Pity the mid-priced sports car, carrying neither bragging rights with a stratosphere sticker, nor winning you points with the millionaire next door who boils an egg, eats half and puts the other half in a plastic bag in the fridge. That said, there are a plethora of stylish, speedy machines under the $50,000 price tag. We recently tested and fell for BMW’s 230i Xdrive, for example, a steal beginning at $33,150, more with options, obviously. Here’s our report as well as profiles of two similarly-priced vehicles.
It’s hard to beat the level of perfection BMW has already exhibited with this fast, great-looking, comfortable and thoroughly fun sportser, but they’ve managed to do it this year by upping its already-considerable power. Their luxe coupe/convertible received two new engines for ’17, an occasion auspicious enough to warrant name changes – last year’s 228i is this year’s 230i and the former M255i is now the M240i. We’ll confine our review to the car we tested – the 230i. With 248 horses, this ride’s pure fun, again and again, yet it manages to squeeze a reasonable amount of mileage with 24 MPG city, 33 highway according to its press materials.
Its supension is BMW-smooth and tight, lending a feeling of sweet control and making passing, dashing, evading and parking all a pleasure for drivers with a bit of nerve, like us. Inside, the design, again, is BMW tip-top for the price, with upscale materials, a tight, compact feeling and a rear seat that’s meant for your gallon of milk and a dozen eggs, forget passengers, even kids. An 8-speed automatic transmission is butter-smooth, but you can order a six-speed manual and it doesn’t add to the cost. Rear-wheel drive is standard with AWD offered as an option.
You’ve got 4 drive modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport-Plus and Eco-Pro. Eco-Pro drops the engine down to idle when you take your foot off the pedal even at speed, saving you a ton of gas. Throw it into Sport-Plus when the time is right and boom-boom, you’re off. Unlike some vehicles offering these drive choices where one feels just barely different from the next, the 230i’s drive choices are dramatic – you really feel “I’m saving gas!” with the Eco-Pro and “Giddyap!” in Sport-Plus.
What we didn’t like? We’ve never been crazy about BMW’s center console control wheel, but it’s here to stay, apparently, so one deals and eventually you can zip quickly through the menus. We’re not bananas about any automatic start-stop function, killing the engine when you idle, either. Neither of these minor gripes is a deal-breaker, though. We really loved this ride and hated to give it back despite its prison jumpsuit color.
The RC’s a rear or all-wheel-drive sport coupe, unchanged for this year, and looks-wise, it combines the best of a lot of different Lexuses, topped off with a particularly fierce-looking grille.
Some reviewers have clobbered this ride for different reasons, especially its aqcuired-taste touch control unit in the center console (an option) as well as its tepid accelaration without the (also an option) F-Sport package. We like this car, though – it looks speedy and sharp, and if you’re a Lexus aficionado, it’lll smoke your figurative tires. So what if you’re not winning any red-light challenges on your way to your accounting firm or dental practice? At a base price of $43,985, it’s less expensive than much of Lexus’ other sporty rides.
The car comes in the following trims:
RC 300 RWD: 241-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with eight-speed automatic transmission.
RC 300 AWD: 260-hp 3.5-liter DOHC V6 and six-speed automatic transmission.
RC 350 RWD: 311 hp 3.5-liter DOHC V6 and eight-speed Sports Program Direct Shift (SPDS) transmission.
RC 350 AWD: 311 hp 3.5-liter DOHC V6 and six-speed automatic transmission.
It’s also got a five Horsepower increase (RC 300 AWD, RC 350 RWD and 350 AWD), an Updated Drive Mode Select (Sport S+ and Custom Mode) for F SPORT models and a new 10.3” standard navigation screen. Lexus offers four high-contrast interior colors for the RC — Stratus Gray, Playa, Flaxen, Black and an additional, exclusive color for F SPORT: Rioja Red. Each features a contrasting stitching color. The RC offers two types of genuine shimamoku wood-trim, which adorns portions of the door panels and dash. Shimamoku denotes an intense, layered production technique refined by Lexus that yields an exceptionally deep-looking, polished finish to the wood. (Note: Photos of the 2018 RC were not available at press time.)
The A3’s 2015 refresh continued this model brand’s high position in the pecking order of under 50K sports cars. (This one starts at $38,350.) The inside’s all Audi up-upscale, with aluminum accents, quality materials and other standard goodies that belie this ride’s relatively inexpensive starting price. Some mod high points include an “MMI Controller” with handwriting recognition, with a central screen rising out of the dash. It’s also easy to get in and out of the front seats, with a wide door opening, but you’ll find a bit of a tight squeeze when attempting the rear. Kids? Pets? Sure, hop on in. Full-size adults? Pass the butter.
Visibility is excellent with the top up, especially for a smallish ride, and the backup camera is hardly needed although it’s nice to have just in case. All-wheel drive means less room in the trunk and there’s not an abundance of room for stuff in the cockpit, but that’s the point of a sports car – it’s not something you haul the gang in, or their junk. You can, however, fold down the rear seats and fit your golf clubs, guitar or what-have- you.
The 2018 Audi A3 is offered in four-door sedan and two-door convertible (Cabriolet) trims, both with available front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Trims offered are Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Two USB ports and heated front seats come standard for 2018 and blind-spot monitoring is standard on the Premium Plus trim levels.
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