Saturday, 18 May 2013

Best Sports Cars for Under $100k

Have you ever wondered how much car you could get for 100k? Planned what cars you'd buy if you won the lottery? This is the Top 10 list that'll rank and explain the best sports cars you can buy for 100 grand! All the pictures are mine, except for the Audi TT-RS (I haven't had a chance to see one yet) and I referenced online reviews and manufacturer websites as well as my personal knowledge to compile the list and provide information about the cars. Enjoy!

10. BMW Z4 sDrive 35is $64,200

3.0L Turbocharged Straight-6
335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,549 lbs
0-60: 4.8 seconds
Top Speed: 155 (electronically limited)
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 17/24
Starting off this list is the first of two BMWs- the best version of the Z4. Gone is the convertible and coupe option- all Z4’s from this generation have retractable hardtops. Despite the upped power from the 3.0L I6, the Z4 isn’t a purist driver’s car by any stretch of the imagination. The softer handling, relative to its competitors, make it more of a weekend cruiser than a hardcore sports car. According to Car and Driver, the Z4 smoothly delivers its power, and has a comfortable ride but fails to inspire confidence in the driver at the limit. As a true sports car, then, it fails to achieve the mission. However, if you are looking for a quick roadster for Sunday afternoon cruises, it’ll deliver great acceleration, a comfortable ride, and a sporty exhaust note.

9. Audi TT-RS $56,850

2.5L Turbocharged Straight-5
360 horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,306 lbs
0-60: 4.1 seconds
Top Speed: 174
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 18/25
The Audi TT-RS is coming to the United States in limited quantities, and it’s only available with a proper manual transmission. Sporting wide tires and Audi’s Quattro AWD system, you know that grip is going to be plentiful in this sportier version of the TT. Add the 360 horsepower produced by the 5 turbocharged cylinders to these factors, and the acceleration from this car is absolutely brutal. Unlike most of the cars on this list which are rear-wheel drive, the TT-RS can get more of its power to the road on hard launches. Despite the sporty nature of the car’s performance, it isn’t a stripped-out hardcore track monster. It’s got a decent sized trunk, and rear seats that will carry a gym bag at least, if not small children. The performance is useable on the street, and taller individuals that might not fit in something like a Porsche Boxster can comfortably drive the TT. In summary, the TT-RS delivers plenty of performance to keep your inner-Stig happy while maintaining some semblance of practicality.

8. Jaguar XK-R $97,500

5.0L Supercharged V8
510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,968 lbs
0-60: 4.6 seconds
Top Speed: 155 (electronically limited)
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 15/22
The Jaguar XK-R is the 2nd most powerful car on this list with over 500 raging horses under the hood; it looks fantastic, and has a supercharger. So why is it so far down on this list? Weight. Despite having twice the engine displacement and 150 extra horsepower, the XK-R is 16 seconds behind the TT-RS, the next slowest car on the list, around the Nurburgring. 16 seconds! What this goes to show is that like the Z4, the XK-R is probably more comfortable going on a spirited weekend drive around the countryside than it is on a racetrack. While this certainly isn’t a bad thing, there is definitely a market for GT cars such as this, the relaxed driving style of the XK-R isn’t going to be enough to get it higher on the list. Although it’s slower to 60 than others on this list, it’ll still plant you into the back of the leather seats when you put the automatic transmission into Dynamic Mode and floor it.

7. Porsche Cayman R $66,300

3.4L Flat-6
330 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 2,855 lbs
0-60: 4.7 seconds
Top Speed: 175
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 19/27
In stark contrast to the Jaguar, we have the Porsche Cayman R. Porsche is synonymous with motorsports racetrack performance, and that is exactly what the Cayman R is built for. When building the R version of its popular Cayman sports car, Porsche decided to cut weight instead of adding lots of power (only 10 were dragged out of the 3.4L) to achieve the desired performance goals. The Cayman R is the only member of this list under 3,000 pounds and weighs in more than 1,000 pounds lighter than the XK-R. The Cayman and the Jag are perfect foils for each other; the XK-R is everything that the Cayman is not, and vice-versa. While the Jaguar is immensely powerful and luxurious (aka heavy) the Cayman is underwhelming on the spec sheet (more than 200hp fewer than our winner) but extremely focused and lightweight. One has only to sit inside the cockpit to know that the R is all about performance. To save weight, Porsche replaced traditional door handles with fabric straps. The sport bucket seats hold the driver in place during hard cornering, and save 26 pounds. Air-conditioning is anoptional extra. On a $60,000 Porsche!
To summarize, the Cayman R is a purist’s dream when it comes to performance cars. Despite having the fewest horsepower of the 10 cars on this list, it laps the Nurburgring in 8:06, faster than the Ferrari 550 Maranello, the V10 powered BMW M6, and the Lamborghini Diablo SV. The R makes up for being a low powered car by weighing as close to nothing as you’ll find in a modern car. That means excellent acceleration, braking, and handling. Add the PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes) and the Cayman R will be ready for the track right out of the box.

