10K Friday: What’s the name of your hairdresser? TT v. Z3 v. Boxster v. SLK

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Arguably, I haven’t been very kind to the cars I’ve dubbed “The Three Hairdressers”. Perhaps I haven’t been fair; each has its merits, each has its own neat designs, and each has its quirks. What ties all three together, though, is bang for the buck; today, on Ebay, you can get your choice of great condition TT, SLK or Z3 for around $10,000. Each is a well engineered car with similar purposes but different execution. To make matters a little more complicated on this week’s 10K Friday, I’ve thrown a “real” sports car into the mix in the guise of a 1997 Boxster. Which is the one for you? Let’s start by looking at the Audi:

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Year: 2001
Model: TT 225 Convertible
Engine: 1.8 turbocharged inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 73,132 mi
Price: $ 9,995 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi TT 225 Convertible on eBay

90 Day Warranty! Clean CarFax Report w/Dealer Maintenance History, 1.8L 4 Cyl Turbo, 225 Horsepower, Quattro (AWD), 6-Speed Manual, Leather Interior, Black Canvas Softop, Power Windows, Locks, Mirrors, Heated Seats, Cassette Player, 17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Keyless Entry, Owners Manual, Current NJ Inspection 9/2014.

Great color, great wheels, and in my mind the one that has very clearly aged the best out of the four. The TT also is the best year-rounder with Haldex all-wheel drive. It may be considered the least “sporty” of the group, but the TT is a great little car that can easily be turned up a few notches if you’d like. This one sure looks to be in great shape. Turbo Quattros not your cup of tea? How about a supercharged Merc?

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I remember when these cars were launched, and I was pretty excited that after a fairly uninspired run there was suddenly a small supercharged SL with a folding hardtop. It sounded like a match made in heaven, and while the SLK wasn’t be best looking car Mercedes-Benz had ever put out, when equipped with the AMG Sport package, it did look pretty mean:

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Year: 2001
Model: SLK 230 Kompressor Sport
Engine: 2.3 supercharged inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 47,300 mi
Price: $ 10,750 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK230 Sport Convertible on eBay

2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Kompressor

Thank you for visiting another one of LUXURYCARVISION’s exclusive listings!

**carfax certified**

DON’T MISS THIS BEAUTY RARE COLOR !!!!

There is still plenty of tread left on the tires.

This vehicle is fully-loaded.

Very low mileage vehicle.

100% CARFAX guaranteed!

Very clean interior!

This vehicle comes with extended warranty for a complete detailed component coverage please click here

It seems that this vehicle was owned by a non-smoker.

Very smooth ride!

This is one of the most desirable color combinations.

This car has lower miles than the TT, but is automatic equipped – a package that lacked the punch of some of the others in the group. Still, these small convertibles aren’t all about speed, and the looks of this Mercedes look rap-video ready with the polished lip AMG wheels making the car really stand out. Overall it’s a tidy package, and the trump card is that folding hard-top, making it an attractive 3 season car for those who don’t always have sun. Rather see what the boys from Munich cooked up? Here’s a great 2.8 Z3:

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The Z3 2.8 has the unfortunately position of being almost as expensive as the more powerful and better-wheeled M Roadster, and the shadow of that more desirable car hides what a really great car the Z3 can be. Inline-6, manual transmission, lower weight; great combination. While the styling wasn’t for everyone, it was a fitting tribute to the Z1 which inspired it. Take a look at this clean Z3:

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Year: 1998
Model: Z3 2.8
Engine: 2.8 inline-5
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 75,613 mi
Price: $ 9,999 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 BMW Z3 2.8 Convertible on eBay

1998 BMW Z3 2.8L Convertible

2.8L I6 Engine
5-Speed Manual Transmission
Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)
Halogen Headlights
16″ Alloy Wheels
Traction Control
Keyless Entry

Adjustable Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel
Heated Seats
A/C Climate Controls
AM/FM CD Player with Premium Sound

Alpine White Exterior Color
Beige Leather Interior
2-dr Roadster Convertible Bodystyle

CONVERTIBLE!

Must See!
Clean!
Top-Condition Pre-owned Vehicle!

The color combination is classic convertible; clean and proper. Unlike the earlier black interiors, the tan is livable in the sun, and still looks great. Out of the first three, the Z3 would give most more smiles driving down a back road, would probably be the cheapest to run, but is likely the least appealing of the three – it’s hard to shake that vision of the M hanging just out of reach. Want to kick it up a notch? How about a Boxster:

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The Boxster is both loved and hated among Porsche fans. Like the 944, it’s the sales of Boxsters that allow those crazy 911s to stay alive, but most 911 owners would poo-poo the convertible as “just a Boxster”. Still, it’s hard to argue with the mid-engined flat-six platform in the corners, even if the 200 horsepower felt a little weak for the badge on the front:

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Year: 1997
Model: Boxster
Engine: 2.5 flat-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 45,873 mi
Price: $ 11,376 Buy It Now

