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Advice on Two Seaters?

 
blacksmith
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So, I've been driving Firebirds and Trans Ams for 27 years, and my current (third) one, at 99000 miles, is getting a little finicky for the daily commute. I've been thinking that come spring, I'd like to get a smaller car - say, a two seater, since the average number of people in my car is probably about 1.1. Cars I'm currently thinking about include:

- Z4
- MazdaSpeed Miata
- Honda S2000

Or I might just be boring and settle for a BMW 330 (which, strangely enough, gets better gas mileage than a Z4 with the same engine, despite being a larger car).

Any suggestions from the car lovers out there?
 
Sheriff
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The new BMW 3 series is very sharp looking. Have you thought about an M3? or is that out of the price range?

As for the other two, my uncle has had both a Mazda Miata Speed and a Z4. And by FAR he liked the Miata better.

But all the cars you listed are quite nice... I think several test drives are definitely in order.
 
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What about a Mustang? It's about the same size as a 330 and a really nice car to drive.
I think it's cheaper than the BMW too.

Mind I'm not against BMW. Quite the contrary, I love them. But I've fallen in love with Mustangs since driving one last autumn for 4000 miles through the US northwest.
 
Bartender
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How about a Lotus? These are not big block muscle cars, but have great power to weight ratios. The also go around corners well.

The Elise does 0 to 60 (miles per Hour) in 5.9 seconds - all from a 1.8 litre engine!
 
Warren Dew
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Jessica Sant:

The new BMW 3 series is very sharp looking. Have you thought about an M3? or is that out of the price range?

Actually, it's out of my performance range.

Here's what I mean: I had a Trans Am with a 6.9 second 0-60 time. That was nice, though there were a few occasions when I felt I would have liked more power. I'm now driving a 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am with a 4.9 second 0-60 time. I have never put the accelerator pedal all the way down; the acceleration gets to my limits well before it gets to the car's limits. So I figure the 330's performance - about 6 seconds 0-60 - would be right about what I could handle. Anything beyond that I won't be able to use effectively.

As for the other two, my uncle has had both a Mazda Miata Speed and a Z4. And by FAR he liked the Miata better.

That's very interesting. Do you know why?
 
Warren Dew
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Mustang: like the Trans Am, it has a live rear axle. Not an issue in the Northwest where there's no snow to wreck the roads, but here in Boston, we tend to use my wife's Jetta whenever going into Cambridge or Boston proper because a fully indepedent suspension is really needed to absorb the bumps.

The Mustang Cobra has a fully independent suspension, but it costs as much as a BMW. Besides, to a long time Trans Am owner, buying any Mustang could only be considered a step down.

Lotus: I might have to look at that. Are there any test drive reviews on line? Though I have to admit, part of the reason I'd be willing to plunk down $40k on a BMW is that I'd expect it to last 250,000 miles, and I'm not certain I'd count on a Lotus to do that.

Test drives: just test drove a Z4 2.5 with 5 speed manual. About the right amount of zip, extremely nice engine and transmission, clutch effort a bit high. I can forgive the overly artistic dashboard, but I'm not sure I could use it as a daily driver, because visibility over the left shoulder is terrible with the top up. How am I going to cut off SUVs in the left lane if I can't see them?

Have sat in but not test driven the S2000 and Miata. The S2000 cabin fit me like a glove, and the right seat was the best size for my wife as well. The Miata seat was a little bit narrow - I'll have to check if the side bolsters are adjustable.
 
Peter Rooke
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What has surprised me here is that THE American sports car, the Corvette has not been mentioned. Do you people rate it?
 
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I have never put the accelerator pedal all the way down



tsk, some people

Can you get the Mazda RX8 in the US? Rotary engine is supposed to be super-smooth, and Japanese build quality so will probably last a while and start in the mornings too (ahem, unlike a LOTUS for example, aka "Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious").
 
Ben Wood
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P.S. do not, i repeat do NOT get a smart roadster as suggested above. I have no structured argument....but after driving a Trans-Am, I don't see how it could be done! Also, don't get a BMW because everybody will be out to get you (at least that's the way it works in the UK he he). And it's really boring.
 
Jeroen Wenting
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hmm, BMW isn't boring. BMW is solid quality.

If you want boring try Volvo or Mercedes.
 
Bartender
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Mustang: like the Trans Am, it has a live rear axle


Seriously?! I take it you are not meant to go round any corners faster than 5mph in one then...

The TVR is a big favourite of mine (Griffith or Tuscan). Makes a fantastic noise.
 
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Originally posted by Warren Dew:

Any suggestions from the car lovers out there?



I have tried only one two seater so far. It is the Audi TT Roadster
I love it.
[ December 20, 2004: Message edited by: Mani Ram ]
 
Ben Wood
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hmm, BMW isn't boring. BMW is solid quality.



