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10 German Cars Under $20,000 That Have Endless Tuning Potential – HotCars

by Nov 6, 2022Blog0 comments

With affordable price tags and some of the best engines for mods, these German used cars make the perfect projects.
No one wants a boring stock car. Most of the fastest cars come at a hefty price when bought new. But it doesn't have to be this way. You can otherwise take a dirt cheap car, throw in some performance upgrades, make some aesthetic mods, and instantly yourself have a formidable street king.
The challenging part is choosing something within the budget that offers great performance potential and unlimited aftermarket support. Most people will identify cheap Japanese cars that are easy to tune. But, unlike their Japanese counterparts, German carmakers such as Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, and Volkswagen produce sports cars with powerful engines with unlimited tuning potential. Here are the ten best German cars under twenty grand with unlimited tuning potential.
The BMW 335i features the N54 engine – one of the best tuner engines ever. Thanks to its forged internals, just like the legendary 2JZ, it can produce immense power without expensive engine mods.
BMW massively underrated this engine, stating that it makes 300 horsepower. In truth, it's possible to squeeze 800+ horses out of this thing. Simple mods such as spark-plugs upgrades and other stage one bolt-on upgrades are enough to get you rocking over 500 horses. Here are some examples available for less than $8,000 – $15,000.
Thanks to its turbocharged V6 and six-speed manual transmission, the Audi B5 S4 became one of the best family haulers available in the U.S. These cars come in plenty of options, from all-wheel-drive to front-wheel drive, sedan or Avant body styles, and even different size engines.
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Even though the stock 2.7L V6 made enough power, with good tuning, it can make considerably more power. Some easy mods include suspension and steering, but B5 S4s with reworked engines have been seen putting out over 700 hp. Amazing how a dirt cheap Audi B5 S4 could turn into a supercar slayer.
Mercedes has rich experience in superchargers in their road and racing cars. While other tuner cars may be lacking in luxury, Mercedes offers it as staple. A stock C230K runs on a 1.8L inline-4 engine that makes 189 hp and 192 lb-ft torque.
Simple stage one tuning could unlock up to 230 hp and 231 lb-ft torque. While that is already good power for this car, it's not close to the car's true potential. With upgrades in superchargers and other performance parts, you could easily be making insane power, while doing it in luxury and style.
One of the cheapest cars on this list is the VW Corrado VR6. It is considerably fast for cars from its era, but it would be a bit of a stretch to call it a speed demon in its stock form. However, it provides a platform that’s easy and fun to modify.
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Parts for these cars are incredibly easy to find without breaking the bank, which is why they are so popular among tuners. Your creativity is your limit once you get into modding the VR6, so it’s up to you to make something unique.
The M3 E36 was available in a tasty variety, as there were over a dozen engine options, four transmission choices, and six different body styles. A low-end 316i E36 would go for below $3,000, while a high-end M3 can ask for around $15,000.
Working on these cars is a breeze, as there are many options to choose from. They have widespread aftermarket support, meaning parts are easily available. As body kits and performance parts are available, you’ll easily assimilate into the M3 cult.
Porsche 911s came out of the factory with great performance, getting from 0-60mph in just 4.8 to 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 174mph, depending on the trim. In the past, these were incredible figures, but in today's hypercar era, they may seem pretty meek.
Adding a few performance parts can easily double the stock 325 hp to 500+ hp, turning the 911 into a street weapon. For those seeking to annihilate supercars for a fraction of the price, a Porsche 911 should be on your shopping list.
Another Porsche that you can buy used for less than $20,000 is the Boxster. For this budget, you are looking at getting a Boxster from the early 2000s since newer Boxsters will set you back upwards of $100,000.
The only drawback with these Porsches compared to other cars on this list, such as the Volkswagen, is that parts aren’t very cheap. So it’s noteworthy that they might need a lot more money to modify and maintain it into the sports car of your dreams. But they look great and have unlimited tuning potential to make serious power.
Related: Here's How The Porsche 911 GT3 Has Evolved Over The Years
Volkswagen has produced some of the world's most iconic and popular cars. It doesn't get more household or popular than a classic VW Beetle, except for the VW bus. A beetle with an engine sticking out is a common sighting, as tuners love these.
The best thing about a beetle is its affordability; a $20k budget will get you the car and leave you plenty to spare for parts and upgrades. Beetles can transform into race cars, dune bugs, and stance cars.
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The modern Audi TT is an excellent platform, but it borrows most of its glory from the Mk1 TT. The first gen TTs are priced very reasonably in the current market. They came in two varieties; a 1.8L turbocharged inline-four cylinder that could make 178 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque, or the same 1.8L engine but with a bigger turbocharger that made a sweet 222 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque.
With the latter, you also got Audi’s Quattro AWD tech which delivers an amazing driving experience. Although it’s known for some common engine reliability issues, the Audi TT is still a perfect tuner's car.
There's a huge spectrum of modding options for Golf. From minor ones, such as a steering wheel, to major mods, such as an engine swap. Furthermore, it may not need to spend a fortune to make a Golf R go way faster.
A turbocharger is one of the must-get upgrades. Because these cars are quite inexpensive, they are very attractive to tuners all over the world.
K. N’njagi has been a writer in the auto industry since 2017 and keeps getting okay at it. A staff writer with a taste for high mileage, rusted-out projects, and amateur endurance racing.