By on March 29, 2016

1988 Pontiac Grand Prix Motor Trend Car of the Year Ad

Brad writes:

Hey Bark,

I’m currently driving a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix with 220,000 miles and a transmission that is slowly showing signs of failure. Since they don’t make Pontiacs anymore, I’m not sure what to replace it with! I’ve had the car eight years and I’m happy with its power and utility. It fits my two school-age boys and has a big trunk. It even swallows mountain and road bikes with the seats down.

So with that as a baseline, I’m looking for a replacement that offers more precise and engaging driving dynamics, good reliability, good utility, and equal or better fuel economy. I live in the Northern Indiana suburbs and commute 65 miles round trip for work through a mix of country roads and two- and four-lane highways. I also have to deal with snow and the twisties don’t exist.

My frontrunner right now is a Honda Accord Sport manual sedan. It would be perfect if Honda offered it as a wagon! A Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen would do the trick, but I’m not sold on VW reliability. I like Ford’s STs but think I need more space. My budget is preferably around $16,000 used, or I spend somewhere around the low $20,000s for new.

Am I asking too much from one car? Should I get a Prius and a motorcycle? (Wife says no to both.)

Thanks for the advice!

Brad

Your wife strikes me as a brilliant woman — at least for saying no to a Prius! In fact, that gives me an idea … but we’ll get there in a bit.

If this were an Ask Jack column (and let’s be honest, we’re all glad it isn’t), he’d heartily endorse your idea of an Accord Sport manual sedan. I don’t think that it’s a bad idea, either, so we’ll keep it in the hopper.

The Focus ST is made for twisties, so you might not enjoy the stiff suspension a whole bunch in the flatlands of Northern Indiana. As you said, it’s not the most spacious thing, but it’s bigger than you might think. Still, it wouldn’t be my first choice.

If you needed to drive a wagon incredibly slowly around the country and get paid under the table for it, I’d definitely recommend a Sportwagen, but that’s about the only circumstance under which I would buy one.

So what else is out there?

Obvious answer would be one of any number of Subaru hatchbacks or wagons — whether it’s a newer Impreza 2.0i Premium or a slightly older WRX hatch/wagon. That solves all of your winter weather problems, gives you suitable bike space, and improves your driving dynamics. Maybe I need a Subaru stamp, too.

Somebody will recommend a C-Max at some point, but I’m gonna shoot that down. Checks all of your boxes, but not super fun to drive.

Here’s a crazy idea: if you wife says no to a Prius, why not a Lexus CT200h? The fuel economy and space requirements are go, but you’re probably not gonna dig it much unless you can find a way to also sneak a motorcycle into the picture.

Completely out of the box idea: why not a E46 BMW 328/330xi with the cold weather package? The cold weather package gives you folding rear seats, which would help you with the bike storage and what not. Driving dynamics would be great. You’d have the all-wheel drive for the winter. And fuel economy is decent. However, you might be driving a rolling time bomb from an economic perspective. Fixing an old Bimmer isn’t the cheapest thing to do, and a good example would eat all of your budget, leaving you no money for repairs.

I’m tempted to recommend a Pontiac G8 GT and a set of Blizzaks, but there’s no stick shift option. Also, when they blow up, parts aren’t easy to find.

Finally … what about a Wrangler? Could be fun. Available in stick shift, all sorts of fun space — but awful fuel economy.

So, WWBD? I’m going to be boring and recommend a 2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i like this one. But I kinda hope you do something foolish and pick up an E46, instead.

Got a technical question? E-mail Sajeev! Want to talk about shoes, watches, or — god forbid — car buying? E-mail Bark at [email protected] or hit him up on the Twitters at @barkm302.

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100 Comments on “Ask Bark: The End of the Grand Prix...”


  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    It’s a shame we can’t have the Focus ST estate.

    Who else even makes wagons for the US market other than the German 3? I’ve not seen any in a long time.

    Acura TSX wagon; does such a thing exist? I remember the comments online saying Honda/Acura were good at fun at one point (it was never a priority for me and I can’t comment).

  • avatar
    albert

    When the Pontiac served you well, then why not consider a Chevrolet Malibu or better yet, a Buick Regal?

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Or an Impala.

      Come to think of it, a used XTS isn’t far out of his price range, and it does everything the GP did, better.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I came here to suggest a used Impala SS or Ford Taurus SHO. Theyre both automatics, but they are quick, relatively cheap, reliable (no major issues with either), roomy with huge trunks, and the SHO has AWD standard.

