In 2009, even the rich feel guilty about spending six figures for an exclusive sports car. The rest of us can feel good about the fact that we'd never buy one anyway and let the economy play right into our hands. So, for those top super cars of the world, is there a cut-rate alternative the rest of us can afford? Without a doubt, you can buy an alternative to some of the world's most exclusive rides -- and you'll spend just pennies on the dollar. We've rounded up some of the world's most famous cars and their less pricey stand ins.
The amazing new ZR1 comes with a supercharged 638-hp LS9 6.2-liter V8, a six-speed manual transmission, Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension, special carbon fiber components and Brembo ceramic brakes. But the soul of the ZR1 is so much more. Although the vehicle started its life as a track monster, lapping for hours of development at Germany's famous Nürburgring, the vehicle is actually quite easy to drive. Is it the world's most drivable super car? It very well could be, although at over $100,000 there are few people who would call that "drivable."
Really, nothing in the world can stand in for the Corvette ZR1 than…another Corvette. The base model 'Vette starts under $50,000, yet it's one fast coupe. At less than half the price of a ZR1, the base model still pumps out a whopping 430 horsepower. It's one of the best sleeper cars on the market today.
The Bugatti Veyron is currently the most expensive and fastest sports car in the world. Hailed by many as the greatest automobile ever made, it features all the most recent automotive advancements in one package. The exotic two-passenger Veyron is powered by a four-turbocharged, 8-liter, 16-cylinder engine that creates 1001 horsepower. It's bold, super exlusive and unlikely to ever cross your path. Behold one of the most exotic automotive applications in history.
Fans of the Bugatti Veyron might know it for its $1 million price tag, but true fans know that the ultra-pricey sports car know that its real juice is its unearthly power and super-stable all-wheel-drive system. But did you know you can experience similar feelings for, oh, about a million dollars less? The Lancer Evo MR is one of our favorites because it's absolute riot to drive--with a twin-clutch automated manual gearbox that allows us to keep our hands on the wheel as the Evo's turbo four rockets us down the highway. Nobody will think you're driving something worth a million dollars, but in 2009 maybe that's all the better.
The Porsche 911 remains the iconic symbol of a sports car. That shape and the Porsche badge on the hood have stood for exclusivity for decades. Of course, it's isn't just snobbery that attracts people to the brand--the 911 is one of the most exhilarating drives on the road, with a small, tight steering feel and loads of power out of the car's famous flat six engine (the cylinders are arranged as if they're
The Lotus Elise is a small two-door sports car best known for its telepathic handling, nimble moves and astounding speed. It is what Ferrari owners buy when they want to go to amateur track days (and win). For the aspiring Porsche owner, the Elise could be the perfect stepladder: the Elise is roughly half the cost of a base 911, yet it's packed with the sorts of characteristics we've loved about Porsche for decades: small size, light weight and direct steering control result in quickness derived more from sheer efficiency than outright power.
When it comes to sports sedans, there are few who would deny the M5 a rightful place at the top. The limited-production M5 can out-accelerate, out-brake and out-corner some of the most expensive sports cars, with comfortable seating for five. It's powered by a hand-built 500-hp 5.0-liter V10, with suspension and brakes enhanced to match all the power. Buyers can choose between a 7-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) with steering wheel paddles or 6-speed manual transmission.
The Pontiac G8 (especially the V-8 versions found in GT and GXP trims) is every bit the poor man's (or maybe it's more correctly noted as "wise man's") BMW M5. Aping the performance-minded rear-drive setup of the BMW, Pontiac's hot sedan puts down 355 horsepower in GT trim or a whopping 415 in GXP trim. That's serious armament for a vehicle that starts in the high 20s (or low to mid 30s for the V-8s). While the Pontiac will never confuse itself for BMW on the inside, we think the sporty and clean lines of the exterior are a no-nonsense homage to some of BMW's best. In fact, we might even opt for the Pontiac even if money was no option.
The BMW M6 is a more powerful version of the elegant 650. Available as either a coupe or a convertible, it is designed to appeal to the sport luxury enthusiast, providing heightened performance and subtly aggressive styling. The M6 boasts the same muscular hand-built 500-hp 5.0-liter V10 engine as the M5, along with enhanced suspension and brakes. A 7-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) with steering wheel shift paddles is standard; a conventional 6-speed manual transmission is also available.
The Mustang remains one of the most widely recognized, respected and desired nameplates in the automobile business. It may be retro inspired, but the Mustang is a thoroughly modern car. Today's Mustang delivers bold styling, rear-drive performance and affordability that have been Mustang hallmarks for decades. And, let's be honest, for one-third the price of the BMW M6, are you losing out on 2/3 the experience? Absolutely not. The Mustang's tried-and-true live rear axle might not have the composure of the BMW, but if you like the M6 for its power and GT road-holding characteristics, the 'Stang will certainly do the job.
Around a half a million dollars and only 8 mpg? Clearly you aren't buying this car because of the way it stacks up against a Ford Explorer. The Ferrari Enzo might be one of the most exclusive Ferraris of all time (only 400 were made worldwide) and its iconic (if slightly angular) shape has made its way onto more teenage bedroom walls than Heidi Klum's. Featuring a powerful 6-liter V-12 engine matted to a six-speed auto-shift manual transmission, the Enzo provides 660 hp @ 7800rpm with 484 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm of torque. This takes you from zero to sixty in 3.24 seconds (and your bank account from about a half a million dollars to zero even faster).
