Ask Bark: The End of the Grand Prix
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or hit him up on the Twitters at @barkm302.
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