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Looking for a NSX-like experience, what else is out there?

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I'm in the market for a sports car. After lusting over NSXs my entire life, I'm considering a first generation. I'm also looking at S2000s and Lotus Elises, but wondering what else is out there that might present a fun analog experience with great styling that I should be looking at as well. My criteria is I want something manual, a targa or convertible would be nice but not a must, 1990s to early 00s era. Current budget of around $25,000-$65,000.
 
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S2000,boxter,300z,supra,miata,.....
 
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I'm also looking at S2000s. On the fence about M-Coupe or Z4s. I think anything but an NSX would be settling for me, but some of those are substantially more affordable and might scratch the itch and provide a good stepping stone to an NSX or something else later.
 
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I'm in the market for a sports car. After lusting over NSXs my entire life, I'm considering a first generation. I'm also looking at S2000s and Lotus Elises, but wondering what else is out there that might present a fun analog experience with great styling that I should be looking at as well. My criteria is I want something manual, a targa or convertible would be nice but not a must, 1990s to early 00s era. Current budget of around $25,000-$65,000.

If you are looking for a unique car that is a convertible a 2012+ 987.2 Boxster Spyder would be my recommendation.

It was offered with a 6 spd manual or a 7 spd PDK, a unique body style with a manual top, a sport suspension that was about 30mm lower than the stock suspension had a mechanical LSD. If you can find one with the bucket seats that would be the ideal spec given that the seats offer the best support as well as a substantial weight reduction. They all come with the 9A1 3.4L DFI engine rated at 310hp and about 2900lb in curb weight.

A 981 Boxster Spyder is a also a good choice but it will probably be more than 65K, but it will have the 3.8L engine instead of the 3.4L engine. But that generation introduced PTV so more electronic nannies to assist the car.


In stock form the 987.2 Spyder will handle better than any stock US spec NA1/NA2 NSX. A NA1/NA2 JDM Type-R will probably handle about as well as the Boxster Spyder, offer about the same amount of support from the Recaro Seats as well as the better feel from the smaller Momo Steering wheel, but the Spyder will outbrake the NSX given the crappy floating caliper brakes on the NA1/NA2 NSX.


I personally would not purchase a S2K, that car is really gutless at low RPM's (AP1 or AP2). The AP1 also has tricky handling at the limit (snap oversteer).
 
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I considered Caymen, 996 Carrera and Boxsters, but a little concerned about the potential costs for maintenance. PDK wouldn't be off the table completely. Although I'm sure parts for a 20 year old NSX are no joy depending upon what it is. I also should clarify how the car will be used. I want something to take to cars and coffee, drive my little kids in, look at in the garage, take to the store on a nice day etc. I road race motorcycles, so 100% of my need for speed gets taken out there, so the car will not really be pushed to its limits on the road and probably not tracked. So the S2000s lack of power isn't really an issue, I'd rather have something I can go full throttle and shift through some gears without doing jail time speeds, its taken a long time to get a perfect driving record after everything I did in my 20s. I test drove a few S2000s recently, a modded/tuned AP2 and a stock AP1, the AP1 was pretty close to the experience I'm looking for, just doesn't have the looks of the NSX, and was never a poster car for me growing up, just something cool I'd have fun driving, but not a grail car.
 

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I've owned 2 NSXs, 3 S2000s. Don't buy an S2000 if you want the NSX "experience". If you want a stock NA1 5spd experience buy a 1st or 2nd gen Boxster. If you want a boosted NSX experience get something like an Evora or a higher trim newer Boxster.

NA1 5spd with the long gears feels a little lazy like the 1st gen Boxster. Though i'd still prefer to drive the NSX over it.

I would not advise anything that is a short wheelbase MR platform. Not even an Alfa 4C or an Elise/Exige. They are super fun cars on their own (better even?) but it won't get you the driving experience you're looking for.
 
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I’m not sure if there are many that’ll give it the NSX like experience…but other than the ones mentioned, e46 M3 is a great car with very high revving inline 6.
 
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I've owned 2 NSXs, 3 S2000s. Don't buy an S2000 if you want the NSX "experience". If you want a stock NA1 5spd experience buy a 1st or 2nd gen Boxster. If you want a boosted NSX experience get something like an Evora or a higher trim newer Boxster.

NA1 5spd with the long gears feels a little lazy like the 1st gen Boxster. Though i'd still prefer to drive the NSX over it.

I would not advise anything that is a short wheelbase MR platform. Not even an Alfa 4C or an Elise/Exige. They are super fun cars on their own (better even?) but it won't get you the driving experience you're looking for.


