Changes to this year’s tax code have left millions of Americans with a little bit of extra money in their pockets to spend on more discretionary purchases. In particular, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Re-authorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 reduced payroll tax withholding by two percent for 2011. What does this have to do with sports cars, you might ask? Well, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate example of “discretionary” spending than a fun, fast and agile performance automobile, and with the family budget that much healthier this year there has never been a better time to get behind the wheel of a car that can get your adrenaline pumping.
Let’s take a look at five fun sports cars that are now more affordable than ever thanks to this year’s tax cuts.
01. 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata remains one of the purest expressions of the sports car formula to be found on the modern market. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a two-seat roadster that offers an exceptionally balanced chassis and a very light curb weight to go with its sport-tuned suspension system. For those who live in colder climates, a power retractable hard top is also available on certain models in order to transform the sun-loving convertible into an all-weather commuter.
The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata is not designed to emphasize straight-line speed, but the affordable convertible’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is more than up to the task of spurring the diminutive roadster down the highway. The motor generates 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque when matched with either the Miata’s standard five-speed or available six-speed manual transmission. Output drops to 158 horses when the six-speed automatic gearbox that features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters is ordered.
02. 2011 Porsche Boxster
The 2011 Porsche Boxster takes a different approach to the traditional roadster formula, offering a mid-engine setup and a more high-end price point for drivers who crave a few more creature comforts with the top down. The Porsche Boxster represents the German’s brand’s entry-level offering, but it still comes with the same communicative steering and tenacious road holding that drivers have come to expect from the automaker.
The 2011 Porsche Boxster provides buyers with a choice of enticing six-cylinder drivetrain choices. The base Boxster comes with a 2.9-liter engine that is good for 255 ponies and 214 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed PDK automated manual unit. The Boxster S injects a little bit of extra excitement into the performance picture thanks to the inclusion of a larger, 3.4-liter engine that whips up 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options for the S model remain the same as for the standard Boxster.
03. 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution walks a different path to providing sports car thrills, one which draws from the automaker’s extensive history in the World Rally Championship. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is a high tech showpiece, offering performance-enhancing features such as a Super All-Wheel Control all-wheel drive system with Active Yaw Control, computer-controlled torque distribution, a twin-clutch Sportronic automated manual transmission that offers six forward gears and an extensive array of aerodynamic tweaks.
Also available with a traditional five-speed manual transmission, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution continues its technology parade under the hood where a 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine lies waiting. The motor is capable of providing 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of twist, which when combined with the grip afforded by the Evolution’s all-wheel drive system gives the sedan outstanding acceleration.
04. 2011 Mazda RX-8
The 2011 Mazda RX-8 represents the second entry from the Japanese automaker on this list, which indicates just how sport-focused the company has remained over the years. The Mazda RX-8 manages to hang with much more expensive and much more powerful vehicles by virtue of its low mass, highly tuned chassis and superb handling at the limit. The compact coupe can additionally be had in a special R3 edition, which turns up the feature count considerably through the introduction of a stiffer suspension system, Recaro sport seats and a more aggressive aero package.
The 2011 Mazda RX-8 steps outside of the norm when it comes to the engine department making use of a 1.3-liter rotary engine that revs all the way to 9,000 rpm. The RX-8’s mill develops either 212 or 232 horsepower, depending upon whether it is mated with the vehicle’s six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic or six-speed manual transmission. In either guise, the rotary unit also puts out 152 lb-ft of torque
05. 2011 Audi TT
The 2011 Audi TT can be had in both coupe and convertible editions, with the latter providing roadster accommodations for two occupants. The Audi TT counts high-class interior styling amongst its most attractive points, and the vehicle also comes with a long list of luxury options to help make it one of the more premium sports car options on this list.
The 2011 Audi TT starts out with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbo in order to generate 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This grunt is sent to all four wheels via an S tronic six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission and is managed by Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system. A special TTS model can also be ordered, and while this unit retains the standard TT’s quattro system and dual-clutch transmission it dials up the turbo boost to offer 265 horsepower while matching the entry-level TT’s torque figures.