What FWD car could you live with forever?
Our love of rear-drive sports cars is well known, but there are strong devotees within our staff of all-wheel-drive cars, too. Makes sense; the office is in Michigan, where winters can be intense, and four-wheel drifts through the snow are a blast.
But then there are the front-drivers, oft snubbed by enthusiasts. The thing is, some of the most entertaining cars to drive (and live with) have put their power down through the front wheels. There's a reason the GTI, pictured here, is a legend and an unabashed favorite at the office. What FWD cars could we spend the rest of our lives with? Read on to see what some of our editors would pick.
2004 Acura TSX
The first-generation TSX is a special car for me, not that I've owned one. I think it represents the height of Acura's prowess at building regular cars that happened to be a riot to drive, packing a 200-horsepower, rev-happy inline-four backed up by a snickety six-speed manual. It was a bit smaller and more exciting than the four-cylinder Accord of the same era, but still practical in the vein of the much-missed Integra sedan. It was one of the last simple, driver-oriented Acuras before the flood of technological feature bloat and chrome beaks. It looks sharp in red, too.
– Alex Kierstein, Senior Editor
1999 Saab 9-5 Wagon
Wagon, orphan brand, weird Swedish engineering quirks - the Saab 9-5 checks all the car nerd boxes. But it's also a reminder that Saab made super-pleasant cars. Even today it's hard to find a seat this comfortable or seat-heaters as warm. And this wagon had a nifty sliding floor in the cargo area. It also had a ropey shifter with the manual transmission and classic Saab torque steer, but now that it's gone I consider those traits that add character.
– Michael Austin, Editor in Chief
2016 Volvo S60
I'm going conventional. If I have to live with this, I want something comfortable and modern, like the Volvo S60. I'd rather take an all-wheel-drive variant, to be honest, but the S60 in front-drive trim is plenty capable, too. I'd take the T6 Drive-E model which has a turbocharged and supercharged direct-injected four-cylinder engine rated at 302 horsepower. Sounds fun to me, even if that's going through the front wheels. Also, I like the contemporary Volvo styling. The creases and curves will hold up well over time.
– Greg Migliore, Senior Editor
2016 Volkswagen GTI
As far as hot hatches go, this one certainly isn't the hottest. But it's the one I'd live with every single day, optioned exactly like our recent long-term car, pictured here. For right around $27,000, you get a brand-new GTI with 210 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque, a great six-speed manual and torque-vectoring front differential, 18-inch wheels, HID headlamps, and heated (plaid!) seats. You can take it grocery shopping, you can wring it out on a track, and you can slog through traffic – in each situation, the car is perfect. If I had to buy a brand-new car tomorrow, this would be it.
– Steven Ewing, Managing Editor
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
Do we really have to be practical all the time? No, and that's why I chose the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. It's going to get terrible gas mileage, courtesy of a 425-cubic-inch V8, and it's only got three forward gear ratios. But it's dead simple to maintain, and the powertrain was so overbuilt that they used them in massive motorhomes throughout the 1970s. It's quick, with contemporary magazine tests recording 0-60 figures of around 7.5 seconds, and it's comfortable. There are even separate door handles for the rear passengers, even though it's a two-door coupe.
If we're worried about living with these cars for the rest of our lives, I think I'd rather choose a classic that's already out of date than deal with the gradual decline in functionality that would inevitably be inherent in a daily driver from 2016. I'll take mine in gold.
– Jeremy Korzeniewski, Consumer Editor
2016 Audi A6 2.0T Fronttrak
I know this isn’t going to be the most popular choice, but if I’m going to be driving the same car for the rest of my life, I want it to be big. Call it future-proofing. And while an Audi with a little engine and without Quattro might seem like blasphemy, because it kind of is, this car doesn’t feel underpowered. There’s little that a set of winter tires can’t fix when the snow falls. Think of it as the really big sedan version of the GTI that Steve covets, just without most of the fun. It is handsome, though, and you can still get it with all of the options. Of course, at $60k fully loaded, it’s one of the more expensive front-drivers, so there’s that.
– David Gluckman, Editorial Program Manager
2006 Mini Cooper S
My fellow editors can pick their ideal cars all day long, but I’m actually living with my perfect front-driver, and have been for a decade. This is my 2006 Mini Cooper S. It breaks regularly and I say I’m going to sell it on a bi-monthly basis, but the reality is that it’s just far too entertaining to let shoddy British reliability force it out of my garage. It boasts a classic hot hatchback formula, with a six-speed manual transmission and an angry sounding four-cylinder engine. But where the GTIs of the world rely on turbochargers, my Mini has an old-school supercharger. It screams like a banshee in even normal driving – seriously, YouTube “Mini R53 supercharger whine” and turn up the volume.
The real charm of any Mini, though, is its agility. The short wheelbase endows it with a quick-rotating character and the steering is quicker and more direct than just about anything on the road today. And when it comes to exiting the turns, there’s a mechanical limited-slip differential to catapult the Cooper S out of corners with a rear-drive-like ferocity. It’s an absolute delight... when it's not broken.
– Brandon Turkus, Associate Editor
2000 Saab 9-3 Viggen 5-Door
If I’m living with a front-wheel drive vehicle for the rest of my life, it needs to have enough room for my wife and dog, the performance to still be fun, and a design that ages gracefully. A 2000 Saab 9-3 Viggen five-door is the best way I can think of to fulfill all those desires. Mike Austin calls out the larger 9-5 wagon, but I have enough experience with a 9-3 in my family to know the smaller model is where it's at. I also can attest these cars are a blast on a winding road – as long as you control the torque steer. Make mine Saab’s beautiful shade of blue and put my dog in the back seat. I’ll be a happy guy for many miles.
– Chris Bruce, Associate Editor