By on February 16, 2016

autocross

The commenter known as Economist writes:

Dear Bark,

I, like you, am a committed family man with two small children. Both of them are in car seats. I currently drive a 2007 Acura TL, but I miss the small cars of my youth.

I dream of getting a Miata like I used to have years ago, but I don’t know if I will get enough utility from it to make it worth the expense. I was also considering an S2000 or an older Corvette.

The biggest concern I have is that I will never be able to take my sons for a ride in my cool car if I get a two-seater, and all the cool four-seaters are either really expensive (fun BMWs) or two-doored things that are not compatible with a rear-facing baby seat (Camaro). Fords are off the table as my family will disown me.

My question is thus: What would you do in my situation? Stick it out in the paid-off TL until the kids get older? Get a Miata to have fun in but never drive with the kids? Find the perfect four-door fun car in the same price range as a used S2000?

Whenever I get a question like this, I wonder to myself, “Does the reader want good economic advice? Or does the reader want good car enthusiast advice?”

The reason I ask this is because I’m relatively certain that there’s a large segment of the B&B that doesn’t understand that there is a difference between the two, which can be frustrating at times. Any recommendation I give to any reader is often knee-jerk countered with, “WHY DON’T U SAVE UR MONIEZ AND KEEP UR CAR UNTIL THE FRAME RUSTZ AWAY?” This makes me want to break things. Very rarely is good car enthusiast advice also good economic advice. I think we’re all capable of understanding that … aren’t we?

However, in this case, since you call yourself “Economist,” I feel fairly certain that you’re aware of what good economic advice is, and I think you’re looking for me to help you give yourself permission to make an unwise economic decision. Mr. Economist, you’ve come to the right place!

I don’t think that you really want to exclude the kiddos from the fun. How fun is driving a great car if you can’t share it with those who mean the most to you? For that same reason, I don’t think that you want to wait until they’re older, either. You’ve got the chance to make some great memories with them now. Who knows what kind of disaffected, angst-ridden people our kids will become as teenagers? Better to indoctrinate them into a lifetime of automotive fun while you’ve got the chance. So, four doors and four seats it is.

“Same price range as an S2000” gets a little sketchy for me. I’ve done a whole bunch of S2000 piloting over the years in AP1, AP2, and CR models, and let me give you fair warning: there’s no such thing as a cheap S2000. Even AP1 models with 150,000 miles still fetch in excess of $10,000. (Hey, Honda, did you hear that? People liked your sports car. Try building another one sometime!) In fact, any S2000 with a price tag under $15,000 should throw up red flags everywhere. Honda Financial’s willingness to buy anybody with a 550 credit score or higher on one of these things when they were for sale means that you’re likely to see some rather well-loved examples for sale by private sellers. It’s hard to think of many non-exotic cars that have held their value as well as the S2000.

Therefore, I’m going to put your Four Door Sports Car (don’t sue me, Nissan!) budget at right around $15,000. I’m not sure exactly what qualifies as “sporty” for you, so I’ll come up with my own parameters: rear-/all-wheel drive, 240 horsepower or more, decently sport-tuned suspension, newer than your current car, able to fit rear-facing seats, and, of course, four doors. Let’s see what fits neatly inside, shall we?

You mentioned BMWs as being expensive — and they certainly can be expensive to own — but a good, used E46/E90 isn’t necessarily all that expensive to buy. There are no shortage of 3 Series sedans in your price range, including this low-mileage example with complete service records listed for under $13,000. The 328i motor tends to have fewer issues than the 335i motor of the same generation, so you’d likely have a decently solid car on your hands here.

How about a C-Class from the same era? This chap is having a bit of a hard time selling his C 300 Sport and just reduced the price to $14,000. Again, low miles here, but I don’t have access to a CarFax or AutoCheck. There are several other examples within your range, as well, but this one looks the nicest.

The problem with some of the BMWs and Benzes within your range is that many of them have a dirty CarFax, and as such they end up at Buy Here Pay Here lots, especially around tax season. So, if you do go the German route, be sure to buy from a reputable dealer and insist on having a pre-purchase inspection done by a trustworthy mechanic.

For some near-luxury, torquey fun, this Infiniti G37 sedan at $14,000 looks to be a steal. Clean CarFax, kind of a cool color, and a tint job that’s … well, you could have the tint removed. Hopefully the previous owner left a gold chain or two in the map pockets.

A bit of an outside-the-box thought for you: check out this Hyundai Genesis 3.8 at $14,000. I’ve driven my share of them, and they’re not short on power or space. I haven’t heard of many service issues with them (doesn’t mean there are none), and they’re suitably grown-up while still being fun to drive.

But, my final recommendation for maximum fun with maximum room? Why, it’s a Pontiac G8 GT, of course. They’re squeaking down into your price range now, and if you can locate an unlimited supply of lower control arms then you’ll have a reliable car that’s torquey enough to spin the tires, handles well enough to set the fastest time of the day at an autocross (yes, I did that once in mine), and has gobs of room in the back seat for kiddos who will assuredly be giving you the thumbs up as you slide it sideways around turns. Later, when things do inevitably break, it will be much less expensive to fix than any of the imports (yes, I know the G8 is technically an import).

Have at it, Best & Brightest.

Questions about which car to buy, what hotel is the swankiest in Manhattan, or WTF you’re supposed to wear when the meeting invite says “business casual?” Send your questions, comments, and rude remarks to [email protected] or hit Bark up on the twitters at @barkm302

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189 Comments on “Ask Bark: Two Doors Good, Four Doors Better...”


  • avatar
    JMII

    I too would recommend the Infiniti Sedan or Coupe. However it doesn’t drive like Miata because its a heavy, but the engine is strong so it motors along nicely. Honestly I would wait till the kids are out of car seats. Once they can climb into the back of a 2 door your options increase. Now if you want the immediate fix how about a WRX or GTI? Four doors plus fun to drive. While these cars aren’t Miata small they smaller then your current Acura.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Your kids won’t be in car seats forever, and the S2000 will still be running when they age out of whatever your current state laws require for plastic cocoons.

    Or, you could eat at Arby’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Agreed. Buying for rear facing is a mistake that will dawn on you the moment your youngest child goes front facing.

      Talking about a light weight Miata or S2000 makes me think that there isn’t a modernish sedan out there that will come close to delivering the type of driving that you want while fitting the kids. E36 M3 is probably the closest but those are few and far between in the kind of condition that I’d want to daily drive for under $15k.

      Soo… 128i?

      That S2000 picture really makes me want to get my PF01s back on my FR-S. If winter would just go away….

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
    ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

    Chrysler 300 SRT-8? Fast and a bit stealthy.

    • 0 avatar

      Not a bad idea, but really difficult to find in that price range with less than 100K miles on it, and impossible to find in that range if you’re looking for 2008 and newer.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The only reason I even remember that the SRT-8 existed is that a fellow principal had a new one (it had been sitting on the lot a long time). It didn’t last long however because she couldn’t handle the power. Traded it on a new Land Rover Freelander 2 4×4.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        I played this game myself. Needed room for three in the back and not lame, also had to be daily driver.
        Looked for SRT-8, could not find anything that worked in price range. Looked for Chally RT (wanted manual), hard to find and were not that much cheaper. Considered Taurus SHO, liked it a lot, but the inside was a bit tight, and the auto was the dealbreaker.
        Considered an RX-8 (though only four seats) but it’s just too breaky. Searched autotrader for V8, manual transmission, 4 doors. Ended up with a 04 BMW 545i (6-speed). It’s also breaky and sometimes frustrating, but it fits the whole family, is a joy to drive and is somewhat anonymous enough so that nobody knows/cares what it is (which I like).
        If you can find a BMW in good shape and can stomach the occasional eye-watering repair (I do my own, so it’s less of an issue for me), then you might enjoy it quite a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Fast and a bit stealthy.”

