Charlie Jackson is thinking of investing in a weekend "toy" and has a budget of around £25,000. He fancies something with two seats and a lot of grip, and has been thinking along the lines of a Porsche Cayman. Practicality is not an issue, as fun is the major factor – and Charlie is not planning on any track days. Having said that, he is going to use the car all year round, so an open car may not be the best option – especially after this winter.
A car for the head
My first thought was a Caterham Seven, which remains the most exciting – and least practical – car ever designed. It is essentially four wheels, two seats and an engine, and nothing more. Perfect. Except when it rains, or you need to get the shopping in the boot, because there is no boot. Better to buy a Nissan 350Z (pictured), which is well kitted out as standard, and features 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control, xenon headlamps, electric front windows, remote central locking and a CD multichanger. The optional GT pack adds electrically adjustable and heated leather seats, cruise control, and an upgraded stereo system. A 2009 GT will be £23,000 with a low mileage from a Nissan dealer. With a 300bhp 3.5-litre V6 engine driving the rear wheels and a six-speed manual gearbox this is a very purposeful coupé. That engine makes a great sound and is very flexible, even at normal low speeds. Alternatively, there is a Roadster version with a fabric hood which folds neatly under a metal cover and can be electrically stowed away in 20 seconds.
A car for the heart
I do agree that a Porsche Cayman is an interesting and even inspired choice as it has a remarkable ability to entertain combined with everyday practicality. Like a 911, but a bit smaller and far cheaper. Some snobs might think that a cheap Porsche is not the answer. Perhaps a Motorsport BMW M3 would be? Even better you can buy it as a 2006 example with full history and less than 30,000 on the clock within the £25,000 budget. It's a supercar for fairly ordinary car money and the new six-cylinder engine is just perfect. However clumsy you are, it won't try to hurt you because there are big brakes, accurate steering, and electronic gadgets (stability and traction control) to help. Being based on the standard coupé means that it is practical, but that little chromed M3 badge lets everyone know it means business. Oh yes and the convertible is brilliant, not least because it is torsionally more rigid than the previous generation coupé. So, what a way for Charlie to ruffle his hair.
James Ruppert's Bangernomics Bible: How To Buy And Run A Car For Less, is published this month by Foresight Publications (01760 441423) at £8.99.
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Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.