Whether you’re shredding in the snow, getting dirty in your own personal rally car, or simply want to launch off the line as quickly as possible, all-wheel drive is the way to go, baby! And there’s no better feeling than doing it on the cheap! What could go wrong?
If you need something that uses all four corners, comes with a stick shift, and puts a smile on your face, then you’d better stick with us through this whole list. Let’s go!
2005 – 2008 Audi A4 2.0T – Go, Go, Quattro
Now, you can’t even begin to talk all-wheel drive without respecting the granddaddy, the Audi Quattro! Audi was the first brand to bring all-wheel drive to rally, and that changed the game forever. So, when it came time to find fun all-wheel drive cars, we had to start with Audi.
And for under $10,000, I think your best bet for something with four rings on the grill is the B7 A4. Nothing screams versatility quite like an Audi. Whether you want to carve up the rally stage, or just a comfortable cruise to the store, look no further! The B7 A4 is all that and more.
Developing both its Quattro backbone and looks over time, the third generation A4 is more refined in every aspect. From its trapezoidal grill to soft leather interior, Audi packed an incredible amount of technology and heritage into the B7. And for less than $10,000, you could definitely do worse!
Alright, let’s get into the meat and potatoes, what are the numbers? You can expect 197 horsepower from the 2-liter turbo 4-banger, and 252 from the 3.2-liter V6. The extra two cylinders will get you to 60 miles per hour in 6 seconds, 0.8 seconds quicker. I know which one I’d prefer.
While we are on the topic of trims, I’m sad to inform you that not all A4’s are blessed with a Quattro drivetrain. That’s right! Front-wheel drive Audis do exist. And what’s worse than that? Well, these models also came with an undesirable CVT transmission. And to be honest, CVT is a synonym for boring. These ghastly creations will still get you to the store and back, but where’s the fun in that? Quattro, no Quattro, fun, no fun.
CVT’s and FWD’s aside, snatch this sick turbocharged Quattro for less than $5,000 and try to contain your smile! That’s right! For $5,000, you can all-wheel drive launch to your heart’s content, drive a luxurious German sedan, and keep a little in the bank! So, what are you waiting for? Treat yourself to this Quattro and go, go, go!
Alright, but what if you want less go, and more show? Enter the Ultimate Driving Machine!
2006 – 2013 BMW 328xi – The Needle in the Haystack
Keeping mechanics in business everywhere, the BMW E90/92 3 Series is back with two axles. Better stash some cash! At least it always looks sweet. So, besides its looks, why on Earth would you buy one?
Well, it’s a serious performance vehicle, for starters. Making 0.84 G’s of grip on the skid pad, the 328xi is perfectly at home on the road. And, in the right hands, it can also be quite formidable off-road. Just see for yourself! However, if you keep this Bavarian sled on the road, it’ll launch you to 60 miles per hour in less than 6.5 seconds. You won’t be passing any Lambos, but it’ll beat your buddy’s Foxbody!
Now, I mentioned reliability. Looking under the hood of a 328xi, there’s no monster V8, no fancy turbos, just a 3-liter straight-6 producing 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. This engine, called the N52, is less complicated than other motors on the E90/92 chassis, and the results are fewer problems. Don’t even get me started about the migraine-inducing N54 motor found in the 335i.
So, if you can say goodbye to a few horsies, you’ll be saying hello to less repair bills. Did we just find a semi-reliable modern all-wheel drive BMW? It seems so! Which brings us to the 2011 E90 we found for just a tad under $9,000. It had metallic gray paint, premium leather interior, and turn indicators that have probably never been used! Plus! this all-wheel drive German sedan had only 76,000 on the clock. Sign me up!
So, what did we learn? Besides being both expensive and luxurious, BMW’s are also crafted to be performance vehicles. And the E90/92 328xi still keeps that tradition, but with a touch more reliability.
But, what if you want a BMW, but not its badge? You still want all-wheel drive, but in a smaller package. Well, when BMW bought MINI in the year 2000, they had you in mind.
2010 – 2016 MINI S Countryman – The Big MINI
So, you like your front-wheel drive MINI Cooper S, but wish it was just a little less, well, mini? You’re in luck. The Countryman S is 4 inches wider, 14.7 inches longer, and has 1.5 inches more ground clearance. And yes, it’s available with an all-wheel drive system.
Powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter, you get both 26 miles per gallon in the city and 181 horses. To be honest, it doesn’t have the most overwhelming exhaust note when stock, but when fully straight piped, this mighty MINI sounds rowdy! When the rubber meets the road, this MINI scoots from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7 seconds.
Just remember that MINI is made by BMW, so when things break, it won’t be cheap. Maybe that’s why you can find a Countryman S for less than half of its original sticker price! We found an all-wheel drive MINI available for well under $10,000 with a 6-speed manual and just over 100,000 mile. Not too shabby! It’s no surprise the Countryman S provides typical MINI charm. However, it’s also more grown up, offering more space, an all-wheel drive system, and a sporty Cooper S motor. It’s pretty much a big MINI!
But, not falling for the MINI’s charm? Or just want a tried-and-true all-wheel drive system that can truly take you anywhere? Two words: Subie, bro.
