Featured: Here Are 11 Future Classics From The 2000s That Are Perfect For Investing Or Doing Burnouts In

Here Are 11 Future Classics From The 2000s That Are Perfect For Investing Or Doing Burnouts In

Alex Sobran By Alex Sobran
March 13, 2019
15 comments

In the time I’ve spent this morning looking through various automakers’ archival images for early-2000s performance cars, I learned two things. One, that the promotional materials seemingly had to feature their subjects in red or blue if not metallic silver paint (count the examples below, and that’s only with minimal cherry-picking to make this intro work!). The second piece of information I acquired is what a quarter-life crisis feels like; I grew up with a lot of these things being the hot and the new, but now the first Honda S2000s are having their twentieth birthdays in 2019 while its contemporary counterparts make me feel like yelling at “the youths.”

You might be right in refusing to call the cars in this list classics yet, but vague labels like that don’t mean anything anyway, and if we stretch the timeline of automotive collecting out past the last gas-powered cars that will ring the combustion engine’s death knell in a few decades, the 2000s will have proved to have carried their weight, cool car-wise. There were a lot of ugly jelly bean bodies, plenty of wiring issues to deal with, and collecting them today means dealing with stupid shit like broken auto-aim headlights that cost a grand a pop, but here are a few cars (and one pick-up truck) from the decade that the aspiring naughts collector might want to consider. If you’ve got one to add or want to get into an argument for the hell of it the comment section awaits.

Limited-Edition Street Racers

The Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG Coupe

By the time “Y2K” entered the popular lexicon, the era of homologation specials had been reduced to extremely limited production runs like that of the CLK-GTR’s, but Mercedes created another quick car with motorsport links for those looking to play race driver on the Friday commute home. The CLK DTM AMG pictured below wasn’t built to support a racing version of itself, but the other way around. To celebrate the factory’s German touring car (DTM) championship win from 2003, 100 coupes were built in 2004, and when Merc won again in 2005 and 2006, they built 80 cabriolets for the 2007 model year. All CLK DTM AMGs pack a detuned 5.4L V8 from the SLR supercar, but “detuned” has the wrong connotations for a supercharged mill that puts out over 580bhp.

Why it’s special:

It’s a big luxo coupe with a three-pointed star on the hood, seriously dramatic fender flares, a 0-62 time of under four seconds, a carbon fiber wing, and Kimi Räikkönen used to own one.

The Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

If you have a few hundred grand that you’d like to turn into a car, but want something a bit more exotic than a front-engined Mercedes-Benz (these are over $400k today), the Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale is a compelling option at a slightly lower price point. Significantly more track-focused than the standard 360 Modena, the power is barely bumped up in the Challenge Stradale version, with most of the modifications being made in the pursuit of lightness and enhanced feedback instead. Plastic windows, fewer creature comforts, an extensive use carbon fiber, less sound deadening, carbon ceramic brakes, and the tweaked V8 in the middle of the car elevate the CS above the base Modena—this is the Ferrari for those who really do “take it to the track sometimes.”

Why it’s special:

Things like carbon fiber doors and slide-open Lexan windows make for an excellent example of a factory street-legal track car. In the right spec these are almost 250lbs lighter than the base 360, and the overall design is aging better than anyone would have predicted even five years ago.

Supercar-Killing Sedans

The BMW E39 M5

The beginning of the four-door German car edition of Horsepower Wars is debatable, but the clear winner in the beginning of the new millennium was BMW. The recipe was just right: a six-speed with a nice tall lever, subtle but brutish exterior garnishes, a V8 good for almost 400bhp, and the best promotional film a sedan’s ever starred in (the directed by Guy Ritchie featuring not-Madonna getting a spirited ride to the red carpet). The optional colored seat inserts might have been comically similar to the covers you can buy at AutoZone back then, but today if you find an Imola Red car with the matching interior then you’re sitting on a pretty desirable specimen. BMW might be known for their straight-sixes, but the first V8 M5 is one of the best representations of the company in a single car to date.

