Apparently if you can’t be with the one you love, you love the one you’re with. Except when it comes to cars, though. Instead of buying, for example, a BMW M2 Competition for a just-on six-figure sum, why not snare a quartet of rear-wheel drive offerings instead?
Here we’ve chosen not just four different powertrains – naturally-aspirated four, inline turbo-six, atmo flat-six and V8 – but very distinct and distinguished characters.
One is best as a daily driver, the other for a track-attack, another for a sunny day on a tight mountain pass and then one to demolish cross-country kays. That’s a lot of ability for just on a hunge.
1. 2013 Subaru BRZ - $15k
We’ve only chosen the BRZ here, and not its Toyota 86 near-twin, because it was specified right in between the latter’s GT and GTS model grades. So you scored the better interior and 17-inch tyres, without leather and heated seats, basically. Anyway, these five-year-old coupes are now ducking under $15K, and that’s so good.
The 147kW 2.0-litre boxer four might not be the best daily, but it’s rev-happy and the delightful six-speed manual is perfectly suited to keeping the tacho needle in a flutter. Superb steering and chassis balance are BRZ/86 hallmarks – fit a set of great tyres and go for laps for days knowing that, being a Toyobaru, it won’t go wrong.
MOTOR comparison: BRZ tS v 86 Performance Pack v MX-5 RF Limited Edition
2. 2013 BMW M135i - $25k
Meet one of the best all-rounders for this money. Even the eight-speed automatic (though we’d still choose manual) is a fine fit with the 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder that made 235kW at 5800rpm and 450Nm from 1250rpm all the way until 5000rpm. Yep, we know, in a hot hatchback that weighs 1445kg, or about VS Commodore mass…
Especially with optional adaptive suspension, and ideally with the circa-$5K-optional limited-slip diff, an M135i can be both hugely fast and enormously fun on a twisting country road. Yet with modern infotainment, relaxed urban manners, comfortable seats and badge-snob credibility, it is the rear-driver that’s all things to everyone.
MOTOR comparison: M135i v A45 v S3
3. 2006 Porsche 987 Boxster S - $30k
Steering perfection. Superb mid-engined balance. A Porsche boxer six with 206kW at 6200rpm and 320Nm from 4700rpm until 6000rpm, good for a 5.5sec 0-100km/h in a 1420kg roadster bodystyle. All for $30K. And that’s all you need to know, right?
Not only can you get the 987 generation of compact German rear-driver in base five-speed manual form for Polo GTI money, but this S version with the better six-speed manual is quick enough to dispatch with any similarly priced hot hatch in a straight line or through corners. As affordable weekend indulgences go, it doesn’t get any better.
4. 2007 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG - $30k
Take all of the above, flip it and reverse it. The quickest car of this quartet is this 4.5sec 0-100km/h, 6.2-litre V8-engined brute that weighs 1840kg, with 378kW at 6800rpm and 630Nm at 5200rpm. And even a decade ago it had a seven-speed auto.
It couldn’t be any more different to the petite boxer Boxster, yet these days an example from the same year starts at $30K. It sounds good, rides well, is stacked with the usual Benz leathery luxury and will comfortably seat five.