2008 Volkswagen Rabbit || Get a Free Price Quote
Base Price: $16,250
For the first time in the nameplate's 34-year history, the word sprint can justifiably be used to describe the Rabbit's straight-line performance; fun here means quick. The Rabbit's 2.5-liter five-cylinder makes 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, enough juice to pull this slightly porky three-door to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds.
The Rabbit rewards high corner-entry speed with a chassis able not only to help you survive the experience but also to facilitate tire-squealing fun. Steering feel is Germanic -- hefty and communicative -- and suspension calibration places a premium on immediacy and body control.
Volkswagen's Rabbit has done a good job of winning over Car and Driver editors, taking first in two comparison tests against such competitors as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla and making it onto our "Top 10 Urban Vehicles" and "Top 10 Safe Vehicles for Less Than $25,000" lists. Volkswagen played on its design strengths to create an interior pleasingly adult and gimmick-free that features materials and an overall experience that remind us of its pricier cousins. Although the Rabbit is available in three- or five-door guise, the only differences between the two are style and accessibility; interior dimensions, space, and fun factor are identical.
2008 Jeep Wrangler || Get a Free Price Quote
Base Price: $19,360
The Jeep Wrangler remains a hit by straying little from the original formula: toughness, frugality, and an outcome unforeseen by designers creating a machine for the rigors of war in the first half of the past century -- fun.
Unless you are cruising Daytona Beach with your Wrangler bursting with co-eds, the most fun you can have with your Jeep means removing macadam and concrete from the equation. Your Wrangler would rather be ferrying you to vistas unsullied by asphalt and Manifest Destiny.
The beauty of the old technology used in the Wrangler's suspension and powertrain is that there are fewer gizmos to break, and when things do break, they're cheaper to fix. Want to make your Wrangler scale ruins like a billy goat or -- resplendent in urethane and tubular steel armor -- look like it could? Buy one, and you'll have access to perhaps the largest aftermarket parts selection available for any vehicle in the U.S.
Or, like most owners, you can simply choose to enjoy the Wrangler for the fun-loving and simple beast that it is, ferrying you through the urban wilds that separate your Bikram yoga studio from the sorority house.
V-8 Tata Nano
Base Price: $10,686
There are great ideas, and then there are seemingly great ideas forged in the depths of an alternate, alcohol-fueled reality where putting large engines in anything with wheels is the best idea, ever. This is how V-8-powered bar stools happen.
Marxists rejoiced at the unveiling of the Tata Nano. It is a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive, five-passenger vehicle that will be sold for $2500. Anything with rear-wheel drive, with the exception of perhaps a Chevrolet Chevette, makes gearheads think impure thoughts.
Being American, our machinations start and end with a big, nasty V-8. Of course there exists no greater temptation than the LS7, that enchanted aluminum and titanium dynamo spiriting forth the Corvette Z06. But let us, instead, lead you in building a viable V-8 Nano death, er, fun trap using the more ubiquitous LS4.
First, buy a $2500 Nano and have it shipped from India in a container shared with incense and remarkably low-quality open-end wrenches. Next, purchase a rear-ended 2005-08 Chevrolet Impala SS, Monte Carlo SS, or Pontiac Grand Prix GXP. You can also buy a 5.3-liter LS4 V-8 engine, transmission, wiring harness, and subframe separately; we found a complete powertrain with only 17,000 miles on eBay for $3750.
Order pizza and Chinese takeout, and pick up a pony keg. Drink half the pony keg, then drop the Nano's powertrain and save it for your next Darwin Award entry (a Nano-powered skateboard?). Use a Sawzall to create an LS4-sized hole in the rear floorpan. Finish the pony keg, and fabricate a 10-point NHRA-legal roll cage with integral pickup points for the LS4's subframe. Refer as necessary to the scale model you built with chopsticks and pizza boxes. The powertrain should bolt right in. Hold on to the empty pony keg -- that'll be reused as the gas tank.
Fire it up, barking like Tim Allen above the din of open headers. Sober up, and do a large burnout. Install a nitrous-oxide kit; the V-8 is now producing roughly 13 times the horsepower of a stock Nano. Do a bigger burnout. Use the remaining $9000 or so to purchase a life insurance policy, and enjoy your $20,000 worth of fun.
Tata Nano: $2500
LS4 powertrain (with shipping): $4750
Metal and stuff: $700
Beer (pony keg): $37
Hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids: $4.87
Epoxy and Loctite: $223.46 (you'll need a lot)
Change for swear jar: $482.12
125-hp nitrous-oxide kit: $624.39
Dashboard Jesus: $3.98
Life Insurance policy: $9314.17