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  #1  
Old 10-12-2004, 11:22 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Canada
Posts: 298
Looking for a 4WD wagon..

6 months after sold my 400E, I am thinking about getting back to Mercedes again!
Our reliable gas guzzling 96 Exporer is showing rust everywhere, we are expecting the first baby in a few months, so we are going to replace it with a safe and fuel efficient wagon, candidates are 98-99 Mercedes E320 4matic, 2000-2001 Audi A6 Avant 2.8, 1998-1999 BMW 528i touring and maybe 2000-2001 FWD wagon like Volvo V70/SAAB 95.
I am leaning towards Mercedes becuse it offers the most than others, I am mainly concerning about Mercedes' cost of ownership (parts and insurance), Audi's relaibility, BMW's RWD in snow and FWD's handling, I do almost all the maintainance and repair by myself, so DIY friendliness is a big plus.
You thoughts to help the decision making will be appreciated.
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99 BMW 540i 6-speed 110K Km
03 SAAB 9-5 wagon 80K Km
92 400E (Sold) 245K km
Still missing the days with the Benz, it kept me busy.
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  #2  
Old 10-13-2004, 01:02 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 67
RE: 4WD Wagons

Quote:
Originally Posted by carman850
6 months after sold my 400E, I am thinking about getting back to Mercedes again!
Our reliable gas guzzling 96 Exporer is showing rust everywhere, we are expecting the first baby in a few months, so we are going to replace it with a safe and fuel efficient wagon, candidates are 98-99 Mercedes E320 4matic, 2000-2001 Audi A6 Avant 2.8, 1998-1999 BMW 528i touring and maybe 2000-2001 FWD wagon like Volvo V70/SAAB 95.
I am leaning towards Mercedes becuse it offers the most than others, I am mainly concerning about Mercedes' cost of ownership (parts and insurance), Audi's relaibility, BMW's RWD in snow and FWD's handling, I do almost all the maintainance and repair by myself, so DIY friendliness is a big plus.
You thoughts to help the decision making will be appreciated.
First of all, the SAAB is FWD, and the BMW is RWD. If you want a AWD wagon, that leaves the MB E320 4Matic, the Volvo CC, the Audi Quattro, or a Subaru.

Depending on where you live, you may not need AWD. Four good snow tires on a FWD car works very well. However, if you live in a place like Buffalo, Aspen, Burlington, or near Crater Lake, (or if you ski), AWD is worth it.

From what I have read on the boards, the 98-99 E320s have some harmonic balancer problems. Also expect AC evaporator problems. I have also heard the transmissions were weaker. The car should be okay if you can get an extended warranty. If you can afford a 2001, some of these problems were fixed. 2000 and later models had side curtain airbags. The 4Matics may weep oil but I'm not sure this is a big problem.

The Volvo CC is nice, but will cost even more than the MB. Volvos have very high used values. (I have seen 3 year old models selling for only a couple of thousand less than a new one after rebates). Make sure you only look at 2001 or newer. They are very different from the earlier cars which were terrible. (I think the pre-2001 models are on most of the lists of cars to avoid). Volvos are expensive to maintain, (think Jag).

The Subaru is also nice but it is somewhat smaller. The Subaru is fantastic in the snow. I owned one when I lived in upstate NY and I didn't even have to shovel my driveway (except for the neighbors dirty looks). The new Subaru Legacy looks very nice and you could buy one new for about 10k more than the other cars mentioned here. But 10k is a lot of money, and you will lose that in depreciation the first two years. They are boringly reliable. If you like working on your own cars, you'll have to wait a long time to do anything. The older ones used to go through auto transmissions after about 125k, but that problem may be fixed by now. They also made a fancy model with leather and a 3.0 flat 6. Most of the crash tests have been quite good. Subarus depreciate faster than other Japanese cars.

The Audi Quattro drive system is the best. But Audis seem to have head gasket problems. They also seem to have transmission problems, both manual and auto versions. They use a unique and very expensive transmission. They also have evaporator problems. If you buy the Audi, get an extended warranty. Audi resale values are somewhat poor. Plan on keeping the car a long time.

