2008 Car and Driver: Fun New Cars and Used Cars Under $25,000

Those were the days! Car and Driver wanted to spend $25,000 for a brand new car that was also fun to drive. So what did the group at Car and Driver come up with back in 2008?

You have $25,000 for a new car, what are you buying?

Car and Driver Fun New Cars Under $25,000 Back in 2008
Fun New Cars Under $25,000 Back in 2008 | Car and Driver Via YouTube

2008 was a good year for new cars. Car and Driver used sites like Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader, and the Used Car and Truck Guide to determine how much vehicles would cost.

  1. Volkswagen GTI or Mazda MX-5 Miata
  2. Acura NSX
  3. BMW E46 M3
  4. Z06 Corvette
  5. 1999 E55 AMG

1. New car options included the VW GTI or Mazda MX-5 Miata

The 2005 Mazda MX5 was one of the best new cars under $25,000 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Volkswagen GTI was pretty well-rounded for the price. There are five doors, a vast cargo area, a turbo engine, and enough aftermarket parts to get the job done. Plus, the VW community is pretty extensive and welcoming.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is an obvious choice. It might not be the right pick for everyone (significantly taller drivers), but the Miata provides endless fun. Car and Driver says that at the core, the Miata is “a driver’s car.” It offers a few different roof choices, the trunk isn’t as small as it seems, and it’s pretty quick without any modifications. “There are certainly faster cars, but few are as satisfying,” Larry Webster said.

2. Not a new car, but what about a used Acura NSX?

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This one might have required a bit more work, but it also provided a lot of fun. Finding a used one under $25,000 wasn’t too hard back in 2008, but it would require some fixes before the fun began. Depending on the year, the power-window regulators or the timing belt might need replacing. Keep an eye on that before writing a check for a new Acura NSX (yes, we are writing checks here).

Operating costs: $

Curb appeal: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fun to drive: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

3. A new BMW for your garage, the E46 BMW M3

The E46 BMW M3 is about as reliable as you can get for a sports car that isn’t a Toyota. The 2003 M3 chosen for this example had 67,000 miles and still fell within the $25,000. The seats are cloth, and it doesn’t have a sunroof, but it was within the budget. The rear subframe might cause issues, as well as the rear coil springs. The parts could also be expensive to fix if the car is popular. But at the end of the day, the Car and Driver group probably would have picked the M3 if it was a contest. Check BMW Car Club of America for a well-cared-for option.

Operating costs: $$

Curb appeal: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fun to drive: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

4. The most fun for your buck option, the Z06 Corvette

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Car and Driver says that if this were a contest for the best speed-per-dollar car option, the Z06 would be the winner. The 2002 Z06 Corvette still hit 0-to-60 mph in four seconds, which gets the job done. It had 21,000 miles and 405 hp from the V8 engine. The passenger window won’t go down, and sometimes this model developed shakes at a certain speed. This one didn’t suffer that fate, but it happens. The seats are not up to par with the rest of the car, and Chevy used a lot of plastic, but it’s still excellent. Be careful that the previous owner didn’t wreck the Corvette too much.

Operating costs: $

Curb appeal: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fun to drive: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

5. A luxury option for 2008, the 1999 E55 AMG

The 1999 E55 AMG is a unique beast. The one Bryan English drove for this experiment had 183,000 miles on it. The W210 E55 engine is described as “bulletproof,” but it can be expensive if there’s a problem. When English had to replace his transmission in 2006, it cost $6,500. Another service for joints, bushings, and sensors costs around $1,000. “The W210 E55 AMG may be the ultimate Q-ship; it’s a perfect combination of performance, ride, luxury, and low-key looks,” Car and Driver said.

Operating costs: $$$

Curb appeal: ⭐️⭐️

Fun to drive: ⭐️⭐️

What’s the best pick for the price?

Car and Driver also noted that the 911, a 2005 Ram truck, and a 1993-1994 Toyota Supra were worth looking into. Overall, 2008 buyers had a lot of options for only $25,000. The cars on this list have only increased in price since 2008 and are likely at an all-time high in 2021. Perhaps the time is not right to find a good deal on a fun vehicle, but prices will fall again. Eventually.

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