Dean is trying to help a 79-year-old mother out. She’s a cool lady who was rocking a 1994 Nissan 300ZX until disaster struck. Dean wants to find her a cool car that still has style and speed, but is maybe a little easier to manage. What car should she buy?
Here is the scenario:
Hope you folks can help: it’s for my (pretty cool) 79-year old mom, who vowed 30 years ago that she would be the oldest lady driving a sports car. She’s been driving a cherry 1994 black 300ZX since she bought it new and loves it beyond belief. Anyway, usual idiot, dumb accident not Mom’s fault, and Blue Book value won’t come close to fixing. She’s crushed, and we need to distract her with something new. Something not quite so close to the ground might be better, but still wants to be the cool lady in a badass coupe, more Euro than muscle.
She’s flexible about money, maybe up to $50k if she loves it. Definitely open to used, for the right car. Now it doesn’t have to be super fast as dad is the one with the heavy foot so avoiding tickets would be great. It also has to be an automatic.
Budget: up to $50,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: St. Charles, IL
Wants: Something cool, sleek, preferably two doors
Doesn’t want: Muscle cars, or something quite as low as the old Z
Expert 1: Tom McParland — Get A Modern Classic, Sort Of
Dean, it seems you come from a good line of folks with great taste in cars. Sorry to hear about your mom’s Z, those were fantastic and they still look great today. What she needs is something with style and a little performance that will give her a smile, but also be a bit easier to get in and out of.
My pick would be the Audi S5 Coupe. It’s a bit larger and more comfortable than the 300ZX and packs a 333 horsepower supercharged V6 instead of a twin-turbo V6, but this will provide plenty of fun. Of course this coupe also has Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system to make winter driving a bit more bearable, but even more importantly the ride height on an AWD coupe will be a tad more than a similar car with rear-wheel drive due to the additional components.
Here is a certified 2015 example not too far from you for under $40,000. Of course, if having all that horsepower is a bit much, she could also drop down to the A5 can get something newer with a longer warranty balance, though I don’t think the styling of the current generation A5 coupe will age as well as the one that came before it.
Expert 2: Patrick George — Embrace The Turbo Six Life
Dean, your mom has gotten used to turbocharged six-cylinder coupes over the past two decades. Who are we to deprive her of that? Her 300ZX’s modern successor is the 370Z, but it’s old now, very different and not really something I want to recommend to your fast, soon-to-be octogenarian mom.
Instead I’ll suggest one of my favorite cars: the BMW 2 Series. If she is thirsty for performance, the M240i—with 335 horsepower from a 3.0-liter turbo inline six—will give her everything she needs and more. You should be able to find one under $50,000 too. And if she decides that’s a bit much, the turbo four-cylinder 230i is also one of our office favorites, and will still trump her old 300ZX for performance while being cheaper.
Also, it’s pretty nice inside, reasonably practical, can be had with a stick or a very good automatic, and will be easier to get in and out of than the super-low Z was. Your mom deserves nice things! Get her the best car BMW currently makes.
Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky — Speed Is Just Feeling Fast
You know, I have an old mom, too, and she wanted a fun car as well, and also a car that was easy to manage, just like your mom. We got her a 1957 edition 2014 Fiat 500. She loves it. One of the things she always mentions is how much easier it is to deal with a small car. So, based on my roughly-octogenarian-lady experience, I say a small, sporty car is the way to go here. And the good news is there’s a fantastic option: a Nissan Figaro.
Pal of the site Gary Duncan can hook a lady up with a very nice Figaro, like this 1991 one for about half your mom’s budget, $23,900. If you’re not familiar, the Figaro is a little retro-designed tiny roadster with a power ragtop that your mom will not only look fantastic in, she’ll have a blast accordianing down that top and whipping around town.
It’s got a small engine, 987cc, but it is turbocharged, and, as someone who has a car with the NA version of this same engine, I can tell you it doesn’t feel as slow as you’d think. She’ll be able to have fun in this thing at speeds that won’t get her in trouble—and won’t let your leadfoot dad mess things up—but she’ll still feel like she’s tearing it up.
Plus, look at the damn thing! It’s charming as hell. She’ll smile every time she sees it, everyone she passes will be grinning before they realize they’re doing it, this thing is just two-tone happiness on four wheels.
It’s an automatic, easy to park and manage, and will let her keep driving as long as she wants. Get yer momma a Figaro.
Expert 4: Aaron Brown — It’s Mid-Engined Sports Car Time
Dean, buddy. It’s a shame what happened to the Z, but I’ve figured it out—I have the perfect replacement that will lift your mother’s spirits. Yes, it’s the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Specifically, this used 2015 example with a $47,995 asking price.
Beyond being extremely cool, sleek, and two-door having, it’s vibrant, beautiful, loud—the list of adjectives goes on. The point is, for under $50,000, a used 4C would be one of the most special modern sports cars you could buy.
Okay, well, yes. It is still low to the ground, possibly even lower than your mother’s 300ZX, but I’m sure something could be figured out, right? Also, the manual steering might be a bit of a hard sell, but trust me, as long as you’re not parallel parking all day, it’s worth it.
Oh, and don’t worry about those reliability concerns. That’s what warranties are for!
Expert 5: Kristen Lee — Keep it in the Family
I don’t see why you need to deviate away from the Nissan family, especially when there’s more or less of a spiritual successor to the 300ZX right in the current lineup with the 370Z. Sure, it’s been around since before Pontiac died, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun.
The 370Z has a lot of things that modern sports cars today don’t really have anymore, like a naturally aspirated engine and a manual transmission. The latter isn’t what you asked for, but the car is offered with a seven-speed automatic, too. Plus, they sound great: All V6 burble and everything.
A brand, spanking new 2019 Nissan 370Z with the automatic only costs $31,390, leaving you with plenty of cash left over. And when you buy new, you get warranty magicalness. That’s always a bonus. The 300ZX was a cool car and a cool Nissan and your mom is cool for having one. There’s no reason to change that.