The £35k Sports Car Conundrum
If you read a Car of the Year article in EVO magazine from around 2007, you’ll see a wonderful array of sports cars, like the Audi R8, Porsche 911 and Aston Martin Vantage. These aspirational cars were all around £80,000 new, but now they’d depreciated to a far more affordable level for the average enthusiast – £35,000.
Sure, there are some cheaper than that but in my investigation it’s generally £35k that’s the sweet spot for these cars and it really is staggering what you can now buy for the same price as a new Golf R. But which one is best to buy? Well that’s a tricky choice, so let’s get on with looking at the options first, then I’ll choose my £35k sports car. One thing though is that every one of these has the potential for eye-watering bills, so they’re pretty much a level playing field when it comes to running costs.
Aston Martin Vantage 4.7
Going in with a strong start here – the previous generation Aston Vantage is arguably one of the best looking cars made in the last century. Such a stunning design, with the classic long bonnet, short rear overhang and sensuous curves, it looked just as good when it stopped production in 2018 as it did when it came out in 2005. The Vantage’s cause is helped further by the noise that comes out of those two round exhaust pipes – a proper V8 growl, snarl and bark higher up the rev range.
You can choose to get a manual gearbox to short gears yourself, or get the Sportshift transmission, which interestingly is actually the same ‘box but shifted automatically. The Sportshift gearbox is showing its age now, so I’d say the manual is the better option. Either one is linked to that glorious V8 engine though, which at this price is a 4.7 litre with 420bhp – healthy enough for decent progress but it won’t set your pants on fire. One downside to the Vantage has to be the interior, it wasn’t particularly modern when it came out so by now it certainly shows its age.
Audi R8 V8 Manual
Drive past Average Joe in the street in a 2007 R8 and I most will think it’s still a £60,000 car. There’s something about the sleek styling that elevated the R8 above its contemporaries, looking like a supercar rather than a sports car. The layout certainly helped that, being mid engined always gives a car a more purposeful, exotic look and the R8 was certainly that. There is a lovely smooth V8 engine with 415bhp and it can be had with a wonderfully satisfying open-gated manual gearbox just like you get on a Lamborghini or Ferrari.
But where the R8 really stands out is with its usability. You see the R8 sends its power to all four wheels, so those exotic looks are tied to peerless usability in all weather conditions. And the practicality doesn’t stop there, as being an Audi it has an incredible interior – stylish and high quality, with great ergonomics and feel to everything. This truly is a sports car that you can use every day.
Porsche 911 (997) Carrera S
Speaking of everyday usable sports cars, it would be rude not to include the car that coined that phrase – the Porsche 911. At this price point you’d be best to get into a 997 generation and you can make your choice – a lower mileage 997.1 or a higher mileage 997.2 (facelift). Either way you can get the 3.8 litre Carrera S model producing 350bhp in the earlier generation or 385bhp in the later. My preference would be the later 997.2 with the PDK gearbox, it’s a fantastic combination and makes the 911 incredibly usable every day.
The 911 gets a massive tick for practicality as well, as unlike the Vantage or R8 it has a small set of rear seats – perfectly usable by young children or as a place to dump bags. Then there’s the front boot too, so a big tick for the practicality.
Maserati GranTurismo 4.7
If space is a concern, the Maserati GranTurismo is certainly one you should consider, mainly because it’s huge – not far off the length of the BMW 7-Series of the same year! That equates to serious rear legroom, big enough to house an adult for short journeys. That doesn’t affect the styling thankfully, as the GranTurismo is absolutely stunning. With a really long bonnet, powerful front arches and a smooth stylish rear end it looks as good today as it did when new.
What’s also as good now as it was then is the eargasm-inducing noise that the V8 produces. This is a thoroughbred Maserati make no mistake, with one of the best sounding engines in any car full stop. Sadly there’s no manual gearbox option, but the GT isn’t really a driver’s car anyway, it’s still a great thing to drive but not compared to the smaller rivals. This money should get a 4.7 S as well, which brings power up to 434bhp and even more noise from the exhaust. As with the Vantage, the dash is a downside, in fact more so as you can easily spot old Fiat switchgear and even the stereo found in a Citroen C4.
Bentley Continental GT
Who would have ever thought, that what was once the car to be seen in for footballers and movie stars alike would be down to this price point. The Bentley Continental GT was arguably the car that saved Bentley, bringing their range down to a more affordable level and bring volume sales with it. The GT was a technological masterpiece when launched – a 6.0 litre twin turbo W12 engine producing 552bhp, sent to all four wheels. This endowed the Conti with a near-200mph top speed and a fairly unique sound, along with all-year-round usability.
Practicality was well up there too, with decent sized rear seats and a gargantuan boot. But the inside was what really set the Continental GT apart from its peers – a sumptuous leather clad boudoir, an orgy of leather, aluminium, wood and underneath it all – solid VW Group technology. It may not have been a sports car to hustle down a back lane, but as a car to drive down to the south of France in, there were few that did it better.
Jaguar F-Type R
Of all the cars to find at this price, this one surprised me the most. Your £35k will buy you a 2014 (that’s really not very old) RWD Jaguar F-Type R with a snarling, barking, popping-and-banging supercharged 5.0 litre 542bhp V8 engine with less than 50,000 miles. Staggering. This is a car that was top of its game when it came out, with slick looks (arguably better than the recent facelift) including what I think is one of the best rear ends in recent design history. It’s a serious sports car too, you need your wits about you if deploying all of that power on a wet road (hence why they moved to AWD later) but its exhilarating and makes a noise that would make the Aston blush.
The interior is very driver-focused and when specced with the extended leather (as most R’s were) it’s very high quality too. Sadly the infotainment (never a JLR speciality) was outdated when this was new, so it’s woefully inept these days. Luckily there are plenty of ingenious companies out there who can install CarPlay/Android Auto now, so no need to worry about it. This is one car that nobody will believe you only paid £35k for.
I was in two minds as to whether to include the i8 or not, mainly because I really don’t like it. But I know a huge number of people do and the fact that it has depreciated by £65,000 in 5 years (!!!) means that it now sits with these rivals, even if it is a very different proposition. Unlike the snarling V8 powered beasts in this list, the i8 is a hybrid sports coupe, powered by a 1.5 litre 3-cylinder turbo engine and some electric motors, batteries and wizardry.
The combine to give 357bhp, but the i8 is fairly light at 1530kg so performance is okay. But this is an eco-sports car so it’s more about the hybrid aspect, drinking very little fuel and looking good while you do it. Because despite its failings (zero luggage space and harsh ride) the i8 still looks spectacular half a decade later. Aero-sculpted body panels, butterfly doors and an interior from a sci-fi film help to make this a car to be seen in and like some of the others, nobody will guess you’re not in a £70k car.
So, which one?
Before I started writing this I had a clear choice – the Audi R8 V8 Manual. I’ve driven one extensively and it’s a fantastic thing to drive, looks amazing and that gated manual linked to a lovely V8 is such a rarity these days. Add in the looks (and an aftermarket exhaust) and it’s nearly perfect at this price point.
But I can’t dent my head being turned by the F-Type R. The looks, that engine, crazy performance and the noise it makes are seriously enticing. PCP is not readily available on vehicles of this age, however Hire Purchases and Lease Purchases are available, in order to get you in your new car quicker than you think.
With thanks for Magnitude Finance to Gravelwood Cars (i8), Chelsea Truck Co (GranTurismo), Redline Specialist Cars (AMV8/ F-Type R), Junction 17 (Continental GT), Lux Classics (Porsche 997) and Seen Through Glass (R8) for the use of their images.