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pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/5/20 9:44 a.m.

As I consider unloading the GTI to get out from under the payment before the VAG maladies increase in frequency, my mind turns to what I'd replace it with.

I'd like a real station wagon of some kind again, and I keep coming back to the Volvo 850. In 2014 I owned a Volvo 855R, and eventually sold it to buy a unicorn BMW 5-series wagon with a manual, which was one of the dumbest things I've ever done. The Volvo was a phenomenal car and the BMW...well, for all the things about it that should've been great on paper, let's just say it preceded me taking a loan out on a vehicle for the first time in my life.

They seem to be at the absolute rock bottom of the depreciation curve right now. As I browse Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, I can find a large number of rather nice 850s for well under $3000 (some close to $1000). And honestly, I can't think of another relatively modern wagon that checks all the boxes that the 850 does:

  • Quite impervious to rust
  • Safe, with side impact airbags
  • Relatively easy to work on
  • Comfortable, lots of space
  • Reasonably decent fuel economy
  • Surprisingly good aftermarket support
  • Tons in junkyards (lots of secondhand parts availability)

I feel like the only compromise you have to accept by picking one of these up is that FWD and an automatic is par for the course (unless you can find one of the very rare NA 5-speeds, or want one with the mediocre AWD system).

When I try to think of alternatives, they all have some kind of major issue: Subarus rust like crazy and the 2.5s have head gasket issues, VW/Audis in the same price range tend to be shagged out and are of their worst build quality period, the GM B-body wagons are fuel hogs and an acquired taste, and the less said about the Ford Taurus wagon, the better...maybe the XV10 Camry wagon, if you can find one, would be a contender, though those also rust quite badly. But other than that...

Are there any other cheap, easily found, relatively modern, good-all-around station wagons out there I'm forgetting? Or is now the time to grab a cheap 850 before they disappear?

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
6/5/20 9:54 a.m.

Hard to find a good wagon for $3,000 

 

I used to love the 850 R/850 T5-R in canary yellow. But I know better than to deal with the nightmare of those things, for actual reliable transportation 

you already mentioned the dual rear wiper camry, with the optional 7 seater arrangement. 
 

I would also look at 94-97 accord wagon. I had an ex, for many years, which I replaced with a 2012 tsx wagon 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
6/5/20 9:59 a.m.

850 is probably the easy button.  2k and older V70 is basically the same car. 

MTechnically (Forum Supporter)
MTechnically (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/5/20 10:00 a.m.

At this price point you are going to have to compromise for what you want, but I will say that you missed some BMW options. You could probably find an E46 325 wagon in this range, and it will cover most of the bases, plus you'll get RWD. Downside is that they are not as, big as an 850, or as impervious to rust, and will probably have some deferred maintenance headaches. Same can be said for E34 525i wagons, more comfort oriented a little less aftermarket support, but outside of the general cooling system stuff that all BMW's have they are pretty solid. Unfortunately, they will also rust if you live in the land of salt and snow. So it really depends on what you want to prioritize. 

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/5/20 10:00 a.m.

A newer Volvo Wagon?  Volvo are one of the stalwarts of wagons.  There are thousands of 00-07 XC-70's out there from the early this century going cheap.  There are some non XC wagons out there, but the XC was way way more common.

We have an 07 S60 Sedan, which is mechanically the same as the V90 or XC-70 for my daughter.  Lot's of air bags, AWD, decently peppy and easy to work on.

The great thing about Volvo's is they can also tow well.  No need for a cute ute when your volvo can tow over 3k lb's

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/5/20 10:06 a.m.
MTechnically (Forum Supporter) said:

At this price point you are going to have to compromise for what you want, but I will say that you missed some BMW options. You could probably find an E46 325 wagon in this range, and it will cover most of the bases, plus you'll get RWD. Downside is that they are not as, big as an 850, or as impervious to rust, and will probably have some deferred maintenance headaches. Same can be said for E34 525i wagons, more comfort oriented a little less aftermarket support, but outside of the general cooling system stuff that all BMW's have they are pretty solid. Unfortunately, they will also rust if you live in the land of salt and snow. So it really depends on what you want to prioritize. 