I'm not denying the quality. However, BMW's in the UK do suffer from an image problem. People who drive them are under the illusion they are better than everyone else and in-fact own the road...everyone else disagrees with them. The worst is the silver 3-series (probably 318, but de-badged by its owner) with the requisite suit jacket hanging up in the back. Funny how their journey is always more important than yours

TVR, good call, fantastic noise and cheap...but again, like the LOTUS, British, therefore the reliability issue creeps in again.

If you're not stuck on the idea of a 2 seater, what about a Subaru Impreza? In turbo guise fantastic performance, plus the sound of the flat-4 engine and 4wd to keep you on the road. Only problem is high servicing costs.
 
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Have you thought about Mazda RX-8?
Less expensive than most in the group, good looks, and good performance if you pick one with manual transmission.
 
Warren Dew
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Paul Sturrock:

Seriously?! I take it you are not meant to go round any corners faster than 5mph in one then...

Sure you are. The fact that the rear tires don't maintain contact with the road just makes the car rotate to the new direction all the faster!

Ben Wood:

However, BMW's in the UK do suffer from an image problem.

When my wife and I rented a Vauxhall in England, we noticed that only BMWs, Audis, and the occasional VW seemed to be allowed into the left lane on the M1. We started referring to the left lane as the "German car lane".
 
Warren Dew
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Corvette: more performance than I need, and bigger than I want. To me, the point of getting a two seater would be to get something small and maneuverable.

RX8: the styling is too ugly - er, "idiosyncratic" - for me. Also, one of the reasons for going to a two seater or a four door sedan is so I can get away from coupes - though I have to admit that the way the RX8 handles entry is quite inventive, and may solve the "overly long coupe door" problem. It's a pity about the styling, because the last generation RX7 was in my opinion one of the most beautiful cars ever.

Jeroen Wenting:

hmm, BMW isn't boring. BMW is solid quality

To me, boring is good in a car. I find that automobile surprises tend to be of the undesired kind; I like cars where I know what I can expect.

Oh, and with respect to price, I consider the BMW 330 the cheapest of the options I'm considering. I regularly see 30 year old BMWs, while I rarely see other cars as much as 10 years old. I would expect a BMW to last more than twice as long as a Japanese car, and it costs less than twice as much.
 
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The Nissan Z probably has the best looks.

The new Ford Mustang looks very retro.
http://www.fordvehicles.com/cars/mustang/index.asp?bannerid=233434|10440236|12458741|0
 
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Ben Wood:


I'm not denying the quality. However, BMW's in the UK do suffer from an image problem. People who drive them are under the illusion they are better than everyone else and in-fact own the road...everyone else disagrees with them. The worst is the silver 3-series (probably 318, but de-badged by its owner) with the requisite suit jacket hanging up in the back. Funny how their journey is always more important than yours



Sounds like the quintessential 2nd owner. First owners are usually businesspeople with a good taste for cars.
2nd owners are fast boys who think themselves a lot and want to show off but can't afford a new one.
3rd and later owners are car lovers who don't care it's an older car (in fact, many prefer older BMWs as the current models aren't true BMWs in their eyes).
 
Greenhorn
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Ok coming from a large torquey American V8 - going to either a Z4, a 330i, a Mazdaspeed Miata or Honda S2000.

First up to bat - the Z4 - great handling and accleration, the run flat tires are a little loud and harsh, interior space is tight so pack lightly. Depending on what you value most in your cars it will be very nice ground clearance is mimimal so be careful.

Second up at bat - 330i - great 4 door sedan, very good handling, with the factory performance pack it is a very capable car, loses some of the accleration of the Z4 because of taller gearing (better mileage), but a great crusier and can carry 4 people.

Third up the Mazdaspeed Miata, feels like a go cart, very sprightly, lacks some off the line grunt, but once spooled the power is there, may surprise you coming from a torquey v8. Very very limited space good gas mileage.

Rounding out the order the S2000 - a car made to be driven in anger, needs to rev to feel the power, you will leave most people behind in this corner carving machine, again a small engine that needs to be revved to extract the power.

If I had to chose the Z4 and then the Miata would be my preference for daily driving. The 2000 is a great weekend car, not sure I would want it for everyday driving. The 330i is awesome and would be the best daily driver if you are willing to lose some sportiness in the deal. Let us know how it goes.
 
Warren Dew
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Dharmendra Sant:

If I had to chose the Z4 and then the Miata would be my preference for daily driving.

Thanks for the input! Can you give mor information on why the Z4 over the Miata? Also, are you related to Jessica's uncle who liked the Miata better?
 
Jeroen Wenting
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European quality
 
Jessica Sant
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Originally posted by Warren Dew:
Also, are you related to Jessica's uncle who liked the Miata better?


(nope -- Dharmendra is my husband -- he's a big car geek)
 
Dharmendra Sant
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I would take the Z4 over the Miata because it is a more powerful car and a little roomier for daily driving. Also I am a fan of naturally aspirated engines, as opposed to turbo engines which to have some lag in the powerband before the turbo is fully spooled. The lag in the Miata is minimal but it is still there. The Z4 also feels more substantial than the Miata.
 
