What is the perfect new car for me?

I am female, retired and 61 years young (almost 62!) My partner/husband and I are planning on spending at least one year in Maine in the near future, and I am thinking of replacing my wonderful blue 2004 BMW 325i 4-door sedan 5-speed manual with something that will go better in the snow. My criteria for what I need are:

good gas mileage

fun to drive (responsive when accelerator is pressed, good steering, small road noise (i.e., quiet))


sufficient room for stuff (but not overly large)

goes well in snow - all wheel drive, good ground clearance

warm - especially seats


not too big - not too tall, not too close to ground, not too long

I took the unending survey on cartalk.com, but it gave me 20 cars, none of which were

on my list! For example, the BMW Mini Countryman and the Subaru Forester Turbo were on my list, but not on the list of vehicles recommended to me by the survey, so I would like an honest opinion from you as to the perfect car for me and my long retirement.

I need to be able to drive to visit friends (both nearby and far away), to perhaps take a trip to see the country someday, to run errands, to take my bicycle or kayak with me when I go, and to carry some stuff (shopping, traveling.)

Given the above, what is the perfect car for me? Thanks for your assistance!

Reliable knocks out the Mini, they’ve had a pretty poor record.

I was going to recommend the Forester XT one sentence into your question, I’ve no idea why it didn’t come up on their survey. Normally I’d recommend the regular Forester, but you coming out of a BMW might be disappointed by the lower performance. But test drive one, it will get better mpgs than the turbo. I think our Forester is the best combination of size, visibility, and interior room of any car I’ve driven.

And get a set of winter tire/wheels, you’ll enjoy the car a lot more with them.

Instead of the Forester XT, I am going to recommend the Outback 3.6R.

In addition to the Outback having a better ride and being much quieter than a Forester, an Outback equipped with the optional 3.6 liter 6-cylinder engine is extremely fast. And, despite having a fairly large engine, gas mileage is decent. I average ~22 mpg overall, and have gotten 27 mpg on long road trips. Additionally, the Outback has more ground clearance than the Forester, and has considerably more interior room.

Heated seats are optional, as part of the All-Weather package on the base model, and this package is standard equipment on the more upscale models. The All-Weather package includes heated windshield wipers and heated outside mirrors in addition to the heated seats.

As to color, there are two blue colors available on the Outback.
If you like a dark blue, there is a navy-ish color called Azurite Blue.
I ordered mine with the less-frequently-seen Sky Blue Metallic.

The Azurite Blue version comes with a light-colored interior, and the Sky Blue Metallic comes with a dark-colored interior.

Just be prepared for a lengthy wait if you want a 3.6 liter Outback. All Outbacks are in very strong demand, so dealer stock tends to be low, but dealer stock of the 3.6 liter version tends to be non-existent, simply because not many are made with the larger engine.

I ordered mine in late June, 2010, and it was delivered to me on September 1st. Some folks have reported even longer waits for their 3.6R. However, I can tell you that it is definitely worth waiting for. This is my third Outback, and it is the best of the lot in terms of quality, power, ride, noise level, and interior room.

Thank you for the info. I was not aware that the Mini has a poor reliability record. As the nearest dealership for the Mini from Maine is Boston, which is a long drive from where we will be in Maine, that pretty much knocks that car off the list. Again, thank you!

Believe it or not, my husband has an Outback 3.6 - we waited two months for it last year (ordered it in January, it arrived in March - after all our snow!) In my experience, the Outback is a great car, but the seats sort-of heat (you need to sit in a BMW and turn on the heated seats: they become warm almost instantly; in the Outback, they eventually become a little warm.) It also is rather large-ish - I am not all that tall. I can see (and clear) the top of my BMW 325i; I cannot see over the top of the Outback and clearing the top of snow is a challenge, even with a long-handled brush. Still, perhaps I need to revisit it. Thank you so much for responding!

I think you have the perfect car now. Don’t part with your BMW. For winter in Maine you can put 4 winter tires on your BMW. You might be very happy with the way it handles the snow.

If not, then just buy an older “beater” winter car. A FWD with winter would work, or an older Subaru. Even an older 4X4 pickup or Ford Explorer would be a good Maine car. When you leave Maine you can sell the “beater” to someone else.

Winters in Maine are bad, but they plow the roads, and parking lots very well up there. They also use road salt. In fact it is so cold that traction on hard pack snow covered roads isn’t that bad.

I’m pretty sure whatever you bought to replace the BMW won’t be as fun to drive and you’ll miss it.

