Sports car advice: Rx-8 or 350Z (used, 14-18k to spend)?
Jan 23, 2008 at 7:03 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 34

catscratch

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I'm in the market for a used sports car, and I would like to hear some advice. I'm not an experienced car buyer and am only beginning to become an automotive enthusiast. Half a year ago I almost talked myself into buying an S2000, helped by some excellent advice here, but I managed to come to my senses just in time. At the moment, though, I seem to be slipping back into madness, and maybe the time has come to capitalize upon it and get some new wheels. Still, I'm not looking to buy right this instant; I want to think about this for a month or two and see if I can't come to my senses as I did before.

My criteria are: 1) manual transmission 2) rear-wheel drive preferably; all wheel drive is OK but front-wheel drive is a no-no 3) price range 14-15k, 18k absolute maximum ceiling 4) reliability when used as a daily driver and driven hard, and 5) not a ragtop since the weather here is absolutely horrible for convertibles. It's humid, very hot during the summer and very cold during the winter, with constant precipitation and rapid temperature shifts, though mercifully snow is rarely a problem.

Right now I have an '01 Acura 3.2 CL Type-S. It's very nice in its own right, but it's not what I'm looking for at the moment. It's automatic, front-wheel drive, and entirely too isolated in feel. It feels like a luxury-ish car unsuccessfully disguised as a performance car rather than something that is built to be a performance car from the ground up. I really like the engine, the ride, and the steering, but with 260hp on the front wheels it handles like a pig at the limit, and it really has a hard time putting power down off the line. It also suffered from all of the known transmission issues; I've had the tranny rebuilt at the 50k mile mark, but now it's 75k and the tranny is starting to get sloppy again. The first rebuild was free, but I don't want to have to pay for the next one.

I won't be using it as down payment but giving it to a family member, so money is very tight.

I'm thinking of either an RX-8 or a 350Z, but I have no experience with ether. I like the sound of rotaries, and I don't mind having to wring it out to get at the performance, but is it going to be reliable in the long run? RX-8s have depreciated like a stone, and from what I've read it is due to incessant recalls and reliability issues. Provided that I know how to take care of a rotary (and I'm aware of its oil usage and cold start issues), will it last, when it will be driven hard on a daily basis? And is it really as fast as it looks on paper? The torque seems pretty pitiful and it's not all that light.

The 350Z looks very attractive on paper, but I'm probably looking at an early model in the price range, and I've seen some very poor reliability reports on them. The performance seems about right and I probably won't mind the engine noise either; we have a G35 in the family and that's basically the same engine. It sounds raspy and awful below 4k rpm but past that it sings, and with the way I drive, it will be past 4k rpm a lot.

What would you recommend? What else should I look at? I can't have a ragtop in this weather (or a convertible in general), so the S2000, as I originally planned, is out. But what else is there? Can I really get an STI or an Evo in the price range? Maybe an older 3 series BMW? I don't care about carrying capacity, practicality, and fuel economy, and given how I'm over 25 and have a clean record insurance isn't going to be an issue either.

I really cannot emphasize enough that it has to be able to survive being driven hard on a daily basis. I'm not a street-racing punk anymore but I still drive very hard and very fast, and this car will be subjected to some serious abuse.

I'm open to the idea of aftermarket tweaking, as long as it doesn't sacrifice any reliability. I don't know the first thing about it, though.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 8:38 AM Post #2 of 34
You could get a used Subaru Impreza turbo (non-STI) for the price. Subarus fare pretty well in the reliability department.

Theres also the MKIV Volkswagen Golf R32 that should be right around 17-18k. Where are you from by the way?
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 11:00 AM Post #4 of 34
Quote:

Originally Posted by catscratch /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I really cannot emphasize enough that it has to be able to survive being driven hard on a daily basis.


Not many cars do. Is there a reason you have to drive hard or is it just for fun?

I don't think a rotary would be the best choice for you. I've had a RX-7 for a few years and they need to be treated with care. I will cruise it up the 5 at 100+ MPH for a couple hours straight (rotaries are designed for this, for anyone who doesn't know), but I *never* flog it and do all the maintenance. They fall apart if you're hard on them. However, kept up and treated right, they're one of the best drivers available at any price.

If you want something that survives punishment, I'd build out a Mustang or Camaro with racing parts. For $18k, you could build one nicely and then beat the snot out of it. Replacement parts are cheap and you can work on it yourself.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 5:41 PM Post #5 of 34
While the RX7 is one of the greatest sports cars ever made, the RX8 is not. RX8 is awesome for an occasional track day, but owning one is hell. My friend had one and maintenance goes through the roof. It drinks oil like it drinks gas, its just crazy!!!

