Kris has a boring Subaru Impreza but his dream car is a ‘76 Lotus Esprit. He would like to upgrade the Subaru into something that has the same futuristic wedge look of the Esprit but without the reliability issues of a vintage Lotus. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
Looking to replace a boring, die hard 2014 Subaru Impreza with a (somewhat) similarly reliable, cool looking retro-futurist wedge. Doesn’t even have to necessarily be a wedge or from the ‘70s or ‘80s but I want that vibe and I love that shape. I have my eyes on the new Nissan Z, the Cybertruck, and the Ioniq 5 but I don’t know if I can get something new, as my budget is maxed out around $25,000.
My favorite car is a ‘76 Lotus Esprit but I know those are notoriously unreliable so being a practical person I’m looking for the best balance between that practical left brain Subaru and aesthetic right brain Lotus that exists. I even considered gutting the Subaru and making some kind of franken-wedge but that feels dubious and wrong. My request feels like it’s impossible so good luck and god speed.
I wouldn’t call this a deal breaker per se, but I can’t drive manual yet. I want to learn some day but if I end up getting something with more juice than I’ve ever had before, I don’t want to be learning on that. So it should really be an automatic. On the reliability end, I know nothing about car repair so I might not want to meet my heroes so to speak as I don’t have the skills or money to take great care.
Budget: Up to $25,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: New England
Wants: A futuristic wedge, reliable, AWD would be nice
Doesn’t want: A boring blob
Kris, this one certainly is a challenge, but a fun one. Initially, my thought was to find you an MR2, but that car is best experienced with a manual, and I’m not sure a mid-engined, rear-drive car would make the best daily driver in New England.
Perhaps sticking with Subaru is the way to go, you just need a Subaru that is unique. That car would be the SVX. This sports coupe was way ahead of its time in terms of design, and while it might not be as “wedgy” as an Esprit, the SVX has a much more angular look than almost any new car on the road. You mentioned you can’t drive a stick, and that is OK! The SVX was only available with an automatic. Under the hood is a 3.3-liter flat-six making about 230 horsepower. Here is a super clean example, in New England with only 66,000 miles with fantastic paint color.
The Z31 300ZX isn’t a fast car, it doesn’t sound amazing, and it doesn’t really handle all that well. It makes up for it, though, because it’s dead-reliable, looks great, and comes equipped with the ultimate wedge-car dynamic duo: pop-up headlights and T-tops.
My friend and former colleague Andrew Collins has one with over 200,000 miles, and I have to say: Whenever he drives me around LA in that thing, I’m always in awe of the car’s understated coolness. The 300ZX isn’t a car you want until you drive one, and then you realize how criminally underrated it is.
You can find good examples all day for under $5,000. Here’s one for sale for $6,500; it’s a stick, but keep your eye out, and you’ll find one with an auto.
Your requirements present an interesting challenge. It’s hard to nail down that retro-futuristic look on a budget. You could hack up a poor Subaru to make what you’re looking for, or you can get something that came from the factory looking like it came from the future.
This 1989 Pulse Autocycle looks like it was made for a future where everyone drives 100 mph in flying cars. It sort of has that wedge shape, but it’s rounded out as the Pulse is more or less an airplane cockpit bolted to the reliable engine of a Honda Gold Wing GL1100. That Honda heart means any motorcycle mechanic can wrench on it, but it’s also simple enough that you can work on it, too!
It’s unclear what kind of transmission this one has, but it has air-conditioning, LED displays inside and out and a DVD player. Plus, it’s right in budget.
Have you seen the prices on Toyota Supras lately? They’re wild. That generally applies to almost all golden-era Japanese sports coupes, but especially the Mk IV Supra and any Skyline GT-R.
But here’s the thing — most people don’t think about the Supra before it, the A70 generation that wasn’t in The Fast and the Furious and looks decidedly more wedge-shaped than its successor. And that’s good news for you, Kris, because that means you can nab one for a somewhat reasonable price. This particular example in Rhode Island is the cream of the crop, at least among what was on offer here in the States: a turbocharged model from 1988 in the right color, with 162,474 miles clocked all owed to one owner and no accidents reported. And it’s well within your budget, at $16,775.