Pretty well everyone appreciates good performance. But some of us demand it; a car isn't merely an appliance for transportation, but a stimulant for our senses. We need to have fun. Plus, we want it to look fast, even when it's stopped.
A pure sports car can't be beat for that. But sometimes, life gets in the way of fun, and we need to be more practical. Having a family doesn't mean you can't have that sexy coupe. If you've already got the minivan, why not treat yourself to one of these exciting coupes; each comes with four useable seats for the brood, but will make you want to take the long way to soccer or music practice.
In 1986, BMW took its 3 Series, dropped in a hotter engine and better suspension and named it the M3. It looks like a normal coupe (it also came in a four-door version) but this car is part of reason why the German brand became known as the Ultimate Driving Machine. Nimble and powerful (compared with cars of its era), its raison d'être was to homologate the car for racing. It first came with inline four cylinders but evolved into smooth-running, powerful inline sixes, and it would be a rare find on the market with low kilometres for a decent price. It did suffer from electrical niggles, however. Be prepared for hefty repair bills. It is German, after all.
Technically, this isn't a two-door, but the Mazda RX-8 (2004-2011) is considered an extremely sporty coupe, with two half suicide doors that open behind the main doors to aid getting in to the generous back seat. It also has a 1.5-litre, twin-rotor Wankel engine good for anywhere between 197 hp up to 238 hp, depending on the year. It has to be thrashed at higher revs for performance, and admittedly, its fuel economy and torque aren't great, but it's one of the best-handling cars of its era. Some early models were bad for using oil, so be careful, but it's certainly a distinctive and exciting choice.
Who could have a list like this without including the Ford Mustang? The pony car has been around since 1964, so you'll find something in your price bracket. Definitely opt for the GT version, as it comes with a V-8 engine (anywhere from 4.6-litre to 5.0-litre, depending on the year). Handling and ride comfort are decent but hampered by the solid rear axle (new versions get independent suspension). But it's a rear-wheel-drive, solid muscle car; plus, it has proven to be reliable. Bonus if you get the convertible for fun in the sun.
Also available in a sedan model, the Infiniti G35 coupe is a stylish, powerful (anywhere from 260 hp to 306 hp) and luxurious car that boasts good reliability and safety. Built between 2003-2007, the rear-drive G35 also came in an AWD version called the G35x. These can be found for around the $12,000 mark, but watch mileage, as that varies wildly.
Maybe you're a "go big or go home" kind of person. So, if you want a sports car, go big: Ferrari. And one that could be your choice would be the Mondial, a 2+2 coupe built between 1980 and 1993. But that would be a terrible choice, especially depending on the model year. Besides being one of the uglier cars the Italian brand has ever produced, it doesn't even come close to what you'd expect for Ferrari performance, with the first three model years sporting a woeful 214 hp from its mid-mounted V-8 engine (horsepower was increased with later models). And let's not even get into the astronomical costs of upkeep and repair that plague Italian cars. Unless you value the badge over everything else, there are plenty of cars out there that offer better performance for less cash.
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