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From full-size SUVs to brawny muscle cars, all of the monsters on this list have two things in common: insane power and sub-$30,000 asking prices.
When looking for an affordable car, shoppers will have a laundry list of practical specifications that need filling. As essential as they are, most buyers will never feel excited about finding just the right amount of boot space or the right number of child seat attachment points. No, what’s missing from too many buyers’ lists is power.
Having plenty of horsepower needn’t be something that breaks the bank, and it also doesn’t need to mean any compromises in practicality. From full-size SUVs to brawny muscle cars, it’s possible to find something both affordable and very powerful in every segment. Here are ten of the most powerful cars available right now for less than $30,000.
For those in the market for an affordable autobahn slayer, this C63 AMG should tick all the right boxes. Sporting a hand-built 6.2-liter V8, the Merc’s performance is supercar level at a fraction of a supercar’s price.
It looks the part too, with black accents all over the car indicating that this isn’t just a run-of-the-mill German coupe. AMG’s engines always sound thunderous, so most owners won’t even want to use the impressive 450W stereo system that comes as standard.
A true American classic, there’s nothing quite like a Mustang. Twelve-year-old examples of the Shelby GT500 can be found just within the $30,000 mark, as long as buyers don’t mind a car with slightly higher mileage.
Both convertibles and hardtops can be found within budget, although convertibles tend to be a thousand or two cheaper. Either way, a used GT500 is a great way to get power and classic Americana in one affordable package.
The Dodge Charger SRT8 combines the practicality of a 5-door sedan with the raw power of a muscle car. It’s a great option for those who want both tire-shredding thrills and family-hauling practicality.
With a 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds, the SRT8 is quick enough that drivers will be able to compete with cars more than three times the price tag. Chargers also have a thriving tuner aftermarket, so if 465 hp isn’t enough, there’s plenty of opportunities to bump that figure up even more.
Sports SUVs are some of the fastest depreciating cars around, which is bad news for those who buy them new but great for those who want a used bargain. New, the xDrive50i retailed at $70,100, but in just five years the car depreciates to under $30,000.
Maintenance on X5s can be expensive, so when looking to buy it’s worth considering mileage as well as age. If possible, a full-service history will give buyers peace of mind that their new BMW shouldn’t suddenly need anything too expensive.
One of the best segments for buyers looking for affordable power is muscle cars, with this Camaro ZL1 being a prime example. 2013 models can be found in the high $20,000s range, and they come with a whopping 580 hp.
It’s safe to say that no driver will ever need all of that horsepower when driving on the road, at least not legally. It’s better then, to take this beast to a track or drag strip to really get the full experience it offers.
Audi’s RS line has produced some of the best speed machines to come out of Germany in the past two decades, but most examples never reach American shores. Luckily, the RS5 was sold in the US in big enough numbers that it’s possible to find some used bargains.
There’s only a handful of examples under $30,000 across the whole of the US, so buyers should be willing to take a flight or two to get their hands on one. For their trouble, though, they’ll be rewarded with 450 hp and the full suite of Audi’s class-leading driver assists to help them get the most out of the RS5’s 4.2-liter V8.
Cadillac cars are known more for their luxury than their performance figures, but the CTS-V attempted to change that. The first-generation CTS-V was released back in 2004 but a budget of $30,000 will buy a late second-gen model, around the 2012 model year.
CTS-Vs are popular with drivers who prefer street racing to track racing so it’s worth double-checking the condition of the car before purchase. Buying one that’s been overly abused means owners might end up with a never-ending list of repairs.
British luxury sedans probably aren’t most people’s first thought when looking for powerful and cheap cars. However, Bentley have been consistently churning out high-powered barges for years. That means there’s some steals to be had on the second-hand market.
A 2005 Flying Spur puts out a huge 551 hp, and those willing to spend an extra few thousand over budget can get an even more powerful Continental GT. It’s worth noting though that one of the reasons older Bentleys depreciate is because of their sometimes eye-watering maintenance costs. This certainly won’t be the cheapest luxury car to maintain.
The Scat Pack Challenger sits one below the top-spec Hellcat line, and while Hellcats tend to get most of the attention, used Scat Packs offer even better value for power. Examples that are barely half a decade old can be found within budget, usually with fairly low mileage too.
For their money buyers get most of the same features as a Hellcat, albeit without the famous engine. 485 hp is still more than most drivers will ever use though, and still gives owners bragging rights over many other more expensive cars.
The Range Rover Autobiography looks quite understated compared to rivals such as the Mercedes G Wagon or BMW X5M. Don’t be fooled by that though, as it packs a meaty supercharged V8 that delivers over 500 hp. That number was best in class when this car was manufactured ten years ago and is still impressive even by today’s standards.
As well as being quick on the road, the top-tier Range Rover is actually surprisingly capable off-road too. It’s therefore one of the best options for those who need to deal with the occasional bit of adverse terrain and still have a car that’ll smoke everything else on the highway. Higher mileage examples of the Autobiography can be found for well under $30,000, so buyers will have some reserve money left for the inevitable maintenance costs.
NEXT: 10 Fun Cars For Under $30,000
Mark covers a variety of topics for HotCars, from the latest pickup trucks to obscure Japanese sedans. A regular fixture at car shows around the UK and Europe, if there’s a weird model or obscure manufacturer, he probably knows about it.
These Are The Most Powerful Cars $30,000 Will Buy You In 2021 – HotCars
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