High-End ’90s Cars That Are Dirt Cheap Today

The ’90s was a dreamscape full of luxurious high-end cars. Automakers were at the top of their game, releasing beautiful rides like the Chevy Corvette ZR1. Of course, they were also charging top dollar for these track-ready vehicles. If you couldn’t afford a high-end car back then, but still dream of getting behind the wheel of one today, we have good news. A classic BMW E30 that would have cost you a year’s salary then can be found for less than $10,000 today. Keep reading to find out what other high-end rides from the ’90s can be found for surprisingly reasonable prices today!

Lexus LS400 – $5,000 Today

lexus ls400
Enigma3542002/Wikimedia Commons
Enigma3542002/Wikimedia Commons

Lexus was created in 1987 as the luxury vehicle arm of Toyota. That alone tells you how reliable and well-made they were made. One of the best ’90s models was the LS400, which also holds the title as the first model the company ever produced.

A brand new LS400 would have set you back $40,000, or $79,000 today with inflation calculated. Why spend that when you can find a used LS4000 for less than $5,000 right now, though?

Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am – $10,000 Today

Pontiac_Firebird trans-am
IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons
IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons

A more affordable, but still high-end, car from the ’90s was the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am. This speedy-looking car started with a base price of $25,000 and is considered a collector’s item today.

Just because the vehicle is in high demand doesn’t mean it will cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re willing to put a little work underneath the hood you can find a Trans-Am for $10,000. And if you can put more than a little work in you can find them even cheaper.

Porsche 944 Turbo – $15,000 Today

porsche 944 turbo
Daniel J. Leivick/Wikimedia Commons
Daniel J. Leivick/Wikimedia Commons

This high-end ’90s vehicle is a must-buy for Porsche lovers looking for a more affordable ride. The Porsche 944 Turbo wasn’t cheap to drive off the lot in the ’90s, and now that it has achieved classic status, its price-tag is slowly starting to creep back up.

Right now, a 944 Turbo on the secondary market can be found for around $15,000 in good condition. As demand for this roadster increases, though, so too will the cost to buy.

Cadillac Allanté – $10,000

cadillac allante
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The Allanté is a Cadillac with a more niche fan base than other vehicles you will see on this list. It was produced between 1987 and 1993 and was a quality sports car that never found its footing in the market.

Lost in the shuffle in the late ’80s and early ’90s, interest in the Allanté has been revived recently, making it a popular vehicle on the used market. Hunt wisely, and you can find one for less than $10,000.

Bentley Brooklands – $30,000 Today

bentley brooklands
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Bentley Brooklands first came out in 1992. It was produced by the luxury brand to replace the Mulsanne S and was given a hefty price tag of $156,000. Oddly enough, this made it one of the cheaper Bentley models at the time.

The original production run of the Brooklands ended in 1998. Because of how expensive it was back then, you won’t find one in good condition under $10,000 today, but you can for around $30,000.

BMW M5 – $15,000 Today

bmw m5
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like getting behind the wheel of a BMW and hitting the freeway. The German luxury brand has long been known for its reliability and attractive looks. But few models have been as pretty as the M5 from the ’90s.

Originally released in 1985, the M5 series is still available today and will cost you $100,000 brand new. Why do that when you can get a used model for $15,000, though?

Mercedes-Benz SL500 – $12,000 Today

mercedes sl500
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

A brand new Mercedes-Benz SL500 would have cost you $80,000 in 1990. Today, that’s the same as $160,000. The high-end Mercedes was a part of the brand’s SL class of Grand Tourer sports cars that date all the way back to the ’50s.

As pricey as the SL500 was 30 years ago, it can be found for a surprisingly reasonable $12,000 used today. If this is the auto you’ve been lusting after since it first came out, there has never been a better time to buy one!

Ford Mustang SVT Cobra – $15,000 Today

ford mustang svt cobra prototype
Getty Images
Getty Images

Produced between 1993 and 2004, the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra was another stellar generation for the iconic muscle car. It was also a costly era. A brand new Cobra came with a hefty price tag of $60,000.

