They got speed, style, and performance, and I know we’ve all thought about buying one. That’s right! I’m talking about sports cars! We’ve got 7 tire-squealing deals that will get you some serious clout. Just don’t tell anyone that you found them for under $10,000.
So, for all the newbies out there, get ready for manual transmissions and enough horsepower to make the Amish blush! Let’s go!
2007 – 2015 Infiniti G37 – The Right Balance
A G37 is probably one of the most rowdy yet reliable cars available for cheap on today’s market. With its boisterous 3.7-liter V6 that makes trumpet-like sound, you can drift parking lots and annoy your neighbors simultaneously. The 328-horsepower piston-pusher, officially called the VQ37VHR, or “VVEL” for short, gets the G37 up to highway speeds in just 5.3 seconds. That’s a tenth faster than a 2012 Dodge Charger police car.
But the true beauty of Infinity’s VVEL engine lies in its reliability, with most owners prescribing only regular oil, filter, and fluid changes to keep the motor in tip-top shape. And for a naturally-aspirated engine making over 300 horsepower, that’s quite impressive.
Now, if you’re like me and have never heard of self-healing paint, then be amazed! All 2009 through 2011 model year G37’s came standard with a “Scratch Shield”. How well it works, however, is a point of great contention, with poor paint quality and complexion being a popular complaint.
Bodywork aside, G37’s have tons of sporty options! Want a manual transmission? Of course you do! Check that box. How about all-wheel drive? You got it! On top of that, there’s a sports package with larger rotors and calipers on each corner that help manage the 3,710-pound curb weight. The G37 does come standard with a 7-speed automatic transmission. So, if you don’t want to party, then you don’t have to.
So, here’s where the rubber meets the road. We found a 2008 G37 Sport that’s looking for the right garage. It was only $7,800 for a manual, 330-horsepower, Japanese canyon carver! With good enough looks to get by, a G37 provides an entertaining driving experience and can easily be found for under $10,000.
Up next is one of my all-time favorite cars to drive and no surprise, it’s a Porsche. For roughly half the price of a 996 Carrera, it’s far more than half as good.
1996 – 2004 Porsche 986 Boxster – Worth It
With its engine in the middle of the car, where God intended it to be, the 986 Boxster left the Stuttgart factory with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, ready to rock and roll. With no rear seats, it’s obvious who Porsche was focused on the most, the driver. And with the top down, it’s an incredibly fun car to be driven around in, but slide over a seat and the view is immeasurably better.
After you fire up the flat-six with your left hand and see the revs rise on the gigantic center tachometer, you know you’ve done something right.
In regards to driving dynamics, Porsche certainly knows best. However, you get to choose which flat-six engine will power your 986 Boxster. Horsepower figures began at a humble 201 from a 2.5-liter in pre-2000 models. Post-2000, both power and displacement increased to 217 and 2.7, respectively. And for the hardcore 986 lover, there’s even an S version with a 3.2-liter with 258 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque!
That 58 horsepower difference gets the Boxster S to 60 miles per hour in 5.3 seconds, a full second quicker than a 2.5-liter. However, a pre-2000 model with a 2.5 is still an incredible bang for your buck. And might I mention, the 986 is an excellent first Porsche!
We found a 1997 Porsche Boxster that had over 200 horsepower, weighed 2,756 pounds, and cost only $7,000! At the very least, I would strongly encourage a test drive in one of these budget beauties. It’s the passion for driving that they inspire as well as the knowledge that you’re driving something truly special, a Porsche.
Now, it’s not that our next car isn’t special, it just attracts a different sort of crowd. The Fix-Or-Repair-Daily Mustang GT is a lot less concerned with suspension geometries and it shows. But, it’s got a V8!
2005 – 2014 Ford Mustang GT – Yee-Haw!
With a cult-like following around the globe, the Ford Mustang remains one of the most iconic cars ever built. We love its aggressive retro American styling, 5-liter V8, and all the clout that it brings. Besides its abysmal gas mileage and sketchy car meet reputation, the Mustang GT is an incredible sports car for multiple reasons.
