April 23, 2009

Axis of Practical

OK, we spend most of the time here oogling exotic machinery, discussing the merits of slick tires and track pads, data gathering systems and other tracktard delights . However at least some of us need to consider the practical side of things, like daily transportation, hauling kids and dogs and the astounding amount of "stuff" that always seems to need moving from one place to the next.

For the past six years, that mission has been admirably carried out by a 2002 Audi S6. The Battleship as it was known was a great car for us. In 2002, with its 340 hp, it was the most powerful station wagon available for sale in the US. It was priced competitively with the 290 hp BMW 540 T, a car that I had also considered at the time. The Audi was larger, more powerful and frankly a better deal.

The S6 certainly hauled and it has been reasonably trouble free for the 94000 miles I put on it. The biggest fault with the car was that while its stiff suspension is probably great for taking wide autobahn sweepers at 120 mph, it was not the best tuning for the nasty, potholed streets of NYC. This eventually led to the quite common (for Audi) need to replace some of the suspension components as the car reached the 70000 mile mark. Also, CV joint rubber boots were strangely fragile, needing to be replaced a number of times.

It is quite a cool car, that generation A6 has one of the best "old school" car interiors, lots of room and unstoppable in the snow.
But at 94000 miles it is time so, the the hunt for a replacement is on!

Here are the requirements in no particular order:

-It needs to be able to carry two small children, a large Weimaraner and an obese Dachshund.
-it needs to be sporty and rewarding to drive,and look nice.
-it cannot in any way shape or form resemble a van, mini or otherwise.
-it should get better gas milage than the S6 which got a very "old school" 18mpg highway /9 city if driven gingerly.
-it needs to have a certain subtle "cool" factor.
-it should have all the modern conveniences, Nav, bluetooth, ipod etc.

What do you Axis of Practical tracktards suggest?



  1. Well, I recently bought a Passat Turbo Wagon to solve that itch. My requirements were basically the same except that I also require a manual transmission. That requirement makes the list of candidates REALLY small. There are smaller cars that work but the space gets pretty challenging with the dogs and the kid stuff.

    The car I really wanted was the BMW 535xiT, but out here in sunny CA I really didn't want AWD, and let's face it ... the BMW is a better car than the VW, but it's not 2.5x better (which was the price difference.) I'm still waiting to find a BMW like that on CPO for a giveaway price. In the meantime, the relatively boring VW really does meet the need, and has all kind of feel-good economy to go with it the practicality.

  2. Well, the first car I test drove was the latest Audi A4 wagon. A very nice car, nicely balanced, loved the manumatic with ACTUAL paddles and with upshifts on the right and downshifts on the left. Engine is quite adequate, great interior but....but....there is no room in the trunk! Like many newer wagons the rear hatch is so sloped that there is barely any more cargo capacity than the sedan.

    The BMW 3 series was the same problem, too small in the trunk. too bad as it's the only RWD wagon out there as far as I know. Of course here in the NE we DO get snow and a rwd with no LSD is going to have some issues potentially...

  3. Josh, get a used E63 AMG, if you can find one!
    If you find one and dont want it... Let me know! (Specially if it has the third row seats!)

    Shame that we don't get the S6 or RS6 Wagon in the US, or the M5 Touring. Hard to economically justify their premiums vs. the models with the lesser engine but they are just so desirable.

    If vehicles were taxed on weight, Wagons will become cool in the US (and we can get rid of all those SUVs)

  4. VW Touareg diesel v6 or if you like to buy petrol, the v8. Not a van, not as pretentious as a Cayenne (sorry Stee), decent room, (mine holds two rescued greyhounds plus kid.) It will hold 100 on the highway all day long, and it will stop within two feet of stock m3 from 70mph.

    Plus if you ever move beyond the HPDE world championship and decide to trailer the m-shoe, you can do that as well.

    Personally I prefer wagons to the SUV, but none of the major manufactures are currently bringing over a smart, fun, wagon.

  5. I think you have to consider an X5 if you're interested in SUVs at all. The X5 really does drive well and the V8 engine is plenty good. Sure its short on space in the back, but more than enough for two dogs and two small children. Plus you could always put a rack on it.

    Then again wagons are hot.

  6. What about previous generation cars? The E55 AMG Wagon is a beast as is the Cayenne Turbo. Both can be had for great deals right now.

    Or if you want new, a Cayenne GTS, "sporty" and a 6spd too ;)


  7. jetta sportwagen tdi.

  8. It would have to be a used allroad. The new one is not coming to the US. I was going to mention another Audi avant of some kind but I am at a loss with your statement about the rear cargo room. That sucks! Do you mind getting a used car? Maybe you can find a Saab Turbox wagon on a super closeout price?

  9. Look! Even has the super rare 3rd row seat option http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/2006-MERCEDES-E55-AMG-SPORT-WAGON-CPO-RARE_W0QQitemZ260396087575QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Cars_Trucks?hash=item260396087575&_trksid=p4506.c0.m245&_trkparms=65%3A3%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318#ht_655wt_1129

    Buy it!

  10. I considered a used e63 wagon but in the end I could not justify paying new car prices for a used car with only two years of warranty left.

