5 awesome cars that prove ‘entry level’ doesn’t mean rubbish

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Getting your first premium car is often the first step on a lifelong journey of brand loyalty. But, obviously, premium cars aren’t cheap – which is why posh brands tend to have entry-level models that serve as a first step on your journey towards the top-flight range.

But entry-level models are often looked down upon as somehow worse than their more expensive brethren – which is usually complete nonsense.

Whether it’s the likes of the BMW M2 or the Ferrari Portofino, there are loads of entry-level models that definitely aren’t basic. Read on to see five of the best out there, but first click here to enter for your chance to win a Ferrari Portofino with $20,000 in the boot through our friends over at Omaze. Done? Let’s crack on.



As it stands, the M2 is the cheapest way to get your hands on a BMW developed by the brand’s go-faster M division. It’s a lithe, flickable and snappy little rear-wheel-drive coupe that’s pushed down the road by a buttery smooth six-cylinder 365bhp 3.0-litre engine. It’s no slouch – it’ll get from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds if you go for one with the brilliant automatic gearbox.

It feels edgy and playful out on the road, but it’s still reasonably practical, and has BMW’s usual sense of build quality in the cabin. It might be the entry-level M car, but it’s one of the most fun in BMW’s entire range.

Ferrari Portofino

The idea of an entry-level Ferrari is absurd. After all, the Italian brand is never going to make an inexpensive car that lacks exclusivity. But the range has to start somewhere, and currently it’s with the Portofino, a car specifically designed to cater to Ferrari newbies and get them hooked on rocketships from the prancing horse. This convertible packs just shy of 600bhp which will propel you – roof down, remember – to 199mph. You’ll get from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and to 124mph in 10.8. It’s very, very fast.

But it’s also easy to live with, comfortable and exactly the sort of Ferrari you could drive in day-to-day life. The steering is light and will let you nip around town without developing biceps Arnie would be proud of, and the automatic gearbox is smoother than ever. You can find out for yourself by winning your very own Ferrari Portofino (plus $20,000 USD!) through our friends at Omaze - click here to enter.

Caterham 270

If you’re going to buy a Caterham then chances are you a very particular type of person – one who’s happy to get wet, cold and possibly flattened in your pursuit of the thrill of driving.

And if you’re buying one you’ll know that it doesn’t really matter how much power your Caterham has under the bonnet. That’s why the 270 – the so-called entry-level car, with ‘only’ 135bhp – can still entertain you just as much as the 310bhp Caterham 620.

The basic recipe of a Caterham is a car that weighs about 500kg and seats that position you just above the painted lines on the road. The 270 will still get from 0-60mph in five seconds flat which is quick – but it’ll feel even quicker given your proximity to the Tarmac – and the fact that you can gaze upwards at the spinning driveshafts of trucks on the motorway.

Entry level it may be, but the 270 is top-tier fun.

Mercedes-AMG A35

AMG is Mercedes’ performance division that prides itself on adding a cupful of drama to the German brand’s family cars. Currently, the most inexpensive way to get an AMG badge on your car (apart from sticking an eBay sticker on your normal A-Class) is to buy the Mercedes-AMG A35.

Yes, there’s a more powerful A45 with more than 410bhp coming out in a few months, but don’t go thinking that the 306bhp A35 will leave you underwhelmed. It’s relentlessly quick, has the most incredible tech – check out the augmented reality sat-nav – and pops, crackles and bangs like a rally car when you cruise up to the lights. It whets your appetite for the bigger, badder, more expensive V8-powered AMG models without disappointing in the slightest.

McLaren 540C

Although the McLaren 570S gets most of the limelight, there’s a more affordable version. Called the 540C, its 3.8-litre V8 still packs 533bhp and gets from 0-124mph in 10.5 seconds. It also sports the same carbon-fibre chassis as the rest of the McLaren Sports Series range, which means it gives you an incredible sense of what the car is doing underneath you while providing ultimate protection should the worst happen.

Even the interior is the same as on the 570S – you’re just saving money for having a bit less power. And since when was 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds anything other than supercar fast?

Discover how good entry-level can feel

Of all the cars on this list, it’s the Ferrari Portofino that really, really, REALLY doesn’t feel like you’re in the least expensive car in its range. And you can discover exactly how good it feels for yourself, thanks to our friends at Omaze, who are giving you the chance to win your own Ferrari Portofino – click here to enter.

Omaze is an online fundraising platform that connects incredible charities, dream-come-true prizes (such as the Ferrari) and people who want to make a difference. By donating you won’t just be entering to win the Ferrari but will be helping the charity Comic Relief fight poverty both in the UK and around the world.