Macie’s Christmas Wish
“Macie recently discovered she has a new magical power, the ability to create infinite food. On car rides, Macie has turned into a vomit-making perpetual motion machine. – Chris Raymond
This is a photo of Macie, my Pitbull-American Bulldog mix. Macie is a spoiled princess when it comes to…well, everything, and she has about had it when it comes to her present mode of transportation. I drive a Mazda Miata, which is about the same size as Macie. Macie takes up the entire passenger seat as well as half the center console, with enough left over to hang onto the carpets. She has destroyed the car by covering every inch of the interior in drool, throwing up on the carpets and ripping the leather seats at the seams. Though she spends half her time trying to jump out the window and the other half staring at me disapprovingly when I drive too fast, she has finally decided enough is enough. She wants something bigger.
Considering the little Miata is not a great car for the winter, I thought it was time to start looking around for a replacement. I need a vehicle that is AWD, good in the snow, comfortable for long highway trips, is reasonably reliable and gets acceptable gas mileage for a big car. I also need it to have some feel of luxury as well as a uniqueness that makes it different from the standard Chevy or Hyundai. It also needs to be cheap enough that I don’t care what either winter or Macie will do to it.
Audi A4-A6 Quattro Wagon
There is something about an Audi that looks more menacing than a BMW or Mercedes. You get the feeling that Audi drivers are friends with people who could break your legs. I prefer the wagons over the sedans because I need to overcompensate for years of having a Miata trunk. Combine the quality of an Audi with its famous Quattro drivetrain and you end up with an excellent contender for a winter car. The best thing about this is that you can find them cheap and in very good condition.
Audi Allroad Wagon
Basically this is a meaner looking A4 with cooler plastic cladding and a turbo. Early versions were based on the A6 and feature low range gearing and height adjustable suspensions. The Allroad is piled high with leather and wood trim, typical of an Audi. It has 7.1 inches of ground clearance which should be good enough for my eternally unplowed street. There is even a Biturbo version for those enjoy twice the turbo lag.
This Giugiaro designed spaceship is probably the coolest option for a winter beater I can think of. Not only is it AWD, but it is a Subaru…the ultimate winter mountain goat. Plus, those funky side-windows will make you feel like a fighter pilot. The SVX is no Land Rover, but it would look amazing in the driveway.
This is Mini Me to the Navigator. From the outside, it is a typical ugly Detroit SUV. The interior is why this car made the list. It looks a little like a Bentley Continental in there, in spite of the cheap quality silver plastic. Considering I spend most of my time “inside” the car, I think this is a serious contender. I like the leather, the dual cowl design of the dash, and even can tolerate all those little silver bits and pieces. It even comes with a rear climate-control system, perfect for dealing with Macie’s gas issues.
I have always said “If you’re going to be a bear, be a Grizzly!” This monster is about as Grizzly as you can get in an SUV. Not only is this the longest SUV ever made, it is the widest, the tallest, has the longest wheelbase, the widest front track, widest rear track, and is the heaviest SUV ever produced. This is enormous. Macie and all her friends will have ample room to run and frolic in this behemoth. Drawbacks include the fact that it will be impossible for the heater to keep that much space warm, parking it in front of the house will block out the sun, and I will require a second job to pay for gas.
Mercedes Benz E320 4Matic Estate
I never considered a Mercedes Benz because I thought they would be out of my price range. I was surprised to learn that a “gently” used example could be had for under 6 grand. For me, there is something special about a Mercedes wagon that cannot be matched by the sedan. It says “I may have money, but I still work.” I like the idea of all that wood trim and leather, combined with Mercedes quality and standards. Plus, newer models include all the gadgets and gizmos you would expect of a luxury car, like heated seats, heated steering wheel, and a great 4MATIC AWD system.
Range Rover Country LWB
I have always wanted a Series I Range Rover. There is something about this car that makes everyone who drives it look like Prince Charles. Maybe it is the height, or the Connolly leather seats and wood trim, but this car has a presence not found in anything but a British luxury car. Series II doesn’t cut it for me, and Series III is still too expensive for a winter beater. Finding a great example will cost tens of thousands, but a decent local one can be had for cheap money. Yes, it is as reliable as my old Jaguar XJS, and owning one will probably lead to suicide…but it still seems worth it to me.
Land Rover Discovery
If I cannot find an acceptable Range Rover, then this is the perfect alternative. I like the later models with the modern headlight configuration, and really like the upright stance and small roof windows. Land Rovers are mountain goats, and this should handle the snow quite well. Inside there is enough leather and wood to make the car seem luxurious, and enough space for Macie to stretch out. Again, I hear the quality is pretty poor on some models, but at least it is better than the Freelander. Word is that they can last forever with proper care, but that maintenance is constant and expensive.
Subaru Impreza WRX
I have secretly loved these cars for a long time, but never admitted it because most are driven by idiot kids and wanna-be racers. It is possible to find a decent WRX with high miles, and I would certainly prefer the round headlight model sedan over the wagon. This is a true rally car for the road, and the thought of bombing through a winter storm in this baby is pretty exciting. I am sure I would get bored by the plastic Japanese interior, but never of the fun.
Volvo XC Cross Country Wagon
This is another car I would not usually consider, but there is something about plastic cladding that makes this car appear more durable. The XC is AWD and comes with an unusual 5 cylinder 2.7L engine. Quality has to be good, since you can rarely find one with less than 150,000 miles. The interior is average, and the plastic does appear a little cheap, but the huge leather seats are a big plus. I especially like the seat heaters for winter, and the added in-dash navigation system. This one is not on the top of the list, but at least it is a contender.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of nytimes.com, cardomain.com, netcarshow.com, mcsmk8.com, ebay.com, trialx.com and Google images