2011 Mustang GT 5.0Enlarge Photo
As many people (primarily men) approach the middle of their lives a strange phenomenon occurs. They may start exercising more, using Rogaine again and they may be overtaken by an insane urge to buy a ridiculously expensive new sports car. Usually a red or black one.
But do you really have to buy a Corvette, 911 or Aston Martin V8 Vantage to have a proper crisis? (Note: If you do have that kind of money feel free to buy one of those three highly pedigreed sports cars.) But in a recessionary economy where credit is getting harder and harder to find, maybe it is time you looked at a less expensive sporty alternative to satisfy your inner midlife crisis monster.
All of the following vehicles hover above and below the magic $30,000 mark but never stray far beyond it. Some, though not all of these vehicles, are even big enough to take the family comfortably on long Sunday drives. On second thought, maybe you should keep your new toy to yourself.
(2010 Mazda Miata) : With prices starting at $23,210 for a decently equipped Sport model, you don’t have to spend a lot on a 2010 Miata to get the same razor sharp driving experience. The manual shifter is a jewel, the 2.0 liter 167 horsepower 4-cylinder growls all the way to the redline and the convertible top goes down with the flick of a wrist. Any questions? (Note: a folding metal hard-top model is also available and only adds about $1,000 to the cost and increases weight by only 80 pounds.)
(2010 Nissan 370Z) : The Z may cost a little more than its competition here but with prices starting at only $30,410, this iconic sports coupe is still affordable to many. I drove a test Nissan 370Z and it was definitely the most fun I have ever had behind the wheel of any automobile.
The steering is perfect, the shifter feels meaty in your hand and the suspension never pulls any tricks on you. The 370Z comes with a standard 332 horsepower 3.7 liter V6 and this engine pulls hard from any gear and at any engine speed. Also, the new restyle of the Z makes it one of the coolest looking two doors on the market at any price.
(2010 VW GTI) : The most practical entry in this list is also one of the most surprisingly fun to drive hot hatchbacks on the road today. And, as many people live in snowy parts of the country a front-wheel drive car just makes much more sense as a purchase. But once you get the 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder screaming after downshifting past slower traffic you will be hooked.
(2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8) : The Hyundai Genesis is also available with a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that is ready made for tuners to toy with so if that is your passion buy that variant. The 300 horsepower 3.8 liter V6, however, is a readymade and very stylish rocket. Pictures do not do this gorgeous sport coupe justice. The manual transmission works just okay so feel free to wuss out a bit and buy the six-speed automatic.
(2011 Ford Mustang) : A new V6 and a new 5.0 V8 the must have muscle car of the year. It also stands out thanks to an exterior design that gives it a stout stance, an impressively tactile interior with soft touch everything and even the option of buying it in convertible form. Most importantly, even if you buy the new V6 version you won’t have to feel like it’s a rental special due to its truly impressive 305 horsepower. The 5.0 V8 makes 402 horsepower and both of those readings are on regular fuel.