      • 0 avatar
        HEOJ

        Imapala was my first thought as well, Imapala Limited actually. Its pretty much an update of the car being replaced and I personally found the 2006-2013 Impala a nicer drive than the Grand Prix of the same era. Its pretty much the same size every engine that came in that gen is rated at equal or better fuel economy and since I saw no mention of a supercharger any engine that comes in that era has a higher hp rating then the GP’s 3.8L. To be on the safe side go for a 2012 or newer with the 3.6L you get better fuel economy than the non S/C GP but just as much power as the S/C GP (actually a smidge more). Size wise everything should be just fine since they are both W Body cars, if my faulty memory serves correctly that Impala might have a smidge more space.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          Definitely recommend any 2012-2015 W-body Impala in LS or LT trim. The LTZ rides harder and the 18″ tires are crap in the snow. What you get is a decent riding, roomy and comfortable sedan that does most everything well, has excellent performance and over 30 highway MPG, a smooth 6 speed automatic, remote start on the LT trim and both of these cars can be had for less than 16K with under 20K miles. My 2013 LT has been very reliable and has required no unscheduled trips to the dealer and now is approaching 50K miles and still rides and drives as new.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      I’ve read this entire thread and this by far is the best advice. He was satisfied with the Pontiac. Go with another GM car. The XTS would be a nice upgrade from the Grand Prix.

    • 0 avatar
      ssjoeloc

      Regal AWD used is a fun car with nice handling.

  • avatar

    TSX Sportwagon

  • avatar
    adame24

    How about a Lexus IS300 from the early 2000s?
    Everyone always suggests an e46 but the is300 has great driving dynamics and is bulletproof. It was designed to compete with the e46 but is often overlooked. I have mine in the wagon body style, great car if you can find one. I’ve owned numerous Bimmers and the Lexus’s driving dyamics and inline 6 compare well. I switched to Toyota/Lexus for more reliability and so far have not been disappointed. Plus is300 is way under budget so plenty of money leftover for upgrades and maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      b534202

      Those IS300 wagons are cool, but too rare and people ask too much for them compared to the sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      DanyloS

      The IS300 (sedan) does not have flip down rear seats. I believe there is a pass through but there’s no way you will get a bicycle into the trunk. Sounds like the OP is similar to me and finds a bike rack more of a pain in the butt than is worth dealing with. Plus they are anxiety inducing nobody likes the idea of their expensive toys falling off on the highway or being removed by a passerby when parked.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> I believe there is a pass through but there’s no way you will get a bicycle into the trunk

        The smallest car I’ve fit a 56cm road bike (with its wheels removed and in a case) is my son’s 13.6 cubic foot Toyota Echo trunk. Looking at the specs, the IS300s trunk is 3 cubic feet smaller than the Echo. Damn that’s small. I usually check by bringing the bikes case empty and see if it fits. My bike is too expensive to put outside the car. I also had a hatch mounted rack bounce up and back down denting the car when it hit a major pothole.

  • avatar

    OP lives in Indiana. I love the E46 and the IS300, but are these cars really suited to his needs? So many cars will offer more engaging dynamics than the GP, without being as finicky and twitchy as the sport sedans being tossed around here. Also, after eight years of a W-body Pontiac, the cost of ownership experience of a BMW might be a nasty shock. Given OP’s commute, the Indiana weather, and the Indiana roads, the manual Accord makes perfect sense. Maybe also a 6MT Camry Sport (they’re out there), a 6MT Regal, or a Subaru Legacy. What about a Mazda6?

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    I mean, if we are talking unreliable wagons just be OG and get a Volvo wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I was going to suggest a V50 – my friend bought one recently and it is a really nice car – good power, handling, and fuel economy. They can be found with the rare manual transmission as well.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Basic Focus with stick shift. Should be $16K new. It’s silly to get a sedan if you want to pack bikes in it.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Camry for a sedan and wagon would have to go to Forester or Outback. The Forester does give you that manual transmission option. Camry is bullet proof and the Subaru’s are second highest rated brand next to Audi by Consumer Reports.

    • 0 avatar
      7402

      This. You can probably get a new Forester with a stick (spring for the “Premium” if you want the heated seats. Negotiate hard, as the manual transmission models don’t exactly fly off dealer lots. I have one of these and I love it: awesome snow car, tons of room, versatile for bikes (I can even close the tailgate on my recumbent). Bonus, your kids will continue to fit in the roomy back seat when they get big.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Agreed. A brand-new base or Premium Forester. The Premium gives you heated seats, heated exterior mirrors and wipers, and a very nice sunroof. Don’t need those and want to keep the price in the low 20s? Opt for the base model. It’s reasonably equipped and you can get a manual (although the CVT will give you better fuel mileage). I bought my 2016 base model with CVT, alloy wheels, roof rack and storage-area cover for 24K.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      You think if TMC did a Camry wagon they could end Subaru’s sales streak? Aww man, now I’m all excited for a car that doesn’t even exist.

