Some say that the mid-engine driving experience is the best there is, and I mean, it is pretty kick-ass. You get weight in the back improving traction, and no back seats! No lugging your freeloading friends around!
It’s easy to see why brand like McLaren, Ferrari, and Lamborghini love the layout! And good news , you don’t have to spend Bugatti Chiron money to live the MR lifestyle! So, what are we waiting for? I’m about to show you some of the cheapest MR cars money can buy!
1989 – 1999 Toyota MR2 – Hello, Mister Two
Now, we all love the Miata for its raw driver’s feel and small body. It’s always the answer right? But, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite qualify for this list. So, we’re giving you the next best thing! The SW20 Toyota MR2!
This classic JDM superstar that came out around the time of the RX-7, the NSX, and the Supra, and was immediately labeled the “Baby Ferrari” because of its engaging driver’s feel and that mid-engine configuration that’ll make anyone driving in the opposite lane do a double take. I mean, from some angles this thing is just gorgeous, with those 90’s JDM slopping body lines, two doors, and the best part, pop-up headlights! They’re so cute!
Now, the second generation MR2 came in 2 trims here in the USA. The standard MR2 had a naturally-aspirated 2.2-liter making a moderate 130 horsepower, which seems like nothing today, the MR2 was light! Like Miata light. And given the Miata only had 115 horsepower at the time, this was a big step up.
And the second trim? The MR2 Turbo had a turbocharged 2.0-liter 3S-GTE making 200 horsepower! That made it a worthy opponent to any car with its 6.1 second 0 to 60 time, which is nuts for the time it came out!
Now, if you want one of these it’s going to be pretty hard to find one that isn’t an import, and the Turbos are going to be hard to find at a cheap price. However, the standard MR2 is still a joy to drive and you can pretty much floor it anywhere you go. And if you want more power, engine swaps and modifications are plentiful for this platform, making it a perfect project car.
Now, if you want this mid-engine MR2, you can pick a standard one up for $8,500. And if you want a Turbo, I found a Turbo MR2 for $17,000 that looks pristine. And for what it is, a super light, turbo’d up, 90’s JDM car, it’s a pretty good deal.
But if you need something even more light, then the super exotic Lotus Elise is your pick!
2001 – 2011 Lotus Elise – The Weekend Racer
A two-seater, rear-wheel drive, mid-engined classic British convertible roadster. It has neck-breaking good looks and a driving experience that is unmatched to any other car on the road. I promise anywhere you park you are going to get pictures upon pictures with people thinking they found the next best Ferrari.
The Lotus Elise has a Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out about 190 horsepower, which may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind, this little car weighs less than 2,000 pounds, which makes it rocket to 60 in under 5 seconds.
So, keeping that momentum is important when handling this little beast, because this thing will hug the ground and cut through corners like butter so smooth and effortlessly. And the Toyota engine means that this flower is super reliable, so working on these engines will be super simple.
Now, if you want one, I found this Lotus for just under $30,000. $30,000? For a weekend racer? Am I out of my mind? Well actually, these Elises are getting more valuable in price, as they’re slowly becoming collectable, so it’s best to get one while you still can.
And if you can’t get a newer one, there are plenty of first generation front-engine Elises for sale! But if you can get the funds, the series 2 is the way to go.
But if you’re still fiending for pop-ups, we got the Porsche 914 coming up next!
1969 – 1974 Porsche 914 – Porsche With Pop-ups!
First shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1969, this joint venture between German giants Porsche and Volkswagen was made to contest the popular British roadsters at the time with a mid-engine, convertible top, and pop-ups. Yay for pop-ups!
And a fun fact: the Porsche 914 is renowned for having been Formula One‘s first “safety car” following its deployment at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix to help manage the race, which had seen various incidents due to treacherous weather conditions. And if you want to check out the wild world of Formula One, check out this Ideal video.
With a variety of engines from inline-fours and sixes, ranging from a 1.7-inline-4, 1.8-inline-4, 2.0-inline-4, and a 2.0-liter inline-6, all air-cooled, any engine is good! This makes a perfect project car and soon a collectors’ car.
It’s a 70’s mid-engine Porsche that sounds expensive. However, you can find this piece of history for less than you might think, like the 1.8-liter model we found for $11,000. This is an amazing deal, because these can get expensive real quick. We found a pristine 914 for $30,000. Yikes, too much!
