We love horsepower. Sure, you can have fun with a Miata, but there’s a visceral excitement that can only be felt from an excess of ponies. The problem is that horsepower costs money, right? Well, maybe not.
In this article, we have 9 vehicles that make a ton of horsepower for a lot less than a ton of dough, which would make a lot of pizza. Wait, no, I mean it would be a lot of money. Man, I’m hungry… Anyway, we want you to do donuts on the skidpad in one of these awesome, inexpensive powerhouses.
BMW 335i (302 HP)
The BMW 335i, or the German 2JZ, is still one of the best performance values you can get. With its 300-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder and the world-famous BMW driving feel, it really is an “Ultimate Driving Machine.” What propels it into stardom, though, is the fact that with a few more dollars you can tune it to 400 horsepower easily.
We found one for $9,500. But, to get a really ideal deal, wait until one pops up on the Facebook Marketplace after getting into a minor accident. You can handle a little bit of road rash, and you’ll be getting a high-performance car for dirt cheap.
If you’re worried about that infamous BMW reliability, though, the next car on our list might be the one for you since it has the famously bulletproof VQ-series motor and shares a platform with the legendary Nissan 370Z. This is the luxurious Infiniti G37.
Infiniti G37 (330 HP)
People don’t think highly of Infiniti nowadays. They kind of developed a reputation of being the worse Lexus, but mid-2000s Infiniti was actually crazy and they really thought they could take on the German brands. The G35, and the more powerful G37, were meant to go toe-to-toe with the BMW 3 Series. And with 330 horses, the G37 could actually beat most of the German competitors in a straight line.
Nowadays, though, they’ve depreciated even harder than other sports cars, which means you can pick one up for under $10,000. We found one that’s a perfect sleeper. It was a rear-wheel drive, four-door car with plenty of ponies to get you going slideways.
Not into four-seaters? No worries, there’s an old standby that has your needs filled, a car that’s been the “everyman’s sports car” for its entire run, the Chevrolet Corvette.
Chevrolet Corvette (345 HP)
The LS motor is one of the most legendary motors in existence, up there with other greats like the RB and 2JZ. And You can have one attached to a phenomenal platform for under $10,000. That’s right, the C5 Corvettes have finally started to drop below the $10,000-mark, and that means you can pick up GM’s legendary sportscar for cheap.
Now, the older ones didn’t quite make the crazy horsepower that the newer ones do, but they still give you a whopping 345 horsepower to play with. We found one for $9,000 even. Someone had ruined it by eliminating the pop-up headlights, but at least people won’t know because they’ll be staring at your tail lights instead.
We know Corvettes aren’t for everyone, and honestly, these ones are getting a little old. Thankfully, Dodge has always been a cure for the itch, and those first- and second-generation Chargers are getting cheap.
Dodge Charger R/T (350 HP)
The Hellcat is a marvel of the modern world and proof that petrol-heads can still exist in these trying times. But before they made the Hellcat, Dodge was testing the waters with their new line of classically styled muscle cars. These V8 Chargers, Magnums, and Challengers were all based on the same platform, along with some Chrysler offerings, but we’ll get to that in a few. And even the base R/T trims had over 350 horsepower!
We found a Charger for $8,500. Just be careful because people loved to drive these cars hard. What you want to do is find one that was owned by an older dude, you know, who was trying to relive his The Dukes of Hazzard days, because those guys probably took amazing care of the paint and never missed an oil change.
Alright, nothing against Dodge, but I think we can get a few more horses if we head back to Europe and revisit the Ultimate Driving Machines with the BMW 650i.
BMW 650i (360 HP)
The BMW 6 Series isn’t as prolific as its M counterparts, but that just means you can get 360 horses on the cheap! It’s legitimately hard to understand how much these cars have depreciated. When they were new, they were $75,000. That’s nearly $100,000 when adjusted for inflation, which means that this car is 90% off its MSRP value! And they’re an absolute burnout machine!
Not only that, but a 6 Series is just incredibly nice to sit in. They came standard with just about every luxury feature you could ever want. Unfortunately, part of the reason that they’re so cheap is that those luxury systems are notorious for failing. But whatever, your navigation system is shot and the seats don’t heat up anymore. You still have a monster V8 to play with, and you paid about the same as your buddy with the clapped-out Civic!
360 horsepower isn’t enough for you? Well, BMW’s competition didn’t think so either, which is why the Mercedes S550 has 22 more horses, and can sometimes be found even cheaper.
Mercedes-Benz S550 (382 HP)
Alright, we don’t actually recommend getting an S550. The BMW 6 Series will bankrupt you in repairs, but the Mercedes will bankrupt you and your family. However, we did find a 382-horsepower car for under $8,000, and that’s more tempting than we want to admit.
You get four doors, an interior that defined luxury, and an exterior styling that seems to never change, which is nice because it means that no one will know if they’re a little old. They’ll just see you roll up in a Mercedes and assume that you’re rolling in cash. You don’t have to tell them any different.
Mercedes has a long history, though, and they do have a reputation for being for old people. The next car on our list is also crazy luxurious, but it definitely doesn’t have the reputation or history because, as a car company, they’re basically brand new. We’re talking the Hyundai Genesis.
Hyundai Genesis (385 HP)
Hyundai and Kia like to surprise people. When they first launched the Genesis Coupe, it was the successor to the failing Tiburon and it made decent horsepower from a V6. Then, all the sudden, Hyundai started a luxury brand called Genesis, and their new flagship car was pushing 385 horsepower from a 4.6-liter V8.
Now, they do make an even faster one with a 5.0-liter, but those rarely cost less than $15,000. Their older siblings with the 4.6-liter, however, can be found every day for under $10,000. If you pick one up, just be prepared to explain it a lot. They sound good, the driving feel is on par with other luxury cars, and the interior quality is honestly top-notch, but even now most people don’t know what the hell a Genesis is unless you’re talking about classic rock.
And because of the next car on our list, we’re definitely talking about classic rock. This is a badge that became famous in the 1960s, disappeared for a long time, and reappeared as an LS-powered, rear-wheel drive coupe from Australia. This is the Pontiac GTO.
Pontiac GTO (400 HP)
You’ve probably heard of the Cadillac CTS-V and the Chevy SS because they’re “Corvette-powered.” Well, do you know what else is Corvette-powered? The Holden Monaro, or as those of us in the States know it, the Pontiac GTO. Unlike the CTS-V or SS, though, the Pontiac GTO can be found regularly for under $10,000 in decent condition. In fact, we found one for under $9,000.
And what do you get if you pick one up? 400 horsepower, baby! That’s like three Miatas for the price of one! The best part is that, since it’s just a Chevy, these are the cheapest cars to own on our list. No BMW tax, no Mercedes markup, and no rare Hyundai parts. You can just go to your local auto shop and grab cheap parts from the shelf.
Now, you knew we’d be back to America for horsepower, and for our last car, we’re coming back to Mopar, also known as the king of cheap horsepower. This is the Hemi-powered Chrysler 300C.
Chrysler 300C (425 HP)
Over 400 horsepower? Yes, please. Before there was the Hellcat, there was the SRT Hemi with 425 horsepower. And while the Challenger and Charger still fetch a premium, their four-door, tuxedo-wearing sibling has gotten cheap.
See, the Chrysler 300 shares the same platform as the other muscle cars mentioned, it just has to look classier. But that lets it fly under the radar even though the C trim has the same monster Hemi that the SRTs have.
We found one for $8,000. That’s less than $20 per horsepower. Do you think you could buy a horse for $20? No way! So, I think it’s fair to say that the 300C offers the cheapest horses you can buy, which makes it pretty Ideal in my book.