      I noticed you didn’t mention fun. I don’t think that was an oversight. There’s not much fun to be had with this car (or it’s “twin”) unless you’re BTSR.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’d almost certainly have a more enjoyable time owning an SRT8 or G8 over a small sports car, but I’m also someone that doesn’t have any interest in an S2000 or Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      OP wants to go around turns. But everyone else seems to want OP to drive even faster in a straight line than his TL, already no slouch, can.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Get rid of one of the kids and buy a Miata/S2000/whatever 2 seater you want. One rear facing child seat will fit in the front.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      http://www.kijiji.ca/v-cars-trucks/calgary/2010-gmc-canyon-sle/1139490329?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

      Sorry bball, I couldn’t resist!

    • 0 avatar
      98horn

      DO NOT PUT A REAR FACING CHILD SEAT IN THE FRONT SEAT OF A VEHICLE. If the airbag deploys, it will likely catapult your child’s head into the passenger seat causing death. I’ve seen it first hand, and subarachnoid hemmorages in a 15 month old’s autopsy are a horrible thing to behold. I’ll never unsee it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Most two or three seat vehicles made in the last 15 or so years have a switch to turn off the passenger air bag just for the reason of placing a rear facing infant seat in them. With many other modern cars they actually have a weight sensor that will shut off the passenger side air bag if the weight on the seat is in the right range.

        However I agree that the rear seat is safest.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          I was so happy when I turned 12 and could finally sit in the front seat of the ’98 F-250 without Dad having to turn off the front airbag. I felt like such an adult.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Fortunately my vehicles with dual airbags have had sensors. If a slightly built adult gets into the car with me I can’t help but peek to see if they are heavy enough to activate the airbag.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Drzhivago138 – too funny, those are great memories.
            I grew up pre-airbags.

            I used to love spending the day with my dad when he was in some remote area hauling gravel or hauling logs.
            Even though I did not grow up on a farm, my childhood could be viewed as comparable. I could run loaders, dozers, and gravel trucks before I had a driver’s licence.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            It’s not like sitting in the front of the pickup was a big deal when it was one of the farm pickups (first the green ’74, then the two-tone blue ’79), because there’s no back seat with a regular cab. But the SuperCab was always the nice road trip pickup, so to sit in the front of that was really a treat. I don’t think I ever sat in the front of the dark blue ’77. Of course, that one had the awesome jump seats.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Well, my suggestion wasn’t serious, so there’s that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I tend to lean towards bball’s idea lol. My one son loves driving with me in any fashion resembling a sporting drive but my other hates it.

      Do a “gearhead” assessment on the 2 kids and put the one with less cred into piano lessons.

      Problem solved.

      I’d be inclined to say buy a Jeep Wrangler and go off-roading.

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      This would be an excellent suggestion if I were also wanting out of my marriage, because my wife would divorce me if not actually kill me if I did this.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    If keeping the TL AND getting a cheap/fun car is at all an option, why not consider something old and 4-person friendly-ish like an old BMW 2002 or Datsun 510? Or modern enough for errand running, not worrying about parking lot dings and cheaper like a E30 bimmer, Civic Si hatchback or Sentra SE-R? Very fun cars in a Miata sort of way, with enough space for a kid in the back. A car/bike friend of mine ended up with a early 90s convertible Celica GT as a family fun car. Yes a pedestrian handling/accelerating car, but his wife and kids always had a blast and with a 5spd, can’t call it totally NOT fun for yourself either. As a bonus, it’s a Toyota so it’s cheap and easy to wrench on, on the few occasions it does need work.

    I should add, I’m ignoring car seats here. For occasional weekend spins, I personally see nothing wrong with that but understand if others see it differently.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    Mazda RX-8. Well preserved RX-8’s can be found for an extremely reasonable price. Despite internet rantings to the contrary, the rotary engine in the RX-8 can be an extremely reliable powerplant. Understand its unique nature, respect that, and enjoy the heck out of it. I purchased a 2008 40th Anniversary Edition in 2013 with only 24,000 miles in the mid teens. Even better, the dealership group I purchased it from provides at no cost for all used car buyers of recent vintage and less than 60,000 miles a lifetime powertrain warranty. If the engine ever has apex seal problems, I will gladly take it to the dealer and have it fixed with a $100 deductible! This RX-8 now has 55,000 miles as my daily driver and it has been worth every bit of its used car price. The rear seat has seen regular use for transporting teenage girls to and from school, basketball practice and games. The “freestyle” doors (Mazda’s term) make for wonderful ingress and egress to the rear. They are an absolutely marvelous car to satisfy the specific cravings and restrictions noted by the Economist. And according to the kids, the cool factor is extremely high. Nothing else like it shows up at the school. And as for the safety factor of having young kids you are responsible for, there are at least 6 airbags and the DSC system is top notch.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      This is actually a really good answer.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Totally slipped my mind, and a great idea!

      I’m a bit perplexed by the OP’s question, he’s looking to rekindle the sensation of driving a small, light fun car. Most of Bark’s suggestions are anything but. At the same time, I’m not sure a “light fun” car and “is safe and accommodates rear facing seats” is really realistic. Wait until your kids are old enough to at least sit in forward facing seats, or just booster seats, and at that point consider some of the older/more Miata-like suggestions I mentioned above. Would a baby in a rear facing seat even enjoy being hooned around?

      The RX8 might truly be the only very fun yet fairly modern and easier to take car seats in and out of option, although even that might be a stretch. I can’t imagine those half doors would be fun to cram a rear facing seat past.

      • 0 avatar
        economist

        Yeah, my question is confusing, even to me. I am a car guy but I am stuck in a car which is a very good car, and I just wonder if I can do better.

        • 0 avatar

          I think your question was fairly clear. It only gets muddy once people suggest a Miata for family usage :)

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I guess the question is, “What makes something better?”

          I’m a car guy and I currently drive the most boring vehicle that I’ve owned since I started making my car buying decisions solo (or with my wife). But I’ve also had it longer than any other vehicle I’ve owned because it’s very good at performing it’s day to day tasks. There are plenty of cars that may be “better”, but I won’t get better “commuting performance” out of a Mustang, Camaro, or etc.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            @bball40dtw
            “I’m a car guy and I currently drive the most boring vehicle that I’ve owned since I started making my car buying decisions solo (or with my wife). But I’ve also had it longer than any other vehicle I’ve owned because it’s very good at performing it’s day to day tasks. There are plenty of cars that may be “better”, but I won’t get better “commuting performance” out of a Mustang, Camaro, or etc.”

            Don’t say stuff like that around Jalopnik. I recently had some mom’s-basement-dwelling asshat tell me I “must not be much of an enthusiast” because I sold my Mustang.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I bet that basement dwelling a$$hat has never driven a Mustang. Probably saw one at the dealership a few times when he went with his mom to get her Explorer serviced.

          • 0 avatar
            economist

            “What makes something better”

            Ugh, there’s the question I wrestle with ever time I think about cars. Right now the Acura shuttles the kids around safely and gets me to work at a rapid pace. Maintenance costs are very low. It even looks nice. I should be content with what I have.
            However, and maybe because I read TTAG faithfully, I get the feeling that as a car enthusiast I should not settle for my FWD automatic kid-hauler and get something more “enthusiast-y.”

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            economist –
            “What makes something better”

            Answer – what ever makes YOU happy.

            Well, and the wife….. “a happy wife makes for a happy life”.

            I used to have a stable of dirt bikes and street bikes. I sold the street bikes to fund the purchase of a family hauler and eventually sold the dirt bikes due to arthritis. My self-proclaimed enthusiast friends weren’t too impressed but I’m happy with it since it works best for my family.
            It is much more fun to load my 12 ft aluminum boat in the truck and go fishing with my boys than to go solo and feel selfish.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Economist, to echo bball and to be perfectly honest, my 4Runner is more enjoyable to drive about 75% of the time compared to my FR-S. It is quiet, comfortable, has a good view of the road, plenty of space, forgiving handling, backup camera, integrated Pandora, rolldown rear window, moonroof, etc. It is even somewhat fun to hurry through the corners being RWD biased, part time 4WD w/ the fat swaybar system.

