7 sports cars you can drive every day
Sports cars are undeniably cool but often so cramped and unsuited for city driving that they're literally a pain in the rump. No wonder most shoppers dismiss them as pricey weekend playthings — or worse, midlife crisis clichés. But what if you could get most of the head-turning style and performance with passable comfort and drivability? Now would you consider taking one to work? We think we've found seven 2015 models you can live with every day. While we admit to stretching the definition of "sports car" a bit, all of our picks are true two-seaters or have a backseat that's more like an upholstered package shelf. Since we know you'll be driving in traffic, we've priced them with automatic transmissions. Yet four still cost no more $32,000 — the average transaction price for a new car and truck these days. Let's start with the cheapest and work our way up ...
Mileage: 28 mpg city/34 highway/30 combined
OK, we realize including the 500 Abarth on this list may be stretching things a bit, but it's simply a blast to drive. Think of a go-kart loaded with safety features. With a backseat that exists in name only, the 500 feels every bit like a two-seater. But, in its Abarth guise, it performs much like a sports car as well. A torque-y 157-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an all-new six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission propel this tidy front-wheel-drive two-door. Another $4,000 gets you the convertible version. Bubbling over with personality, the 500 can be further customized from the studio's (Fiat-speak for “dealership”) accessories store. This asphalt-hugging roller skate is nearly as much fun to drive in urban congestion as it is attacking mountain twisties. And, after all, isn't that what a sports car is all about?
Mileage: 21 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined
Mazda redesigned its spunky little two-seater for 2015. Launched in the late 1980s, the original MX-5 Miata was a big hit right out of the gate. We fell hard for this roadster because it's a modern, safer, more reliable two-seater than the British roadsters, such as Triumph TRs, Austin Healeys and MGBs, that it successfully imitates, yet it's as much fun to drive. We love that it's rear-wheel-drive and can be thrown into corners. Among the smaller of our picks, Miata is still big enough even for six-footers to be comfortable. Although you can get a soft-top version for about $5,000 less, we recommend the retractable hardtop for its any-weather comfort. Power comes from a 167-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine. A driver-shiftable, six-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels.
Mileage: 25 mpg city/34 highway/28 combined
BRZ is the love child of Subaru and Toyota. Toyota badges it as the Scion FR-S. We can't get enough of this car. Although it handles like the two-seat sports car you expect from its sleek exterior, it has a backseat — of sorts. Nimble and athletic, it was born and bred for curvy mountain roads. The only Subaru without all-wheel-drive, its 200-horsepower, 2-liter flat-four engine turns the rear wheels via a driver-shiftable, six-speed automatic transmission. If you are willing to stir the transmission yourself, the BRZ Premium is about $3,500 less. The automatic transmission scrubs a bit from the acceleration, but you won't care as you power through the turns. The flat engine lowers the center of gravity for better stability. Despite its slick exterior lines, the front-seat area is remarkably roomy, and the seats quite comfortable.
Mileage: 19 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined
Sharing lots of bits and pieces with the Infiniti G37, the 370Z has a decidedly upscale feel. Although it gives up nothing in the way of performance and handling, it has a sophisticated ride, getting high marks from us for its road manners. We think the styling makes it look as though it's covered with a liquid sheet of molten metal. The 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 will rocket this two-seater from a standstill to 60 mph in less than six seconds. We've priced it out here with the optional driver-shiftable, seven-speed automatic transmission, hustling engine output to the rear wheels. Ponying up another 12 grand or so gets you the convertible. The boy racer in us likes the idea that Nissan also offers a Nismo version that's been tweaked and outfitted by its motor sports division.
Mileage: 23 mpg city/33 highway/26 combined
Another one some purists might argue isn't really a sports car, the SLK250 admittedly is as elegant as it is sporty. We included it because, in addition to its nicely sculpted sheet metal and two-seat configuration, it has a peppy 201-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder percolating under its hood. As priced here, a seven-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission hustles power to the rear wheels. Need more get-up-and-go? For another $25,000 or so, you can opt for the 415-horsepower SLK55 AMG. The SLK250's retractable hardtop makes a terrific year-round drive, even in colder climates. Don't let its luxury pedigree fool you; it is quite competent when attacking the corners. Taller drivers may find its tidy cabin a bit confining, but otherwise it is well-appointed, with comfortable seats and a pliant ride.
Mileage: 16 mpg city/28 highway/20 combined
We'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't agree that, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, the Corvette Stingray offers the most performance bang for your buck. Chevrolet completely redesigned it for 2014, and it's a knockout. No matter the system or feature, Chevrolet improved it. More aggressive acceleration? Check. Better handling? Check. Better braking? Check. More refined cabin? Check. Improved fuel economy? Check. And on and on it goes. Thrust comes from a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8, passed through a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission turning the rear wheels. Chevrolet inserted a lot of aluminum among the suspension bits to add strength and reduce weight. Supportive big seats and scads of legroom make its cabin welcoming even for larger drivers. Lots of technology, too.
Mileage: 22 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined
Although its model lineup has swelled to include a four-door car and a couple of SUVs, for most of its history, Porsche designed, engineered and built only two-door, two-seat sports cars. Cayman springs from this rich performance heritage. Anchoring the product stable, it's the most affordable Porsche. Fully redesigned for 2014, it scores a bull's-eye for handling, steering response and cabin refinement. With a 275-horsepower, 2.7-liter horizontally opposed V-6 located amidships, Cayman sprints to 60 mph in less than 5.5 seconds when equipped with the seven-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission as priced here. The mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout provides outstanding balance. Larger drivers may find the cockpit a bit cramped, but, thanks to the location of the V-6, it does have two trunks: one fore and one aft.
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