Chevrolet Corvette 1LT: 430 hp, $50,595
It’s been just a couple of days since the release of the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, but we’d like to remind you all that the current-generation Corvette is a prime way to score big horsepower for (relatively) small amounts of cash. The C6 Corvette 1LT makes 430 hp thanks to an LS3 6.2-liter V-8 engine; that power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Number freaks will surely lust after the Corvette’s many up-market models–the Z06 or 427 Convertible, with 505 hp, or the ZR1, with 638 hp–but those models cost many thousands more. For true cheap speed fans, the base model is a good option; incentive spending by GM to clear 2013 Corvettes ahead of the new Stingray’s arrival will only make it better.
Hyundai Equus: 429 hp, $60,170
The Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec has a 5.0-liter Tau V-8, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that the Equus also has the combination of Tau V-8, eight-speed auto, and rear-wheel drive. While the Genesis tries to crash the BMW 5 Series‘ party, however, the Equus guns straight for the Audi A8L. It’s for the best, too: an A8L with a V-8 engine will run you $88,095, some $27,925 more (to put that in perspective, the Sonata Limited costs $26,640). Of course, the Equus doesn’t carry the same brand recognition as the A8L, and Equus buyers keen on buying a cut-rate A8L should really opt for the Equus Ultimate model, which commands a $67,170 premium. Still, 429 hp and a bargain-basement limo body for BMW 5 Series money is commendable.
Mercedes-Benz E550: 402 hp, $61,305
Color us surprised: as it turns out, the cheapest traditional premium sedan (think A6, 5 Series, Lexus GS, et cetera) with more than 400 horsepower is the Mercedes-Benz E550. As you chuckle at the thought of “cheapest” and “Mercedes-Benz” written in the same sentence, we’ll remind you that the E550 uses Mercedes’ twin-turbo 4.6-liter V-8 engine, which is also available on models like the GL550, ML550, and S550. The engine makes 402 horsepower, enough to rocket the E550 up to a governed top speed of 155 miles an hour. While we commend Mercedes for making its base E550 so accessible, we do wonder how many people will take the German brand up on this offer. After all, Mercedes’ parts bin is filled with sumptuous leather and wood/metal trim options, features like internet-connected navigation, and handsome AMG wheels. Add any of those options to the E550 and it falls off our list faster than you can say “Comand with GPS navigation.”
Infiniti M56: 420 hp, $62,105
The Infiniti M56 will spend its last year badged as an M56 celebrating its 10th-place finish on this list. The soon-to-be-Q70 can be had with a 3.7-liter V-6 (330 hp) or a 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid (360 hp), but the model in question is the M56, which uses a 5.6-liter V-8 engine to make 420 hp, sent to the rear wheels (all-wheel drive is available for an additional $2500). And here’s a little secret: while the Mercedes-Benz E550 does technically cost less than the M56, the Merc’s price balloons to $66,405 when you add in some of the Infiniti’s standard features like passive entry/ignition, a premium sound system, and heated/ventilated front seats. The M56 isn’t the best deal on this list (it costs nearly twice as much as the Mustang GT), but it is still a good (and a fast) one.