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If it shall be the 330, wait for the new 3-Series Model coming next March.

cb
[ December 22, 2004: Message edited by: Chris Baron ]
 
Warren Dew
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Dharmendra Sant:

I would take the Z4 over the Miata because it is a more powerful car and a little roomier for daily driving. Also I am a fan of naturally aspirated engines, as opposed to turbo engines which to have some lag in the powerband before the turbo is fully spooled. The lag in the Miata is minimal but it is still there. The Z4 also feels more substantial than the Miata.

That makes sense, thanks.

I've now test driven a Miata, and I agree with your analysis. The Mazdaspeed Miata claims a higher power to weight ratio, but you really have to be in exactly the right gear to keep the engine in the peak power band. Even then it still didn't seem quite as powerful. I couldn't tell for sure without a boost guage, but it's possible that at the "lower" (sub 65mph) speeds I was driving at, I didn't stay in any one gear long enough to spool the turbo up.

It was great for slightly less vigorous driving with the top down, though. The Miata seems to be the only car in existence that still has front quarter windows, and those windows are really important for minimizing wind turbulence in the passenger area with the top down. The fact that top down motoring was no problem on a 40F (5C) day says something. The question is whether I could get used to relaxing and enjoying the drive.

I'm wondering now if turbos aren't more suited to automatic transmissions than manuals. The biggest problem with automatic transmissions, in my opinion, is that the only quick way to downshift is to open the throttle so much the current gear can't provide the power one wants. Then the lower gear comes on with the same throttle setting, suddenly providing 'way more power than one really wanted. A turbo allows one to get to higher power smoothly, without the sudden jerk of the automatic kicking down a gear.
 
Warren Dew
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Update: bought the S2000 today. The Miata didn't have the drive train quality, and the Z4 ... I dunno, there were all these niggling little ways in which styling seemed to have triumphed over functionality in the Z4.

The S2000 fits me and my wife perfectly, and just feels really natural to drive. The only thing I'll have to get used to is an engine revving at 3000 RPM instead of 2000 RPM at highway speeds.
 
Jessica Sant
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cool congrats!! now, the big question is.... what color did you get?
 
Warren Dew
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Silverstone metallic (the darker of their two silver colors), with black interior.

One think I liked about shopping for an S2000 - no choices except for color, and not too many colors to choose from either. Not too much space for indecision to creep in ... okay, I was tempted by the white/tan, but it only took a few hours to make that one binary decision.

Your question reminds me of a politically incorrect joke about how to tell boys from girls, though. Ask about their car ... if they talk about the engine, they're male, if they mention the color, they are female. I've tried this at parties and it actually works!
[ January 02, 2005: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
 
Warren Dew
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Two week update: I finally picked up the S2000 this past Sunday.

I am using it as a daily driver. The only real down side is the moderately high noise level at expressway speeds, especially with the snow tires.

The upsides are many:

- small! I can fit into parking spaces which are missing two or three feet due to plowed snow or an overhang from a big van.
- lovely, lovely, engine and gearbox
- instantaneous throttle response from the naturally aspirated engine
- the small cabin heats up fast
- top down driving is comfortable at temperatures down to at least 10F
- the extremely sharp cutoff of the HID low beams means that falling snow is not illuminated, making it easier to see where the snow has actually accumulated on the pavement. Not sure yet whether this fully balances the guilt I feel for increasing the glare for oncoming drivers.
- did I mention it's cute and small?

I haven't revved it past 5500 rpm yet, since I'm still breaking in the engine (which redlines at 8000). The break in period will probably be over around the time I'm putting the summer tires on, which might be a good thing.

Oh, and I'm pleased to find that over on the S2000 boards, the consensus is that Silverstone is the fastest color!
 
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Congratulations, the Honda is a great choice. After many years of driving European cars, a BMW 320 and an Alfa Romeo Spider, I've moved to Japanese. I currently drive a Toyota Camry XLE V6, large, very boring, and faster than either of those Euro cars.

I test drove both the Celica GT and the S2000 and agree about the Honda's superiority and the high noise level of both. I test drove the Mustang and was amazed at its slugishness and total lack of performance, it might feel like a sports car if you went to the high end Cobra, but then why not just buy the Honda. I haven't tried the new Datsun 280Z clone (Nissan 350Z) but it sure looks nice, that's one line where even the Sport Ute look good.
 
Warren Dew
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Thanks. I'm not actually a big Japanese car fan - in fact I've been avoiding them for decades - but there aren't a whole heck of a lot of choices when you want a car in the 150 inch long range. And as an engineer, I can see the loving care the Honda engineers put into the S2000 design.

So what made you go with the current, now thoroughly American sized, Accord? I was picturing you in something smaller and more nimble.
[ January 24, 2005: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
 
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