Why it’s special:

The BMW M5 is consistently the watermark by which so many other performance sedans are measured against, and a comparison to the E39 is the typical litmus test for every new M5 released. If Germany did NASCAR…

Subaru Impreza WRX STi “Blob-Eye”

Fast Japanese cars have a predictable arc. They are bought new by moneyed enthusiasts (and those willing to take on payday loan levels of interest on their car loans), and they are lusted after by the younger crowd in particular. These people start snatching up the secondhand ones, many of which will end up in ditches. Modifying and hard driving starts to dwindle the population of clean, stock, responsibly-owned examples, and after a few decades people start buying Supras for new Lambo money. With the Mitsubishi Evo dead and the modern STi a massive bloated version of its former self, it’s not hard to see the same happening to the so-called blob-eye generation of Subaru’s performance icon. I don’t think these will keep pace with the Supra or the RX-7 or the other big name JDM drool-collectors, but they do have some motorsport provenance, and a sedan with a wing that gaudy—but with the performance to back it up—is always going to be interesting.

Why it’s special:

It’s just about as radical as they come. Look at it. Big gold BBS wheels with big gold Brembos behind them. A scoop like a snowblower, magenta emblems, blue bucket seats, and a wing that could seat four. All from the factory. And it has an angry turbocharged four-banger that pulls 300bhp from just two and a half liters.

Eight-Cylinder Two-Doors

Chevrolet C5 Corvette Z06

Corvette owners are the butt of plenty of jokes involving jean shorts and Benihana button-ups, but for every hackneyed joke about compensating for something with a fast and vaguely phallic sports car, there’s a C5 putting its money where its goofy license plate cover mouth is. If you see a tired example of a base C5 in need of a major paint correction in a strip mall parking lot it’s going to look like a sad husk of a car that once had potential, but well-kept Z06s overwrite those stories. You can get a nice Z06 for less than $20k at any given time, which means around 400bhp to play with for the same price as a new Kia. Fast and cheap isn’t a new concept, especially in the world of American cars with V8s, but the C5 Z06 could see a price rise as collectors start to think about which front-engined ‘Vettes are going to define their portfolios in the coming mid-engine age.

Why it’s special:

It’s a performer, it’s cheap and easy to maintain relative to the rest of this list, and it has a few special claims to make in the Corvette timeline; the C5 generation was the first time the Z06 designation was used since the first appearance in the 1960s, and the C5 was the car that launched the now-legendary LS family of General Motors engines with the LS1.

Jaguar XKR Coupe

This one might not belong on the list. It was developed in the 1990s, and it depreciated like no one’s business, but the last of the top-spec XKRs were produced in the 2000s, and their affordability today is of the can’t-go-any-lower variety, so they are sort of like a penny stock for the modern collector on a budget. The interior is dated looking and stodgier than it is sporty, you can’t get it with a stick, and it was the car of choice for one of the lamest Bond villains, but you can buy these handsome GTs for even less cash than the ‘Vette above. More or less the standard XK8 with the XJR sedan’s supercharged V8, the XKR Coupe produces 370bhp from its 4.0L (400bhp in the later 4.2L cars), and in addition to the torquey fun to be had on on-ramps, they are stunners when parked. While very much a product of its time design-wise, the bodywork has just the right mix of classic and modern Jaguar styling. Just give the head and taillight lenses a good polish.

Why it’s special:

Beautifully curvy, amply torquey, excessively cheap to buy. Finding a nice spec that’s been well taken care of shouldn’t be hard either, considering Jaguar built more than 20,000 between the coupe and convertible productions runs.

Hot Hatches

Volkswagen R32

Volkswagen is often credited as creating the hot hatch segment, and they’ve been consistently leading that market since the first Golf GTi was launched in the late 1970s. They are giant-killers that deserve their reputation, and the first R model of the Golf was the most radical performance car VW had ever made for the public. Rather than being front-wheel drive like the GTi, the R32 was all-wheel drive, and the company’s novel VR6 under the hood was a 3.2L version with a 24-valve head. It was good for just under 240 naturally-aspirated horsepower and a similar torque figure of 236ft-lbs. It’s a quick-and-agile-enough car, but the reason to own one mostly lies on the R32’s place in VW history. The R32’s body enhancements over the GTi are also perfect “2000s-tuner” style without being overdone. Overall, it’s a fierce little factory hot rod.

