Available for less than $25,000, these cars all exemplify the spirit of grand touring: speed, comfort, and style.
Merrian Webster’s Dictionary defines the term “Grand Tour” as “an extended tour of the Continent that was formerly a usual part of the education of young British gentlemen.” (In case you’re wondering, the capital C in the word Continent refers to the European continent).Updated April 2022: Driving a fast touring car is everyone’s dream, but new cars, especially performance-oriented ones are immensely expensive. Luckily, car enthusiasts like us can still count on the used car market to score incredible performance car bargains. We’ve updated this list with some of the best modern GT cars that are just old enough to be great deals.It follows, then, that a segment of cars named after this excursion would have an equally aristocratic purpose: to transport you and a passenger, along with a reasonable amount of luggage, at high speed and in great comfort, with a dash of raffish style sprinkled on top. Hearing the term today brings to mind pastel-hued visions of Aston Martin DB9s circling Lake Como or a Rolls-Royce Wraith thundering its way down an Alpine pass. That’s perfectly sensible: after all, aristocratic intentions demand aristocratic badges, and therefore equally aristocratic price tags. However, what if I told you it was possible to embody the spirit of the Grand Tour without spending a dime over $25,000? Don’t think we’re going to recommend a series of clapped-out, rusted-through classics either: all the cars on this list are thoroughly modern, with the oldest entries on the list rolling off assembly lines in the 2000s – except for our number one spot, of course, we like to surprise you every now and then.While we can’t deny that the Platonic ideal for the segment is something rear-wheel drive with a long nose and a short rear deck, there are plenty of other two-doors that can do the same thing without adhering to this strict formula. For this list then, we’ll look at vehicles that exemplify that aforementioned spirit of grand-touring: travel briskly, comfortably, and most importantly, in style.
The 996-generation Porsche 911 is arguable the most underloved 911 generation ever, and it’s mostly because of its awkward headlights that look near-identical to those found on the early Boxsters. But just because it’s less popular than other 911s doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of the legendary name badge. This early 2000s Porsche sports car had a neat and sturdy 3.6-liter flat-six tucked in its rear good for 320 hp. We’d argue that the 911 is one of the best touring cars to ever exist, and for the price of $24,000, it’s an absolute bargain.
This might be a bit of a controversial entry, given the fact that it was deemed the “worst car in the history of the world” by former Top Gear hosts James May and Jeremy Clarkson. However, we reckon that they were being their typically hyperbolic selves with that claim: there are certainly a lot of vehicles with a much shorter list of upsides than the SC430.
Chief among those perks was its 4.3 3UZ-FE V8 engine, a smooth, refined motor also found under the hood of the Lexus LS 430 and Japanese-market Toyota Crown Majesta sedan, which sent its 288 horses (and more impressive 317 lb-ft of torque) to the rear wheels via a six-speed slushbox.
Few cars from within the past 10 years are as distinctive-looking as the Cadillac CTS Coupe. Based on the second-generation CTS sedan, the two-door model featured a radical arrow-shaped profile, achieved by chopping the roof by two inches, increasing the rake of the windshield, and cutting the overall length by just over three inches.
Added aggression came courtesy of a widened rear track, all the better to house the chunky 275-width rear tires.
The interior is entirely befitting of a car costing around $40,000 when new, featuring ambient lighting and plenty of wood trim, along with a 10-speaker Bose stereo system. We’ve found a 2013 CTS Coupe with a 318 hp 3.6-liter V6 engine that only costs $14,000 on CarGurus.
Let’s change things up with a somewhat bland-looking, understated fast sedan from Sweden, the Volvo S60. We found a brilliant all-wheel-drive S60 that’s equipped with a potent little 2.5-liter straight-five engine that produced 250 hp, so you’ll never be slugging about the highway. And if speed isn’t quite your thing, this particular one is fitted with some electric-adjustable heated leather seats, as well as a top-of-the-range stereo system to make your trips more enjoyable. This particular one we found on CarGurus is selling for $21,000, but there are many cheaper models for sale too, so don’t fear! On a side note, the new Volvo S60 is everything this one was, and better in every single way!
