Author Topic: AWD Mustachian Advice Please  (Read 8149 times)

livetogive

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AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« on: July 26, 2013, 02:08:41 PM »
Hi all, been loving this forum but am a recent convert.  3 years ago I sold my pickup and bought a repossessed 2007 Volvo S60 AWD for $14,500 (cash).  The car currently has 87,000 miles today, and I just found out it needs $650 worth of work.  Not a big deal but makes me mad i can't do it myself and save half of that, which got me thinking:

Are there mustachian AWD/4WD vehicles?  Think it'd be worth selling my Volvo and buying one?  Looks like private party blue book is ~$8500.  Factor in 8.5% sales tax in California <ARGH>.

We live in San Francisco but spend as much time as possible in the mountains, hence the AWD.  It doesn't always snow in the Sierra, but when it does it DUMPS and causes mandatory 4WD or chain use.  I'm very familiar with chains and they are an option but they're certainly not my first choice.  My SO would not be comfortable with them.  We have a dog who goes everywhere with us and frequently transport skis.

The car only gets about 8,000 miles of use a year, about half of which are driving to or from the mountains.  I'm a capable mechanic but we live in a city where it's difficult to find space to work on it.  We're currently paying to park it <another ouch>.

Thoughts?  My first instinct is to just hold on to the Volvo but I'm new to the whole MMM thing. 

BlueMR2

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2013, 05:12:51 PM »
I doubt you'll do much better as far as operational costs.  You might be able to do better as far as capability though.

If it's suiting your needs, I'd just stay as-is.

I'm not familiar with the Volvo models, but I drove a Volvo SUV AWD back a few years ago for work for awhile.  Was not impressed, it appeared to have an open diff in the front (would light up the right front tire on slippery surfaces) and on tarmac it had significant torque steer to the right if I got on it hard.

My Mitsubishi Eclipse was better, but still wasn't the best AWD system around.  It didn't have the torque steer issue, but the power would dance back and forth between the 2 front tires (alternately spinning each one) until I had the transmission rebuilt (5 cent clip fell off internally) with a limited slip.

I hear the Subarus are better, but I have not driven one yet.

livetogive

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2013, 05:33:20 PM »
I used to own an eclipse as well lol.  The only downside to the eclipse was the non-existant back seat and the crazy high insurance.

I tried out some subarus but thought they were very expensive for what you were getting.  I agree subie AWD is better but my heavy hatchback still seems to do better in the snow than most SUVs even with the crappy AWD system.  I'm curoius if a CRV or Rav 4 would be cheaper to maintain & operate?

Eric

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2013, 05:45:46 PM »
Can I ask a quick off topic question?
It doesn't always snow in the Sierra, but when it does it DUMPS and causes mandatory 4WD or chain use.  I'm very familiar with chains and they are an option but they're certainly not my first choice. 
I always hear about chain requirements.  And I've looked it up on the CDOT website, but it's not clear.  (my guess is that it's vague on purpose)  Is AWD a substitute for chains?  So anytime I hear about chain requirements on the highway, I can assume that driving an AWD is the equivalent?

(I came from Chicago about 4 years ago, so I haven't had the urge to go see snow yet, but I'm sure it will happen at some point in the future, and I could never figure this out)

Recon

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2013, 06:18:32 PM »
I have an 05 Subaru Impreza hatchback...I would say it's fairly mustachian (literally - I think MMM said their family had an '04 Impreza hatch at one point).  5-speed manual + 165 HP and AWD is a great package, and it can hold a bunch of stuff, plus it dominated PA winter with good all-season tires.  However, it doesn't often crack the 30mpg barrier on the highway.  I've seen as high as 34, but usually it's 29-30, which is probably a big part of why MMM ditched it for the xA.  The good news is that Subarus are legendarily reliable, and I picked up mine with 144,000 miles on the clock for $6K, so buying it in cash is a doable proposition.

If you want 4WD instead of AWD, it's hard to go wrong with an older truck like a Tacoma.  Audi AWD is great, and I've driven an A6 allroad for a period of time, but Audis are maintenance nightmares.  Not sure about Volvos - a friend of mine has an S60R and it frequently needs repairs, but that's more of a performance car, so that might be a different story because it's so high-strung.  The Toyota Matrix is similar to an xA and comes with an AWD option, but I think that system is mostly FWD based and not as good.

