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AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/18/22 3:01 p.m.

My lovely girlfriend is moving to a town on the other side of the mountains from me, about a 2 hour drive. My daydreams use this as an excuse to trade my current 2012 Mazda3 hatch (auto) for something a little more entertaining in the mountains, but could still do my 80 mile round-trip commute, which is all highway driving. I already have the Miata for AutoX, a truck for practical things, and the stock car project for track stuff, so my only consideration is that it can do the dual purpose of comfortable, reliable highway cruising and engaging mountain fun (admittedly two things that don't necessarily go together very often). What cars do y'all like for this sort of thing?

I've been thinking about V6 Mustangs and Genesis Coupes, but I'm curious what the hive comes up with.

kb58 SuperDork
7/18/22 4:12 p.m.

Beat up old Jeep?

VW Baja Bug?

Old Toyota 4X4?

This just ended on BaT, so not too far away price-wise


Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/18/22 4:25 p.m.

Volvo 240 with the B230 getting the 16v head swap, boosted to the moon and BNE dynamics suspension bits (formerly Kaplhenke) 

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/18/22 4:44 p.m.

In reply to Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
7/18/22 5:03 p.m.

No mention of budget or how many people/things you need to carry around.  That said, Boxster or Cayman would be my answer.

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/18/22 5:18 p.m.

The (loose) budget is in the title, and I'm not really making any practical considerations beyond what I outlined above, but this is more of a fun thought exercise than any sort of serious question so any thoughts are welcome. The Boxster is a great suggestion.

Oapfu GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/18/22 5:22 p.m.

Right, what sort of "mountain fun" are you looking at, exactly?  Paved 2-lane with lots of curves, gravel with no guardrails, Forest Service fire road, all of the above?   Basically, should we be thinking: Tail of the Dragon, Pikes Peak before it was paved, or the Rubicon?

I'm reasonably happy with a VW TDI for pavement and gravel, but avoid 'em if you want something with actual throttle response (you get torque, not power).

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/18/22 5:27 p.m.

In reply to Oapfu :

Ah you're right, I should have clarified: I'm talking about paved back roads with lots of curves. There are several different passes between here and there with loads of corners and I'm looking for an excuse to explore them all lol. But the TDI is a good idea, I've never been one for chasing big power numbers. Just fun handling dynamics.

Puddy46 New Reader
7/18/22 7:23 p.m.

Perhaps a BMW 1 series, or a Infinity G35?  Both have rather nice interiors, but share lots of parts with more performance oriented options, so you can go as plush or 'sporty' as you want.

kb58 SuperDork
7/18/22 9:04 p.m.

Ah, good catch; I assumed that "mountain" meant dirt roads. You know, manly driving...

Carry on, nothing to see here.

lnlds Reader
7/18/22 9:36 p.m.

Pick your flavor E90 naturally aspirated 3-series or 1st gen TSX. Depending on elevation the tsx might be down on power for a lot of folk. I would prioritize ergonomics and inputs if you're spending so much time in this car.


MyMiatas Reader
7/18/22 11:12 p.m.

A turbo Miata with a lift kit. Mine does corners decently. The turbo would help with the hills. Plus you can go "where no Miata has gone before" ;0) 

Driven5 UberDork
7/19/22 12:28 a.m.

You already have The Answer.

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
7/19/22 6:05 a.m.

TDI VW will certainly work if you want to go for highway cruising with great  MPG, but a BMW 3 series E46 or E92 would be a good pick for fun factor.

02Pilot UberDork
7/19/22 6:38 a.m.

Another vote for E9x or E82, but only with a normally aspirated engine and a manual. The latter will be harder to find, but a bit more fun in the twisties. $50 poly rear subframe bushing inserts in either one will resolve the most glaring handling deficiency and make it much more stable and entertaining.

fatallightning Reader
7/19/22 8:06 a.m.

Genny coupes seem to fly under the radar, and seem to sell for dollars indicative of that. Under 10k you should be able to find 350Z/G35, some flavor of WRX, maybe even a high mile C5 Vette. GTOs may have climbed out from sub 10k, 1st gen CTS-V also used to exist at sub 10k. Used to perhaps being the key word. Definitely have to buy on condition for those though, you'd be competing with new license hot bois looking for a cheap sports car. Maybe a Cobalt SS, although the penalty box interior may not be the most ideal place to spend highway hours droning. 

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/19/22 8:40 a.m.

In reply to fatallightning :

I've always had a soft spot for C5 Corvettes...

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/19/22 8:43 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

I've thought about 1-Series cars before, but I've never owned anything euro and the potential for failure has always put me off a bit. However, doing some research it seems these models aren't so bad after all. I've also heard that E36s are easy and cheap to repair, and there are still some nice examples of those out there, though they are getting old.

fatallightning Reader
7/19/22 8:46 a.m.
AMiataCalledSteve said:

In reply to fatallightning :

I've always had a soft spot for C5 Corvettes...

It'll take some digging, but they're probably out there. Mechanically robust. Interior is GM cheese of the era, but roomy with a big hatch. Cruising in 6th on the highway, you'll probably be knocking on 30 mpg.

7/19/22 9:00 a.m.

An autocross Miata ought to be lots of fun in the curves, unless it is >too< prepared.  I say buy a little commuter car for the commute and enjoy the Miata on the mountain roads as it was intended.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
7/19/22 9:08 a.m.

In reply to AMiataCalledSteve :

So, your fleet is:
2013 Mazda3 hatch (auto trans) for commute
Miata for autox
Truck for practical
Stock Car for track

This seems like a well rounded fleet.  There are less engaging commuter cars but even with auto trans, the Mazda3 is pretty engaging.  Typically, the Mazda auto trans are pretty receptive to manual shifting if you want to play manual shift in your auto trans car.  

Left field:  what about adding a motorcycle for some summertime travels on these winding roads?  

02Pilot UberDork
7/19/22 9:15 a.m.

In reply to AMiataCalledSteve :

I'd be more leery of an E36 or even an E46 simply due to age. Costly repairs are always a danger with BMWs (and other Euro stuff), but the E82/E9x aren't too bad to wrench on, and the NA engines are reliable. As always, the trick is to find the best one you can, preferably with a stack of receipts. A 3-series is going to be easier to find and generally cheaper than a 1-series because of the relative scarcity of the 128i in the US.

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/19/22 9:32 a.m.

2001 740i

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/19/22 9:48 a.m.

In reply to DWNSHFT :

The Miata is a blast in the corners, but it's waaaay too prepped for anything like this. It's got harnesses, racing buckets, a loud exhaust, stiff suspension, track tires, and (most restrictively) no top of any kind :P

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/19/22 9:52 a.m.

I did a lot of mtn driving with my 2003 TDI 5 spd wagon.  Even bone stock, it's not a bad chassis with slightly more capable tires.  No problems keeping up with modified MINIs on twisty roads (that I knew better, so had an advantage).  Especially in mtn driving, there is something to be said for the "slow car fast" concept where you can be having fun without being (entirely) stupid.  All while getting near 50 MPG.

Weather wasn't mentioned, but a TDI with snow tires is also capable, although ground clearance is limited.  I ran mine with dedicated summer and winter wheel/tire sets. 

I consider the 2003 TDI that best year to get - older ALH engine with easier maintenance. However, you are dealing with a 20 year old VW interior. 

For something a bit newer and more fun in the twisties, that budget should get you a really nice R53 MINI, which I like for similar reasons as above. 

For something closer to current, it gets harder.  A FRS/BRZ would be nice, but might be hard to find at that price right now.  Maybe a Fiat 500 Abarth?

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