Mid Week Match-Up: Fast Sedan For Five
It is Wednesday so that means another time for a Mid Week Match-Up (TM)! This week we are looking for a $10k-$15k daily driver for Bozatwork that he can stick 3 kids in the back and hoon everyday. In his own words:
I appreciate the owners’ perspective shared here. With baby #3 on the
way, the wife is moving to a minivan and I need to sell my E46 ZHP for
something that can accommodate three car seats more easily for the
occasional carpool. I had a distant dream that it might also be
something still mildly fun to drive. Any other suggestions in comparison
to the Cayenne? Trying not to overspend as I do still want a separate
sports car in five years…maybe better just to save the money for that
purchase? Ugh, adulthood.
It’s very hard to look in that
$10-15k price range and decide between boring practicality and fun
enjoyable driving. I wonder if I go cheaper with something ultra boring
(Honda Pilot?) if I can drive it every day until it dies and meanwhile
bank money for a 911. For what it’s worth, I’ve also recently changed
jobs and gone from a 40 mile round trip commute to less than 10 miles
round trip. I’m excited for the peer pressure to get something fun.
As DT’s resident parent of three, I can attest to the need for a sedan that will fit the kids in the back and not cause death from boredom. This is why God gave us the STi. Prices haven’t dropped much (actually they crept up) for a 2004-2005 STi in the past 3 years. $15k will get you a decent stock example in the 75k mile range and with some persistence you might be able to get into a 2006-2007 with a few more miles. The trick is to find a 100% stock example, like this one, and avoid anything that has a Brrrzrap FMIC, ugly wheels, adult racoon sized turbocharger, or an aftermarket periscope.
Help find a car for Bozatwork, what would you buy with your money? Comments below.
Volvo V70R with the third seat option.
Cr@p! You said sedan. Fine, make it a S60R.
But why not a car with three rows? Aversion to the shape? Sometimes you gotta maybe make a few changes when you have three kidlets…
Bo knows rows.
Friends of ours have three kids. Granted, they're all out of a booster and baby seats but they're a hardcore Subaru family and they bought a Forester. They're miserable when all three kids are in the back seat together, jammed in there. Nobody has any personal space and they get so cranky that they start to snipe at each other. I can't tell you how many times they've told me they regret the Forester and that they should've bought an SUV or minivan.
There are so many good choices out there these days, I don't see why anybody would choose to smash three boosters, baby seats and people into the back seat of a sedan. That being said, wasn't the conclusion that the rear seat width had to be 54" or more to even contemplate three specifically thinner seats?
Sorry, El Jefe. Didn't mean to pick on you inadvertently. I'm just musing.
I owned a WRX when our first child arrived, and while you may be able to fit 3 kids in the back seat, you definitely will not be able to fit 3 child seats. In fact, unless you get the narrowest child seats out there, I doubt you'll find any car that can fit 3 seats in one row, even SUVs.
V70R would be a great choice, if you have a kid that's old enough to sit in the backwards facing third row. Or you could step up to the XC90, including the V8 R-design they made from 2008-2010. Right now we have 3 child seats in our 2007 XC90 V8, which is still an enjoyable car to drive (and, unlike the Pilot, not awkward to be seen driving as a male).
A Pontiac G8 has 58" rear hip room. Still wouldn't make sense to me to cram three people, kids and/or seats back there.
I'd love to help, but this is getting short as the blogging software has thrown away my post twice! Trying a third time, just quickly:
E46 M3s are already abotu a perfect blend of kids & fun. My brother ferries the kids & tracks his.
Slightly larger is the E39 M5, which is (miraculously!) in this price range:
But if you need 3 rows in both your primary vehicles (to accomodate 2 adults + 3 kid seats) then you really won't find any sportscars. Give up & get another minivan or crossover, but save the budget to get an rx-8 on the side. Drives like a true sporstcar, and 2+2 means you cannot fit the whole family, but the half-doors really do work and you can put 2 car seats in the back & one in the front to pick up the kids in a pinch.
