Most people tend to think that true performance cars are out of reach of average buyers, but they are wrong. Even if you are not a millionaire, you can still experience high horsepower sports cars, cool muscle cars, brutal hot hatches or performance sedans. There are plenty of really exciting and high-powered cars on the market for the price of a well-equipped family sedan or mid-sized SUV. For $50,000 or less, there are numerous interesting choices with not only considerable power but with very advanced technology, drivetrain options, great looks and superb performance. As you will see, some of those cars are as fast, or even faster than couple-year-old supercars which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, it is obvious that we are living in the golden age of affordable performance since there are so many cars with these qualities available at the moment. That is why we have compiled the list of 20 best and most powerful cars you can buy for $50,000 and we have listed not only the most powerful vehicles but also the best performance cars for that kind of money. The idea was to introduce you not only to the vehicles with high horsepower rating, but also to the vehicles which can provide the most driving excitement and fun at an affordable price. So, let`s get straight to it.
Dodge Challenger R/T
The legendary Dodge Challenger is a prime example of a true American muscle car. Available only as a coupe, Challenger comes with a wide arrange of powerful engines, from V6 to 707 hp supercharged V8. For $50,000 you won’t be able to buy the Hellcat version but the R/T Scat Pack is more than enough. For less than $40,000 MSRP you will get 485 hp and 6.4-liter Hemi engine, 0 to 60 mph time of just 4.3 seconds, great looks and loads of style and street cred. You can choose between manual and automatic transmission.
Ford Focus RS
The third generation Ford Focus is a pretty good compact car with good sales results all over the world. But RS version is an evil twin, with a fire-breathing turbocharged engine, 350 hp, intelligent all-wheel drive and brutal street racing looks. For just $36,000 you can drive one of the best hot hatches of all times, an unbelievably capable machine with real life usability and performance of a pure racing car. With a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.7 seconds and AWD traction, Focus RS is capable of embarrassing some high-priced exotics.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
This is another great American muscle car with retro styling and enormous firepower under the hood. The Camaro features great chassis, performance tuned suspension, modern looking interior and famous Small Block V8 with 6.2-liters of displacement and 455 hp. The hardware is traditional but with a twist in form of modern electronics, driving models, and traction control. Available as a coupe or a stylish convertible, this Bowtie muscle car starts at only $37,000 which is very cheap considering that SS version can top 165 mph and sprint to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.
Infiniti Q50 Red Sport
With an interesting design, upscale interior and advanced technology, the Q50 Red Sport is a very capable and fast performance sedan. Under the hood is a highly tuned 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 which delivers 400 hp. The base version has rear-wheel drive, but for some extra money, you can get all-wheel drive version with improved traction and acceleration figures. Speaking of which, the Red Sport needs only 4.6 seconds to launch itself to 60 mph. The base price is just below our limit at $47,000 and for that money, you can get a very appealing combination of luxury, prestige, and power.
Ford Mustang GT
One of the best deals around for an affordable performance car, is the Ford Mustang GT. In its sixth generation, the Mustang is praised for its elegant design, new chassis, great handling and that sweet 5.0-liter V8. The Coyote V8 cranks 435 hp and helps send the new GT to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Besides the performance, Mustang is quite well equipped, comfortable and good looking. But the best thing is the price and the brand new 5.0 V8 Mustang is just $33,000 MSRP which makes it the best bang for your buck. For the price of an ordinary family sedan, you can get a potent, fast and good looking muscle car with 435 hp and a fantastic soundtrack from that V8 engine.
Volkswagen Golf R
The Golf GTI was always the quintessential hot hatch and it still is one of the best around, but it’s just not powerful enough. For $36,000 you can get a pretty exclusive and brutally quick Golf R. The power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four which delivers 290 hp and send it to all four wheels through intelligent AWD system. Yes, we know that the price is pretty steep for a compact but this is not an ordinary Golf. This is the best of what Volkswagen has to offer in terms of technology, equipment, and performance. Also, compared to the other hot hatches on the market, the Golf R is a very elegant and stylish car.
Performance sedan classic, the S4 is still one of the most interesting Audis you can buy. First, its compact dimensions make it very easy to drive. Second, the 3.0-litre supercharged engine delivers 352 hp and third, all that power is sent to all four wheels through Audi’s signature Quattro AWD system. And the last but not least, the base S4 comes with a 6-speed manual which will bring a smile to faces of all driving purists. In fact, if you want to keep the price under our limit, you will have to choose the manual because the base price is $49,500.
