Thursday, November 26, 2009

There are a lot of sports cars out on the market today that would make it into my personal "dream car garage" for sure.Something like a legendary Porsche 911 Turbo or a sexy Ferrari F430. But alas, most of us can't afford to change the oil on one of those sports cars let alone buy them, let said approximately $1.5 million to put the German-built Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in your estate's carriage house (or under the car port of your apartment). With 10 percent down, your monthly outlay over 60 months at 6.75% interest will be an affordable $26,572 prior to tax and title I decided to make this list more attainable, but not any less fun.

Great Sports Cars for Under $35K

For the list of five great sports cars that fit into these four categories:

1) Price: they have an MSRP of under $35,000
2) Performance: they have at least 200 HP
3) Style: they only have two doors and
4) Coolness Factor: they survived a little personal scrutiny in the looks department by this writer and they came out ahead of some other sports cars in the segment.

Each car was first considered based on its power and then on its looks, because when it comes to sports cars, beauty really is on the inside.

The sports cars on the list are all unique in what they offer the driver. Some stray into the muscle car corner, while others squarely hit the roadster target. Some of these sports cars could be fun daily drivers, while others are more at home on a race track or occasional weekend back road romp. So without further ado, here are five great sports cars for under $35,000 in no particular order:

Nissan 350Z

The editors of Road and Track named the Nissan 350Z one of the best sports cars under 30 grand and said, "This is a true sports coupe." I'd have to agree, seeing as though the 350Z's VQ engine received the 2007 Ward's 10 Best Engines Award. And due to the fact that I admittedly have a soft spot for sports cars with the Z badge.

Over the past few years, Nissan has improved the car's ride and overall daily-driver appeal, while improving the horsepower at the same time. Current 350Z's have the VQ35HR 3.5L V6 that turns out 306 HP and 268 lb-ft of torque, the same engine shared with its Infiniti G35 cousin, just with less horsepower. Consequently, the Infiniti G35 could have easily made it onto this list, if it weren't for the Nissan 350Z producing more horsepower for less money with the same engine. With a 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds (Car and Driver), you're getting a lot of speed for a sports car that starts at just under $28,000.

Ford Mustang GT Deluxe
A classic sports car favorite among most of us and one of J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Initial Quality winners as well. Incidentally, Ford won a total of five of these awards this month for their various vehicles. The Ford Mustang GT classic 4.6L engine shows that sometimes 300 HP just feels better when it's coming from a grumbling V8 that will put a smile on your face in 4.9 seconds (Road and Track). And with a price tag of only $25,695 you'll never be sorry with the Ford Mustang GT.

If 300 horses aren't enough for you, then you can always jump up to the Ford Mustang Shelby GT, which adds an extra 19 wild horses to the pack. But then again, you'd just be missing that $35,000 mark. While you're there, you might as well take a look at the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 that so many of us love to see fly past us.

Honda S2000

Possibly the purest sports car in this group, what the Honda S2000 lacks in overall power and amenities, it more then makes up for in handling and driving pleasure. The S2000 can make sports cars costing twice as much blush on the twisties. Since this little monster's debut as a 2000 model, not much has changed to the overall design. A few changes on the outside have kept a modern look, but the interior is way past its expiration date. Some nice tweaking over the years by Honda has improved the mid-range torque issues and everyday drivability over earlier models.

This 2.2L naturally aspirated four cylinder produces 237HP and gives the driver a 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds. The 50/50 weight balance helps keep the Honda S2000's wheels under control, as does the limited slip differential. If you want a spicier looking Honda S2000 with no air conditioning or radio, wait until the release of the S2000 CR in the fall. It should be about 90 lbs lighter than the original and be the "Closest thing you can get to a Honda-built racecar with license plate holders and a horn," according to John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Pontiac Solstice GXP/Saturn Sky Red Line

The new GXP version of the Solstice is powered by a 260 horsepower two-liter engine with direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a turbocharger. The GXP also gets sportier suspension tuning, StabiliTrak, and styling enhancements.

Turbo lag is minimal, as is the trunk space, so you won't be waiting around for long to get this sports car going. With an MSRP at $27,115 this sports car won't get you down the road as fast or as cheap as the Ford Mustang GT, but the extra style and sex appeal will allow you to get the looks you want while you cruise.

Audi TT 2.0T

Last but not least comes the Audi TT, which just scrapes the top of our 35 grand budget at $34,800. The 2007 TT has that oh-my-good-ness curb appeal you want from a sports car. The base level Audi TT comes with a 2.0L turbo-charged engine, shared from the A3, which produces 200HP and seven more lbs-ft of torque. The only options you can add to the 2.0T are satellite radio and heated front seats, but it comes with fringe benefits you'd expect to find in an Audi, like a tire pressure monitor system, retractable rear spoiler and automatic climate control.

With a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds, the Audi TT isn't as fast as some of the other cars on this list, but consider that what's under the hood won Engine of the Year for both 2006 and 2007 in the International Engine of the Year competition. Audi says that the 2.0 TFSI engine, "combines vigorous pulling power with particularly high everyday suitability."


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