  • avatar
    ant

    ct200h is a small car. The hatch area doesn’t offer much in the way of cargo space due to batteries.

    I’d recommend that Mazda be avoided due to rust.

    Sadly, in my opinion “engaging driving dynamics” means hydraulic power steering, and once the 4runner set to the side, that means NOTHING is offered new, from anyone. Even used cars these days are all video game steering systems.

    My recommendation is to set “engaging driving dynamics” to the side, and get either a 2nd get Honda fit, pre-CVT CRV, prius wagon, or hybrid rav4.

    Do keep in mind that the TSX sportwagon is going to be an automatic trans, electric steering, and requires premium gas.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Mazda6 3.7L

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Mazda CX5 – reliable, fuel efficient, engaging dynamics for the class and has plenty of space. He can get it with a manual on the base sport model. Plenty available in the budget since it has been out 4 years.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Re: G8 “when they blow up, parts aren’t easy to find.”

    Isn’t the LS engine / Hydramatic or Tremec trans about the most available combination out there for both OEM and hot rod sources?

  • avatar

    I second the Subaru Impreza suggestion. Rugged, AWD, practical, will probably be reliable, and it’s pretty economical to drive as well. We were impressed when we looked at them a few years ago, but didn’t need AWD in Southern California. However, for the OP, it may be a good choice.

    However, unlike Bark, I will also recommend the C-Max. My best friend, a fellow car enthusiast, has one and loves it. He didn’t think he’d enjoy it so much, given its dorky looks, but he cannot stop talking about it. Based on the Focus platform, it is fun to drive on curves, offers a lot of space for a small package, and he consistently averages 41mpg on a tank. Despite the so-so reliability ratings, he has had not one problem at all in 25k miles (and he is rough on his cars). The only downside is no manual option is available

  • avatar
    azinck

    Have you been in a Lexus CT200H? It’s far smaller than you’d think. The storage is really eaten up by the batteries. I shopped it when I was looking for the same combination of utility and fun as the OP and it had less space than something like a Focus or Mazda3. I ended up buying a manual Mazda6 wagon instead and, unfortunately, that was its own headache (due to it’s horrifically-engineered V6).

    I doubt a TSX Sportwagon can be found within budget, but maybe.

    Without going with a CUV, almost the only answer for a modern sporty car with more space than the C-segment hatches comes from VW. If you don’t like the Jetta/Golf Sportwagen don’t forget there was also the Passat wagon.

    For me, I’ve ended up with a full-blown minivan and couldn’t be happier. No wagon is going to drive like a Miata anyway, and on a day-to-day basis I’m very happy to have the practicality of the van. So maybe pick up a 2012 Grand Caravan for < $15k along with a motorcycle.

  • avatar
    Fred

    “So with that as a baseline, I’m looking for a replacement that offers more precise and engaging driving dynamics, good reliability, good utility, and equal or better fuel economy. I live in the Northern Indiana suburbs and commute 65 miles round trip for work through a mix of country roads and two- and four-lane highways. I also have to deal with snow and the twisties don’t exist.”

    You can’t have it all and since you have no twisties eliminate the “dynamics” and you are the perfect Camry/Accord buyer.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Bark suggested a Wrangler?? It has the driving dynamics of a loose turd.

    If you are going down that path why not select a short wheel base dual cab Colorado? This will offer an opportunity for you to take your off springs camping and beer drinking, fishing, to the beach, etc with massive utility.

    If you want real economy go for the diesel variant and even a 4×4 if you can stretch your cash that far.

    Or even wait for that Santa Cruz from Hyundai to come out, if your kids are small enough to fit in the back seat. But the Colorado will give you years of enjoyment.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Find a 2013-2014 Ford Fusion SE with the 1.6 / 6 MT option. Checks all of your boxes: great fuel economy, reliable, engaging on the twisties, cruises at 75-78 under 3000 RPM.

    I’ve had 65000 trouble free miles on mine with a similar, but twice the distance commute. Trunk is cavernous too.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Good option.

    • 0 avatar
      86Sierra

      I like this option. What’s your fuel economy been? Buy new? These seem hard to find and most are incorrectly labeled as manual on auto trader.