If that cost was too much for you in the ’90s but you’re getting nostalgic thinking about this beast right now, look to the secondary market. Mustang SVT Cobras in good condition can be found as cheap as $15,000 today.

Porsche Boxster – $10,000 Today

porsche boxster
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Never in your life will you be able to buy a brand new Porsche for $10,000. That’s why the secondary market exists, where you can find a classic Boxster from the ’90s for just that price.

Originally released in 1997, the Boxster has become iconic. The first generation of the roadster still looks like it could be brand new today, so our only question is this — why buy new in the first place?

Dodge Viper GTS – $50,000 Today

GettyImages-534271954
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

A high-end Dodge Viper GTS from 1996 cost $100,000 brand new. With inflation, that is the same as $165,000 today. So even though the $50,000 used price seems like a lot, it’s actually quite reasonable for the legendary sports car.

With Dodge’s plans to revive the Viper, there is a chance that the secondary market cost could go down even further as demand decreases. If you know how to fix up a car, you can likely find a “fixer-upper” for a cheaper price as well.

Aston Martin DB7 – $40,000 Today

aston martin db7
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

You can’t tell us you were expecting the car of choice of James Bond for anything less than $40,000. The superior high-end luxury vehicle is always one of the classiest rides on the road, regardless of the year.

The bottom line is this — brand new, an Aston Martin can cost more than $300,000. If you find one of the secondary market, especially an older DB7, for $40,000, you take it.

Chevy Corvette ZR1 – $20,000 Today

corvette zr1
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

If you don’t mind driving without all the bells and whistles of modern sports cars, then we recommend looking toward the secondary market. For pure driving experience, the Corvette ZR1 from the ’90s is unbeatable.

And because it doesn’t have the new lines of the newest model, or the newest tech features that come with it, you can find one for around $20,000. That’s about one-third of its original listed price.

Mitsubishi 3000GT – $5,000 Today

Dodge stealth on display
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Even in the ’90s, this awesome sports car was on the more affordable side. Brand new, a Mitsubishi GTO would only cost around $20,000, or around $40,000 in today’s monetary terms.

The GT was produced between 1990 and 1996 but wasn’t known as a Mitsubishi in the United States. Here it was sold as the Dodge Stealth, which was a way to help try and entice more buyers to drive one off the lot. As of 2020, you can drive one off the used lot for around $5,000.

Audi A8 – $15,000 Today

audi a8 1999
Bonn-Sequenz/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Bonn-Sequenz/ullstein bild via Getty Images

One of the most sophisticated high-end cars of the ’90s was the Audi A8. The German brand has always been known for its next-level looks, and the A8 took it to the next, next level. It wasn’t cheap though.

As the years passed, the price of the A8 fell. Instead of buying a brand new one today, take a look at the secondary market. You might be surprised just how affordable this auto now is!

Nissan 300ZX – $10,000 Today

nissan 300zx
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Not many auto manufacturers made coolers sports cars in the ’90s than Nissan. The 300ZX was one of the brand’s most popular models and is still remembered fondly by car collectors today.

First built in 1989, the 300ZX was produced for 11 years. With so many model years available, it’s no surprise this ’90s classic doesn’t have a ridiculous price tag. A used Nissan 300ZX should only set you back around $10,000.

Lotus Esprit – $20,000 Today

lotus esprit 1989
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

While not as well known in the United States, around the world Lotus is one of the top high-end luxury vehicle manufacturers, and the Esprit is one of their most sought after models. If you were “hip” to the brand in 1990, a new Esprit would have cost you $60,000.

If you’re just discovering the brand today, you can buy one on the secondary market for $20,000. Because the vehicle is rarer in the United States, you might just need to have some patience while you search for the right deal.

Mercedes-Benz S500 – $10,000 Today

Mercedes-Benz_S500
IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons
IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons

Similar to the Mercedes-Benz SL500, the S500 is born from the same manufacturer but is still its own unique beast. A high-end car that’s as reliable as they come, it’s honestly a smarter decision to buy a Benz used instead of new.

The S500 can be found for around $10,000 in decent to good condition. If you’re willing to spend a little extra cash, you can even get one that’s basically brand new for a fraction of the price.

