Boy, am I confused. I'm in the market for a sports car and have been reading blogs all day. I'm 60 years old, and will probably sell my sport-touring motorcycle (BMW R1200RT) soon as my wife can no longer ride with me (neck issues).
Today I test drove a 2005 S2000, a 2001 Z3 and a 2004 Z350. I'm 6'2" and 212 lbs, so found the Honda & BMW somewhat tight in the shoulder area. The Nissan was a much better fit for me, but was a hardtop.
I liked some things in each car, but none of these seemed perfect. I'm leaning toward the Honda, but of course it's the most money.
Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.
The Honda S2000 and Nissan 350 Z will get you the most reliable of the sports cars. I myself would go for the 350 Z, however, I like the S2000 as well. Really it's your call depending on what it is you like. Also, remember that should you have anything go wrong with your car, the BMW (should you choose it) will cost the most to repair, and, if you do the work yourself, is the hardest to work on.
I understand your confusion, since I considered the same cars myself from time to time. On the Z, the one I drove, noted in my review, was a convertible, Grand Touring level. It was loaded up, and drove like (and was) a fairly heavyish sports car - about 800 lbs. heaver than the S2K. The immediate torque of the engine compared to the Honda was offset, for me, by the semi-truckish feel, and performance overall that was no better. The coupe you drove would be lighter than the convertible, though. The bottom line for me is that the Honda felt more agile, but a bit more demanding for the driver. With that said, I owned three of them, they were daily drivers, and I'm in my 50's, so I guess I found them livable enough!
Fitting the car is of course important, and the Honda isn't generous in the cockpit, so the Z gets some points in your case. I never drove the BMW Z-3, but wasn't thrilled with the looks, so I ruled it out.
As the other commenter noted, either the Honda or the Z will be pretty reliable. My S2K's were always very cheap to run. One difference between the Honda and the Z will be fuel mileage. I never spoke to any Z owner who felt they got "good" mileage, but my S2K's never dropped to below 22 mpg in mixed driving... including some pretty "brisk" use.
For me, the S2K's always just edged out the Z for what I wanted to drive, but I don't think the Z is an inferior choice, depending on what you are looking for. Ditto the BMW, but I agree that running costs of that car will be higher.
BTW, if you go for the Honda, I noticed you tested an '05, but a couple of features were added for '06 that aren't in the '05 - switchable traction control, and a built-in, weight sensitive airbag switch in the passenger seat. And in '06 they also added speakers in the roll-over hoops behind the headrests, to try to improve the sound system... although it still isn't great.