Home / Car News / Saggy Range Rover Or Twin-Turbo Audi: Which $1,500 Luxury Car Will Ruin Your Life The Least?

Saggy Range Rover Or Twin-Turbo Audi: Which $1,500 Luxury Car Will Ruin Your Life The Least?

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It’s time for the Wednesday edition of Shitbox Showdown. So far this week, we’ve been looking at dead-simple 50-year-old projects that might give you tetanus, but that a five-year-old could fix. Today, we’re taking a break from the rust and looking at two insanely complex modern-ish cars that look good, but hold the potential to ruin your life in ways you’ve never imagined possible — like that person you briefly dated in college.

First, however, there is the small matter of our small convertibles.

Fix it again, Tony: The Fiat is our winner. I am in total agreement with you all on this one. It’s a great price on what looks to be a fascinating long-term project. And after all that work, going for that first drive would be so sweet — better than any victory lap ever taken. It’s a damn good thing I have no place to put it or work on it, or I might be campaigning for it to join my own fleet.

[Editor’s note: I’m baffled that you all chose a completely-dismantled vehicle over a mostly-complete MG. Cars that are in 1,000 pieces scare me, as I’ve seen so many that languish. It’s sad when people pass away and leave their projects that they never got around to finishing. I always tell folks: Get your car on the road ASAP and work on it then. That said, that MG is scary even when completely assembled, so I get it. -DT]. 

It has become common automotive knowledge, bordering on cliché, that nothing is more expensive than a cheap luxury car. The more expensive it was new, the more expensive the repairs are for the second or third owner. ANd because of those costly repairs, the value of used luxury cars falls faster than Hans Gruber on Christmas Eve.

But there is another school of thought that says that it’s the labor that makes taking care of these cars so expensive; if you can do the work yourself, the parts aren’t so bad, and you can have yourself a red-carpet-worthy ride for Red Roof Inn money. Is that true? Well, that’s what we’re going to discuss. I’ve got two fiendishly complex, broken-but-theoretically functional luxury vehicles for us to take a look at.

2004 Range Rover HSE – $1,500

Engine/drivetrain: 4.4 liter V8, 5 speed automatic, 4WD

Location: Sacramento, CA

Odometer reading: 156,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs but overheats, and air suspension is broken


If ever a vehicle has earned an identity crisis, it’s the Range Rover. First there was Rover, then British Leyland (during which time the engines were a GM design), then the Rover Group, then BMW, then Ford, who also at the time owned Jaguar (who provided some Range Rover engines), and now both Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by Indian company Tata. This 2004 model has BMW’s 4.4 liter V8 powering all four wheels, and fully-independent suspension in place of earlier Range Rovers’ solid axles.

There are some issues with both that BMW powerplant and that fancy air suspension, however. As is fairly common on these, the suspension is currently stuck in low-rider mode, and the motor has a leaky and ineffective cooling system. The seller says that there is a new compressor for the air suspension that just hasn’t been installed yet, but I doubt it’s drivable as it sits.

It certainly still looks the part, however. One of the advantages of a car with an iconic shape and a long production run is that an 18-year-old specimen like this doesn’t look all that different from a much newer one. It’s great for impressing your friends and neighbors who don’t know cars.

The seller also claims that all the electrical accessories still work, which is sort of unbelievable on a Range Rover with over 150,000 miles. But if it’s true, then that’s a nice bonus. Of course, what works today may not work tomorrow, but at least much-maligned electronics supplier Lucas was out of the picture by the time this car rolled out of the Solihull factory, so there’s no Prince of Darkness to worry about.


2001 Audi A6 2.7T quattro – Also $1500

Engine/drivetrain: 2.7 liter twin-turbo V6, 5 speed automatic, AWD

Location: Lynden, WA

Odometer reading: 199,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Awesome,” according to the seller


I have a fondness for Audi sedans that dates back to my teenage years. We had a succession of Audi 5000 sedans in my family, and they were handsome, comfortable, good-handling, extremely nice to drive, quite fast for the day, and safe. They were also horrendously complicated and bursting with electrical gremlins. I haven’t driven an Audi since 1994, but from everything I’ve read, the newer ones are much the same on all counts, only more so.

Introduced in 1980, Audi’s quattro (small q) system has been through a lot of changes over the years, but the mission has remained the same: put power to all four wheels of a sporty, stylish, luxurious car. Early versions had open differentials that could be manually locked by the driver to add traction, but this 2001 edition uses a “Torsen,” or torque-sensing, center differential and some fancy electronics to do basically the same thing.

