01

Speed, style, and performance. What's not to like?

Sports Cars Buying Guide | CarMax

Perhaps no term in car buying causes more spirited conversation than “sports car,” as its definition has changed through the years. Following World War I, when the term was coined, a sports car was a two-seat convertible built for competition. Today, the sports car’s purpose has expanded to include street-use by everyday drivers, and sometimes the ability to carry up to three passengers. But, sports cars have always been designed to get the blood pumping and to put driving enjoyment into the hands of the person behind the wheel.

Those who buy sports cars aren't seeking versatility or cargo room. They simply love driving and enjoy the throaty sound of a tuned engine. They don't just view a vehicle as something that takes you somewhere; they appreciate the significance of how you get there.

In this buying guide, we’re discussing sports cars that offer an exciting combination of speed, style, performance, and generally, a low profile. (If you’re looking for muscle cars, check out our list of 12 modern muscle cars.) If you want a sports car, there are many exciting models to choose from at CarMax. Lots of these cars also made our nine high horsepower cars for under $20K and top 10 sports cars of 2016 lists, and plenty offer the zero-to-60 time, horsepower, or luxury amenities that get your heart pumping. Read on to learn which sports car will fit your style and personality.

02

Speed

Chevrolet Camaro

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Chevrolet Camaro | CarMax

The sixth generation Camaro is impressive, especially when you consider its rather modest original MSRP. It has a wide, muscular stance and a distinctive, low profile that makes it look like it's ready to pounce. An aggressive, precisely-angled grille, and “reverse Mohawk” roof line improve aerodynamic performance. For the biggest thrills, choose the Camaro SS with 20-inch wheels as standard equipment. It's powered by a 6.2L LT1 V8 engine that cranks out 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque. When it comes to price and performance, a used Camaro for sale certainly warrants a look.

Dodge Challenger

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Dodge Challenger | CarMax

The Dodge Challenger was actually first produced in 1958 and 1959 as the Silver Challenger, returning for its second generation from 1970-1974. After a third generation from 1978 to 1983, the model is now in its fourth generation to rival the latest Camaro and Mustang models. Today's Challengers range widely in power from 305 to 707 hp. This gives those in search of a used Challenger for sale a pretty wide choice of power plants. Older model Challengers have become very collectable. One CarMax sales consultant, a car person like many of our associates, agrees that this is a car that’ll increase in value over time. “Especially those cars with the 6.4L V8,” he says. "This engine and the manual transmission will probably be big things to look for in 30 years.” Like its muscle car competitors, the Challenger is a wide-bodied, low-profile car that pays homage to its heritage.

Ford Mustang

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Ford Mustang | CarMax
Perhaps no car has undergone such dramatic transitions through various generations like the Ford Mustang has. Today, it has returned to its sporty good looks, sleek lines, and low, muscular stance. Ranging from 3,500 to 3,800 lbs, the Mustang is heavy but manages 21/30 mpg. Later-generation Mustangs for sale can be found with engines ranging from 300 to 435 hp. Engine choices include a turbocharged four-cylinder, a V6, and a powerful V8. This car hugs the road and handles well, and while the rear seat is cozy, the driver and front seat passenger are treated to more comfortable sport seating surrounded by technology and amenities. Part of the Mustang’s new road-holding prowess comes from its independent rear suspension setup, which is new for 2015-and-up Mustangs. “In the older, solid rear axle cars, everything was attached to one axle, like the brakes,” says our CarMax Mustang buyer in Florida, “and all that vibration from bumps in the road could be transmitted to the rest of the vehicle. The independent setup absorbs shocks much better and improves handling because the rear-wheel drive gets better traction.” Our Mustang buyer points out that horsepower fans should check out the GT Mustangs. The Ford Mustang GT350, new for 2016, has a naturally-aspirated 5.2L V8 that puts out 526 horsepower and 429 lb ft of torque; the mighty Ford Mustang GT500 has a supercharged 5.8L V8 that makes 662 horsepower and 631 lb ft of torque!
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03

Style

Audi A5

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Audi A5 | CarMax

The Audi A5 joined the Audi lineup in 2007 and is a stylish, comfortable, and luxurious choice with a convertible option. With all of its luxury amenities, the A5 doesn't sacrifice performance. The A5 uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers a surprising 252 hp and reaches 60 from zero in five seconds flat. Its efficient power plant provides 24/34 mpg. A beefier S5 and RS5 engine are also available for those who want even more muscle. Inside, the A5 is loaded with tech with a seven-inch screen that serves as the centerpiece of its infotainment system. One of our sales consultants says the typical A5 driver is an Audi fan who has owned one in the past, and he or she is someone who “wants that fuel-efficient rush of speed plus a luxury twist.” Another sales consultant at one of our Texas locations says the A5 has a distinctive look that’s a mix of sporty and luxuriousness, and the fact that it’s an AWD car with plenty of traction is another plus for customers.

