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These are the cars journalists would actually buy, from budget to bonkers

By Chris Thompson & WhichCar network staff, 08 May 2020 Features

New cars motoring journalists would buy feature

Want to know what we’d lay down our cash for, if we had it?

There are three things we do here in the MOTOR office, and in the wider WhichCar network. Drive cars, write about cars, and talk about cars.

Okay, throw in some friendly verbal jabs and the occasional squawk/belch/dinosaur noise across the office on a late-night deadline.

But talking about cars landed us an idea, wouldn’t you like to know what Australia’s best motoring journalists would buy given the cash? We mean the actual cars we would own, according to our own tastes and experiences with each car.

We sent an email around and set a few rules:

  • Six categories, each to buy one new car, and it’s a car you’d actually buy if you had the cash.
  • We’ll use MSRP because drive-away prices can vary.
  • We don’t get to buy another car with the change from each category.
  • The cars are separate decisions, we aren't building a six-car garage with the six categories.
  • Car must be available now as a new purchase from a dealer.
  • We’ll keep ‘mods bought with change’ realistic.

We’ve listed the responses by each of our titles and individual’s lists between the price categories. Cars under the markers of $40,000, $60K, $100K, $200K, $350K, and an unlimited price range.

Let the games begin!


We drive the fastest, most exciting cars in Australia (and around the world) to bring you entertaining reviews and features. Source of most of the aforementioned belching and dinosaur noises.

Dylan Campbell, MOTOR Editor

Has driven some of the fastest cars on the planet, but owns a 1980s Toyota Corolla. Er, we mean, AE86.

$40K: Subaru BRZ tS. Engine from Harvey Norman but chassis from Nirvana. Brembo-braked tS the pick and Subaru badge will always feel more right.

$60K: Honda Civic Type R. Has a face only a visually impaired mother could love but front-drive doubters best wear their smallest and tastiest hat.

$100K: BMW M2 Competition. Will be your partner in probable actual crimes. Solid-mounted rear end feels better than… will tell you when you’re older.

$200K: Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate. Boot size to seal the Significant Other deal. They can drive it one way and you can drive it, umm, another.

$350K: Audi R8 RWD. All-time atmo V10 in rear-drive configuration very likely a religious experience. Take it to Tasmania, return a celibate driving monk.

Unlimited: Brabham BT62. Closest thing to a V8 Supercar with number plates yet looks like it was styled in Italy. And yes, I would absolutely drive it down Chapel Street.

MOTOR People's Choice: Brabham BT62

Scott Newman, MOTOR Associate Editor

“This is a terrible, wonderful game. What's surprised me most is that though there are many great cars available at the moment that I would recommend for many different reasons, there are pressure few cars that appeal to my (clearly very particular) criteria. However, here are six that do.”

$40,000: Ford Fiesta ST. My mind immediately went to Toyota 86 as despite its age it's still almost unparalleled for pure driving thrills, but Ford's new baby hot hatch is too good to ignore.

$60,000: Mazda MX-5 2.0 GT. I'll get my budget rear-drive fix here instead. The MX-5 is looking a little pricey these days (the original 2.0 GT was under $40K) but it still covers a lot of bases: great road car, fun daily and wicked track car.

$100,000: Ford Ranger Raptor. A left-field choice for someone at a performance publication, perhaps, but if I had the means I'd buy one tomorrow. It can tow, it's practical, it's easy on fuel, it's comfortable and on the right road is still mega fun to drive in and of itself. Wish it had more grunt, though.

$200,000: BMW M4. It's not exactly the latest and greatest but the M4 still has a lot to offer. Thought long and hard about a Boxster GTS 4.0 (or even Spyder!) but the gearing would annoy me every time I drove it. M4 has space for four adults and luggage yet will bake its tyres in almost every gear if required.

