STOP! Be Sure to Shop These Affordable Alternatives First

f you’re on the hunt for a Sports Coupe, the Subaru BRZ with rear-wheel drive offers seating for four, is available in three trim levels, comes with either a manual or automatic transmission, and gets power from its 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine. Its critics say that it’s not going to win so many road races, but the BRZ’s sharp handling and easy-to-drive nature still put it in the fun-to-drive category even among the purists.  A Performance Package available on our manual transmission test model added $1,195 onto the cost of our Limited trim level BRZ, outfitting it with larger brake rotors,  Brembo four-piston front and dual-piston rear calipers, Sachs dampers and 17-inch alloy wheels. All this, and the price tag was still under $30K.  If there’s room left in the budget, you might investigate the limited-edition BRZ tS  with STI-tuned shocks and springs, flexible V-braces within the engine compartment, improved steering response,  Brembo performance brakes, and lightweight 18-inch wheels with 215/40 performance tires.

CUV shopping?  There’s something sexy about an Alfa.  Still a newcomer to the compact luxury crossover SUV crowd, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes in three variants: a base Stelvio, luxury-oriented Ti and a high-performance Quadrifoglio. Our Ti model with Sport AWD added about $10K to the base price of $43,995 and came with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed automatic.  The Quadrifoglio brings stiffer suspension tuning, stickier tires and a Ferrari-derived twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 engine for 505 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque and a price tag closer to $80K.  But here’s the thing:  While the first two Stelvio options are priced on par with others in the compact luxury SVU category, among competitors claiming zero to 60 mph in under four seconds, the 505 hp Stelvio’s price tag is by far the least expensive.

Need a three-row family hauler?  Volkswagen’s Atlas features an interior that’s no-nonsense yet fairly sophisticated with that solid German footing on the road.  In VW’s line-up the Atlas falls between the compact Tiguan and high-end Touareg. It’s larger than the Touareg, but it doesn’t offer the same level of features or options. Our tester was an SEL trim level, with V6 engine, panoramic sunroof, power-adjustable front passenger seats, park distance control and 4MOTION all-wheel-drive for $43,615. Even if you opt for the fully loaded top-of-the-line SEL Premium, you’ll pay the same for the fully loaded Atlas as a base model Audi Q7.  While the Atlas’ slightly boxier style may not be quite as sexy as the Audi, boxy translates to a better third row and more cargo space.  

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