My SportWagen Story

A few years before I met the SportWagen, I was happily driving a 2003 TT Roadster. My wife drove what I called the "Crapalier". We were looking at new cars for her, and the Jetta TDI sedans were brand new. We drove one. She liked it. So much so that she left a nice trail of rubber from an unintentionally quick start. But, she'd never had a new car, and balked at the cost. We didn't really need the car, so we waited. Sales guy kept bugging us to come back, and I gave him a lowball offer. The sedan was a demo with 5,000 miles on it, and white was not my wife's first choice for color. He was less than interested.

About 3 months later, he hadn't moved that Jetta. He reached out to us, and thought maybe we'd still be in the market. But my wife had been laid off, so we kept the Crapalier.

Skip ahead a few years, and the TDI SportWagens arrived! They looked pretty nice, for a family car, and roomy enough to accommodate our kids. There was no way we were putting car seats in the Crapalier, so my old Trooper had been our family car. The TT was my daily driver. Our '98 Trooper was getting up there in years, so we were already considering new cars. Then disaster struck!

Audi 2003 TT Roadster.

The ten year old TT, which negotiated its water pump and timing belt replacement shockingly ahead of the scheduled maintenance window (thanks, NGP, for cleaning up what VW would not!), started skipping gears here and there. Yeah, I had an automatic in there. It didn't do it all the time, but I was advised to unload it before it needed a $7,000 transmission, and while I could still get something for it in trade. It was time to buy a new car!

We compared the SportWagen to a bunch of other hatchbacks, and it beat the Subaru Outback on price, and the Crosstrek and Mazda3 on interior space. My concern was driving excitement. I take a few back roads to get to work, and I enjoyed the TT on those twists and turns. So this new car would need to be at least a little bit fun to drive, but also be able to haul kids if necessary.

The boatload of torque in the TDI was what sold it. The mileage was a nice bonus, sure, but I never did see better than about 38mpg. I never did any highway driving with it. The huge expanse of a moonroof was about the closest I was going to get to keeping the convertible. But the torque! The TDI SportWagen was as much fun to drive as the TT. I don't go to the track. The best I get to do is blast along a two lane road on a sunny day. And the Jetta was more responsive at those lower speeds than the TT was.

I got to drive the SportWagen for all of two months. The Trooper had an issue with the shift solenoid sticking and not letting it shift out of Park. That seemed to only happen for my wife. Funny how that works. But that happened with a tired kid in the car, and that was it. I moved the car seats, and handed over the keys. The Trooper wouldn't be so bad. It was my first new car, and I did still like it.

So here we are today, my wife now drives the TDI, the kids have spilled god-knows-what on the leatherette, and I'm now driving a Honda Fit. But that's a different story for some other tribe. Pollution issues aside, we'd probably be happy continuing to drive the TDI into the ground, as we'd planned to. It has just enough room for all the kid paraphernalia. It does get decent mileage on trips. We made it from Baltimore to Orlando on 2 tanks, if I recall correctly.

We will be taking the buyback. While the car still meets all the criteria we had when we bought it, we are worried about the long-term support for the TDI. We like to keep cars until they are falling apart, but you can't do that without access to parts and mechanics who know the cars. It's probably a bit irrational, but we are not confident in VW's ability to support TDIs 10 to 20 years down the road. We're also in a good spot with the buyback, since we have absurdly low mileage on ours. All my wife's driving is within 10 miles of our house.

We're also looking into cars with a little more room. We can't put an adult in the back seat between the 2 car seats. When we load up the SportWagen with strollers and suitcases and coolers and toys, it feels a little cramped inside. We also want a back-up camera. It's one of those things we didn't know we couldn't live without until we had one (in the aforementioned Fit). We didn't want a gas SportWagen the last time around, the Tiguan isn't big enough, and I feel like the upcoming Atlas is going to price itself out of our reach. We're not sure what we will get, but it's probably not going to be a VW.

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