6. Lotus Evora S $77,175

Supercharged 3.5L V6
345 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,168 lbs
0-60: 4.4 seconds
Top Speed: 178
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 17/26
Lotus has been building purists’ sports cars for a long time. Expanding upon their model lineup of the Elise and Exige, Lotus added the Evora as a slightly larger and more powerful sports car. Although it is bigger than the tiny Elise, the Evora has retained everything that has put Lotus on top of the wish lists of drivers worldwide. The chassis is well balanced, the steering and handling are incredibly precise, and the brakes are amazing. While the standard Evora makes do with 276 hp, the S includes a supercharger on top of the 3.5L Toyota V6 which boosts power to 345 hp at 7,000 rpm. To stop all 345 of these horses, the Evora S has excellent brakes and tires. When Car and Driver tested the Evora S’s 70-0 braking distance, it landed within 5 feet of the best distance they had recorded- 146 feet. This handling and grip of the Lotus can make average drivers look great and inspire confidence at the limit. The Evora maintains all of the downsides that are present in nearly all Lotus cars, namely the complete lack of practicality. The cabin is small and not particularly ergonomic, the footwell is very tight, and visibility is limited. While it’s not going to be a great daily driver, it’ll be sure to excite it’s lucky owners on track days and weekend drives.

5. C63 AMG Coupe $61,430

6.3L AMG V8
451 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,935 lbs
0-60: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: electronically limited to 155 (174 with the AMG Development Package)
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 12/19 mpg
As with all AMG vehicles, the key to the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe’s performance is its heart- the 6.2L AMG V8. While this AMG will still happily kick its rear end out if you lift off the throttle coming around a bend at the limit, it isn’t quite as insane as previous C63 AMG’s due to chassis refinements that have somewhat neutralized the balance of the car, according to Car and Driver. AMG badging, colored brake calipers, a rear diffuser, and the voracious exhaust note will separate the AMG from other C-class coupes and sedans. The 2011 C63 AMG Coupe lapped the infamous Nurburgring in 8:01, putting it in the lap time ballpark of cars such as the 1992 Buggatti EB 110SS, and ahead of sports cars such as the 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, 2007 Aston Martin DBS, and the 2010 Porsche Cayman R. Because it's still a Mercedes, you'll get a relatively comfortable ride, nice leather interior, and state of the art electronics and gadgets.

4. Chevrolet Corvette Z06 $75,600

7.0L V8
505 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,208 lbs
0-60: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: 198
Fuel Economy (City/Highway) 15/24 mpg
In the 4 spot, we find the only American representative on this list, the Corvette Z06. The Corvette has long been the best “horsepower per dollar” value on the market, and the C6 Z06 is no exception. The only cars with more power on this list cost over $20,000 more, and only pack 5 or 40 more horsepower. The Corvette is the best all-around American sports car, and it can hold its own with the best that Europe has to offer on the racetrack. Racing versions of this and the previous generation Z06 have claimed class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (over Aston Martin) as well as taking class championships in the American Le Mans Series and other sports car racing series’ around the globe. To accomplish this, Chevrolet has made the Z06 as light as is is powerful- the 4th lightest on this list and with by far the best power/weight ratio (6.35 lbs. per hp, the next closest is 7.03). According to Car and Driver, the car behaves predictably at the limit, but has somewhat uncommunicative steering. This car is going to give you the performance of vehicles that cost twice as much or more, and is still somewhat practical. It’s got a big trunk, there is good visibility, and the ride isn’t unreasonable for a sports car that laps the Nurburgring faster than a 2002 Pagani Zonda C12 S and the even more recent Audi R8 V10.

