With a snarling naturally aspirated V8 pumping 417bhp and 372lb ft to its rear axle, a sub-5.0sec 0-62mph time and a top speed in the high hundreds, the often-overlooked Lexus IS F is the affordable and fun BMW M3 rival you’ve been seeking.
This Japanese super-saloon’s appeal is boosted these days by its relative rarity, a result of its high original prices, so you may struggle to find a good one. But happily, unlike with an M3 of similar vintage, there’s remarkably little to worry about if you do: it is a Lexus, after all.
It says it all that the only fault that is known to regularly crop up is the water pump’s propensity to spring a leak (okay, you’re looking at a hefty labour bill if it does), besides gripes about the car’s unquenchable thirst for fuel, brake pads and tyres. You can’t run an IS F on a shoestring, but you could save a load of cash on running it compared with its more fragile contemporaries.
We found this rather attractive and well-specced example listed at £13,995, which makes it one of the cheapest on the market, at roughly the same price as a three-year-old Ford Focus ST. Climate control, cruise control, a DVD player, rain-sensing wipers and heated electric memory seats are all present and correct, and although it has covered 149,000 miles, it’s claimed to drive like it has a third of that on the clock.
It’s a 2008 model, however, which means it goes without the traction-enhancing limited-slip differential, improved suspension and better sat-nav that came with the 2010 facelift. This and its high mileage explain why it’s around half the price of a similarly specced 2013 example also on sale.
Daihatsu Charade De Tomaso GTI, £8950: The Japanese-market De Tomaso (yes, that De Tomaso) version of the oft-forgotten Charade GTi packed 122bhp – 18bhp more than the UK car – and unique styling touches. It’s extremely rare these days, making this grey import look like good value.