Please suggest a car for me - downsizing from huge truck and divorcing!

Hello! I currently drive a very large and very tall 4-door, manual transmission Dodge pickup. It was a great vehicle when I was a stay-at-home mom carting around baby gear and 2 big dogs (100+ lbs!). Fast forward to today and I’m down to one booster, two bigger kiddos (6y and 9y), no dogs, and commuting 40 miles (r/t) each day to work where I’m a sr. director at a hi-tech firm, and husband-free. My truck is so tall I can’t fit in any parking garage unless it allows commercial vehicles & forget about zipping into Boston for a day of fun. And it’s costing me ~$400 per month to keep the tank full at 12mpg, if I’m lucky.

I’m looking to get a car and am overwhelmed with choices. Here are my requirements - AWD (I’m a nervous snow driver and my driveway is steep), very safe, better than 12mpg, and have some degree of sporty/sexiness (although I think I’d prefer a 4DR sedan) - and one that will fit in a parking garage w/out coming close to scraping the ceiling. I’ve been looking at off-lease, used Audi 4s, BMW 3 and 5 series. I don’t want to spend more than about $28k. While I’m considering sensible, too, (the Honda/Camry route), I’m at a point in my life where I’d like to find a balance between practical (safe for kids and spacious for some gear) and fun (excellent acceleration for merging onto the highway) and appealing/interesting to look at. And if it helps, i’m in my mid-40s. :slight_smile: Many thanks in advance!

I really like my Subary Legacy.
6 cylinder, five speed automatic that you can manually shift up/down, AWD. It wasn’t anywhere near Audi in price but has many similar options with lower maintenance cost and higher reliability (imo).
It is hard to beat in New England winters but it is even fun to drive on a sunny day on curvy roads with the sunroof open. I think it comes pretty close to my old Saab 900 turbo in performance and drive ability.

Any Legacy is available new at your price. A BMW 328i x-Drive should easily be available at your price, even from a dealer.

If I was in your shoes I would buy mid size 4 cylinder car such as a Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Mazda 6. The Mazda 6 is the most fun to drive and all 4 use about 1/2 the gas your truck uses. I categorically do not recommend a used Audi or used BMW; you will have high mainteance costs even if the vehicles are perfect, and astronomical repair costs if they are not!

Forget what other people drive; the ZoomZoom Mazda 6 is a practical version of an Audi or BMW.`

I would equip the vehicle with the best winter tires such as Michelin X-ICE, instead of AWD. Your operating costs will be considerbly less than an AWD vehicle. If you MUST have AWD, the Subaru Legacy or Outback is the best choice. Both are very good highway vehicles with a quiet, non-tiring ride.

My 03 trailblazer meets your needs, can’t have mine but it might be an option.

Agree with RemcoW, for your budget you could get a brand new Legacy AWD sedan with the 256 hp 3.6 liter engine. Practical, 256 horses of fun, and ready for the slopes.

I agree with the Subaru. You can buy a new Legacy that gets excellent mileage for awd and is plenty roomy enough. But… Get and read Consumer Reports auto guide for car buying information and HEED their advice on all car choices. Say to yourself over and over…“there is no better general source whose advice is safer then CR on car buying.” That includes ours as well. Subaru is highly recomended as a reliable, function, awd vehicle by CR. After reading the choices you are considering, it appears doubtful you have read CR and followed their advice.

I was looking at 4WD Nissan pickups this summer but the 4 door ones cost $30,000. Not too bad really if you don’t want a minivan.

I’d be hesitant about the Audi/ BMW route. Repair costs can be pretty high. I would look for something along the lines of a used 2010 Taurus SHO, a Madzaspeed 6, or a used SRT8 Grand Cheerokee. All have AWD, all have good performance, and all will get better than 12 MPG, though the Jeep won’t surpass that mark by much.

Ford Flex. Comes in FWD and AWD versions.

If you want to appear as an interesting person to meet in her mid-40s (OK, I mean sexy), buy a BMW 3-series.

If not now, when?

A Mazda is a Japanese car (to most Americans anyway) and a Japanese car is a Japanese car. Perception is everything. And an Audi is an expensive Volkswagen. If you can afford it, buy the BMW 3 Series (the 5 Series is too conservative for you). You won’t regret it.

