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Old 07-13-2014, 07:52 AM   #1
sacto929 OP
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Help me find a fun car...

Fellow ADV'ers--

I am seeking your advice to a bit of a conundrum regarding my next four-wheeled vehicle. Unfortunately, my decision criteria don't lend themselves well to the search function....

I am looking to replace my current four-wheeled DD (1999 Civic EX Coupe manual w/ 196k) with something more “fun”. I have rebuilt the Civic drive train and running gear over the past couple of years, it gets 30+ mpg regardless of driving conditions and fits most everything I need in it, but it's not interesting to me. The only real annoyances I have with the car are the entry and exit, as it's lowered by about 1” from stock and I really have to bend down to get in and out without grazing the top of the door jamb. Headroom is annoying, too, as I don't like to drive while laying in the back seat like Ricky Racer....

So, what does “fun” mean to me in a vehicle? Well, I'd like to find essentially a four-wheeled equivalent to the motorcycle. I want to be able to take my wife and daughters along on a day-trip to weekend-long adventure. We may need to bring stuff, but in my mind, limited storage actually helps keep that to a reasonable level. Off-road capability is a bonus as it opens up the possibilities, but it isn't a requirement. I would like it to have a manual transmission, as I learned on one and really enjoy being a more active part of the driving experience. I'm not completely adverse to an automatic, but the rest of the vehicle would have to rate so highly that I can overlook this.... So, distilled down we have the following:
  • Must seat 4 reasonably comfortably
  • Must have some storage / luggage capacity for short trips
  • Manual transmission
  • Fun factor
  • Budget $25k max
  • Not fragile
  • A/C per the wife...

With those basic requirements, my personal searching has led me to polar opposite solutions:
  • Porsche 996 (911 Carrera MY1999-2004)
  • Jeep Wrangler

A little bit about me to help guide the process. I am neat, but not fussy. I use my vehicles for their intended purposes, and sometimes stretch that intent, but don't abuse them. My vehicles are always mechanically maintained to top condition, but may not get the prompt attention aesthetically that they deserve; however, they do eventually get it. I can wrench on anything and am not afraid of the nameplate on the vehicle, but I don't want to have to drop the engine to change the oil. I have two little girls who are at that age where they are lots of fun to travel with (out of car seats) and love to go exploring, but also have plenty of activities that I end up shuttling them to (sports, etc.). I enjoy cruising the back roads, and fire roads, but I don't consider a street only car to be a limitation—I rode sport bikes for a lot of years and only gave them up once the only fun I was having with them required dragging a knee.

So, ADV, what say you? What should I check out that I may not have thought of? I'm not really on a time schedule, so I'm willing to keep my eyes open for a deal, if it's something initially out of my budget range.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:03 AM   #2
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:06 AM   #3
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Sit in the back of a 911 - not really a four seater. Look at a BMW 135 or maybe a G37.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:12 AM   #4
Manuel Garcia O'Kely
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911 a 4 seat car? With luggage? Nice joke steve allen....

Hard to get a weeks luggage and 4 into a car that is 'fun', IMHO.

Fun to me means ragtop, but you want a daily driver too?
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:17 AM   #5
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Well the Porsche might not be so good for off-road...lol

I could see comparing a Wrangler to a motorcycle, for off-road stuff, etc.

Did you like your Civic overall? I think you could get a Civic Si for well under $25,000.00- especially used. Not a rocket by any means...around 200 HP I think.

Subaru Impreza, etc. might allow you some 'gravel-road' running and ability to haul your kids in the back as well- certainly for under $25,000.00.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:27 AM   #6
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Cut the roof on your CIVIC and call it good... Seriously? this (these) threads make no sense to me- Clue in to the internet and car mags.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:36 AM   #7
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Thanks for the responses guys. To clear up a couple of things:

--I realize that the back seats on the 911 are a bit of a joke, and I certainly don't plan on sitting in them myself. My wife and daughters are all short (sub-5') and they'd be making the sacrifice....
--I understand that the frunk on the 911 is pretty tiny, and damn near useless if the spare is in place. But is it big enough for a small duffel bag or two?
--Off-road would be out, if the solution comes in the form of a nice sedan or coupe.
--I'm not adverse to a cabriolet, but the top down would be more the exception than the rule.
--Yes, it would be a daily driver first, but also fun on the weekends.

