Proof you don't need £300k to conquer a damp Welsh hillside…
By PH Staff / Saturday, March 5, 2022 / Loading comments
Volkswagen Golf R32, 2007, 87k, £9,995
In case you hadn’t caught the vibe, it was conspicuously good fun ranking new AWD performance cars in Wales last month. That doesn’t mean the same roads wouldn’t be better appreciated in a Caterham or a Cayman – but when the weather is as changeable as a sociopath’s temperament, it’s rather comforting to have clever four-wheel drive at your feet. Especially when the technology is working to enhance your enjoyment, rather than cautiously limit it.
The only sticking point (predictably) was the thought of the money being asked for the quartet. Fag packet maths suggested we’d assembled over £300k – and when you consider that we deliberately exempted big ticket prospects from Porsche and Bentley, that’s some total. Cue this list: a tribute to the older, more affordable, performance-biased AWD car. And specifically in this instance, the Volkswagen Golf R32.
A good mate of mine has one of these, and while it obviously weighs as much as a planet and can’t shuffle power around in imaginative ways, it still has many, many things going for it. One of them is obviously the narrow vee motor, which, in an ear muff-obsessed 2022, sounds even better than it did a decade ago. Second, it still looks the business. And third, while the price for one has appreciated along with everything else, you can still bag a nice looking manual example for a fiver under budget. Bargain. NC
Subaru Legacy Spec B, 2006, 82k, £7,995
It wasn’t so long ago that you could buy a low-mileage Subaru Impreza WRX STI for under ten-grand – in fact, I did just that. Impreza prices are on the up, it’s true – although thankfully nowhere near Evos, so I haven’t ruled out buying another one.
Nevertheless, as someone with a young family, I find myself looking for the ultimate dad car rather than an homologated hero. After being inspired by MDMA’s Readers’ Car thread, I’m increasingly leaning towards a JDM-spec Legacy. The 2.0-litre EJ20 twin scroll turbocharged engine develops 260hp, mated to a symmetrical all-wheel drive system and 5-speed paddle shift auto ‘box.
This facelifted car looks stunning in Pearl White (just like MDMA’s car) and has all the modern features you’d expect to find in a BMW 335i or Audi S4 equivalent, but at a much lower price. And in my opinion, a much cooler package too. BL
Vauxhall Insignia VXR, 2010, 75k, £10,000
Truth be told, the Insignia VXR wasn’t my first port of call when issued with these Six of the Best criteria. Which was always the big Vauxhall’s problem – you’d always look somewhere else first. Those wanting a fast four-door would go German, anyone who fancied a searingly fast VXR would gravitate to the Astra, and with the aforementioned Subaru STIs available until 2018 that covered off the 4WD thrill-seekers as well. All of which ensured not that many Insignias sold, despite a reasonable reception.
There was a hatch, saloon and estate once upon a time, Vauxhall really going all out on an Audi S4 rival. A Supersports came towards the end, too, offering 170mph potential (allegedly) for £30k. Which made it the second fastest Vauxhall ever, after the Lotus Carlton…
Always decent value, the VXR looks like a lot of car for the money even in a group picked for their affordability. Even without seeing the rest of the list I’m sure it’ll be one of the newest and the most powerful, with the added boon of a manual gearbox. It won’t be the most thrilling four-wheel drive performance car out there, of course, but Vauxhall certainly wasn’t alone in making one of those. This white one looks in reasonable nick for its 75,000 miles; that said, anyone with another £244 might want to look at this Arden Blue VXR – the retired police car look won’t be for everyone… MB
Audi TT V6 (Mk2), 2007, 59k, £9,995
When the original Audi TT was introduced, it got a bit of a mixed reception. “Hairdresser”, “estate agent”, and other now very outdated stereotypes were placed upon it. And yet now it’s a style icon, and PHers fight over them on the forums. Funny how things come around like that.
The Mk2 is my favourite – the perfect Goldilocks between the cutesy little bubble of the original, and the angry evil-eye of the latest one. Left to my own devices, I would’ve picked a black convertible with some sort of tan leather, but my esteemed colleagues suggested I go for this better-to-drive, tin-top V6, which deploys 250hp to the road in quintessential quattro style.
Obviously the TT earned its wings as a year-round daily with stability-bias AWD – although those in the know might say it’s a bit firmer than the FWD versions. Still, if you’re driving around in the December frost with the roof down – if you went with my initial hunch, that is – that’ll be the least of your worries. BW
2009 Saab 9-3 Turbo XWD, 78k, £8,995
It’s that time of the year where I value heated seats and four driven wheels over style and performance, but I think I’ve found the complete package with this Saab 9-3.
Most of us love Scandinavian design, and Saab was leading the way in smart exteriors and pleasing minimalist interiors before it ran into trouble in 2011. Nearly 15 years on, this 2009 version still looks fresh. One quirk I’ve always liked about Saabs is the ignition key between the seats to confuse those uninitiated with the brand.
Saab introduced XWD (Cross-Wheel Drive) on the 9-3 in 2007 – technically Haldex Generation 4 – and was critically acclaimed at the time for being very capable and responsive. With near 300 horses and rarity on its side, this could be just as much fun as an Impreza STi, yet with its smart looks it stands a much better chance of earning spousal approval. MD
Alfa Romeo Brera, 2006, 98k, £8,995
My first taste of Alfa ownership ended in a cloud of smoke on the M27 less than an hour after purchase, so it’s safe to say I’ve had to leave some time before even considering buying another. This was a while ago now, though, and lighting never strikes twice – right?
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Brera shape, which has aged very gracefully. Hard to believe it is about to see in its 16th birthday. As pointed out in last week’s spotted the JTS V6 is less characterful than its Busso predecessor, but with 260hp and a 6.6sec-to-62mph time it ought to be plenty quick enough for me.
This 2006 example looks particularly fetching in metallic black, features the panoramic roof, and has only two owners on the logbook. There’s also the reassurance of a 10-stamp history alongside the promise of a fresh service at the point of sale. Factor in the weather-beating Q4 system and it almost has me tempted to climb back on the horse… SL
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