Sticking with the BMW theme, a slightly used BMW X3 is in your price range with about 17MPG city 24MPG highway 20MPG average . Its about the size of a Honda CRV, but way cooler.

With a steep driveway, 4/AWD will be best. Subaru knows AWD

I’ll add another vote for Subaru. I drive a Legacy now, and it is a great car, although I went with the CVT and the four-cylinder engine. So, I have a timing belt instead of a more desirable chain which comes with the bigger engine. I like the fuel economy I get for my mostly short distance driving (20 mpg). However, you might also like the new Outback or the Forester, which still has a more truck-like feel although it will probably meet the garage clearance needs. Both the Outback and the Forester offer better road clearance than the Legacy. The Forester has a timing chain in all versions.

As the owner of my third Outback, I can strongly recommend the new “4th Generation” Outback, particularly if you opt for the 6-cylinder engine. Its power is very impressive, yet I manage to get 21-23 mpg in local driving, and can usually eke out 27-29 mpg on highway trips.

This new generation Outback has a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, and is a couple of inches wider, hence a much smoother ride and much more interior room. Additionally, it is incredibly quiet–at least with the larger, 6-cylinder engine. Besides the power boost, this engine features a timing chain, rather than a timing belt, and the transmission is a “conventional” 5-speed automatic, instead of the CVT that comes with the 4-cylinder engine.

It should be noted that the Outback is essentially the wagon version of the Legacy sedan. The two are mechanically identical, except for the configuration of the body and the much greater ground clearance on the Outback. So, the amount of engine power and the gas mileage figures will be very similar. Which one would be better for you is entirely a matter of personal choice.

The loyalty of Subaru owners always impresses me! Many thanks, everyone, for your feedback. Back before I had my children (and for a short while after I had my first baby), I drove a 2001 BMW Z3 coupe – so I am partial to BMWs. That car was so fun drive … My ex has an Audi A8 & for some reason - history? familiarity? - those are the two makers I’ve been vetting …

I have not checked out Consumer Reports and will do that now. I also have not considered the Subaru at at all, though after reading all the yays for Subaru, I see that the Legacy can be sexy and practical. Yes? :slight_smile: So is the Mazda 6 - plus I could get a new one and a lot of “creature comforts.” OK. The proof is in the test drive. Wish me luck, folks. Thanks to you all, I’m expanding my horizons and will test drive and post back with what I find that “fits” me.

Again, many thanks for your input!

That AWD requirement will probably be a deal breaker, but the Mustang v6 would meet all your requirement for now. If you can get it with a limited slip differential (LSD), then the steep driveway will not be a problem. Good winter (snow) tires all around should make snow driving acceptable in the RWD Mustang. Without the LSD, you might not get it out of the driveway though.

My sister lives in Boston (Somerville, actually), and during the winter they have no problems getting around in their FWD 2003 Camry. I have spent time there during the winter, and don’t remember seeing a significant amount of AWD or even 4WD vehicles running around. The vast majority of them were your basic, run of the mill daily drivers. Like most Northern cities, Boston does a pretty good job of clearing up the snow (truth be told, they just put it in big piles), and again, the vast majority of people get along just fine in regular cars.

AWD is nice, but I think it leads more to a false sense of security. Check into your requirements and make really, really sure you actually need what you think you need. If you’re still positive you want AWD, I’d put in a vote for a Subaru, too (and I’m not an owner). For me, I love my 4Runnner, and it has all the advantages of 4WD, should I need it, and none of the drawbacks of the AWD system.


Frankien-- do not get an Audi!!! I just went through the same thing you are…needed sexier car to go with my new single self and bought an Audi A-3- it was in the shop EVERY Sat. The mechanics and I all knew each other by name. So one day, when I accelerated rather quickly and I guess too much power got transferred into the front wheels, the car shimmied all over the road where i could barely control it. Instead of taking it back in for my regular Sat. visits at the mechanic, I went to a dealer and traded it for an Acura-- sexy AND reliable! I’ll stick with the Japanese from now on–
PS: Acura doesn’t have AWD but front wheel is awesome in the snow. The police cars in Boulder, CO are front-wheel drive Saabs! At least they were about 15 years ago…
PSS… Subarus? Not sexy!

Pss… Saabs? Not in business any more.