I original wrote a short blog on summer recommendation for different budgets six years ago (the original blog is attached below). Recently I was asked by a group in Australia for an update. As I am now based on the west side of the Atlantic, the budgets are now in US $ and I have given a few American cars more consideration. I have also extended the time frame to go back to 1970.
The 2018 list, starting with the more modest budgets is:
$15k-25k range: Porsche 911 (996), Maserati GranSport. It’s hard to go wrong recommending a Porsche. In terms of bargains these days, the Porsche 911 (996) offers tremendous performance and value. 996s have taken the place of the 993s at the bottom of the 911 price ladder currently but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still terrific driver’s cars. In this price range you can find a huge selection of 996s. The Maserati GranSport is another car that had a spot in our garage about a decade ago. In sport mode, the GranSport comes alive and responds well to being pushed. The Ferrari supplied V8 that sits in the nose is wonderful to hear sing and provides plenty of grunt. Of the early 21stcentury Maseratis, the GranSport is the best of the breed.
$25-50k range: Jaguar F-Type, Dodge Viper. The F-Type in my humble opinion is the most fun to come out of Coventry on four wheels since the misunderstood XJ220 ceased production back in 1994. My personal preference is the V6S convertible with an 8-speed auto gearbox with paddles. Relatively high production numbers mean there are always plenty available so finding a good one should not be too hard. I added the Dodge Viper to the list to make sure there was something a bit on the insane side. Raw and single-minded are how I would sum it up but it’s hard not to like anything with 2 seats and a V10 stuffed in the nose. In many ways, the Viper makes most TVR’s seem quite polished. If you’re looking for an adrenaline kick, it’s hard to beat.
$50-75k range: Aston Martin DB9 Volante, Ferrari 308 GTB. There are few cars more elegant and appealing than a drop top V12 Aston. The DB9 is a proper polished Grand Tourer which can also be driven every day. I would rate these as one of the best value per $ on the market right now. The Ferrari 308 GTB is a personal favorite. I believe the early carb cars are the best of the bunch and a well sorted one is a joy to drive. The 308 handles like a go cart. Back country roads and twisty mountain drives are where it shines.
$75-100k range: Maserati Grantursimo Cabriolet, Audi R8 V10. The Maserati Granturismo Cabriolet is another family favorite. The Ferrari supplied V8 is a gem and sounds fantastic. While more GT than Sports car, it is a car you can drive from Paris to Rome via the Swiss Alps in a day and emerge un-battered. The Granturismo is as happy cruising as it is being pushed. In this price range you should be able to find your choice of low miles V10 Audi R8 Coupes or Spyders. The R8 is both impressively quick and quite forgiving. Hence a great choice for a first supercar.
$100-150k range: Ferrari 550 Maranello, McLaren 12C Spider. When the 550 Maranello was launched in 1996, it was the 1st great front engine V12 Ferrari Grand Tourer since the demise of the legendary Daytona back in 1973. While a 550 is capable of handling the Swiss Alpine passes, it is most at home crushing continents. It has ample luggage space for a multiweek road trip, wonderfully supportive seats, and a gearbox that invites you to come play. The 12C Spider was McLaren’s first attempt at a “mass” produced road car. The combination of carbon fibre tub, twin turbo V8 producing 616 bhp, and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission combined to form a package that is still near top in class. Build quality on the 12C improved during the production run with a 2014 being the best of the breed.
$150-200k range: Ferrari 430 Scuderia, McLaren 650S Spider These are two of my favorites. It’s hard to top the experience of driving a 430 Scuderia across the Scottish Highlands. The single clutch F1 gearbox is quick, sharp, & as the last iteration developed by Ferrari, best in class. The Scuderia is a beautifully balanced car that urges you to drive it hard. It’s also the last Ferrari that still feels more analogue than digital. Definitely a future classic. The McLaren 650S Spider was the interim model between the 12C and 720S. The 650S addressed a number of the perceived shortcomings of the 12C and is a better car in a large number of small ways. I have used one as my daily driver for the last 3 years and can’t recommend it highly enough. Hugh amounts of performance, beautifully weighted steering, and the best suspension in its class.
$200-600K range: Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, Porsche Carrera GT Both of these sit right at the high end of this price range and for good reason. The Ferrari Daytona is one of the greatest GTs ever produced and the Carrera GT maybe the purest driver’s car to emerge from Stuttgart. The V12 in the Daytona is a work of art and produces perhaps the best sound track of any road car. The V10 in the Carrera GT had its roots in a development project originally for F1 and later resurrected for Le Mans. Neither car likes to potter around and both come alive near the speed limit. The Daytona is a work out to parallel park, but handling is light and precise at speed. The Carrera GT’s clutch requires patience to master but rewards when you do. It is hard to go wrong with either.