$350,000: McLaren 540C. This is the toughest segment. A 911 is the obvious choice but utterly brilliant though the 992 is, it doesn't grab me. The new RWD F-Type V8 would be good, but it's not coming to Australia. Then I spot the baby McLaren. At $350,000 MSRP I'll need a $1 discount, otherwise it'll be an Aston Martin Vantage.

Unlimited: Ferrari 812 GTS. A lot of really juicy stuff isn't available in Australia (no Chiron for instance) but that's ok, because I can't think of many cars I want more than an 812 GTS. The Superfast is one of the most awesome cars I've ever driven and taking the roof off only makes it more desirable in my eyes.

MOTOR comparison: 812 Superfast v Aventador SVJ

Louis Cordony, MOTOR Staff Journalist

Lives in Hipster Central, drinks green smoothies (Kale? Spinach? Sir Walter? Not sure), but also looks at V8 utes on classifieds regularly.

$40K: Mazda MX-5 1.5-litre. Anyone fancy trying to get from Melbourne to Wakefield Park on the one tank? Looks sharper than ever as well in ND guise but I’d still disguise it in black to up the menace and minimise chance of hairdresser taunts.

$60K: Honda Civic Type R. Its style might err on the side of old SsangYongs but, again, black goes some way to fixing that and the CTR drives like a Porsche hot hatch. Would definitely have my name down for the rawer incoming Limited Edition.

$100K: Audi S4. Because your family’s going to hate you when an Alpine A110 forces them to pack light on trips to the airport. This way, you still get something classy, comfy and roomy, but it still power oversteers and slices a neat cornering line on a Sunday morning.

$200K: Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder. Call me cliché for choosing a 4.0-litre six-cylinder Boxster with GT suspension bits and a remodelled rump, but I won’t be able to hear you over its cry at 8000rpm – or my cackling.

$350K: Mercedes-Benz E63 S. Seats five and easily eats sports cars. Would trade my newborn for the European only right-hand drive wagon.

Unlimited: Porsche Panamera GTS. Comfortable rear seats for chauffeured trips to my chopper that’s whisking me to a Phillip Island track day. But when I’m not in the mood for chatting with the proletariat the driver’s pew is still enticing enough.

MOTOR comparison: E63 S v M5

Chris Thompson, MOTOR Digital Journalist

Just spent a week hassling a group of journalists to give him their shopping lists to put this article together. Needs a nap.

$40,000: Mazda MX-5. Sadly, the 2.0-litre GT is just out of reach for price, but the 1.5-litre does the job and feels true to the MX-5 ethos. Hopefully MX-5s are social creatures, I’ve already got a 1989 NA6 MX-5 in the garage. Chosen over a Toyota 86 (close second) because I need a tan.

$60K: Volkswagen Golf R Wagon. A grocery-getter that can keep up with more than a few proper sports cars, at least in a straight line. I have no intention of having kids to haul around, I really just want to see the faces of those I’m passing at track days from within my wagon.

$100K: Alpine A110. I’m surprised at the lack of Alpines in this list. Gordon Murray owns one, and he designed the McLaren F1. Like Gordo, I love lightweight cars, and this one is on the verge of being carried away by a gentle breeze compared to other modern rigs.

$200K: AMG C63 S Coupe. I’m going to be completely honest here, driving this car once prompted two rather good-looking female passers-by to wave at me. I mean, it’s also a bloody excellent car, but it’s also apparently more effective than a right-swipe.

$350K: Jaguar F-Type V8 SVR. It was this or a ‘base’ model McLaren 540C, but when one has 350 big ones to spend, one doesn’t settle for the base model. Plus, roof-down access to one of the greatest engine/exhaust notes I’ve ever heard. Inject it into my ears, doc.

Unlimited: Ferrari 812 GTS. We’re in the territory of cars I’ve not yet driven here, but it would be a crime not to include a Prancing Horse. The f**ked-fast SF90 Stradale is perhaps the ‘better’ pick, but a V12 is hard to pass up, the 812 Coupe is stunning, and I’m a sucker for a drop-top. Gimme.