Nissan Skyline GT-R – $20,000 Today

nissan skyline 1998
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

This one is a little more pricey than other vehicles on this list, but for good reason. When it was first introduced more than 25 years ago, the Nissan Skyline GT-R was banned in the United States for not meeting safety standards.

Today, you can have a Skyline GT-R imported without having to worry. Because you’re importing it, however, the used classes will cost you around $20,000, which is still more affordable than its original price tag.

Acura NSX – $40,000 Today

acura nsx
John B. Carnett/Bonnier Corp. via Getty Images
John B. Carnett/Bonnier Corp. via Getty Images

With a price tag of $80,000 in the ’90s, the Acura NSX was one of the more expensive sports cars of the era. By today’s standards, it would cost $140,000. Like other autos on this list, a quick look at the used market will reveal much more affordable options.

Currently, you can find the NSX in good condition for around $40,000. With a new model on the horizon, the demand for older models might decrease, lowering the asking price, too.

BMW E30 – $10,000 Today

1990 BMW E30 Model
Bajuvar/Wikimedia Commons
Bajuvar/Wikimedia Commons

We now arrive at one of the most iconic cars of not only the ’90s, but the ’80s as well. The BMW E30 was produced for 12 years, from 1982 until 1994, and would cost around $30,000 brand new. By today’s standards, that is equal to $60,000.

As we’ve said before, why buy a new BMW, when you can find this model, in good condition, for $10,000 on the secondary market? It’s a classic look for a perfect price!

1994 Jaguar XJS – $6,500 Today

XJS
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The Jaguar XJS is comparable to I Dream of Jeannie. Though it wasn’t a hit in the 60s when it arrived, over the years, it’s become a classic in its reruns. The XJS was in production for a long span of 20 years. It never became very popular, missing the mark each time a new generation was released.

However today at just $6,500, the Jaguar XJS Convertible is a pretty hot car. They just don’t make them like they used to, as seen in the two-seater, sporty design.

1992 Saab 900 Convertible – $5,000 Today

saab
By Thomas doerfer / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
By Thomas doerfer / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

From 1978 to 1994, Saab produced a line of the mid-sized 900 models that are considered classics today. The car’s fuel-injected, turbocharged engines included Full Pressure Turbo, and its stylish looks made it popular around the world.

Surprisingly, you can occasionally find one of these Swedish beauties for around $5,000 today. These babies are built to last since they were designed to plow through the freezing landscapes of Scandinavia. Opt for the convertible for maximum fun on nice days.

1992 Volkswagen Corrado – Starting at $5,000

corrrado
mccrackinfool/Reddit
mccrackinfool/Reddit

Like the Ford Mustang, Volkswagen vehicles hold their value with loyalists who would be happy to take one off your hands later down the road. The Volkswagen Corrado is a good choice for a used vehicle purchase, starting at $5,000 for the 1992 model.

If you can find one for this price, grab it! These models will go for tens of thousands of dollars to the right buyer. Made from 1988 until 1995, the vehicle underwent upgrades in 1992, offering two new engine options: a 2.0 litre, 16 valve 136 PS, and a second, twelve-valve VR6 engine, at 2.8 litres and 179 bhp.

1994 Toyota Land Cruiser – $6,000 Today

landcruiser
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Starting at just $6,000, the 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser is still a desirable vehicle today. The Land Cruiser has the offroading capabilities, reliability and power you want in a SUV. Toyota didn’t design the interior with luxury in mind, like the higher-sticker prices of comparable Range Rover and R-Wagon models.

Still, the interior and comfortable ride has good ratings from buyers. Toyota made the Land Cruiser from 1990 until 1997, and can still be found all around the world, a true testament to their reliability!

Mazda MX-5 – $4,000 Today

Mazda MX5.
Peter Rae/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Peter Rae/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The Mazda MX-5 provides the sportscar-luxury style without the added cost. Starting at just $4,000, this convertible was affordably built by a Japanese manufacturer, yet the body style was inspired by the 1960s British roadsters.

This lightweight two-passenger sports car has 110 horsepower under the hood and has excellent handling for winding roads with a front mid-engine and rear-wheel-drive layout. First made in 1989, the MX-5 is still in production today.