Why it’s special:

The Haldex all-wheel drive system made this the first all-wheel drive performance car with a VW R badge on it, and it was also the first street car to get the R designation, and given the massive classic VW fanbase that exists, owning an example of the company’s most important hatchback milestone since the first GTi could yield a nice return on your investment.

Renault Sport Clio V6

Look at the Clio sprouting the happy family, then look at the Sport Clio V6 next to it—remind you of Group B homologation specials? Like the Renault 5 that the French automaker augmented into the R5 Turbo to contest the WRC in the 1980s, the humble second-generation Clio underwent its own round of major reassignment surgeries to become something wholly new. The base Clio had a little inline-four in the front of the car powering the front wheels and depending on which boxes you checked on the order form, you could have one with less than 60bhp. To promote the new car, Renault organized a one-make Cup-style series, and got Tom Walkinshaw Racing to create the Clio’s racing spec. The end result was a mid-engined V6-powered two-seater with a radical wide body and almost nothing shared with the base car—Renault made road-going versions of these TWR cars, which are the ones pictured below. The Renault Laguna-sourced V6 was tuned to produce around 230bhp in the first Clio V6s, and more than 250bhp in the “Phase 2” cars, making them some of the most powerful hatchbacks of their time.

Why it’s special:

It began as a front-engined, front-wheel drive econobox and was turned into a mid-engined rear-wheel drive that has more road presence than any supercar. It calls to mind rally cars and silhouette racers, and if there’s a meaner-looking hatch made in the 21st century I haven’t seen it.

Roadsters For Drivers

Honda S2000

The S2000 was Honda’s 50th birthday present to itself, and it remains one of the most unique sports cars the company has produced. It epitomized so much of what the brand is good at. For starters: small-displacement engines. The first S2000s produced almost 125bhp per liter in 1999 (in JDM spec), and to put that into perspective, the McLaren F1’s BMW-built V12 barely crested the 100bhp per liter threshold in 1992. The first S2000s revved past 9,000rpm. The first S2000s have perfect 50:50 weight distributions. The first S2000s were tail-happy little bastards with skinny tires and stiff suspensions. The later “AP2” S2000s are going to deliver a very similar experience to the early cars, but poll anyone who’s driven both and they’ll tell you the first iteration is the one to get if you’re primarily going after the driving experience.

Why it’s special:

Lightweight, rear-wheel drive, a super-revvy engine that’s mounted behind the front axle, two seats, and everything facing the driver make the S2000 the funnest of toys, but it was also a rare foray into rear-wheel drive sports cars for modern Honda to be making, which adds a collectibility factor.

Lotus Elise Series 2

The second generation of the Lotus Elise saw the company pairing up with GM to develop a car that could be rebadged and rebodied for the larger company’s sub-brands, but to think that meant a compromised product would be the wrong takeaway. Much of the car was carried over from the first Elise, and the power plants (borrowed from Rover and Toyota over the course of the Series II’s lifespan) were developed over time to produce over 200bhp by the end of the car’s life. If that doesn’t sound like much, don’t forget which badge is on the bonnet—these things could weigh less than 2,000lbs. The performance was worthy of the Lotus name, and since this was the first Elise to be sold to the US market, the Series II Elise became the hallowed marque’s face for the 2000s.

Why it’s special:

There were plenty of tweaks and different trims available in different markets, so the variety of interesting examples is suitable for collector interest, and the Elise’s status as a true “driver’s car” will only become more important as we move further from analog. Plus, that steroidal arachnid design is a killer.