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Porsche Boxster Convertible on eBay

2D Convertible. “Vehicle being sold “AS-IS”. Red Hot! Stick shift! Here at Bob Ruth Ford, we try to make the purchase process as easy and hassle free as possible. When was the last time you smiled as you turned the ignition key? Feel it again with this wonderful-looking and fun 1997 Porsche Boxster. The precision-tuned 2.5L H6 SMPI DOHC 24V Gasoline powerhouse delivers substantial horsepower and torque to get you where you need to go…and fast! This Boxster is nicely equipped with features such as 4-Wheel Disc Brakes, 6 Speakers, ABS brakes, Air Conditioning, Alloy wheels, AM/FM radio, Bumpers: body-color, Cassette, Convertible roof lining, Driver door bin, Driver vanity mirror, Dual front impact airbags, Four wheel independent suspension, Front anti-roll bar, Front Bucket Seats, Front Center Armrest w/Storage, Front fog lights, Passenger door bin, Passenger vanity mirror, Power convertible roof, Power door mirrors, Power driver seat, Power passenger seat, Power steering, Power windows, Rear anti-roll bar, Security system, Spoiler, Tachometer, and Telescoping steering wheel. The Country Dealer Who Beats Big City Prices!

Performance in a straight line between the four is shockingly similar – all around 200 hp, all in the 7 sec range to 60 mph. It all comes down to feel; the BMW and Porsche have their own driving characteristics, as do the very different Benz and Audi. Which is the winner? Well, they’re all quite nice; I can’t help but feel that the Audi is probably the deal of the four; I’d probably choose the Porsche 2nd but for the ask of the Porsche I’d really rather get into a 944 S2, honestly. I still think that the Audi has aged the best out of all of these and looks like the freshest design. Four season ability plus tuning potential are a bonus.

Which would you choose?

-Carter

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15 Comments

  1. Get some new material. The “hairdresser” comments were lame a decade ago when Jeremy Clarkson was using them.

  2. Kevin, did you get past the title? Because I wrote that each of these cars is a good package in its own way.

  3. Yes, Carter, I read the article. However this title came right on the heels of the article about the Eos where you referred to the same cars as having a “social stigma.” It’s getting quite tiresome.

  4. In all fairness, Kevin, the stereotype is out there. Regardless of how stupid it is, the reality is that influences some people’s perceptions.

    Back to the question at hand, I have to agree with Carter on this one – the TT is the clear winner here. It’s the 225HP quattro variant, 6-speed, great colors, well-equipped, soon-to-be classic design, reasonable mileage, etc.

    The polarizing design on the Z3 in white-on-beige is all wrong, so the Boxster would have to be next. And the 4-cyl auto-equipped SLK? Well, that’s just a hairdresser’s car. 😉

  5. I kind of agree with Kevin — I’m a huge fan of GCFS, and I read it every day — but the hairdresser thing is beneath you and your readers. Why not just come out with it, and say “Here are three cars for gay people, because gay people love cute little cabriolets!”

    Just to pile on a little — “it’s” means “it is” and the possessive of “it” is “its.” Little pet peeve of mine.

    Please do not take this as a condemnation of you or the blog — I love it. More 80’s and early 90’s cars, please!

  6. Well, I suppose if there’s an up side, at least it got you all talking! In my defense, I think I spend a fair amount of time trying to disprove “myths” about these cars – ie, if they’re considered a “girl’s” car, or not “sporty” enough for example. But, as always, I appreciate all of your input even if you don’t agree with me. So thank you for all of the comments, and I’ll work on my grammar and content.

  7. I have driven a few examples of each of these cars over the years so I do have a baseline from which I draw my opinions. So here’s my initial reaction based on the pictures and the ad information. Buy the Z3.

    The Audi, Mercedes and Porsche all lose desirability points because they seem to have spent a significant amount of time in the Northeastern United States. As I am an escapee from the Northeast myself, I recognize what a horrible environment that is for automobiles.

    The Z3 looks to be in the best condition of the four, but I know from Z3 ownership that looks can be deceiving. The plastics in Z3s are particularly susceptible to drying out and breaking so a very thorough examination is in order. I’m not a fan of this particular color combination, but you can’t exactly custom order a 15 year old used car.

    On the other hand, the Porsche truly appears to have been ridden hard and put away wet. This on top of the fact that it appears to have hardly any of the options available to Boxster owners. There are much better examples out there and for a little more money you can even score a 996 cabriolet.

    The Mercedes appears to be in okay condition but there are some cosmetic issues to be addressed and in my opinion, these cars aren’t all that appealing to drive.

    As to the Audi, I don’t get the concept of all wheel drive mated to a roadster. In my experience, the 225hp AWD car didn’t feel much faster, if any, than the 180hp FWD version. If you’re looking for all-out performance, you’re going to want a hard top car. If you’re looking for the best vehicle for nasty weather, you still want a hard top car.

