“German engineering”. Name two words that go together better. And when it comes to cars, there’s just something about our friends from the land of beer and pretzels that screams refinement and poise. In this article, we’re going to talk about 8 German sports cars that you can own for less than $10,000. Every one of them is an example of precision engineering, because nothing can beat the handling and refinement of Germany’s finest.
Everyone loves a little bit more power, though, and these cars are ripe for customization. And you’re going to want to stay until the end, because this German Supra may or may not be the most ideal!
1986 – 1988 Porsche 924S – A Classic Porsche You Can Afford
In the 80s, Porsche got a little weird. They thought that rear-engine cars just weren’t cool anymore. So, Porsche sat around and made a new lineup of “entry level” Porsches by jumping on the front-engine bandwagon and producing the slow 924. Wait, did I say “slow”? Sorry, but it is. Porsche stuck a little 4-banger in it that could barely get out of its own way.
Now, enter the Porsche 924S. It’s another front-engine, rear-wheel drive Porsche, but the S model got the 150-horsepower motor out of the 944, and comes with that all-important manual transmission, making it a lot more fun to drive.
Here’s the thing, in the 80s, a sports car was lucky to go 0 to 60 in 8 seconds. Even the legendary GM masterpiece C4 Corvette barely squeaked out a 7-second time. The good news is that it’s easy to add more power in the 924 since the 944 had a turbo option, and the 924 uses the same powerplant.
Slapping a spool onto the 924 is a breeze. Then you have something that likes to scoot. And since these cars were the favorite of track bros before the Miata came onto the scene, there’s a lot of aftermarket support. It’s easy to turn these into rail-tight, period-correct rally toys that can hang with any modern battle car.
The best part is that you can get these for like no money. They aren’t as popular as the 944 because of the looks, and they lack the raw power of the 928, but they still have the soul of an 80s Porsche, and no one can question the Porsche pedigree.
We found one for $7,000. Would you rather have an old Camry or be able to tell your friends you drive a Porsche? I think you all know my answer.
But what if an old Porsche isn’t your style? What you still want something that’s lightweight, front-engine, rear-wheel drive, and has a manual transmission, but that doesn’t look like a knock-off Nissan?Well, let me show you a BMW that everyone’s been sleeping on.
2002 – 2008 BMW Z4 – The Roadster Everyone Forgot
What if I told you that you could have the power and handling of an E46, but without the pesky rear seats, and for less money? Crazy, right? The E85 Z4 is BMW’s idea of what a sports car should be. It’s light, nimble, and if you get one with the 3-liter, it’ll do 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds. That’s respectable, especially from something that just looks like a fancy Miata.
One of the best parts is that the Z4 is nearly identical under the hood to the M3, so you could drop an S54B32 in it. All the bolts will line up, it’s an afternoon job, and it’ll net you more than 100 horsepower and drop the 0-to-60 time by a full second. Plus, unlike your M3 rivals, you can get there with the top down.
It does have a few issues, just like every inline-6 BMW made during the time. The water pump is going to break, and your going to need to be familiar with the term VANOS. But, unlike their E46 counterparts, the Z4s weren’t that popular outside of golf courses. That means they depreciated just like other 2000s Bimmers, but you can regularly find them with only a handful of miles.
We found one for just under $7,000. It has the 2.5-liter inline-6, which is the legendary torque-happy M54. And the best part is you won’t be just another person out there driving a 3 Series! Just make sure to avoid the SMG transmission. Those are notorious for grenading themselves. Stick to the manual and you’ll be golden. Although, why wouldn’t you do that?
Maybe you’re looking for a convertible with a bit more horsepower? That’s perfectly fine, because the Z has a competitor with a compressor, the SLK32 AMG!
2001 – 2004 Mercedes SLK32 AMG – Kompressor = Supercharger
Can you say 350?That’s how many ponies the supercharged 3.2-liter V6 of the SLK32 AMG cranks out. That’s 150 more than its BMW rival, bringing it from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds. This is a car that’s 20 years old, and if you pick one up, you’ll be leaving brand new 370Zs in the dust!
The only thing that makes us sad is that there’s no manual transmission with the SLK32 AMG. You get a “SpeedShift” automatic instead. It’s honestly not the worst transmission, it feels good, and it shifts fast, but you won’t get that all-important third pedal.
The good news for you is that nothing gets hit with depreciation more than an AMG, which is why you can pick up this one for $11,000. Just watch out for the famous Mercedes electrical problems. Pro tip: if you can’t shut the seat heaters off, just pull the fuse and pretend you don’t have any.
We’ve been having fun so far with rear-wheel drive cars, but what if you live in the snow? Or plan on crushing it at your next WRC event? Well, the Audi TT might just be the car for you.
1999 – 2006 Audi TT – The Cute Quattro
Look, everyone wants an RS4, especially the new Wagon. I certainly can’t afford it, though. And if you can afford it, why are you reading this? Go buy one!
For the rest of us, let’s talk WRC pedigree. Back when Group B was killing drivers left and right, the Audi Quattro system was pulling in win after win. The 2000s TT Mk1 Quattro is the evolution of that racing line. “TT” stands for “Tourist Trophy”, after the Isle of Man, a motorcycle race known for sidecars and unbelievable speed. Those are sidecars going over 100 miles per hour!
Plus, the Audi TT shares a platform with the legendary Volkswagen Golf Mk4, which makes this the most reliable car on our list. You just have to learn to appreciate the looks. Doug DeMuro calls it one of the most beautiful cars ever. I disagree. I think it looks like someone sat on a Beetle, and I’d probably be one of those people laughing until you did a 4-wheel peel and I choked on the smoke.
