I posted some months ago about beginning the hunt for a winter car, soliciting my fellow Opponauts' opinions. Some unexpected and urgent home improvements delayed the search by depleting my budget for awhile, but that seems to be firmly in the past. It didn't stop me from spending a lot of time on Craigslist, though. So below are some options I've narrowed it down to, with pictures of what the ideal (realistic) example for me would look like. My criteria is as follows: needs to transport a kid and a dog to dog park, soccer, etc.; needs to be good in inclement weather, including snow; needs to be capable enough for rough roads (not offroad, just gravel/ruts) to get to hiking trailheads; needs to be able to transport bikes and skis (roof rack, presumably). My budget is about $3k; I might be able to stretch a little for the right car. The main problem is that the cars that are probably the best options for my needs—or at least the most different from my daily driver (E46 M3), and therefore the most added value—just don't really excite me. Small/medium-sized SUVs like the Cherokee, 4Runner, and Pathfinder are great, but SO BORING. I'm also terrified that if I ever own a Subaru I might wake up one morning wearing sandals with socks and sporting a COEXIST bumper sticker. HELP ME OPPO YOU'RE MY ONLY HOPE.
1. the venerable Jeep Cherokee (XJ):
2. Toyota 4Runner (2nd or 3rd gen)
3. 1st-gen Nissan Pathfinder
4. Land Rover Discovery Series I
5. Several European wagons, all of which trouble me for various reasons—E34 tourings are relatively rare and don't have AWD, and if I got one it would have to be a manual, which is doubly rare; Audi A4/A6 Avants aren't available in manuals and the autos have transmission problems; Volvo V70s/XC70s have even worse transmission problems. And Top Gear's Africa special ruined my 850/V70R dream (for good reason) by demonstrating how bad the low/stiff suspension and low-pro tires are on rough roads.
6. What I'm most tempted to buy right now, because I found a good one on Craigslist, is a rare E34 540 manual. This does nothing my M3 doesn't already do, wouldn't be much good as a trailhead/winter car, and I'd be just as worried about the dog on the back seat as I would be in my M3. But I love E34s and have always wanted a 540. Please tell me this is not a good idea, because otherwise I'm going to go buy this tonight. Save me from myself Oppo!
So what do I do, Oppo? And if/when I give up and buy a Subaru, which one should I get?