Two years ago, Auto Mentality was looking for a new long term test car. Staffers wanted something fun, yet practical. It had to be sporty, good on gas mileage, and look cool. We also wanted it to be around $40K, so we could write about an affordable car.
Several cars made the short list: Nissan 370Z Nismo, Subaru WRX, Golf R, Jetta GLI, Volvo S60 T6 R-Design. Then someone suggested a Miata.
There was a laugh and a staffer piped up, “Miata? It has 155 horsepower. The power actually went DOWN for the ‘16 model.”
Then another staffer tossed in their two cents, “The new design looks cool and it’s $32K loaded. We should probably drive it.”
Long story short, that first drive sealed the deal. Our long term A8 whooped it’s butt to 60, it was tiny, but the MX-5 Miata was an absolute blast to drive. You never had to brake. The car just flew through corners like a go-kart. Who knew 155 horsepower could feel so good. At cars & coffee, people looked at it like it was an exotic. I remember one guy asking if it was a carbon fiber British one-off (he apparently didn’t get out much). The car has been gone for a year, but staff members still talk about that car.
Last fall, we picked up a WRX (honorable mention from the year before), and we looked for a second “underdog” car. Since we already had the $40K car, we went more expensive. A BMW M3 and M2, Mercedes-AMG GT, Mercedes C63, Volvo S60 Polestar, Lexus RC F, and Jaguar F-Type R were considered. Then, we drove a duPont REGISTRY Aston Martin Vantage GT on a whim.
The Aston Martin wasn’t terribly fast in relation to the other cars on the list. Zero to sixty in the mid-fours has become commonplace. That first drive was enough to land it in our stable, though. The balance was incredible, the interior was handmade and stunning, and it was a manual. We caught a lot of flack on social media from haters who said their half priced sports car could stomp us in a race, around a track, etc. Well, they’re not in an Aston.
The year has seen positives and negatives (to appear in a later article), but the Aston was a good choice.
Sports car shopping has changed immensely over the last few years. You used to be able to look at vehicle specs and say, “That one.” Now specs are reference more than guide.
Consider a Ford Focus RS, VW Golf R, and Mercedes-Benz GLA45. They do relatively the same things. Specs would say buy the GLA45. It’s a great package, but expensive. Auto Mentality staffer Terran Ray put the Focus RS on our “Turkey List” and prefers the Golf R by a wide margin. I admit the Focus has some issues, but for my money, it’s the track star I’d pick. Purchasing has become about feel and personal preference.
Tesla, Acura, and Volvo all illustrate good reasons to ignore engine size. Bigger is no longer better. Tesla out-accelerates just about everything in their SUV (minivan). Volvo has done incredible things with their supercharged and turbocharged four. It pulls a full size XC90 really well. Acura’s NSX uses a 3.5 liter V6. So does Acura’s RDX and MDX, but you don’t see them tearing up a road course or a quarter mile.
Speaking of quarter mile, the NSX will do that in just over 11 seconds with 573 hp. A Dodge Demon destroys the quarter in under 10 with 840 hp. A Demon costs about half of an NSX, is much faster in a straight line, and can’t turn. So, depending on which you purchase, it’s not so much about horsepower as it is about use, and again, personal preference.
As you shop for that next sports car, ignore the tendency to judge based on numbers. Keep an open mind, and drive as many cars as you can – mostly because it’s fun. But also, you never know, you may end up taking a spin in something that blows your mind.