Article by Rick Jensen (Turboguy).
Budget performance cars are a critical part of the mod life. They’re an affordable option for young enthusiasts just entering the market—and many times, drivers develop lifetime allegiances to the makes or models that they start with. Luckily for you, many automakers are focusing on affordable performance in 2015. So Revvolution decided to put together a list of this model year’s fastest entry-level performance cars. The criteria were simple: under $35,000, over 200 horsepower, zero to 60 times under 6 seconds and quarter-mile times under 14 seconds.
In most cases, getting a brand-new performance car for 35 grand meant going with a model’s most basic high-performance option: cloth seats, manual trans, base suspension and tires, and few performance options like higher numerical rear gears, performance exhausts, etc. As dealers mostly carry high-option cars for better profit margins, you may have to do some searching or special order yours to get the lowest price. But patience is a virtue: low-option cars aren’t only cheaper, they’re also lighter—making them quicker too!
In the interest of including as many rides as we could, we left off destination fees and the like. As most cars can be negotiated down from MSRP, we fully expect you to shave a few hundred off. So that’s it—check out Revv’s list of the quickest new cars under 35 grand. Enjoy!
Ford Mustang GT Fastback with 3.55 Gears
The Mustang GT is an American muscle car selling tire smoke for peanuts; for 2015, the same powerful 5.0 V-8 lives in an all-new car. And along with the stunning new bodywork and more refined chassis and suspension, the 2015 GT is smoother on the road and quieter in the cabin. Best of all, the Fastback GT model comes standard with the 435-horse engine and 6-speed manual trans for $33,125.
There are a couple of tempting options. The $2,495 GT Performance Pack adds a 3.73 gear ratio (up from the standard 3.31), a Torsen diff and summer tires, and requires larger 19x9 front/19x9.5 rear rims and tires. Unfortunately, it just exceeds our $35,000 limit, so we stuck with the 18x8 rims and tires and chose the $395 3.55 gears option. And the Recaro cloth sport seats look really nice, but to us, $1,595 is best used for something else, like new rear tires.
Mustangs have always been cheap and fast. But the 2015 GT is Ford’s first stab at erasing that noisy, rough "Mustang” feel—and for under 34 grand, it’s a whopper of a deal!
Power/Torque: 435 hp, 400 lb-ft
Weight: 3,700 lbs.
Performance: 4.6 seconds 0-60, 13.0 @ 111 mph 1/4-mile
Chevy Camaro 1SS Coupe
American ponycars are tailor-made for bang-for-buck articles. When it comes to Chevy’s brawny Camaro, it’s true that the V-8 SS isn’t as cheap (or light) as the new Mustang GT. But to Chevy lovers, the SS’s fierce acceleration and surefooted handling more than make up for the higher price.
The lowest-priced V-8 Camaro is the 1SS coupe: it starts at $34,500 and comes with a 426-horse, LS3 V-8 and a 6-speed manual trans. While there’s a 6-speed auto trans option, it’s not optimal for several reasons: it’s paired with a more complex Active Fuel Management V-8, that L99 mill only puts out 400 horses, and at $1,295, the auto trans option pushes the total price above our $35K target.
But who needs an auto when a Camaro 1SS makes WOT, corners and panic stops a blast? It’ll run low 13s with your grandma driving and high 12s with a hotshoe. The base IRS isn’t as tuned up as the track-ready 1LE suspension option, but still pulls .93g in the turns. And four-corner, four-piston Brembos clamp down on 14-inch front and 14.4-inch rear rotors for stellar 111-foot 60-0 stops. Throw in the 20-inch rims, the gumball tires and the sexy styling and you’ve got yourself one sweet, fast ride.
Power/Torque: 426 hp, 420 lb-ft
Weight: 3,900 lbs.
Performance: 4.7 seconds 0-60, 13.0 @ 111 mph 1/4-mile
Subaru WRX STI
Subaru’s WRX/STI twins are widely loved, despite the fact that glaciers move faster than their power ratings. For 2015, the top dog STI has a familiar 305 horsepower—but much has changed around that EJ25 Boxer powerplant.
Stiffness is the name of the game this year: the 2015 WRX and STI use more high-strength steel for 41 percent stiffer torsional rigidity. And Subaru Tecnica International adds pillow-ball joint mounts and bushings, tweaked spring rates, inverted front struts and tuned dampers, and added sway bar stiffness. All that goodness adds up to 16 percent less body roll.
