Few things in life are as thrilling as cheap speed. While we love the high-priced thrills and sophisticated electronics found in expensive sports cars, we also admit that there’s something to be said for putting the pedal to the metal while leaving a few dollars in your pocket. We also understand that today’s traffic-choked highways make unleashing huge amounts of power all the more difficult.
In response, we’ve pulled together a list of the ten least expensive ways to score a car with at least 300 horsepower (and five ways to get even more bang for your buck). Not surprisingly, American marques dominate this list, but there are a couple of surprises as well.
Base price: $22,995
All hail the king of cheap speed: providing bang for the buck has been the Mustang’s calling card for years. While recent generations of the Mustang offered wheezier engines and lower power outputs, the 2011 refresh of Ford’s Ponycar brought back the muscle. The Mustang’s base engine, a 3.7-liter V-6, produces305 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque for just $22,995 (all prices include destination). The low price comes with a cost: Mustangs still use a live rear axle and rather cheap interior, but straight-line speed fanatics will love the Mustang all the same.
Base price: $24,245
Not to be outdone by the Mustang, the Camaro’s base engine–a 3.6-liter, direct injected V-6–makes 323 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, for $24,245. Where does that extra $1250 go? Primarily for the Camaro’s pricier independent rear suspension and slightly nicer interior (although the Camaro’s still no Cadillac).
Base price: $25,920
Dodge’s Challenger might be in third place behind the Mustang and Camaro, but it’s still an American muscle car, with brash looks and decent base horsepower to boot. This rear-wheel drive neo-classic car packs a 3.6-liter V-6 punch from the ubiquitous Pentastar engine with 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. Clutch-lovers beware: rowing your own gears in the Challenger means opting for the pricier (and more powerful) Challenger R/T or SRT8. Still, at $25,920 for a base model, the Challenger does bring the noise for not much coin.
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8
Base price: $29,625
Hyundai’s first-generation Genesis Coupe was a valiant effort to make a compelling rear-wheel-drive sports car, but it was a bit sluggish and a bit bland to look at. Now in its second generation, the Genesis Coupe has more aggressive looks and more power to match. The base-model, which still uses a turbocharged I-4, makes 275 hp, but our list is more concerned with the optional 3.8-liter V-6. The Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec rings in at $29,625, but makes 348 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or Hyundai’s own eight-speed automatic transmission. No matter which transmission you choose, the Genesis Coupe is plenty fast, without costing too much money.
2013 Dodge Charger Rallye/Blacktop
Base price: $29,685
If the Dodge Challenger makes this, it’s only right that the other two vehicles that share its platform–the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300–do the same. The Charger, which starts at $26,420, is a step up from the Challenger but beneath the 300 in price. Of note: its 3.6-liter V-6 engine only makes the full 300 hp if you opt for an SXT or SXT Plus with either the Blacktop or Rallye packages. For reference, the Rallye runs $29,685 and the Blacktop $29,785. The extra scratch is worth it, though, as both packages kick the Charger’s gruff looks up another notch.
Base price: $32,535
If one of these things is not like the other, the Buick LaCrosse doesn’t necessarily belong. In an otherwise crazy world of sporty muscle cars, the Buick LaCrosse stands out because it is none of those things. Instead, the LaCrosse powers its front wheels by a 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The result is 303 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300S, which show off their horsepower numbers with flashy exteriors, the LaCrosse is rather quiet about what goes on underneath its hood. That could make this $32,535 car a perfect sleeper, especially considering that the 3.6-liter V-6 model doesn’t have any major exterior changes as opposed to the base engine, a 2.4-liter I-4 mild hybrid.
2013 Nissan 370Z
Base price: $3,910
Surprise, surprise: Nissan’s 370Z is number six on our list of the top ten cars for cheap horsepower. Nissan’s second-fastest sports car is powered by a 3.7-liter VQ-series V-6 engine making 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, all at a starting price of $33,910. And that price doesn’t get you steel wheels: the base 370Z Coupe comes with 18″ alloy wheels, HID headlights with LED running lights, and passive entry/ignition.
2013 Chrysler 300S
Base price: $34,395
As we said, the Chrysler 300S is the third way to get an LX-platform Chrysler/Dodge product with lots of power on the cheap. Like the Charger, you’ll have to add a few upgrades to the 300 to get the full 300 horsepower: the only trim level with a V-6 and 300 horses is the 300S. As with the Charger and the Blacktop/Rallye packages, the 300S package ($34,395) adds some great exterior modifications to make the more powerful 300 sedan look the part.
2013 Subaru WRX STI
Base price: $35,065
What would a list of inexpensive 300-hp cars be without the Subaru WRX STI? This 300-hp turbocharged rally rocket is the only car on this list to come with standard all-wheel drive (it’s available on the Infiniti, Buick, and Chrysler/Dodge Charger), which means that this car performs well both on blacktop and in the snow. The starting price for this lovable monster is $35,065 for an STI sedan.
2013 Infiniti G37 Journey
Base price: $37,795
Nissan’s 3.7-liter V-6 sports car is one of the ten cheapest ways to get 300 hp, so it makes sense that Infiniti’s G37–which uses the same engine–would make the list as well. Available as a coupe, convertible, or sedan, the Infiniti G37 is a fly in the face of such established sport sedans as the BMW 3 Series, and for good reason: it’s fast, and relatively inexpensive. The G37 makes 328 hp in base Journey trim ($37,795), and also comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission (the Sport model is available with a six-speed manual). The most basic BMW 335i will run you $43,695, $5900 more.