Personally, I think the SAAB 95 wagon is a great car. But you should only get a 2002 or later. They did quite a few updates. Look for an Aero (250 hp)with either trans. Avoid the V6 like the plague. A 2002 95 wagon should cost about the same as the other cars you mentioned. (mid-teens). I own a 97 SAAB 9000CSE, which has been great. It's fast, reliable, safe and well-built. The 95 is an evolution of the 9000. The SAAB is not as much fun to drive in the dry as the BMW or MB because it is FWD. But it is very fast and the turbo is fun to play with. Note that the SAAB will not keep its value and will plummet quickly. Parts are expensive, maintence is cheaper than Volvo. SAAB provides 4 years free maintenance so the used ones should be in good shape. Get a warranty, if possible.

I don't know much about the BMW 528i wagon except that it uses a (sealed) GM automatic trans which seems to give lots of people grief. My cousin went through 3 transmissions on his 97 528i before 50k. Two people I work with have had auto transmission problems on their 3 series. If you could find a manual trans BMW that should be fine. The engine/suspension is great. But I don't think BMWs are good in the snow. I personally think the wagon is beautiful. They used to make one with a second (huge) sunroof. BMWs keep their value well.

Good luck,

Charles

Last edited by cdanschwartz; 10-13-2004 at 01:04 PM. Reason: spelling
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  #3  
Old 10-13-2004, 05:01 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
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At least in Europe we can get the BMW 325Xi and 330Xi Touring with AWD. I had the previous 325 iXA Touring which was fantastic and behaved like a RWD so you could go almost too fast on ice and snow...
Otherwise Audis are very good and neutral in their behaviour. But a bit boring in my opinion unless you buy the most recent models.
But since there are so many SUV:s today, you get more for your bucks chosing one of those.
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  #4  
Old 10-13-2004, 08:27 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Canada
Posts: 298
Thanks.
I am actually in Canada, wife will be the primary driver of the wagon, so I'd really like to get her a AWD. I consider BMW528iT only because I have E39 already, maintaining two almost identical cars is easier than two different ones, BMWs do hold value better.
I originally thought W210 was a pretty reliable car, without many issues other than the harmonic balancer, I also thought the new 4-matic was really simple and trouble free, looks like I might be wrong.
I also like Audi's Quattro AWD the best, but Audi's value drops like a stone compares to normal cars, made me think there must be something wrong with it. Used to have a Volvo 850, didn't like the roughness of that I-5 engine.
Definitely no more SUV this time, we are getting 14-15L/100km (16mpg) on a 50/50 driving condition, I could save 1/3 of that by changing to a W210.
__________________
99 BMW 540i 6-speed 110K Km
03 SAAB 9-5 wagon 80K Km
92 400E (Sold) 245K km
Still missing the days with the Benz, it kept me busy.
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  #5  
Old 10-14-2004, 10:02 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Portland, ME
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I agree whole heartedly with the idea of sticking with one make of car for ease of maintenance. So in your case, I would go with the BMW Touring Wagon -- it is a magnificent car! Then get 4 dedicated snow tires -- preferably studded -- mounted on steel wheels (that way you can change them yourself in the spring and fall). I think you will find that the BMW (or any car for that matter) with studded snows will handle better on snow and ice than your SUV did with all-season tires. This has been my experience in high snowfall areas (Maine, and Adirondack Mtns.)

Jeff Pierce
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Current Vehicles:
'92 Mercedes 190E/2.3 (247K miles/my daily driver)
'93 Volvo 940 Turbo Wagon (263K miles/a family truckster with spunk)
'99 Kawasaki Concours
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Previous Vehicles:
'85 Jeep CJ-7 w/ Fisher plow (226K miles)'93 Volvo 940 Turbo Wagon
'53 Willys-Overland Pickup
'85 Honda 750F Interceptor
'93 Nissan Quest
'89 Toyota Camry Wagon
'89 Dodge Raider
'81 Honda CB 750F Super Sport
'88 Toyota Celica
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  #6  
Old 10-14-2004, 12:02 PM
732002's Avatar
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 233
You should also look at Subaru wagons. They are
a good buy used and have good reliability.
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