All-wheel drives under $80K? Here's what we'd buy
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As safety takes a priority over curb weights, most automakers around the world are making the switch to all-wheel drive power trains, making the sub-$80,000 all-wheel-drive bracket quite busy.
You've got family-friendly SUVs, hot hatches, performance sedans, and utes, so we're spoilt for choice here. But which cars are we taking home? Yet again, the answers might surprise you.
Editor, Dean Evans: Cupra Ateca
The Subaru STI almost had me, because I’ve already owned an Evo X and loved it, but found the STI just that little better through the corners. But if it’s my money, which this series is, then I’d happily – eagerly – fork out for the Cupra Ateca.
It’s one of those SUVs that hits the mark, that we all love completely… well, except for the price, which is $63,900, so well under the price cap – at $78,900, even the Limited model comes under, but the five in NZ are most likely all sold by now.
It’s naturally very similar to the Skoda Kodiaq/VW Allspace whose underpinnings it shares with, but just that little bit different… just say it’s a Cupra, it’s made by Seat, and change the subject by talking about its headline numbers: 221kW/400Nm and its 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds with launch control. Even in normal daily drive mode, it’ll roll off a 5.5 second sprint, which is more than fast enough.
It packs all this into a brand and model that likes to do things a little differently, with the underpinnings of known quality and reliability. The copper accents on the 19-inch wheels (an $1800 option), the carbon finishes, the way you can quickly dial between drive modes with a rotary dial, for a loud burst of overtaking performance, and back to boomer mode for maximum comfort, with a twist of the dial.
It seats five in very accommodating comfort, . The catch? There isn’t one, really, apart from fuel bills from the 11.5l/100km in real world use, on a diet of 95 octane. Sure this would probably come down a little with a lighter foot, but where’s the fun in that? Buy a RAV4 GX if that’s your bag.
The Cupra captures the rare combination of being a little off centre, but still close enough to be a known factor, it’s fast, comfy, practical and doesn’t look bad either, you know, for an SUV.
And of course, for this theme, it’s all-wheel drive through a seven-speed DSG gearbox with Sport mode, at a simple bump of the shifter.
The Rodium Grey is very cool, as is the Energy Blue… even the red, white or black, for that matter. And the Alcantara interior that comes standard is perfectly excellent, without the need (personally speaking) for the $2800 leather option.
Which begs the bigger question: is it better than the $73k Skoda Kodiaq RS? That’s such a tough question, it’s probably a matter of petrol vs diesel, and for this case, the Cupra’s turbo petrol engine, plus its cheaper price, are tough to beat in my view.
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Alfa Romeo Stelvio diesel
There are a few AWD models I could choose that are way less than $80k, but the idea of this exercise is that you get as close as you can to the budget, right? There are also many more AWD models that I’d love that are just over $80k, which shows that this is actually a tricky price point.
I initially went looking for an AWD wagon, because I much prefer the style and driving dynamics of an estate car over an SUV. But then I found an SUV that has the high style and high cornering speeds of a wagon anyway, so problem solved.
The problem with having an Alfa Romeo Stelvio that’s not the $145k go-fast Quadrifoglio is that everybody will ask you whether that’s the one you’ve got. Then you have to say “no” and feel a bit sad.
Unless you can justify your sub-$80k choice in a completely different way. So avoid the Stelvio 2.0l turbo-petrol, which really does seem like the model for those who couldn’t afford the Quadrifoglio, and go for the Stelvio diesel.
Yes, yes, I know diesel is a bit out of fashion these days – but I still enjoy a good compression-ignition engine and it does seem right for an SUV.
More to the point, the diesel is exactly the same price as the petrol but has more power and torque (154kW/470Nm versus 148kW/330Nm). It gets to 100km/h in 6.6sec but can still do 4.8l/100km.
It’s also brilliant to drive because it’s an eight-speed, it has a great AWD system and… it’s an Alfa Romeo.
The current-gen Stelvio is in runout, so you can buy the diesel for just $69,990 at the moment. That leaves you free to option-in the Veloce pack ($5000) and some fancy metallic paint ($2000) if you want.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior
I'll admit that my initial thought was to go with the VW Golf R Performance that I drove earlier this year, but considering that Dean's Cupra is more or less the same thing, I've decided to move away from the European choices.
Nissan Australia's homebuilt Navara Warrior comes in at $74,990, which is almost $10,00 less than Ford's range-topping Raptor, but is almost just as good when you take it off the tarmac.
The Navara Warrior sits on a brand new suspension system that was developed by Premcar in Australia, and feels more comfortable clambering over rough and rocky terrain unlike the dune-bashing Raptor.
Alongside this new suspension system, the Navara sits on smaller wheels wrapped in meaty all-terrain tyres, which makes it sit 40mm above a standard Navara. Beefy fender flares and steel front and rear bumpers are the other main additions.
These additions make for a mountain goat of a ute that pulled off some impressive feats over in the alpine region of Victoria when it was launched late last year.
On the inside, the Warrior's cabin is a no-thrills, work-friendly place that provides few luxuries, but has everything you'd ever need.
So while it might not be as recognisable as a Raptor, the Navara Warrior is a dependable off-roader that leaves some change in the kitty from the $80,000 budget.