1 2 3
whalenut_precision New Reader
6/4/19 8:53 p.m.

So if you had $30k-$60k to burn and wanted a semi-exotic, what would you consider? 

I'm looking for my next "fun" car.  It will be a weekend warrior as I've got a decent daily driver right now, and probably not tracked.

My criteria in order of importance is:

> Looks / style - it's got to have presence, and got to *wow* when you pull up to the curb.  I would put the most weight on curb presence over any of the other factors here - I want to still be thinking "now that's just gorgeous" when I see it in my driveway for the 300th time 6 months from now.  

> Performance / fun to drive - I've always had at least one two-seater, typically a convertible, that's good for spirited driving and handles well in the twisties.  This car is going to be the replacement for the last "fun" car, a Z4.  I want this car to ideally be as fun to drive as say, a Z4 / Z3 or Miata.  

> Self-maintenance ease / ownership costs - I do a lot of the work on my cars myself, and don't want a car where that's difficult or impossible.  I'm also looking at "semi" exotics instead of stepping up another $10k or $20k and getting a used F-360 or Lambo or something, because I don't want to be spending $10k-$20k a year in maintenance and service on a car that will only be driven a couple thousand miles a year.  

All that said, here's my contenders so far - I'm hoping you guys may know some that I should consider that aren't on here.  I'm totally open to older cars as long as they tick the three boxes above, even though none are on this list.  Alright, on to the cars!

Lotus Evora 

Lotus Evora 

This is probably the top of the list for me right now.  In my price range, probably looking at a 2011 - 2015.  Looks to die for, comes in real colors and not just black/white/silver like every other luxury car on the planet, maintenance isn't that bad and you can do a lot yourself - I don't see anything that would prevent this being a good choice.  The only downside to me is there's no convertible option, and I really like convertibles.  But I'd probably be willing to make that sacrifice, especially if I could find it in this color.

Downsides:  no convertible option, engine comparatively weak in non-S models

Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar F-Type

Comes in convertible.  Great looks, but not as top-tier as the Evora.  Hard to find in real colors, mostly monochrome available.  Would be able to get 2015-2018 model year depending on options, and I hear good things about both the V6 S and the V8's.  Might even be able to get a CPO one with warranty.  

Downsides:  Difficult to find in a real color, depreciation high, difficult to service anything other than fluids, Jaguar / Tata reliability

Lotus Elise   

Lotus Elise   

Sort of a convertible - removable targa top.  Great looks, great fun-to-drive factor.  Comes in real colors.  Great resale value / depreciation.  Can get any year between 2006-2011.  A solid choice, but I kind of think of it as the "kid brother" option compared to the Evora.  

Downsides:  sparse interior, weak AC, weak radio, body work an expensive nightmare

Porsche 911 turbo

Porsche 911 turbo

The grandaddy of them all!  Porsche reliability and performance at the top of the scale.  Depreciation is great, if not reversed.  My biggest problem is it looks like just about any other 911 except to those who pay attention to those things, and I'd probably be looking at 996's in my price range, which then just looks like an OLD 911.  So definitely lacking in the "presence" department.  I'm betting this would be the most enjoyable drive out of all of these.  

Downsides:  Looks like any other old 911 and lacks presence, hard to find in a real color

Aston Martin DB7 or DB9

Aston Martin DB7 or DB9

As smooth as butter, as posh as the queen sipping tea with her pinky up, who isn't impressed by an Aston?  Even the older 2006-2009 model years I'd probably be stuck with in my price range still have presence.  I'd lean toward the DB9 over the DB7, but could be persuaded either way.  Maintenace costs are definitely higher here, but not quite in the "exotic" stratosphere.   

Downsides:  Depreciation, maintenance costs, hard to find in a real color, may lack "fun to drive" element being much more GT

Mercedes SL63 or SL65

Mercedes SL63 or SL65

This is scraping the bottom of the "semi-exotic" barrel for me, but they probably qualify.  Biggest problems are lack of presence and style - they look a lot like any other 2006 - 20011 SL with the exception for some tiny body or badging changes.  These are also the worst out of this whole list for maintenance, both in terms of harder to DIY, and much more expensive parts.  But I've at least thought of them!  Also, literally impossible to find in a real color.

Downsides: everything

So what say you fine GRM folk?  What have I left off this list that would have style and real curb presence, be fun to drive, and wouldn't be a nightmare to maintain?  

What car would YOU choose for $30k-$60k to optimize style, fun, and maintenance?  


Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
6/4/19 9:01 p.m.

Esprit S4s.  I had an Elise.  Checked that box.  Done.  I would consider the Evora, but after having owned an Esprit and an Elise, that S4s is what I would want.  One showed up for sale a few weeks ago in the low 30's.  A good tune up and they'll put down 400+.  But I have too many other projects and if I got an S4s, they would all go way to the back.  Note that the top comes off on a Stevens Esprit.

codrus GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/4/19 9:04 p.m.

