First off, this is not an exercise in average new car disparagement, although it may read that way.
The following also does not take into account all of the positive factors associated with buying and owning a new car, e.g. warranty, reliability (sometimes), lack of repair costs, that new car smell, etc.
What we’re talking about here is equal money at the time of purchase, and it’s pretty amazing just how far new car money can stretch in the used performance car market.
Almost regardless of budget, one can make a vehicle purchase decision that results in a mundane, numbing driving experience, or the polar opposite. And the fun does not necessarily come at the expense of practicality, as demonstrated with the choices below.
So here are some intriguing and likely unexpected new vs used performance car choices.
At the lower end of the cost spectrum is the choice between a base Ford Focus and B7 Audi S4. Regular readers of The Hairpin already know our enthusiasm for the old S4. We think it’s the best performance car buy for <$20,000. Quattro awd, 340 hp, 6-speed manual or auto, comfortable, sure-footed, we could go on and on.
Downsides as compared to the Focus? Gas mileage to be sure, and the B7 Audi S4 isn’t exactly heralded for its reliability. Didn’t scare us away though, and things have worked out just fine so far.
Put another way – it hasn’t yet occurred to us that we should have gone with a Focus…
Yes, that stratospheric, Formula 1 derived M5 V10 can now be had for base Chevy Impala money. Both the Impala and M5 are 4 door with plenty of interior and trunk space. Throw a set of snow tires on the M5 for the winter and it’ll do just fine. Sure the mileage range on the M5 is abysmal, but at least you'll get from gas station to gas station briskly.
We defy anyone with a pulse to run an E90 M3 up to its 8400 rpm red line and then opt for a new 320i. Manual or DCT (dual clutch) E90 M3’s with reasonable mileage can be had for around the $30,000 mark and slightly above. We’ve had two E90 M3’s, and consider it one of the greatest performance sedans of all time.
We’re big fans of our practical, comfortable, and quiet Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude, but have to acknowledge that an SRT8 from a couple of years back would have provided more laughs.
This choice is similar to the 320i vs E90 M3 case above. The C63 AMG M156 will go down as one of the very best performance car engines of all time, and the C63 AMG overall is one raucous beast.
C63 AMG snow/winter capability? Sorta. Rear wheel traction in dry road conditions? Sorta.
The B7 RS4 is not without mechanical liabilities, and its unavoidable, horsepower-robbing carbon buildup issue is probably the only reason we’ve not yet had one in the MinimumTread garage. But before spending almost $36k on a base A4 we’d sure as hell be tempted… Flaws and all the old RS4 is a compelling buy. And we think it’s still an achingly good looking sedan to this day. Especially with the ’08 model year Titanium Package. Hmmm.
Performance SUV’s have attracted no shortage of hatred through the years. But if for one reason or another you’re leaning toward an SUV, the option to purchase one with some gumption and oomph is hard to resist, thus their market success. From behind the wheel they’re hilarious, entertaining, and shockingly capable. The X5M is one such freak for <$50,000.
Okay, there’s an obvious size disparity between these two options. However, it’s a scientific fact that 95% of Escalade owners use less than 50% of its space 99% of the time.
So rather than driving around in a partially unused living room, something like a Cayenne Turbo might actually be a more suitable, and certainly a more entertaining option for many Escalade buyers.