As an e39 owner I'll just chime in for Bozatwork that the 'LATCH system' with the hooks for the car seats is found in 2001+ model years. Not in '99 / '00 (or it might have been an option on these years). Great choice though.
Pontiac G8 GT or a GXP if you can find one.
Why are my answers always the same ones? I feel like a broken record.
Merc W210 E55.
If you go for an E53 X5, skip the sport package, the stiff suspension and lighthouse ride-height is a little whiplash-inducing.
And so on…
Fitting three kids across in car seats in any car or SUV is really going to be tough. Even when the oldest is is a booster, they can't get the seatbelt on themselves in the middle with the booster, and you will curse your car. My Audi A8L was a tight squeeze with three across but they fit. No way would I suggest anyone actually buy a used Audi though, even though you could buy a 2001 S8 for way less than your price!
As a father of three myself, I must declare that you don't need a car that fits three kids. If your wife has two or more of the kids, she drives the minivan. If you have two or more of the kids, you drive the minivan. We got by only having a MDX(aka an inefficient minivan) and a 1980 911 for a while. If you feel like you must sell the E46 ZHP, start shopping for that 911 now!
I didn't mean at all to imply that I'm only looking at sedans. Totally and completely open to wagons or SUVs, third row or not. Just what is the best option at the price that delivers a fun drive? Also I'm a decent DIY maintenance guy with a garage but not a pro setup by any stretch, so reliability or easy preventative maintenance is a big plus. Not sure this is helpful to expand the pool of choices from just sedans for this challenge, but certainly more informative for me…
No worries! Thanks for clearing that up, bozatwork. To tell you the truth, there are so many vehicles that meet your criteria, it's hard to really narrow it down. We're still gonna try though, because we're gluttons for punishment.
Bought a first-gen Mazda5 manual new. Fun to drive and the sliding doors were nice, especially once the kids start opening doors themselves (don't need to worry about dinging the neighboring car). In our case, the birth of our third child was why is why we recently sold it for a regular minivan–the Mazda was just too small to handle the additional baby stuff for trips (stroller, pack and play, etc.).
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I've never understood why people buy the Honda Pilot. I do get why Honda sells it; because people are suckers for packaging. In the case of the Pilot, it's form over function with the possible exception of AWD. But if you don't need AWD -and most people don't- then you're passing up a more functional vehicle for a less functional vehicle even though they're basically the same and literally parked next to each other in the same dealership.
Skip all that malarkey and just get one of, if not the best minivan on the market today, the Honda Odyssey. I know a lot of people b!itch about how big it is. Those people haven't driven it. Make the effort to get off your tuckus and try it for yourself. This thing rocks, for what it is. If you care about such things, try to buy one with a six-speed.
The latest gen Sienna is a heck of a vehicle, too. Choose the model variant and options wisely and you've truly got a "swagger wagon".
The Dodge GC/Chrysler T&C/VW Routan are a step behind in most comparisons but they're still a steal. Just make sure you buy a 2011 or newer and get one of the greatest inventions ever in a minivan – Stow 'N Go. Instantly change it into a moving van without breaking your back or taking up room in the garage.
Kia is catching up but you can't afford the newest gen so the older model, while still good, is the bargain basement value of the bunch.
All of these minivans have great things about them and are more about personal preference than anything else. For example, I hate the looks of the Ody, the Sienna is still clearly more about luxury, the Chryslers are slightly lacking in refinement…and the Kia, as well. But each has just as many endearing and positive qualities. Do you like chocolate, vanilla, mint chip or strawberry ice cream? It's your choice.
It's too bad people are so dead set against the minivan. It's a crime and a downright dirty shame. They're fooling themselves as they haul their fat butts up into the Pilot/Highlander/Santa Fe that aren't any better. In fact they're worse.
No, these are sports cars. But we're talking 0-60 in 7 to 8 seconds, depending on the one you pick. That's plenty powerful with precious cargo on board.