Let’s start with the engine! 2005 to 2010 model year GT’s have a 4.6-liter V8 with 3 valves-per-cylinder producing 300 horsepower, 320 pound-feet of torque, and a 0-to-60 time of 5 seconds. Post-2011 models, however, got the 5.0-liter Coyote motor with the power of 412 wild mustangs and 380 pound-feet of torque. The 4,951cc Coyote growls its way to 60 miles per hour in an exciting 4.8 seconds. That’s right! There’s no replacement for displacement!
The Mustang GT can rip doughnuts faster than your local sheriff or casually cruise down the highway, but you should still be weary of those pesky corners.
Ford did spend some research and development on the S197’s suspension. In fact, it’s the first Mustang with a MacPherson strut front suspension and semi-independent rear axle. Basically, instead of a typical four-link rear suspension, the S197 used three links aided by a Panhard bar. It wasn’t the independent rear suspension that Mustang enthusiasts have been begging for, but hey, that’s what the aftermarket is for.
So, whether you want an autocross monster, quarter-mile specialist, or just some chromed-out vents, there are parts out there for your ‘Stang.
The 2008 we found didn’t have the Coyote V8, but it only had 40,000 miles! It’s a blank canvas for whatever parts that you want to throw at it. And did I mention it was only $9,000?
Where the Mustang GT is prone to oversteer at the slightest tip of the throttle, our next car has two more doors, all-wheel drive, and three of the hottest letters at the rally stage, WRX.
2nd and 3rd Generation Subaru WRX – A Safe Bet
Whether you recognize the WRX from the World Rally Racing Championships or your neighbor’s driveway, one thing is obvious, this platform is capable of just about anything. Plus, you can find a 2nd or 3rd generation for under $10,000! As you know from our video about all-wheel drive cars that don’t suck, I like me a 2006 Hawkeye.
It’s aggressive yet sleek, and the 235-horsepower EJ25 launches you to 60 miles per hour in just 5.2 seconds. That would be my ideal choice, but unfortunately, finding one for under $10,000 can be a bit challenging. Thankfully, older Bugeye models are slightly less desirable.
Their EJ20’s produce 227 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque, escaping to 60mph in 5.6 seconds. We found one example of a Bugeye going for under $10,000. Got to love the bright red paint, 5-speed manual, and all-wheel drive.
Now, I had also mentioned that you could get a third generation WRX for under $10,000, and you still can. It’s EJ255 is largely unchanged from the previous generation, but small changes brought better throttle response and greater low end torque. It still produces the same 235 horsepower, but with a little more precision.
However, even precision can’t defeat physics. And since the third generation weighs almost 100 pounds more than the second generation, it accelerates to highway speeds in 5.7 seconds, a half-second slower than its predecessor.
Still, it’s reassuring to know that most of that extra weight comes from new safety technology. That and a tiny bit more interior space makes this the generation of WRX a bit more practical as well.
So, if you’re ready to pull the trigger on a third generation, we found a 2009 wagon with just over 100,000 miles and 5-speed manual transmission for $9,500.
Our next car has twice the MSRP, but still can be found for under $10,000 today. BMW 335i is the name, and depreciation is the game.
2006 – 2011 BMW 335i – Potential > Price
In 2007, the MSRP of an E92 335i was $40,600! But, if you want to look like a baller, you can for a whole lot less than that. This Ultimate Driving Machine goes 0 to 60 miles per hour in just under 5 seconds, but it comes with a catch.
There are two clear routes that can be taken with this car: a completely stock daily, or heavily modded with a single turbo, torching both oxygen sensors and your life savings. Think you’re safe with stock? Nope, even when completely stock, 335i’s still have a lot of problems. High-pressure fuel pumps, charge pipes, and injectors are just a few of the common parts that experience failures.
But aside from the problematic power plant, both the E90 and E92 chassis are very well sorted and send meaningful feedback to the driver when being pushed. And if your idea of spirited driving involves snow, an xDrive is less likely to get stuck.