But this Audi also has a devil of an engine — a dual-overhead-cam, five-valve-per-cylinder, twin-turbo service nightmare, feared by even diehard Audi enthusiasts. It eats water pumps for breakfast, and that water pump is also driven by the timing belt, which needs replacement every 75,000 miles, lest those thirty valves become intimately familiar with the tops of the pistons. Oh, and to perform this service, you take the car’s entire face off, like that awful Nicolas Cage movie.


However, the seller swears that this car runs just fine, and with 200,000 on the clock, it has clearly seen some amount of proper service. Currently it has a bad CV joint, but the seller is including a new one. The “Check Engine” light is on due to mice nibbling at some underhood wiring, and apparently one of the heated mirrors tried to self-immolate. But it does still look sharp.

Those are your choices: a British SUV with a German stepdad, or an Autobahn eater that’s past its prime. If you can’t keep up with the Joneses, you might still be able to fool them. Which one will it be?



Images: Sellers
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66 Responses

  1. There is a surprising community of DIY LR/RR owners. A buddy of mine just picked up a 06 LR3 to build out his bro-verlanding dreams, and I’m shocked with how many resources are out there to get information/parts from. Giving it a once over I was surprised at how simple it appeared to be to work on vs something like this generation A6, especially a 2.7t. I go Rover all day on this one, but if the A6 was a manual it would have been a harder call to make. When those 2.7t cars are running well they are very fun to drive.

    Go look at what 1500 gets you in a XJ or Wrangler these days and you’ll quickly realize if its going to be a clapper it might as well impress your neighbors while on jack stands in your driveway.

  2. This is the first one where my gut told me to pick the 3rd choice but that’s no fun so I’ll take the Range Rover. I’ve never been a fan of the styling of that gen A6 in the first place and it having 200k and being auto makes me want it even less.

    The Range Rover would at least let me feel 2004 rich and let me live out my DUB magazine induced dreams from my childhood.

  3. This is the losing vote, but it’s the Audi by a still-attached-for-the-moment bumper. The A6 appears to be well-loved and at least decently looked after, whereas the “temp” plates on the Rangie give it an aura of mystery … prized in some circles, but certainly not with superannuated British sport-utility vehicles.

  4. As for the “take the front fascia off” thing on the Audi, that’s a pretty standard thing for all of the VW Group vehicles that use the longitude-transaxle/engine-forward Audi layout, and it’s not terribly hard to do. It’s the so-called “service position.” (Or, if you go to the dealership, “service position” involves bending over and presenting your behind to the advisor). I did the front-fascis removal thing once on a B5.5 Passat, which was on the same platform as the contemporary A4.

    That said, the engine in this one would scare me far away. So, again, I vote for the Range Rover. As my experience with a 2006 Supercharged and now a 2010 Supercharged informs me, that big old rectilinear engine bay is great for access and wrenching.

    1. The fact that it’s become normalized to take the entire front clip off for service worries me more than the act of actually doing it. There needs to be a term for this sort of thinking; I nominate “Wolfsburg Syndrome.”

  5. Gun to my head to pick one, I’d take the Rover. But these ask the question…how big is the overlap on the Venn diagram for people who want luxury cars and people who are willing to drive old and busted shitboxes where you will be under them as much as you’re in them?

    1. The entirety of the Bronx (except oh-so-snooty Riverdale) are in the market for both of these. But while I often see abandoned A6s, I almost never see abandoned Range Rovers which made me vote for that one.

  6. I don’t know all that much about the Audi—though I do have an affinity for longitude-transaxle vehicles—I know quite a bit about the Range Rover.

    The third-generation L322 Range Rover had three major phases. In the US, the model years are:

    Phase 1: 2003-2005
    Phase 2: 2006-2009 (note that the 2006 was a an odd duck with some pre- and post-facelift elements)
    Phase 3: 2010-2012

    The thing about the L322, as you hint, was that it was originally developed when Rover Group was under BMW, and could be described as nothing so much as a BMW with British coachwork and tuning. Originally, it was code named L30 under BMW and was slated to get the more advanced tech and electrical architecture from the infamous E65 7 Series (aka The First Bimmer With iDrive)…but when BMW sold Land Rover to Ford—likely to finance the newly acquired Rolls-Royce brand and resultant development, which is a whole other story—BMW decided it didn’t want to hand its flagship tech to a competitor. So the L322, as it would be known under Ford, was hastily finished up with existing E38 and E39 electrical components. Given the fact that the E65 stuff turned out to be prototype-grade, this isn’t a bad thing.