      • 0 avatar
        Frank Galvin

        I bought in new in 2013. Fuel economy (lifetime is 31 mpg), and its been doing a lot of in town miles the past two years. When I had the commute from h***, I was averaging 37+ mpg on a combo interstate and 45 mph back roads. When I did some moderate hyper-“ish” miling, I routinely got 43+ mpg on the back road stretch home.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    You could stick with a Wbody and score a low mile ex-Fleet Impala Limited, that will retain your “haul a mountain bike” ability. Likewise a used taurus would have a huge trunk with a good sized pass-through (I think). The Impala would have better forward visibility with a much smaller and more modest dash (which I like), but the Taurus is a significantly stiffer and more modern platform. Both would get approximately similar fuel economy to your GP, although I was a bit disappointed in the 26mpg my latest 3.6L W body rental got, with very easy driving conditions, I was trying very hard to baby it at 70-72 mph.

    • 0 avatar
      montecarl

      Agreed….A 2011/14 W body Impala LTZ would be a good choice..

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      My first thought was one of the last of the W-Body Impala Limiteds available at every GM dealer in the country (along with every rental counter) but then I re-read the requirements and he’s looking for “more precise and engaging driving dynamics” so the W-body is out.

      The TSX wagon sounds fun and it checks the other boxes as well. You can’t go wrong with a Subaru but finding one can be tricky–they don’t tend to sit around unsold like Altimas. Volkswagens have all taken a pretty severe resale haircut recently so at a reduced price a Golf/Jetta Sportwagen might be worth taking a shot on.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      My 2013 LT easily sees 31 in those same conditions. It didn’t start getting that mileage until well over 15K miles however so I suspect the 3.6 and adaptive transmission took a while to adjust to my driving style which is normal to a little aggressive at times.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t understand these suggestions for a non-WRX Impreza when the Forester is available. A naturally aspirated Forester is a better car in every way than the Impreza, and you should be able to get a 2011-13 (new FB engine) in excellent condition within your used budget, or maybe even a 2014 if you stretch. Manual transmission is available if you want it and fuel economy is tolerable as long as you don’t get a turbo.

    The TSX Sportwagon is also an excellent suggestion, as is a new Accord Sport if you can live with the size of the backseat pass-through — try it with a bike in person before you buy. Also look at new or used Camry SE — emphasis on SE, which has much better driving behavior than the other trims.

    As usual I’m amazed by some of the suggestions. XTS for someone who wants a driving dynamics upgrade? WRX for someone who states multiple times that fuel economy matters to him? (As an owner of one, I’ll happily confirm that Subaru turbos have an appetite for gas comparable to frat bros’ appetite for Natty Light.)

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      I am in a very similar situation to the OP and live in NE Indiana. I actually had an Accord Sport 6MT. It was great for my drive, but I didn’t go much past 70-75. If you’re on true interstate, the engine is spinning pretty fast at 80+, but it’s got plenty of guts to cruise easily.

      It was and is a great car, but be aware the 4-speaker stereo is beyond horrid. It’s comically bad.

  • avatar
    BlueEr03

    A Fit EX with a manual comes in with an MSRP under 20K. What will the Civic hatch start at? Should have plenty of room in there.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    AWD Charger, obviously. Pontiac and Dodge sort had the same mission, except Dodge actually delivers.

  • avatar

    A used Volvo XC70 can be had in the $16K-$20K range. With the 3.0T engine it goes pretty well, has decent driving dynamics, and the AWD will handle the snow. The capacity is huge, even with the rear seats up.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    “The Focus ST is made for twisties, so you might not enjoy the stiff suspension a whole bunch in the flatlands of Northern Indiana.”

    I don’t know about that. I live in North Texas which isn’t exactly hill country, but some of the rural roads get fun anyways. I wonder if Indiana is the same?

    Where I am we obviously don’t have twisties that wind as they climb and descend hills and mountains. Instead you get a series of tight or sweeping 90° bends chained together by straights of varying length. What is happening is that these roads are snaking between property lines that were set decades before the advent of the car. It’s different from proper twisties, but it has its own charms. Is Indiana similar? or is it somehow more boring?

    • 0 avatar
      86Sierra

      We have a few of these 90 degree bends along property lines or rivers, but for the most part our roads are laid out in a square grid with 1 mile spacing. So yes, more boring.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    What this man wants is a Crosstour. Yeah, it’s ugly, but it’s Honda-reliable, fairly economical, available with AWD, can carry large objects, and the used ones are cheap. If you want to make sure that every single passer-by gawps at you, find an Acura ZDX, which is the same thing, only uglier on the outside and nicer on the inside.