If you must have AWD you need some version of a performance car, a 5 spd Subaru WRX or an Audi with Quattro and a manual trans. BMW has an AWD sport wagon on the market now I believe.

“in the Outback, they eventually become a little warm”

Then, there is something wrong with the seat heaters in his Outback.
The seat heaters on my two previous Outbacks were good, but the ones on the 2011 model are incredible in their performance!

Within about 2 minutes, I have to reduce the heat setting for the seat from “high” to “low”, simply because the high setting becomes almost blisteringly hot after about 2 minutes. Then, on the low setting, I can drive all day on a cold winter’s day in total comfort.

While the 3 year Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty is still in effect, make sure that hubby complains about his seat heaters to the dealership. The performance that you mention is NOT normal.

Nobody Knows. You’ll Have To Shop, Yourself. Since You’re Retired You Can Find The Time. A Car That Is Just Right For One Person May Be Awful For Another Person.

I’d check out what the dealers have to show you and while you’re at it you can check out the dealer, too. You’ll want a dealer that gives friendly support to you and your car.

Take some “extended” test drives (longer than once around the block) and maybe drive in some inclement weather. Once you find a car or two that you like then go back online and look at pros and cons for those makes / models and see what options are available.

Some folks even recommend renting for a day or two, the make and model that you think you’re in love with. Sometimes living with somebody or something is different than a first impression.

You can’t pick a salad dressing, tie, or golf clubs that I’m sure to like, and nobody can pick out a car for you. There are different body types and sizes (human body that is) and different configurations in vehicles. Road noise may be very important to me and a hot butt or a tight turning radius or good view out the rear window may be more important to somebody else.

You want us to find your perfect car ? No way, not possible.

Have fun shopping. It’ll be an adventure. Let us know what you narrow your search down to.


Wow! Thanks for this tip! I have never had to turn the seat warmers from high to low!! So we will visit the really friendly and helpful dealership/service department soon to see if they can adjust the performance a bit. There are leather seats in my husband’s Outback and they can be quite cold when it is in the low teens outside, as it is this morning. Again, thank you!

You are right - I am shopping and recognize that each person is unique in their wants/desires. On the other hand, the recommendation I received from the survey included 20 cars - I do not want to be able to write a dissertation on cars, so I am asking others (as I would have when I was working asked my colleagues) for their opinions. I will shop, and test drive, and research the web. I do appreciate all the advice and opinions I am receiving. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond!

How about an AWD Toyota Matrix, I love mine. I live in Chicago and this car is awesome on the snow. The interior room is decent and mileage not bad. A Matrix is worth a look.

If you like your BMW, just get some winter snow tires for it.

Thank you! I will add the AWD Toyota Matrix to the list.

Infiniti G25 or G37 Sedan, with AWD.
Test drive them both.

Luckily, your requirements didn’t say that it needed to be a manual, nor that it needed to be a hatchback, and since you already have a Subaru at your disposal, why not get something different?


Thank you! Considering other options is a good idea. And you are correct: we have a Subaru, so looking at something different is a good idea. Again, thanks!

Also look at the Acura TL and RL with the SH-AWD package. The TL is sportier, the RL is cushier, which means the TL is a lot more fun to drive, but the RL will be a little more comfortable.

MDI is not noted for lots of snow, if it’s one year, I feel you could get by with what you have with winter tires. Otherwise, the Subaru is the official state car/bird and you would do well checking out their models. The Subaru Forrester in the turbo or the Outback in the 6 cyl would be my first two suggestions. the added plushness of the high end Outback would be a good match for your transition from a BMW.

If you have a Subaru, then just put winter tires on the BMW. If the weather is super nasty just take the Subaru if you simply must go out. The BMW will do fine. I think you’ve got everything you need now. So, is it that you are really ready to dump the BMW and just need an excuse to get something newer?

How tall is too tall?
You can get heated cloth seats in a Mazda CX-7 i-Sport trim model. The CX-7 sits about half an inch lower than the Outback does. It’s rated for 20/28 mpg city/highway. If you want AWD, you’ll be looking at 17/21 mpg with (heated)leather seats and a turbo 4cyl. I’d recommend getting a backup camera with it though, it’s been a nice thing to have in mine.

It’s a relatively new model(2007 was the first model year), so longevity isn’t really a known factor yet

If you like the 325i, keep it and enjoy it. Winter tires are all you need to get around. If the weather is too bad, just don’t drive. Or get a 328i x-Drive if you want a new car.