You can’t argue with the performance. The 1.8-liter turbo will motivate you from light to light, and the all-wheel drive system will give you confidence to throw it into a corner. Oh, and get this, when they first launched, there wasn’t even an automatic option! You had to get a manual! Amazing!
So, you want to throw gears and gap your friends in a drop-top TT? Well, good news, it’ll only run you around $8,000!
But, what if you really want to stand out at your next car meet? What if you’re totally into funky pop-up headlights? I hope you like answering the question: “What the hell is that thing?”
1968 – 1973 Opel GT – What the Heck Is That?
The Opel GT is a Corvette-inspired sports car made in Germany, designed by Italians, and sold by Buick. Just check out these headlights! Now, they aren’t super fast. In classic 70s sports car style, they didn’t even make 100 horses, but they are a treat to drive! They’ll do whatever you tell them to do!
There’s no drive-by-wire, no ECU managing the throttle for you, and definitely no traction control. It’s just you, your feet, and your hands in total control. If you’ve never driven an old sports car, it’s definitely an experience worth having.
And it’s not just the driving aspect, you pull up to a cars and coffee in one these and everyone will be crowding you, older generations will love seeing one, and younger people will want to know what the heck it is. When everyone else showed up to the meet in a clapped-out Civic, you’ll be the one with something different and interesting. Oh, and if you get bored of the little motor, maybe drop an LS into it and really make it rip.
Opel GTs are ridiculously cheap for a classic car too. We’re talking under $10,000 cheap. We found one for $7,500! That’s a piece of history for less than $8,000… in a world where junked-out 70s Mustangs sell for over $100,000! There’s actually a second generation of the Opel GT too, in case you want something slightly newer. And you might know the second generation by its American names: Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice.
That’s right, even though the original GT was discontinued in the early 70s, they brought it back to the States in the early 2000s and slapped a Saturn badge on it. We found a Saturn Sky for $8,000. With 260 horsepower under the hood, there are definitely worse ways to spend your money.
Technically, Opel is a German company, but the second generation Opel GT is produced in America, unlike the next car on our list, that is. This one’s my honorable mention, an American car built in Germany, that goes by the name Chrysler Crossfire.
2005 – 2006 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 – It’s Totally a Mercedes
If you saw the SLK on our list, but wanted something that was more radically styled, I’d say the Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 is the car for you. It actually has the same supercharged V6 as the SLK, the same 0-to-60 in under 5 seconds, and the same 155 mile-per-hour top speed. It just says SRT instead of AMG!
The Crossfire is also kind of special and it might be one of those future collectables that will go up in value. Daimler, owner of Mercedes, had just acquired Chrysler, so the design of the Crossfire is meant to signify the merging of the two companies. The designs cross over from one company to the other, and adding to that special feel is the fact that they were only produced in limited numbers. The SRT Coupe was only available for 2005 and 2006, and during those two years less than 2,500 were made.
We found one for less than $10,000. It’s more than a burnout machine, it’s a piece of history, a weird, confusing piece of history.
How about something less controversial, and more distinctly German? Or… I think it’s technically Austrian. One thing that we here at Ideal love is a proper rear-engine Porsche.
1996 – 2004 Porsche Boxster – A Proper Porsche
Want a 911? Too bad, some guy in Seattle bought them all, lifted them and turned them blue. Instead, get something a little more… little. The Boxster was designed to be the entry level Porsche. You know, like that 924 we talked about was supposed to be. Except, unlike the anemic 924, the Boxster, or Porsche 986, has 200 horsepower out of a flat-6 mounted in the correct location.
Oh, and it sounds amazing too! In our opinion, it’s the best sounding car on this list. Plus, they look fantastic! It’s like a little baby Carrerra. People love Baby Yoda, how can you not love Baby Carrerra?
Now, the Boxter has a bit of a reputation of being the “poor man’s Porsche”, or if you’re less kind and a little more sexist, a “girl’s Porsche”. Apparently only girls like high-horsepower, great-handling convertibles? That’s a little strange if you ask us.
Is being affordable really a bad thing? Don’t people who aren’t rich deserve Porsches too? We think so, which is why we have no problem recommending a Boxster. For under $8,000, you can have the best entry level Porsche. It might need a clutch, but wrenching is just part of the charm of owning a sports car. Get it fast, though, because people are just starting to wake up and realize how great these are, and that nostalgia tax is starting to creep in.
The same can’t be said for the last car on our list, a car that eats Mustangs for lunch. Let’s go back to Bavaria for a car with a motor known as the German 2JZ. That’s right, were talking about the BMW 335i!
2006 – 2009 BMW 335i – The German Supra
Hold on a minute. Just listen to the 335i scream. That’s the N54 engine found in the E92 335i BMW, an engine that’s famous for taking whatever you can throw at it. You see, even though it “only” has 300 horsepower stock, it doesn’t take much work to get a whole lot more. Even a simple flash and tune will push out another 100 ponies. Bolt-ons will take you to 450, and if you swap the twin turbos for one giant turbo, you might find yourself north of 500. That’s supercar slayer territory.
It’s that unlimited tuning potential that earned this car the name “German Supra”. You probably thought we were crazy for not including the M3, but here’s the thing: you can’t afford one.
The E36 M3 is fetching $30,000! That’s insane! And they’re way slower than the 335i! Yes, even the legendary E46 M3, the one on the cover of the greatest Need for Speed game, has a 0-to-60 time of 4.8 seconds, which is the same as the newer, more refined 335i that you can pick up for half the price.
And that’s before you do the tune we mentioned earlier! If you’re as into performance as we are, this is the car for you. We found one for $10,000 in screaming red, and with all the money you’d save over buying that M3, you can tune this 335i into an absolute tire-shredding monster!