MOTOR comparison: A110 v 718 Cayman v 4C Spider

Back to the index ^

Team Wheels

Our mates at Wheels put together some of the most comprehensive tests and industry reports to help you make sense of what’s going on in the world of cars, and what you should buy. Suitably qualified for this task, then!

Alex Inwood, Wheels Editor

Imagine having to keep one of the world’s most respected motoring magazines on track while also dodging Nerf dart fire from across the hallway (that definitely didn’t originate from the MOTOR team…).

$40,000: Everyone will pick the Fiesta ST, and I would too, though I’ll try to add some variety. I’ll take a Hyundai i30 N, in white. I’d buy the hatch too; the fastback isn’t as good looking to my eyes.

Note: Nice try, Alex! The i30 N is just north of 40k. Fiesta for you! -CT

$60K: Volvo XC60. For $60K I’ll only get the entry-level diesel, though I’d try hard to haggle a dealer for the T5 Momentum. I love the way it looks and drives, plus it’s all the family transport I’ll ever need.

$100K: BMW M2 Competition. The best $100K sports car you can buy. And a future modern classic. Also quite possibly BMW’s best new car in decades.

$200K: Porsche Cayman GTS. There’s a strong case that this is actually a better car to live with than the Cayman GT4. I'll hold out for the 4.0-litre atmo version, which hits Australia in the coming months. I’d also take the six-speed manual, then quickly tweak the final drive so those long gear ratios aren’t such a buzz kill.

$350K: There has to be a Porsche 991.2 GT3 kicking around in a dealership somewhere, right? I’ll have mine in Miami Blue and I’d want the roll-cage/harness.

Unlimited: No budget puts you in the hypercar market by default, though truth be told I’m not really that excited by any of the current crop. A Singer 911 is tempting, though I’d much prefer something second hand. A Mclaren F1 is the dream, but I’d be equally happy with a manual Ferrari F355, in Fly Yellow.

Bucket List: F355 GTS driven!

Andy Enright, Wheels Deputy Editor

Wheels’ resident import from the UK, sometimes spotted in the office wearing a VB-branded polo shirt. Posh and rowdy? That should explain some of these choices.

$40K:  Toyota 86 GTS manual - Predictable? Maybe. But show me a more rewarding driver's car for the money and I'll buy it for you.

$60K:  Honda Civic Type R - The only hot hatch you can buy that is legitimately tinged with genius. For inspirational ten-tenths handling, nothing gets close.

$100K: Another very easy decision: the BMW M2 Competition Pure. The only decision after that is manual or paddles. I'd paddle.

$200K: I'm going to put a semi-sensible hat on here and opt for Wheels' current Car of the Year - the beautiful Mercedes-Benz EQC400. Makes virtually every other SUV look a bit Neanderthal.

$350K: I've heard there are still Porsche 991.2 GT3s in the system, so it'd be a Mexico Blue one of these with PDK and a lifter kit, please.

Unlimited: Koenigsegg Gemera. Aside from a letter of intent for a Porsche 992 GT3 RS, I think I might abandon all reason and ask Mr Koenigsegg if he could do me a kindness and knock me up a black Gemera.

Geek Speak: Gemera's 1268kW hybrid system explained

Cameron Kirby, Wheels Digital Editor

Motorsport nutter and the only Queenslander to retain his accent since moving to Melbourne. Ask him about the history of the shoey.

$40,000: VW Polo GTI. Stylish, usable, and plenty quick. This mini hot hatch makes a great everyday proposition.

$60K: Mazda CX-5 Akera 2.5. An entry-level Land Rover Discovery tempted me, as well as a Tesla Model 3, but both were just outside the price range. I also thought about going to a mid-spec CX-9. But for me, Mazda’s mid-sizer is the sweet spot in the range. The 2.5 is gutsy, and the Akera is specced to rival six-figure SUVs.

