I Want Diesel Power And A Dash Of Fun! What Car Should I Buy?

Image: BMW
Image: BMW

Jacob’s X5 diesel was stolen while he was on vacation. He loved that car and is looking for a similar replacement that comes with both high-tech and comfort. He is also open to hybrids, if they can provide the same fun factor. With a budget of around $40,000 what car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)

Here is the scenario.

Quick Facts:

My 2014 X5 35d was stolen while my wife and I were in St. Louis on vacation. I’ve been looking at another X5 35d, as that was a really great combination of comfort, power and fun, but I want to see what else is out there.

I am in love with diesel vehicles, so it being diesel is pretty high on the list. I’m open to hybrids too, so long as they have some fun to them. Highway fuel economy (and maybe not getting killed in the city) and comfort is what we’re after. Keeping the same creature comforts (HUD, tech equipment and the like) is a priority as well.

An SUV isn’t necessarily a requirement, but having room for 3-4 (and their weekend bags) is a must. We’ve gotten used to the legroom in the x5 and now the Explorer, so that is important to us as well. Sedans, SUVs and trucks are ALL on the table, so long as we all have room to spread our legs.

Lastly, and most importantly to me, is that it needs to be fun to drive (or at least not as anemic as the Explorer). I’ve been in BMWs most of my adult life, from an e38 740il, to two 335ds, both tuned, and then the x5, which was on its way to getting a tune. The combination of fun, fuel economy, and creature comforts from those cars was second to none.

So to recap:

*Diesel (or fun hybrid)*

*Good highway mileage*

*Comfortable on long trips, with some good tech options - HUD, ACC, Carplay, etc*


Budget about $40k


Budget: Around $40,000

Location: Houston, TX

Daily Driver: Yes

Wants: Ideally diesel power, room for 4, fun to drive

Doesn’t want: Something boring

Expert 1: Tom McParland - The SUV That Doesn’t Drive Like One


Jacob, those X5 diesels were pretty excellent, and with the shift more towards electric diesel-powered offerings are pretty rare unless you are looking at a pickup truck. There are several hybrid options, but at this price point none of them are what I would consider “fun.”

If you are ok with a similar model year, you can try to score a Porsche Cayenne Diesel. Porsche knows how to use some of that sports car witchcraft to make their big SUVs feel way smaller and more nimble, so it should be an improvement over the BMW. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter diesel making a respectable 240 hp and 406 tq. However, there is some good aftermarket support since this TDI motor is shared with Audi, so it won’t cost a lot to crank up the boost.

Oil-burning Cayennes with reasonable miles are rare, but you can get something like this 2015 with about 53,000 right in your budget zone.

Expert 2: Andy Kalmowitz - Audi Is Inny

Photo: <a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Audi Baton Rouge;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Audi Baton Rouge</a>

What’s up, Jacob? I like you already because Jacob is my middle name, and that means I feel some kinship with you. Because of that, I’m going to give you the absolutely correct answer for your search right off the bat. What you need, my friend, is an Audi A8 LTDI. Even though it’s not an SUV, it is the perfect upgrade over your beloved X5 Diesel.

This car will tick every single one of your boxes. It’ll be fun to drive with its beefy 3.0-liter diesel motor, pumping out 240 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque mated up to Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Inside, you’re going to find every luxury feature you could ever really imagine considering the fact it’s a flagship Audi product. In terms of comfort, well Jacob, it’s gonna be second to none. This is pretty much a limousine built for bombing down the highway at dumb speeds in complete comfort. In a word, it’s perfect for what you’re looking for.

Because we share such a strong name kinship, I even found the perfect A8 LTDI for you not terribly far from where you live. With your budget, you obviously aren’t going to get a brand-new A8, but I found this fantastic 2015 example with under 90,000 miles on it. I know maintenance costs can be a concern for anyone, so I found one well under your budget at $25,995. That leaves plenty of money for maintenance (or modifications if you want to make your torquey diesel even stronger).

This isn’t just the car you need, Jacob. It’s the car you deserve.

Expert 3: Logan Carter - MazDUH

Image: Hiley Hyundai of Fort Worth (<a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Fair Use;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Fair Use</a>)

Hey Jacob, I’m so sorry to hear about your X5, that’s really a nightmare situation. While my colleagues shared some cute choices, I’m looking out for you with something that answers your pleas of being spacious enough for the family and their luggage while pampering the gang with fancy options and while offering good driving dynamics for whomever’s behind the wheel to enjoy. This Mazda CX-50 Turbo Meridian Edition is a great choice for you and your family, and it maximizes your desires with the added benefit of great reliability, and relative newness so you’ll still be turning heads.

The CX-50 is a great all-rounder that features a 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder that produces 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to get you from 0-60 in the mid-to-low 6 second range, and this particular model is bursting with optional features like adaptive cruise and other active safety features to keep you and your family safe. Naturally, being a Mazda, it also offers eager driving dynamics that mimic the X5's admirably. You can find low-mileage turbo models for well under your price limit, and it gets nearly 30 mpg on the highway despite still running on boring old gasoline.

Rather than saddle yourself with an old German car that’ll inevitably cause headaches when, not if, things go wrong, you could snag a nearly new, reliable, efficient, fun-to-drive Mazda CX-50. This choice appeals to the head and the heart, all you’ve gotta do is sign on the dotted line. Best of luck to you and your family!

Expert 4: Collin Woodard - It’s Kind Of A Crossover

Photo: Cowboy Toyota
Photo: Cowboy Toyota

Well, Jacob, you’ve got two options here that are diesel, which you asked for, and one non-hybrid, which you didn’t ask for. So, apparently, it falls on me to suggest one of those fun-to-drive hybrids you are also interested in. If you weren’t trying to regularly carry so many people and their luggage, I would probably suggest a new Prius, but something tells me that’s not going to be big enough.

Still, Toyota is basically the best in the business when it comes to hybrids, so if you’re going to get a hybrid, that’s probably your best bet. So I say let’s get a little weird and check out the Toyota Crown. It’s a big, spacious sedan that also happens to offer the higher ride height you get with a crossover, and there’s a lot more Lexus in the cabin than you might expect.

If you really want to spend less than $40,000, you can find plenty of Crowns that fit your budget. They’ll get great gas mileage, but the downside is, they won’t be what you really want. The Crown you actually want is the Crown Platinum, which will probably require you to stretch your budget a little bit. In return, though, you get a total system output of 340 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. If that’s not enough grunt to sell you on a hybrid, I don’t know what is.

Here’s a 2023 Toyota Crown Platinum with 30,841 miles on it for $43,901. Depending on how many people are actually interested in Toyota’s take on the Volvo S60 Cross Country, you might even be able to talk them down further, but even at its current price, it’s still a fair deal. Sure, it’s a weird car, but just think about having 400 lb-ft of torque under your right foot while still getting 30 mpg. Go diesel again if you want, but the Crown Platinum is going to be a tough one to beat, especially when you consider the long-term cost of maintenance.

For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.