What should I buy?

I need to replace a 2004 Jetta TDI (spunky diesel) that lasted 230,000 miles. I would like my next car to also last forever, have great gas mileage (my Jetta was still getting 44 MPG last week), have enough power and get up and go to handle Boston traffic, and all wheel drive to get me home in 8 inches of new snow. Any suggestions? There don’t seem to be any vehicles with high MPG and AWD. Thanks!

No vehicle will “last forever”. I went to undergrad in Boston, then out here in Colorado for the last 33 year. I’d look at Subaru, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda. All car companies make something for everyone these days. No AWD vehicle will give you the same fuel mileage as a TDI. 8" of snow is nothing! I’d spend my money on four good winter tires instead of AWD.


I consider 200-250,000 “forever”, though wouldn’t it be great to get twice that out of a car? The salt would get the body if the engine didn’t go first. Eight inches of new east coast snow is enough to mean the difference between getting home or not on back country roads that haven’t been plowed yet. We don’t get Colorado snow, but enough to want a good, reliable ride. Thanks for the tire vs. AWD advice.

By that definition of “forever” pretty much any car you can buy today will do.

Heck, whoever ends up with your old TDI might get a whole other eternity out of it.

The Suzuki SX4 gets 30 mpg with AWD.

Sadly, she died. My fault completely - the timing belt. It is an interference engine, so by the time it happened it was too late. There was some rust and a suspension problem that no one could figure out and the windshield was incredibly pitted and an oil spot in my garage - all issues that I was planning on dealing with for another year/50,000 miles. So change your timing belts.

I wouldn’t let AWD or non-AWD to be a show-stopper. I grew up in northern Colorado and lived in Germany and Fairbanks, Alaska. Front-wheel drive vehicles do just as well in snow with the right tires. In fact, they’re even less likely to swap ends than a vehicle with 4WD/AWD. Though, I may be a hypocrite, owning a Jeep and a Subaru. I can say, though the maintenance costs of an AWD drive vehicle are higher than a front-wheel drive. You may not want to limit your search to AWD. It narrows your scope.

Get another TDI if you liked your old one. It gets 42 MPG on highway and 20 in the city. Why do you need AWD in Boston; it’s flat?

Funny - I just came to the conclusion that I really want another TDI and I just asked for quotes online. I live in New Hampshire - 100 miles north of Boston. We get 100-120 inches of snow a year and have snow coverage for 4-6 months a year. It isn’t Colorado, and we are better at clearing snow, but the roads are often pretty bad. Nothing gets cancelled here for weather, either.


A front wheel drive car has one differential. You lose several percent of your power output to the differential, in the form of heat.

An all wheel drive car has THREE differentials. You lose ~3 times as much power that way. To go the same speed, you need to use more energy. So yeah, you lose fuel economy.

And yeah, you don’t need AWD.

I agree…it’s a real compromise awd traction vs economy. We need it daily in the winter where we live, you might not. It’s always a personal choice. You can get by w/o. Boston area that’s usually well plowed…son lives there does well with all seasons and an old Accord (220 k miles). It’s an added expense you have to way against the added security where it’s very seldom needed and your call. My take; several days a year you’ll be very thankful, the rest of the time ambivalent til you fill it up and wonder why did I bother. Don’t use AWD as a substitute for winter tires, it isn’t and only fully useful with.

Let me add that daughter lives in Manchester area and does not normally need AWD for family use with Honda van. But, she does work as home PT care giver where some patients don’t have the best road situation. Her old CRV with AWD fits the bill. It all depends upon your needs.

AWD does produce more mechanical drag, but it’s a couple miles per gallon and in many cars does not contribute to repair costs at all. See repair records of RAV4/CRV/Subaru in CR compared to any other comparable fwd car. NO difference!

I Respectfully disagree and must say no one can tell anyone else whether or not they need AWD. Their own sense of security, finances and responsibilities will help dictate that.

Oh, OK. You said Boston, not northern NH. I assumed you meant you lived there, too. You could get a Touareg, with both TDI and AWD, but it starts at over $40,000.

AWD is nice, but it’s unnecessary if you aren’t driving up steep hills and the roads are paved (with anything). If you have a light touch on the gas, you’ll find any traction that exists, and it’ll be enough to get you moving.

The last thing someone who doesn’t have that much control over their vehicle needs is more confidence.

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. They were very helpful. I bought a 2010 Jetta TDI and am thrilled. I plan to spend another fistful of $$ to get good snow tires - tirerack.com recommends Pirelli for this car - so that when I have to work in Boston or Connecticut or Andover, MA, I know that I’ll get home again. I apologize for my lack of clarity in my opening email - I do live out in the boonies 2 hours and 110 miles north of Boston on a little dirt road. We get much worse weather up here than Concord, NH, even, and there were several times last year when I had a lot of trouble getting up the hills on the paved roads, and had to leave my car at the police station at the bottom of my road and walk home. (They were never very happy with that.)

I love the TDI mostly for its handling and mpg. I think with fabulous snow tires I’ll be happy in the winter, too.

Thanks again,
TDI Girl

If you never had snow tires, just all seasons, you will be very pleasantly surprised at how well they help you.
Best of luck in your travels.

Consider an extra set of wheels, too. That will make mounting your seasonal tires very easy.

This forum is getting to the heart of my question. What to buy, FWD, ALL-wheel, “real-time 4 wheel” or maybe even a true 4 wheel that you can lock into 4 wheel. I now have an old RWD small Toyota PU which does terrible in the snow - no traction- and I often end up using chains to get up short hills, even driveways. If it did better I would consider rebuilding the engine at 250K miles, but it does not, even with 3 sandbags. Studded tires help, but I think it is time for something else. The trade-offs for utility and gas mileage is also a concern. So is front wheel enough, with good tires? Is there any advantage/disadvantage to all-wheel vs the cars that go into 4 wheel when the car slips. Hoping to get a used car. Looking at the Honda Fit, Honda CRV, Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Matrix and Rav4, Subarus, Nissan Rougue & xterra, and maybe even a Volvo or VW Jetta

FWD with good snow tires will handle all but the worst conditions, and will be way better than your current 2wd pickup.

I now have an old RWD small Toyota PU which does terrible in the snow - no traction- and I often end up using chains to get up short hills, even driveways.

I had several “old” 2wd Toyota PUs and they were great in snow. I bet you didn’t use new enough snow tires in the winter and add enough sand. Use at least 300 lbs of tube sand in the back in real slippery conditions and adjust (and less than 150 lbs is not enough). It takes up little room, doesn’t slide and is safer in an accident. They are excellent and better than ANY fwd car in snow when prepared.
A newer 2wd Tacoma and other compact trucks can be had with LS in the rear and with weight and snow tires would be a near match to 4wd in many low traction conditions, while retaining the economy of 2wd. It’s amazing how people think rwd is not good in snow, esp. in a truck, when the don’t care to apply a little advantageous physics. They can be great.
Save your money and prepare the vehicle you have.

Hmmmm. Winter driving is mix, and the conditions really vary, from bare pavement, to hard packed snow, to ice, to slush. Most of the time only a concern on the weekends. Other sites have suggested RWD does the worst. When it was new, I averaged 30MPG, and newer trucks do not seem to get close to that. It is true with new studded tires it did better in winter conditions, and I do like having a PU, especially after the dog has rolled in something particularly offensive. But is it really worth investing several thousand $$ in such an old truck.