A great track car doesn't have to cost six figures.
After an extensive wait, Porsche finally revealed the hardcore versions of its mid-engine sports cars in the shape of the 718 Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4. Both are powered by a new 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six, derived from the 922 generation 911 and tuned to produce 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission option, enabling a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds.
So if you're looking for a small, mid-engined track car built for purists, the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 are phenomenal options. There's just one problem, they cost $97,550 and $100,450 respectively. In case you don't have six figures to spend on your exotic track car, here are seven cheaper alternatives from the used market.
The Lotus Evora 400 is the closest competitor to a 718 Spyder/Cayman GT4 on this list. Like the Porsche cars, the Evora is mid-engined and the 400 model is powered by 3.5-liter supercharged V6 producing 400 hp. It may be down 14 hp compared to the Porsches but the Evora is three-tenths of a second quicker when optioned with the six-speed automatic and a tenth quicker with the six-speed manual. Used Evora 400 examples can now be picked up in the low $70,000 range.
Before Porsche introduced the GT4, the R was the most track-focused Cayman money could buy. Only around 3,500 were produced in 2012, meaning it is one of the rarer Porsche models in an affordable price bracket. Power comes from a 3.4-liter flat-six producing 330 hp. It's 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds with the manual doesn't trail far behind the brand-new GT4 and with the PDK, the old Cayman R actually matched the manual-only GT4 to 60 at 4.4 seconds. A used Cayman R can be purchased starting at around $65,000.
Our first dose of American muscle on this list comes in the form of the Shelby GT350R. Most buyers will never cross shop a Mustang and a Porsche but the GT350 strays so far from the typical muscle car formula, we decided to include it on this list. The GT350's 5.2-liter Voodo V8 is a flat-plane crank, meaning it is more closely related to a European engine than a typical muscle car. Like the Porsches, the GT350 is manual only but it has far more power, 523 hp to be exact.
Opting for the GT350R strips out the rear seats, lowers the 0-60 time from 4.1 seconds to 3.9, stiffens the suspension, and offers wider tires wrapped around optional carbon fiber wheels. Dealers were initially charging over sticker price for the GT350R but you can now pick one up for around $60,000.
Measuring bang for your buck performance, the new Porsches cannot touch the Chevy Corvette. For around $50,000, you can now get a C7 generation Corvette Z06. With a 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 V8 under the hood, the Z06 is by far the most powerful car on this list with 650 hp. If you opt for the eight-speed automatic, the Z06 will hit 60 mph in under three seconds and will still be much quicker than the Porsches with the seven-speed manual.
Why settle for a track-focused sports car when for the same money, you can have a supercar? The Audi R8 has become incredibly affordable and it is now possible to buy a range of model years for less than $100,000. The least expensive examples start around $55,000 for the 420-hp V8 model but the 520-hp V10 model is more desirable and can be found starting at around $75,000. Be sure to opt for the six-speed gated manual transmission for the best resale value.
It is hard to match the driving pleasure of a mid-engine car but the BMW Z4 M was built in the same vein as the Porsche Cayman. BMW hasn't built an M version of the Z4 since 2008 when it offered a unique coupe version of the car for just three model years. There was also a convertible model but BMW only built around 1,800 of the coupes, making it the rarer car and a future collectible. Power comes from the legendary S54 inline-six from the E46 M3, sending 330 hp to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual. Prepare to pay at least $25,000 for a high mileage example and judging by Z3 M Coupe prices, the Z4 M should continue to increase in value.
The Nissan 370Z is arguably the oldest sports car on the market, having been introduced for the 2009 model year. The hardcore Nismo variant is the most aggressive 370Z on sale today and used examples can be found starting at less than $25,000. Power comes from a 3.7-liter V6 producing 350 hp going out through a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic. It may not be as impressive as the Porsches but it is one-fourth of the price.