Wait, wasn't the Corvette ZR1 already on this list? Yes, it was, as a super car. We like to think of the ZR1 as a vehicle than can play both the super car angle and the budget alternative angle. You see, the ZR1 has all the guts of an actual super car with a price tag that is still within the range of being affordable (okay, so maybe $100,000 is out of our price range, but it's still only a fraction of the cost of a Ferrari Enzo). The amazing new ZR1 comes with a supercharged 638-hp LS9 6.2-liter V8, a six-speed manual transmission, Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension, special carbon fiber components and Brembo ceramic brakes. To the uninitiated, those carbon ceramic brakes are the stuff of super car legend; to find them on a car that costs "only" $100k is something of a minor miracle.
The Bentley Continental GT is a luxury all-wheel drive coupe built in England, but the reality is that it's one of America's most iconic street machines. The percentage of rap videos filmed with Bentley Continentals prominently displayed is easily in the double digits; its place in the American luxury landscape is permanently sealed. The reality is that the Bentley coupe is one fun driving machine, with Continental GT's 6.0-liter W12 engine producing 552 horsepower and 479 pounds-feet of torque. The Continental GT Speed features the same 6.0-liter W12, but generates 600 horsepower and 533 pounds-feet of torque. Both trims send power through a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission with steering column mounted gearshift paddles. The Bentley's least-known feature we love is its all-wheel-drive system
While the Infiniti G37x Coupe can only muster half the number of cylinders the Bentley can, it makes up for it in a very drivable road presence and a performance-minded all-wheel-drive system. Equipped with ATTESA E-TS, the all-wheel drive G37x is powered by a 330-hp 3.7-liter V6 engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. From a curb appeal perspective, the G37 is arguably one of the most beautiful coupes on the market today. While it lacks the Continental's broad-street-bully strength of visual character, it certainly cuts a unique shape in the valet line. At about one-fifth the price, it might be just our size, too.
The Mercedes-Benz SL roadster has been produced for decades; few vehicles have been stalwarts of the reserved parking spot club like this classic two-seater. While most know the SL for its low and long character lines, most know it for it's incredible price tag: around $140,000 for the base model and up to $200,000 for the SL65 AMG model (604 horsepower, V-12 engine). The new Mercedes-Benz SL roadsters feature a rather complex folding metal roof, something that appears entirely like a hardtop when not lowered. It's beautiful to see in action, too. Of course, beauty comes at a price.
BMW's 3-Series should need no introduction, but what few people realize is that the small Bimmer is one of the best driver's cars on the market. And, much like the larger (and more expensive) Mercedes, the convertible 3er comes equipped with a completely automatic folding metal roof. When the button is pushed inside the car or on the key fob, the roof splits and folds neatly into the trunk, yet looks completely flush and coupe-like when raised. It's one of the nicest examples of a folding roof on the market today and is anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 the price of the bigger Benzes.
The Nissan GT-R is the fifth generation of this venerable Japanese super car, but this is the first generation available to North American enthusiasts. Well known to video gamers in this part of the world as forbidden fruit, the GT-R brings new levels of performance and technology to Nissan's line-up. Known commonly as "Godzilla" for its decidedly carnivorous and Japanese appearance. Powered by a hand-built 485-hp twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6, the GT-R makes good use of all that thrust through a paddle-shifted, rear mounted six-speed dual clutch sequential gearbox and electronic all-wheel drive. Roads and racetracks are handled by an electronically controlled independent suspension that adjusts itself to changing conditions, or allows the driver to chose a preferred setting. After winning a host of awards on its introduction last year, the car continues to inspire teenage boys and terrorize race tracks around the universe.
It's quite nice that the only real alternative to the Nissan GT-R comes within Nissan's own lineup: the 370Z is our recommendation for a "poor man's" Godzilla. No, the 370Z doesn't have the near-500 horsepower or all-wheel-drive system, but visually it certainly goes far to pay homage to its big brother. The modern Nissan 370Z falls in line with Z's of the past. Designed with performance, style and value in mind; it's a pure sports car in every respect. The 370Z can be had as a coupe or roadster configuration, ranging from mild with the Base and upgraded Touring trim, to the race track inspired NISMO trim. Both, Base and Touring models come standard with a 332-hp 3.7-liter V6, and a six-speed manual transmission. An optional seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available on both trims. The performance oriented NISMO hosts a 350-hp 3.7-liter V6, and a six-speed manual transmission with SyncroRev Match; what this does is match the engine rpm's to the transmission while downshifting, thus providing smooth and seamless transitions from gear to gear. It's race-inspired, a riot to drive and one inexpensive way to have a small piece of the GT-R in your driveway.
Long known as one of the most beautiful coupes on the market, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is at the forefront of a design language that can probably be best described as sumptuous. The sexy two-seater is a limited-run sports car available in a coupe or convertible, with both offering a 4.7-liter V-8, with horsepower at 420 and torque at 346 lb-ft, an increase of 40 hp and 43 ft-lb of torque over the former powerplant. It is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional automated manual with paddle-shift, both of which have undergone changes to improve performance and to handle the increased levels of power and torque. If you're looking for something that nobody else will drive, this one is for you.
Buyers of Aston Martins typically value design above a lot of other traits, so much so that we wonder if they know there are true sports cars under that good-looking shell. If you were looking to find an affordable Aston Martin, you're probably going to be out of luck; on the other hand, if you're willing to substitute a British sports car for a German one, we can find no better option than the Audi S5. The S5 is the performance-oriented version of the A5, Audi's two-door, four-seat luxury sports coupe. It provides more muscular styling, more power and additional standard equipment. The S5 is built with a 354-hp 4.2-liter V8 engine, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and paddle shifters. Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system is standard, along with exclusive S5-specific standard features such as a sport-tuned suspension, bi-xenon headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated front sport seats and aluminum interior trim elements. At less than half the price of the Aston, we'll gladly take it.