Bargain Buys: Performance Cars That You Can Score For Less Than $50,000
You don’t have to spend a fortune to buy these performance carsby Kirby, on
Times like this, picking a sports car can get a little tricky, especially when money is no object. The range of options cuts across different segments and if you really want to make an impression, the cost of getting one could run up in the seven figures. But for those who don’t have the proverbial “unli-funds” at their disposal, buying a sports car becomes a little bit more difficult. For one, a large number of options are pulled off of the table because of their costs. Then there’s the prospect of availability.
But there is some good news. Just because money’s tight, doesn’t mean that the market becomes slim pickings. Far from it actually. Just lower those expectations, and you might find themselves having more than enough options to consider. And, since we’re in the business of helping others out, we’ve put up a list of some sweet performance rides that buyers can score for less than $50,000. I’m purposefully leaving out performance hatchbacks out of this list because they’re an entirely different category of their own. So we’re going with coupes and sedans, some of which can go as cheap as $20,000 while others can max out at or near the $50,000. The point is that they’re affordable and can put buyers one step closer to finally scoring that long-awaited performance car purchase.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Still one of the best values in the market today, the Ford Mustang remains one of America’s most popular performance cars for good reason. The latest version of the iconic pony car can still get the job done on the performance end. It has 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque on tap courtesy of a 5.0-liter turbo V-8. It can hit 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and do 0 to 124 mph in 13 seconds at 112 miles per hour. And don’t mistake its 164-mph top speed for a slouch. The Mustang is all business, all the time. It’s also one of the most customized cars in the business today so buyers who want to get a little extra on the ’Stang GT can still do so without burning holes in their bank accounts. Best of all, the Mustang GT starts at just $35,095, though if that price is still too steep, there is an option to get the base ‘Stang version, which starts at $25,585.
Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Mustang GT.
Any mention of the Mustang must be followed by a mention of the Chevrolet Camaro. There’s no rule against it, but the two have become synonymous with each other that referring to one without the other is like talking about pizza without cheese and pepperoni. In any event, the Camaro SS checks all the same boxes that the Mustang GT does. It’s capable of producing 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers allow it to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and 0 to 124 mph in 12.3 seconds at 116 mph. And if you’re comparing the Mustang GT with the Camaro SS, know that the latter can also hit a top speed of 165 mph. The Camaro SS is a little more expensive at $37,995, but again, if that’s too expensive, there is an option to get the base Camaro for just $26,900.
Read our full review on the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro.
I was tempted to put the Dodge Challenger in here to complete the muscle car troika, but I ultimately opted to go with the Challenger’s performance car sibling, the Dodge Charger. It’s not just the Charger too; it’s the Charger R/T Scat Pack, the gnarly variant that features a 485-horsepower 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine. Its power output is complemented by a 475 pound-feet worth of torque, allowing it to sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds, 0 to 124 mph in 16.1 seconds, and 0-to-a-quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds at 111 mph. Top speed has been rated at 160 mph, making it as potent as any “affordable” sports car in its segment. It’s priced at $41,090, which is a little pricier than the Mustang GT and the Camaro SS. There’s still no shame in getting the Charger R/T Scat Pack, though if the move is to only get a base version, the 292-horsepower base SE trim starts at just $27,995.
Read our full review on the 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack.
Let’s switch things up by featuring one of the best performance imports to come out of Japan: the Subaru WRX STI. It’s not the range-topping model - that would be the WRX STI Limited - but it’s arguably the best value for a customer’s money. Power comes from a 2.5-liter boxer four engine that pumps out 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. That allows the performance sedan to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 160 mph. It may not be the performance treat that it once was, but with extra features like limited-slip differential and torque vectoring, it’s still good enough to make for a memorable ride without buyers having to worry about explaining how much they spent for it.
Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru WRX STI.
Want something that’s new and different? Well, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is as good a choice as any. It may not have as much power and performance as the muscle cars on this list, but it still features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit that produces 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. Those figures translate to a sprint-to-60-mph time of just 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph. The numbers back up what would be a solid purchase, especially when you see that the cars the Giulia directly competes against are much more expensive than the Alfa. Take the BMW 340i for example. It has the numbers edge on the Giulia - 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque - but it’s also around $10,000 more expensive.
