If you asked a random person on the streetÂ which was more rare, an E91 wagon with a manual transmissionÂ or an Audi R8, I guarantee you that the majority of folks would say the R8. They would of course be wrong because an average of 1,500 wagons came to the U.S.Â annually with a estimatedÂ maximumÂ of 5% being manuals. That lumps this example in with rare gated manuals like Ferrari F430s or Aston Martins. Of course most people look at this car and just see another AWD wagon suited for life in a mountain town. In my opinion, that is a big part of the appeal and though it’s not nearly as powerful as an Audi S4, I think these M-Sport package cars are equally as special. I have yet to get a chance to drive on with a manual but I know how well they handle and as someone who owned a B7 S4 Avant, I have to say the BMW was more enjoyable for spirited driving. Sure, you don’t get the V8 wail like you do with the S4 or an AMG wagon but the venerable 3.0L I-6 can sing a pleasing song with the right upgrades, particularly an M-Sport exhaust and headers.
It’s always a happy occasion when I come across a ZHP that has been well loved and remains unmolested. In fact I think these cars are more likely to have been left in their original state than an M3 simply because the folks that tended to opt for the ZHP were more “grown up”. All I mean by that is while the E36 3 series was in production there was no four door M3 option so if you were a family man who wanted a go fast BMW, this was your car.
The ZHP only got a 10hp increase over the regular 330i but reprogrammed engine management and a close ratio six speed manual made it feel quite zippy. It’s stiffer and slightly lower too but from what I’ve read the ride quality didn’t suffer and that’s a big plus. I’ve driven a couple of E46 M3s and while they’re fantastic for spirited driving, I don’tÂ cruising around in them on city streets. In this era before adaptive suspension setups you had to decide whether you wanted a performance car that was tolerable in day to day life or a sporty car that was OK when you wanted to get after it a bit. The older I get the more I find myself thinking the latter is the right way to go and I think the 330i ZHP is a near perfect choice for the driver who might go to the track a few times a year but mostly enjoys a spirited canyon run.
CLICK FOR DETAILS:Â 2004 BMW 330i ZHP on Pelican Parts
I’m not sure if there is a more under appreciated and oft maligned sports car than the Porsche Boxster. I was quite fond of the original generation, even had a 1:18 scale Maisto model of theÂ original concept version that would become the 986. I think what drew me to the car was the obvious design nod to the Porsche 550 Spyder, which is art on wheels as far as I’m concerned. The majority of people would say the Boxster is just the opposite. They still look at it as the poor man’s Porsche or the divorcee mobile or the car you get bait & switched into by a shady dealershipÂ when by some divine miracle, you make a hole in one at the tournament with a WIN A PORSCHE gimmick. Look it up, that kind of thing has totally happened.
I actually think that’s a good thing because it leaves plenty of these cars out there for those of us who know better than to be swayed by public opinion. The Boxster isn’t without its faults but that can be said of all Porsches right up to the very tip top models that like to catch on fire just for the hell of it. The Boxster is a great choice of vehicle for anyone who just loves to drive. Â First one I got to pilot was a 2013 base model with the excellent 6spd manual transmission, top down on the freeway in the middle of December on a cloudy day in Los Angeles. I remember everything about that experience vividly and I think that’s a true testament to just how good of a machine these are.
CLICK FOR DETAILS:Â 2008 Porsche Boxster S on Cars.com
Were I not the sucker for a V8 soundtrack that I am, I would probably already have owned or currently own one of these cars. Like the M-Sport BMWs, the S-Line Audis can be looked at as the more wallet friendly alternative to their non hyphenated name siblings. While vehicles wearing the roundel are often offer a more dynamic driving experience, Audis are no slouch in the fun department and still offer the quiet kind of luxury that I prefer.
In terms of rolling incognito the A4 S-Line Titanium is perhaps the very definition of the term. The charcoal Ronal wheels aren’t for everyone but I’ve always liked them, so long as they wear a tire with a protective lip. These wheels are prone to curb damage and I’ve seen some badlyÂ chewed up ones over the years. Aside from the wheels only a few other cosmetic changes will clue an informed individual into the fact that this is an extra special A4. Blacked out window trim, grille surround and piano black interior trim are all that really separate the Titanium from a run of the mill S-Line. As for the S-Line package, that adds a lower ride height, 3 spoke steering wheel (aka. the one you want) and some S-Line badges that are easily removed, as you see here. The result is a real sleeper that has the potential to be an outright monster given theÂ massive aftermarket part availability for the 2.0T A4. If it was me, I’d leave this thing alone except for an ECU flash to get just that little bit of extra juice for those times when the power hungry side of my personality kicks in.
CLICK FOR DETAILS:Â 2008 Audi A4 2.0T S-Line TitaniumÂ On AutoTrader
When I think roadtrip vehicle, my mind immediately goes to the frugal and capable Jetta TDI. When driven carefully, they can far exceed their standard MPG ratings while swallowing tons of gear. All this with class-leading comfort and style in the interior. My main gripe is the unattractive front end, but in my dreams I just throw a TDI Cup front end on it, creating a seriously good-looking wagon. This 2009 Sportwagen has a lot of positives – low mileage, 6-speed manual, panoramic roof and premium sound are all boxes I’d want ticked. The glaring downside is the rebuilt title, which we know is always a big liability. A full inspection could suss out if the driver’s-side collision really was minor and if everything is good to go. Rebuilt titles mean low resale values – maybe not ideal if you sell it in the future, but if everything checks out it creates an insane deal on an ultimate roadtrip machine.