Subaru Alcyone SVX – $5,000 Today

Subaru
Charles01 /Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
Charles01 /Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you recall this sports coupe manufactured by Subaru in the 90s? Made from 1991 through 1996, the Subaru Alcyone SVX (known as Subaru SVX in the states) featured a front-engine and front-wheel drive with the option of all-wheel drive. The SVX was Subaru’s first attempt at designing a performance vehicle that also falls in the luxury category.

Moving forward, Subaru stuck with their roots in its designs, making the SVX even rarer. Its acceleration isn’t great, but this model is reliable and a good buy for $5,000.

1999 Cadillac Escalade – $3,000-$5,000 Today

escalade
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The luxurious ’99 Cadillac Escalade is an absolute tank and one of the most popular SUVs of all time, with its stylish body preferable to the Hummer by many consumers. The full-size SUV was originally based on the GMC Yukon Denali, but was later redesigned to look more like a Cadillac.

Considering that they cost around $46,000 new, if you can find one between $3,000-$5,000 today you might want to scoop it up.

1994 Alfa Romeo 164 – $5,000 Today

Alfa
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The Italian-made Alfa Romeo 164 first appeared in 1987 and was made through 1998. The four-door exterior is quite boxy and angular, common for vehicles in the 90s. On the interior, Alfa Romeo went for modern luxury in the 164, which features that were advanced for its time, like automatic climate control.

Improvements were throughout its production, with the 1994 version of the Alfa Romeo 164 being a good choice for buyers, starting at $5,000 today.

1994 Ford Mustang – Starting at $20,000 Today

mustang
juanelo242a/Flickr
juanelo242a/Flickr

A classic American muscle car, the Ford Mustang always sounds like a good purchase. The problem is, they’re often pricey and out of the preferred price range for some buyers. That’s what makes this model a good choice for a used vehicle. Buyers who can find a 1994 model are looking at spending around $20,000, starting price.

Another benefit of buying a Mustang is that they are made to be easily upgraded in power, if the driver chooses to. Mustangs also hold their value.

1999 Volkswagen Phaeton – 3,000-$20,000 Today

Phaeton
Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

This car is considered VW’s attempt at entering the “ultra-luxury” car market and was priced accordingly, with some options starting at over $100,000! The 5,000 lb Phaeton was powered by a 241 hp 3.2-liter V6. The W12 version merged two different V6 engines that put out 420 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.

The Phaeton featured an array of luxury features that blew consumers away, like luxury wood trim and hidden climate control vents. Depending on the condition, you can expect to shell out anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 for one today.

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8
Photo by Mazda
Photo by Mazda

If you’re into “out-of-the-box” sports cars, then the Mazda RX-8 is for you. It’s a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car, that technically has four-doors and is powered by a 247-horsepower Rotary engine that can rev to 9,000 RPM. The RX-8 also has one of the best handling chassis from the early 2000s and makes for a good track-day and autocross car. And because of the rear doors “interlace” with the front doors, you can actually get access to the rear seats easily, making it a non-terrible choice for moving people around.

A solid well-kept example can be found for well under ten-thousand dollars, just keep some extra change in your pocket for repairs and maintenance, as the Rotary engines can be maintenance intensive.

BMW 1-Series

BMW 1-Series
Photo by BMW
Photo by BMW

First launched in 2004, the BMW 1 Series is a sub-compact luxury car that packs some serious fun into its diminutive size. Here in the U.S., you could have a 1 Series in either two-door coupe or convertible form with a choice of either a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine, or the much more punchy 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder. The latter engine is the best choice for speed demons and thanks to a large aftermarket, it’s capable of producing big horsepower.

Both coupe and convertible can be found for under ten thousand dollars, and with an available six-speed manual transmission and BMW’s trademark handling, it’s a bucket of fun on twisty roads.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Photo by Hyundai
Photo by Hyundai

It’s not often that Hyundai springs to mind when talking about sports cars, but the Genesis Coupe is a gem a car that encourages you to find the nearest canyon road or drift-track. You can have the Coupe with either a turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.8-liter V6.