$100K: Ram 1500. It’s a tough one here, do I go with the flagship Laramie which sits right on the six-figure bracket, or go the cheaper Express and splash some cash on mods? But with that big 5.7-litre V8, plenty of pulling power, heaps of kit, huge interior space, and amenable ride, both make a compelling case. Is my bogan showing?

$200K: Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate. I’ll have almost $40k left up my sleeve for fresh tyres. I’ll need it with the twin-turbo V8 engine having a real propensity to chew rubber. But who cares when you have a super wagon in the garage?

$350K: McLaren 540C. Slowest and least powerful is a loose term when it comes to McLaren. This carbon-tubbed twin-turbo V8-powered beast is a genuine everyday supercar – and comes in right on the price bubble.

Unlimited: Don’t mind me, I’ll be wafting down the highway in my Range Rover SVAutobiography LWB. Later, peasants. ​

Big rollers: Best land yachts - Sydney to Hobart edition

Back to the index ^

Team WhichCar

Tim Robson, WhichCar Editor

Older and (allegedly) wiser than his workmates. Not really reflected in his choice of cars, though.

$40,000: Suzuki Ignis. Amusing, interesting, attractive in its own weird way. And it's cheap enough to leave under a bush if you so desire.

$60K: Skoda Octavia RS260 wagon. Possibly my perfect car. Space, a bit of pace, and unusual enough that you won't see yourself on every street corner.

$100K: Lotus Elise Sprint 220. Sure, I look like a walrus climbing into a rabbit hutch, but the almost-base Elise is such a visceral joy. Way better than the Alpine A110.

$200K: Nissan GT-R Premium. I'd rather the more expensive 50th Anniversary Edition, but this is still a good way to add the most livable GT-R ever made to the shed.

$350K: MARC II Mustang - Australian-made, V8-powered track day heaven. And yes, it can be bought from a dealer, so it counts.

$Unlimited: Porsche Panamera Turbo SE Hybrid wagon. Because it looks so insanely well-proportioned and goes like all the clappers put together.

MOTOR comparison: Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo v AMG S63 L

Tony O’Kane, WhichCar Senior Journalist

WhichCar’s head gamer and obscure Japanese car expert. Proud owner of the loudest car in the WhichCar carpark.

$40K: Toyota 86 GT. Even eight years after it launched, the 86 remains one of the finest-handling sports cars out there and a proper performance bargain. Ever wonder what that 'chassis balance' thing we bang on about is? The 86 will educate you. It's also versatile enough to be a daily driver, and the change left over by selecting the stripper-spec GT can be put towards some proper brakes and tyres to make it a truly fun weekend warrior.

$60K: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Elite. Besides being an 'affordable' fully electric car, there's an appealing honesty about the electron-powered Ioniq. It's a superb around-town runabout, brisk enough when given the berries and has plenty of space for four adults.

$100K: Nissan Patrol Ti-L. It's got an absolutely ancient interior, but the thing is huge, the facelift looks great and that V8 sounds like it was Ctrl-V'd from a racecar. It would tow the moon out of its orbit if you could find a snatch strap long enough, and for cross-continent touring there are few peers at this price point.

$200K: Lexus LS 500 F Sport. Once you climb aboard an LS, the whole Lexus 'thing' makes sense. There's an aura of quality and durability to virtually everything you see, and the design is pure class and gimmick-free. This car will age well in more ways than one.

$350K: Audi R8 Spyder RWS. Is it weird to call an R8 an "entry level" mid-engined supercar? The pricetag is certainly small bikkies to the rich-guy crowd, but the fact you can get a drop-top V10 head-turner for $320K seems like good value to me. Sure, you won't be able to get the all-paw one for less than $350K, but the rear-driven RWS seems like more fun anyway.