The C-Class coupe is one of the Three-Pointed Star’s most overtly sporty offerings with a sleek profile and RWD layout. However, as this is a non-AMG Mercedes that we’re talking about, it won’t be as brutal as the full-blown AMG models; it places far more emphasis on occupant comfort than it does on-the-limit handling. Don’t cut the C 350 short though, it still comes packed with a 3.5-liter V6 that pushes out more than 300 hp via a 6-speed automatic transmission, and its luxurious feel is incredible in terms of the price you’re paying.
The Volvo C70 was a keenly-iced, somewhat upmarket vessel for a spot of comfortable, wind-in-the-hair fun, with the added option of having a sturdily-built folding metal roof over your head.
Being Swedish however, Volvo had the opportunity of getting a bit funky with their choice of powerplant, having settled for the brand’s erstwhile inline-five layout, also known as the T5 engine. Roughly $14,000 will put you behind the wheel of a top-shelf T5 model, which pumps out just under 230 hp. If you’re looking for a bit more thrust, Volvo’s high-performance arm, Polestar, offered an ECU flash tune that’ll bump that figure up to around 250, but it’s unclear whether they still offer this service today.
The second-generation E63-chassis BMW 6-Series never really acquired the same sort of adulation from aesthetes as its older brother, the legendary “Sharknose” E24. Upon its reveal back in 2003, it was considered downright ugly, its Chris Bangle-designed surfaces representing a radical departure from the subtly handsome design language usually favored by BMW. Time has softened enthusiasts’ perception of the 6-Series, but not the incredible rate of depreciation, which explains how you can get your hands on a relatively well-maintained 650i model for well under $20,000 that gives you a 4.8-liter N62 V8 to play with, good for a stout 362 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque.
Judged purely in terms of on-paper performance potential, the Lexus IS350C doesn’t seem to represent a hugely exciting proposition, weighing down the sedan-derived structure with an additional 400 lbs of bulk, along with the removal of two doors and a bunch of rigidity. However, hard-edged dynamic capabilities aren’t the point of this laid-back cruiser: you’ll be more at home on the boulevard than on an autocross circuit. $15,000 doesn’t seem like an exorbitant amount of cash to fork over for a luxurious, comfortable vehicle with a folding hardtop, peerless build quality, 300 hp, and Toyota’s typical bulletproof reliability.
While it never quite gained the same sort of adoration from driving enthusiasts as its RWD BMW 3-Series coupe rival did, there’s no denying that the Audi A5 had it beat in terms of exterior design. It might be one of the prettiest cars that the automaker has ever made, right up there with the Bauhaus-chic MK1 TT and both generations of the R8 supercar.
Its clean lines, penned by eminent automotive designer Walter De Silva, have ensured that it’ll look just as crisp in ten years as it did upon its reveal back in 2007. Even better, you’ll be able to enjoy the thrust of a 265 hp V6 being deployed to all four wheels, all while being pampered inside a typically well-executed Audi cockpit.
The Challenger doesn’t exactly fit the conventional grand-tourer mold: too brash, too big, too bulky, too… American. But those same characteristics also make it an ideal way of cruising your way across the country. An R/T model can be found on CarGurus for well under $25,000, which gives you 5.7-liters and 375 horses worth of continent-crushing pace to play with.
And while the cabin quality might not be first-class, the Challenger’s enormous footprint makes it plenty spacious, and as we all know, space is a luxury all on its own. Heck, it’s actually far more European than it lets on: the LX platform that underpins the Challenger has a fair few Mercedes-engineered components.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class isn’t as flashy as a full-blown S-Class, but it’s also not as bland as a C-Class, the E falls right in between the two levels of sophistication. And just because something’s sophisticated doesn’t mean it has to be boring. An E 550 is powered by a slightly watered-down AMG V8 of you will, it only has a displacement of 5.5-liters and produces 382 hp. If we were given the choice between this E 550 and the aforementioned C 350, we think it’s pretty clear which one we would go for.
Never quite escaping the shadow of its German rival, the Infiniti G37 nonetheless represents a mighty fine bargain if you’re looking for a well-appointed luxury with a potent V6 powerplant.
It’s underpinned by Nissan’s FM platform, shared with the Nissan 370Z, and also happens to use a revised version of its VQ37 engine, displacing 3.7-liters of naturally-aspirated capacity and pumping out a more than healthy 328 hp. One key difference between the two coupes is the availability of AWD on the Infiniti, which makes it a capable companion for any cross-country road trips in the dead of winter.