            … but then I have those days where a twisty road opens up and there isn’t anyone in my way and having a sports car is 100% worth it. The noise from the TRD exhaust, the sharp turn in, the lateral Gs, the heel-toe downshift.

            Unfortunately, the latter situation often involves extralegal speeds and pretty big risk should I run out of talent. I also risk taking others with me should my judgment lapse. The high limits of the car and the low limits imposed by the road condition, risks, and enforcement really take a lot of the fun out of owning a sports car. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ll probably let the lease lapse on my FR-S and tick the sports car daily driver off my bucket list. Maybe a Miata or S2000 is better to occupy the 3rd garage bay as a weekend toy rather than something newer as a DD? It would feel like more of an occasion when I take it out rather than today where I’ll be driving my FR-S home in wet, 37 degree temps in the dark.

            Basically, there is a reason that cars like the GTI and WRX are so beloved and light, RWD coupes/verts are rare. The former group gives you most of the engagement with only half of the downsides.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            See, I don’t have days where a twisty road opens up and traffic parts. Here, roads are straight and traffic is plentiful.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Quentin – agreed. In BC they added a speed law that if you are 40 kph (25mph) over the posted speed limit then you face an automatic vehicle impound. another factor is that one tends to be a lot more cautious when one has a family at home. When I was single I didn’t give a second thought to grinding foot pegs in corners.

        • 0 avatar
          everybodyhatesscott

          At least you said car and not wife

    • 0 avatar

      Any dealer who offers a lifetime warranty on a Renesis motor should have his head examined, but if you’ve found one, more power to you! This isn’t internet ranting, this is my personal experience with blowing a Renesis at 48,000 miles.

      I also have experience putting a rear-facing seat in an RX-8, and it’s not awesome.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Flashbacks of DeMuro’s Range Rover from CarMax. Some dealers have no idea what they’ve stepped in.

      • 0 avatar
        lastwgn

        Understood, but I doubt there are any small, lightweght sports cars in which a rear facing car seat can be easily wedged. As for the dealer warranty, it is offered on all used cars less than 6 years old and with less than 60,000 miles. When I bought the 40AE RX-8, I was surprised there wasn’t a special exclusion, but there wasn’t. On the other hand, if the engine or apex seals fail, how much more expnesive is it for the warranty provider to yank out the old rotary and drop in a remanufactured rotary versus the cost of – take your pick of potential major engine issues on a piston engine. In the grand scheme of things, the rotary replacement is most likely easier to complete than dealing with anything internal in today’s piston engine.

        I have been fortunate with my Renesis experience so far. Bought my first 2005 model in 2010 when it had 48,000 miles. It now has 120,000 miles and is being driven by my high school daughter. The beauty of that setup is that it has the automatic transmission. Not great from an enthusiast standpoint, and it has no rubber burning torque from a standing stop. It happened to be the paid for used car available in the household when she hit driving age. As the father of a teenage driver, I am thrilled that it has no rubber burning torque. She loves the looks and the cool factor and is the envy of most in the school parking lot, and because it has four seats and a small 1.3 litre engine, insurance costs are very low, and it has had no mechanical issues yet.

        • 0 avatar
          lastwgn

          As for the whole teen driver thing, it seems that the majority of deadly teen driver accidents I have seen here in the Twin Cities involve a bunch of teens in a pick your first letter _UV or a pickup in which the driver “overcorrects” and rolls the vehicle. High center of gravity vehicles with gobs of torque are just a bad idea. As I told my wife when turning over the “sports car” to a teen driver, I noted that in order to roll the RX-8, she would likely soil herself before she could hit the limits that would cause a roll. And for winter driving, nothing better than a perfectly 50/50 balanced vehicle with a set of winter tires, great DSC, and providing the driver with a true feel of the road.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “On the other hand, if the engine or apex seals fail, how much more expnesive is it for the warranty provider to yank out the old rotary and drop in a remanufactured rotary”

          check your fine print- chances are they’d pay for a USED engine, not a new or remanufactured.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        @Bark

        1st gen cars had some problems but the later builds and especially the second generation cars seemed to have rectified the issues.

        I don’t think you could name a car where somebody, somewhere hasn’t had an issue with. Your RX-8 blew an engine before 50,000 miles.

        And some C7 Z06 did the same. And confused 991 GT3s thought the engineers in Stuttgart designed an industrial torch instead of a car (same with some Ferrari 458s). And some Caymans/Boxsters/911s had bad intermediate shafts with subsequent ruined engines.

        SH*T happens. I wish these things didn’t but they do and it’s a by product of building complex pieces of machinery.

        • 0 avatar

          The way that Mazda fixed the Renesis was to flash the ECU and sap what little power it had from it. My car dynoed at 15 HP less with the new “fixed” motor than it did before, and it was considerably slower. The RX-8 is a fuel and oil sucking beast that must be fed, and a young family doesn’t need to be saddled with that.

          • 0 avatar
            lastwgn

            Fuel yes, given the size of the engine displacement. Oil, no. 4 1/2 quarts of fresh oil per change. Add between 1 and 2 quarts between changes. 1 quart if changed at 3,000. 2 at 4,500. 6 1/2 quarts per oil change. How much usage is that compared to a car that takes 5 or 5 1/2 quarts per oil change? If that extra oil cost is saddling to a young family, then the entire concept of the original inquiry is completely moot. As for the 18 – 20 mpg, not much different than the beasts that most young families are currently driving.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            “The way that Mazda fixed the Renesis was to flash the ECU…”

            That might be true with the first gen cars but the second gens corrected deficiencies such as inadequate lubrication of the apex seals.

            And yes, the car uses oil by design and yes it consumes a lot of fuel (so do trucks and other sports cars).

            I believe the OP can decide for himself what his family should be “saddled” with.

            Look, I get it. You had a bad experience with the RX-8. (Show me on the doll where the Renesis touched you.)

            Your experience isn’t indicative of everyone’s. Lastwgn’s owns an RX-8 and seems satisfied.

            I think Deadweight also has one and I’d like to think that if he had any issues we’d be hearing about it. Frequently.

          • 0 avatar

            Go check market pricing on RX-8s. The depreciation is stunning. Watch one go through the lane at an auction someday and see dealers shield their eyes in disgust. The market has spoken about the RX-8.

            Where did the Renesis touch me? In the fucking wallet, that’s where.

            Despite that, I loved driving it. That doesn’t mean it’s a suitable car for young families.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            @Bark

            Why do you care about market pricing? Ya usually want to hit ’em where they ain’t and I definitely don’t care about what dealers think.

            Regardless, R3s seem to be holding their value pretty well and I’m sure you know that at times perceptions can have a strong influence on car values.

            I figured you we’re touched in the wallet but I still think there’s something you’re not telling us.

            Did the Renesis diddle you… it’s ok if it did. We’ll get you some help.

            Seriously, it’s all good Bark. I enjoy these columns but I still think the OP can decide for himself how to spend his money.

            And I don’t think that everyone that has a young family is being unreasonable by buying an RX-8.

            I can see where you’re coming from, with what it did to you. In your wallet…. and those other places…

          • 0 avatar

            The “hit ’em where they ain’t” logic is so flawed that I don’t really know where to begin, and it was peddled by somebody whose moral compass never stops spinning. I could write five columns alone on how the market does a marvelous job of appropriately measuring the value of used vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            The fuel-sucking nature of the Wankel cannot be understated. Consider that the RX-8 was 600 lbs lighter than the Mustang GT and had about half of the horsepower, yet got poorer fuel economy.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            ” I could write five columns alone on how the market does a marvelous job of appropriately measuring the value of used vehicles.”

            I’m sure you could. I’m also sure you could write an equal number of articles highlighting vehicles to which depreciation was not kind, but because of that fact they make really good used buys.

            And don’t confuse the messenger with the message.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          The 2008AE is a 1st gen, FWIW. The improved engines were in 2009-2011 models.

          There are issues, and there are ISSUES. Opening a factory in Richmond specifically to rebuild blown engines counts as the latter.

          Hard to find recent stats but the best I could find was that they rebuilt 5000 engines in 2010 alone.

