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You graduated. Then you tackled (or are tackling) the bar. After a few months of spinning your wheels, you even found a job. Now, your transmission is going out and you suddenly find yourself in an unfamiliar place, with the desire, and more importantly, the means to get a new(ish) car.
That's right. No more disposable $200 Nissan Pulsars (it was a rough time in my life).
Here are your top choices, based on a completely arbitrary set of criteria. These are all used, under $35,000, and the twin considerations of luxury and performance are key. Prestige is also. After all, Pulsars won't fit in at the firm, right?
All those years behind a 1980s Nissan and you never thought you could get one of these, right? The Lotus Elise is a car built for one thing: performance. Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, flashy looks, and a Toyota engine mean you’ll have decent reliability (despite Lotus’ reputation in that regard), 0-60 times of about 4.9 seconds, and because of the mid-engine layout, near-perfect handling.
The only issue you’ll have is finding one. We could only find three for sale within 500 miles of San Jose, CA.
You can’t beat a classic. Whether you go for a C5 (1997-2004) or a C6 (2005-2013), you’ll enjoy timeless looks looks, insane power, and surprisingly decent fuel economy. The C6 gets 26mpg highway, has a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds, did we mention that it’s a freaking Corvette?
Cons: Many have grumbled about the sub-standard interior compared to other cars in the class.
Porsche Cayman S (or 911)
Some say 911. They aren’t wrong. But the Porsche Cayman S is a different, and some might argue, equally amazing beast. Like the Lotus Elise, the Cayman has a mid-engine rear wheel drive layout, which is optimal for handling. Spring for the "S" model and you’ll have over 300 horsepower and performance at or near that of the 911. Or you could just go for the 911. Both can be found used, with low miles, for under $35,000 and both have the looks, performance, and prestige.
Drawback: Don’t go for the base model. It has no power. Plus, some newer Porsches are moving towards hard plastic surfaces on the interior, which feels too econo-box for our tastes.
Personal Favorite: Maserati Coupe, Spyder
Ever hear of a sub-$35,000 Ferrari? How about one that actually runs, has less than 20,000 miles, and has slightly more conservative styling? The Maserati Coupe and Spyder, and if you get lucky, the GranSport, all have conservative yet distinctly Italian style, insanely luxurious interiors, and most importantly: a Ferrari V8. They are indescribably fun to drive and come with either stick-shift manual or CambriCorsa (pedal-shifting clutchless manual) transmissions.
What’s not to love? Maintenance is insanely expensive. Gas mileage is awful, even in the context of luxury-performance supercars. Still, it’s a Ferrari V8.