Unlimited: McLaren 720S. There's something special about the 720S. It feels like it was developed at Area 51, and the tech-nerdery evident in its powertrain, chassis and aero appeals to my geekier side. Mind-meltingly fast yet also comfortable enough for a cobbled street, this is perhaps the only modern supercar I could see myself owning for a long, long time.

Car vs Road: 720S

Daniel Gardner, WhichCar Senior Journalist

WhichCar’s man on the screen and the podcast. Wearer of loud shirts. Had to fight very hard to overcome a Somerset accent.

$40K: I suppose if I was a good motor journalist I would pick the Fiesta ST like everyone else probably will, but that would be like going on Eight Out of Ten Cats Does Countdown and actually trying to solve the maths problem. Instead it's a Haval H2 for me because winter's setting in, I need something for the fire pit, and $17,000 change buys a lot of marshmallows and mulled wine.

$60K: Ford Mustang High Performance 2.3L. $10k on eBay and it'd have a naughty Roush exhaust, boost controller, and fat intercooler to remind all the GT guys they bought the wrong one. Try explaining otherwise if you like, but I won't hear you over the anti-lag.

$100K: Audi RS3. Not the best in its class but flaws, like Georgia May Jagger's tooth gap, can be beautiful. And in any case, you can wick up your four-pot AMG and M-Power six all you like, It'll never sound like a row of five.

$200K: Porsche 718 Spyder. The heavenly combination of Porsche's flat six with top down motoring and a truly unique aesthetic. You could argue that the Cayman GT4 is 'better' but it doesn't fit the budget and if you're the kind of person that cares about tenths of a second then you probably also drive to the shops in Nomex gloves, and I don't want to be like you.

$350K: BMW i8. Even though the Roadster fits the budget, I'd probably go the cheaper coupe for the joy of opening its doors. Possibly the most expensive sportscar on the market but it's still very good, and its clever three-cylinder hybrid powertrain would allow me to continue on as a righteous carbon-reduction advocate without copping hypocrisy accusations.

Unlimited: Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. Like an abusive partner, the Aventador has tried to kill me several times but I still love it unconditionally. You will probably try to tell me that this ridiculous machine is savagely impractical, too fast and the stuff of recurring nightmares on the limit, but that implies that I'll ever actually drive it. Which I won't. I'll build a glass wall between the garage and the living room and spend the rest of my life in awe from a safe distance.

MOTOR Comparison: Aventador v LFA v 458 Speciale

Back to the index ^

Team Unique Cars

Only the classics and proper enthusiast motors make it onto these pages. The UC blokes became very unsure about the idea of having to buy anything newer than 20-years-old.

Guy Allen, Unique Cars Editor

Sometimes loses track of how many cars and motorcycles he still owns. Likely an insurance company’s dream customer and an accountant’s nightmare.

$40K: Subaru BRZ manual. If you shop around you can pick one of these things up for $40k and have one of the most tactile toys out there. They may not be very quick, or terribly comfortable, but they have the potential to be a whole lot more fun than a lot of cars at five times the price.

$60K: Honda Civic Type R. As a combination of performance and handling, you won’t find anything better in this price range. Sure it looks like no-one over 18 should be allowed drive it, but you don’t have to look at it once you’re strapped in and it is a hell of a lot of fun.

$100K: Mustang V8 manual. It’s about as subtle as a smack in the head and way under budget, but I still reckon these things are enormous fun in a mud-wrestling kinda way. And it has to be a bent eight – otherwise it’s not a Mustang. The left-over budget could be spent on a few upgrades which can really get these things humming.

$200K: Mercedes-Benz E53. You’ll just squeeze into one of these for the money and I reckon it’s one of the better-looking coupes out there ate the moment. AMG has given it enough stomp to make it entertaining and they look best in black..

$350K: Jaguar F-Type SVR. There are probably at least half a dozen things wrong with this decision, but we threw common sense out the window once we went past 40 grand. This is a proper feel-good piece that looks stunning and lives up to much of the promise of the historic nameplate.