          • 0 avatar
            lastwgn

            Keep in mind that with only three moving parts in the engine, compared to the hundreds of moving parts in a piston engine, the problem presented with the Renesis was easier to address for Mazda with the removal and replacement of the engine with a remanufacture engine, rather than having a dealership mechanic remove the engine and perform the rebuild on their own. The engine itself became a “component” that is more economically rebuilt en masse at a single facility than done on a one-by-one basis at hundreds of individual dealerships.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            that’s some serious rationalization there.

    • 0 avatar
      bludragon

      “I dream of getting a Miata like I used to have years ago, but I don’t know if I will get enough utility from it to make it worth the expense” – that’s basically what Mazda made the RX-8 for :)

      Despite Bark’s comment on rear facing seats, there is a surprising amount of room in the back, and those suicide doors make it possible to get kids in there rear facing (unlike anything with two doors)

      I’ve done two kids rear facing in one for a while, it is tight, but works with the right seat choice (combi corocco + chicco nextfit worked for us). Now we have one ff and one rf, and it does make things a lot easier.

      Mine is a combination daily driver / track toy, and I don’t think there is anything in the price range that will match it. With suspension, wheels/tires and track pads (otherwise stock brakes) it is an absolute blast on an autocross or track, and able to match much more exotic machinery under braking and through the turns. Keep the suspension stock, and you actually have something that is surprisingly comfortable and still great to drive through the turns.

      On the other hand, there are downsides. It does not have a ton of power, the fuel economy is abysmal, and you do need to stay on top of maintenance and figure a rebuild every 100k. However, despite that, I’m willing to bet running costs will be lower than any M3 or 335i.

      The other car I would look at is a mustang GT (with the coyote V8). But you will need both kids front facing for this…

      For something newer and more reliable, there’s the BRZ/FRS twins. Also not a rear facing choice.

      After that, infiniti looks like a good choice. As I think would be a nice E46.

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      That’s funny because last year, I sold my old RX-7 (FB GSL-SE). It was sitting in my father-in-law’s yard, growing mold. It hadn’t run in at least 5 years.
      I am well aware of the joys and pitfalls of rotary ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      Dorrin

      Agree that the RX-8 is a great compromise in terms of performance and usability. It is one of the best driving cars available with 4 seats (and really can’t be beat for the price of a gently used one; the only cars that offer a better driving experience with 4 seats are a M3 coupe or a 911.)

      The main downsides are the atrocious fuel economy (which may not matter that much if it is a part-time ‘toy’ car) and the general unreliability.

      I owned a 2005 6MT for 6 years (bought new, religiously maintained) and had a lot of issues with it. Fuel pump failure (twice,) complete ignition system failure (twice, each time requiring replacement of the catalytic converters.) The driver’s side sunvisor broke off, which somehow caused an electrical short which killed the car completely. All of these problems left me stranded on the side of the road, and required a tow back to the dealer to be fixed. All these problems occurred between 30 and 50K miles (which is when I traded it on a new GTI.)

      On top of that, the air conditioning is laughably weak, the fuel economy is farcical (I averaged 16MPG in a mostly highway commute, maxed maybe 21 on a road trip) and the back seats are pretty hard to get kids in and out of in parking lots or garages (yes, the freestyle doors are very clever, but they don’t really work if you are parked in between 2 giant SUVs.) And don’t forget you will lose stoplight drag races to a modern V6 Camry.

      All that being said, I would own another one in a heartbeat (especially given how cheap they are used) if I had the space for it. It really is an amazing driving experience (and it looks great as a bonus.)

      The best option for a toy car would be to just bite the bullet and get a Miata (or S2K, or FR-S, etc.) and not worry about putting your kids in it. That’s the route I went (bought a very cheap and badly abused ’99 Miata in 2009) and in a sort of karmic balance with the RX8, the Miata is the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, despite being old/high mileage, badly treated most of its life, and being used as a track car by me off and on for the last 6 years.

      Special Miata bonus – upgrades, replacement tires, and even general maintenance are all extremely inexpensive and DIY-friendly, especially on the NA/NB models. I don’t have any personal experience with the NC models, though.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    Focus ST or Fiesta ST… problem solved.

  • avatar
    Feds

    OH OH OH!!! I know the answer to this!!!

    Keep your Acura, and find a MK1 Rabbit Convertible/Cabriolet. Cheap to buy and operate. Cheap to mod as far as you want, and a nice balance of classic feel and modern-enough mechanicals that you’re not tuning carbs and gap-ing points.

    Yes bitch basket, but lots of room for 2 kids, reasonably functional trunk, and seeing as you have 2 kids, the world knows your penis works, so who cares what you look like?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I don’t see how any of your recommendations address the need for small, light, or fun transportation. A Genesis, seriously? That’s a 200 inch, two ton car. I don’t know how one ends-up there when the starting point is Miata.

    How long will the youngest be in a rear-facing seat? I’m assuming that today’s newborns will eventually be allowed to graduate to forward seats. That’s not a given, maybe we’ll keep them facing the wrong way for ever (and surround them with organic bubble wrap).

    My suggestion: Abarth! Give them some fond memories of what’s sure to be outlawed well before they are old enough to Uber.

    • 0 avatar

      Good luck with rear-facing car seats in “small, light, or fun.”

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        It’s not exactly fun, but it was small and light. I had an ’09 Cobalt LS Coupe for awhile when my daughter was still rear facing. It’s very doable. There are some compromised and you have to be ready to work for it. But I think it’s worth it. So for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t blink about getting a Camaro or GenCoupe or something like that with a child in a rear facing seat. It can be made to work and they won’t be rear facing for long.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        MINI Cooper S. We did rear facing in it. Not fun, but it works. It is actually more spacious than my FR-S.

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      Completely agree. All the cars recommended are boring as hell and a far cry from a Miata or S2k. Not to mention the Acura TL is in essence the same car as the ones recommended, only with front wheel drive. How about a WRX? Or even a Civic Si?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I will join the choir. Aside from more power, how are any of the suggestions any better than OP’s TL? In fact I’d argue the TL is more of a driver’s car than a 1st gen Gensis will ever be, RWD or not. Ditto the C300 Benzo.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Agreed. I’d pick my old automatic Legend (an ancestor of the TL with less power but better balance) for driving fun over every car Bark named except the E46 and E90. If the author wants “more responsive than a TL,” you couldn’t possibly give a worse answer than “giant Hyundai with horribly sorted suspension.”

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      Ha, I was going to suggest an Abarth as well, thought rear-facing seats may be tight if the front seat passenger is taller than 5’6″. I had one, albeit with a 10 year old and another in a booster. I used to think of it as my Miata replacement as I indeed had recently sold my 1991 Miata as I wasn’t driving it often due to the need to carry the kiddos.

      Similarities to the Miata: Mine was completely reliable over the two years I had it, it had a decent manual transmission, it sounded cool, it got a lot of thumbs up and never any angry looks like my old 911 received, and it never failed to put a smile on my face.

      I’ve been seeing lightly used Abarth convertibles online for well under the $15k point. Temptation, temptation.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I think the MY07 TL is the “good” TL is it not? Yup UA6-UA7. My thought is you’re riding this into the sunset, esp if it fits your child transport equipment. Switching now to something other than new or new-used isn’t wise unless you know the history or are being offered quite a deal.

    What I would personally do is keep the TL and with a very limited budget find something for just me which tickled my fancy – something you wouldn’t be depending on as a DD. Street legal automobiles are expensive propositions no matter their age or model, and anything you bring on be it S2000 or a cheap Miata is going to bring with it defined costs (insurance/registration) and deferred maintenance (which is a variable). So in your case I’d figure out the defined costs of two cars, formulate a budget, and then I’d look around for a Mark 1 Miata, C4 Corvette, or some variant of Nissan Z. All three have a nice aftermarket, offer manual transmissions, offer reliable drivetrains, and examples can be found for a few thousand USD (I personally would be including 4.6L Mustang in the mix but I understand das ist verboten).