Power goes to the rear wheels through an available manual transmission, and if you carefully scan the “for sale” listings, you can find one with the Sport or Track Pack that add goodies like a limited-slip rear differential. The best feature is the engine; it may only be a V6 but puts out 348-horsepower, more than the V8 in the Mustang GT of the same year.

Nissan 370Z

Nissan 370Z
Photo by Nissan
Photo by Nissan

The Nissan 370Z has been around so long that we’ve all forgotten about it. It hasn’t been significantly revised in over a decade, and while it may lag behind new vehicles, at the sub-ten-thousand dollar used car price point, it represents some of the best bang for the buck performance out there. These are the specs that matter: 3.7-liter V6 with 332-Horsepower, six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, and nimble handling.

The ride can be firm on the street and around town but show the “Z” a corner and the whole car comes alive with an athletic enthusiasm that makes you want to drive it harder, faster and better.

Mercedes-Benz SLK350

Mercedes-Benz SLK350
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
Photo by Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz SLK is the pint-size convertible in the model line-up. It’s a fun, two-seat, front-engine, rear-drive sports car that comes with all the luxury and tech that you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz with a folding hardtop. No cloth convertible top here, a genuine retractable hardtop.

The SLK350 features a V6 with 300-Horsepower. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard, and while not as engaging as rowing your own gears, it does a good job of keeping things sharp when you’re feeling sporty and comfortable when you aren’t. The baby-Benz may not be the ideal weapon for a track-day, but if you’re into top-down fun in the sun, it’s hard to go wrong with an SLK.

Mazda Miata

Miata
Photo by Mazda
Photo by Mazda

The Mazda MX-5 Miata should need no introduction. It is the picture definition of a sports car and has been one of the best for 30 years. Small, lightweight, with balanced handling and just enough horsepower to let you have fun, the Miata ticks all the boxes for sports car perfection and best of all, the top goes down!

Each generation has its pros and cons, but whichever you chose, you’ll get an enthusiastic four-cylinder engine with a manual transmission sending power to the rear wheels. Miatas are also ripe for tuning and modifying, and they are one of the most popular cars for racing, with several series dedicated to the brilliant little car.

BMW E36 M3

BMW E36 M3
Photo by BMW
Photo by BMW

The second-generation BMW M3, the E36, may be the most under-appreciated M3. The lack of love shown to the Bavarian racer is like due to the tough act it had to follow, the original E30 M3. Where the E30 M3’s are highly collectible with prices bordering on “insane,” the E36’s are still extremely affordable and were some of the best handling sports cars of their era.

The M3 comes with an incredibly sonorous straight six-cylinder engine with 240-horsepower. That may not sound like a lot, but remember, the M3 isn’t about quarter-mile runs, its purpose is to slay lap times. During the mid-to-late-1990s, the E36 M3 was a dominant sports and touring car racer.

Honda Civic Si

Honda Civic Si
Photo by Honda
Photo by Honda

Don’t discount the Honda Civic Si, it may look tame and docile, but underneath the sensible exterior lies the heart of a racing car. The U.S. knows this car as the EP3 Civic Si, but the rest of the world knows it as the Type-R, a designation given by Honda to its hottest and most capable cars.

The Si benefited from a 160-Horsepower four-cylinder engine with a slick-shifting manual transmission that featured the gear level mounted in the dash. It sounds crazy but works extremely well. These cars were respectable out of the box, but true brilliance can be unlocked with some well-thought-out tuning. A canvas from which you can paint a sports car masterpiece.

Pontiac GTO

Pontiac GTO
Photo by Pontiac
Photo by Pontiac

The Pontiac GTO, known as the Holden Monaro in its native Australia, is part Corvette, part muscle car and all fun. Surprisingly, the GTO was a sales failure and was never really appreciated as much as it should have been. That oversight is a benefit for buyers today, as prices remain surprisingly cheap.

Early cars came with an LS1 V8 and 350-horsepower and later cars had the LS2 400-horsepower mill. Both could be had with a manual transmission and were at home cruising around town, running the quarter-mile or turning laps at the local track.