Honorable Mention

Dodge Ram SRT-10

The GMC Syclone did it first and arguably better, but when Dodge decided to build a quick pickup in the early 2000s, the brute they came up with was pretty damn cool too. As far as manifestations of American stereotypes go, it’s hard to think of a better one than a hulking bright red pickup truck with a massive 8.3L engine stuffed in. Sourced from the Viper, the naturally-aspirated V10 made an even 500bhp, and 525ft-lbs of torque. The “Viper Truck” is brashness is automotive form, pure confidence wearing a hood scoop. Look at the spartan interior resembling the dash of the last U-Haul you drove and imagine grabbing that goofy-long gear lever and connecting yourself to over eight liters of high-strung V10—how can you not smile?

Why it’s special:

It’s a Viper-powered pickup truck—nothing else needs to be said. First-gen Vipers are going up, the V10s will follow eventually, but these trucks are still trading in the 20-to-30-thousand range.

The photography in this article was sourced from the respective manufacturers

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dukeofthevlySiriusPaul WilkinsonAlex Antunespjrebordao Recent comment authors
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dukeofthevly
dukeofthevly

the photo of the automatic transmission R32..? The shift boot on the manual gearbox is so good looking. I’ve been on the hunt for one but it’s hard to find one that hasn’t been tuned and not asking crazy money. Thank you for the post. The m5 is fantastic too.

Sirius
Sirius

The first all-wheel drive performance car with a VW badge on it is MK2 Golf Rallye.

Paul Wilkinson
Paul Wilkinson

As well as the Golf R32 you should really have acknowledged it’s mad predecessor – the New Beetle RSI/Cup.

Only 250 made. Carbon and aluminium everywhere, widebodied, AWD and the prototype for the series of ‘R’ badged V6 engines to follow.

This one is mine which has been racing since 2003 in Cup and Touring Car championships worldwide.

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Alex Antunes
Alex Antunes

How could you forget the M3 CSL?

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pjrebordao
pjrebordao

I think the smart roadster is missing…
Thrilling and the only one absolutely affordable.

Paul Esthète
Paul Esthète

U do realize that most of theses cars already blew up, right ?
E39 M5 getting closer to the 200k$ mark, 1-gen R32 golf already passed the 60k$ barrier, same for Clio V6
CLK DTM and 360 Stradale already reached peak value
U should have add the MKIV Supra to the list while you were at it
An investment is a currently affordable car that will appreciate in the years to come, not an “Used but more expensive than original MSRP back then” kind of car.

khumommokwa@gmail.com
khumommokwa@gmail.com

I’d love to own a Clio V6 Phase 2 one day.

Amaury Geernaert
Amaury Geernaert

Is the 5.4L V8 Merc engine not from the SLR supercar, instead of the SLS? SLS has 6.2 N/A V8, and is not even from the same decade.

Steven Kraft
Steven Kraft

Going on a decade with my R32 and it’s never let me down. Every mile has put a smile on my face, glad to see it finding the spotlight again.

Sven Vanwalleghem
Sven Vanwalleghem

Just checked the prices of the R32 and Renault V6…

I think I will stay with my Alfa Brera

Chad C.
Chad C.

I think the XKR is aging beautifly. I spent a minute admiring one parked curbside today. To call its interior dated & stodgy exposes a generation gap that makes me smirk a bit. It’s an interior that should smell of cigars & strong black coffee made by a middle-aged man who can enjoy both due to the car’s auto-box.

While I’m humble enough to feel lucky to have my Volvo Cross Country as a daily driver, I’m totally getting one of these once my hair turns white…

Sergio Brasesco
Sergio Brasesco

Can’t find any fault with your selecting an E39 M5, going on 19 years now and still puts a smile on my face

Hornfrog67
Hornfrog67

Thank you for this article. I bought my S2K new in 2005. I keep telling my wife the S2K is a future classic but she doesn’t believe me. I had fun linking her the article as she thinks you guys are experts or something. Now she tells me I can never sell it. Thank you!

Paul Esthète
Paul Esthète

Except it nearly reached peak value and isn’t by any means a good investment
It might keep appreciate a little but not enough to worth the jump
It would have been a great investment back in 2012-2015
This paper is at least 4 years late