If you're unwilling to become part of the minivan freedom fighters (your loss!), then let's move on.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
The Mazda CX-9 is a bloody great car, for what it is. The problem is that not that many show up on the used marketplace, for various reasons. But they're out there and far from impossible to find. Helped a friend buy one not long ago and they are over the moon with their purchase. It might be a step behind the latest and greatest but you're not in the market for the latest and greatest. This is definitely one to check out.
Wife is totally set on Odyssey so good to hear that others like it. Touring options seem to abound although I'm reading wheel/tire setup for run flats is pricey to replace as no options? Totally have not seen a manual. At all.
What are the "good" Mercedes wagon models/years? Third row in one of those for the rare full family haul might be fun. Not very familiar with Merc maintenance and repairs.
Saw a Highlander with "quad" seats so the middle seat in the second row was removable and allowed easy access to third row. Liked that option.
Otherwise honestly I'm debating getting a boringmobile like Camry and coordinating better when I'm tasked with carpool so we can switch minivan drivers. Unfortunately stuff like yesterday happens when my wife has an emergency meeting run late and I have to go pickup without time to plan car exchange.
Adding further fun to the mix, I've held on to a Lexus LX450 that now has 240,000 miles on it. Easily could just keep that and see how long until I kill it completely. But it's not fun and should be digging mud trails somewhere and not hauling little butts.
The eight passenger option in the Sienna is an interesting feature, with the center sliding seat in the second row that creates a bit more separation if you put a baby seat in it and pull it all the way forward.
I also like the built-in vacuum cleaner in the Ody.
Here's a shot of three baby seats in an Ody. There's 66.1 inches rear hip room back there. That's more than a similar vintage Mercedes S-Class (slightly).
I'm the last person to ask about Mercedes in general, as I'm the President Elect of the Anti-German Car League around here. That being said, you're most likely talking an E320. I've been told by knowledgeable folk that these are quite decent cars. These are Mercedes you're talking about, so parts costs are going to be higher and if you have someone else do any maintenance, then you're probably best off finding a really good independent M-B specialist…which mean more $$$ in comparison to some other brands. Most, in fact. And by "fact", I mean in my opinion based on my experience. My family have owned many M-Bs. I have not owned a single one. My mother currently drives an E350. Beautiful car that costs a mint to maintain.
I think, in your case, that it's worth pointing out that the Volvo V70 has the option of built-in booster seats that just fold up and effectively disappear when they're not needed. I don't know this for a fact but I don't think the E320 has this optional feature. This is what they look like in the Volvo. BTW, they are super simple to retrofit into a V70 if you find one that doesn't have it.
All of the vehicles that we've discussed feature relatively easy access to the third row. Like our MPV, being able to slide one side of the second row inwards is a great feature on vehicles that offer second row captain's chairs. In wagons, you don't have to remove anything if you want to haul cargo with no second or third row. Only the Chrysler/Dodge minivans can match that capability.
Why buy a Camry when you can buy the same thing with a far more useful and utilitarian interior…the Sienna or Venza? They're all built on the same (K) platform and they feature the same V6.
Good luck killing that Land Cruiser Lexus. Get back to us when you hit half a million miles. Toyotas are legendary for hitting high miles, that's a given. But again back to the Volvo…the car with the most documented miles in the world is a Volvo. It has about 3 million miles on it.
No love for the CX-9? You said you wanted something fun to drive, reliable and relatively spacious…well, here it is.
If you give us a a rough geographic location, we can find you interesting cars that meet your specs in your area.
Just for fun. It won't happen but it could. It should, but it won't.
K2, thanks for the thoughts sir. I'm located in the capital of Virginia if you want to sleuth.
That Volvo booster seat thing is pretty funky. What year did they start doing that? Works with all years of V70? V70R manual could be a lot of fun but I mean, how's Volvo reliability compared to MB? Close coworkers always seem to have their late 90s Volvos in the shop. Seems like a top option if I can find the third row. Is that retro fit option too?
I was throwing out Camry just as the cheapo option. Squeeze 'em in when needed if I'm the only occupant 70% of the time. I would say why get a Venza or Sienna at all, because faced with that choice I'd just keep the LX450. Same utility in my mind.