Read our full review on the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Speaking of the BMW 340i, the performance sedan still falls under the $50,000 threshold so technically; it qualifies on this list. And why wouldn’t it? If you had the budget, this is the BMW to get. There are cheaper Bimmers available, but the value for money is best on this variant of the 3er. It carries a lot of the elements of the 3 Series and packages all of it with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder engine that produces 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Those figures help carry the 340i to an acceleration time to 60 mph of just 4.8 seconds. Just as important, it’s quarter-mile time was clocked at 13.3 seconds at 106 mph, close to what the Mustang GT and Camaro SS are capable of. All of that for a car with a BMW badge at a price that barely reaches $50,000? Seems like a good deal to me.
Read our full review on the 2017 BMW 3 Series.
If you’re itching for a version of BMW’s M division, the best you can do at this price range is the M240i xDrive. Don’t be disappointed though because this coupe is very capable in a lot of different ways. It features the very best of BMW design, has advanced safety and performance techs, and is crowned by a 3.0-liter inline-six engine that produces 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are a good way to get from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds to go with a top speed of 155 mph. There is a way to get the price down to just $44,450 - a $2,000 savings - but that would mean opting out of Bimmer’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. That may be a good option for those who want a challenge out of their M240is, but I’d still suggest getting the xDrive unit just to make it worth the purchase of the sports coupe.
Read our full review on the 2017 BMW M240i xDrive.
For the record, if there was one model that I’d suggest a buyer gets from this list, it’s the Audi S3. I’m particularly impressed by how the S3 looks. Credit to Audi in that regard because it has managed to make its design language look applicable across its entire range. It doesn’t matter if its the S3 or the S7, the genetics of Audi styling is present in all of them. On top of that, the S3 is also a capable performance sedan, thanks in large part to a 2.0-liter turbocharged TFSI four-cylinder engine that’s good for 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It’s a little short of what the BMW 340i can produce, but the S3 makes up for it with a sprint-to-60-mph time of 4.7 seconds, 0.1 seconds quicker than the 340i. Just as impressive is the fact that the S3 can also cover a quarter-mile distance in just 13.3 seconds, exactly the same as its BMW counterpart. Top speed is also rated at 155 mph, so the Audi sedan doesn’t suffer in that regard either. All that and you have a car that’ll only cost you $42,900.
Read our full review on the 2018 Audi S3.
If power is the be-all and end-all of your purchase preference, there’s no better sub-$50,000 purchase than the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. There’s a lot to like about the Q50 Red Sport. For one, it’s a range-topping model, which means that it boasts of every available technology that Infiniti is using for the Q50 line. There’s also something to be said better-than-expected design. It’s not as sporty-looking as the Audi S3, but there is a nice balance to its sporty design that also hints at a premium look without one trait drowning out the other. Oh, and as far as performance sedan goes, the Q50 Red Sport’s 400-horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque output puts it in a league of its own as it offers the most power for a car of its size that costs under $50,000. All those ponies waiting to be unleashed can moveQ50 Red Sport spring from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds on its way to reaching a quarter-mile distance in 13 seconds at 109 mph.
Read our full review on the 2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport
Prices: Toyota 86 ($26,255) / Subaru BRZ ($30,515)
I debated on whether I should put these two cars on this list because quite frankly, they’re still a disappointment to me. But I am compelled to talk about them regardless because they do return good value for the price. Both the 86 and the BRZ only produce 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque, but the catch is with these two is that they look like proper sports cars and they perform like one too. The 86, for example, can hit 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 147 mph while the BRZ can cover the same ground in 6.6 seconds before maxing out at a similar top speed. The best part about these two models though is that they’re cheap relative to the cars on this list. The 86, for example, sells for just $26,255 while the BRZ’s top-of-the-line 2.0 Yellow Series variant starts at just $30,515. As far as value for money, these two sports coupes are as good as anything you can get without having to pay a fortune for either one of them.