides or long road trips. Our day-to-day lives hang in the balance. Both cars run aftermarket suspensions and season-specific wheel setups. I am notably open to modifying my rides.
Our consideration list has boiled down to a new Volkswagen GTI, Volkswagen Jetta GLI, Ford Focus ST or Subaru WRX. If we go used, a BMW 328xi, BMW 530xi wagon or an Audi A4 Avant six cylinder are in the cards. The new GTI and used 530xi are currently leading the pack.
My wife’s must-haves are stick shift, sunroof, massive front legroom, no cloth and a torquey drivetrain. My own minimal input has been to keep all the turbo options strictly on the new car list, especially since all the older cars she likes to drive trend to be premium products.
I’d ask opinion givers to keep in mind that the new Volkswagens can be had for $3,500 under MSRP right now. Also, she’s already been completely underwhelmed by the Subaru and Ford interiors, so nice things do matter with this one. We have two kids and two dogs, but this car doesn’t really have to carry all of us all the time; that would just be a bonus.
Thanks for your help!
Being completely underwhelmed with Subaru and Ford interiors means you both want to pay more money for machines that ape your rather Germanic garage. Nothing wrong with that.
Then again, the Vellum Venom in me wonders what you two would think of the stupid-nice interior inside the latest F-150. Not that I recommend you get one…
No, you both want an Audi or a BMW, or maybe a new Volkswagen considering the deals out there. My gut says to look harder at a 3-series or an A4, as they will be a decent value and their higher volume parts selection makes them easier and cheaper to repair out of warranty than a more bespoke 5-series. I recokon an A4 is the one, especially if the Volkswagen scandal taints Audi’s public perception. Watch the incentives flow!
This makes me laugh because I now have a 2008 Volkswagen Passat with the VR6 engine and a 2008 Audi A4 with the 2-liter turbo. That Volkswagen drives an awful lot like an Audi A6 with a V-6, and the Audi drives like a Volkswagen with a not so thrilling four-banger. I’m glad you had the fortune of choosing the 2.5-liter in the Jetta because, honestly, I don’t see the benefit of the 2-liter when it comes to everyday driving.
I’m going to throw in a bit of a wildcard into this mess of models because there’s one model I sold recently, and it simply impressed the hell out of me: a 2003 BMW 5-series with a manual transmission. Mine was a 525i sedan and I liked it because it had excellent ergonomics and interior materials that weren’t equaled in the later generations. The E39 generation offers a bit of a retro feel while, at the same time, it’s completely safe and not overladen with an endless array of electronic gizmos that detract from the driving experience. That car has a great balance between space and sport and it’s exactly the right fit for your Teutonic tastes.
One of the less shocking findings we have discovered at the Long-Term Quality Index: the fewer the features on German vehicles, the better their long-term reliability, and the longer the prior owner keeps their ride. I would educate yourself a bit by clicking here, visit a few enthusiast forums, and focus squarely on condition instead of price.
You can afford to buy a mint condition, low-mileage version and you already have the ‘new’ car. I would take an E39 for a drive with the 2.5-liter inline six. I think it represents the best balance between what you want in theory, and what you would truly enjoy. If you have been driving the E30 for this long, the E39 will be a revelation. Good luck!
[Photo credit: BimmerToday]
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