I chose an FD. :)

irish44j MegaDork
6/4/19 9:05 p.m.

Early NSX? A couple for sale within 100 miles of me around $50k

Looks/style - subjective of course, but everyone I know thinks they look great (including me)

Fun to drive - only small experience here, but certainly capable cars if not rocket ships

Maintenance/ownership costs - I would imagine it would be lower than anything else on your list, assuming you buy a nice one. 

Related image

Slippery GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/4/19 9:07 p.m.

Research transmission problems on the Evora. Its a neat car, I’ve driven one quite extensively, but my friend’s transmission broke and he had to sell it as is. He could not find another transmission. I believe its a common failure, but not 100% sure. 

irish44j MegaDork
6/4/19 9:10 p.m.

I was told a number of years ago by a highly experienced racer friend (who has raced all kinds of series and runs Lamborghini and Rolex stuff these days) that if he was going to buy one car just to drive and enjoy, it would probably be a Porsche 944S2. 

barely on the borderline of "semi-exotic" but at the low end of your budget you get pretty much everything you want, with one in great condition and with upgrades. I highly enjoy driving my 924S, and the 944S2 is better in every way.  Just throwing it out there at the low end of your budget for a near-perfect example.

pimpm3 SuperDork
6/4/19 9:12 p.m.

Aston Martin Vantage.  Looks awesome and can be purchased with a 6 speed.

whalenut_precision New Reader
6/4/19 9:24 p.m.

Good call on the FD, codrus.  I've long loved the looks, but have never owned one yet, having stayed in the nissan / datsun Z-verse for most of my japanese sports cars.  And you can get LS-swapped ones for something in the twenties or low thirties!  Still, I think the Lotuses stomp it on curb presence.  If I think "what would a date be most impressed with me pulling up in," the FD sadly ranks lower on that list.  But it would absolutely slay in "fun to drive" and "easy to maintain."   Maybe the answer is "buy an Elise for $30k and an FD for another $25k and be happy on both fronts."   :-P

Early NSX is a great call too, irish44j. I'll take a pass on the 944 - I owned one for 5 years a long time ago.  Great cars!  Great performance, good looks, even good on gas!  But I just don't think it's in the same realm as some of these others.  And if I paid $20k-$30k for one, I'd constantly be comparing it to the $5k one I had twenty years ago and thinking "this isn't 6x better than my old one!"

Thanks for bringing up the potential transmission issues, Slippery, I'll look into it.  



whalenut_precision New Reader
6/4/19 9:27 p.m.

In reply to Dr. Hess :

Thanks for putting the Esprit on my radar - for some reason, I was thinking of the Elan when I hear Esprit, but on researching they're quite different cars!

gencollon New Reader
6/4/19 9:44 p.m.

If I were daydreaming about spending 70K or less on a semi-exotic, a GT3 would be at the very top of my list.... but it'd be hard to find one at that price... Right?

I'd also consider:


ZL1 1LE?

C7 ZR1


Viper ACR

This guy is more interested in lap times than curb appeal, but his content really opened my eyes to just how impressive the latest American performance cars are:


Oh, and if the Elise is on the list, shouldn't the 4C be on the list? 


Finally, because this is the GRM board: I think one of these is the real winner here:



Not as practical as a GT3 or R35, but they have presence, they are at least as fun to drive as a Z4, and they are definitely maintainable @ home.

MTechnically Reader
6/4/19 9:53 p.m.

If we are discussing front engined trans-axel Porsches, allow me to offer my favorite as an option. Have you considered a 928?

I'd aim for a manual transmission car, and my personal bias will tell you to look at the earlier cars, pre-86.5 (32 valve), they have non-interference engines, make a lovely noise and are quite a bit lighter than the fill fat GTS' that people drool over. Absolutely lovely cars to drive. Door mechanisms just slightly less satisfying than a G-Wagen.

Just make sure you get one that's been looked after since they got very cheap for quite a long time. They are not overly mechanically complicated, but questionable electrics would be something to avoid. They come in interesting colors and they look lovely with a nice set of wheels too.

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/4/19 10:06 p.m.

I was also thinking Evora/Elise. An Esprit is also not a bad choice, not as reliable as the newer cars though. All the Lotii will suffer from the "expensive bodywork nightmare" problem, but on the positive side they're probably the cheapest to run of the bunch, and have the most "presence" and fun factor. The SL63/65 might not stand out so much but it's certainly not lacking in looks IMO.

codrus GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/4/19 10:18 p.m.

Caterham?  If you want "look at me" attention, nothing I've ever driven/ridden in got as much of it as the Locost that I owned for a while, and a proper Caterham is only going to be more so in that regard. :)


Appleseed MegaDork
6/4/19 10:22 p.m.

100% NSX

GTwannaB GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/4/19 10:42 p.m.

Ok so not sure on the maintenance front but sexy Italian Maserati coupe. Great music from that engine. 

