The Nissan Leaf may be the best car for the performance car market, because nothing can convince you to save a few grand and get a cooler car quite like the Leaf’s amazing ability to combine economy car plastics, a profile reminiscent of a half-evolved tadpole and a $35,000 price tag. The sad part is, you can order higher levels of trim and boost that price up to near BMW 3-series money. All for a car that will do 70 miles on a charge, and then take a nap for 8 hours.
It used to be that economy cars were described as such (economic), due to the fact that they were economical on every front, including your wallet. With the current crop of hybrids and electric vehicles being more expensive than an equivalent gas counterpart, the common theme is “drive it for XX amount of miles, and you’ll re-coup in gas prices what you payed for the car.” Being that most of the Nissan Leafs on the market are actually a second or maybe even third car in a household, this argument is pretty much invalid. It also never takes in account the price of electricity going into the car’s batteries. So, buying electric is indeed starting to look a wee bit silly, no? How about we look at some performance bargains.
I had quite a big list before I narrowed it down to the following five cars, and I did this for quite a few reasons. Firstly I nearly had a list pitting quick little 4 cyl imports, vs some bigger American cars, but realized this article needed some consistency. Going as opposite of the Leaf as I could, I made these requirements for the list: Priced near $35,000, front engine, rear drive, and a 6 speed manual gearbox.
Lets take a look shall we?
2014 Mustang GT:
The base model Mustang GT comes in so far under the 35k mark, that I’ve decided to add a little pizzaz and include the $2,495 “GT Track Package” upgrade. Brembo brakes, a Torsen diff and summer performance tires are included with this, in addition to a few other odds and ends. Price for a track ready ‘stang? $33,190. This hardens the car up a little bit and in combo with that 5.0, it’s a car to be reckoned with if a good driver is behind the wheel.
What we like: 5.0 is fantastic and the Mustang is about as anti-Leaf as possible.
What we don’t like: Still comes with a slight stigma.
2014 Nissan 370Z:
Sharing a showroom with the Leaf, the Nissan 370z really has to prove to us that noteverything that comes from Nissan is dull. It’s accomplished that quite well. Announced for 2014 is a lower price, so the Z actually comes in now at $29,990. Instead of adding on options to bring the price near $35,000, I decided to do some calculations. Remember that gas/purchase price ratio? Well with a $4,800 difference in price with the Leaf, I wanted to see exactly how long one would have to drive the Z before it became more expensive. With gas at $3.80, and averaging a miserable 22mpg (Z is rated 26 highway), one would be able to drive the Z as the “less expensive option” up until the 29,118th mile.
Imagine 29,118 miles in a Leaf… That would be at the very least ~250 recharges, and if one were to look at recharge hours, it would equal roughly EIGHTY FOUR DAYS of waiting for your Leaf to re-charge.
Back to the Z.
What we like: Chassis and engine balanced quite well. A rival for cars much more expensive. Buzzy VQ engine pushes all the right buttons.
What we don’t like: Awful clutch actuation. Only 2 seats.
2013 Camaro SS:
$33,715. Other than a short-throw shifter I optioned out, this was a bare-bones SS. Also, with a 2014 re-fresh on the horizon, it’s a bit cynical to criticize the fact that it’s not the best looking car here (especially with how the 2014 fixes that in magnificent style). Anyway, lets take a look as to why this is on the list. The 6.2 liter, 426 hp engine in the SS is measurably one of the most powerful cars in this group. On paper it also looks like it stands a chance of being the fastest out of this group, so I guess I can forgive it’s slightly higher starting price and limited ability to fill it with options and keep it under $35k.
What we like: MERICA! Big V8 power with a reasonably small price tag. 2014 model year improvements.
What we don’t like: might as well not worry about things you’ll back into; visibility is not it’s strong point
You might not expect this car to be here, but it fully deserves to be on this list, and actually where it fits might surprise you. The spec’d one I chose was a Genesis coupe 3.8 “track.” Similar treatment as the Mustang GT, this one also gets a Torsen diff, Brembo brake upgrade, but also gets strut tower braces, even adjustable front camber. It all leads up to $33,895. That’s a nice combination for a genuinely good, tight handling surprise from South Korea. Certainly one wouldn’t have predicted ten years ago this kind of car be on the market.
What we like: Goes like hell for having an italicized “H” on the steering wheel.
What we don’t like: Polarizing front end treatment.
2013 Challenger R/T:
Choosing the “Classic” trim level give you some features making The Challenger easier to live with, but they’re mostly consisting of entertainment features, rather than go-fast parts. It almost disqualifies this car from the test because it doesn’t entirely fit in, but then again it proves an interesting option: if you find yourself wanting something a bit softer (note I am not saying “luxurious” here), while still having a big HEMI rumble under the hood, this may be the one. The R/T is more of a cruiser than a time attack machine and, at $33,995 it certainly is a whole lot more car for the money than the Leaf.
What we like: History oozing out of every gap.
What we don’t like: We notice those gaps a bit too easily.
Article written by Chitownmeets.com Staff - Patrick Morgan