The 1st gen Boxster (986.1/986.2) engine are prone to IMS/RMS issues so would not recommend them to anyone. Same goes for the 987.1 (2005-2008) Boxster's the M96/M97 also suffer from IMS issues.

Better to stay with the 2009+ Boxster's (987.2) that have a 9A1 engine or derived block, those engines are pretty solid, Porsche also addressed some series issues with ABS that in some corner cases would lead to "ice mode" where it would be impossible to modulate the brakes.
 
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I’m not sure if there are many that’ll give it the NSX like experience…but other than the ones mentioned, e46 M3 is a great car with very high revving inline 6.

The E46 M3 with the S54 engine with the ITB's had a very unique raspy sound at high RPM's. Once BMW took care of the early teething issues with the S54 engine they proved to be quite solid.

The downside was the less than precise 6 speed shifter (quite a ways off from the S2K or the NA1/NA2 NSX's) and also having to be aware of the front strut towers possibly cracking over time.
 
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Lotus Evora (non-supercharged) or Cayman S would be my 2 suggestions :cool-new:
 
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If your budget is up to 65k just get the NSX and be done with it.

If I was searching today I would absolutely look at the s2k but would also add the Integra type R.

A lot depends on what you consider a "NSX like experience." For me it meant a great community, high levels of reliability, relatively low cost, and a car that flew under the radar. Good luck with whatever you decide!
 
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Also have a straight piped 09 cayman s, it's a wonderful addition to the nsx. Very enjoyable with an amazing soundtrack and nice 6 speed.
 
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I’m not sure if there are many that’ll give it the NSX like experience…but other than the ones mentioned, e46 M3 is a great car with very high revving inline 6.

The E46 M3 with the S54 engine with the ITB's had a very unique raspy sound at high RPM's. Once BMW took care of the early teething issues with the S54 engine they proved to be quite solid.

The downside was the less than precise 6 speed shifter (quite a ways off from the S2K or the NA1/NA2 NSX's) and also having to be aware of the front strut towers possibly cracking over time.

As much as I love the E46 I would disagree that it is "NSX-like" in any way other than having a high-revving 6 cylinder. Owned one for 8 years and owned both concurrently for four - they are both good, but are completely different driving experiences.
 
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Thanks all, really great input. Here's a little more on my thought process on what I'm looking for. This would be something I take to cars and coffee, take my little kids out in occasionally, Sunday drives, stuff like that. I want something that feels special, but flies under the radar a little more like SWFL said. So a black or silver NSX would be perfect.

One reason I'm considering an S2000 is my high school car was a del Sol, which despite being slow I really enjoyed owning, the manual steering, precise shifter, targa top, awesome seats and ergonomics, and an S2000 seems like much more affordable logical next step from that car and the NSX, which is my dream. If the right deal came along on a clean 00-01 S2000 with red interior I'd consider it, but that's the only ones I'm interested in. Something about the carpeted center console of the 00-01 models always made me crazy (in a good way).

I love E46 M3's, but just not what I'm looking for in this next car. Cayman I would definitely consider, but need to familiarize myself a lot more with them, I've always admired them generally but know virtually nothing about the various generations, versions, issues etc.
 
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I had a 2002 or 04 Lotus Esprit that drove similar. More power especially with the euro tune on the V8TT. The seating position and driver feel was very similar. The transmission gearing was perfectly matched it would provide power at any point. Had some electrical gremlins (did you know a fuse could go bad without completely breaking circuit) found that one out the hard way. Fit and finish Was more like a well done kit car. It rattled and shook paint was flawless but interior was bland and boring strait to the point as if you took a race car and covered it with some leather like an old Porsche. I enjoyed the car for a few years and sold it for way more then I payed for it. To get one now your just about paying what you can get a NSX for tho. It’s probably the closest thing I have found that drives like the NSX.
 
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Lol I instructed a guy in a TT esprit..I think last year maybe 98?...at Pocono..at 120 mph the passenger side mirror housing blew off as did windshield wiper ..owner took it in stride lol...
 
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[MENTION=37903]BretSV[/MENTION] a lot of good advice here. There are cars that are similar to the early NSX in "feel" and they are all listed above, but I have to say that none have that "specialness" that the NSX delivers. It's really hard to explain, but all NSX owners understand what I'm talking about. The car just feels special. Faster than it actually is, more nimble than it actually is, exotic yet relatable. And there's an intangible quality about the NSX too that I haven't found in any other car at any price point. Believe it or not, the closest I have ever found is a Ferrari F355, but even that car while exotic in its own right is not quite the same as the NSX.

Thus, I think while you'd be happy with any of the cars discussed above, you won't be fully satisfied. I'd look for a black NSX-T, which seems perfect for the weekend cruiser. The T-top is really wonderful for this purpose.
 
