In the past, cars that boasted serious horsepower also boasted a serious price tag. Big power meant big money — and companies like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and others were only too happy to oblige those with the means to pay. That perception began to change with the introduction of the Corvette, then the Mustang, and the movement that followed, but exotics — like today — still boasted the cutting edge numbers.
However, the difference is that today, many vehicles offer sufficient horsepower to keep the gear heads happy, at a price that’s a few zeroes shy of the serious, low-volume supercars. What’s more, these vehicles are no longer relegated to the Corvette and Mustang nameplates.
No longer a luxury for the rich, automaker’s ability to shoe-horn immense power into a small package has proven to be a successful formula for appeasing auto enthusiasts who pine for the Ferrari but can realistically afford a Ford. From $20,000 to $100,000, here are some of the most affordable plays for high horsepower available now. All cars are measured in their base spec, at their base prices; this is by no means a comprehensive list, so add your suggestions in the comments below.
1. Chevrolet Corvette
The Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Corvette has long been associated with horsepower value. The new model is no different; boasting a minimum of 460 horsepower at a price of $53,000, that equates to roughly $115 per horsepower (a comparable 400 horsepower Porsche 911 Carrera S costs $247 per horse — and it only goes north from there.) Obviously, you’re treated to more than just horsepower, so you’ll also get a comfortable and greatly improved cabin, lots of torque, and nearly 30 miles per gallon highway thanks to cylinder deactivation.
2. Cadillac CTS-V
The Cadillac CTS-V is a steep proposition at $64,900 base, but that amount comes with 556 horsepower for a price of about $116 per horsepower, on par with the Corvette. However, the CTS-V comes in three flavors (wagon, coupe, and sedan), offers all the Cadillac refinement that one would expect, and a throaty V8 soundtrack that is absolutely captivating. If that still sounds expensive, a comparable BMW M5 costs $165 per horsepower.
3. Mazda MazdaSpeed3
Shifting gears a bit for those who can’t afford a $65,000 Caddy, the Mazda MazdaSpeed 3 is a sleeper four-door wagon that offers a lot of fun for a little price. It starts at a modest $24,200, and treats its owners to a surprising 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque thanks to a turbocharged inline-four. That’s about $92 per horse, and to top it off, it’s remarkably practical too. Unfortunately, a new Speed3 hasn’t been introduced yet, but the old generation looks superb, so we don’t think anyone will mind.
4. Ford Mustang GT
At $31,210 (for the 2014 model, at least), the Ford (NYSE:F) Mustang GT is one of the most affordable plays for a V8 engine, which in this case happens to be Ford’s trusty 5.0 liter eight-cylinder. It puts out 420 horsepower, for a horsepower price of about $74 per unit. It’s nearest competition, the $33,355 Camaro SS, falls around the same mark with 426 horsepower — about $78 per horse. The fight continues up the food chain, to the 662-horsepower Mustang Shelby GT500 ($83 per horsepower) and the 580 horse Camaro ZL1 (about $95 per horsepower.)
5. Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec
If you were playing a word association game, and someone said “Hyundai,” chances are high that “horsepower” wouldn’t be the first word to your head. Yet, the Genesis 3.8 is a performance coupe that boasts 348 horsepower and costs under $30,000 ($29,350 specifically.) This means that a single horsepower in the Genesis Coupe costs $84, making among the cheapest in the class, after the Mustang and Camaro — though remember this is coming from a V6. The Genesis Coupe is certainly one of the most overlooked options for cheap horsepower.
6. Ford Focus ST
Following in suit of the MazdaSpeed3, Ford’s impressive Focus ST hot hatch is a similar concept in a different package. It’s $23,625 MSRP will buy you 252 horsepower, or about $93 each. That’s ever so slightly more expensive than the Mazda’s $92 figure, but it’s worth mentioning that the Focus ST gets better fuel economy, though it has less power and less torque than the quick Speed3.
7. Nissan GT-R
Like the Corvette, the Nissan GT-R is a supercar at a bargain price. It’s more expensive than the ‘Vette — it costs $101,770 — but offers far more horsepower too, at 545. That’s about $186 per horsepower; compared to the Corvette it’s a lot, but compared to the Porsche — or any car with which it competes — it’s still a hell of a bargain, considering the GT-R can manage 0-60 in about 3 seconds, thanks to all-wheel drive and an incredible hand-built 3.8 liter twin-turbo V6.
8. SRT Viper
Like the Nissan, the SRT Viper is not a cheap car at $102,485. However, it also boasts 640 horsepower, more than enough to propel the car into the books as one of the best bargains for a 600-plus horsepower whip. This equals out to roughly $160 per horsepower, making it less than the GT-R, and far less than its competition (a 700-horsepower Lamborghini Aventador will run a whopping $567 per horsepower.) It might just be the performance bargain of recent years.