Hey everyone. I thought that I'd introduce myself to the group, and hope to find some friendly helpful people on here.
I've owned mazdas my whole life - and I wasn't really following other manufacturers because I've had such a wonderful relationship with Mazda. However, nothing in their line-up met my driving requirements for the next 5-years or so.
I have a Mazdaspeed3 2008 with 70,000 miles that I use as a daily driver in Massachusetts (exhaust, CAI, tuning). Since buying the MS 3, we have had 2kids (a 3-year old daughter and a 2 year old son), so the MS3 was working fine, but it wasn't all about performance any more. So the new car had to be as big as the MS3, with the versatility of a hatchback at minimum. It also has to be relatively safe in crash tests/on the road with the kids in the back (but I don't want a tank either).
I work in Worcester, and the city has decided not to plow the streets until after the snow is done flying for 'budgetary reasons' (even though we only got 2 snowstorms last year so they couldn't possibly be near the budget limits on snow removal - don't get me started). So the new car had to be AWD or 4WD so I can get the kids to and from daycare if necessary. I'm in Webster, MA, so the commute is primarily highway and about 17 miles round trip +/-.
Also, I'm a dad, but that doesn't mean I don't want to be excited by my car when I look at it and when I drive it. My motorcycle (09 triumph speed triple) might be my personal rocketship, and fill my need for speed, but I want a car that can still make me smile and make my daughter go "Weeeeeeeeeee! Go faster!" when we launch at a stoplight or on our drive home. Performance matters to me - but it can't be at the expense of anything else.
If you are still reading this, you (like myself) assumed that I couldn't get all these items in one car, and I would have to make some sacrifices to get what I wanted - but I really didn't want to sacrifice the performance at first.
So, I test drove the new MS3 as a place to start. It was fun, but it's terrible in the heavy snow (even with snow tires), and the 'updated look' is blah to me. I did get a great offer on it though, and highly suggest the Mazda dealer in Shrewsbury, MA (Derek) if you are looking for a MS3.
I test drove a Civic SI too, and, much like Honda's motorcycles, they are nice cars - nothing to complain about. And they fail to excite me in any way, at all, any where, ever. It's like they make a cool car, then take out anything that might offend anyone in any way.
I decided to go the small SUV route then, because AWD really should be necessary (thanks to my wife for pointing this out). I tested a Rav4 (hate the back wheel), CX-5 (where's the power), and Ford Escape 2.0L (it looks stupid and mediocre in performance), and decided that I'd give up the performance (for the kids, I guess) and get an Escape - even though I didn't see myself in an SUV. However, push comes to shove, and the Ford dealer wouldn't move on his price much at all, and I don't like to haggle - it's a waste of time. I'm a 'give me your best price' guy, and if I don't like it, I walk - there are a lot of dealers out there looking for sales.
So, dismayed, and pondering if I should buy a minivan (not really), I drove home where I remembered that there was another dealer on my way home. I didn't even remember what they sold at the time, but it was worth a look. Well, it was a subaru dealer, and on the lot was a used 2009 WRX in WR Blue. Huh, I'm not really familiar with subaru, but that's kind of like the MS3... it's not bad looking at all, but it could be beefier at the wheels...and subaru makes AWDs I think? Let's talk to the saleman.
So, talk to the dealer, test drive the 2009, and I'm pleasantly shocked that it handles decently (not as sharp as the MS3, but it's acceptable) and accelerates nicely (i never had an issue with torque-steer, but it's nice not having it for a change), and there is room for 4 adults (or 2 adults and a couple of child seats). It was a bit soft for my liking in the handling department, and the shifter wasn't the best either. I did complain about the lack of force the looks of the 2009 wrx had, the shifter and the soft handling, and I didn't need the fun gadgets of the STI (a car which seemed to fix these issues), so I went home to research subaru and think it over. So, 2 days later I get a call from the dealer, and when I stopped in they took me out back to where they had just received a white 2012 WRX base model and were finishing the detailing of it. Outside of the color, I was in love (I like dark cars).
So, end of story (thanks for reading this far) I ordered a 2012 WRX 5-door in Dark metallic Grey with the SPT shifter and STI bushings (they are checking on the bushings, I might just refund that money and order/install it myself when I get the car). It should be in in early October - which is wonderful because I'll have the title for the MS3 in hand to make the transfer easier. They didn't move quite as much as I would have liked on the price, but i beat edmunds 'good deal' number, so I guess that's decent.
Hopefully I'll be able to fix the minor issues of the car with aftermarkets/SPT products - while still keeping it a daily driver. And hopefully this forum can help me solve these issues!
First up is the shifting (SPT shifter and bushings should be enough), then the handling (stiffer sway bars might be enough? research required), then the exhaust/tuning (SPT exhaust is expensive. research required). I think that should get me a bit more power (more torque than hp is what I want). I like the boxer rumble i've noticed on a few cars around my office, but I don't want to be obnoxious either.