Mercedes CLA 45 AMG
The smallest Mercedes available is also one of the most fun to drive thanks to its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, amazing 375 hp and four-wheel drive for improved traction and road holding. In fact, this is currently the most powerful four-cylinder engine in production which is an amazing achievement for Mercedes. The $49,500 compact sedan may not be the most comfortable car Mercedes produces, but it is among the quickest with 4.1 seconds 0 to 60 mph time which is brutally fast. The intelligent AWD system, great power, and precise steering make the CLA 45 AMG one of the best and most powerful cars in the class.
Subaru Impreza WRX STI
One of the most popular performance bargains is the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Those letters have great recognition in the automotive world since they symbolize the highly tuned flat six engine, one of the best AWD systems on the market and brutal performance in the everyday package. For 2017, WRX STI has 305 hp from 2.5-liter engine and brutal acceleration figures. Thanks to all-wheel drive and automatic transmission, the WRX STI can achieve 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. The best part is the price and you can have all that for just over $35.000
The Miata’s power level is nothing special and 2017 model has 155 hp from its 2.0-liter four cylinder. But that is not the point. The point is that the Mazda Miata is one of the best sports cars around and equipped with all performance goodies it will cost you just above $30,000. So, what is the secret? The secret is Miata’s perfect construction, weight balance, and totally analog driving feel. This is something that enthusiasts have been craving for years and they finally got it in form of this small roadster. The popularity of this model just shows that you don’t need big horsepower numbers to have big fun.
Nissan 370 Z Nismo
Despite the fact that 350 Z is not the newest model in compact sports car class, it is still among the best and fastest due to high-revving and naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 with 350 hp and sharp handling by Nissan’s performance division Nismo. For $41,000 you will get a two-seater coupe with perfect handling, interesting design, and respectable performance. The 0 to 60 mph time is low 4 seconds range and its top speed is around 165 mph.
Ford Taurus SHO
The Taurus SHO is a pretty unlikely performance sedan from Ford. The Focus RS and Mustang GT are stealing the headlines but those are not only fast and powerful cars in the current lineup. One of the more interesting is the SHO. Under a pretty ordinary body hides 3.5 liter EcoBoost turbo engine with 365 hp, all-wheel drive system, and quite significant performance potential. All that for $41,000 MSRP makes Taurus SHO a pretty good deal.
BMW M240i xDrive
The attention of the automotive world is focused on the brutal BMW M2 but not a lot people know that you can have almost the same performance in the same car for far less money in form of the M240i equipped with state of the art AWD system. Under the hood, there is a turbocharged 3.0 liter straight six with 335 hp which propels the compact 2-Series to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. The base price is just above $46,000 which is not cheap but cheaper than M2 and still almost equally as fast.
The Chevrolet SS is kind of a unicorn in the modern automobile industry. It is a classic sedan with great V8 power, rear wheel drive, and manual transmission. It is the purest form of performance sedan and the last of its kind. Despite the praises from the motoring press, the market was not so amused by its charms resulting in very modest sales numbers. However, you can still buy this car at $46,000 for which you will get 6.2-liter V8 with 415 hp, brutal acceleration, and perfect V8 soundtrack.
Dodge Charger R/T
Just like the Challenger, Dodge Charger is inspired by the glorious muscle car era of the 60s. But in its latest incarnation, the Charger is a four door sedan, not a coupe. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a muscle car at heart and it has many performance versions, including the famous and terrifyingly powerful Hellcat. For less than $46,000 you can get the Charger R/T with 485 hp from 6.4-liter Hemi, nice equipment, great performance and muscle heritage.
This one is a little bit controversial entry on our list but we have good reasons to include it. First, despite being a truck, this is a performance vehicle. Second, with a 3.5 liter EcoBoost engine delivering 450 hp this Ford is capable of pretty respectable acceleration figures (5.3 seconds to 60 mph). Third, with the base price of $50,000 it fits our limit, just barely. Fourth, Raptor is capable of achieving crazy speeds on rough terrain faster than any other stock car.
Cadillac ATS Coupe
The ATS Coupe has started as a competitor to the BMW 4-Series coupe and it managed to achieve more due to great looks, luxury appointments, and best chassis in its class. There is a full performance edition called ATS-V but it is above our limit. For budget-minded enthusiasts there is ATS Coupe with a 3.6-liter V6 engine and 335 hp and great performance for just $47,000 which is significantly less than similar German cars from the same segment.
Honda Civic R
The enthusiasts have waited for so long for this car and finally, here it is. The best performance Civic ever in form of the mighty R. The 2.0-liter four cylinder delivers 306 hp to the front axle over special and electronically controlled front differential. The rest of the car is equally high-tech with boy racer looks appropriate for a hot hatch. For the base price of around $35,000, this is the perfect hot hatch for all Japanese cars lovers out there.