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      In my heart, I know that you are right and I should stick with the Acura. All of your suggestions make a lot of sense.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        You can’t bait us by asking what car to buy and then choose to do nothing. You OWE us! Buy a car, buy one now!
        Something shouty, fast and awesome, get the RX-8, bolt on two turbos and a tank of nitrous! Get a BMW wagon and transform it into an M-car!
        You cannot not buy something, this is bull$hit! I want my money back!

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Civic SI sedan sounds like best option here.

    The RX-8 is also fine if you need to go more hardcore as long as you’re willing to keep up with its gnostic needs.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    Get miata. Have boys compete for ride with grades or whatever.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Are you in the deep South? Because the “I can’t get a Ford or I’ll be disowned” is something I heard growing up there. Listen, I was a GM guy until I had various GM cars leave me stranded multiple times (probably due to age and prior owners’ neglect once I got them), and had very little trouble from a Ford Ranger, now I just don’t care. The ST twins are what we call “bad-ass” and cheap to own, wish I got one; maybe when my lease is up. Hey, if you’re skeered of incuring the wrath of your relatives and their Calvin pissing on a Ford logo stickers, that’s between you and them.

    But if you want the bestest-bang-for-the-buck and won’t break the bank on repairs, screw SRT4, GTI, GLI, Evo, and WRX, get a Civic Si sedan. The 2.0 or 2.4 will scream to the high heavens, they’re reliable as can be, and you’ll have a better chance of finding one that hasn’t been NOPI’d to death (HELLAFLUSHSTANCENATIONYO).

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Are you in the deep South? Because the “I can’t get a Ford or I’ll be disowned” is something I heard growing up there.

      COME ON MAN! The Bigfoot Monster Truck is a FORD! (And based out of Missouri.) What’s more southern/redneck than that?

      • 0 avatar
        omer333

        You are correct sir. I was born in Missouri and grew up in Florida, I’m so Southern, I’m related to myself.

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          Love it! Grew up and lived more than 20 years in various parts of the misery state, and I kind of believe the state car is a crapped out Elantra with a Nobama sticker.

          It felt more southern than almost all the other “deep” southern states I’ve spent time in. Excepting, of course, an ill-conceived drive across rural ‘bama.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Agreed. Brand loyalty is the result of lazy, uncritical thinking and decision making. It benefits the brand and its shareholders at the loyalist’s expense. Brand loyalty that is stronger than the family bond is a perversion.

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      Nope, northwest Indiana. My parents and brother and sister already give me enough crap about driving Japanese cars, I would never hear the end of it if I got a Ford. They are dedicated GM people.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “They are dedicated GM people.”

        Interesting, especially considering the way GM treated customers for so long.

        Why are they so adverse to even considering a different brand?

      • 0 avatar
        omer333

        Welp. Uh, then go find a MazdaSpeed3 that’s as close to un-molested as possible and tell your family it’s actually a Ford. Oh wait, that won’t work.

        Saturn Ion Redline?

        Verano Turbo?

        Dude, you’re screwed. There’s a lot of GM garbage out there. Just get the Japanese car or one of the ST twins and tell your family “My money, my ride.”

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          He could buy a used Cobalt SS. I’m sure he won’t regret going from a TL to an SS….

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Cobalt?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            28-

            I was joking about the Cobalt SS. it’s the closest GM thing to the Focus ST though.

            While I’m on the SS topic, only GM would take a trim level that means something, drag it through poo, make it a legitimate trim level again, and then turn it into a vehicle that it doesn’t care about. Sigh…

            Nevermind. Ford liked to throw “GT” all over stuff (Escort GT! Probe GT! Festiva GT!) and has a car called the GT. They seem to like it more than GM likes the SS though.

          • 0 avatar

            True, but Ford seemed to realize the folly of that strategy and aligned everything under Ford Performance. GM just flat out killed their performance division.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ah.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ford has been very smart with the performance division. Each product has been deserving of it’s badge. They’ve sweat the details.

            GM seems to want to give you performance as a Corvette, Camaro, or Cadillac (or sell you an SS because they want to eek out another unit before they shutter the factory). I can’t believe GM doesn’t have a Acadia to compete with the Explorer Sport/Flex Ecoboost or a hot small car.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          God my Dad is still a GM Loyalist. I want to look at him and say: Look, the GM trucks, Suburbans, and B-body wagons you drove were great – but every unitbody/FWD GM vehicle you’ve ever owned has been either a POS or subpar compared to the competition in its class.

          • 0 avatar
            economist

            Hell, in 2006 my dad bought a brand new GMC 3500 truck with a dump bed, and it has given him an unbelievable amount of problems, from ABS troubles to piston slap to a cracked exhaust manifold. Since then he has remained brand-loyal and bought a G8 for mom and a Yukon Denali for himself. It’s ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @economist – I don’t get that sort of loyalty. i was talking to a colleague. Her husband just buys Ram diesels because they are the only one with a manual transmission. The current one was in the shop for electrical gremlins. One was with the neutral safety cutout. While the tech was working on it, the truck self-started and drove itself into a tool bench. This is their 5th truck and each one has been worst than the previous.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Could be worse, it could have driven itself into the swamp.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the only correct response to that is “unless you’re paying for the car, you don’t get a say in what I choose to buy.”

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    It would help to have one really important piece of information that you left out– how tall are you?

    I’m 6’4″ and I could barely get a rear facing car seat behind my TL of the same generation as yours, and kiddos in front facing convertible seats scuffed the back of the driver’s seat due to lack of legroom. If you’re 6ft or less, the options are more plentiful.

    Also, how old are they? Waiting until they are in boosters could be the right call if they aren’t at that stage already.

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      I am 5’11” and I actually sit pretty far forward. The rear-facing seat just barely fits.
      My youngest will be in a rear-facing seat for another year at the very least. My older son is already in a booster.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Ramrod

        That opens it up a lot. Still, give a lot of thought to how many miles you drive and where you drive them. When My TL was 9 years old I traded it for an M5. It’s great on the weekends and when the road opens up, but while inching along during my morning commute I miss the TL’s lower operating costs and the cash spent on the upgrade.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    How is it no one has mentioned the Honda Odyssey? It has way more seats than any of the other choices listed, and you can even get a vacuum cleaner built in!

    I realize it isn’t an exact fit with the poster’s needs, but I thought I would chime in with my own personal choice and project it onto him.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    As a father of 2 who’s owned a C6 Corvette and a S2000, I say: skip the 2 seater for now. Between the inability of either car to haul more than 2 people and all the parental-related activities, neither car was driven enough to enjoy. I’d stick with a much bigger car that your kids will fit into.

    Or, decide to become the typical Corvette/Porsche buyer and wait until your kids are much older. It’s pretty tough to really enjoy a sports/sporty car when you’re busy on kid duty.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Meh, if your kid doesn’t commute with you, no reason you can’t commute in a 2-seater during nicer months. I have 1 toddler, a TSX and an S2000. S2000 is my primary DD in the summer months. TSX sits unless I need to take my daughter somewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Likewise here. I DD my wife’s old car, a Mazda 3 hatch in the winter months and 2-3 days a week from mid-March to mid-October. The S2000 gets used otherwise, especially if it’s top down weather. We have a Santa Fe for kid hauling duty, but I also have a car seat in the back of the Mazda so I can do it in a pinch.

        To also echo S2k Chris, I could probably not pull off buying one now. We bought it 2 years before my son was born in cash. It only costs me insurance, gas, and dirt-cheap maintenance to run. I spend more on 2-3 track days a year than I do on the average annual running costs. If there was a car payment involved it wouldn’t have been a consideration though.

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      Thank you for your comment. This kind of real-world experience is what I wanted to hear.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        I will say this though: I probably could not justify buying the S2000 today. I bought it ~5 months before I got married because I KNEW it would always be pushed back based on whatever life goal happened to pop up in the way. The ONLY reason I can justify keeping the car is because it has long been paid for and costs essentially zero (just insurance and cheap Honda maintenance) for me to own it. I’m also aware that if I were to sell it now, there’s a 99% chance there are no more 2-seaters for me until the kid(s) goes to college. So buying a 2-seat car with kids is not necessarily the same as owning a 2-seat car with kids, if that makes any sense.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    RX8-R3

    1st gen cars had issues with the Renesis engine. Second gen cars (2009-2011) seem to have sorted out those issues. The R3 is the “performance/track” version of the RX-8 and will give you the responsive character you’re looking for.