The turbocharged, 2.5-liter flat 4 is rated at 305 ponies and 290 pound-feet, and puts that power down through the familiar shorter-geared six-speed manual trans. An electronically controlled 41/59-split center diff with locking diffs—helical in the front, Torsen in the rear—allows way-sexy torque bias adjustments. And 13.0-inch, 4-piston front brakes and 12.4-inch, 2-piston rear brakes are standard, as are 8.5x18-inch rims wearing 245/40R18 Dunlop summers.
All this adds up to mid-4-second 0-60s and low 13s in the quarter, sub-110-foot 60-0 stops, nearly 1g in the corners, and more performance potential than you could ever unlock. But damned if you shouldn’t try!
Power/Torque: 305 hp, 290 lb-ft
Weight: 3,367 lbs.
Performance: 4.6 seconds 0-60, 13.1 @ 104 mph 1/4-mile
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo GSR
The good news is that you can slide into one of Mitsu’s turbocharged whiplash machines for just under $35,000. The bad is that the twin-clutch six-speed trans makes the MR model nearly 39 grand, too pricey for our list. But since the GSR has the same all-wheel-drive, 291-horse powertrain, shifting the five-speed manual yourself saves $4,500.
The Evo’s micro-sized four-banger is one powerful engine. This 2.0 liter relies on a host of high-tech parts to make power: the MIVEC valve timing and electronic control system work with dual overhead cams and 16 valves, four for each cylinder. Combined with the intercooled dual-scroll turbo, the Evo spools quickly to pound out 300 pound-feet down low and nearly 300 horses up high.
And the superb Super All-Wheel Control AWD system uses Active Yaw Control (AYC), Active Stability Control (ASC), Active Center Differential (ACD) and Sport Anti-lock Braking (ABS) as well as three console-selectable traction settings. And let’s not forget the 13.8/four-pot front and 13.0/two-pot Brembos either.
The result is an Evo GSR with head-yanking acceleration, side glass-smacking cornering grip, dash-chomping 118-foot 60-0 braking and the most nut-jolting ride this side of a saddle. And it’s a freaking blast!
Power/Torque: 291 hp, 300 lb-ft
Weight: 3,527 lbs.
Performance: 4.6 seconds 0-60, 13.3 @ 101 mph 1/4-mile
Dodge Challenger R/T With Track Pack
Dodge’s latest round of retro-muscle is still big and heavy—but with every year that passes, the Challenger becomes less straight-line only and more all-around performer.
The 2015 Challenger follows the 1971 model’s styling, both inside and out. Its lines are revised and there’s a more pronounced power bulge hood. But huge 20x8 rims, 8-LED front halos and 144-LED taillights make sure your competitors know you’re in a cool modern ride.
At our modest price target, there will be no Scat Packs, SRT 392s or 707-horse Hellcats. But the Challenger R/T is a great option: its 5.7-liter, VVT V-8 pounds 375 ponies and 410 pound-feet into the pavement through a six-speed manual. Like other manufacturers, Dodge offers a new 8-speed automatic trans that can make anybody look like a drag-race hero. However, not only will your slushbox-driving ass get your man card yanked, the auto trans is only paired with a less-powerful, cylinder-deactivation MDS engine.
But that’s not you—you’re all about hot, nasty, badass speed. So grab the $31,495 Challenger R/T, then add the $695 Super Track Pak. This adds high-performance suspension, brakes, steering and tires, along with other goodies like a rear body-color spoiler, paddles shifters for auto cars, back-up camera and the Dodge Performance Pages software. That way you’ll have a higher-performance Challenger and you’ll still have money left over for options like a better stereo—and if your lady parts still hurt, you can even afford the auto trans…
Power/Torque: 375 hp, 410 lb-ft
Weight: 4,100 lbs.
Performance: 4.9 seconds 0-60, 13.4 @ 107 mph 1/4-mile
Nissan 370Z Sport
Some reddit Revvolutioners didn’t think a 370Z NISMO was a good choice for our Nine Fastest Used Performance Cars Under $30,000 article. Too many bucks, too little extra bang, they said. So for our new cars article, we’re upvoting the regular 370Z. That is, if you consider the updated-for-2015, 332-horse, Sport package-equipped sports car "regular.”
