8 Sports Cars from the 2000s Still Worth Buying
It’s not yet been 20 years since Y2K, and we’re already reaching for the rose-colored glasses when talking about the 2000s. It was a decade of rapid technological advancements, one where flip phones turned into smartphones and laptops were finally making some gains on desktop computers. It was, arguably, the decade of the Fast And Furious franchise, for the movie-going car guys, that went from glamorizing the tuner culture to being just another action franchise that happened to feature some exotics.
Above all, though, it was the decade of the electronic uprising in our sporty cars. The first flappy paddles found their way into up-market supercars, and even the more mundane machinery came with a host of electronic aids to keep them level and straight on the road. Some enjoyed having their skills behind the wheel complimented by the electronic suspension, self-leveling dampers, four-wheeled steering, and other clever robotics that made driving fast a bit easier. The purists, however, did not like the rise of electronic aids and kept searching for those cars that kept true to the old school setup of three pedals, a stick, and no help other than that given by your senses.
We’ve put together a list of 8 sports cars from the 2000s that you should still consider today. They offer the perfect blend between rawness and electronic advancement from a time when we didn’t hear doomsday preachers announcing the end of the manual transmission.
2005 Ford Mustang GT
The fifth generation of the most recognizable muscle car came at a time when the class that was defined by the Mustang way back in 1964 was looking like it would bloom again. Ford rode this wave just as the original was turning 40 and unveiled a retro-looking Mustang to replace the divisive SN-95. It harkened back to the past without looking dated from birth.
It proved popular with almost 500.000 units being sold within the first three years of its production life, and it spawned countless versions including a plethora of Shelby-tuned model and a Highlands Green Bullitt.
What we’re recommending, though, is the GT version with its 4.6-liter, SOHC, modular V-8 which, via its five-speed manual transmission, put 300 horsepower to the ground. The 312 C.I. V-8 only came later, as did the six-speed manual gearbox. You’re looking at prices in the region of $9,000 for an early GT that’s been well maintained throughout.
2001 Mazda Miata NB
The second-generation Miata kept the recipe of the much-adored original intact with, arguably, only one downside: no pop-up headlights. Indeed, by the late ‘90s, engineers started to figure out that the quirky moveable lights were doing no good for the car’s aerodynamics and much less to a pedestrian in case of an accident.
They quickly became obsolete, and Mazda followed this trend with the NB Miata which still featured mild styling while being as compact as the original.
It is as reliable as you’ve come to expect from a Mazda and as light as you’d imagine a car that’s barely 155-inches-long to be – namely, a meager 2,348 lb. It came with a couple of four-pots as engine options which were improved at the beginning of the third millennium when Mazda also introduced a sportier facelift – maybe to get rid of that `hairdresser’s car` cliché. This meant that the BP6D engine now featured variable valve timing and a power output of 143 horsepower for the U.S. version.
With the NB Miata you also get a nicer interior than the original and, if you look for post-facelift models, you’ll find that the top-tier models feature a limited slip differential and a six-speed gearbox. You can find an ’01 Miata for as low as $4,000, but those with extras and in neat condition can put you back as far as $ 10.000 so choose wisely – you will definitely not be disappointed by the Miata either way.
2005 Porsche Boxster
While for the Miata I chose a generation that was born in the late ‘90s, for Porsche’s entry-level car I went for the second-gen model that was launched mid-way through the 2000s. The 987 Boxster reaped the rewards of the company-saving original while building on its formula. Following the line of the 997 generation of the 911, the Boxster also lost the “fried egg” headlights that enraged fans of the classic circular design of previous generations.
The car came in its first model year with just two engine options: a 2.7-liter flat-six good for 237 horsepower and a top speed of just under 160 mph or a 3.2-liter flat-six in the S version with a more meaningful 276 horsepower and 167 mph top speed. Unlike current Porsches, you could opt for manual transmissions (a five-speed and then also a six-speed) without having to write a letter to the company’s CEO and putting in a special order.
There was, obviously, the choice of a five-speed auto and Porsche also put the 7-speed PDK in the Boxster beginning with the 2009 model year which also got a facelift.
We’d go for the less pricey and, inherently, less powerful early manuals. You can find a five-speed manual Boxster from ’05 with an asking price of about $14.000. If you’re a keen digger, you can surely bag one for even less, and it’s surely quite a deal as you’ll own a Boxster that’s more refined than the first generation, without the feeling that it’s the cheapest car they make. It’s also as nimble and spirited as you’d expect from a car from Zuffenhausen.
2004 Pontiac GTO
This might leave some dumbfounded. The last of the GTOs was, ultimately, a car that sold in poor numbers and had none of the raw masculinity of the original muscle car. Why is it, then, in this list? Well, let me explain.
First of all, it’s the last hurrah of a truly great car. Admittedly, many argued that the name has no place on this very round two-door coupe, but, for what it’s worth, it is more of a performance car than the original Tempest GTO ever hoped to be. Indeed, it might look bland when compared to the contemporary Mustang, but the GTO could hold its own and even outdo the Ford on a race track.
It was, also, the closest the U.S. market got to actually purchasing a Holden Monaro because the GTO was a rebadged V-body Monaro that was built in Australia. Originally, it came with the LS1 V-8 under the hood but that changed by 2005 when the Corvette-sourced LS2 V-8 powered the GTO. As a result, power output rose from 350 to 400 horsepower with 400 pound-feet of torque available.
