A cynic might suggest a coupe is little more than lightly disguised saloon dressed up in a sexy frock to sell at a higher price to gullible customers. While there perhaps was a time when this had some truth to it, a coupe these days needs to be so much more than that. To entice customers away from the mainstream a coupe needs to pull at your heart strings with a combination of style, panache and the promise of driver involvement.
A good coupe is one that encourages you to have one last glance over your shoulder as you walk away after a spirited drive. The five cars below will all do just that.
WHAT IS A COUPE?
Coupes – that is two-door cars with sleek profiles – come in all shapes and sizes with differing agendas. Some will be big, luxury GTs designed for crossing continents at one sitting, while others are lightweight, tack-sharp machines that are perfect for blitzing your favourite backroad. The best though offer a blend of both.
What coupes don’t have to do is break the bank – our top five used coupes cost from as little as £3,000 and even the most expensive can be bagged for £12,000. They’re a diverse bunch with two- or four-wheel drive, front- and mid-engined configurations, four- and six cylinders arranged in-line, or in a Vee or horizontally opposed. And all five are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. What are you waiting for?
THE £3,000 CHOICE: BMW E46 330Ci
BMW has been making two-door versions of its 3 Series for decades, and their combination of entertaining rear-drive handling and svelte styling wrapped up in a practical package is still hard to beat. The 330Ci represents what is to many people the zenith of BMW design, backed up with a tuneful classic straight-six engine, peerless ergonomics and a robust build quality.
With feelsome steering, a wonderfully balanced chassis and that awesome howl from under the bonnet, it still has all the right ingredients to put a smile on your face, even if the earliest examples are nigh on 20 years old. The 228bhp 330Ci is the one to have, offering a sub-seven second 0-62mph time with a 155mph top speed yet capable of returning over 30mpg on a run. The 330Ci has stood the test of time well – avoid abused examples and who knows, it might even become a future classic.
THE £5,000 CHOICE: NISSAN 350Z
There’s something reassuringly old school about the Nissan 350Z – perhaps because it takes its name and design cues from the iconic Datsun Z cars of old – but today it offers excellent value and an involving drive. Being a two-seater without a particularly large boot means it’s not the most practical coupe, but it is hugely stylish and offers excellent performance.
At its heart is a naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6 developing 276bhp. Allied with a six-speed manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive it gives the 350Z a brawny, organic feel. It’ll get from 0-62mph in a whisker under six seconds with the V6 emitting a pleasingly bassy rumble that takes on a more strident note as the revs rise. Combined with tidy handling it makes a very convincing case for itself as one of today’s coupe bargains. Just don’t tell everyone.
THE £8,000 CHOICE: AUDI TTS
While the first-generation Audi TT was a good car, this second-generation model was a great one – and the pick of the range is the TTS. The sleek styling still looks fresh, and with excellent build quality and an interior that’s second to none it makes a brilliant used buy.
With the TTS you get a turbocharged 268bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that gives it the firepower to back up the sporty looks – 0-62mph takes just 5.4 seconds. Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system gives phenomenal traction and surefooted handling, while the two-stage traction control helps with entertaining keen drivers. Chassis tweaks for the TTS include a lowered ride height while Audi’s clever magnetic dampers ensure sharp handling and a comfortable ride when not on a charge. This is truly a coupe with both style and substance.
THE £10,000 CHOICE: TOYOTA GT86
If you’d like your used coupe to look like it’s a new car then look no further than the Toyota GT86. Launched in 2012 it’s still in production and is a hugely tempting machine for the second-hand buyer offering sharp looks and exceptional driving dynamics. It was designed to appeal to the keen driver and is hugely rewarding on so many fronts.
The non-turbo 2.0-litre flat-four engine isn’t hugely powerful but it loves to rev and will take the GT86 from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds. The slick six-speed manual is a joy to use and while the interior isn’t desperately tactile it is functional, well-built and comfortable with an excellent, low-slung driving position. Where the GT86 really scores though is for driver involvement, thanks to its fine steering and a gloriously well-balanced chassis. The tiny rear seats might limits its practicality, but as a coupe to drive and enjoy it has few peers.
THE £12,000 CHOICE: PORSCHE CAYMAN 2.7
If you value driver involvement above all else then the Porsche Cayman is the coupe for you. With excellent steering, sublime balance and nigh-on perfect handling it’s one of the greatest driver’s cars of the 21st century and all backed with the kudos associated with the Porsche brand.
At this price point you could afford the more powerful S version, but we’d be tempted to stick with the 2.7-litre model as you’ll be able to buy a newer, lower mileage and better condition example. With a mid-mounted 242bhp flat-six it’s brisk, rather than being hugely rapid, but it’s a car that flows so well down a challenging road that you’ll find it plenty fast enough. The Cayman only offers two seats, but with 410 litres of luggage space split between the front and rear stowage areas it’s a remarkably practical proposition. Buy the best you can afford with a bulletproof service history and revel in one of the finest driving experiences on offer at any price.
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