BMW Z3

BMW Z3
Photo by BMW
Photo by BMW

Mazda Mazdaspeed3

Mazda Mazdaspeed3
Photo by Mazda
Photo by Mazda

When it comes to hot hatchbacks, few do it like Mazda. With a focus more centered on handling and chassis balance over outright straight-line speed, their cars were always quick around a corner but lacked the raw punch to keep up with the competition.

Mazda aimed to change that with the Mazdaspeed 3. Fitted with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, the five-door hatchback put 263-horsepower to the pavement. That was a lot for the time, making it the most powerful among its competition. The mighty Mazda is not without flaws but makes up for that by being a complete riot to drive.

Chevrolet Corvette C4 Generation

Chevrolet Corvette C4 Generation
Photo by Mecum Auctions
Photo by Mecum Auctions

The C4 generation of the Corvette is often regarded as the least loved, but if you’re after owning “America’s Sports Car,” it represents good bang for the buck. First introduced in 1983, the C4 was a completely new car from previous generations. Its wedge design was full-bore 1980s styling at it’s finest. The C4 stayed in production until 1996 and really defined the styling direction of the following generations of Corvettes.

Early cars were fitted with anemic 250-horsepower V8s. They were slow in the 1980s and have prehistoric performance by today’s standards. The cars to buy come from the 1990s and received a host of upgrades including horsepower. 1994, 1995 and 1996 are the cream of the crop.

Volkswagen Golf R32

Volkswagen Golf R32
Photo by Bring-A-Trailer
Photo by Bring-A-Trailer

When it debuted in 2002, the Golf R32 was a revelation. A great sounding 237-horsepower 3.2-liter VR6 engine coupled to a Haldex 4Motion all-wheel-drive system meant this V-Dub could haul. But the truly astonishing characteristic of the car was the handling, and at the time was absolutely world-class.

Despite being a heavy car, the R32 had immense grip, tons of steering feel and great chassis balance. That all adds up to a car that gives the driver huge amounts of confidence. The Volkswagen Golf R32 is quickly becoming a legend among hot hatchbacks and with prices well below ten-thousand dollars, its a true bargain for the amount of performance it delivers.

Ford Fiesta ST

Ford Fiesta ST
Photo By Ford
Photo By Ford

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Boxster
Photo by Mecum Auctions
Photo by Mecum Auctions

You can’t talk about sports and performance cars without mentioning Porsche. And within Porsche’s vast catalog of great vehicles, the mid-engine Boxster stands out as one of the best. At the sub-ten-thousand dollar mark, we’re talking about the first-generation Boxster (1997 – 2004). Don’t despair, the early cars are just as much fun, with a torquey flat six-cylinder engine and a nearly perfectly balanced chassis, as the newer cars.

And if you opt for the “S” version (2000 to 2004), you’ll be treated to 250-horsepower, bigger brakes and a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. The car’s styling has been criticized for being plain, but there’s nothing plain about the performance and handling.

Audi S4

Audi S4
Photo By Barrett-Jackson
Photo By Barrett-Jackson

Audi’s performance sedan, the S4 may not seem like a traditional sports car, but the B6 variant (2003 to 2005) is packed with German muscle and athleticism. Beneath the understated exterior styling lies one of the greatest engines ever produced, the magnificent 4.2-liter V8. This engine would go on to power the R8 supercar, the RS4 super-sedan, and the over-engineered Volkswagen Phaeton.

In the S4, it puts out a healthy 340-horsepower, is mated to the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and makes one of the best engines noises on the planet. These cars can be maintenance intensive, so it pays to have them checked out prior to buying. Look for examples with extensive service and maintenance histories.

Porsche 944

Porsche 944
Photo by Hagerty
Photo by Hagerty

The Porsche 944 is another one of those great, underappreciated sports cars from the not-to-distant past. While the values of Porsche 911s and other models have steadily risen, the 944’s values have remained relatively steady and are extremely affordable, except for the 944 Turbo and Turbo S.

What you get with the 944 is a handsome coupe design with a proper Porsche designed four-cylinder engine in the front and an innovative transaxle assembly in the back. That set-up, with the transmission and differential at the rear, gives the 944 a 50:50 weight distribution with handling and grip for days.