2005 – 2007 Subaru WRX – Rally Xing
Subaru has always been a serious competitor in races both on and off pavement. In fact, their all-wheel drive system and 2.5-liter turbo’d boxer motor have brought them six World Rally Championship titles. So yeah, the WRX is certainly worth the hype.
Dumping the clutch in first will spin all four wheels, shifting twice at the 6,500 RPM redline will get you to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds. And that sound? Oh, that sound, baby! Everyone and their grandparents will hear that deep Subie rumble way before they see your sick vape cloud. Just don’t get too excited, there are still speed limits.
On another note, if you aren’t digging the 2005 “blob eye” styling, the newer 2006 and 2007’ “hawkeye” looks a little different. Appearances aside, this badass rally machine also receives a bigger motor, the EJ25. This same motor was then slightly modified, tuned, and dropped into the legendary STI.
Now, the STI does make more power, corner better, and stop faster than a WRX. But is it better value? On average, you could buy two WRX’s and a vape pen for the price of one similar year STI! Your wallet is thanking you.
Now, the 230-horsepower WRX is looking fly! All-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual, and hello, it’s under $10,000! I don’t know about you, but I would love to get my hands on this rally legend. This thing is just begging to be driven, and with typical Subaru reliability, you should do just that.
What would you do, however, if you wanted something just a bit more understated?
2006 Mazdaspeed 6 – AWD Zoom Zoom
The Mazdaspeed 6 at first glance, and maybe the second one as well, is unassuming. But don’t underestimate this car at a stoplight, you could embarrass yourself. This is no base Mazda6. It slingshots to highway speeds in 5.8 seconds, crossing a quarter mile in 14 seconds. That is, if you’re into that sort of thing. Wait, of course you are!
It’s powered by a 2.3-liter 4-banger spitting out 274 horsepower. And, like the other cars on this list, is available with all-wheel drive. The Mazdaspeed 6 has a 50% stiffer chassis than a base Mazda6, direct fuel injection, and a turbo. What’s not to like?
Well, reliability, unfortunately. Turbo components, rear differential mounts, and VVT’s are known to fail in these cars. So, before you pick up one of these zoomers, take it to a mechanic for an inspection!
Now that you know what to watch out for, check out a sleek Mazdaspeed 6 Grand Touring. For $6,200 you get all-wheel drive, 35 miles per gallon, and bragging rights over common Mazda6 owners. With a clean bill of health, the Mazdaspeed 6 is a great choice for someone looking for an unassuming yet quick daily driver.
But, for me personally, I like something with a bit more character, something “born from jets”.
2005 – 2006 Saab 9-2X Linear – The Saab-aru
The 9-2X is exactly what you get when you combine a fighter jet with a Subaru. The best part is that it’s exciting and down-to-Earth at the same time. With recognizable styling, the Saab combines all the right ingredients into a competent and reliable package. Taking on the shape of an Subaru wagon, the 9-2X uses a Haldex all-wheel drive system just like Audi and Volvo do, and more powerful Aero models even have the EJ20 motor from the WRX. Sounds like a recipe for success, right?
Maybe not for the now-bankrupt Saab, but for you, it’s great news. Unless you need parts! Offered with a manual transmission and a slightly classier interior than a typical Subaru, the 9-2X is both exciting and comfortable.
Now, I mentioned that the 9-2X comes in multiple flavors. The Linear model uses a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter from the Impreza, whereas the Aero is blessed with the WRX’s 2.0-liter turbo. With the afterburners on the 9-2X Aero, it rockets from a dead stop to 60 in 6.1 seconds, nearly a second quicker than the Linear.
However, where the Linear falls short in performance, it makes up for in price. No need to take evasive maneuvers! For just $6,800, you could buckle yourself into the cockpit of one of these flightless jets with less than 60,000 miles and painted in a stylish black. The 9-2X Linear is an incredible bang for your buck. So, if you want something unique, all-wheel drive, and cheap, the Saab 9-2X Linear should be considered.
But what if it just isn’t Swedish enough? This next car wasn’t born from a jet, but it’s at least twice as safe! The next car on our list, the Volvo S60R!
2004 – 2007 Volvo S60R – The Infallible Swede
Now, we all know how the Swedes love winter sports! So, when Volvo built a safe, turbocharged, and all-wheel drive vehicle to get them there, it came as little surprise. It can crawl through snow, powerslide around corners, and that turbo allows for tuning options, all with Volvo reliability and safety! Now, that is sweet!
With business-like exterior styling, a gorgeous interior, and enough technology to make the Germans blush, the S60R definitely has a lot going for it. Throw in the class-topping 2.5-liter turbo good for 300 horsepower, and you’ve got a serious license to shred. No longer will you be stranded at home when it snows, or be afraid to challenge that Mustang to the next stoplight.
And the best part, for under $10,00, you can truly get something unique and ergonomic. With around only 12,000 S60R’s produced for the entire USA market, it’s definitely not a car you see on a daily basis. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to own one.
Here’s your chance! For $7,500, a 2007 S60R could take you from the mountains to the beach and back home again! I don’t know about you, but I dig it in red paint.