BUYING USED: Two-seater sportscars under R400 000

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BMW Z4

We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget…

Age: 25 – 35
Budget:
R400 000
Status:
Young executive
Vehicle type:
Two-seater sportscar

Requirements

Issues of theft and vandalism concern our young exec, which means they would prefer a hardtop. They also want a good old manual gearbox and need the vehicle to have reasonable maintenance costs, or at least be reliable.

The vehicle

Three German vehicles that fit the bill jump right out of the classifieds. All are six-speed manual coupés, with two sporting rear-wheel drive and one with all-wheel drive. Two have six-cylinder engines, and one a five-cylinder turbo.

Our choice: Porsche Cayman S

0-100 km/h: 5,64 sec
Top speed: 273 km/h
Power: 217 kW
Torque: 340 N.m
CO2: 252 g/km
CAR fuel index: 13,04 L/100 km


When the Cayman hit our roads a decade ago, it certainly posed some questions: was it too close to the 911? Why the strange name? And was it too expensive? It didn’t take long to prove its mettle, though, and is still highly regarded many years on. The classic good looks, a sublime chassis and mechanicals in the form of the much-loved boxer-six engine combined into a sublime sportscar. Back in 2006, the 3,4-litre S version that we tested incorporated some tweaks from its 911 big brother to produce 217 kW and 340 N.m of torque at 4 400 r/min.

With a stiff bodyshell and finely honed suspension, the Cayman’s handling is capable of making your average driver feel like a pro. It even has two luggage trunks: one up front of 112 dm3 size, and another 96 dm3 at the rear. Our test unit was fitted with the great manual six-speed gearbox as, at the time, the automatic option was a five-speed Tiptronic. The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission was made available in 2009 and has since all but eclipsed the manual models. Prices at launch were premium and are now at about half. To put it another way, you could buy a new VW Golf 1,4 TSI for the same money. To some enthusiasts, a no-brainer?

Space: 2 seats, 218 dm3 (total)
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD/BAS
Cost of tyres: R14 524
Road test: March 2006

Option 2: BMW Z4 M Coupé

0-100 km/h: 5,21 sec
Top speed: 258 km/h
Power: 252 kW
Torque: 365 N.m
CO2: 287 g/km
CAR fuel index: 14,88 L/100 km


BMW has always built exciting sportscars and, whereas the Z3 wasn’t its best effort, the Z4 provided a far better all-round package. It has odd proportions, but wonderful inline-six engines. With an 8 000 r/min red line, the 252 kW/365 N.m 3,2-litre straight-six in the M Coupé has the sound to match the pace and sprints to 100 km/h in 5,21 seconds (quicker than the M3 of the time). While the newer SMG and later DCT transmissions introduced complicated launch-control systems that more often than not refused to work, the good old manual gearbox leaves it all up to your brain and experience to find the balance between bogging down with too few revs, or spinning up the rear wheels with too many.

The range included a silky smooth 3,0-litre that developed 195 kW and was mated with a notchy but precise manual gearbox. On the practical side, the Z4 offers two seats and a smallish 245 dm3 boot. Prices are not just cheaper than the Porsche’s; they’re about half, representing very good value. Used-car mileages are significantly higher than on Caymans, meaning that BMW drivers use their cars on an everyday basis, while Porsche owners tend to have other daily drives and keep the Cayman for weekend fun.

Space: 2 seats 245 dm3
Safety and aids: 4 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of tyres: R12 510
Road test: November 2006

Option 3: Audi TT RS Coupé quattro

0-100 km/h: 4,87 sec
Top speed: 250 km/h
Power: 250 kW
Torque: 450 N.m
CO2: 213 g/km
CAR fuel index: 11,04 L/100 km

The second-generation Audi TT saw new styling that took away some of the predecessor’s quirky character and replaced it with more mainstream elegance. On the flagship RS, with 250 kW of turbocharged power from the transversely mounted inline-five, Audi sensibly called on its vast four-wheel-drive experience and fitted the quattro system with a six-speed manual gearbox. A sprint launch on an AWD Audi is something to be experienced and this one rocketed off to 100 km/h in 4,87 seconds. Grip is great with all that traction, but note that some still prefer the twitchiness of the cheaper but lighter FWD TTs (they’re far more prevalent).

The interior is up to Audi’s usual brilliant standard. For similar prices to a 2006 Cayman, you can find a 2010 TT RS with a low mileage. Less expensive options include the 2,0T FSI with 147 kW or 200 kW (TTS), as well as the 3,2 V6 quattro with 184 kW. If you fancy a TT but have just half of this budget, there’s a selection of 2,0-litre models for under R200 000.

Although the first-generation TT had some issues with electrics, particularly the instrument cluster and coil packs, these were mostly sorted out by the second generation. However, be aware that the narrow-angle V6 is complex and can be pricey to work on.

Space: 2 seats, 192-504 dm3
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of tyres: R12 124
Road test: June 2010

  • Busang Motsepeng

    Cayman is the one to have.