Not just that, its quite anemic, there is hardly any lower end power, the practicality of the small rear doors are great, but real world usage of those back seats are just not practical. To make things worse, the mileage you get is attrocious. Depriciation is crazy as well like u mentioned.

I was seriously considering getting one a few years ago and I looked it up and realised these werent just isolated issues but common issues faced by most RX8 owners.

I personally havent driven the 350z, but I do believe its a great car. Just make sure, the gear box isnt messed up when you get a used car. If it doesnt slot properly into 2nd and 3rd, don't ignore it saying big deal, it IS A BIG DEAL. I also read that the 350z has very poor rear visibility and a huge blind spot, don't know how far that is true though, but I am sure its a better bet compared to the RX8.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 7:43 PM Post #7 of 34
mugen hardtop and s2000. I would save the money and try to get the best thing car possible.

edit: even the oem top will be fine.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 8:04 PM Post #8 of 34
Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If you want something that survives punishment, I'd build out a Mustang or Camaro with racing parts. For $18k, you could build one nicely and then beat the snot out of it. Replacement parts are cheap and you can work on it yourself.


Agreed.

If you drive it hard, you're going to break it. And given your budget, I don't think repairs on a 350Z or a RX-8 count as affordable.

An older Mustang GT will give you plenty of room for go fast parts and repairs, or a decent condition '05 GT can fit in your budget at ~ 16k and still leave a bit for space for repairs.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 8:34 PM Post #9 of 34
I've driven most of the cars being considered here:
s2000, 350z, rx-8, sti, and I own a wrx. Imo the s2000 is the most pure fun, the sti the fastest (evo works here also). The others are good cars too, the 350z has tons of grip and lots of lowend, but it feels heavy understeers at the limit and the engine isn't as good at higher revs. The rx-8 is just awesome in the corners, confidence inspiring and forgiving its neutral but not dangerous. Rotarys do require better care, eat oil and yeah the lowend torque is terrible. The engine has pretty much the same powerband/output as the s2000 but with around 300lbs more weight. And of course the wrx which is lighter and cheaper than the sti, fun practical but not as fast as the others at the track (still very capable). Decide what's important to you and it probably depends on what kind of deals you can get on each car as well as the condition.

Its pretty easy to make a mustang/camaro fast(track and dragstrip) and they sound good, won't change the feel though, I feel the same way about civics/integras though to be fair. It's easy to make them fast with cash, they still feel like crap.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 8:45 PM Post #11 of 34
On older cars, you can find some gems. Despite being old, (ranging from late '80 to mid or late '90) they are still sporty feeling and bring some very nice fresh air compared to normal cars.

But you can get some older turbo-Supras for decent price if you want japanese style rev-based speedy cars. Not a fan of japanese sports/semi-sports so cant give much suggestions there.

Old Corvette's for raw torque based tire shredding accelerators rooted from old muscle cars, (on the engine side, not handling that is) if that side of sports-car interests you. Not very good for slippery and snowy enviroments though, the rearend loses grip easily and fast, the reason why my uncle sold his... damn...
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A direction which I consider going myself, semi-sport Camaros and Firebirds with 5.7 liter engines. Basically down-tuned corvette engines, very usable as-is, but not really tuned to their full capability and lack the feeling of being sporty, not responsive enough. Buy some tune-up parts to bring them to corvette level or even beyond, if building side interests you. Or Mustangs if you heart warmens up more on Ford than GM.

I drove BMW 328i Coupe, mid-90's model, a couple of months ago. It was a blast! Though it needed some revs to wake up (I prefer torque power based engines), it accelerated like a dream with that beautifull manly roar of 6 cylinder. So BMWs are definetly an option, and there are bigger engines available too, but it 328i had great bang-for-the-buck potential. BMW's is gets favorable recommendation by me. Im not sure about up-keeping costs though.

Subaru Impreza looks simple beautifull, and turbo boxter engine also gives me shivers. And runs fast too. Rally car on the streets! I havent driven one nor have been on one, but there has been one driving around here, and it doesnt seem very sluggish...
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If its durable car or is it costly to upkeep, I have no idea.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 9:11 PM Post #12 of 34
Well, that's just the thing. I'm not a mechanic and I don't have any technical knowledge when it comes to automotive repair. I could learn it, but at the moment having a car that I have to work on myself just isn't practical.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Is there a reason you have to drive hard or is it just for fun?