A couple of others I've thought about are BMW M3/M5 and Audi S4/S5, although the S5 is a bit outside the price range currently....
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:41 AM   #8
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Front or rear drive?
Front, many of the japanese cars could be considered fun- think hot hatch style, but four door. Nissan Altima/Maxima, Infinity G35 (used)
Nissan 350Z, maybe some of the other Infinity cars. Not sure if those were available manual, but the Nissan is.
Subaru Impreza for all-wheel

Rear drive- Mustang, Camaro, any of the big 3 muscle cars.

G
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hankgs View Post
this (these) threads make no sense to me- Clue in to the internet and car mags.
ADVrider is a large community of folks with varied experience, so I figured that there are folks on here who have experience in things I don't and may be able to bring ideas to light that I wouldn't normally think of.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sacto929 View Post
Thanks for the responses guys. To clear up a couple of things:

--I realize that the back seats on the 911 are a bit of a joke, and I certainly don't plan on sitting in them myself. My wife and daughters are all short (sub-5') and they'd be making the sacrifice....
--I understand that the frunk on the 911 is pretty tiny, and damn near useless if the spare is in place. But is it big enough for a small duffel bag or two?
--Off-road would be out, if the solution comes in the form of a nice sedan or coupe.
--I'm not adverse to a cabriolet, but the top down would be more the exception than the rule.
--Yes, it would be a daily driver first, but also fun on the weekends.

A couple of others I've thought about are BMW M3/M5 and Audi S4/S5, although the S5 is a bit outside the price range currently....
E36 series BMW 328i convertible.
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:50 AM   #11
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Jeep TJ, I6 and a manual gearbox. In many cases you can snag one for 7k or so, and that gives you tons of room in the budget to build it the way you want. Parts are cheap and plentiful, and you will never get dirty looks of you leave some mud on the tires.
You may be able to luck out and find an Unlimited Rubicon for a good price and give the kiddos some more legroom and get all the factory bits like lockers, 4:1 low range and sway bar disconnects.


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Old 07-13-2014, 09:10 AM   #12
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Subaru WRX. Only 6.5" of ground clearance, though, stock. Subaru doesn't offer the Forester with a manual and the turbo, although STI transplants aren't that unusual.

But I'm biased.
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Old 07-13-2014, 01:25 PM   #13
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GTI (GLI if you need more interior room), WRX/STI, Mazdaspeed 3, Focus ST, used BMW 1/3 series.
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Old 07-13-2014, 01:32 PM   #14
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Help me find a fun car...

I've owned a Jeep CJ (w/ V8), 3 series BMW, Audi S4 (Bi-Turbo), and they where all great cars which I loved at the time... but as far as this definition goes

Quote:
Originally Posted by sacto929 View Post

So, what does “fun” mean to me in a vehicle? Well, I'd like to find essentially a four-wheeled equivalent to the motorcycle...
nothing has come as close as my Mini Cooper S (supercharged version). Now I don't necessarily mean acceleration, or outright speed, if that's your thing, because it's not a particularly fast car in a straight line. But its go-cart quick, tight, rail-flat handling still puts a shit-eating grin on my face 8 years later and in a... "it's more fun driving a slow car fast, than a fast car slow" kinda way. It's pretty practical too... I have rooftop cargo box and have taken my family of 4 skiing in it.



Edit... yah know, my buddy has an Fiat Abarth which he loves dearly and he leads his former Ferrari club buddies on group drives with it - he claims they can't keep up in the good twisties around here ;)
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Old 07-13-2014, 01:40 PM   #15
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Go look at and test drive a Subaru Crosstrek and then Wranglers (2 door and Unlimited (4 door)). Then get back to us...
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