    Edit: I mean, it’s not Aztek ugly, and dude already has a Pontiac, so pretty can’t be THAT important.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The least obvious choice might just be the best, a Mazda 5.
    it fits the kids. It fits the bikes. It fits the budget. Rustproof it regularly so it fits the repair costs.

    And you can get them with a 3rd pedal.

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      I said the about the same thing and I forgot to mention that it’s Honda-reliable, so I will run for as long as he changes the oil.

    • 0 avatar
      azinck

      Yes, this is a very strong suggestion. The Mazda5 drives a whole lot like the Mazda3.

      It drives like a sports car (acceleration aside) compared to almost anything else being suggested in this thread.

  • avatar

    Most of you are ignoring the OP’s stated preference for a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Seeing as how stick-shift Accord Sports are rare, I wouldn’t suggest getting one; but if you can find one, get on it.

    Might I make a couple of different suggestions: Honda Crosstour and Dodge Charger/Magnum.

    Wait, before the B&B go completely batsh!t crazy, please let me explain.

    The depreciation on the Crosstour is insane, it’s one of the few Hondas that DIDN’T hold it’s value like Accords or Civics from that time period. Therefore, you can pick a V6 Crosstour with AWD, Nav, and leather for a song. If there’s any that are still on the lot, you might be able to get a pretty good deal for a new one. Just stay clear of the 4 cylinder model, that’s a lot of car for a small motor to move. I think you might be able to put a bike in the hatch, I fit a double-stroller in my old Crosstour with ease.

    As far as the Charger/Magnum, while I am against Chrysler products due to my issues with them, in certain years you can get a HEMI muthatrucka in an AWD station wagon or sedan, and that’s pretty badass.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Lots of good suggestions above.
    Try searching “5 speed” in Craigslist to find all sorts of cars with manual transmissions. Pretty soon you’ll find a few models that stand out for consideration. Then you can search for the best example of those.
    That’s how I found my Volvo V70 wagon, and it has been pretty satisfactory on several levels… including learning the finer aspects of how to repair Volvos…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The Church would point out for a small outlay the 4T65-E can be replaced and any undercarriage parts can be refreshed, giving your Grand Prix a new lease on life. We would also point out Grand Prixs powered by our lord and savior are an inexpensive offering so perhaps another one should be considered instead of spending $16,000 on a completely new ride?

    This being said, I liked TSX Sportwagon which fits the stated prerequisites of a new choice. The TSX sedan may also fit although given the fact you enjoy biking I am not sure how well a bike fits, the Accord may be a better sedan choice. I would not attempt to purchase a used Subaru because of sky high valuations, you had might as well buy new which you cannot do with $16K. I would also avoid an E46 for the reasons Bark gives, unless said E46 can be acquired very cheaply and you’re willing to budget a sizable sum of money and time for potential repairs.

    I might also throw Saab 9.5 out there only because you could get a manual at one time and they are worthless, but it seems in manual they are a needle in a haystack in MMR. Plus you run the risk of having a Saab story.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I bow at the altar of all things W-Body, but pushing 1/4 million miles – I’d say this Grand Prix is ready to be shredded and converted into a Chinese VW.

      Witness me! Shiny and chrome!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Perhaps. The clean MY05s are worth $2,886 with 101K on average. Buy one for 4, replace all worn out factory components (say $2500) you’re done at $6500 for a number of years. I get the need for change/fun but with kids does it make more sense to go tried and true and save 10K, or say f it spend 16 on something new that’s already five years old?

        • 0 avatar
          86Sierra

          OP here. That’s exactly my dilemma- looking to make the commute more enjoyable, but the practical choice is sticking with what I have. The GP still drives solid, transmission quirks aside.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I say look around for one with around 100K armed with the knowledge they are not expensive no matter what Autotrader, KBB, CL, or smarmy dealer tell you. MY05 was the start of the L26 N/A Series III, the MY04 still uses the L36 N/A Series II so personally I would ignore MY04 unless you’ve found a smoking deal. The issue you’re going to have is people drove the heck out of them, there are six out of the forty base 2005s I am looking at in MMR under 100K miles, the lowest being 71 (I personally have 89K on my own MY08).

