I've been driving various cars and thought I'd do a post to help others in the same boat out. And if anyone has any thoughts on these cars or my impressions let me have it!
So far I've driven:
2008 S with 28,000 miles, asking $30,500
2005 S with 55,000 miles, asking $22,000
2009 Base with 37,000 miles, asking $24,000
The 2008 was great, but the price is a bit higher than I like and the car is physically far away (test drove it on a trip out of town). Lots of fun though, and it actually felt really fast to me. Like above 4,000 rpm that sucker scoots and pins you back.
The 2005 S vs 2009 Base were interesting. They feel really quite similar. Slightly more body roll on the base but not much. Slightly faster in the S but not much. The HP difference between the two is pretty small. The S did feel a bit more fun though. Felt a little tighter, a little more torque, etc. Not amazingly different but slightly better.
But man 2005 is the last of the year of prime IMS failures and it makes me nervous. The place said they'll sell a 5 year 75,000 mile extended warranty on it for peace of mind but that will cost $4,000. Ouch.
The 2009 is appealing on paper. Good low mile car, very clean, nice price. I like the color (meteor grey). Felt nice to drive. IMO the dash is slightly nicer (better textured, softer touch) and the black electronics in the center console looks a lot more modern than the previous silfer. But the car is not as compelling as the 2008 I drove.
If I had to rank these cars in order from best to worst just on driving fun I would say 2008 S, 2005 S, 2009 Base. But they're all pretty close. I really feel like the 3.4 in the 2008 S is a worthwhile upgrade though, I'd say the "fun" difference between the 2008 S and 2005 S is larger than the difference between the 2005 S and 2008 Base.
At this point I'll probably keep looking for a 2007-2008 S at a decent price. That 2009 is tempting too though, no IMS worries, newer engine, low miles. It's slightly tempting to go that route and then go for a tune and suspension upgrade, but why do that if I can find an S that I like as is? I suspect if I'm patient I can find a 07/08 S for $25k without a ton of miles. I hope.