3. 2016 Nissan 370Z base and Sport
Base price range: $30,815-$34,395
We recognize this is a car last redesigned for model-year 2009 and scarcely changed since. But choose wisely and you get a purebred, 332-horsepower two-seat sports car for about the price of an optioned-up turbo-four Chevy Camaro. For $30,815, the base 370Z coupe gives you a flexible 3.7-liter V-6, six-speed manual with downshift rev-matching, aluminum suspension with double wishbones in front and a multi-link setup in back, 18-inch alloys, bi-xenon headlamps, and LED taillights. You sit low in the driver-centric cockpit, on bolstered cloth buckets. The analog gauge cluster puts a big tach dead ahead. There’s pushbutton ignition and Bluetooth connectivity. Large-displacement, naturally aspirated engine beneath a long nose, broad-shouldered stance (hood, doors, and hatch are aluminum) — this is classic stuff.
Zero-60 is a Porsche-Cayman-beating 5.1 seconds. Steering, handling, and braking aren’t quite up to standards set by that midengine (and twice-as-expensive) German benchmark. But they’ll assuredly keep you entertained and exploring limits. Ignore the $1,300 optional seven-speed automatic transmission, please. The 370Z convertible and 350-horse NISMO coupe start around $43,000, but the base car has a stronger fun-per-dollar quotient. If you insist, the 370Z Sport-model coupe begins at $34,395 with upgraded brakes (and red calipers), 19-inch alloys, heated mirrors, and, for 2016, active noise cancellation to fight high-rpm coarseness and an audio-sweetened engine note. Due around 2018, the next Z will be smaller and turbocharged. So this is a fading chance to affordably to experience a sports-motoring tradition.