Car buyers' guide: Second-hand turbochargers come with risks

By Jack Biddle

The Subaru Legacy GT. Photo / Supplied
The Subaru Legacy GT. Photo / Supplied

The dilemma:
Paul is one of many Kiwis who loves the Japanese import Toyota Caldina station wagon but he's decided it may be time to move on.

"I have a 1998 Toyota Caldina 2.0G and have enjoyed it for its smooth ride, reliability and load- carrying capabilities, without being an over-sized car. However, I'm looking for something with more power and performance," he says.

Paul is after a Japanese 2.0-2.5-litre station wagon and preferably something turbocharged.

"I really quite like the 2003-2009 Subaru Legacy GT, or perhaps the 2002-2007 Toyota Caldina GT-Four."

But here comes a warning - power and performance can equal high risk when shopping on the second-hand market Paul, so make sure you are prepared to spend quality time looking for the right vehicle.

Don't forget - some of these vehicles have had a good old-fashioned thrashing by previous owners and on-going repair costs can become an unpleasant and unwanted surprise.

Remember also, you won't be buying with good fuel economy in mind regardless of what you choose.

The shortlist:
Subaru Legacy GT A one-on-one discussion with a very passionate Subaru mechanic confirmed my own initial thoughts. In brief, try to find an ex-New Zealand new example and one with a long and proven service history. Used imports with the twin turbo set-up for example are definitely higher risk, especially as age and mileage increase. And insurance may be cheaper for NZ models due to better on-board theft deterrent measures. Cambelt replacement can also become very expensive (both NZ new and used import) if done as per the expert's recommendations. A well-maintained late-model GT however is a great car.

Toyota Caldina GT-Four
A very good alternative to the Subaru and by default you get the reliability and good build quality that the Toyota brand is known for in its mainstream model line-up. I suspect it also attracts fewer of the hard-core performance-oriented buyers and more those who are looking for something a little different with a performance and interior/exterior package to make the car stand outside the square. There is even a GT-Four "N" edition available. This model is equipped with several performance and cosmetic enhancements which set it apart.

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo
OK, you say you are looking at Japanese vehicles and a wagon and you would be moving up in size, but the overall value-for-money package is impressive. If you want performance, a comfortable highway drive as well as a car with good urban manners and loaded with all the fruit then it's well worth a look.

Driven recommends:
A late model NZ new Subaru Legacy GT provided it comes with a proven past service history.

* For car advice email driven@apn.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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