Ask Bark: What Would You Drive If You Were Exactly Like You?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
ask bark what would you drive if you were exactly like you

In the latest installment of the worldwide internet sensation, Ask Bark?, we hear from Josh, who’s struggling with deciding what to buy for his family of four.

Josh writes:

I need advice. I’m looking for a new car. I’m 40 and married. I have a good job and two kids. I’ve owned old Volvos, Saabs, VWs (and paid those bills) and even a black 1969 Lincoln. (I’m sure this will be relevant at some point —B.)

We currently own three cars:

– a nice 2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited (my wife’s car);

– a 2007 Kia Optima with nearly 200,000 miles used as my commuter to and from Columbus every night for several years. It’s paid off, but just plain worn out and has nearly no trade-in value at this point. I was considering keeping it strictly as backup;

– and a 2000 Cherokee Sport 4.0L 4×4. My unkillable snow car. It’s awful on gas.

I’ve got a 40 mile commute each way, four times a week, primary on back roads.

These are my final four contenders:

MQB GTI. Test drove one (S non-PP DSG), loved it, but I’m scared to death of the VW clusterfuck reliability boogeyman shit.

Accord V-6. Drove a 2013 Touring with the automatic (checked out the coupe) and it was sterile, but quick. Jack likes his. I understand why. It makes great noises. Personally, I’d feel like I settled picking this.

New WRX. I like the idea of this car. I’d buy a new Levorg if I could. I haven’t driven one yet, but I get the impression I’d be let down.

– New Mustang Coupe, V-6 or Ecoboost. I’ve rented both. The kids fit. The insurance won’t kill me. The six makes better noise and full power with regular gas. The EcoBoost makes more torque and I could chip it or whatever. Love the looks, but I’m a grown-ass man in Ohio and sometimes this choice feels a little on-the-nose. If I could swing a 5.0 (and didn’t have to daily it) …

What am I missing? Help me out.


Let me get this straight: You’re 40, you’ve got two kids, you live near Columbus, and you want a sporty car. Holy shit — did I write this in my sleep to myself in order to spur on some interest in Ask Bark?


I’ve often thought that if I had an alternate personality, I would name it “Josh.” But my alternate personality would probably be more like an ass-kicking white version of Wesley Snipes in “Passenger 57 instead of just another Midwestern, suburban dad like me.

Well, Bark/Josh (okay, I’m not 40, but I’m staring at it hard), you’ve named some interesting choices. However, I think each one has a bit of a fatal flaw.

The GTI is a great car and I’m not as worried as you are about its potential unreliability. It would undoubtedly make a fun little hatch for the backroad commute you’ve got every day. Still, I feel like the GTI is just not as much fun as the FiST. I’m not sure how old your kids are, but if they fit into a Mustang, they can’t be that big. I’ve yet to find the reason to recommend at GTI over a FiST, unless you really love plaid more than most people do.

The minute you said “settled,” I drew a virtual black line through your Accord choice. The overarching theme of Ask Bark? is that we never fucking settle. Like, not never. Don’t try to talk yourself into liking a car. That’s like marrying the sensible girl and then asking yourself three years later why she won’t do that thing that you really want her to do, not even with the blinds drawn and the kids over at your mother’s house. If you’re settling for a car, you’re making a bad choice. Next.

The WRX is a fine and interesting choice. That’s, of course, assuming that you’ve decided that you’re okay with being a two-Subie household and all of the stigmas that go along with that. I won’t go any further down that path, as it tends to get people fired around here. I tend to think that the WRX is a great performance bargain, and it will definitely accommodate your family’s needs from a kid-toting perspective. I’ve seen owners report 26-28 mpg, which fits your commute nicely, too. The only real problem with the WRX is that it just isn’t very grown-up (says the man who drives a FiST). It’s over styled to a fault, and it looks a tad goofy in the parking lot next to Camcordimas. It’s also a bit short on features that one expects in a car in that price range. I know, man — the struggle with being a 40-year-old dude who still wants a cool car is very real.

Mustang? I think you’re going to really like having a heavy, rear-wheel-drive car about eight months out of the year in Ohio, and you’re really going to hate it the other four. If you’re planning on holding onto that Cherokee for the Ohio winters, this makes decent sense. However, you might find yourself doing what I did, which is cursing a lot every time you walk past the new Mustang that you’re making a hefty payment on to drive something else any time that there’s a hint of snow on the ground. I figured that I was paying about $3,200 a year to walk past my Mustang. And while a V-6/EcoBoost isn’t nearly as expensive as a Boss, it’s all relative to what your budget is. Would you love it that much in May to make writing the check in January worth it?

Based on all of your choices, it sounds like your budget is just south of $30,000. So what have you missed?

The Acura ILX, perhaps? It’s in your range and is basically a Civic Si that a grown man in Ohio would feel comfortable driving. It has all of the reliability that you’d want from an Accord, but there aren’t as many out there. The internet collectively scoffed at the ILX when it was introduced, but it makes more and more sense to me as I approach the halfway point of life. Or you could just wait for the new Civic Si, too. But if you felt like the Accord was settling, you’d likely feel ever more settled about a smaller, slower Honda.

Of course, you missed the Ford Focus ST. It’s a nice balance between practical and sporty, but it’s not as quick in a straight line as the WRX, and it’s no more adultish.

The new Camaro V-6 has its share of admirers, and it’s probably a bit better sorted than the EcoBoost ‘Stang. However, we both know that you’re not really going to be happy unless you’ve got a V-8 under the bonnet of your pony car.

So, What Would Bark Do (WWBD)? Fuck it.

I’d endure the stares from the other office drones and get the WRX. It’s going to be the best possible combination of everything you’re looking for in a car: straight-line throttle mashing, four doors, and all-wheel drive in those Ohio winters. They sell all of them that they can make, so you’re not likely to get a rip-roaring deal on one, but they do offer 2.9-percent financing on them as of today. No, it’s not the most refined car out there, but it might be the most fun car you can get for the money and they don’t blow up like they used to when you and I were admiring the bug-eyed versions in the early aughts. Get the WRX. You’ll be happy that you did.

And now we’ll turn it over to the B&B so they can tell you how wrong I am!

If you’d like to Ask Bark something, just email me at, and I will be sure to respond as soon as humanly possible.

Join the conversation
3 of 165 comments
  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Jan 22, 2016

    If you're 40ish, enjoy a manual transmission while you can, because by the time you're knocking on 50, like I am, the osteoarthritis in your knees and gout flare-ups in your feet will make it MISERABLE to drive a stick.

    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Jan 22, 2016

      I have gout at 47, I prefer a stick anyway. If you are shifting all the time you are doing it wrong. I wouldn't want to drive something with a heavy clutch, but my cars all have relatively light clutches so it isn't an insurmountable problem. But it does hurt sometimes. Then again, no worst than walking does during a flareup.

  • Justbill Justbill on Feb 01, 2016

    2015 Dodge Charger SE AWD.

  • Jimbo1126 I just looked at the Hyundai website and it appears the SE SR trim has gone away. The SE is now the base trim at $45,500.
  • Jimbo1126 Even my mother, certainly no big car fan, commented that the Mark Vi was the ugliest car she'd ever seen.38,391 in 1980 to 38,398 in 1981 is an increase of 7. :)
  • Kwik_Shift Important consideration when choosing your next vehicle. Its not only your own death, or of your passengers, but the possible lifetime of crippling injuries.
  • Teddyc73 Can we all once and for all stop calling this things "tacos"? Please!
  • David S. Bear Tooth and Chief Joseph highways.