Not sure about chain requirements, but if you're driving up in the mountains, I would suggest winter tires.  Hard to beat a good full-time AWD system with winter tires.

livetogive

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2013, 11:38:42 PM »
cnp - that's awesome advice on the subie.  We'd be better off awd wise with one of those vs. the volvo, but i'm also kind of thinking I stumbled upon a mustachian vehicle accidentally.

Eric -  Chain control is dead simple.  When it snows hard, and it often does, CALDOT institutes chain control.  This means they literally stop all traffic on the Interstate (usually I80) and check each car for either 1.) 4WD or AWD with at least Mud & Snow tires (they NEVER check for the M&S logo) or 2.) chains on your FWD vehicle or RWD vehicle.  No wiggle room.  You either have this or you don't pass the checkpoint.

From experience, I can tell you that chains on a rear wheel drive vehicle don't work.  I've seen countless BMWs, non 4WD trucks, mercedes, etc in the snowbank stranded.  So if you have RWD only I suggest finding another ride. 

I'm a total complainypants about chains because they have a max speed limit of 25-30mph which is a PITA. Even in the biggest storms there are low roads with 50mph speed limits that are bone dry.  People with chains have to stop on the highway in a storm, put them on, stop when they get off the highway, take them off, drive 5 miles, stop, put them back on, climb into the next neighborhood.  It's not the end of the world but it still sucks.

If (when) you do buy chains (even if you own 4WD), I recommend the self tensioning "Z" cable type.  Buy yourself 1 or 2 extra tensioners.  It's a little more money than the cheapest manual tension ones but I've never had to cut away a self tensioner from an axle, and I've cut away my fair share of cheap manual tensioners.  Hitchhiking to the hardware store, buying wire cutters, buying a new set of chains, hitching back and cutting one chain that got loose and wrapped itself around an axle greatly outweighs the extra cost of the self tensioners.  Don't ask me how I know.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 11:41:52 PM by TurboLT »

AlmostIndependent

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2013, 09:09:52 AM »
I have an '05 Subaru Outback. It's great in the snow; if you put a reasonable set of tires on it you shouldn't need chains for it. I've been driving mine in Alaska for 5 years now and have never had a problem.

I don't understand Californians and chain control. Driving in the Sierras is 100 times worse than the mountains in Alaska entirely on account of absolute shit winter-driving skills and apparent lack of ability to properly install snow chains. Anyone looking for a side-hustle you could collect chains from the side of the road in the summer (there's plenty) and resell them in the winter. I'll get off my soap box now :)

If you decide you want a change in vehicles consider a Subie. You won't regret it.

Eric

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2013, 10:56:42 AM »
Eric -  Chain control is dead simple.  When it snows hard, and it often does, CALDOT institutes chain control.  This means they literally stop all traffic on the Interstate (usually I80) and check each car for either 1.) 4WD or AWD with at least Mud & Snow tires (they NEVER check for the M&S logo) or 2.) chains on your FWD vehicle or RWD vehicle.  No wiggle room.  You either have this or you don't pass the checkpoint.

From experience, I can tell you that chains on a rear wheel drive vehicle don't work.  I've seen countless BMWs, non 4WD trucks, mercedes, etc in the snowbank stranded.  So if you have RWD only I suggest finding another ride. 

Thanks.  I actually drive a VW Passat wagon with AWD.  Mine has 125K miles on it, and I've considered trading it in for something smaller with better MPG too, but I really like my car.  I can get 30-31 mpg on the highway, so it's not terrible.

And just for anecdotal evidence, I owned a Subaru Outback before this car that was an absolute nightmare.  One engine problem after another, so much so that I'll probably never be able to bring myself to buy another Subaru again, as that car completely soured me on them forever.  Of course, once this VW dies, I'll switch to something smaller w/o AWD I imagine, so it's probably a moot point.

Rangifer

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2013, 10:34:34 PM »
If you just want something to get past the chain controls, an AWD Toyota Matrix is probably your best bet.

If you really will put the 4wd capability to use, get a Subaru.