The Z’s 3.7-liter V-6 sports a Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) and Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL). It sounds like a mouthful, but it basically continuously adjusts valve timing and lift for a thicker torque curve and quicker response. In other words, make fast = good.
While an optional $1,300 7-speed auto rev-matches on downshifts (but blows our budget), the no-cost 6-speed stick uses SynchroRev Match for smooth balls-out upshifts and downshifts. Throw in the Sport package’s 14-inch 4-piston front and 13.8-inch 2-piston rear brakes—the largest ever bolted to the 370—a viscous LSD for cornering acceleration and knockout styling with 19-inch rims and you’ve got yourself a damn capable performer for just shy of 35 grand.
Power/Torque: 332 hp, 270 lb-ft
Weight: 3,300 lbs.
Performance: 5.0 seconds 0-60, 13.5 @ 105 mph 1/4-mile
BMW 228i Coupe with M Sport
A base-model 2-Series isn’t going to win any performance shootouts—especially with the murderer’s row of rockets we’ve chosen here. It’s not that powerful, the brakes aren’t pimped-out race ready discs and, to be frank, BMW is pretty proud of its rides and prices them accordingly.
But don’t take that roundel on the nose lightly; in the 228i’s case, it’s not just the 2.0-liter, twin-turbo, 240-horse four, the six-speed manual, the firm brakes or the communicative suspension and steering. It’s how BMW combines those components to create one of the most sublime and luxurious sports cars on the market.
The 240-hp four-cylinder engine is packing direct injection and twin-scroll twin turbos, which push this 3,300-pound German to 60 in only 4.9 seconds, and through the quarter in 13.7 at 101 mph. That’s damn quick for "240” horses. The fade-free base brakes are also impressive. In fact, the only thing "disappointing” is the 228i’s near-.86g handling number—no doubt thanks to some slippery stock tires.
But that’s what M packages are for: the rear-drive model’s $32,100 base price doesn’t leave much room for extras, but we felt that the $3,000 M Sport package was a must-have. Its performance enhancers include lightweight 18-inch wheels with performance tires, a sport suspension calibration and an aero body kit with rear spoiler. This package also includes a sport steering wheel, sport seats and Shadowline exterior trim.
Yes, that takes us to a $35,100 price. And yes, that’s over the 35K budget. But the 2 Series is just too good to leave off the list.
Power/Torque: 240 hp, 255 lb-ft
Weight: 3,350 lbs.
Performance: 4.9 seconds 0-60, 13.7 @ 101 mph 1/4-mile
Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec
Hyundai continues to raise eyebrows in the high-performance arena. And penny-pinching performance lovers should ignore the Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec at their peril: it has nearly 350 horses, it’s chock-full of go-fast goodies and it’s several thousand cheaper than the usual suspects.
The heart of the Genesis Coupe is a 3.8-liter, direct injection DOHC V-6 that pumps out 348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That powerful mill is matched with a close-ratio, six-speed manual trans that features carbon synchros for smoother, more reliable operation.
The R-Spec option adds more good stuff: a track-tuned suspension with low-velocity control dampers, Torsen LSD and 4-piston Brembo brakes add serious performance; and there’s also a front camber adjustment bolt, a strut tower brace, 19-inch rims and sport seat bolsters.
At $30,395, the Genesis Coupe R-Spec is still slightly slower and less agile than competitors like the Camaro SS and 370Z. But when you consider that it’s four thousand dollars cheaper than those performers, you realize how great this affordable performance machine is.
Power/Torque: 348 hp, 295 lb-ft
Weight: 3,500 lbs.
Performance: 5.1 seconds 0-60, 13.8 @ 104 mph 1/4-mile
Audi A3 Premium with Sport Suspension and 18-Inch RS Wheels
While the sweet new S3 is just out of our price range, the new A3 is a more-than-capable alternative. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter, DOHC 16-valve inline 4 that feasts on a buffet of intercooled, turbocharged air. The resulting 220 horses combine with a dual-clutch 6-speed auto and Quattro all-wheel drive to offer S-inspired performance for cheap.
So grab the $33,200 Premium model, then be sure to get the $250 sport suspension, as well as the $800 18-inch 10-spokes. Final cost? $34,250 for a damn quick and seriously fun Audi.
Power/Torque: 220 hp, 258 lb-ft
Weight: 3,362 lbs.
Performance: 5.4 seconds 0-60, 13.9 @ 100 mph 1/4-mile