Cotton PowerDork
6/4/19 10:45 p.m.

911 turbo for me out of that list.

white_fly HalfDork
6/4/19 11:16 p.m.

So, I own a 996 C2 and I'm shocked at how much attention a 'normal' 911 gets. People assume it was super expensive to buy and I have yet to pick up a date that wasn't impressed by it. A 996 turbo is an incredible machine and you're correct in pointing out it's unlikely to depreciate.

I wanted an Evora until a friend had one. There was always some minor issue to chase and it spent a lot of time getting worked on. I think my friend counted himself lucky when it was totaled by a deer hit.

I really think the NSX is the answer to this question. I really can't think of a good reason not to own one.

I think if I had that money to spend right now and could keep my Porsche, a 2014/15 Camaro Z/28 would be my choice. Not much in the way of exotic appeal, but 500hp, carbon discs, some of the best suspension ever seen on a production car and truly low production numbers make it a steal at the prices they're currently available for.

And, just to throw a couple curveballs out there, I love Panoz Esperantes and Morgans of any vintage.

boxedfox Reader
6/5/19 12:13 a.m.

Don't get an Evora. They come with all of the usual Lotus mechanical quirks and have the most fragile interiors of any of the cars in this price bracket. The leather on the dash and doors are particularly delicate, and they seem to peel away at the edges after just a few months of sun exposure.

I want to love them, but having driven and experienced them myself I would recommend most of its competitors in the same price / performance bracket over the Evora itself.

Apexcarver UltimaDork
6/5/19 12:59 a.m.

Panoz aiv roadster, or esparante. What's that?! Factor and ease and affordability of maintenance of a mustang drivetrain. 

There's also the qualive mangusta to consider on the same vane.

LanEvo HalfDork
6/5/19 1:08 a.m.

I know you said “no Ferraris” but you might want to look into the 348. The last of the old-school Ferraris with manual steering, gated shifter, and minimal electronics. They’re generally in the mid-$40-50k range. I just checked and there’s one on my FB Marketplace feed for $39k right now and one on Hemmings for $34k.

People love to crap on them because they’re slow by modern standards, but what isn’t? They did have some handling quirks related to the rear end, but those are easy to correct. The F355 was essentially a 348 with the suspension weirdness corrected, and people rave about it as one of the better handling mid-engined Ferraris. The big complaints with the F355 are related to numb power steering and finicky electronics ... none of which the 348 had. So, if you start with a 348 and sort the rear suspension, you’ll have the best of both worlds. A good buddy of mine did just that.Another thing that’s cool about them is that they sold lots of them in black, white, yellow, gray, and blue. So, you don’t have to be that douche in a bright red Ferrari. Since they’re cheap and unloved, you also won’t feel too bad if you need to do some bodywork or decide you want to mod the car. 

LanEvo Dork
6/5/19 1:20 a.m.

^^^ In terms of maintenance, I can’t imagine the 348/355 would be significantly worse than the Aston Martins, Jag F-Type, Evora, or Esprit you mentioned.

There are at least 4 independent Ferrari specialists within 20 miles of my house, so it’s not like you have to take the car to the dealer for service. From what I understand, a lot of parts from Ferraris of this generation are available much cheaper if you cross-reference them to other makes.

nderwater UltimaDork
6/5/19 2:23 a.m.

Early Audi R8s fall in that price range. They look like a million bucks and could scratch the ‘supercar’ itch.

codrus GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/5/19 3:21 a.m.
LanEvo said:

^^^ In terms of maintenance, I can’t imagine the 348/355 would be significantly worse than the Aston Martins, Jag F-Type, Evora, or Esprit you mentioned.

I thought the 348 was from the era where Ferraris needed engine-out timing belt changes every 2-3 years?

I own an FD and an Audi so clearly I'm not too worried about maintenance costs, but the 348/355 maintenance schedules would scare me. :)

STM317 UltraDork
6/5/19 4:38 a.m.

My head says 996TT or NSX, but my heart says Aston V8 Vantage, which would probably be closer to your Z4 driving experience than a larger DB9. Apparently they start in the low 30s now (!). You should be able to find a really nice one with your budget. Manual option, and some cool colors (although they're not the most common):


But the suggestion for the recent Z/28 is pretty good too. It's not going to snap necks in the same way an Aston or NSX would, but would out perform them pretty handily. The limited production numbers combined with the LS7/manual/carbon brakes/spool valve shocks/305 tires/etc should keep values from bottoming out. I think it will be seen as the last brutish, analog, high performance Camaro. It's a special car the same way that a BMW 1 Series M is.

tr8todd Dork
6/5/19 6:04 a.m.

Take a look at a Noble or Rossion.  Pretty much same car with different names because of the way they are sold here in the US.  They will run circles around most exotics.  User friendly.  Gorgeous.  Seem to have bottomed out around $50K so you can drive it for a couple of years and get your money back.  

1 2 3
Our Preferred Partners