  8. Most buyers don’t have different cars for different situations, so in most circumstances, the “best vehicle for…” argument doesn’t lead to a realistic answer. As you all know, the difference between a 6 month a year roadster and a 12 month a year roadster in the Northeast may be the driven wheels. Obviously, you aren’t putting the top down in January, but since most buyers can’t afford cars for every season, the roadster they buy for nice days in July still has to get them to work in January. So for all of us still living where it snows, the higher output quattro TT scores bonus points.

    I’d also agree this particular Boxster probably isn’t the best example of the breed out there, but it has fairly low miles and (roughly) meets the $10K price point criteria. That said, please direct me to the 996 Cabriolet 6-speeds for sale with even remotely similar mileage for anywhere close to “for a little more money.” A quick search suggests you’re approaching $20K even for the problematic ’99 models, and well over that for a ’00 or later.

  9. It’s true, it wasn’t the best Boxster, but it was the cheapest I could find at writing with a manual; there were a few tips and a salvage title car for less, but this particular one looked like the best option for the money at the time. It points to the Boxster market, though, coming into line with the other 3, which opens a whole new conversation!

  10. Sorry Larry, I don’t consider cars like these to be daily drivers. There are too many compromises inherent in their design. Given the mileage on these examples, there are other people who share my view.

    As far as a 996 goes, I didn’t say mileage would be the same and I DID say a little more money. Although I like Boxsters, I would rather hold out until I could afford a Carrera. You can find 996 cabs in the teens if you look. Expect miles to be more in the 80s. However, you get WAY more car for the money and they are easier to work on as well.

    I’m not sure where you got the idea that ’99s are problematic. The guy who bought my ’99 Carrera 4 works for Porsche headquarters in Atlanta and he told me the tech guys at Porsche advised him to look for a ’99 model 996. Read anything you want into that.

  11. I agree, Kevin, you can find a few higher-mileage 996 cabriolets out there for slightly under $20K. But that wasn’t the question. The question was “which German 2-seat convertible you would buy for about $10K?” It’s kind of like what Carter did the other day with the Mk4 vs. Mk5 R32’s. Posed one question, then answered a different one.

    Clearly, a 2-seat convertible is inherently functionally compromised as a daily driver (depending, of course, on what your desired functionality is). Some people, including yourself, won’t use them as daily drivers. OK, but some people will (a quick look out the window of my office confirmed this). Either way, we can’t use the examples above as an indication of what’s typical or not.

    Regarding the early 996 problems…earlier 996/986 engines had several potential problem areas (including the RMS/IMS issues) affecting a limited number of cars (estimates seem to range widely, from “less than 1%” to “5-10%”). Any engine can fail, sure, but for my money, I’d prefer better odds than that. Especially for the cost of a replacement Porsche engine.

    I have no idea why some tech guys at Porsche told the guy who bought your ’99 Carrera 4 to look for a ’99 model 996. Maybe he was looking for the best price. When I was looking at 996’s, there was a significant price break on the ’99’s. Read anything you want into that.

  12. Actually, he was looking for the ones they thought would be most reliable for him.

    Regarding Boxsters, Carter already stated he had a hard time finding a $10k example. That ‘s because nicer ones go for significantly more.

    Finally, the 996 issues are actually found in Boxsters, 996s and 997s. (Basically cars from 1997 through 2009.) No one has been able to provide factual information regarding overall failure rate or failure rate by model or year. It is yet another example of “don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

  13. I was going to let this go, but the timing is just too good. BaT just posted a ’99 996 with an LS1 swap for “the troublesome M96 3.4 it would have had from the factory.” The seller further stated, “The reason I swapped the LS1 into my 911 is for reliability over the issue-plagued M96 engine.”

    Kevin, you are correct in stating that these issues have been cited in multiple models, but actual failure rates have not been reliably confirmed. And as always, one shouldn’t believe everything one reads on the internet. However, given the quantity of smoke everywhere, it’s unrealistic to think there’s no fire. We just don’t know exactly how big that fire is.

  14. Larry, before I bought mine (in 2010, a 1999 model with 14k miles on it) I did a LOT of research. The self-appointed internet Porsche gurus all warned me that a car that old with that few miles on it would probably explode before I even got it home. One of them actually used those exact words.

    So I went to the local independent Porsche specialist and asked for his opinion. He said that out of the hundreds of cars he had worked on in the previous decade, he had only seen 2 failures and that he wouldn’t let the internet hysteria keep him from buying a nice car.

    So I bought it. I immediately took it to the specialist and basically gave him a blank check. “Do whatever it needs done to be ready to drive every day.” He changed the oil and the brake fluid and sent me on my way. A little over 2 years and 15,000 miles later I had to sell it due to economic reasons. In that time the most expensive thing I had to buy was tires. (996s eat back tires)

    Although I have read about it a lot on the internet, I have never met an actual person who has experienced IMS failure. I do know a guy with a 997 whose motor blew up, but it wasn’t due to an IMS problem. Finally think about this: how many times do you post on the internet to let people know nothing went wrong with your car today?

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