Hyundai Genesis

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Hyundai Genesis | CarMax

The award winning Hyundai Genesis is gaining the attention of many in search of a new or used sports car. This sporty vehicle lies a bit off the beaten path but can surprise you. This car can deliver anywhere from 311 to 420 hp, impressive for its segment. But the power won't necessarily show itself in its zero-to-60 time of about 5.9 seconds. The steering is responsive and the car handles well. Production of the car stopped in 2016, but you will likely be able to find a nice choice of used Hyundai Genesis models for sale.

Infiniti G37

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Infiniti G37 | CarMax

Infiniti calls the G37 “luxury redefined,” and its approach to the sports car market has been the reverse of many automotive companies. Rather than taking a sports car and adding amenities, they bring a fresh sportiness to the luxury segment. The G37's heavier construction (hovering around 4,000 lbs) provides a smoother, solid, quieter, and more comfortable ride. It boasts 330 hp and delivers sporty performance. If you are in search of value in a sports car with an emphasis on luxury and comfort, take a closer look at a used G37.

Jaguar XF

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Jaguar XF | CarMax

Somehow the Jaguar XF seems to deliver it all. Power, performance, stunning looks, and even an impressive 31/42 mpg. Choose the power you prefer with engine options that will deliver a modest 180 to a thrilling 380 hp. You can find value in a used Jaguar XF with models going back to 2007 when it replaced the S-Type.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Mazda MX-5 Miata | CarMax

If “fun to drive” tops your list of sports car qualifiers, move this to the top of your used or new car list. This is a fourth-generation Miata, but what you pay for any model will pay for itself in smiles per mile. Tall drivers may want to look elsewhere, but what the Miata lacks in headroom it gains in shoulder room. The Miata is light and nimble and the 2L four-cylinder engine delivers a more-than-adequate 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4600 rpm.

Mini Cooper

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Mini Cooper | CarMax

For some, driving an attention-getting car is part of the fun of a sports car. Here, the Mini Cooper delivers big time. The 2017 Mini Cooper has an MSRP that starts at about $20,000, but used Mini Coopers for sale can be found for much less. Whether you choose a two- or four-door hatchback or a convertible, the Mini is a fun vehicle to drive. Available 2.0 engines produce 189 hp at 4700 rpm, which pushes the Mini Cooper along nicely. You may get some smiles, waves, and approving nods along the way, so enjoy the ride.

Infiniti G35

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Infiniti G35 | CarMax

Those in search of a sports car for sale may be tempted to pass by the Infiniti G35. A used Infiniti G35, however, may be the perfect way for you to get the sporty luxury you desire affordably. The 2007 Infiniti G35 Coupe that came in a sports trim may particularly fill the bill. It has a firmer suspension and 19-inch alloy wheels. Its 3.5L V6 engine produces almost 300 horsepower, which is more than sufficient. For drivers who truly want something different, the G35 sports trim models offer active four-wheel steering as an option. “The four-wheel steering makes for better handling,” says our vehicle buyer in Florida. “This rear active steer package was available in 2006-2008 cars, and it keeps the tires in contact with the road all around. The steering adjusts automatically, depending on your speed and rate of turn.” Even without the sports trim, the G35 is an attractive, sportier car with a variety of old-school amenities.

Scion FR-S

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Scion FR-S | CarMax

There are some reasons the Scion FR-S shouldn't be considered a sports car. Its zero-to-60 times are over six seconds. It has an austere interior and one wouldn't describe it as flashy. But you know what? Car enthusiasts seem to love it. They appreciate the 200-hp, 2.0L flat-four engine that just keeps on delivering surprising power. They enjoy the ride that seems to improve with every model year. “The two big things with this car are its looks and its handling,” says our Texas sales consultant. “Buyers like the FR-S because it looks great and the handling is top notch. It’s like a more aggressive Miata.” Another sales consultant points to the FR-S’s light weight and hip-hugging seats as perks for sports car fans.

A used Scion FR-S may be under your radar when considering sporty cars, but it may just be the hidden gem you’re in search of and can be found at attractive prices.