Chevrolet Camaro SS And Z/28 4th Generation

Chevrolet Camaro SS
Photo by Chevrolet
Photo by Chevrolet

If you’re into “pony cars” and dig Chevrolets, then you are looking for a Camaro. The natural rival to the Ford Mustang, the Camaro has been doling out big horsepower and burnouts since 1966. The fourth-generation cars, made from 1993 through 2002, are full of character, full of horsepower and are shockingly affordable.

It’s possible to find a low-mileage Z/28 with 310-horsepower for well under ten-thousand dollars. That will free up some extra cash for mods and the extra tires you’ll need after all those burnouts. If you can deal with the tragic ’90s GM interior components, the fourth generation Camaro is great pony car for not a lot of money.

Acura RSX Type-S

Acura RSX Type-S
Photo by Acura
Photo by Acura

The Acura RSX was the follow-up model to the popular Integra and is an excellent handling, sporty coupe. The model to have in the RSX Type-S. Known elsewhere in the world as the Integra DC5, the U.S. version dropped the Integra name for Acura’s, now commonplace, alphabetic model designations.

The Type-S featured a 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission and a sport-tuned suspension. Along with the power came a big rear hatch mounted wing that was lifted from the Japanese market RSX Type-R. A staple of the tuner car scene, the RSX Type-S is quick, versatile, fun, infinitely modifiable and a complete blast to drive!

Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Photo by Hyundai
Photo by Hyundai

If quirky is your thing then look no further than the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. Hyundai wanted a hot-hatch that could compete with the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus and others. What they made was a 200-horsepower funky front-wheel driver that looks like nothing else on the road. You’ll either love the look or hate it, but it’s definitely unique, and if standing out in a crowd is important to you, then the Veloster Turbo has you covered.

The Veloster Turbo has one of the most thoughtfully designed interiors in the game, with the infotainment system being the highlight. The exterior styling may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a car that’s good on the commute and the canyon road.

Chevrolet Cobalt SS

Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Photo by Chevrolet
Photo by Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Cobalt SS is the 600-pound Gorilla of hot-hatchbacks. It doesn’t do dainty or subtle and represents Chevrolet’s first real attempt to tap into the tuner-car market. Early examples, 2005 to 2007, had a 2.0-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine that made 205-horsepower. Later cars, 2008 to 2010, had a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mill that laid down 260-horsepower.

All of the Cobalt SS cars came with limited-slip differentials, big sticky tires, and performance suspension. As a nod to the tuner scene, Chevrolet offered “Stage Kits” which allowed owners to upgrade performance and customize their cars without voiding the factory warranty. A Stage 1 kit for the turbocharged SS brought horsepower up to 290.

Audi TT

Audi
Photo by Audi
Photo by Audi

When the Audi TT hit the scene in 1998, it made a big impression. Its styling was forward-thinking and edgy in a sea of bland-ish cars of that time. The “TT” stands for “Tourist Trophy” which is actually the name of the legendary motorcycle race on the British Isle of Man.

Available as either a coupe or convertible, the TT could be configured with a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine or the venerable VR6 engine. Base cars were front-wheel drive and the hottest version had Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The TT was never as sharp to drive as the Porsche Boxster, with which it was meant to compete, but it does offer a distinctive look, all-wheel drive and plenty of smiles per mile.

MINI Cooper S

MINI Cooper S
Photo by MINI
Photo by MINI

MINI, as we know it today, is part of the BMW Group and gets much of its engineering from the parent company. These little pocket rockets handle like a go-kart and have all the retro charm you expect with a healthy dose of BMW comfort.

First-generation Cooper S cars came with a supercharged four-cylinder engine and with the second generation, MINI ditched the supercharger in favor of a turbo. If the 197-horsepower in the Cooper S isn’t enough for you, the John Cooper Works edition ups that to 210, and thanks to an expansive aftermarket there are plenty of performance add-ons to be had.

