Power Players: The More Affordable Route
5 cars that deliver amazing power at a relatively affordable price.
We've presented you with the "cost is no object" power players among the current crop of production automobiles, cars that only the fortunate 1 percent can afford. But that doesn't mean power is exclusively for the rich. There are plenty of lower-priced machines that deliver respectable horsepower numbers. Forget the V10s and V12s; V6 engines and turbocharged 4-cylinders can now make 300 horsepower, while V8s push toward 500 horsepower. Here, we pick five powerful rides that start at less than $50,000. Each has at least 291 horsepower, and they put that power to the pavement effectively, posting zero-to-60-mph times of less than five seconds. It doesn't hurt that they all handle pretty darn well, too.
The Ford Mustang has soldiered on steadily since 1964, but its pony-car brethren, the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, have come and gone over the years. They're all available now, and each offers at least one V8 engine. Our pick of the litter for affordable power is the Mustang GT. With dual overhead cams, the GT's new 5.0-liter V8 revs more willingly than the larger overhead-valve V8s in the competition. Today's Mustang is far more capable than those old 1960s favorites. For less than $30,000, the Mustang GT can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, cover the quarter-mile in 13 seconds flat and reach a top speed of 155 mph while getting a decent 25 mpg highway.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 | Horsepower: 412 | Torque: 390 lb-ft | Price: $29,310
Dollars per horse: $71.14
The Corvette lineup is diverse, with prices ranging from less than $50,000 to more than $110,000. Performance is unbelievable at the top of the lineup, but even the base car is amazingly quick. The 6.2-liter LS3 small-block V8 engine makes 430 horsepower in its base trim, and a $1,195 option Dual-Mode Performance Exhaust package adds six ponies. The base 1LT Corvette accelerates from zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and eats up the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds. We would kick in the extra $6,400 for the Corvette Grand Sport, which cuts 0.2 second off both times while delivering better handling, thanks in part to dry-sump lubrication, which lowers the car's center of gravity.
Engine: 6.2-liter V8 | Horsepower: 430 | Torque: 424 lb-ft | Price: $49,525
Dollars per horse: $115.17
Whether for acceleration or handling, the Nissan 370Z will appear near the top of any performance-per-dollar comparison. At a hair over $31,000, it is one of the most affordable and capable sports cars on the market, offering thrilling acceleration, prodigious grip and extrasensory steering. The Z's V6 engine has been at the forefront of V6 power for years. It propels the 370Z to a 4.9-second zero-to-60 mph time, a 13.4-second quarter-mile and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. For best performance, we'd opt for the $3,030 Sport package with its bigger tires and brakes. No need to choose the Nismo trim; it's too firm without adding performance.
Engine: 3.7-liter V6 | Horsepower: 332 | Torque: 270 lb-ft | Price: $31,450
Dollars per horse: $94.73
The future of power may be embodied by the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Its 4-cylinder engine displaces only 2.0 liters, but it puts out an industry-best 145.5 horsepower per liter, thanks in part to a turbocharger that spins up 22.4 pounds of boost. The Evo sprints from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and covers the quarter-mile in 13 seconds flat. Standard all-wheel drive transfers the power to the pavement without roasting the tires, and aids handling as well. For a bit more performance, opt for the $37,295 MR trim, which adds a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, Eibach springs and Bilstein shocks.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder | Horsepower: 291 | Torque: 300 lb-ft | Price: $34,095
Dollars per horse: $117.16
The Hemi engine is legendary in automotive lore. It is best known for powering numerous Chrysler muscle cars, as well as NASCAR and drag-race cars, during the 1960s. The modern version in the Charger SRT8 turns a family sedan into a 175-mph muscle car, while aggressive suspension tuning and beefy brakes make it racetrack capable. Motor Trend posted a zero-to-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 12.8 seconds. The same engine also powers the Chrysler 300 SRT8, Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.
Engine: 6.4-liter V8 | Horsepower: 470 | Torque: 470 lb-ft | Price: $45,795
Dollars per horse: $97.44
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
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Since when were Nissans and Mitsubishis considered muscle cars?
2011vett is bad **** own one. i drove alot of nice cars nothing like a vett
I'm sorry, I thought it said "AFFORDABLE" "MUSCLE" cars. This article shows niether. "Affordable" would be below $20k which would rule out pretty much any new vehicle someone wouldn't be embarrassed to drive. To me a "Muscle" car starts at 400 hp and about 450 ft lbs of torque. Basically you're going to have to start with a used vehicle to be "affordable". The best starting point would be an early C5 Corvette. With just a little programming can get 450+ hp and you can find A 1997-2000 for around $14k-$19k. If you want even more "affordable" then you'll have to be willing to get your hands dirty and buy an older car and do all the performance upgrades yourself (my perfered way). If you take what you'd spend on these "affordable muscle cars" they have listed, you can build a car that will smoke any one of them guaranteed!
Gertie, the muscle care era started in 1964 with the Pontiac GTO, not 1955. Although there were other cars that sported muscle, the craze didn't take off until '64.
Also, the Corvette and 370Z are sports cars, while the Mitsubishi and the front wheel drive cars are Compact Tuners. I totally agree that none of these cars should be considered affordable. The biggest bang for the buck as far as performance for the money, IMO, is the 1990-1995 Corvette ZR-1. 375-405 HP, 370-385 FT Tq, 0-60 in 4.3, 1/4 mile in 12.8, and 180 MPH top speed. I use to own one and miss it badly. I will have another one some day. And, it modding is your thing, these cars react awesomely to the simplest mods.