    So while the 2006-2009 (ideally 2007-2009 if you want the completely refreshed interior) was more reliable and the 2010-2012 had more tech and swagger…the 2003-2005 is pretty maintainable if you are familiar with BMWs from the E38/E39/E53 era. The M62 V8 is largely the same as the one in, say, an E53 X5. The biggest changes are different timing and an oil pan that won’t starve the engine even if the car is at a 45-degree incline/decline. Ditto the ZF 5AT, which was pretty ubiquitous in European cars of the era, and even in some of Ford’s own cars. Wear items like air struts, air compressors, catalytic converters, and underbody hardware are pretty easy to find, and easy to replace.

    And for that, you get a car that—especially with some aftermarket facelift pieces like exterior lights and grilles—looks reasonably modern at twenty-odd years old. Clean it up, and it’ll look ten years newer.

    My vote is for the Range Rover.

    1. The great thing about Range Rover air suspension is that you can replace it with good old steel springs for around $700. Cooling problems aren’t that bad, you have a water pump, thermostat, and rad. Audis scare me.

        1. A friend of a friend had a RR with air suspension and it was a huge pain in the ass to him. Now, he was not a car guy and may not have known what he was getting into buying the RR. All I have heard about is how failure prone the suspension was.
          Coil springs aren’t a comfy and don’t give you the adjustability but at least they are hard to break.

      1. Ha! Well, it’s too sexist to speak of separating the Men from the Boys, but it does flush the cowards. This is Shitbox Showdown! They’re shitboxes! We’re not meant to actively want to own most of them. It’s like a game of Would You Rather: two choices from which lesser mechanics and drivers would sensibly recoil in horror. One is free to read and comment without voting at all, of course.

        That said, it is indeed fun to have the chickenshit ratio publicly revealed. I picked the Rover, by the way. That twin-turbo Audi drivetrain at that age/mileage is well beyond what I’d want to invest in what is, to me, not an interesting car.

        And David Tracy: why so stumped about our willingness to assemble an ostensibly complete-ish Fiat basket case rather than go for the fully assembled MGB? Especially compared to today’s choices, how many parts could a ’72 Fiat have, anyway? Seventeen?

        1. I voted no, hell no! And I’m damned proud of it.
          I looked at yesterday’s Fiat ad, a lot, I didn’t see the gas tank, or the other cam cover, a new tank is available from a variety of sources, and the cam cover could easily be in one of the multitude of parts boxes, none of this diminished my fervor for the project.

  7. I’ve seen Sarah N Tuned work on various Audis on her channel. If I have to choose between them or Land Rover, I’m picking the dog. It might be easier to work on and it has a lot more class than a boring sedan.

  8. Range Rover. As others have said, it’s a BMW powertrain from the era when they weren’t too terribly complicated.

    I have a soft spot for that specific Audi due to getting a ride in one as a teenager. But after smacking a deer it never was the same after spending 3 months sitting at the shop getting the bugs worked out. Hard pass.

  9. Glad there was a 3rd choice! I owned an A6 Avant of about the same vintage. It led me down the path of financial ruin faster than I could replace broken/worn out/burnt parts. When it ran it was awesome, the best car ever in the snow. However the operative phrase “when it ran” is important here. I ended up giving it away (regretfully no cliff high enough to push it off nearby) with the advice “sell it quick while its running”.

    1. Had an A6 sedan with the NA V8 and with about 100,000 miles and well over 10 years less wear on it than the one shown here. And it was already more expensive than it was worth to keep running in good order. Sold it to a used car dealer for a few thousand and was happy to get that.

  10. Range Rover gets the nod with steel springs and a new cooling system being not that bad.

    Cheapest guy I ever knew had an Audi A6 like this. He treated it like dirt. Changed the oil every 25,000 miles or once a year whether it needed it or not. Replaced the front suspension pretty much right before it fell apart on the road. Dash was lit up like a Christmas Tree. He got it because “Turbos” were blown. Somehow condensation and winter were involved and a couple nights drying out in a warm garage and then driving it long enough to really warm up fixed the problem. He sure did not spend any $$ on that problem. His kids said if he could buy used food he would.

  11. I guess I just don’t get the whole luxury SUV thing. Why spend a ton of money on one of these when you can have a more capable four-wheeler for less or a better-driving luxury sedan for the same money? That said, I’d take this Range Rover over that Audi in a second. I’m not an expert on them, but fix the Range Rover and I’d be willing to bet that it would stay fixed for a decent amount of time. Seems like “Fix the Audi” would likely be your fixed weekend agenda for the entire term of ownership.

  12. As much as I wanted to click don’t make me, I wanted get into the spirit of the article and make a choice.

    The Rover won slightly due to the bonkers overdesign from a kind of British vehicle. The suspension can be fixed to factory or the coil over conversion. The overheating can be easy or very complex.