Forcus

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2013, 10:00:35 AM »
Holding on to the Volvo is an option. Maintenance is always expensive on these things. For example, my 05 S50 T5 is worth maybe $4k, I had planned on keeping it so I bought OEM front halfshafts and wheel bearings. $1400 - and that was 10% above dealer cost and I installed everything. Probably would have been close to $3k from a local dealer to have it done. The real nightmares are in the electronics though. If everything works they are real nice. If not, super expensive. We had / have a problem where the radio, if you TOUCH it within 30 seconds of startup, freezes up. Was going to be at least $1k to fix. Well, we just don't touch it. Trunk is randomly popping open when parked. There is a computer that controls windows, locking, etc. that might need a software update. Or the module replaced at somewhere around $1k + software. Annoys the crap out of me. I will say the powertrain has been exceptionally reliable. 180k almost and all original engine parts (turbo, injectors, etc.), original clutch, etc. No issues there. Oh, latest glitch is in the A/C. Have to manually adjust temp and fan as the auto control no longer works. Stupid stuff like that.

I give another vote to Subie's. Pretty simple and lots of them. Decent mpg too.

One "dark horse" candidate, Suzuki SX4's. Dealers may still be blowing them out now that Suzuki U.S. is closing down. Saw some brand new AWD SX4's for around 13k. And unlike Saab, parts will always be available as they are still selling models outside the U.S. Might be worth a shot, especially because you don't see SX4's every day.

Posthumane

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2013, 11:06:48 AM »
I have an '03 Subaru Outback. I had always liked Subarus and wanted an Impreza wagon for a long time, but stumbled upon a great deal with the Outback. My opinion of it after driving it for a while is somewhat mixed. On the reliability front, you have some people who will rave about it but after some further digging you might find that very many of them have issues with things like head gaskets. I know mine does, though I haven't gotten around to fixing it yet (external oil and coolant leak). Another issue is they seem to rust fairly quickly compared to many other makes, though I'm not sure why that is.

The fuel consumption on it isn't great (coming from a compact car, for reference) but I guess it's better than the typical large SUVs and pick-ups that surround me on Alberta roads. The AWD system works pretty well considering the diffs aren't locking, but mine does have an open front diff with limited slip (viscous coupling type) in the centre and rear. As a result the drive traction is pretty well balanced going forward but kind of sucks in reverse, so it is possible to get yourself into a situation that you can't back out of easily.

SnackDog

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2013, 06:49:36 PM »
I can think of nothing necessary about AWD or 4WD. 90% of the places you can get with those you can get with 2WD equally safely, given proper attention to road conditions. The other 10% you probably don't need to go or will get yourself in over your head quickly, even in an AWD vehicle. The old joke about 4WD is that it just let's you get stuck father from the road.

BlueMR2

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2013, 07:58:17 PM »
I can think of nothing necessary about AWD or 4WD. 90% of the places you can get with those you can get with 2WD equally safely, given proper attention to road conditions. The other 10% you probably don't need to go or will get yourself in over your head quickly, even in an AWD vehicle. The old joke about 4WD is that it just let's you get stuck father from the road.

That's very true.  Besides my AWD, I also own a RWD (with open diff) that I have no fear of driving in the Winter.  I run ice/snow tires on it and have no problems going up/down icy ramps that AWD SUVs with "all-season" tire struggle on.  IMO, tires are 90% of the battle, AWD is the last 10% for normal driving.

Rural

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2013, 09:47:19 AM »
I can think of nothing necessary about AWD or 4WD. 90% of the places you can get with those you can get with 2WD equally safely, given proper attention to road conditions. The other 10% you probably don't need to go or will get yourself in over your head quickly, even in an AWD vehicle. The old joke about 4WD is that it just let's you get stuck father from the road.

That's very true.  Besides my AWD, I also own a RWD (with open diff) that I have no fear of driving in the Winter.  I run ice/snow tires on it and have no problems going up/down icy ramps that AWD SUVs with "all-season" tire struggle on.  IMO, tires are 90% of the battle, AWD is the last 10% for normal driving.

YMMV. Without 4WD, I cannot reach my home after a big rain. Of course, in those cases I park the fuel-efficient vehicle at the road and switch to the Jeep there, or, more often, call my husband to come down to get me in the Jeep.

And yes, I could and sometime do hike in, but if the rain is still falling, that's rough on the computer equipment I usually carry (and I'm sure not leaving it down at the road to get stolen).

