The new Toyota Supra made huge automotive news this year, but with a starting price of $50,000, it’s not the cheapest way to go fast. There’s great news on the used market though, where it’s easy to get more speed for your dollar. Here are five cars that are just as much fun as the new Supra, for about 1/4 the money.
If you want 700+ horsepower from the factory, the high-end Challenger Hellcat and Demon trim are the most cost-effective way to get ridiculous power. But the R/T trim packs a classic muscle car punch for a better price. The famous 5.7-liter Hemi V8 makes 375 horsepower, and an excellent exhaust note. If you’re thinking “Gas mileage? Who cares?!” then this is the car for you. The interior is classic muscle, with big dial gauges and a driver-focused design. Based on a Mercedes chassis, the Challenger is heavy, but feels bank vault secure. Despite its weight, it handles highway corners with ease, making this an excellent road trip car. If you are taller than average, or just like your muscle cars to be comfortable everyday cruisers, the Challenger is your high performance ride.
Four cylinder engines are generally known for economy more than high performance. Get both, in the Mustang with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost. While the new GT500 is a hot trending car this year too, even the base four-cylinder Mustang makes over 300 horsepower. The model range from 2014 to 2017 is arguably the best looking Mustang ever made, but 2018+ revises the looks for increased gas mileage and a power bump, so you win either way. I’m more of a Camaro guy, but the Mustang has the best interior of any pony car, with an upscale design and logical button layout. It’s also the closest to a pure sports car, but with better outward visibility than the Challenger above. If you’re the type that modifies your car, there is no bigger aftermarket parts support than for the Mustang, meaning endless options for customizing on a budget.
Want an affordable sports car, but also need to adult? Based on the Impreza sedan, Subaru’s muscle car sprints to 60 MPH in under five seconds, but offers four doors and all-wheel drive. The turbo 2.0-liter boxer four makes 268 horsepower and torque comparable to a big V6. AWD means quick acceleration, but also winter commutes on snow and ice aren’t a big deal. The interior is pure sport sedan, with comfy supportive seats and all the tech you’d expect, but a sporty edge with bits of carbon fiber. Visibility and seating position are more crossover-like than sports car, and with room for four adults, this could be a small family’s only car. Need more power? Look to the STi trim for 300+ horsepower and a rally-inspired suspension.
Want to feel fast without breaking the law? Toyota/Subaru have what you need with a low slung lightweight rear-wheel drive coupe. It’s true, 205 horsepower isn’t a lot anymore, but the 86 is a pure sports car that you’ll swear is from Porsche. The 2.0-liter boxer four cylinder loves to rev, and the design helps support a low center of gravity. The interior is bare bones to keep it light weight, but it’s spacious, looks sporty, and the ergonomics are excellent. The steering position, feedback, and cornering ability are reminiscent of the more expensive 911. The six-speed manual is one of the best feeling available right now, and the six-speed auto is a reliable unit shared with the Lexus IS. With up to 32 MPG highway, the 86 doesn’t charge a lot for its fun.
If you don’t need sports car looks, the Abarth is an affordable blast of pure driving fun. This is Italian driving charisma, with a quirky, but attractive interior. Based on the base 500, the Abarth receives exterior and suspension upgrades, as well as a turbo for its 1.4-liter four cylinder, making a raucous 160 horsepower. It’s under 2,500 lbs, which is a full 1,000 lbs lighter than the Mustang above. That means it needs less power to haul it around, and less weight transfer in the corners, which makes driving the Abarth at legal speeds feel like you’re playing Mario Kart. Zero to 60 passes in 6.9 seconds, and it’ll hit 33 MPG if you can stay off the fun pedal. Even though it’s tiny, it’s safe too, scoring above average four stars from NHTSA and almost exclusively “Good” scores from the IIHS.