            My advice: change the transaxle fluid and filter by dropping the pan on yours, because why not, and start looking for a new MY05-08 Grand Prix or 3800 Lacrosse (CX and CXL I believe, CXS is no go). If you can’t find a replacement and the tranny goes, replace/rebuild the 4T65-E which should buy you some more time. Where yours sits it might be a $1,000 ride, but its a running one you own and which can go a little further. Have faith in our lord, 3800, my son.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            GM, for better or worse, was known for parts-binning everything. The 3800 was available in Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles.

            I own a LeSabre and love the reliability. Mine is a 1995, and it didn’t live an easy life. You could go for a car like a Lucerne/Lacrosse and replace the suspension to suit your tastes, but here’s what I’d do:

            I’d buy an Impala. They’re boring, but get one and add SS or 9C1 parts to firm it up, and you can get a lot of car for the money.

            The 3800 is one of the best engines of all time. My LeSabre has its quirks, but the engine isn’t one of them. After 225k miles with 8 previous owners, it doesn’t leak or burn any fluids. It’s a great engine.

            So, in short, I’d pretty much get what you already have. If you like it, why not stick with that formula?

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            What is exactly wrong with the trans axle? We deal in so many of these cars it isn’t funny. Often most times they start shifting funny and need a new pressure control solenoid. There are endless sites with information on these and youtube videos telling you what to look for and how to fix the shifting issues. 6 times out of 10 we can get these units shifting back to normal with a flush and fill plus Trans X in the black bottle, or drop the pan and install the spring upgrade kit. Sometimes it’s a direct solenoid failure. Slipping off the line indicates worn burnt fluid. There is a shift improver kit offered as mentioned above that upgrades the springs in the valve body and can be installed simply by removing the oil pan. These transmissions are often misdiagnosed. I would highly recommend getting it checked at a good transmission shop because the problem may not involve replacing the unit.

          • 0 avatar
            86Sierra

            Slipping off the line and sometimes during the 1-2 shift. Gets much worse if stopped in gear or if driven stop & go or slow, parking lot driving. Cruises and downshifts fine on the highway. Was told by a shop 3 years ago that it showed slippage and a replacement was the best option. Pan drop, filter & fluid changed 4 years/80k ago.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I guess nobody in your neck of the woods rebuilds transmissions anymore?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Meh – 1/4 million miles on a W-Body Grand Prix. You’re getting to the end of the useful life.

      Heck there are a bunch of other cars beyond GM I would say, meh, almost 1/4 million miles on XXXXXXXXX, you’re getting to the end of the useful life.

      On the other hand, to play Devil’s advocate, I would think a replacement tranny would be easy to source and cheap. My recommendation would do a fluid swap (not a flush) and see if that helps. May kill it, or may solve completely (and likely no between)

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        These are the two highest mile’d ones I can find, both MY04s.

        03/01/16 OHIO Regular $400 277,110 Below MAROON 6G A Yes
        03/24/16 ST PETE Regular $400 264,165 Below BLACK 6G A Yes

        Fluid change is really a regular maintenance item, if its never been done I doubt magic is going to occur. Then again if you believe in magic…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …I’m tempted to recommend a Pontiac G8 GT…

    Good lucking finding one for $16K that isn’t modified worse than a 1998 Honda Civic with 125K very hard miles on the odometer.

    Wired for subs baby! If you want an unmolested average mile G8 GT you’re in for at least $19K still.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Sounds like he wants a manual. If he is patient, I would suggest looking out for an E6x 535i 6MT wagon. Will carry all the things, be fun to drive and be luxurious to ride in. They are insanely rare though so good luck finding one.

    If the manual is no go, I feel like a newish Impala or Lacrosse could work. Remember these things have to be able to haul bikes so something like a little E46 is no go.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Another cheaper possibility if it’s about rowing your own (as I just had this dilemma).

      Replace the GP tranny (can’t be that much) and find something fun and simply from the late 80s or early 90s (patience patience patience) for $5Kish where you can row your own, and then pocket $8K to $9K. Then you can have your cake and eat it too.

      • 0 avatar
        DanyloS

        The dilemma with this becomes at what point do you keep putting money into repairs on a car with 220k/mi. General wear and rust will eventually take their toll.

        Also have to take into consideration the running and maintenance costs on a sporty fun car.

        I do like the idea of the E6x 5-Series wagon though! 6cyl, manual and can be found in AWD… if one can be found with a CarMax warranty (and the right price) I think the OP would be very pleased.

