BMW 135i

13 Affordable German Cars That Are Tons Of Fun To Drive

German carmakers are known to make cars that are fun to drive. Most of them have at least a few driver-focused models in their portfolio. Their cars usually cost more than a Japanese or American alternative, though.

However, we’ve scoured the internet for affordable German cars that are tons of fun to drive, and we’ve found quite a few. Granted, they may be from a decade or two ago, and maintaining them can sometimes be expensive, but at least the average Joe can buy them.

BMW Z3

BMW Z3
Image Credit: nakhon100/Wiki Commons.

BMW introduced the little Z3 roadster in 1995, and from 1996, it was available with a choice of powerplants ranging from 1.8 liters to 3.2 liters. While the smaller capacity four-cylinder versions arguably offer better handling, they’re severely underpowered, so we’d opt for one of the six-cylinder versions.

The BMW Z3 can be picked up for a song these days, and while it’s not as agile as the Miata, it’ll still put a smile on your face. Even James Bond drove one, and we all know he’s got style.

BMW Z4

BMW Z4
Image Credit: Rjcastillo/Wiki Commons.

If, for some reason, the Z3 isn’t right for you, or if you have a slightly higher budget, the BMW Z4 could be what you’re looking for. It has a much better suspension than its predecessor and is a better driver’s car.

BMW offered it with a range of engines, and we’d still stick with one of the six-cylinder units, preferably one mated to a manual transmission. If you don’t want to row your own gears, the Z4 was also available with automatic options.

BMW 335i

E90 BMW 335i
Image Credit: nakhon100/Wiki Commons.

Those who’d like a car from Bavaria, but need something a bit more practical than an open-top two-seater sports car, should look into the E9X BMW 335i. 

Available in both 2- and 4-door form and with a usable rear seat, the 335i can be a sensible everyday car that doubles as a weekend toy. There are concerns regarding the engine’s reliability, but if it’s cared for and properly maintained, it’ll last forever — avoid examples that have spent the last couple of years bouncing off the rev limiter.

Porsche Boxster 986

986 Porsche Boxster
Image Credit: Thomas Bresson/Wiki Commons.

Another German sports car with a questionable engine. Yes, the 986 Porsche Boxster does suffer from the dreaded IMS issue, but in reality, only about 5% of the cars will ever have that problem, and many have already received a new engine. Ensure you get it properly checked by a Porsche specialist before buying, though.

Once that’s taken care of, the first-gen Porsche Boxster will give you endless driving pleasure. The 2.5-liter engine in the base model is a bit underpowered, so you may want to look for the 2.7-liter or the top-of-the-line 3.2-liter Boxster S.

Porsche 944

1986 Porsche 944 Turbo
Image Credit: Daniel J. Leivick/WikiCommons.

As classic Porsche 911 prices skyrocketed out of reach for most enthusiasts, the 944 became a good alternative. However, as more people turn to the water-cooled, front-engined Porsche, its prices are now rising.

While the Turbo version isn’t affordable anymore, finding a great naturally aspirated example for sensible money is still possible. That probably won’t be the case much longer, though, so if you want one, now is the time to buy.

Audi TT

Audi TT Roadster
Image Credit: Matti Blume/Wiki Commons.

Audi introduced the TT in 1998. It’s powered by the now-legendary 1.8-liter turbo engine and has the Quattro AWD system, which makes it a blast to drive no matter the road conditions.

The first-gen Audi TT is cheap as chips right now, and it still looks stylish 25 years after it first went on sale. If you want something a little more modern, even the second-gen TT can be picked up for reasonable money.

Audi S3

Audi S3
Image Credit: Calreyn88/Wiki Commons.

Granted, Audi didn’t sell the S3 in North America, but the first generation, launched in 1999, is now eligible for import under the 25-year rule. You don’t need to get one from Europe, either, as it was sold new in Mexico. However, if you want one from Europe, plenty are currently available in the $5,000-$10,000 range.

Built on the VW Golf platform, had the same turbocharged 1.8-liter as the Audi TT and used a Haldex AWD system, although it was still branded as Quattro. With 222 hp in such a small car, you’re bound to have a good time.

Audi A4 2.0T Quattro

Audi A4 2.0T Quattro
Image Credit: Kieran White/Wiki Commons.

The B7 Audi A4 was introduced in 2004 and lasted until 2008. It was a heavily updated B6, not a brand-new model from the ground up. That’s irrelevant, though, as it’s still an excellent car.

Depending on the market, it was available as a wagon, sedan, and cabrio. The sedan is the perfect compromise between practicality and pure fun, and with the 197 hp 2.0-liter engine and Quattro AWD, it’s a blast on the open road — even when it’s covered in snow.

Mercedes-Benz SLK

Mercedes-Benz SLK
Image Credit: Steve1911/Wiki Commons.

Mercedes-Benz sold over 300,000 first-gen SLKs from their introduction in 1995 until production ended in 2004. Although its design is a bit dated and not to everyone’s liking, it’s still a solid sports car underneath.

The SLK was among the first cars to use a folding metal roof instead of a soft top, so it’s also decent during winter. Supercharged 2.3-liter models can be bought for under $10,000, and it’s possible to find 3.2-liter AMG cars for $15,000.

Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport

Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport
Image Credit: AngMoKio/Wiki Commons.

If you want a car with a three-pointed star on the grille, but the SLK is too impractical, the W204 C-Class is an excellent sports sedan option. In C350 Sport guise, it had 268 to 302 hp, depending on the year. However, it was only available with a 7-speed automatic.

If you want a manual, you must sacrifice some power and look for a C300, but with 228 to 248 hp, it’s certainly not slow.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Image Credit: Dinkun Chen/Wiki Commons.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been around since the mid-1970s. While the early cars were excellent, they’re old, very basic, and cost a small fortune if you want one that’s in good condition. The third and fourth generations weren’t great; they were bloated and underpowered.

What we want is a fifth or sixth-gen GTI. Both offer reasonably powerful engines and excellent driving dynamics.

Volkswagen Corrado

1995 Volkswagen Corrado VR6
Image Credit: Neil/Flickr.

Volkswagen introduced the compact Corrado 2+2 coupe as a successor to the Scirocco, although there was some overlap, as both models were sold simultaneously. 

It was offered with various engines, ranging from naturally aspirated 4-cylinders to supercharged 4-cylinders and six-cylinder VR6 engines. No matter the engine, all the power was sent to the front wheels.

BMW 135i

BMW 135i
Image Credit: Tokumeigakarinoaoshima/Wiki Commons.

It’s been a while since BMW’s model numbers actually made sense. Contrary to popular belief, the 135i doesn’t have a 3.5-liter engine. It has a turbocharged 3.0-liter mill that pumps out 300+ hp.

A small car like the BMW 1-Series, fitted with a powerful engine, manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive, is just bound to be fun to drive. If it doesn’t make you smile, you may be dead inside.

Andre Nalin

Author: Andre Nalin

Title: Writer

Bio:

Andre has worked as a writer and editor for multiple car and motorcycle publications over the last decade, but he has reverted to freelancing these days. He has accumulated a ton of seat time during his ridiculous road trips in highly unsuitable vehicles, and he’s built magazine-featured cars. He prefers it when his bikes and cars are fast and loud, but if he had to pick one, he’d go with loud.

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