BMW is world-renowned for its straight-six engines, and the turbocharged 3.0-liter N54 unit used in the initial run of E92-chassis 335i is one of their very best, having won five International Engine of the Year awards in a row. That silky-smooth powerplant is more than enough to merit it a spot on this list, but the 3-Series coupe does one better by teaming those 302 horses to a responsive, refined RWD chassis and slick six-speed manual transmission. Combined with the 3-Series’ subtly handsome looks, is a very versatile driving experience that you can change as you please, and you’ll never feel any lack of power.
Jaguar has long been known as one of the coolest mainstream automakers in the industry, offering a lineup of sleek, sometimes menacing products with near-class-leading driving dynamics.
The XK does nothing to counter that perception, with a body penned by world-renowned auto designer Ian Callum (also behind the Aston Martin Vanquish and Nissan R390 Le Mans racecar) and a stiff, relatively lightweight all-aluminum chassis mated to a silken 4.2-liter V8 engine. Don’t think that this is some hard-edged track rat, however, as the interior is crammed to the gills with a national park’s worth of wood veneer, while ride and handling characteristics were neither too stiff nor too wobbly.
Effectively serving as a rakish, two-door version of the venerable S-Class luxury sedan, the CL was meant to serve as the flagship grand-tourer of the Mercedes brand and compete against the Bentley Continental GT.
While V8 and V12-powered AMG models are fairly common in the classifieds, we’d hesitate to recommend buying one for far under $25,000: they’re likely to have been driven hard (or outright abused) by their previous owner. Besides, the base CL 550 model offers plenty of performance, courtesy of a 4.7-liter V8 serving up 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch this barge to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.
Jeremy Clarkson once called the Mercedes SL 55 AMG “one of the world’s greatest cars.” That’s mighty high praise considering the enormous quantity of high-end machinery that he’s driven. Based on performance numbers alone, a price tag of just over $20,000 looks like daylight robbery: the SL 55’s hand-built 5.5-liter V8 cranks out a Boeing-like 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of thrust, enough to bring this retractable hardtop to 60 MPH in 4.7 seconds and on to a top speed of nearly 200 MPH. Even better, you’d be able to enjoy this supercar-shaming speed from the comfort of a tech-packed, leather-lined interior.
The Chevrolet Corvette is without peer when it comes to raw bang-for-the-buck, but thanks to its plastic-fantastic interior (except for the most recent C8), no one’s ever confused it with a luxury coupe. Emboldened by the seemingly strong business case of building a cut-price Mercedes SL competitor without having to invest in a new platform, GM pushed forward and stuffed a C5 Corvette with acres of leather and an (optionally) supercharged Northstar V8 before cloaking it in sheet metal that pulled heavily from Cadillac’s trademark “Art & Science” design language. Further costs were reduced by assembling all XLRs in the Bowling Green, Kentucky facility, where the Corvette is built.
The nattily-named Maserati Coupé probably isn’t the prettiest car the brand has ever made: when your back catalog includes stuff like the Bora, Khamsin, and Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’ racecar, it can be hard to stand out.
That said, in isolation at least, the Coupé is a beautifully-styled car, no surprise considering its designer was the incomparable Giorgetto Giugiaro. $20,000 would be reasonable for a non-functional piece of modern art penned by an industry icon, but this two-door is a downright steal when you consider what’s under the hood: 4.2 liters and eight cylinders worth of Ferrari-designed, naturally-aspirated artistry. The so-called F136 V8 cranks out 385 hp, sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or a flappy-paddle semi-automatic gearbox.
In all honesty, the ELR isn’t ‘brisk’, nor ‘quick’ – a powertrain closely related to that f the Chevrolet Volt will do that to you. It makes up for its comparative lack of speed (0-60 happened in about 7.5 seconds) with plenty of luxury and a truckload of exclusivity. From new, the ELR was stickered for around $75,000, a patently ludicrous sum for an FWD compact, regardless of how chic the interior was or how clever the tech. Consequently, Cadillac moved a grand total of 2,958 units over three years on sale. So, if you’re looking to cause a stir at the next Cars and Coffee meetup, forget putting a deposit down on a Lamborghini and get yourself one of these stunning comfortable cruisers.
Marnus Moolman is a young aspiring automotive writer from South Africa who is making a name for himself, despite his young age. Currently, he is studying to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting to pursue his lifetime dream of running his own automotive detailing establishment.