    I don’t know how a rear facing seat will fit, but it is a four door car with adequate space in the back.

    You never gave a price range though it seems you’re willing to sell the TL and purchase something new. In that case, I’d say a WRX. Space for the kiddos in the rear, an engaging car for dad, and it won’t break the bank.

    BOBW (Best of Both Worlds)

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I get the sense that this guy wants a convertible. Pick up a a Z3 or Z4 and never look back, no regrets. Promise.

    If 4 seats are a must (must we always compromise?), how about the nicest classic Saab 900 Turbo you can find? There’ll probably still be enough money left over to repair it if/when the gremilns show up, and you’ll be the envy of all the other dads at parent pick-up.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I don’t think the answer is another sedan like his Acura.

    I say E46 M3 convertible.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    Fred

    I took my kids out individually in my sport car. Unfortunately it was never the whole family. Unless you have more money than I (probably true) and space for all your cars, I’d suggest you give up the fun car idea for awhile and concentrate on your family.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      You word that as if it’s an either/or situation. You can have a fun car and concentrate on your family. They are not mutually exclusive.

      You also seem to be saying because you couldn’t/didn’t do what the OP is considering, then the OP should just forget it. Why? There is a chance, however slight, that the OP’s situation doesn’t mirror your’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        Having more cars takes more time and money that maybe the rest of your family won’t appreciate. It’s just a suggestion that you consider your family first. Of course my opinion is based on having old British sport cars.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          Again, you’re intimating that he’s not thinking of his family first.

          And yes, having another car will take more more money and maybe more time (if you’re not driving the new car you’re driving the older one, so in the end I don’t know) and yes maybe the family won’t appreciate it.

          Then again, maybe, just maybe, it’s perfectly fine. The family is fine. Mom and dad are fine. The kids are fine.

          Dad just wants a more involving car and wants to share it with his kids.

          And you come up with he’s not putting his family first?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “I’d suggest you give up the fun car idea for awhile and concentrate on your family.”

      Any vehicle can be fun if you have the right outlook.

      One is destined to failure if they look at it from the perspective that fun and family are not compatible.

  • avatar
    SOneThreeCoupe

    E36 M3 sedan.

    If you want great steering, good brakes and a good engine, seriously consider it. The recommendations given are blunt instruments, if you will. The M3 is still pretty small and shrinks around you on a good road.

    You’ll need to budget for a cooling system overhaul and suspension refresh if it hasn’t had one recently, but $15k should cover all of that plus the purchase of a nice example. I recommend replacing the suspension bushings with factory replacements- the ride is comfortable but sporting.

    Car seats fit, and adults fit in the back seat (including my 6’3″, 305lb cousin-in-law), albeit without as much room as modern cars.

    I’m heavily biased, having owned E36s since 2007 and currently own a ’98 M3 sedan, but then again, I’ve driven a lot of very nice cars and keep coming back to the E36 M3 as a yardstick by which I measure all others.

    A pleasant side note is that E36 M3 prices are rising and should remain steady IMO. You could buy a car and put 20+k miles on it with zero decrease in value, provided you take good care of it. The other cars mentioned still have a lot of depreciating to do.

    Note: All of the above can change if you’re tall with a lot of leg length. The E36 is not a big car. I’d look at a 330i Sport or a 330i ZHP in that instance. There’s an accuracy and feedback to the steering of an E36/E46 that you won’t get from the later cars or from a G37/Genesis.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I second this recommendation, especially if OP is under 6 feet. You will spend a lot more on maintenance on an ongoing basis, though, and as mentioned you need to budget $5000 — that’s never coming back — to get the car sorted when you buy it.

      • 0 avatar
        economist

        I like the old BMW suggestion, but I worry about maintenance costs and reliability. I will do some more research down this road.

        • 0 avatar
          SOneThreeCoupe

          E36s M3s are mechanically rugged and will last a good long time even with only the bare minimum of maintenance.

          The engines are well-built without any major flaws, but the VANOS units can require repair. A rebuilt VANOS unit is $375 plus labor. A new secondary tensioner is $65. You can replace the primary tensioner with an upgraded unit for $245 or leave the original.

          Rough running issues can be caused by ignition coils, approx $320 to replace all 6. My previous M3 had 182k on it and was on the original coils.

          Window regulators go out with some regularity, but replace them with quality new parts and keep the sliders lubed and they should last quite a while.

          Passenger seat occupancy sensors or seat belt receptacles can go out. Figure about $140 for the occupancy sensor or $120 for the seat belt receptacle- both are easily replaced by the home mechanic but a specialized tool (that every independent shop should have) is required to reset the light.

          Everyone seems to think that maintenance is terribly expensive on older BMWs- it is not. The main thing is that you either purchase the best you can afford or buy one that’s cosmetically stellar and leaves a couple grand for preventative and age-related maintenance.

          A lot of people who complain are people who purchased a cheap car- and who don’t understand that cheap cars are money pits. An E36 M3 non-lux sedan in a desirable color combination (essentially anything other than a gray interior) with under 150k miles (and that presents itself as having under 100k miles) is a relatively valuable car and I see an upward trend in pricing thanks to strong E30 and E46 M3 pricing.

          All more modern options are likely still in warranty, but when that warranty is up, the cost of repairs will likely be staggering- and will be accompanied by a resultant drop in resale value.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    If you want fun and economical, the Miata is still your car. Keep the Acura; another sedan isn’t likely to be materially more fun for anywhere near the same money. Buy a Miata as long as you have space to park it somewhere as an extra car. S2000s are great, but they’re in another stratosphere of buying and operating costs to go with their higher level of performance, and they’re not any more practical.

    The older Miatas’ 15″ wheels mean that performance tires are dirt cheap to buy. You have to work hard to get under 25 MPG out of one. The aftermarket and online resources are plentiful. Parts are dirt cheap, and people can get 300k miles out of these things. Despite this, there are tons of one-owner, low mileage, never-winter-driven examples hoarded away in middle-aged guys’ garages, and $10k will buy you a damn-near-pristine one. Half that will still get you a very nice one that won’t blink about driving to work on nice days or taking a blast down a scenic, winding road.

    There are tons of 4 seaters – even 4 doors – that will blow a Miata into the weeds, but they won’t offer that 2 seat sports car feel. For a fair-weather ride, dropping the top only adds to that experience. And you can still take one kid at a time with you.

    Otherwise, for higher acquisition and running costs, the RX-8 is a compelling option offering more power, more practicality, but still a good dose of that sports car feel. The value proposition on these seems to erode if you drive them a lot and have to pay the attendant fuel and parts costs, but for a low mileage toy, the purchase price on these is very attractive. More than with Miatas, they require due diligence to find one that’s been maintained and well treated. The engine problems on these, a little like the IMS problem on Porsches, may be overblown on the Internet, but based on my reading, are very real and will ruin your week if it happens to you.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “S2000s are great, but they’re in another stratosphere of buying and operating costs to go with their higher level of performance”

      I’ve never owned a Miata, so maybe that’s true, but really, I don’t see how it could be, in terms of operating costs. An S2000 takes a $14 oil filter + ~5qts of whatever 10w30 you want (I use Vavoline Syntec but you can use conventional; the car doesn’t do well with Mobil 1 for some reason). It takes $10 worth of gear oil every 15-20k miles (every 3rd oil change) for the rear diff, and another $10 for the manual transmission. Insurance is likely a bit more than the Miata, but it’s not crazy high especially if you’re over 25 and it’s not a DD. Tires are pricier, but again, you can do just fine for $600 for a set. Pads are $100 for 2 axles. Rotors are $100 a corner for OEM, cheaper alternatives exist.

