The Best Entry Level Sports Cars
Looking at the photo above, one could be forgiven for scoffing at the fact the cars here might be considered” entry level”. However, every product line has to start somewhere, and these really are the entry-level offerings in the sports car category for their particular manufacturers. When it comes to parsing out the best entry-level sports cars, you’re going to run into quite a few models with a high degree of luxury and some pretty significant prices.
The base model Audi TT is powered by 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with 211 horsepower, 258 ft-lbs of torque, and is capable of running from zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds. A six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission routes power to all four wheels. 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.
BMW Z4 sDrive28i
Offering a hardtop coupe and a convertible roadster in the same package, BMW’s Z4 sDrive28i anchors the manufacturer’s Z4 line of two seaters. A 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine feeds the rear wheels through the buyer’s choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic. With this engine, the Z4’s zero to 60 is quoted at 5.8 seconds. 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.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The Corvette has always been one of the best performing sports cars at its price point, and the current iteration more than lives up to this expectation. Further, build quality improvements have enabled the Chevrolet sports car to go toe to toe with the best from around the world—bar none. The base model’s 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 optional. The rear-drive two-seater is capable of 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.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe
With the looks, sound, and performance to satisfy pretty much anybody interested in a sports car, the base model V6-powered Jaguar F-Type Coupe features a 340-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 332 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission routes 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.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
All new for 2016, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is improved in every way imaginable. And yet, its most endearing qualities remain intact. Delightfully balanced, it’s a highly willing partner when it comes to making short work of long and winding roads. Meanwhile, the Miata’s newfound creature comforts include an available infotainment system and a thoroughly modern interior design. Once again, the Miata is a shoo-in for every list upon which the words “best sports car” appear sequentially. Power comes from a 155 horsepower 2.0-liter inline four with 148 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic is also offered for the rear-drive two-seater. Zero to 60 is quoted at 6.3 seconds.
Nissan 370Z Coupe
Long a favorite of enthusiasts, the Nissan Z currently occupies an interesting perch. It’s the only two-seater in its price range with power output in the 300+ range. The 332-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 is also good for 270 ft-lbs of torque. Its standard six-speed manual transmission routes power to the rear wheels, offering a rev-matching feature for downshifts. A seven-speed automatic is offered as an option. The sports car’s zero to 60 is quoted at five seconds. Standard features include keyless entry with pushbutton start, Bluetooth, and automatic climate control.
Porsche 718 Boxster
The Porsche 718 Boxster comes with the first turbocharged flat-four cylinder powerplant to be offered in the marque’s contemporary mid-engine roadster. With its amazing handling, richly appointed interior, and handsome exterior styling, the Porsche easily qualifies for this list of the best entry-level sports cars. The turbocharged 2.0-liter is good for 300 horsepower and 280 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 4.9-second zero to 60 with the fully manual transmission—4.7 with the automated manual.
The Subaru BRZ’s wonderfully balanced chassis, low center of gravity, and communicative steering make it exceptionally enjoyable to drive quickly on winding roads. Meanwhile, the flat four-cylinder engine winds nicely, delivers an exciting soundtrack and produces 205 horsepower—along with 151 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic is offered as an option for the rear-drive coupe. Zero to 60 is quoted at 6.8-seconds with the manual transmission. A touchscreen infotainment system is standard equipment, as is a rearview camera.
The Toyota 86 (pronounced "eight-six”) is a reincarnation of the Scion FR-S. If you liked the FR-S, you’re going to love the 86, which is a fun, flirty, no-frills sports car that won’t break your wallet. Design changes for its Toyota transition included restyled front and rear fascias, reshaped LED headlights and taillights and a wider center intake. In addition, there are the Toyota badges and fly “86” logos sprinkled throughout the coupe and even in the headlights. Power comes from a 205-horsepower, 2.0 liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine (developed by Subaru) when paired with the six-speed manual transmission, which comes standard. You’ll lose five horsies if you opt for the six-speed automatic. Still, the 86 provides agile handling and the thrilling illusion of being on a race track, even while taking the less traveled back roads to your favorite beach boardwalk.