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Its interesting that Honcho brought up the F 355 because I briefly looked at one before I purchased my NSX. A brief check on some of the ownership and maintenance issues put an end to any thoughts of that. Remains a wonderful car to look at, just don't plan on driving it regularly unless you 'really' can afford owning an exotic.

If you want the rear mid engine experience give consideration to the Toyota MR2. The first gen MR2 is way too wedge / slab sided for me. Too much like a Countach which I do not care for. The 2nd gen is more F 355 / NSX in appearance with more power and some of the rear mid engine handling issues mitigated. The 3rd generation was down on power compared tot the 2nd gen; but, if you are looking for the light weight quick handling sportscar feel it would probably be the hot ticket. The Toyota comes with similar NSX like reliability and parts availability is probably better because the production numbers were higher. Older ones may be suffering from body issues which are generally not an issue on the NSX; but, excellent examples are available with commensurate pricing. The MR2 is now rare enough that you probably don't have to worry about meeting yourself on the street.

I don't know whether your intent is buy and turn over after a year or two or buy and hold. If you intend to buy and hold, a consideration is that the MR2 2nd gen and possibly the 3rd gen are probably the last of the cars that you can do significant repair or maintenance on yourself or through an independent shop. With a paper service manual, diagnosing and repairing an MR2 or NSX is relatively easy. With any later vintage semi exotic car you should probably put that thought out of your head, especially if they are heavily CAN enabled. If you have the dinero to have all your servicing done by a dealer, then perhaps its not an issue.
 
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Thanks everyone, excellent feedback. A few more factors for what I'm looking for in the car. I want something that as SWFL said, flies under the radar a little more. And by that I mean the marque probably just as much as the look, that also means I'm probably looking at black or silver. An F355 is probably my #1 realistic dream car with NSX being #2 , but 1) the maintenance and/or potentially catastrophic issues with them are something I don't want and 2) I work in a position where owning a Ferrari, even if the cheapest one on the planet, would not be a good image purely because of how luxurious the brand is seen as.

I road race motorcycles and get my need for speed out that way, so I'm not so interested in outright performance, probably would not track it and not going to push it but so much on public roads. What I want is something sporty enough to be fun driving around at say 7/10ths, something beautiful that I will adore looking at in the garage, since frankly I'll probably spend more time standing there with a cup of coffee staring at it as I will actually driving it, manual, convertable or targa is desired but not a must, something I can work on myself within reason and something that I won't lose a bunch of money on through depreciation, so that eliminates pretty much anything newer. It will mostly be used to go to cars and coffee, take my kids on drives, dinner date with the wife, stuff like that.

I'd like to think I'd have the car for quite some time, but I've never had a second car for fun that wasn't my daily driver before, so its possible I might find I'm not using it enough to justify the expense, but I highly doubt that.

A high school friend had a 2nd gen MR2 I drove a bit, and I test drove a heavily modified one many years ago. I think they are gorgeous, but unlike an NSX, or even S2000, the motor just wasn't really that fun to wind up in my opinion, probably being a turbo 4. It was quick, but just not exactly the experience I'm looking for.

The only reason I'm really considering an S2000 is I'm wondering if I should walk before I run. An NSX would be a big step up in terms of cost and performance from anything I've had, and again, will be my first "weekend" car. An S2000 would be a cheaper option, but it would be settling, and knowing myself I'd be window shopping for NSXs again a week after getting one.
 
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I am surprised no one mentioned the C-8 Corvette. It is an engineering marvel at the price and will out run most everything listed above. Jerry

Good thought to include that, but a C8 is a bit out of my price range, and I want something I can enjoy for hopefully quite a few years and not lose too much value. I'm assuming C8 has lots of depreciation left. And as much as I love to watch someone else blast by in one, a Corvette is probably a little too loud/aggressive in its styling for me.
 
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I'd say they're both a little different, but you cant go wrong with a S2000. They're a thrill. Minimalist and complete. And they keep climbing in value so when you're ready for the NSX it'll be a breeze to sell.
 
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Are there really no NSXs for sale at 65k? I’d say if you really want an NSX, just wait until the right one comes up. I went through a similar experience before I bought mine. Looked at tons of different cars, many listed here, never pulled the trigger on any, then the right NSX finally came up.

I feel like I have seen some listings on Facebook in the last few months between 55 and 65k. It might need some maintenance or generally not be perfect, but I think they’re still out there. Not every car is a pristine low mileage example.

Also the cheaper ones tend to be 91s which are all coupes, so maybe not ideal if you’re set on a targa. There are two targas for sale on Facebook now for 75k if you wanted to spend a tad more
 
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indeed the higher prices for pristine examples floats all asking prices...
 
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