2015 Scion FR-S
As we consider the purchase of sports cars, we use the term “entry level” in a relative fashion. In other words, our list of the ten best entry level sports cars, we’re considering entry level models in relationship to the greater list of sports cars from a specific manufacturer. So, while it may strike you as odd the six-figure Ferrari California appears on a list of entry level sports cars, it is in fact the entry level sports car for Ferrari. Also, please note, we are adhering to the classical definition of a sports car, so muscle cars like Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang are omitted. With all of that out of the way, let’s get down to it. Here’s our list of the ten best entry level sports cars.
Speaking of controversial picks, there are those who say Audi’s TT is actually more of a grand touring car than an outright sports car. We feel it could go either way. With that said, Audi’s lineup of sports cars includes the TT, TTS, and of course the mid-engined R8. The lowest priced sports car in Audi’s stable, the TT comes with all-wheel drive, a six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 211 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. Audi claims a zero to 60 of 5.3 seconds. Standard features include deeply bolstered power adjustable heated sport seats with simulated suede accents, automatic xenon headlights with washers, LED running lights, Bluetooth, a Bose surround audio system, and a multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles. Pricing starts at $40,350.
Photo by Audi Media Services
BMW currently has two sports car models in its lineup, Z4 and i8. The entry-level BMW sports car is the Z4 equipped with the 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. Capable of generating 260 ft-lbs of torque, the engine’s output is routed to the rear wheels through the buyer’s choice of a six-speed manual transmission, or an eight-speed automatic. The price is the same regardless of the transmission fitment. BMW claims a 5.8-second zero to 60 for the Z4 sDrive28i. The folding hardtop gives the BMW the capability of functioning either as a closed coupe or a convertible. Standard features include automatic adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, keyless entry and pushbutton start, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto dimming mirrors, and power adjustable seats. Pricing starts at $48,950.
Photo by BMW Media
Jaguar’s entry level sports car is the new for 2015 F-Type Coupe. An absolutely thrilling automobile, the F-Type coupe looks gorgeous, sounds marvelous, and goes just as well as it looks and sounds. Given the size and opulence of Jaguar’s XK, we consider F-Type the first true Jaguar sports car since the company stopped building the E-Type (aka XK-E) back in 1975. Power for the entry level F-Type Coupe comes from a 340-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 332 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is employed to route output to the rear wheels. Jaguar estimates a 5.1-second run to 60 from zero. Standard features include automatic headlights and wipers, LED running lights, heated mirrors, an automatic tail spoiler, automatic climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, and a 10-speaker audio system. Pricing starts at $65,000.
Photo by Jaguar
Universally hailed as the most sophisticated Corvette ever, with the advent of the almighty 650-horsepower Z06, the base Corvette Sting Ray Coupe becomes the entry level model. Previously, execution of Corvette’s interior, as well as overall build quality always left something to be desired. With this seventh generation model, the interior is now world class and vibrating body panels are a thing of the past. Meanwhile, Corvette’s performance potential still defies belief. The 6.2-liter V8 makes 455 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque. A seven-speed manual transmission with automatic rev matching is standard; an eight-speed automatic is offered as an option for the rear-wheel drive sports car. Chevrolet quotes a 3.8-second zero to 60. Standard features include Brembo brakes, xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, and leather upholstery. Pricing starts at $55,000.
Photo by Mitsubishi Motors North America
The marque’s lowest priced model was the first V8-powered front-engined Ferrari, as well as the first front-engined Ferrari model to feature a retractable hardtop. Pricing north of $100k does feel far from entry level to a lot of folk, but not among those capable of comfortably owning a Ferrari. For 2015, the California has been updated to freshen its styling and bring the interior treatment more into line with what people expect from the marque. The suspension and steering systems have also been reworked to improve cornering. Power is supplied by a new 3.9-liter turbocharged V8 engine (thus the “T” designation). Capable of generating 553 horsepower and 557 ft-lbs of torque, it feeds the rear wheels through a seven-speed automated manual transmission. Ferrari quotes a 3.6-second zero to 60. Pricing starts at $198,973.
Photo by Ferrari
Everybody’s favorite sports car is about twenty minutes away from a complete reboot. The 25 year-old model is slated for a significant redesign for the 2016 model year. We’ve seen preliminaries of the new car and it looks as if the soul of the Miata has been left intact, while improving upon its dynamics, comfort and appearance. But we digress. For the 2015 model year, the base model MX-5’s roof got changed from vinyl to cloth. Power for the rear-drive 2015 Mazda Miata comes from a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, good for 167 horsepower and 140 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is fitted to the base model. A six-speed automatic is offered too, but power drops to 158 horsepower if you go with it. With the manual, Mazda quotes a zero to 60 of 6.8 seconds. Pricing starts at $23,970.
At first glance, one could very easily be forgiven for mistaking the SLK for its SL sibling. But that’s just us; your results – as they say – may vary. Either way, the SLK250 Roadster is the entry level Mercedes sports car these days. Thanks to its folding hardtop’s glass roof panel, the SLK is truly one of a kind in the world of sports cars – no other model offers the combination. Power for the luxuriously outfitted SLK250 comes from a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine capable of generating 201 horsepower and 229 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a seven speed automatic is offered as an option for conducting power to the rear wheels. Mercedes quotes 6.5 seconds to 60 from zero with this engine. Pricing starts at $43,950.
Photo by Mazda USA
When Nissan (OK, Datsun) launched the original 240Z in the U.S. back in 1970, it was a small lightweight two-seater with an inline six-cylinder engine and a reasonably affordable price. Over the years, the Z steadily got larger, heavier, and more bloated in size and equipment until it was priced completely out of the market. When the current iteration of the Z resurfaced in 2009, it represented a serious attempt to get back to the original concept. Happily, Nissan is standing pretty firm in its resolution to keep the Z an agile sports car. Power comes from a 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 good for 270 ft-lbs of torque. The standard six-speed manual transmission routes power to the rear wheels; a seven-speed automatic is offered as an option. Zero to 60 is quoted at five seconds. Pricing starts at $29,990.
Photo by Nissan USA
The entry level Porsche sports car has been roundly praised for its flexible engine, amazing handling, richly appointed interior, and handsome exterior styling. Here, we must admit we’ve found more driving satisfaction at the steering wheel of the mid-engined rear-wheel drive Porsche roadster than any other convertible. Power comes from a 2.7-liter horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine capable of generating 265 horsepower and 207 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, while a seven-speed automated manual is offered as an option. Porsche quotes a 5.5-second zero to 60 with the manual transmission. The automated manual is said to get the Boxster to 60 in 5.4. Pricing starts at $52,100. For another $500, one can acquire the even better handling Cayman coupe.
Photo by Porsche Cars North America
This list of the best entry level sports cars is rife with models boasting horsepower counts in excess of 300. Still, some of the most fun to drive models make do with horsepower counts in the 200s. Driving a slower car quickly can be more fun than doing the same in a fast car. This fact undergirds the popularity of the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ fraternal twins. Sourcing their power from a horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine displacing 2.0-liters, both cars make excellent use of the 200 horsepower and 151 ft-lbs of torque afforded them. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, a six-speed automatic is offered as an option for the rear-drive coupes. Zero to 60 is quoted at 6.8-seconds with the manual transmission. Pricing for the Subaru starts at $25,695, while the Scion starts at $25,670.