  • avatar
    formula m

    Used Acura RDX, Honda CRV, previous gen V6 RAV4, 2.0L eco boost Escape or Edge, etc… There is a reason they sell a lot of these vehicles. Driving a stick shift accord doesn’t automatically mean you become enlightened like the internet may have you believe

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    What ever you buy do not buy a used Subaru. Been there done that and it is ain’t pretty. If you do keep a lot of money close by.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Mazda6 Sport. Manual.
    Snow tires optional. There are maybe 2 days a year when 4WD is must to get around in Northern Indiana. If the Pontiac worked for you in the winter then the Mazda will be fine.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Well, you were right that somebody is going to recommend the C-Max. I am. You are wrong in saying that it is not fun to drive – at least we have different opinions.

    Performance: the C-Max is likely faster 0-60 than his old Grand Prix. He says he doesn’t have twisties to drive on. In northern Indiana, with potholes, tolls and cops, buying too much go power is wasted. On the other hand, buying a car that let’s you play momentum conservation games is fun. When they braking meter tells you you hit 100% efficiency, there’s a feeling of satisfaction. I haven’t tried the new Sync-3, but Myfordtouch is fun, even when you’re yelling at it for being stupid. Actually, it works most of the time. The C-Max is one of the few vehicles that you can order with heated cloth seats. In northern Indiana, that’s a big deal.

    Most of what I said above goes for the Fusion Hybrid. The cargo area in the C-Max is more flexible, and the C-Max is a bit cheaper. Oh, and for the moment at least, the C-Max is made in the United States. That’s significant in Indiana.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Their have been some great suggestions put forth. I would like to remind the OP that Yakima and Thule make a bike rack for every car you are considering. With that in mind don’t lose your mind if you can’t find the **ONE** used TSX wagon for sale in the US that has a manual, is a color you like, priced in within your expectations, and is not abused.

    Accord sport with a bike rack sounds right up your alley. Though, as 28 cars has pointed out I believe, what would a tranny rebuild or R&R cost?

    Further, where’s DeadWeight when you need him informing the OP he is a moron for having a GM product in the first place? Never mind my neighbor is on his third transmission in his 245k CR-V.

    Anyway, vest of luck in your search.

    Bark I think that you should require the requester to post a follow up once, ahem, we have solved their automotive quandary, and tell us how or what route was chosen and if they are pleased with the results.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    A first-generation Toyota Matrix hatch/wagon. Sturdy as a brick; based on, and officially named, a Corolla. Totally competent in-traffic. It’s not a sports car; but on the tangent roads, you’ll never feel slighted.

    Driving position is excellent – although the chrome trim on the round gauge pods will do your eyes. But it’s telling of the low number of faults that one has to dig that deep to criticize. And…my short-term exposure to it was…the automatic delivered much-better fuel mileage than I’d have expected. I was getting about 34 mpg on it.

    Of course, they’re getting long in the tooth now; but if you can get one out of some old gent’s estate, you’ll do well. And yes…like so many Scions, the Matrix, which also aimed at young buyers, found its best customers on the dark side of 50.

    Garaged and low mileage, to me, would indicate GO.

    The later version might be as good or better, although I have no experience with it.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Guys! Guys! Guuuuysssss! If we suggest Foresters, Jack’s gonna get mad and write a burning missive about how he is an übermensch because he had TWO Phaetons, THREE Porsches and diddles soccer moms or something!

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I’ll go ahead and be the guy to suggest a Ford C-Max Hybrid, then, since I cross-shopped it against the others and found them lacking. The steering and acceleration in a non-WRX Subaru are vague. The Lexus CT200h is too small, too slow, and too ‘spensive. The Focus hatch, ST or not, lacks roominess aft of the front seats. The C-Max is refined, spacious, surprisingly quick, and thrifty — a real joy for someone with a longish commute.

    But if our fair reader wants to tote bicycles on the reg, then honestly even the cavernous but short C-Max hatch isn’t ideal; a long wagon/CUV or even a mini truck make sense, especially if there is more than one bike. Or split the difference between the Subie wagon and mini truck and get a Subaru Baja (flip out the bed extender)!

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      A hybrid only makes sense in stop-and-go city driving.

      He’s driving country roads, tangent and flat, sixty miles a day.

      A hybrid has a higher entry cost; more complexity; and offers little at steady-speed freeway or near-freeway conditions…steady 65-75.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> A hybrid only makes sense in stop-and-go city driving.