Unlimited: Bentley Continental GT. It’s a complete and utter exercise in ridiculous, as is spending the sort of money that would buy you a decent house. The people who make these things are car nuts, arguably off a different planet, and they know how to make the owner feel special. Oh, and they’re quicker than logic would suggest.

MOTOR comparison: Mustang GT v Camaro 2SS

Alex Affatt, Unique Cars Journalist

Spends plenty of time looking through classic car classifieds and writing stories of significant moments and models in motoring history. Owns an R32 GT-R, much to everyone else’s envy.

$40K: Mazda 3 G25 Astina. A capable do-anything inner-city daily driver that will effortlessly ferry myself and four others in comfort and generous amounts of tech.

$60K: Peugeot 508 GT Wagon. Because wagons are cool, and French wagons even more so! I love what Peugeot is doing these days: distinct and funky styling, but an amazing drive too!

$100K: Volvo V60 T8 R-Design. Another $40k graduates you from French engineering and design to Swiss! This is truly the money-no-objection dream daily. There isn't a better-looking wagon out there in my eyes, and that hybrid drivetrain is a revelation amidst urban traffic.

$200K: Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0 in manual. It's a high price brackets to start considering a recreational sports coupe. But to be honest, with a turbocharged Japanese toy in the garage already, my first priority would be a comfortable daily driver. The Cayman, however, could very well be my daily driver - and could just as easily tackle Phillip Island or Winton with a set of sticky tyres.

$350K: Porsche 992 Carrera 4S. This is a hard one as I'm not sure I'd ever drop this much on a singular car. But I guess it must be the 992 Porsche. Breadth of talent is what I’m looking for, and the world's most popular sports car delivers driving scope like no other.

Unlimited:​ Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. Because why the heck not?

MOTOR comparison: 911 Carrera 4S v M850i v F-Type SVR

Back to the index ^

Team Street Machine

Simon Telford, Street Machine Editor

Loves burnouts, his beard, bands, and cars that are bad for the hip pocket.

$40,000: Jungle Green Suzuki Jimny for urban survival and beach work. Lift kit, big wheels, Dan Gardner supercharger conversion.

$60K: Kia Stinger GT for post-COVID family road trips. Would prefer an 300 SRT Core if I could get a deal.

$100K: Renault Megane Trophy-R. Because now I'm a Renault guy.

$200K: Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Because petrol V8 tow car. Harrop supercharger as soon as they offer one.

$350K: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.  So lovely

$Unlimited: Lamborghini Urus. Because inside me there is a horrible stockbroker waiting to get out.

MOTOR comparison: Megane RS Trophy-Rs v Megane R26R

Kian Heagney, Street Machine Journalist

Owns an R31 Skyline, a VZ SS, and an S13 Silvia. Probably not actually buying a new car anytime soon, then!

$40K: Toyota 86 GTS. The only reason to buy new is to avoid an ex P-plater thrasher, and the spare change would go towards a beefy set of wheels and tyres.

$60K:  Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec R manual. It's one of the last 90s Japanese heroes still surviving to this day, and we should celebrate that.

$100K: Toyota Supra GTS. You’ll have 13-year-olds screaming at you for buying a BMW, but all that means is that the six-pot turbo can be turned up effortlessly, and more sports cars are never a bad thing.

$200K: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 manual. It’s expensive but therefore exclusive, and it’s one of the few angry V8’s left with three pedals and enough power to make me giggle like a schoolgirl.

$350K: Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Sadly, three pedals are now gone, so throw as many options on it as the budget allows to compensate.

Unlimited: Ferrari 488 Pista. At $645,000 it will probably be the only time the price of this Fezza might be considered a weak choice, but I couldn’t see myself in one of the bigger V12 stablemates.

MOTOR comparison: Camaro ZL1 v Mustang R-Spec

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