When considering a car that is interesting to drive and nice to look at, a prospective buyer will inevitably think a sacrifice must be made to attain such an automobile. “I may not be able to pick up my in-laws from the airport” or “I won’t be able to fit the 70 inch TV I plan on purchasing next Black Friday in the trunk” will likely be some of the objections crossing their mind. However, once they realize that less time with in-laws is actually preferable and Amazon could bring that same TV to their door with the click of a button, these objections quickly dissipate. But then, an insurmountable objection comes trotting into the living room and lays down on the rug, beginning to gnaw on their favorite chew toy.
When looking for a new car, the number of options can be dizzying. As a former car salesman, my best advice when narrowing down your selection is to take a close look at the things you value, and the experience you hope to have behind the wheel. You may not be able to drive something as interesting as an F-Type, or as fun as a GR86, but there are plenty of unique and enjoyable vehicles for sale now that you can buy if your four legged companions are first on your priority list.
Subaru Impreza WRX/STi
It is difficult to mention vehicles and canines in a conversation without someone from across the room yelling “My goldendoodle LOVES my Outback”. The stereotype is there for a reason, with Subaru owners embracing the practicality and cargo space, but those attributes are not often synonymous with interesting. However, I am offering an alternative to the long wheelbase CVT Outback and Forester that most would recommend.
The Impreza WRX/STi is an All-Wheel Drive, Rally-proven sedan with ample back seat space for any small to medium size breeds (a few inches shy of the Outback in back seat dimensions, but roomier than a 2022 Honda Civic). The turbocharged flat 4 combined with a great All-Wheel Drive system will get you and your hiking companion to any trail head in no time. It’s no coincidence that Subaru features dogs in almost all of their public events.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Even though this Mustang doesn’t have the V8 and iconic styling you’d expect for the nameplate, what it lacks in character it makes up for in back seat space (slightly more head, hip and shoulder room in the backseat than a 2021 Honda CR-V). Although it may not have the big wing or sleek styling you can find in the other options on this list, the torque offered by the electric stallion will leave you grinning at every greenlight, and the handling is surprisingly involved for the weight and size if the GT Performance trim level is on the table.
The biggest perk outside of saving the environment and appalling the Mustang purists has to be the quiet and smooth ride for your puppy-passengers in the back. No shifting or loud exhaust might make for less accidents to clean up on your supple faux leather seats, plus the rear occupants will love the panoramic glass roof.
Mazda has been churning out some great products, and the Mazda3 Hatchback is a must-drive if backroad carving is your hobby, and your puppy is your co-pilot. This very sensible yet very sporty looking hatch provides up to 250 HP and 320 lb/ft of torque (with the 2.5 Turbo engine offering). This paired with great handling and a sublime interior, will make for a wagging tail on both dog and owner after drives to the dog park.
Despite the more powerful and premium trim levels requiring an automatic transmission over a manual, they are still engaging to drive. Your passengers, human or dog, will prefer the smooth shifts of the automatic over your “driving prowess” with 3 pedals. The back seat can be folded flat, or left upright making this option friendly for medium to large pups, depending on how they like to travel.
Vehicles driven by automotive enthusiasts are not limited to canyon carving coupes or high-strung hot hatches. There is a whole subculture of cars entirely revolving around what they can do off the asphalt. The Jeep Wrangler is arguably one of the most popular platforms in the off-road/overlanding scene, and there’s a good chance your doggo will enjoy it as well.
While driving a vehicle with no doors seems like it should be illegal, there’s something absolutely freeing about it. If you have ever experienced this feeling, multiply it by a factor of one thousand, and that will be how your dog feels with its entire body feeling the rush of the wind, opposed to just the floppy ears and wide open mouth it’s accustomed to from “normal” cars with the back windows down.
Our writer Jordan was able to experience this first hand with his roommate’s dog pictured below. This extreme level of freedom does come with an added level of caution. With a harness strapped to the roll cage of the Jeep, your back seat rider will have the most automotive freedom possible short of being in a sidecar of a Harley. The Wrangler offers a durable and rugged interior, with off-road capability that can expand the possibilities of adventures with your dog off the beaten path.
These are only a few options on a subjective list curated by a dog owner and auto enthusiast, and the possibilities certainly do not stop here. That is the beauty of car buying, it is very personal, and the right car for you and your pup could be a Miata or an Escalade. Just make sure to consider all of your priorities when shopping, and these are worth paying extra close attention to if your top priority happens to have a wagging tail.