I have owned close to a dozen BMWs, including E34 and E39 tourings, currently own a Euro E28, and am thoroughly done with the brand. I will never own another after my E28; berkeley BMW, and berkeley their audacity to send a press release out saying they are going to "support classic BMW owners" by turning them into a profit center and raising parts prices 120-400%. Never again. BMW is dead to me.

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/5/20 10:09 a.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

My 855R was actually quite reliable in the time I owned it. At this point I'd be happy with a non-turbo though.

Accord is a non-starter due to rust and theft risk sadly.

In reply to Streetwiseguy :

Don't they have bothersome issues with the drive by wire throttle body or TCS or something from '99-up? I prefer the 850 from a styling perspective anyway but always got the impression that the V70s past the first model year had a whole new set of issues.

Saron81
Saron81 Reader
6/5/20 10:10 a.m.

Possibly Saab if you like the Swedish feel. I've had both and they offer a pretty similar experience. My turbo 855 is one of the few cars I second guess getting rid of...

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/5/20 10:11 a.m.

I'm still loving my P80 V70xc. The P2 chassis just feels so huge in comparison.

Watch out for electronic throttle issues on the later P80s, they aren't a total deal breaker but you could be looking at up to $700  in parts to repair or replace depending on what is wrong.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
6/5/20 10:13 a.m.

What dies on Volvo wagons that cannot be fixed at home ?

are there any hand grenades hiding that cost $1000s to fix and leave you on the side of the road ?

Problems to look  for ?

thanks and stay safe 

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 PowerDork
6/5/20 10:22 a.m.

Hard to find in the manual, but my friend loves his Mazda6 wagon.

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/5/20 10:26 a.m.

In reply to Mazdax605 :

Sadly, those have all basically vaporized into iron oxide here. The ones that are left all look like they're not far behind.

I acknowledge that rust is a way of life in this region, but 2000's Mazda products are somehow multiple orders of magnitude worse than almost everything else...

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/5/20 10:28 a.m.
pointofdeparture said:

 

In reply to Streetwiseguy :

Don't they have bothersome issues with the drive by wire throttle body or TCS or something from '99-up? I prefer the 850 from a styling perspective anyway but always got the impression that the V70s past the first model year had a whole new set of issues.

This seems to be the worst case situation with the ETM, $550 for a rebuilt one with contactless TPS. 

https://xemodex.com/us/product/electronic-throttle-module-etm-for-volvo-vo-1020-36001821-10-20/

There are other ways to do it cheaper by replacing the TPS yourself or it could be a different problem. I used the flowchart on that site to diagnose mine and it turned out there was no power going to it. Ran a separate power wire to the connector and have no issues. 

It wouldn't keep me away from a good deal on a 99-00 V70 but if I was looking again I might prefer an earlier one. 

11110000
11110000 Reader
6/5/20 10:40 a.m.
 

In reply to Streetwiseguy :

Don't they have bothersome issues with the drive by wire throttle body or TCS or something from '99-up? I prefer the 850 from a styling perspective anyway but always got the impression that the V70s past the first model year had a whole new set of issues.

 

An '04-'07 P2 V70 or XC70 is a solid bet.  There are a few manual, FWD examples out there, but not many.  Also, you can get the manual with the full-up T5 motor.  

The 850s seem to be of the era when plastics, paints and other materials went "green", and as a result many examples I see are looking pretty beat.  The P2s seem to hold up better.  You get a bigger, more refined car in the P2, but it won't feel as nimble as the 850.  

Or, grab a C30 hatch and you'll have cargo room, a much better chance of finding a manual, and the simplicity of FWD.  We run ours with the back seats down all the time, and it swallows almost as much as the 850 wagon with the seats up.