3. BMW M3 $60,100

4.0L V8
414 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,704 lbs
0-60: 4.7 seconds
Top Speed: 155 (electronically limited)
Fuel Economy: 14/20 (estimated)
The BMW M3 was engineered for the track, and you’ll notice this from the start in the street car. From the V8 that revs to 8,400 rpm to the cross-drilled brake discs, this car is very serious about performance. As fast as the M3 looks, even while standing still, all of the bodywork is aerodynamically functional or feeds air into the engine compartment. BMW’s M division used carbon fiber for the roof to lower the center of gravity, and achieved a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution through the use of lightweight materials. In fact, the V8 in this M3 is 33 poundslighter than the inline-6 engine from the E46 generation. Despite all of this lightening, BMW's have progressively gotten heavier since the 80's, and the M3 has the 4th worst power to weight ratio of the 10 cars on this list. None of this weight is put to weight though- the reason that BMWs have gotten heavier is that they have become safer and more technologically advanced. What this means for the buyer is that despite all of this track-bred performance, the M3 is still going to have a nice interior and the standard equipment that you'd expect from a more luxury oriented car. The E92 M3 can be daily driven in comfort Monday through Friday, and taken to the track on the weekends- no problem. As the 2nd cheapest car on the list, the M3 represents great value as a car that can be two- commuter and race car.
When it first came out in 2007, the M3 lapped the Nurburgring in 8:05, equal to the Ferrari 575 Maranello, and faster than the ’06 Mercedes SL55 AMG and 1997 Lamborghini Diablo SV.

2. Porsche 911 Carrera S $96,400

3.8L Flat-6
400 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,075
0-60: 4.3 seconds
Top Speed: 188
Fuel Economy: 18/26 (estimated)
This latest iteration of Porsche’s classic sports car adds power and loses weight from the previous 997 generation while receiving a styling update, and a brand new manual transmission. The 991 generation keeps with the Porsche tradition of placing the flat-6 at the rear of the car, but Porsche has redistributed a bit more of the weight from the rear compared to the past generation to improve balance. When equipped with PDK (Porsche’s paddle-shifting system), the Carrera S has a fantastic launch control system that allowed Road and Track testers to hit 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds, about as good as the 997 GT3 RS. Braking is handled by aluminum calipers and cast-iron rotors, although for about $8,500 you can get PCCB (Porsche ceramic-composite brakes) which will perform better, and resist fade as well as any street car brakes on the market.
The Carrera S lapped the Nurburgring in 7:40, in the ballpark of the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, McLaren SLR, and 2 seconds ahead of the Lamborghini Murcielago SV, which packs 670 horsepower. Porsche has managed to squeeze a ton of performance out of a smaller engine than its competitors while getting more speed for the power at the same time. The 911 is one of the most track-focused cars on this list, while still maintaining its every-day practicality. For those who prefer to work both of their feet while driving, this Porsche marks a commitment to the continued development and implementation of the manual transmission.

1. Nissan GT-R $96,820

3.8L Twin-Turbo V6
545 horsepower and 463 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 3,829 lbs
0-60: 2.9 seconds
Top Speed: 196
Fuel Economy: 16/23 (estimated)

Yes, your eyes are working, and there is no typo. The R35 Nissan GT-R hits 60 mph from a standstill in2.9 seconds. This is faster than hardcore racers like the Gumpert Apollo Sport (roughly $400,000) and high speed legends such as the Koenigsegg Agera (over $1 million, 270mph top speed). Engage launch control, and any driver can pull off a launch like this. This generation of GT-R is famous for being as fast around a track as supercars that cost twice as much or more, and it is a reputation that is well earned. It’s Nurburgring lap time of 7:21 was faster than the Ferrari 458 Italia, Porsche Carrera GT, and even the Pagani Zonda F.

While the GT-R is very fast and is sure to turn quick lap times, it has been criticized for being “passion-less.” The styling is functional, but no one will mistake it for an Italian supercar, or even consider it “beautiful.” The sound from the V6 can’t compare with the offerings from Aston Martin, Ferrari, or Porsche, and it only comes in an automatic paddle-shifting automatic. And last but not necessarily least, every time someone asks you what you drive you have to say “It’s a Nissan… hmmm… well, it’s a really fast Nissan called the GT-R” whereas someone with a much slower and older Porsche 944 only has to say “Porsche” to get someone’s attention. True car fans will recognize the GT-R as an engineering masterpiece, but it certainly won’t garner the attention that some others on this list will.

All that being said, the whole point of the Nissan R35 GT-R is to be as fast as million dollar supercars for a (relatively) low price, so it comes in at number 1 on this list.

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