Not sure why Acura MDX made your list above if you dislike Pilots. I see the MDX as the less functional version of the Pilot. What am I missing? Just a better driving experience?
E39 M5 sounds great if I can squeeze the narrow child seats. It will really be my car almost all of the time.
By the way, I hate Mazdas. My single mother had two transmission failures on a 626. Never will support the brand.
Thanks for the thoughts, all!
Thank you for your response, comments and most of all your courtesy. It’s the only form of payment that means anything to me, frankly. And I really appreciate it. I will attempt to address each of your points. But, before I do, I’d like to point out something obvious; people make judgments based on emotional qualities and experiences that may or may not have any bearing due to time and technology advances. I mention this because this is going to come back around in our discussion. I hope that folks out there will consider this and reevaluate their prejudices when considering a car purchase, be it new or used. I am no different and catch myself doing exactly that. The best way to combat it is to do research. For example, I’m dead set against German cars. That’s because of a wide variety of factors that I won’t repeat. But I know there are outliers; German cars that aren’t nearly as bad as I think they are and quite good purchases.
The Volvo booster seats and the third row can be purchase from eBay and installed on any V70. All you need is a socket wrench and a few moments on weekend. You can do it if you’re not in the least mechanically inclined, though it sounds like your skill level is much higher. That’s a good thing and something to factor in. Taking a quick gander on eBay, I see the booster seats run about $100 to $200 with shipping, depending on the exact model and interior color. I know for a fact that in the Mark 1 V70 (1998-2000), there are no tools required. You simply lift, unlock and reverse the process with the replacement. I don’t know if it’s that easy in the Mark 2 (2001-2007 – pictured above) but I would be surprised if it was much harder to do. It’s most likely exactly the same.
The Volvo third row is a little harder because you’ve got to install the back seatbelts. But like I said, you’re looking at a bit of time with a socket wrench and that’s it. A quick look at eBay resulted in a guestimate of $200-$500 for the seat cushion and back. You’d need to really dig into it to get a real price. And again, it depends on while model, color, etc. I think if you want a V70, it’s probably just smarter to find one with the third row, if that’s what you want. They are not rare by any means.
It’s worth addressing the comment about the XC90. While this is a good vehicle, there are severe mechanical issues. These can be addressed by choosing the model variant wisely and I’d be happy to talk with you about that more. But I think there are bigger issues. I don’t equate sitting up tall (inches from the road) to fun. Would you rather drive a Ferrari or a G-wagon if what you’re looking for is fun on the twisty roads? If you don’t agree with me that’s fine but that’s a personal choice. But the XC is too SUV-like for me, too tippy but then again, I didn’t even choose the jacked-up version (Cross Country/XC) version of my V70. I would rather be closer to the road. The second issue is the backward-facing third row in the V70 as compared to crawling in to get a baby seat in the forward-facing third row in the XC90. Only you can answer this conundrum. I don’t know if you have to have three at once but if you do (I believe that’s the whole issue here, right?), then the V70 would involve a much simpler, more comfortable process of opening the liftgate and leaning in. I think it would be worthwhile actually trying it on both vehicles to find out for yourself.
Addressing Volvo maintenance, I have to agree that the Mark 2s are not nearly as reliable. My observation is that they will drive you mad with lots of little things going wrong. I have a Mark 1 for a reason and it wasn’t because they are cheaper. I’d be surprised if an E320 is much cheaper or less of a headache to maintain.
So is a V70R worth the headache? That’s tough to decide. From a truly dispassionate viewpoint, what’s it worth to you to have a 7-passenger vehicle that does a 0-60 in 6.2 seconds? A Mark 1 V70R does the same in a comparatively (especially compared to many modern cars) slow 7.6 seconds. These are not quick numbers but it’s worth noting that these cars are extremely easy to upgrade the performance. They are also known for their high mileage. A friend just sent me a picture of his odometer that just turned over 300,000 miles. They also handle better than most SUVs and CUVs but again, there are plenty of other cars that handle far better. The truth is that the V70s are still a bit oriented towards a luxury ride.