BMW 3-Series

BMW 3-Series
Photo by BMW
Photo by BMW

The BMW 3-Series has been the standard by which all sports sedans are measured for almost 40 years. It defined the genre and gave the world a template for what a sports sedan should be. You can get the 3-Series in coupe, sedan or convertible form with a wide variety of engines, transmissions and in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Among the vast array of options, there are a few that stand out. The E46 generation 330i ZHP and the E90 generation 335i. Both put a premium on sport, have enough power to get you into trouble and can be had for under ten-thousand dollars.

Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky

Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky
Mike FANOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Mike FANOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The Pontiac Solstice and its sister car, the Saturn Sky, were a complete breath of fresh air when compared to Pontiac’s existing plastic-y, snooze-fest offerings. It was introduced to reinvigorate the brand with a hearty dose of fun. Sure, Pontiac had the GTO already in its stable, but it didn’t have anything that could compete with the Mazda Miata or BMW Z4.

The base Solstice had a four-cylinder engine with around 177-horsepower on tap, but if you’re interested in maximum fun, then look for the GXP version as it came with the same engine as the Cobalt SS with a very stout 260-horsepower.

Chrysler Crossfire

Chrysler Crossfire
Photo by Chrysler
Photo by Chrysler

The Chrysler Crossfire was an interesting roadster that came about when Chrysler Corporation was a part of the Mercedes-Benz/Daimler Group. The Crossfire was badged and sold as a Chrysler, built by German manufacturer Karmann and was essentially a re-bodied Mercedes-Benz SLK 320.

None of that is bad, and in fact, the Crossfire is a greatly underappreciated car to this day. Base and Limited versions of the car had a 3.2-liter V6 with 215-horsepower, but it was the SRT-6 variant that got the muscle. It featured an AMG built, supercharged 3.2-liter V6 with 330-horsepower and could rip a 0-60 mph time of five-seconds.

Audi S5

Audi S5
Photo by Audi
Photo by Audi

Audi’s S5 is much more than a two-door version of the S4. It’s elegant coupe design with flowing lines and muscular proportions are matched by the excellent 4.2-liter V8 under the hood. You got 350-horsepower, Quattro all-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual transmission.

The interior is one of the nicest in the business, and this is a car that can just about do it all. It’s a composed all-weather commuter, a comfortable long-distance GT car, and a canyon-carving V8 sports car when you want it to be. It’s good at everything it does, and while that can tend to dilute the product, fear not with the S5, plant your foot to the floor and this car will rock!

Mazda RX-7

Mazda RX-7
Photo by Mazda
Photo by Mazda

If you dig old school cool Japanese sports cars, then the RX-7 surely has to be close to the top of the list. First introduced in 1978, the RX-7 was powered by the now-famous 13B two-rotor Wankel engine. With no pistons, the engine was lightweight, powerful and you could rev it to the moon. Variations of that engine would go on to power Mazda’s Le Mans-winning car and stay in production until 2002.

Sharp handling is the defining feature of the RX-7 and these cars make excellent canyon-carvers and race cars. Maintenance on the rotary engine is best described as “frequent” but few cars can deliver the experience, sounds and fun like an RX-7 can.

MG Midget

MG Midget
Photo by Car And Classic
Photo by Car And Classic

The MG Midget is the “everyman” classic sports car and the inspiration for the Mazda Miata. Originally designed to be a basic, low-cost sports car, the diminutive Midget is the definition of what a British sports car was and is perfect for anyone looking to get into the classic sports car game without spending huge amounts of money.

Powered by the tried and true BMC A-Series engine, the MG gets 65-horsepower, which admittedly is not a lot, but thanks to a weight on only 1.620-pounds it’s enough to be a lot of fun to drive. The MG Midget is a peak British sports car and a great entry point for classic car collectors.

Datsun 240Z

Datsun 240Z
Photo by Nissan/Datsun
Photo by Nissan/Datsun

In 1970, Nissan/Datsun brought out a sleek two-door coupe to compete head-to-head with the established European sport cars makers. They strategically priced it on par with the MGB GT in the hopes of attracting buyers. Fitted with a 151-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine the 240Z proved to be quick in its day and was more than a match for anything that was being offered by the Europeans.

The handling is world-class and the styling still looks handsome today. This was the car that proved you could have performance and reliability. The 240Z is rapidly becoming a collectible so snag one before everyone else realizes how good this car is.