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04

Performance

Acura TLX

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Acura TL | CarMax

Acura promises precision-crafted performance with the TLX, and delivers with its four models that include the Standard, the Technology Package, the Advanced Package, and for those in search of a sports car edge, the GT Package. The Acura TLX GT includes an understated rear deck spoiler along with front, rear, and side underbody spoilers on newer 2016 and 2017 versions. Those in search of a used sports car for sale will find the TLX affordable and will also enjoy options like aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels. Choose from a 2.4-liter power plant with front-wheel drive or opt for the 3.5-liter V6 edition which comes in either a front or four-wheel drive model. The 3.5-liter V6 generates 290 hp at 6,200 rpm, which will propel it from zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds.

BMW M3

Sports Cars Buying Guide: BMW M3 | CarMax

Everything gets kicked up a notch with the M3, including horsepower and styling. A powerful 425-hp engine powers the M3 from zero to 60 in an eye-blinking 3.9 seconds. It isn't shy about announcing its arrival with a throaty roar. One CarMax purchaser in Florida reports that the M3 is a favorite with sports car drivers because it offers four seats and a lot of power. Up until the early 2010s, the M3 came with a naturally-aspirated, 4.0L V8 that’s good for 414 horsepower, he says; since then the car has packed a lighter,  3.0L, turbocharged straight-six that makes even more hp’s! Newer model M3's are making a much more concerted effort in reducing weight through more extensive use of carbon and carbon-plastic mix and aluminum parts. This is a car that also has exceptional balance for improved handling. BMW has sports car in its DNA and that heritage is proudly on display with the M3.

Chevrolet Corvette

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Chevrolet Corvette | CarMax

Since making its debut in 1953, the Corvette has served as the definitive American sports car. Available in both coupe and convertible models, generations of fans have aspired to park one in their driveways. Its relatively light weight (3,200-3,500 lb. curb weight) combined with powerful 455- to 650-hp engines make it an absolute thrill to drive. Zero-to-60 times range from 3.6 to 3.9 seconds depending on model and trim packages. Corvette's Z06, with its 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque will rocket you from zero to 60 in under 3 seconds. Pricier than a comparable year Mustang and Camaro, it is priced mid-pack of the choices of all luxury sports cars. One CarMax sales consultant says the latest Corvettes have earned a place at the same table with top European sports cars. “The C7 Corvettes look great, and their exterior screams, ‘look at me,’” he says. “For some people, that’s a big plus for a sports car. Also, the GS and Z06 versions give you the big ceramic brakes, which helps these ‘Vettes handle as well as anything that comes over from Europe.”

Nissan 350z

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Nissan 350z | CarMax

If you are looking for a classic used sports car for sale, consider the Nissan 350z. Manufactured from 2002 to 2009, this was the fifth generation of Nissan's bold Z-Car line. Produced in both coupe and roadster models, the 350Z is sleek and its styling still holds up well. A 3.5L engine powers the 350Z and a number of models were produced specifically for competition. While zero-to-60 times were never overly impressive (in the 5+ second range) the 350Z delivers in a fun, easy-to-drive sports car that has found a following even after production ended.

Nissan 370z

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Nissan 370z | CarMax

The 370z is the latest in a line of Z sports cars from Nissan. A 3.7L V6 engine is standard delivering 332 hp. Sports trim models can squeeze out about 18 more hp, increasing power to 350 hp. Touches like 18-inch black-finish alloy wheels and LED running lights combined with contemporary styling and technology bring the 370z cleverly and seamlessly into the future. If you are in search of a used sports car with a solid bloodline, drive the 370z.

Porsche Panamera

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Porsche Panamera | CarMax

You’re getting into serious sports car territory with the Porsche Panamera. But you know what? It can still serve as your daily driver. It’s clearly in the upper realms of the sports car segment but has not yet reached true supercar territory. Porsche is a brand that carries its value well, meaning buying a used Panamera could be a solid investment. It’s also where driving starts reaching a new level of excitement. Ever wonder what 570 hp feels like? There’s a fine line between excitement, appreciation, and fear. The 330-horsepower, twin-turbo 3.0L V6 with rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic is standard and an optional 440 hp twin-turbo 2.9L V6 with the eight-speed and all-wheel drive has a zero-to-60 time of 3.2 seconds. The 570-horsepower powerplant delivers sub-three-second zero-to-60 times. White knuckles anyone? The Panamera is a true sports car.

Volkswagen GTI

Sports Cars Buying Guide: Volkswagen GTI | CarMax

Can a sports car be affordable, sensible, versatile, and practical? It can if it's a Volkswagen GTI. With comfortable seating for five, 24/34 mpg ratings, and a good amount of cargo space, it's understandable why some people would scratch their heads over this vehicle being in our Sports Car Guide. The bottom line: it has strong acceleration and power, handles like a sports car, and for its size and weight, its 220-hp, turbocharged engine delivers sports car-level excitement. Prepare to be surprised.

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