I've honestly thought long and hard about why I drive the way I do, and I still don't know. Part of it is fun, part of it is that with my long highway commute, I can actually get some substantial time savings driving fast, but the biggest part is probably sheer frustration. Frustration at the stupid speed laws in this country, frustration at our corrupt police department in this town that likes to get its kicks out of harassing motorists and slapping fabricated charges on them, and frustration with the incompetent and disrespectful drivers here on the East Coast in general and NJ in particular. I know I'm being immature, but I've been driving like this for more than a decade, and my dad's been driving like this his whole life, so I guess I'm not going to change any time soon.

I had a '98 Galant which couldn't take the abuse; I had three transmission fires one of which ended in a spectacular transmission explosion (4-speed auto), and the car also suffered lots of electrical engine control issues. I got rid of it and got a Suzuki XL-7 (not my sort of thing but it was practical at the time). It had a coffee grinder masquerading as an engine, the brakes were decorative rather than functional, and the whole thing handled like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I drove the poor thing for all it was worth and it never once conked out on me; I'm amazed in how good a shape it is in after being driven at triple digits at least twice a week. It feels and sounds like new with 100k miles on the clock. I heard that Suzukis were tough, and now I have it proven to me firsthand. Now I have the CL and that has put up with the abuse very well, but it does have all of the known and documented CL issues.

It really will depend on what kind of a deal I can get. An STI really would be ideal for me - practical, fast, and reliable as a wood-burning stove, but finding one in my price range is going to be tough.

I think I'll rule out the RX-8. It's a shame as I really do like the looks and the sound of a rotary, but it sounds like it will be too much of a hassle to deal with. I'm also ruling out muscle cars - I don't fancy a live rear axle, and I just don't have the knowledge and equipment, or the time for that matter, to work on them myself. I do love the sound of a V8 and I would like to learn automotive repair - but not at this time.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 11:13 PM Post #13 of 34
Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Not many cars do. Is there a reason you have to drive hard or is it just for fun?

I don't think a rotary would be the best choice for you. I've had a RX-7 for a few years and they need to be treated with care. I will cruise it up the 5 at 100+ MPH for a couple hours straight (rotaries are designed for this, for anyone who doesn't know), but I *never* flog it and do all the maintenance. They fall apart if you're hard on them. However, kept up and treated right, they're one of the best drivers available at any price.

If you want something that survives punishment, I'd build out a Mustang or Camaro with racing parts. For $18k, you could build one nicely and then beat the snot out of it. Replacement parts are cheap and you can work on it yourself.



That's probably the best advice that can be given....but those cars handle like ass. if he doesn't mind that, by far the best option. Cheap, fast, and reliable.

If you want something imported that can actually handle, the 350Z is probably your best out of the two. Like uncle said, they're not really meant to be flogged on a stoplight to stoplight manner (although, your hardcore drag racers will refute it).

Another alternative, like already mentioned is a Scooby. But for some reason, the image I get of most anybody that has one (eg, stereotype) is rich mommas boy. I dunno, you either have really cool scooby people, or they're DICKS...never really a middle ground in my experiences.

An S2000 is a great go kart like car, gas mileage is dece (it's a 4cyl), Honda reliability, and it's OK for speed but it has no low end balls. NONE. But it's definitly in your price range, and some can be gotten for like $12K in good condition.

Meh, I'm done with cars....if/when i get another car, it's gonna be a beater like a Pinto with a 350 or Miata with a 5.0. Cheap good handling car with balls....AND cheap insurance.
 
Jan 23, 2008 at 11:34 PM Post #14 of 34
! 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT !! Mid engine !! Handles better than
anything I have ever drove as the wieght is 45/55%
This last year of issue had upgraded brakes, suspension,
V6 etc. only 6000 GT's issued ! E-bay them at $5.000.oo!
I picked this one up for $2500. in this hic town and it is my
daily driver around & through the mountains of S Oregon
The early Fiero's had problems that were corrected but
the reputation killed them. This is a keeper.
 
Jan 24, 2008 at 12:56 AM Post #15 of 34
Quote:

Originally Posted by Remitrom /img/forum/go_quote.gif
! 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT !! Mid engine !! Handles better than
anything I have ever drove as the wieght is 45/55%
This last year of issue had upgraded brakes, suspension,
V6 etc. only 6000 GT's issued ! E-bay them at $5.000.oo!
I picked this one up for $2500. in this hic town and it is my
daily driver around & through the mountains of S Oregon
The early Fiero's had problems that were corrected but
the reputation killed them. This is a keeper.



How many good handling cars if any have you driven? I've read a couple reviews but none of them said it was particularly good at handling. Otoh do you know if a chevy small block will fit?
very_evil_smiley.gif
 

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