Vehicle Name Sorted Alphabetically Kelley Blue Book Sorted by Pricing
2004 BMW M3

Joe Wiesenfelder says:Best of the alphabet-souped: Suddenly all the automakers are creating souped-up versions of their cars and slapping extra letters on them: "S," "AMG," "R," "V." Hmmmm . . . where have we seen this before? Right here in the M3, which is still the best of the alphabet-souped set. An exaggeration of the near-perfect 3 Series coupe, the M3 delivers abundant, even power through fat rear tires, its brakes can detach retinas, and its handling makes a joke of competitors’ higher-tech suspensions. Option the paddle shifters if you must. I’ll take the conventional six-speed manual and a long, exceedingly winding road.”

Jim Flammang says: “BMW’s high-performance offshoot of the 3 Series is simply hard to match in terms of tight handling and vigorous performance. Both the coupe and convertible blend civilized comforts with supreme handling, though the ride tends to get harsh on rough pavement. Beware of the available sequential manual gearbox unless you’re a serious enthusiast, as it can yield neck-snapping gear changes.”
$13,850 – $15,050

2004 Nissan 350Z

Joe Wiesenfelder says:Best sign there’s hope for the genre: From sedans to sport utility vehicles, everything is getting sportier, but whatever happened to the vehicle that is first and foremost a sports car? How about an affordable one? We’ve watched one example after another disappear. Then along comes the 350Z with its return to the tried-and-true formula: two seats; a big-displacement, normally aspirated engine; a manual transmission; and rear-wheel drive — and a ton of fun for less than $27,000. Now, around $7,000 more will buy a handsome convertible version, the 2004 350Z Roadster.”

Jim Flammang says: “Excitement seems to loom at every curve and corner when you’re behind the wheel of Nissan’s sports car. Available in coupe or roadster form, the 350Z should satisfy even jaded fans of the old Z-cars. Precise steering, easy maneuverability and confident behavior top its list of merits. Crisp automatic-transmission responses and a masterful manual gearbox could easily be added to its list of strong points. Nissan also earns credit for offering a variety of trim levels to suit various drivers. In any form, it’s a serious machine.”
$9,250 – $11,900

2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Joe Wiesenfelder says:Best people mover: If you want to throw open four doors, load five occupants and blaze from zero to 60 mph in about 5 seconds, your options are few. The most affordable include the STi and its World Rally Championship nemesis, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. What tips the scales in Subaru’s direction? More displacement for more torque, one more forward gear (for six total), quieter tires, a more livable ride, and niceties like cruise control and driver’s seat-height adjustment. If they would tone down the hood scoop and rear wing, even us older folks would buy ’em. And to think I was impressed by the regular WRX. . . .”

Jim Flammang says: “Subaru’s WRX and even-hotter WRX STi accelerate with ferocity and corner smartly as a result of quick and easy steering. Their taut suspensions tame most bumps, too. With their rear spoilers, each WRX also looks the part of a compact performance machine.”