Maybe the 914 is too old for you, though. Then let’s go to a newer mid-engine Porsche, the Porsche 986 Boxster.
1996 – 2004 Porsche Boxster – It’s Not A Box!
The Porsche Boxster was presented to the automotive industry in 1993 as a prototype at the Detroit Auto Show. And since its launch, it’s consistently been at the top of the list for handling because of its near ideal 47/53 front-to-rear weight distribution, and the 2.5-liter flat-six in the back making 204 horsepower.
The acute handling and that weight on the rear tires makes this thing rip around corners double time! And aside from its questionable egg headlights. It has plenty of qualities to make it a really engaging and fun-to-drive everyday Porsche.
One of my favorites is the soft top that comes standard with the Boxster. I mean, summer is coming soon, and think 90 degrees with top down cruising on some backroads sounds like bliss, which is why so many people instantly gravitated towards the Boxster when it came out.
This instant success was both a blessing and a curse. Porsche had to immediately open a second manufacturing facility in order to keep up with demand. And finding these in low mileage is very difficult, but we can pull anything off here at Ideal!
We found a manual Boxster with 40,000 miles for just $6,500. A great deal. But, these are all foreign and expensive to repair!
Well, I got you guys, with the most patriotic car on this list, the Pontiac Fiero!
1984 – 1988 Pontiac Fiero – RIP Pontiac!
Aside from being the first mass produced mid-engine sports car in the USA, the sporty, two-seater sprite really fell short when it came out due to its penny-pinching development team. Instead of putting a high horsepower engine into the Pontiac Fiero, they just went with a 4-cylinder that made less than 100 horsepower, giving it a more laid back driving experience.
For a car whose name translates to “fierce” in English from Italian, it’s pretty counterintuitive to put a boring engine into it. Luckily, the team at GM heard the struggles and gave the Fiero a much more powerful but still underwhelming V6 that put out 140 horsepower. And because of this, the Fiero went up in flames. No, like it literally caught fire.
Due of this and other numerous mechanical and electrical issues, it works great for a project car! So, they can usually be hopped into for pretty cheap. I found a clean example 1985 red Fiero for just $10,000. But if you don’t care about condition, I found another one for $4,500. Just beware of those issues.
Now, we all know that mid-engine cars are usually in Italian exotics, like, of course, Ferrari! So, we found the cheapest and coolest mid-engine Ferrari you can buy, the Ferrari 348!
1989 – 1995 Ferrari 348 – 90’s Ferrari Goodness!
Oh, baby, just look at this thing! Those side vents giving massive amounts of air to that 3.4-liter V8 in the back! It sounds like heaven! Damn! Keep in mind, though, the 348 only sounds good while it’s running, which, given that it’s a 30-year-old Ferrari, is going to be pretty rare.
Aside from the Ferrari 348’s stunning good looks, and sound and, of course, pop-ups, this ‘Rari has the performance to match, with that world-famous mid-engine handling, 320 horsepower, and a 0 to 60 time of 5.5 seconds. This thing was tight through the corners, and tight at getting the chicks. Who wouldn’t want a ride in a Ferrari.
Now, if you want a mid-engined masterpiece, I found a 348 for $60,000. Yikes, $60,000? Well, just keep in mind, you are getting a classic Ferrari. Either way a Ferrari is going to cost a lot, that’s just the price you’ve got to pay to get into one of these.
Okay, maybe $60,000 is too much. How about we go down a little to a much more reliable option, the Audi R8!
2006 – 2015 Audi R8 – Quattro!
Now, the Audi R8 may be the most practical on the list. This everyday supercar is the ideal mid-engine sports car, with either a 4.2-liter V8 that makes 414 horsepower, or a screamer 5.2-liter V10 that makes 520 horsepower, the same engine that’s in another mid-engine monster, the Gallardo.
The best thing about the famous Quattro all-wheel drive on the R8 is that it has rear bias. So, with up to 60% of the power going to the rear wheels, and the added weight of the engine and transmission in the back, this thing plants the power to the ground, and handling is dream. So, you will see the R8. in stock for rushing down the Nurburgring.
I found a V10 model for $50,000. This is the quintessential mid-engine sports car! I know this may seem expensive, but given that this car started at $160,000 new, and given the tech and the cool factor of owning the R8, this is one great deal.