    I figure if nothing else, there are over 1500 worth of parts on it.

  13. THE service position poster car, or THE air bag eating Rover? Thank you so much for option 3. I was getting a huge headache trying to figure out which was the least self loathing purchase.

  14. If you look closely at the little horizontal slot above the stereo in the A6 … that’s the drink holder. The. One. Drink. Holder. Press in, and out would slide a little hole the exact circumference of a 12oz soda can, which would precariously balance on a little bar that folded out below. This balanced (?) your drink so the lower 1/2 rendered the stereo controls unusable, and the upper 1/2 was exposed to the climate control vent, which was a bitch if you wanted a cold soda in the winter, or a hot coffee in the summer.

    I only know these levels of torture because that’s mostly the same interior as in my old 2001 S4 Avant (manual, in Brilliant Yellow) that I truly, deeply loved … but holy fuck don’t try taking anything along with you to drink. Especially if you wanted to put that twin turbo to use.

    1. It should also be noted that a contoured “American” plastic coke bottle gets all kinds of stuck in those and can’t be removed without pulling over to the side of the road and looking like an idiot. Ask me how I know…

  15. I currently own an 04 Disco on 35’s and a mildly modified 13 S4. I know that the Range and the Discovery are different vehicles, but I’m taking the A4 with my dollars. The only common sense answer is #3 though.

  16. There is no choice here, just bankruptcy at the end. Both cars feature major failure prone systems while ALSO giving you the joy of lots of little luxury bits that will eventually crap out along the way. I especially don’t trust the Audi after owning a Mk IV Jetta that had a failure prone little ECUs running the power locks. ECUs in plural because there was one in each door.

  17. Can’t believe so many people are choosing none, c’mon it’s only $1500!
    If you have space to wrench yourself, fix the air or swap in the coil spring conversion and live the baller life for a year and sell for net even.
    Or, take the gamble and thrash a twin turbo audi until it explodes and sell for parts for $750

  18. As the current owner of an ’06 LR3, which I’ve owned since 2012, I agree w Kyree. I think my 4.4 is the Jag, not BMW, but my coolant issues resolved w replacing the thermostat housing. I don’t burn or leak oil, or other fluids, but do go through front bushings every 18 months. Plug that compressor in, then see what kind of suspensions leaks are bearable and enjoy. Nothing else quite rides like a Rover. Especially at shitbox prices.

    Oh, don’t worry too much about the electric gremlins. Just figure out which sequence of locking/unlocking door opening/closing sequence clears the fault notice on the dash, and drive. I’ve taken mine cross country and off road, other than getting stuck overnight in a snowbank on a mountain in NM with a severed brake line due to user error I’ve not been let down.

    But, come to think of it, I did spend a whole year driving dozens of used Rovers until I found the one with the shortest rap sheet…

    1. You are correct. The L319 Disco 3/LR3 never had anything to do with BMW, so it (and the related L320/first-gen Range Rover Sport) only had Jaguar engines. The 4.4-liter V8 in those cars was only ever the Jaguar motor; ditto for the 4.2-liter supercharged V8 on the Range Rover Supercharged and Range Rover Sport Supercharged.

      Incidentally, the 4.2-liter N/A engine, 4.4-liter N/A engine and 4.2-liter supercharged Jaguar engines sold between 2003 and 2009 are very robust. Aston Martin sold 4.3-liter and 4.7-liter variants of these engines that were also quite reliable.

  19. David – You don’t seem to appreciate that half of the job was already done on the FIAT. Getting all the rusty fasteners out of the MGB to take it apart is going to be a knuckle buster. But to your credit, “I always tell folks: Get your car on the road ASAP and work on it then.” Is what every MGB owner I have known does. Or at least by the side of the road.

    1. Have you ever owned one? and when I say “one” I mean, any RR? I sold these things my dude, and let me tell you, you do not want one in any way shape or form. These things are for morons who think because they were expensive new that somehow that makes the person driving them cool.

      1. I had several L322s roll through my old shop and from a reliability standpoint, I’d take an early L322 over a 4.8is X5 or diesel ML any day of the week. Sure, the L322’s electrics go all wonky, but they always got driven in.

  20. Fiat winning yesterday doesn’t surprise me, but the results were closer than expected. I have never sat in a 124 spider, but I have sat in a MGB. I’m only 5’11 and with a ‘normal’ body type that steering wheel is literally in my lap. Impossible to drive comfortably, and deadly to my manhood in the event of even a mild accident.

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