Again, I’m not the one to address M-B maintenance costs. You’re probably looking at an older model and I’d think that the costs are not very good in comparison to, say, the CX-9 I suggested. I highly recommend that you take a look at the E320s in your area, figure out which model years are in your budget and then look around online at what folks are experiencing with this car. I highly recommend a resource that I use all of the time, Carsurvey. Frankly, they sound like nightmares to me but here’s a fairly typical subjectively positive review of the C320:
I’m glad you pointed out my seemingly inconsistent dislike of the Honda Pilot. How could I love the Odyssey and MDX but hate the Pilot? I’ll tell you; the Ody is utility personified and the MDX gives you AWD in a superior package. But, like certain DTers that know who they are, sometimes you actually DO need AWD. BTW, most people who do DON’T need AWD, they just need good snow tires. In that case, the MDX makes perfect sense. The third row in the Pilot has 32.1 inches of third row leg room, the Ody has 42.4 and the MDX has 29.1 inches. The MDX is far more compact and, in my opinion, more fun to drive. You give up nothing but 3 inches of third-row leg room and gain so many things over the Pilot. Let’s be realistic; if you’re an adult that has to sit back there, there’s only one answer between the three – the Ody. If you need AWD, then get the Acura MDX.
Hilariously, many of the Pilots running around are 2WD. Again, the Ody makes for sense and the Pilot looks like it was designed by Spongebob. If any of my fellow DTers out there have a Pilot, I apologize if I insulted you but this is my opinion. I wrote just the other day where I watched a dad shove his kid up and into a Pilot in a Home Depot parking lot, turned and the kid fell back out onto the pavement. The Ody would have been at least a shorter fall…
I understand your reluctance towards Mazda. But you should know the following; the slushbox in your mother’s 626 was known to be troublesome. You didn’t mention the year, my guess is that it was a 1994-2002. In that case it was probably the Ford-made CD4E (LA4A-EL in Mazda-speak) four-speed transmission, they were really bad. All vehicles with this transmission suffer the same issues. That includes not only the 626 but also the Mazda MX-6, Ford Probe, Ford Contour, Mercury Mystique, Ford Contour, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner and Euro Ford Mondeo. It’s not Mazdas fault, but Ford’s. There were made in Ohio.
Mazda didn’t learn their lesson and installed a Jatco 5F31J five-speed transmission in our MPV, as well as a long list of cars by other manufacturers; notably Nissan. They’re junky too. Mazda is clearly not the only company who’ve made bad transmission choices. Honda is a particularly guilty party in that not-so-select club.
The Mazda CX-9 features a F21 six-speed automatic made by Aisin. It’s known to be a very reliable unit and it’s used by a vast array of manufacturers including Alfa Romeo, Cadillac, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Lancia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, Opel, Peugeot, Range Rover, Renault, Saab and Volvo.
So here we are back to my observation about past experiences coloring our current views. Yes, your mom had a bad experience. Things are different. If you want a seven-passenger car that’s fun to drive and really reliable you’re doing yourself a great disservice by not checking out the CX-9. Here are couple available now in your area.
Phew. So that’s a lot of jibber-jabber to ponder. But here’s the kicker…I think you know that what you really want to do is just buy a sporty sedan. You have your LX for the rare times you need to haul people and bad weather and your wife has a vehicle that can move people, too. Though it’s been fun to consider what’s out there, there’s very little reason for you to realistically consider a vehicle such as the ones I found you. What I propose to you is to resubmit your original query to DT as “Find me a RWD sports sedan for $10-15K that will be reliable with low maintenance costs.” That’s really what you want and all you really need, isn’t it? You’d end up with a sedan that would fulfill your desire for a vehicle that’s more fun to drive that a “normal” everyday car.
I’ve got a lot more to say on the subject but I’ll await your response before going any further.
Blogger occasionally doesn't like it when I code in links. Sorry about that. You'll need to copy and paste the CX-9 links.