Ask Bark: What Car Should I Buy For Double Duty?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
ask bark what car should i buy for double duty

Best & Brightest, you certainly didn’t disappoint in the last installment of Ask Bark. While some of you seem to be confused about the difference between asking for friendly advice and asking for a full evaluation of one’s values, I know that Greg appreciated your advice almost as much as he appreciated mine. Well done, B&B.

Now, let’s examine this week’s e-mail from a man whose remarks I resemble.

Jordan writes:

Hey Bark,

As a family man, you understand the balance between the needs of your children (chocolate milk, corn dogs, shelter, etc.) and the needs of an enthusiast trying to maintain sanity. I’ve owned a number of sporty cars over the years and typically move on to something different every 12-18 months (my kind of guy —Bark). My “dad shoes” have heel-toed in the likes of a Volkswagen GTI MkV, Honda S2000 AP2, Mini Cooper S and, more recently, a ’14 Ford Fiesta ST.

I am looking to get into something different; perhaps more mature. The proposed dad-mobile would need to serve as occasional kid hauler (two booster seats), summer commuter, and track day toy (three to five weekend events a year). With a budget up to $40,000 and an eye toward a more serious car, I would love to hear your insights on balancing the conflict between the inner boy racer and the outer family man.

Boy, do I ever. I tried to turn a Boss 302 into a family car — and failed miserably. Luckily for me, I currently have two vehicles to help me satisfy my need for balance. Between my 2013 Flex and my 2015 FiST, I have a nice combo. But what would I do if I had to have one vehicle for two jobs? Luckily, I have some ideas for you, Jordan.

You didn’t specify new or used, so I’m going to look at both. We’re going to consider the daily driver and track rat aspects, as well as what it will cost you to track it. At the end, we’ll have a solution that’s palatable for everybody (except the B&B, of course).


Ford Focus RS: Assuming that you could a Focus RS (which you can’t) without every option ticked (which you can’t), this would really be the perfect car for you — that is if you hadn’t said that you have “an eye toward a more serious car.” Having seen the FoRS in person a few times, I have to sadly admit that there’s nothing about it that looks like a serious car. I mean, it’s seriously kickass, but it’s not going to be taken particularly seriously in the parking lot at Goldman Sachs. So, while Focus RS might be the car I would choose for double duty, I can’t give it full marks for you here.

Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack: There are enough incentives right now available on 2015 models to make buying one of these a serious bargain. 485 horsepower in a four-door sedan, and under $40,000 to boot? It’s hard to beat that. If you want to stay a little bit further under budget, a 5.7-liter HEMI R/T is a nice option as well. However, it won’t be the most fun thing to track; you’ll have a blast on straightaways, but turning might be an exercise in patience (and tire-chewing). Also, you seem to like imports a bit more than domestics, save for the FiST (which is really an import with a Ford badge on it, anyway).

Subaru WRX STI: Again, the STi is not the most “serious” of cars, but it’s hard to go much faster for less money. You’ll have a hell of a good time on the track with it, too, easily smoking some cars with much, much higher price tags. The brakes alone are worth the extra cash over the regular WRX, and you can always remove the giant spoiler … I think. At least, that was an option on older STIs. However, I just recommended a WRX to somebody a couple of weeks ago, so let’s table that idea for now and look for something else, if only for the sake of variety.

Lexus IS 300: Sssh … I’m about to tell you a secret. The Lexus IS is the best car in its class. Yup, better than the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and Infiniti Q50. I drove an IS 350 F-Sport up the California coast about a year or so ago, and it was just magic. It’s also surprising good as a track rat. You might get a snicker or two when you pull up for Track Night in America, but you’ll quickly wipe those smiles of their faces. For some reason, maybe because Lexus is better known for the ES than for anything else, the IS gets slept on a lot. Don’t make that some mistake. The 300 might be juuuuuust a bit outside your budget, but the IS 200t, especially in F-Sport trim, wouldn’t be a bad choice either. Finding one that isn’t optioned to the gills? Well … be prepared to make an order.


BMW E90 335i: Maybe you don’t believe me, and you think the 3-Series is the undefeated champ of cars. No worries. There are beautiful, clean, low mile, BMW-certified examples of this car well underneath your budget nearly everywhere. Oh, look — here’s one. Criminy, that’s cheap. I think I might beat you down to Nashville to pick it up! There’s a lot of tuner support for these cars, too. Just make sure you get a certified warranty, and ensure the high pressure fuel pump recall has been performed ( or look for a 335is). Even so, the warranty is only for two years, so caveat emptor; you haven’t owned anything that’s as expensive to fix as an E90. While the coupe might be preferable for track day duty, you’ll be glad that you have four doors the rest of the year. Also, having the cold weather package gives you folding rear seats, which are all the better for putting your Hoosiers in the trunk.

Cadillac CTS-V Sedan: 556 hp? Ok, I guess that will do. These freaking things are fast, and they’re fast everywhere, too: on the road and on the track. Here’s a nice example of a certified V with a clean CarFax. It squeaks inside your budget, and I am sure that there’s more room to be had. Damn, man. Now I also want one of these. At the track, you will be considerably faster than just about everybody in anything short of a purpose built racecar, and you’ll have a pretty pimp ride for the street. Reliability? It’s an LS motor, but it’s also supercharged to the hilt. That’s what GM Certified warranties are for.

Audi S4: Since this is going to be your daily driver and you live in Canada, I assume you’ll experience some nasty weather conditions. This all-wheel drive option might be a nice fit for you. It also probably has the smallest backseats of any car on this list, unfortunately. That being said, you’ll have a pretty nice, livable combo of a track rat and a daily driver with an S4.


So what do I actually recommend? For your particular set of requirements … a Pontiac G8 GXP. No, not really. Although, come to think of it, it’s not a bad choice, so long as you don’t mind paying between 70 and 80 percent of sticker for a car that’s seven model years old that you must import from the United States. But seriously, for your particular set of circumstances, I’d go for the CTS-V sedan. It’s already pretty well depreciated, so when you go to sell it in 12-18 months, you might break even. As long as you get a certified example, you’ll be under bumper-to-bumper warranty the whole time, too. You’ll have a car that’s just about as grown up as can be (what’s more adult than a Caddy?) and a track rat that will blow the doors off of even some cars with “super” in the description.

You know the drill, B&B … have at it!

If you’d like Bark to answer a question for you about anything from “Which car should I buy?” to “Which John Coltrane album is the most ‘authentic’ Trane album?” (the answer is Giant Steps), then send him an e-mail at, or find him in the Twitterverse @barkm302.

Join the conversation
3 of 260 comments
  • Sam Hell Jr Sam Hell Jr on Feb 03, 2016

    Somebody at Acura read this and had a good cry. So I'll try to make them feel better and suggest something in the SH-AWD family. A used late-model TL would be a good fit; lots of luck finding one with a stick if that's your bag.

    • Astigmatism Astigmatism on Feb 03, 2016

      The SH-AWD TL was a great car mechanically, but it takes a lot to get past the aesthetics, and I'm not sure it would ever sate the appetite of someone who wants to take their car to track days.

  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on Feb 03, 2016

    I think VoGo has the right idea with multiple cars, though I'm not sure about a Roadmaster. $40k is a generous budget, does this really have to be one car to do it all, or is that only to make this more challenging? It's a short-term ownership period, so what about leasing? I'm not sure how Jordan's $40k budget for purchasing would translate to acceptable monthly lease payments, but maybe an M235i?

  • 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.
  • StormEagle 400 miles range