      I’m sure you can find cheaper stuff for the Miata, but it can’t be THAT much cheaper. And sure, a Miata is cheaper to buy, but on the other hand, an S2000 is pretty much done depreciating, so buy one for $15k and sell it for $15k in 5 years and 20k miles. If a Miata gets a A in sports car economics, an S2000 is an A-, B+ at very worst. It’s far from “another stratosphere.”

      • 0 avatar
        Dorrin

        I suspect when people say this, they are referring to the infrequent but expected repairs and maintenance on an older car. For example – new top on a Miata is $400 for the part, plus $200-400 for installation, while a new S2K top installed is at least 2 grand. New clutch on a Miata is ~$400 installed vs. ~$800 for a S2k. On the other hand, Miatas need timing belt replacement every 60K miles or so, and S2Ks have timing chains…

        I agree that the regular maintenance (oil changes etc.) are no more expensive for an S2K, and tires/brakes etc. aren’t massively more expensive (I put brembo rotors and race pads on all 4 corners of my Miata for about $250, if I recall correctly, and general purpose 15×7 street tires are about $400 a set)

        So calling it another ‘stratosphere’ of maintenance costs is not really fair, but I do think a high-mileage S2K is going to be more expensive to keep running than an equivalent Miata (even if you do most of the labor yourself)

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Well, $5k vs $15k for decently clean examples strikes me as “another stratosphere.” S2k values are very stable, it’s true, but Miatas at that price range are pretty much done depreciating, too. However, I’d argue that S2000 prices have passed that sweet spot where they’re affordable to buy for the age/mileage. Miatas haven’t.

        A Miata does UHP tires for about $300 per set, and they’ll last 25-30k miles (I have BFG Comp 2s), I did brake pads and rotors for about $250 shipped to Canada for all 4 corners (Centric rotors and StopTech performance pads that fade at well over 1,000 degrees). That’s about half price for consumables, which I agree isn’t going to make or break your ownership, but it’s still noteworthy.

        Where you’ll see the big difference is when you start needing non-consumables. A clutch job, motor mounts, a diff (I know S2000s are known for lunching them once in a while – Miatas aren’t, and you can buy a good used one for $100 or so), replacing timing belt, replacement top, etc. These things start to come up on cars that are over a decade old.

        I wasn’t trying to say that a Stook is a bad idea, either, but I got the impression that the OP was looking for a fun car on a budget, and the Honda makes you pay more for the increased performance it offers over a Miata. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re ready for it. For the record, I really like the Honda, but for me personally, couldn’t justify how much more it would cost me compared to the Mazda. That may also differ geographically, so your mileage may vary.

        Edit: Dorrin made some of the same points while I was typing out my reply, and it seems like we generally agree.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    There’s always the TL-SHAWD. Big and heavy but I hear it handles like a dream, and it’s definitely pretty darn fast.

    better the devil you know…

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      On that train of thought – I could just try to find a TL Type-S with a stick. The beancounter in the back of my head goes ballistic with the thought of how much money I would have to give up in that deal.

  • avatar
    bludragon

    Another option; A new mazda3 with a manual has much of the fun and light factor. But admittedly might not tick the “cool” box… Also not a ton of power I don’t think the 2.5 with all the associated trimmings is worth the extra cost. Hold out for a speed3 if you want more power…

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda3 hatch won’t fit rear-facing seats. Our own Alex Dykes has a wonderful video showing this.

      • 0 avatar
        bludragon

        Oh… Are you sure? I watched the one where he fit 3 front facing side by side. I fit two rear facing seats in a 2008 civic and an rx-8. It should at least be possible to fit an appropriately chosen seat rear facing behind the front passenger or even in the middle. I can see doing it behind the driver might be an issue with someone taller than me.

        • 0 avatar

          Watch until the end. :) The rear-facing seat rubs.

          • 0 avatar
            bludragon

            I must be watching the wrong one… I did notice he recommends an inch of clearance, and with keeping the seat at the angle for an infant and the choice of seat in the video I can fully believe they won’t fit. But with those requirements you can’t get anything smaller than mid-sized and even that will be tight.

            Combi corroco, chicco nextfit and recaro pro-ride have all worked for us. Admittedly I did not worry too much about the angle in the pro-ride once the child was bigger than would fit in the infant carrier.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        We have a 2010 – I can fit an infant carrier in the back with minimal impact to passenger seat travel, but since my son moved up to a dreadnought-class convertible, there’s no way his current seat would fit.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I think the E90 is a good suggestion. The last “real” 3-series. In 328i trim, reliable and quick enough.

    I know this is blasphemy but I wouldn’t rule out FWD cars. For a young family, the gas mileage alone will make an appreciable difference. Any Civic Si sedan will do the trick, though it will be a bit loud, unrefined and boy racerish. Thankfully the 1st gen ILX 2.4 is stickshift only and I think can be had in your price range (they started coming out in 2013):

    http://www.edmunds.com/inventory/used/vin.html?vin=19VDE2E58DE001213&zip=28269&radius=500&year=2013&make=Acura&model=ILX&sub=ILX Sedan&invtype=USED&defaultType=&mode=

    Other FWD choices are kind of obvious and available all day… GTI, TSX, etc. They won’t have the at the limit balance of a RWD car but they can be fun in their own right.

  • avatar

    What he really needs is a straight-piped Volvo S80 V8

    Sound Clip: https://youtu.be/KjuYFOwm5ng?t=61

    One for $13k: http://goo.gl/xhsXfJ

  • avatar
    lightbinder

    I have three kids (all under the age of 4), and our sole vehicle is a Focus ST. Three child seats fit comfortably in the back (one of which is rear facing), and there’s still plenty of room to haul groceries/equipment/what have you.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Do you have the Recaro seats? If so, you must be a wizard.

    • 0 avatar
      DrSandman

      You know, the near-light-speed travel (and space-time bending) that you must attain to fit three human-sized children in the back seat of a FoST probably voids your warranty.

      Signed — tall father of soon-to-be very tall kids.

      • 0 avatar
        lightbinder

        I’m sure you’re right. My kids are still quite small though, and will be for most of the next decade. Furthermore, I know it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but I’ve had 3 adults in the back seat of my car before. Then again, my car’s an ST1, so that may have something to do with it …

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Can I ask how the FoST is holding up? I keep getting tempted, but I rented a Focus Titanium a couple years ago, and as nice as it was, the headliner was totally loose already. My ’01 Focus years ago seemed made of delicate stuff (though it did go 129k miles before I bid it adieu).

      I love both ST’s, and with three (one still in a booster), and a desire to get rid of the paid-for CUV and back into something fun and autocross-able, it’s highly tempting.

      • 0 avatar
        lightbinder

        So far so good! My FoST has survived three years, two moves (from Pittsburgh PA to Birmingham AL, then from Birmingham AL to Nashville TN), two pregnancies, and many trips to Cleveland OH and Chicago IL (where the in-laws live). ~60k miles so far. A tiny bit of squeaking from the plastics of the dashboard, but otherwise fit and finish are as good as they were on day one. No headliner issues. Sunroof has held up very well (I didn’t want a sunroof, but there was only one FoST left in my area at the time and it was this one, so …). Can’t complain about durability thus far, although I’d be happy to update you if something does go wrong.

        My car is pre-SYNC3, so it’s got all the idiosyncracies of the SYNC2 infotainment platform. I can’t speak to what the ST2 or ST3 trims are like long-term, as I’ve got an ST1. I think the ST1 was the right choice for me, though — the cloth seats are great for long road trips and not having MyFordTouch is a huge bonus. I’ve been considering doing the Mountune MP275 upgrade, but then again my FoST is plenty fast enough for me.

        Even with my lead-footed driving, I’ve consistently averaged anywhere between 27-30MPG, roughly 60% of that being highway. That was true even in Pittsburgh and Birmingham, where the terrain is very hilly with lots of start-stop traffic. We can always fit all of our groceries / diaper boxes / et cetera during our supply runs. It’s even moved the occasional piece of furniture / big antique piece my wife bought, with the back seats down.

        DrSandman’s point is well-taken, though. If my kids grow up to be really tall, I can see the back seat being too small. Then again, that won’t be for years down the line, and who knows?

