We all know that the mass automotive consumer is more concerned about Apple Car Play and saving a few bucks, rather than a car’s lap time around the Nurburgring or how many lateral G-forces it can pull without breaking traction.
Of course, it’s a matter of different strokes for different folks — and given the volume of global drivers whose only automotive care is commuting, this all makes sense. That said, there are halo cars out there driving the next wave of enthusiasts, and those that surface are often bestowed with the latest in electronic wizardry — meaning fewer are being exposed to the bonding experience that was once little more than man and machine.
What’s left of today’s “enthusiast cars” is a small subset, to say the least. Although many feature a volume of modern creature comforts and amenities once viewed as frivolous additions (though we still enjoy having them), they are still testaments to the essence of the driving experience: A drivetrain and chassis engineered with performance in mind, rather than a fuel sipping lounge chair on wheels.
With what in mind, we present to you a compilation of what’s left in the category — arranged by starting price, and with notes on what you need to know.
2019 Toyota 86 — $29,990
Formerly flying under the Scion FR-S nomenclature (and still available as the Subaru BRZ), the Toyota 86 was a breath of fresh air to this category. Powered by a 2.0-litre flat-four engine delivering a modest 205 horsepower, the compact, rear-wheel-drive two-seater channels the essence of driving pleasure that for years you could only get your hands on via a modern Mazda MX-5 Miata, or by fishing through classifieds for gems from the 1980s and early 1990s. With the current variant, its sub-$30,000 price tag will get you a three-pedaled variant with well-bolstered seats, a dual exhaust, a touchscreen infotainment system and just enough space in the “back seats” for your duffel bag and a small dog.