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
6/5/20 10:47 a.m.

I loved my 850 wagon and would have another.

The ability to swallow large items is important for me so I'd probably be shopping a Magnum in spite of my previous experiences with Chrysler products.

MTechnically (Forum Supporter)
MTechnically (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/5/20 11:27 a.m.

In reply to pointofdeparture :

I'm not here to get in an argument. You asked for a something "better" and I think both of those cars qualify, at least in the category of driving enjoyment. I personally haven't had any issue getting parts for my cars, a '76 2002, '92 525it, '00 M5, from the many vendors that supply parts. Some stuff is NLA and harder to find, but I think that's pretty common across the industry. I for one am glad that the classic division exists because at least there is some pathway to get OEM quality parts, and again you can't say that for all makes. I'd like the parts to be more plentiful and cheaper, of course, but I know BMW is a business that needs to make money as well.

Anyways, I actually really like the 850 and they seem like a great option for the list of qualities you provided. I only wish Volvo was a bit more popular around here.

 

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/5/20 11:31 a.m.

I was going to say Mazda5 until I saw that photo of the 3. surprise

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/5/20 11:46 a.m.

In reply to MTechnically (Forum Supporter) :

Sorry, my goal wasn't to start an argument with you either and I do appreciate the suggestion, I've just become really fed up with them lately.

There have been good times and bad times but the times all seem to be bad these days. I'm not under the illusion that companies can survive without making money, but there's a lot of bad blood in the E28 world about some basic parts rising in price about 400% overnight, in addition to moving some parts production to China (where the quality is sub-aftermarket for an OE price) and then denying parts warranty coverage when the cheap crap breaks. They've also made sourcing parts for my Euro 535i an absolute clusterberkeley. That kind of stuff combined with the cash grab moves like charging monthly for Apple CarPlay on new vehicles (when every other company offers it free) has just...I'm done.

So my apologies, it's nothing personal, I appreciate your suggestions but after spending tens of thousands of dollars with BMW's parts and service department in the past 15 years I am choosing to move on smiley

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 PowerDork
6/5/20 11:50 a.m.
Javelin (Forum Supporter) said:

I was going to say Mazda5 until I saw that photo of the 3. surprise

Well he could look for one outside of the rust belt. 

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/5/20 11:53 a.m.

In reply to Mazdax605 :

Nah, I only do that for cars I'm planning to keep nice. I don't want to find a nice one just to take it here and ruin it, I'd rather have something that's more rust resistant to begin with.

Justjim75
Justjim75 Dork
6/5/20 1:18 p.m.

+1 for the 850.  I had tons of fun smoking muscle cars at the track with my t5.  Ive had an e39 touring and would rather a swift kick to the nads than go there again, plus rwd destroys rear cargo space. 

I suggest proof of timing belt age on a prospective whiteblock which can be difficult with the odometers prone to breaking and the PCV is a bitch.  If you plan to tow look on turbobricks for the accumulator mod, it made my highly modded car more reliable in the trans department and works for towing and heavy loads too.  Stay away from lowering springs if you like your back

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
6/5/20 2:02 p.m.

The Magnetti Marelli throttle bodies need to be changed once in the life of the car, so that's not a huge deal...

They add some Italian character.

Snrub
Snrub HalfDork
6/5/20 2:03 p.m.

Little first hand experience, just trying to remember some that might be of interest to you. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather stay away from really old stuff as a daily driver, regardless of how good it was when it was new.

What about something like a Honda Fit, Nissan Versa? They have a shocking amount of storage capacity.

Lexus IS300 sport wagon.

Vibe/Matrix

Hyundai Elantra Touring 2010+

 

einy (Forum Supporter)
einy (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/5/20 2:06 p.m.

I second the thoughts above from Snrub ... specifically the Vibe/Matrix or the Elantra Touring in the price range stated.

Saron81
Saron81 Reader
6/5/20 2:13 p.m.

Wildcard: Ford Flex 

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