All that power got to the ground via either a four-speed automatic, fit for city commutes and nothing more or a Tremec six-speed manual which comes into its own when out on the track.
It now stacks up pretty well in terms of depreciation with prices ranging anywhere from $15.000 to $25.000 for one with all the creature comforts on offer. If you can go past its uninteresting styling and typical mid-‘00s GM interior, this is an interesting pick from the past decade although it might be hard to justify the extra cash you’ll have to pay when compared to a Mustang.
2001 Lotus Elise S2
The Elise is the most popular Lotus ever built. The British manufacturer got together with GM to build the second iteration of this popular sports car of tiny proportions. That meant that the basic model came with a Rover K-Series engine in the middle that produced a puny 120 horsepower.
The American market, however, never got the Rover-engined Elise as the first cars to roll on American soil, in 2005, had Toyota inline-fours behind their seats.
These cars were exempt from U.S. bumper and headlight regulations which they would’ve otherwise failed.
The Elise, with its DOHC, 16-valve, engine produces north of 180 horsepower which may seem little when compared to the output of the Boxster, but the Elise only weighs in at 2,006 lbs compared to the Boxster’s 2,885 lbs. The Lotus is also more compact which means it will give you some of the most unadulterated driving experiences money can buy.
On the subject of money, you can get an ’05 model for as little as $28,000. The prices do, however, have a tendency to go up with newer versions which are traded at around $56,000. You got to think there’s hardly a better option for a weekend fun ride other than the Lotus.
2004 Honda S2000
The S2000 was Honda’s high-revving, 2.0-liter sports car for the new millennium, and the Japanese haven’t come with a proper replacement for it since. We went for the 2004 version which was heavily revised and known as the AP2. The car was applauded at its time for its brilliant chassis, perfect weight distribution, and the F20C I4 engine which had its capacity increased when the AP2 arrived. The new capacity was 132 C.I., but there were some drawbacks: the redline was reduced from an ear-splitting 8.800 rpm to a still-very-loud 8.000 rpm. It still produced 240 horsepower, and the VTEC kicked in at a more pedestrian 6.000 rpm.
What all these means is that you won’t feel much of what this car has to offer unless you go to a track and absolutely trash it about.
Much like an Italian engine, it doesn’t do much unless you rev it for all it’s got, and with the rev limit at 8.200 rpm, the DOHC engine will just keep on going. Peak torque is just 162 pound-feet, and you’ll have to go to 7.500 rpm to reach it, but this car isn’t about mid-range torque in any way shape or form.
We’ve placed it in this list for its bold styling, brilliant mechanicals, and the fact that it delivers a pure combo of a manual with a N/A engine and RWD. The only issues with it are that it isn’t particularly cheap, it can get twitchy at times and that it doesn’t really live below 7.000 revs.
The final generation of the MR2 lived, like its predecessor, as the shadow of the Miata, but it should get some time in the limelight for what it offered: brilliant handling and somewhat less bland looks when compared to the Miata. The pop-ups were not to be found on the W30, though.
With its transverse, mid-engine, and RWD setup, the W30 MR2 was designed for driving pleasure, and that’s what you got when you really started to push the buzzing in-line four behind your head.
Alas, some fans argued that the 138 horsepower that the 1ZZ-FED produced were not enough but with only 2.195 lbs to move about, it was still a spirited car.
In a scenario unlikely to be witnessed nowadays, the five-speed manual box was quicker off the line than the 6-speed sequential manual transmission meaning that, using the good old pedal and shifter, you could get to 62 mph in just under 7 seconds while the sequential gearbox was rather sluggish and could do no better than 8,7 seconds to 62.
Over 40.000 MR2 Spyders were sold in the U.S. before production ended in 2005, and you can get your hands on a good one for just about $9.000. Whether you should choose the Toyota over the Mazda comes down to a simplce case personal taste.
Read our full review on the 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder.
Arguably the most popular generation of BMW’s M3, the E46, came with a variety of engines in both coupe and cabriolet form and delivered “Joy Of Driving” by the buckets.
This is the last M3 to feature the classic non-turbocharged inline-six engine under the hood. The U.S. version put out 338 horsepower from the S54 engine which was good for a five-second getaway from 0 to 62 mph. That time was consistent with either the manual six-speed or the SMG semi-automatic six-speed gearbox.
In 2006, Road & Track cited the M3 as their favorite sports car of not only the noughties but of all time.
What you get with an M3 E46 is typical BMW quality, although by no means a completely bulletproof car, with performance to match and some of the most pleasant aesthetics across all of the M3 generations. It’s also the second to last generation to feature a N/A engine. You can purchase an M3 E46 for as little as $13,000 but beware of the gremlins it might hide as it still has plenty of electronics that can cause your pocket to go from hero to zero in no time.
Read our full review on the 2000 BMW M3 E46.
The 2000s were a decade of change. We saw the rise of the first hybrids and many innovations making their way into production cars that changed the way people perceive and use cars. Some of those got in the way of driving pleasure for those that buy a car to feel enthralled behind the wheel, not just so that they can reach point B.
We chose 8 cars that stay true to the old ways of analogue driving while also being modern enough that you won’t feel as if you bought a car that’s been in production since the ‘60s.
With the way things are going, and accounting for modern trends, at least some of these cars will become highly collectible and sought after in just another decade’s time.
Move quickly if you want to get yourself a ‘00s sports car!
There are many more 2000s sports cars that we’ve most likely overlooked on this list. Tell us your opinion on these cars and what cars we should’ve included in the comments section below.