    The used allroad is also out, I just owned that same generation S6 for six years, need a change!

    The x5 I test drove and liked, the only one that makes sense is the Diesel but in the end the idea of yet another Space Gray X5 was too soccer mom-ish for me, there are so many on the road around here, usually driven by small but very aggressive ladies :o).
    Also for now, living in NYC the whole towing thing is just not going to happen.

    The Tuareg I will never go near, not after the horror stories from our friend Michael who owned a v10 diesel that apparently needs to have it's engine removed in order to change the glow plugs and water pump!

  11. get a volvo V70R. 40bhp less but nothing evolve and ipd cant tackle. great mileage, crazy engine, adjustable shocks for your NYC flogging.

    then again i am a volvotard. other options are the RS6, and bmw might have a 550 touring? i'd rather get a 335i T but whatevs. other options are importing an Evo 9 wagon from japan.

    actually fuck it, get either of these:



  12. who drives 100 on a non-highway and pays attention to ostentatiously taking a picture of himself doing it? AC, you're just soooo cool.

  13. Warning: The following opinion contains high blasphemy and extreme positions.

    Get a full size 4 door pickup and a 125 shifter kart. This is what I did after years of sportbikes, followed by years of sportscars, followed by some time dabbling with “real” racecars. Things I tell myself to perpetuate this condition are – Driving on the street is not fun in anything, especially when compared to a purpose built vehicle on a racetrack. No matter how good a driver you are, no matter how maneuverable your street vehicle, there is a moron/drunk moron out there with your name on the front of their full-size SUV or pickup. The rest is all kart propaganda: they are faster and funner than just about anything up to FF 1600 on the track. They are cheaper than just about anything on the track. I could elaborate ad nauseam, but will end with this tidbit: Sometime after I got into karting my lifelong need to own a Porsche or Ferrari faded from a centerpiece of my belief system to something along the status of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

  14. What song is that in the Audi in the snow video?

  15. I have to repeat what has been said...CPO E63 AMG wagon. I was next to one on the GWB last week..sexiest wagon ever (how's that for an oxymoron). Granted, you may have to wait awhile to find one and they are fairly new (so go w/ the E55). Regarding the short warranty, can't you get 4 yrs / 100k from your purchase date if its ME/BE CPO?
    - Fukes

  16. how about a used Bentley Arnage R. You can pick up a $200K+ car for $50K, it's plenty fast, I'm sure that the kids and dogs can find enough room on the piped leather or the wilton wool carpet, plus if you throw on some winter tires, I'm sure that it's 5000lb weight will provide some great snow traction.

  17. The wagon dilemma is tough... we simply do not get the options they have in Europe.

    I like the Legacy wagons, and if you get a Spec-B (This might be Canadian only, I do not know), it has a reasonable amount of grunt, decent mileage, and its relatively cheap compared to others suggested.

    That said, the Merc and BMW wagons are absolutely wonderful so far as I've heard, but they do charge arguably far too much.

  18. might not look nice, but a new STI might fit the bill. =D

  19. The V70R is cavernous (had one - auto - fast-ish, bored) and can swallow your kids, the dogs and all your luggage for a month, really comfy, can surprise many, but may not have the cool factor you seek, except for the .00001% of the population that knows what it is. Maybe really too low on the radar. The STi (have one now) can swallow your list, but no room for seconds, can drive to Home Depot, can drive to a muddy sites, can drive confidently year 'round and it is cool in the misfit toys kind of way - no longer the boy-racer-in-your-face -priced too high for the last gen -I've only seen a handful on the road. But it's like a pumped-up-flared-normal-car - think E30M3 (regrettably sold), but with 305hp and AWD...and turbo...not a homolgation special...ohnevermind.

  20. I'm sorry but the Volvo...any Volvo, was nipped in the bud by Mrs AC who said she'd rather walk than to ever be mistaken for a Volvo driving soccer mom... :)
    I like the latest STI bit it's just too small for the job.

  21. Interesting option, if only available in the US... http://www.autoblog.com/2009/04/25/video-audi-q7-v12-tdi-versus-bmw-m5/

  22. 2009 Audi A4 Avant, with an S-Line or sport package, drive select a must. I got one a few months ago and what a blast! gets 27+mpg and that turbo is just waiting for someone to chip it....

  23. I did check out the A4 Wagon and liked it a lot, unfortunately the sloped rear just cuts the cargo space too much...

  24. Just keep it.

    -Biased fellow '02 S6 owner.

  25. Erik- I swear by my Envoy Denali....300 hp/300ft lbs torgue...super reliable- its my third since 2000. You might all think I am crazy- but like AC I drive a silver M coupe and an ICC shifter and m no stranger to sport bikes...so the Denali- can drift around corners...pull trailers....load up with kids and dogs....gets 20 mph and has a classy look in black...and you can get a deal on one one of those or an Acadia....( ps- you can pull the pods and front wheels off the kart and put it inside with you kart stand and all you need to run a race weekend : )

  26. i'm in the market for a wagon myself and after doing a good bit of research my leading candidates are a6/s6, e-class, and v70 r. the cubic feet and rear legroom of the aforementioned can't be beat afaict.


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