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I hate to be a broken record, but every time I do the fun/practical/economical TO OWN compromise I end up in a WRX or Ford (forbiden in this case).

  • avatar
    pulverizer

    This is me in about a year or two…and I’m going for fun/practical/safe family car + Miata. It may be a couple years before the kids can ride in the Miata, but kids need to learn to share and take turns, so who cares if there is only room for one at a time! Plus, as has been mentioned, they are simple to work on if you use the opportunity to teach the more mechanical aspects of the car.

    Only thing is that by the time the OP and my kids are driving age, new drivers will probably hardly be driving their own cars anymore.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Sell the kids on Craigslist before they depriciate any further and then get what you want.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    A lot of the cars mentioned here are only marginally more fun than a TL of that generation… so keep it, and get an NC Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Agreed. As I said further up, there are lots of cars much faster than a Miata, but nothing does “sports car” like an actual two seat sports car, be it Miata, S2000, BMW, Porsche or, to a lesser, weirder extent, RX-8. The TL strikes me as a nice, sporty sedan. If it still runs well, I’d keep it, and get a mission-dedicated car for those fun drives.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    C-Max and a Miata. That’s my plan for eventual replacement of the turbowagonmanualLSDAWD.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      That is actually a good plan for a two car fleet. Used C-Maxes will be cheap very soon.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I love my milkgivingegglayingwoolgrowingpig, but it burns lots of gas, the front passenger seat isn’t long trip worthy, and the wife’s RX gets the nod for most trips. its fast, but the steering feel and wheel awareness are just sad. Plus, they don’t make it anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      b-a

      I do hybrid + roadster on the weekends. It helps reconcile the practical/frugal/responsible w/ the enthusiast’s impulsiveness. Not a ton of fun getting back into the hybrid (though C Max is supposed to be more fun to drive).

      I know where the economist is coming from. I too am used to the super low costs of a super reliable people hauler, and also how boring they can be to drive.

      I say get the depreciated sports car. In addition to what’s been mentioned, maybe Z3M (S52 is the “slow” one but a lot less maintenance). Or pull the trigger on your s2000/Miata. Once you scratch the itch, unload it and the TL, and pick up an Acua/Infiniti/Lexus “sports sedan” in your price range.

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    This guy should buy a new WRX and call it a day. Sell the TL privately.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’m not clear if this car is replacing the TL or if it can be an additional car. Assuming it can be an additional car for the right price, what is that price?

    If an RX-8 fit under whatever price that is that lets you keep the TL, its running costs should be more tolerable as a fun second car rather than a daily driver that you depend on. It’s really the only thing that’s been mentioned that meets the light/nimble and fits the kids criteria.

    As an E46 owner, I really don’t think a non-M 3-series is going to be sporty enough to scratch that itch and turn the kids into enthusiasts. It’s a commuter car that is good at many things and probably well rounded to a fault. The engine sounds good though, so at least that’s a good start.

    • 0 avatar
      economist

      I can trade in the TL for about ten grand an then throw a few more grand on top of the deal. Or i can keep the TL and get something for a few grand.
      So replacement is more likely.

  • avatar
    Dorrin

    What about a hot hatch? I realize you said no Ford products, which I think is kind of idiotic, frankly, but even setting Ford aside you could get a used GTI or a used Mazdaspeed 3 (which is basically a Focus ST anyway.) Either of those are going to be a lot more fun to hoon around in than something like an Infiniti G37, and speaking from experience, they are totally practical for family-of-four daily driver duty. That would give you the option of replacing your current car, rather than getting a 3rd vehicle.

    I went from an RX8 to a GTI to a Focus ST, and have generally been happy with that direction (the GTI was a lot more practical, reliable and fuel-efficient than the RX8, but somewhat less fun and engaging to drive. The Focus is significantly faster and harder-edged than the GTI, but feels less refined than either the RX8 or the GTI.) None of them are as much fun to drive as my Miata, for the record, especially on a nice day.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    As a father of two boys I went down/still going down this path. When boy2 showed up, I ditched the e36 m3 due to its fragility. I picked up an ls400. They could jump around in the car, stick their head out of the sunroom and they could enjoy the car the way a 2-5 year old could without me worrying about them breaking it to pieces. I picked up a second car, my second Miata. I was in heaven for a while. Until I realize that I was beyond that small car thing. Just didn’t like the 4 cylinder and Darty uncomfortable ride. Sure it was fun in small doses but I had outgrown the small car. I kinda regret getting the Miata the second time as now I don’t have any passion for them at all.

    While I don’t have a cool car yet, I’m leaning twords a coupe with a Sri k. I don’t need to have a 4 door since they don’t ride with my car (wife’s car keeps the seats), but I miss the control and looks that a coupe with a stick gets you.

    I’ve been eyeing Jdm-legal large coupes and the mustang since I want a stick. If I wanted to keep automatic, there are some cheap cop cars (police interceptor or Impala) that could be fun and cool.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    I did this. 2 boys, ~2 years apart. Miata. Gamut of child seats (rear facing, front facing, booster) all work.

    If you’re taking both, you’ll inevitably be with the wife, so you drive her car. Or you bite the bullet and let her drive yours.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I was in the somewhat same boat two boys and know a 2 seater would not work , no issues w car seats they were out of them but they would have fought over who got to ride in it, so my suggestion is a Saab 9-3 either in droptop or sedan , really I would keep the TL and buy a 9-3 vert plenty of room in the back , can get a stick and can be added on to if you choose, saabs are cheap you can get a vert for less that half of your budget, will not cost you more in maintenance than a BMW, and the kids might like the convertible.

    • 0 avatar
      LUNDQIK

      Second the Saab idea. Especailly if you budget is more in the under $10k realm. Lots of nice examples in that range.

      They can be made to be reasonably sporty (can be tuned, decent aftermarket support) and the back seat (for a vert) is a good size. Carseats fit (in the forward position) and the kids love it.

      GM era Saabs are easy to maintain. The engines were used across multiple GM products. Parts in general are easy to source, even for a “dead” brand.

      Small nags to be aware of on the 9-3.. late build year 2007s+ on the 2.0T engine can have intake valve issues. The 9-3 vert has a GM seatbelt recall that should be done (front seat). And they are now impacted by the takata airbag recall.

      Still, they are safe cars (enhanced A pillar, and exploding roll bars) and if you are aware of the nuances, they are easy to maintain.

  • avatar

    OP, how risk-averse are you? I’ve always wanted an E39 540.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    A. Keep the TL
    B. Get a C5 fixed roof coupe and insure/modify as needed or Get a 1995-1997 240sx and do the ls3 swap and revel in a beast of a machine

  • avatar
    misplacedape

    How has nobody said CTS-V?

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    One answer, Evo IX. Ultra fast around corners, fun, practical, reliable.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I know that I am late to the game.

    I don’t think anyone has offered up a Mini. In ‘S’ fashion with a 6 MT they are quite a hoot to cruise around in. Plenty safe, room in the back for the kids.

    I think a lot of us on this forum suffer the same question you are dealing with. I go with quantity, less expensive units and more of them. This way you have something available to scratch whatever itch of the day.

  • avatar
    ericb91

    I work at a dealer and ran a CARFAX on the 2008 Mercedes. It has one accident that lists as “Accident Reported” with no further information, which 9 times out of 10 means a fender bender or minor accident.

    Looks like it was always maintained at Loeber Motors, a high-end store that sells Mercedes and Porsche. Not a bad car to consider. For me, though, I would be looking for something with a stick.

    My thinking is if I want my kids to see me having fun driving a car, I would want them to see me rowing the gears. “Hey kids, watch me click these shift paddles!” isn’t quite as satisfying as explaining to kids what a clutch and stick are doing. Just my $0.02

  • avatar
    09box

    What about a WRX Wagon or MazdaSpeed 6? The Civic SI Sedan sounds like a good idea. What about a newer Mazda 6 Sedan? I’m sure that’d be a fun car to drive with some sticky tires on it. Plenty of room in that thing.


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