Now, the N54 motors found in these cars have been called the modern 2JZ, and for good reason. Both engines are 3-liters straight-sixes with twin turbos. When stock, an N54 makes 300 horsepower. But replace those tiny twins with a big single, and now you’ve got about 600. Of course, you need proper fueling, ignition, and tuning. But when completed, it’ll be a blast to drive.
If you want to try your luck with this modern 2JZ, then a $9,000 E90’s got your name all over it. The 335i has a great chassis and an engine with incredible potential, it’s just let down with reliability.
Our next sports car, however, will spend much less time at the mechanic and more on the road. When you want both efficiency and affordability, Japan always has the answer! The Acura RSX Type-S is quicker than you might think, and is affordable to purchase and maintain.
2002 – 2004 Acura RSX Type-S – Front-Wheel Fun
No matter how much money you’ve got stashed in your bank account, it never hurts to have one affordable and reliable vehicle in your garage. It doesn’t need to be lightning quick, but it wouldn’t hurt. Something you could street park, and save with at the pump.
Okay, enough figurative speech, how does the RSX Type-S actually stack up? The Type-S uses a 2-liter inline-four producing 200 horsepower and 142 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. This high-revving VTEC motor, called the K20A2, pulls you to highway speeds in a casual 6.2 seconds. But it’ll do that all day every day! And save you money while you do it!
With a 6-speed manual transmission, you could get at least 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway! No fancy cylinder deactivation, just good old-fashioned efficiency. From the outside, the RSX looks fast! From the inside, not so much.
Besides the standard leather seats, much of the interior of the Type-S was carried over from a base RSX. But it’s these cost-saving measures that allow you to pick up one of these cars for cheap. And once you do, there are only a few minor issues you need to watch out for. The first being any evidence of ricer mods, and second the troublesome transmission synchros between 2nd and 3rd gears.
Otherwise, the RSX Type-S has a bulletproof setup. So, for $7,200, who could say no to this sporty econobox? Freshly broken in with 117,000 miles, we found a 6-speed Type-S that could probably make it to 300,000 if taken care of properly.
Sticking with the 2-door trend is our final sports car! It’s one of the most stylish cars ever to leave a Korean factory. The Hyundai Genesis coupe has a turbo, rear-wheel drive, and you guessed it, a 6-speed manual transmission!
2009 – 2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe – Cheap Thrills
From a company typically praised for its 5-year 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, the Genesis Coupe not only redefines the brand, but also what it means to own a sports car. Built on the same platform as a Genesis sedan, this coupe’s got a beautiful elongated shape with just two doors.
Designed to compete with the Infiniti G37, it needed more than just reliability and style, it needed performance. Hyundai’s answer was either a 2-liter turbo with up to 274 horsepower or a 3.8-liter V6 spitting out 348 horses. And yes, you could have a 6-speed manual with either engine. However, if for some reason you do opt for an automatic transmission, the 2-liter has a 5-speed auto while the 3.8’s auto has 8 gears.
Now, with a manual transmission, the 3.8-liter V6 can launch to 60 miles per hour in a surprising 5.2 seconds, the 2-liter turbo lagging six-tenths behind. It’s not supercar territory, but the 3.8 is a tenth faster to 60 miles per hour than an Infiniti G37. But can it handle corners?
The general consensus is yes, but slowly, and with tons of understeer. Whether it’s due to weight distribution or chassis rigidity, it’s difficult to get the most out of a Genesis in a safe manner, and for a sports car, that’s not ideal.
Another pitfall of the BK Genesis might come as a shock, but it’s less reliable than you might think, and now that it’s out of warranty, it’s your dough going into the repair bill. Most issues are minor, but with semi-fragile build quality, things start to add up. At least parts are cheap.
So, if you’re still digging this coupe, we found a 2011 2-liter turbo with a 6-speed manual for only $7,500! 21 miles per hour city and 29 on the highway rarely looks so good, just set aside a few bucks in case you run into any out of warranty trouble around corners.