        That’s not true. They work well on the highway too. That’s from personal experience. If you watch the display you’ll see the battery kicking in to help out. On hilly terrain, it’s a bigger factor, but I’ve seen it kicking in on flat terrain. They’re not necessary more complex and have superior reliability. We have a Prius that’s 9 years old and subjected to a heavy duty urban commute. Almost 150k and it’s been tires, exhaust, and a 12 volt battery only. I think we did the plugs too, but that was so long ago. Brakes still good thanks to regen. On the downside, handling is horrible and I think the seats are uncomfortable.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          http://www.autotrader.com/car-tips/is-a-hybrid-car-worth-the-extra-money-215304

          “Scenario 2: Highway Driving

          Now imagine the same cars for someone who spends a lot of time on the highway. The Prius returns around 48 mpg hwy, while the Corolla reaches as high as 42 mpg. In that case, the Prius gains back only around $105 per 10,000 miles — meaning it would take drivers well over 400,000 miles to earn back the extra $5,000 spent on the Prius.”

          http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/hybrids-make-little-sense-for-highway-drivers-study-shows.html

          “PITTSBURGH — Hybrid vehicles cost more without much benefit to the environment if you do the bulk of your driving on the highway, a new study shows.

          But for drivers who spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic, a hybrid “could lower lifetime costs by 20 percent and cut greenhouse gas emissions in half,” said the study by Carnegie Mellon University.

          The study also found that aggressive driving can cut vehicle range by 40 percent or more for electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf. Researchers called that a “notable risk for pure electric vehicles, which already have limited range and take a long time to recharge.”

          “But with hybrid electric vehicles, which run on gasoline, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that use electricity for short trips and switch to gasoline for longer trips, there’s no added risk of being stranded,” said Jeremy Michalek, a Carnegie Mellon professor who headed the study.

          The study, which analyzed the potential cost and greenhouse gas savings of hybrid and electric vehicles under different driving conditions, was funded by the National Science Foundation, Ford and Toyota. The list of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles used for the test includes the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid and 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid.”

  • avatar
    duffman13

    So I know you said not sold on VW reliability, but hear me out. Jetta 1.8T Sport manual. They have the most rear seat room of any compact car (like seriously double the leg room a Mazda 3 does), large trunk, sporty handling, high 30s mileage, leatherette, and heated seats, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

    At least in my area, you can get a new one with a manual for roughly $16.5k all day long (not sure if that’s before or after the $1k customer cash). There are no other stacking incentives that I’m aware of to reach that price, and you get new car incentive financing rates too.

    At this point the new 1.8T is a relatively known quantity, and the rest of this particular Jetta platform is nearing the end of its model cycle, so the rest of the reliability kinks have been ironed out. I think it is one of the better buys out there right now since VW has sustained such a huge PR problem from dieselgate they can’t give the things away. Golf prices are still being buoyed by winning the Car of the Year award.

    I would have pulled the trigger on one myself in the last few weeks if my wife hadn’t vetoed it (I have a perfectly functional Mazda 3 with under 70k on it).

  • avatar
    mikedt

    A used Mazda CX-5. As a CX-5 owner, I have to guess that it handles as well as your current GrandPrix. I’m sure it gets better mileage. And it has the hauling capacity you need.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    Brad likes the Honda Accord but wishes it was available as a wagon. Also, he apparently doesn’t insist on a manual. Don’t laugh, but what immediately came to mind was a Honda Crosstour. The polarizing looks (which I always kind of liked) and the fact that it’s discontinued should result in a somewhat lower price. It’s got available AWD for the snow, a vast (but not very tall) cargo capacity for the bikes with the seats folded, and reasonable fuel economy, slightly better on the FWD version.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    How the hell would a non-M E46 eat all of a $16k budget? The newest E46 is an ’06 for coupes and ’05 for sedans. I can’t see any reason to pay more than $8k for one, unless you must have the performance package. Are you sure you aren’t thinking of the E90/92/93?

    Not that I’m recommending one, but Bark’s statement on the acquisition cost is way off.

    If putting bikes in the trunk is important, I’m not sure even the cold weather package will help. The E46’s trunk is really tight. I had a ’98 5 series with folding seats and I had to remove the front wheel of my mountain bike for it to fit inside. Maybe this works with the folding seats in an E46, but it would be really close and I wouldn’t want to wrestle a bike in there on a regular basis.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Chevy Cruze! Available with a manual if you can find one, good fuel economy, folding seats to accommodate a bike. It isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of fun-to-drive, but it is competent and won’t embarrass itself if you have to turn the wheel or stop. The trade off is very low NVH for the class, and even for the size class above. Probably better than the Accord in that regard, and certainly any Subaru. Perfect for long stretches of flat road.

    Given the requirements and price range, an Accord Sport is tough to argue with if you don’t mind how it rides. A Cruze is worth a look though.

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