Posthumane

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2013, 10:27:15 AM »
For most on road driving, urban and highway, AWD is definitely not needed. In fact, I noticed that my Subie has worse road feel than all my previous FWD and RWD cars as you can put a lot more power down before you lose traction, whereas your cornering and braking traction is the same. There's a reason that you see so many SUVs in the ditches in the winter.

There have been a few times, however, where the AWD system in my car has proven to be quite handy. In order to get to my garage in the winter time I have to drive through an unplowed alleyway which can have very deep snow in the winter, and there have been a number of times when I got stuck with a FWD car and had to dig my way out with a shovel while being late for work (part of the advantage that the Subaru has here is actually the higher ground clearance). Also, in muddy rural areas the AWD (and 4wd) makes a big difference. Often you can maintain momentum with four wheels powering through a mud puddle or the like where you would lose speed and get stuck with just two wheels moving you along. You could argue that I don't NEED to go those rural muddy areas, but then again I don't really NEED to go anywhere outside the city at all. They are discretionary trips for recreation/entertainment, like most things I do with most of my vehicles.

AlmostIndependent

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2013, 02:23:09 PM »
(part of the advantage that the Subaru has here is actually the higher ground clearance). Also, in muddy rural areas the AWD (and 4wd) makes a big difference. Often you can maintain momentum with four wheels powering through a mud puddle or the like where you would lose speed and get stuck with just two wheels moving you along.

Agreed. If you're going to do a lot of winter driving it is certainly good to have. Not necessary, but certainly handy.

nawhite

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2013, 03:06:45 PM »
On the reliability front, you have some people who will rave about Subarus but after some further digging you might find that very many of them have issues with things like head gaskets. I know mine does, though I haven't gotten around to fixing it yet (external oil and coolant leak). Another issue is they seem to rust fairly quickly compared to many other makes, though I'm not sure why that is.

The fuel consumption on it isn't great (coming from a compact car, for reference) but I guess it's better than the typical large SUVs and pick-ups that surround me on Alberta roads.

So that you don't have to do further digging, my 99 subaru outback with something like 190k miles has been very blah.
Headgasket blew at 145k miles. Replaced with used engine with fixed headgasket. $2800
I have both an oilpan leak and a coolant leak
The slave clutch cylinder needs to be replaced
Master brake cylinder was replaced $450
speedometer and odometer broke around 140k
Check engine light is on and requires a $450 replacement computer to fix
Rusted out by the rear wheels
One of the radiator fans wont turn on anymore so it overheats fairly often
all of the exhaust covers have fallen off so I can't park in dry grass
It makes an as yet undiagnosed knocking sound on bumps

So, the reliability of subarus is very suspect in my eyes. I'm thinking of moving on to a Vibe/matrix but since my only driving is camping trips where I bring kayaks (wife and I both walk/transit to work) a small truck is also possible.

Also the Colorado CDOT says that All Wheel/4wheel drive is a suitable replacement for chains when chain rules are in effect.

Recon

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2013, 10:22:28 PM »
On the reliability front, you have some people who will rave about Subarus but after some further digging you might find that very many of them have issues with things like head gaskets. I know mine does, though I haven't gotten around to fixing it yet (external oil and coolant leak). Another issue is they seem to rust fairly quickly compared to many other makes, though I'm not sure why that is.

The fuel consumption on it isn't great (coming from a compact car, for reference) but I guess it's better than the typical large SUVs and pick-ups that surround me on Alberta roads.

So that you don't have to do further digging, my 99 subaru outback with something like 190k miles has been very blah.
Headgasket blew at 145k miles. Replaced with used engine with fixed headgasket. $2800
I have both an oilpan leak and a coolant leak
The slave clutch cylinder needs to be replaced
Master brake cylinder was replaced $450
speedometer and odometer broke around 140k
Check engine light is on and requires a $450 replacement computer to fix
Rusted out by the rear wheels
One of the radiator fans wont turn on anymore so it overheats fairly often
all of the exhaust covers have fallen off so I can't park in dry grass
It makes an as yet undiagnosed knocking sound on bumps

So, the reliability of subarus is very suspect in my eyes. I'm thinking of moving on to a Vibe/matrix but since my only driving is camping trips where I bring kayaks (wife and I both walk/transit to work) a small truck is also possible.

