2003 BMW 525 - i (M5) Sedan
Pros: Overall appearance and smooth ride.
Advice: Go and drive this...you'll buy it!I was certainly tempted to cough up the additional four grand for the 530i when I purchased my new 525i and, after driving it for several months, I'm glad I didn't. This is the smoothest running car on the planet! The engine is responsive, shifting is a breeze (I have the five speed) and the overall quality of the car is second to none. I have owned many 'Japanese luxury sedans' and thought they were very good. This is way better!
2002 Audi A6 - 3.0L (A5) quattro Quattro Sedan
Pros: feel of gripping the road & lumbar supports & sound system,
Cons: Appearance of lack of depth of the rear seat back- but have NOT ridden it yet
Advice: Test dirve in the mountians!!Very impressed w/ features, size and creature comforts. Was not even considered until salesman showing us Acura heard us mention having owned 2 Mercedes and missed the feeling of a substanial car around us. One drive in the Audi knocked our socks off. Drove it 250 miles home thru 2 sets of foothill and mountain roads just now and love everything about it--so far!!
2003 Subaru Outback - Base (M5) Wagon
Pros: Well built unit
Cons: Seats and sound
Advice: Shop for autos with better seatsSubaru has always pinched on the seats and standard sound---I don't understand why they don't get it that the front seats are bearable, but not more than that. We had to upgrade the dinky cd/radio and speakers. Too bad! Finally, they could make the unit a little wider to add seat and leg room.
2003 Pontiac Vibe - AWD
Cons: bugs such as dashboard rattles and grating brakes, which suggest a cheaply made economy car
Advice: Don't rely on a brief test drive. Don't be taken in by superficial style. Consider alternatives.Owner review (what does a short test drive prove?): In the three months I have owned this car, it has been a headache. The car's style appealed to me, but I soon encountered a lot of bugs. That glitzy dashboard has been the source of continual rattles (six times back to the dealership). When pressed all the way in, the brakes frequently have a harsh grating sound, sort of like a clutch in an old pickup. The sound is variable, but always an irritation. The car definitely is roomy, but tends to lean on curves, can be difficult to back because of obstructions, and has a slippery cargo floor (luggage slides all over the place and tie-downs are not very practical). Sorry to be so negative, but I suggest that prospective buyers very carefully examine the vehicle (including driving over rough surfaces and testing brakes on an incline).
2003 Saturn L-Series - LW300 Wagon
Pros: New styling for 2003 is great - finally a Saturn that's beautiful.
Cons: Cruise control problems. Revs from 2500 to 4000 RPM when traversing uphill.
Advice: Skip the Premium Option Package. OnStar is worthless without Driving Directions option (not included with First Year Free deal).Handles like a sports sedan. Plenty of power in the passing lane. Surprisingly upscale look to new L models. Two problemns - when using cruise control transmission does not shift smoothly. Whenever we climbed moderate hills the transmission abruptly shifted to a higher gear (RPM revved from 2500 to 4000). Also, while this is minor, it is annoying: the change in db's from one notch on the radio's volume control to the next is too wide. One click down in volume, not loud enough. A click back up, too loud. Overall, if you've wanted to buy a Saturn because of their great service reputation but didn't like the pedestrian styling of previous models, the 2003 L Series is for you.
2003 Pontiac Vibe - AWD
Pros: Comfort, visibility of the road, and cargo utility
Cons: Needs a slightly more powerful engine
Advice: Overall, an excellent buy. Successful Toyota-Pontiac collaborationAn excellent alternative to gas guzzling SUV's. The Vibe rides like a bigger car, seats 5 comfortably, and has tons of cargo space. For the price, you can't beat it. Air conditioning, and am/fm CD is standard. Very good quality of workmanship for a new model. Although gas mileage is very good, a slightly stronger engine would be a plus. I'm spoiled however in this area since I also have a 1998 Pontiac Grand Am GT with a V6, and have always driven either a V6 or a V8.
2003 Subaru Legacy - GT (M5) Sedan
Pros: Subarus excellent AWD system
Cons: Headroom could be better
Advice: Sporty alternative to SUV, inc. options=excellent valueI was seriously considering a 1999 Audi A6 until I came across the newly designed Subaru Legacy GT 2.5 Sedan. Low and behold, I ended up with a sporty, brand new AWD sedan for less than I would have paid for an almost 4 year old Audi. The Audi is a lovely car with a superb interior,(best around in my opinion) but the absolute worst designed cupholders imaginable (tiny, pop out plastic things located OVER the radio!) and a poor reliability record for the '99 model I could afford. The Legacy model in previous years has boasted an excellent reliability rating as well as safety rating and should continue to do so in this model. Fun to drive,excellent visibility, good handling, terrific braking and a fabulous array of standard features sealed the deal for me. My Legacy GT has a nice leather interior w/ 8 way power drivers seat, dual front & side airbags, ABS, heated front seats, power moonroof, nice radio w/ 6 disc in dash CD player & weatherband (nifty feature!), heated side mirrors and much, much more. The dealer gave me an excellent price, I paid just over $24,000 for this loaded AWD sedan-the Audi was more $ with 40,000+ miles!I even ended up with the color I wanted-a beautiful metallic silver with a dark grey leather interior. All in all a LOT of car for the money in an attractive package that is truly fun to drive,with very responsive handling and braking. It could have better pick up when accelerating but it is more than adequate-a 6 cylinder would be terrific, though. My husband at 6'1' found the interior height a bit cramped. There is a surprising amount of room in the back seat, I have 12 & 14 year old boys and they are comfortable back there. Gas mileage is good as well-around 21/27-much better than most larger SUV types. If you are in the market for an AWD vehicle and want value for your dollar in a sporty package the Subaru Legacy GT 2.5 is definitely worth a look.