Hearing the term “All Wheel Drive” (AWD) usually brings one car brand to mind: Subaru. For those of you who don’t know, AWD is a permanent-acting drivetrain that sends power to all four wheels, as opposed to just one or two in FWD or RWD cars, via three differentials. While Subarus are thought of as having an unrivaled AWD system because it is truly always active, there are other turbocharged options out there that can still achieve a sporty feel. Most of these cars we selected are valued at less than $10,000 and are properly fun, practical, and cool cars to drive.
We’re going to start off strong with the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, the most expensive car on this list. Valued at around $16,500 the Evo IX has four doors, a turbocharged inline-four iron block engine producing around 300 horsepower, and decidedly uncomfortable back seats. The Recaro seats that come with the car from the factory do well to accommodate the driver and front passenger though. It doesn’t matter where you sit, because you won’t be able to escape the raw power that lights up all four tires. Originally brought from Japan into the US to compete with the Subaru WRX STi, the Lancer Evolution simply cannot be ignored.
Taking a modest step (or several thousand steps) back, the 2004 Mazdaspeed 6 is probably a more realistic option. Like the Evolution it also has a turbocharged inline-four, but produces slightly less horsepower at around 274. It also has four doors and costs a lot less at around $5,000, making it far more practical than the Evo. It won’t be as fast, but certainly more family friendly, quieter, and more comfortable. Also significantly less conspicuous.
Now we come to the one the only the great, 1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX. It’s the only coupe on our list, which makes it the most impractical by far, but it feels like a proper sports car instead of a sports sedan. Out of its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (a detuned Evo engine), the GSX makes just over 200 horsepower. It’s got cramped back seats, but the interior is accommodating for front passengers and has plenty of space. These cars have a blue book value at around $2,000, although some enthusiasts will try and sell them for more. If you take it on a speed mountain run, be sure to open the hood afterward as you won’t want to miss the glowing red hot turbo manifold.
If you want to pull all the stops, even past the Evo in some respects, the 2006 Audi S4 will get you there. Not only does this car also have four wheel drive but it’s got four doors and a 4.2-liter V8 making 340 horsepower. It even gets 15 mpg. In fact, the only thing that makes this car just slightly more practical than the GSX is its two extra doors. The S4 is a mean machine that takes uphill climbs as if its strolling through a park. You can find them for around $9,400.
Probably the best car for its value on this list is the 2005 Volvo S60R. It’s also the most interesting. It’s equipped with a 2.5-liter inline-five cylinder engine, and makes around 300 horsepower. The mileage isn’t terrible either, at 23 mpg on the highway. It’s got four doors, comes with a manual transmission, has decent sized tires, and weighs slightly less than 3700 pounds. Costing around $4,700, the S60R is the most balanced choice on this list.
While there are many more options out there for less than $10,000, this list is a good starting point. You don’t need to own a Subaru to get a sporty AWD car, and what’s more is you don’t have to pay a lot of money for it. Explore more AWD possibilities and be sure to do your research. This list didn’t take into account reliability ratings, so cars like the Audi S4 might not be as reliable as, say, the Volvo, however like anything else it just depends on how you drive it, and how well you take care of it.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.