Also the Colorado CDOT says that All Wheel/4wheel drive is a suitable replacement for chains when chain rules are in effect.

Headgaskets are a pretty widespread issue on Subarus, but I'm surprised you replaced the whole engine.  I had the headgaskets replaced along with a new clutch and timing belt for about $1400.  Granted, that is still a pretty high cost even without the clutch/timing belt, but headgaskets are a service you will likely only do once over the life of the car at 150K.  These aren't VWs/Audis, where you have to replace the timing belt every 50K or something like that.  I would still say that Subarus are leaps and bounds more reliable than most other makes.  Honda and Toyota are right up there too, but I can't think of another car that really competes with the Impreza/Outback other than the Matrix.  The CRV and RAV4 are bigger and really just jacked-up hatchbacks with an increased price tag and decreased MPG.

nawhite

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2013, 03:15:53 PM »
Headgaskets are a pretty widespread issue on Subarus, but I'm surprised you replaced the whole engine.  I had the headgaskets replaced along with a new clutch and timing belt for about $1400.  Granted, that is still a pretty high cost even without the clutch/timing belt, but headgaskets are a service you will likely only do once over the life of the car at 150K.

Basically the quote from a backwoods West Virginia Mechanic we coasted into when it broke came back as $2000 for the head-gasket replacement or $2000 for an engine replacement with half the miles. We paid another $800 to have him replace the head-gasket on the replacement engine while it was out of the car as a preventative measure. We saw it as paying $800 to take 70,000 miles off the engine which seemed like a good investment.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2013, 03:47:52 PM »
The CRV or Rav4 are great options. I would consider either one. Parts and service is MUCH cheaper than an Audi, Volvo or Subie. Either one is very easy to work on too.

Also, can you just get a set of winter tires? I can't image having to deal with 'chains'.. winter tires are ideal.

Recon

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2013, 11:53:19 PM »
Basically the quote from a backwoods West Virginia Mechanic we coasted into when it broke came back as $2000 for the head-gasket replacement or $2000 for an engine replacement with half the miles. We paid another $800 to have him replace the head-gasket on the replacement engine while it was out of the car as a preventative measure. We saw it as paying $800 to take 70,000 miles off the engine which seemed like a good investment.

That makes more sense - I would have absolutely done the same in that situation.

The CRV or Rav4 are great options. I would consider either one. Parts and service is MUCH cheaper than an Audi, Volvo or Subie. Either one is very easy to work on too.

Audi and Volvo are in the upper tier of maintenance costs, but I certainly wouldn't say that there is a huge gap between Subaru and Honda/Toyota.  I think Subaru occupies a space towards the upper end of Japanese and Korean makes, but still appreciably below anything German or Swedish.  That being said, a CRV or Rav4 isn't a bad choice per se, I just think it's a little more car than the situation calls for.

Keeping all that in mind, though, I would probably keep the Volvo, especially since it's paid off and you don't put a lot of miles on it.  Get some steelies and a good set of winter tires, and you will be more than fine when the snow hits.  Yeah, you might get a little better performance/ground clearance out of a Subaru or Audi quattro, but the switching costs aren't worth it.  It's not like you ran out and financed a new X5 a week ago, or something like that.

prodarwin

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2013, 08:00:03 AM »
I used to have a Subaru.  I used to race a different Subaru.  I have lots of buddies in the Subaru community.

Mustachian, they are not.
Reliable?  Depends on your luck, but overall... no.  I've seen way too many catastrophic engine and transmission failures.

FWIW, the headgaskets on mine were replaced at 45K miles.  I know many enthusiasts consider them part of a 60k service.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #22 on: August 06, 2013, 08:04:35 AM »
When headgaskets are considered part of regular service at 60k, its time to find a new vehicle. That is an inherent design flaw.

It's hard to beat a Japanese engine/manual transmission. They break in before they wear out.

Posthumane

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Re: AWD Mustachian Advice Please
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2013, 02:01:10 PM »
But the Subaru DOES have a Japanese engine and manual transmission... :P
I agree about them not being the most frugal vehicle. Definitely miss my two door hatchback which burned less than 7L/100km in the summer and cost me less that 1 cent/km in depreciation over the period that I drove it.