For those with a bit of cash to kick around and who don’t have to worry about practicality issues, there are numerous cars on the market that offer looks, performance, and fun. Just about every manufacturer has at least one run-about that offers traces of track-derived DNA in a package more suited for everyday driving. Here are a few of them, which can be purchased new for under $50,000. These are only a sample of the broad array of offerings that sports car buyers face. Which car would you add to the list?
1. Audi TTS
The Audi TTS is a more humble, softer approach to sports cars, but it packs a healthy 265 horsepower punch coming from an unassuming 2.0 litre inline-four. At $47,350, the TTS brings all the finesse and accouterments that Audi has a reputation for, formatted in a fun, perky little package. Comfortably nestled between the base TT and the top-spec TTRS, the TTS serves as a sort of sleeper unit that combines the performance characteristics of the TTRS with the refinement and urbanity of the entry TT.
2. Ford Mustang Boss 302
The Ford Mustang’s 5.0 litre V8 will put down 444 horsepower in the Boss 302 trim — a bargain for the $42,200 base price. Along with the snazzy Boss paint job and accessory kit, the Boss edition boasts 24 additional horsepowers over the GT Premium trim, shown in the picture above. Sadly, reports are indicating that the 302 will not be making its return in 2014. However, the Shelby GT500 will still be available for those with the funds, and the entire Mustang lineup is due for a refresh come 2015.
3. BMW Z4 sDrive28i
Its low profile screams ‘sport’ as soon as it passes, but in its base trim, the BMW Z4 is a proper motoring car. Its inline-four cylinder pumps out a respectable 240 horsepower, and its convertible nature makes the Z4 an ideal touring car that’s offered at a relatively friendly price point, with a base cost of $47,350, on par with the TTS. If you’ve got the cash though, it’s worth putting it down for the Z4 sDrive35i. The base sDrive28i trim is the only edition of the Z4 that packs the inline-four, as the model trims above come equipped with BMW’s creamy inline six that’s found in just about all its cars — although sadly, opting for the extra cynlinders will push the price over $50,000.
4. Chevrolet Camaro SS
No list that includes the Mustang should exclude its Detroit sibling and arch rival, the Chevrolet Camaro. At roughly $38,000, the SS comes with the 6.2 litre V8, good for 426 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque to the rear wheels. Less than the Boss-trimmed Mustang, but it should get you where you’re going — for about $4,000 less. The Camaro SS fills the odd spot between Chevy’s new Corvette Stingray, and the upcoming SS sedan, and as of late March, has been the most popular sports car in America for three consecutive years, according to GM.
5. Scion FR-S
Developed as a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru, the Scion FR-S (or BRZ under the Subaru badge) clocks in at about 200 horsepower, which ranks it among the lowest listed here. However, at $25,255 (and that’s with options), it’s among the cheapest as well, and gives perhaps the best value for the money. Originally intended to be a brand aimed at younger buyers, Scion has historically struggled to really catch on with the demographic it was designed for. However, the affordability of the FR-S, combined with the aggressive stance and sport-oriented tuning, the FR-S might be the car Scion’s been looking for all along.
6. Nissan 370Z Nismo
As the top-of-the-line spec of Nissan’s popular 370Z model, the Nismo-edition brings track performance and dynamics to the public roadways. A 3.7 litre V6 will offer up 350 horsepower, and all to the rear wheels — as well as a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission, sport-tuned suspension and brakes, and 19-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels. In addition to an extra 20 horsepower over the base 370, the Nismo features a sleeker bodykit to ensure the added power doesn’t do to waste. It can be yours, for $43,020 — less than half the price of the totally insane GT-R, but more than half the performance!
7. Subaru WRX STI
Subaru’s top of the line performance sedan has been wildly popular with recreational drivers and rally enthusiasts for years. The all-wheel drive system gives the STI some of the best handling dynamics in the industry, and the 305 horsepower, turbo-charged 2.5 litre boxer engine will ensure the driver has adequate power whenever they need. A new STI runs for about $34,295, which is quite reasonable when considering it boasts 40 more horsepower and 46 more torques over the standard WRX.
8. Mini Cooper John Cooper Works GP
Yes, the Mini certainly looks out of place among the other entrants listed here, but the John Cooper Works GP is a whole different breed of Mini. With a nearly $40,000 price tag, it’s the most expensive mini on the market — but it also comes from the factory with 211 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like much, but in a car weighing just a shade over 2,700 pounds, that translates into a lot of fun in a small package.