$600k-1.5M: Ferrari F40, Koenigsegg CCX. The Ferrari F40 makes most 10 ten greatest car list and for good reason. To drive one is to understand why. There is little that the F40 doesn’t do well. It is equally at home on a cross continental road trip, being wrung out on an alpine pass, or at a race track. The Koenigsegg CCX is my favorite of the Koenigseggs. Much more polished and drivable than the early cars but still full of the character and personality one would expect from a small bespoke manufacturer.
Opinions and recommendations are just that. At the end of the day, always buy what speaks to you.
Below is the original list from about 5 years ago. Values on quite a few have changed significantly
Starting at the top of the financial brackets:
£200k-250k range: I found this group to be an easy decision, clear votes for the Porsche Carrera GT and Jaguar XJR-15. The Carrera GT is a huge amount of car for the money and a real bargain (to the extent you could ever call a £250k car a bargain) right now. It is a proper old school supercar with a hugely impressive engine, CF tub, 6 speed manual gearbox, Carbon Ceramic brakes, and a reputation for biting if you don’t respect it properly. The Carrera GT has lots of character and it requires real skill to drive well. The Jaguar XJR-15 is basically a road legal Group C racecar. With a 6 liter V12, carbon tub, offset seating position, and huge AP racing brakes, it doesn’t get any more focused than this. The XJR-15 is a great uncompromised driver’s car.
£150k-200k range: This is another easy one in terms of recommendations. The two best supercars to be launched in the last several years sit in this price band right now and some early examples can even be found for slightly less. Both are V8s, mid-engine, ultra smooth dual clutch gearbox, and have everyday usability. Performance is staggering yet both can crawl through traffic without blowing a gasket or turning into a rolling BBQ. The two recommendations here are the Ferrari 458 Italia & McLaren MP4-12C.
£125k-150k range: I have always found this a much tougher range to make a call in. Looking at the market today, the two that would be the most tempting are the Lamborghini Murcielago/LP640 and the Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Finding a nice Scuderia for sale these days is not easy and there is a very good reason for it, they are great focused driver’s cars that will always put a smile on your face. The Scuderia is the last in the line of the V8 F1 single clutch models and by far the best of the breed. The Murcielago is Lamborghini at its best, large, loud, with tons of presence. Unlike some of the earlier Lambos, the Murci drives brilliantly and does not require physical therapy after more than 10 minutes behind the wheel.
£100k-125k range: Here I would have to go with the unloved and the little known. In terms of £ for performance you are not going to beat the McLaren Mercedes SLR or the Mosler MT900S. The Mosler has the pure driver’s car box smothered, and on the track will blow just about everything else this side of an Enzo into the weeds. In addition to what it can do on the track, the Mosler has excellent road manners and can deal with traffic and speed bumps. The McMerc is just a huge amount of car for the money right now, a nice balance of comfort in the best of the GT tradition with blistering performance. The new upgrade packages offered through McLaren Special Operations address many of the perceived negatives and make it an even more tempting choice.
£75k-100k range: Very tough to make a choice in this range as there are a lot of great options. Top of my recommended list would have to be the Porsche 911 (997) GT3. There is a reason the GT3 has won a ton of awards, it is simply an outstanding piece of engineering that is brilliant on both road and track. Of any 911 range, the GT3 has always been my favorite. For the second choice, I am going to bend the rules a bit and go with a good but not great driver’s car that gets the nod on looks alone. I have always has a soft spot for the Aston Martin DBS.
£50k-75k range: It gets even tougher in this group as there is a wealth of choices. For performance and fun to drive, I would have to give the nod to the Audi R8 V10 and the Porsche 911 (977) Cabriolet. Both are beautifully engineered, well built, and exciting to drive cars. Each has plenty of performance and high limits which make them a blast to push down an empty “B” road on an early Sunday morning. As a wildcard if you need 4 seats, the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti is a fantastic choice. It handles and goes like a car half its size.
£25k-50k range: In the more affordable category are two of my favorite Ferraris, the 360 Spider and the 550 Maranello. On the 360 Spider, personal preference would be for the 6 speed manual. On a nice summer day with the roof down, the sound of the 400 bhp flat crankshaft V8 is enthralling. The 550 Maranello is more than a worthy successor for the Daytona and it seems to only be getting better with age. It is hard to beat a Ferrari V12 and the 550 is one of the best.
£15k-25k range: And finally in the budget category, two old favorites, the TVR Griffith and Lotus Elise. The TVR & Lotus are both hugely fun to drive, can be pushed hard, and have character in abundance. Before buying a Griffith though, taking out a RAC or AA membership is not a bad idea as the TVR can be as frustrating as it is brilliant. The Elise is the car that saved Lotus and for good reasons, to this day it is one of the sweetest handling cars ever produced.
The above is just one Petrolhead’s opinion. At the end of the day, you should buy the car you really love.
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