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Car buying help

I’m looking for a new DD, and am having a hard time picking something. Here’s the deal: I currently have an e36 M3 and a B5 S4 Avant. I live in Seattle, and hike/ski/mountain bike a ton. The M3 has low miles, is in immaculate shape, and is my fun car. The S4 has been my DD for years, and the AWD wagony practicality has been great. It’s just getting old and tired, and I’m ready to move on. I want something that’s still half decent to drive, can carry gear for the aforementioned outdoorsy shit, and would vastly prefer a manual transmission. I definitely don’t need any real offroading capability, but something with a little more ground clearance than the S4 would be great for dirt forest service roads and so on, as would AWD/4WD. Let’s say a budget of $35k, less would be great. Things I’ve thought about, in no particular order:

  • Newer Outback. Pros: cheap, good ground clearance, AWD. Cons: no longer available with a manual new, not great interior, kinda boring, kinda gutless in 2.5 n/a guise.
  • ‘13+ allroad. Pros: great interior, comfy, quiet, good ground clearance, AWD. Cons: no manual transmission option, going to depreciate like crazy.
  • Newer XC70. Basically everything I said about the allroad, but with potentially more power out of the T6, but worse steering feel and driving dynamics.
  • Tacoma. Pros: will go until the end of time, great at carrying shit, better off road than all the wagons. Cons: used prices are loony, so I’d probably be looking new. Interior on the last generation (pre 2016MY) sucks. Can’t get a V6/MT combo without the TRD Sport or Off Road package, which pushes the price up a lot. Kind of too big for what I really want, worse fuel economy than the wagons.
  • WRX/STi hatch. Pros: Fun to drive, good AWD. Cons: Less room for gear than other options, no longer available new, used ones are all beat on/modified. Iffy interior and ride, expensive to insure and run.
  • e91 328xi. Pros: nice interior, better to drive than most of the above. Cons: unicorn in 6MT form. Not much ground clearance. Smaller cargo area.
  • Golf R. Similar pros/cons to the 328xi, but faster and more expensive and easier to find with a manual.
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Anybody have any other ideas/advice? I’d be keeping the M3 regardless, and getting rid of the S4.

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