Although supercars are available in a wide variety and have undergone significant changes over the past two decades, the metal and the powerful engines that make up this class is still as enticing as ever.
Here we're honoring the world's best mid-engined, upper-level performance machines with a certain level of luxury: not the top echelon of the incredible performance car market, but the kind of vehicles you think about when you picture a modern Ferrari, McLaren, or Lamborghini. Aston Martin and Maserati wouldn't be in line to join if the club wasn't so lucrative.
To do well in this class, you must demonstrate that your engineers and designers can deal with an inherently challenging brief, stand up to a particularly formidable competitor, and satisfy some of the most demanding customers. In this list, we will look at a wide range of true sports cars and their direct competitors that provide an engaging ride, yet are offered at affordable prices. These cars are suitable for luxury car enthusiasts and not the typical daily drivers.
Acura NSX ($47,850)
The Acura NSX model from the first generation delivered an impressive mix of performance and comfort. With the 1990-96 model years, the NSX came with a standard all-wheel drive, 270 horsepower from a 3.0-liter V6 engine, while the 1997-2005 models also came with the standard all-wheel drive and the standard safety features, but generated 290 HP from 3.2 liters of gasoline.
With the introduction of the NSX, there was a first for production cars when an all-aluminum monocoque chassis was built, even with other exotic materials found under the base engine's hood such as three titanium connecting rods, an aluminum block, heads, and cast iron piston sleeves exist. Titanium connecting rods, aluminum blocks and heads, and cast iron piston sleeves improved durability and low weight, while the variable valve timing of VTEC helped to broaden the torque curve and give you a smooth ride.
In terms of acceleration, the NSX does not disappoint and goes from 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds. Even though the more powerful later models will be hard to find for a base price under $50,000, there are still clear examples of the early Acuras that can be purchased for less than $50,000.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage ($39,995)
This was arguably the first entry-level, rear-wheel-drive model offered by the company, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage which gave an exceptional all-around performance. A six-cylinder V8 engine with 380 horsepower was mounted in the 2006-2008 Vantage, using a design loosely inspired by Jaguar but with an exotic dry-sump lubrication system, a 4.3-liter V8 powered it with an aluminum-intensive VH platform and other standard equipment. A 4.7-liter V8 with 420 horsepower was available for the 2009 model year, and for the 2012 model year, a 430-horsepower V8 Vantage S with more luxurious interiors and a lower center of gravity was available. You can find a wide range of options from the fixed-roof Vantage to the Volante convertible body styles for the desired starting price, even in those versions which contain the 5.2-liter V8. For those on a more limited budget, there are possibilities of finding early Vantage models that provide an enjoyable ride for a price range of $30,000 - $35,000.
Audi R8 ($64,000 - $73,000)
Audi's first-generation R8 was a popular style in driving Audi upmarket - after sharing its platform and its engineering with Lamborghini's new entry-level Gallardo model. The R8 came standard with a powerful 4.2-liter V8 engine, producing 414 horsepower, which could sprint to 60 mph in less than four seconds, giving you a really smooth ride. All-wheel drive was included standard on the R8, along with familiar Audi controls, and a comfortable ride made the R8 an unusual choice among mid-engined exotics in 2008. It gained this reputation by being an "everyday supercar.". Even though official values like those above don't back up the opinion, V8s from the first performance models are starting to depreciate to a price range of under $50k on used car marketplaces like TrueCar.com.
Bentley Continental GT Speed ($38,900)
Undoubtedly, the first-generation Bentley Continental GT was the most advanced four-wheel-drive car to wear a flying B during the last few decades. It is incredible how much work has been done by parent company Volkswagen (including introducing a brand-new engine layout for the W12), such that the big Conti GTs have luxurious interiors, and are as fast and comfortable as any Bentley ever can be, with exceptional all-around performance. With an understated style, the Continental GT Speed offers a bit more of the latter and a little less of the former. With 602 horsepower to the standard model's 520, the Continental GT Speed is the way to go. While the Speed is a lighter, lower, and stiffer version of the company's classic Speed, it nonetheless offers a calm interior, smooth ride, and a timeless design that strikes a nice balance between the classics of the past as well as the high-tech automobiles of its future.
BMW X6 M ($35,600)
Among the wide range of BMW's high-performance M models, there are inline-fours with power that rivals inline-6s, Formula 1-inspired V10s that rival V12s, and a wide variety of cars in between. It is a little weird to think of the X6 M as the first all-wheel-drive M brand model and the first crossover in the brand's history. Thanks to its introduction in 2010 (along with the X5 M), the X6 M is also a unique member of the BMW family. Even though this might be considered heresy by many BMW devotees, we couldn't help but giddy a bit when we saw one of these high-performance turtles zipping by us as we drove on a pavement. You may want to consider an X6 M from the second generation from 2015 to 2019, which will probably be lighter, faster, and a more smooth ride than the first-generation model.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 ($44,800)
When new, the C6-generation Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 was a fantastic value for the money, boasting more than 600 horsepower and a starting price of just over $100,000. This car is built for the model years 2009 to 2013, so it is still quite difficult to find one for less than $50,000, but knowing what it has to offer, this is a vehicle that might not depreciate too dramatically, making it a decent investment. It should be clear that other Corvette models from this era can be had for much less, including the awesome 427 Collector Edition convertible and the well-rounded Grand Sport, both available for a lot less.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 ($48,194)
C7-generation Corvettes are far more polished than their predecessors, so the Z06 version of the C7 might be more attractive to some than the ZR1 version of the C6. The same 6.2-liter supercharged V8 powers the Z06 to 650 horsepower, but its modifications have brought it up to date. There are a few on the market now for a price range of less than $50,000. Like the C6 ZR1, the C7 Z06 is also available with an automatic transmission but only with manual transmissions. The C7 Z06 features world-class chassis handling but without additional cost.
Dodge Charger Hellcat ($48,000)
It is perfectly reasonable for you to grouse that the Charger Hellcat is not a supercar, and you are right. The Charger Hellcat is a muscle sedan that drives like one. It's difficult to argue with a car with 707 horsepower, especially when examples can be bought for as little as $50,000 for cars with only 3,000 miles. The Hellcat is powered by the supercharged, pushrod 6.2-liter V8, which is made more exotic with forged pistons, stronger crankshafts, and connecting rods. While the Dodge Charger Hellcat isn't tuned for finesse in the same way as a BMW M5 might be, it claws its way through the pavement thanks to grippy tires and a stiff suspension that stays steadfast despite hairpin turns. It has also been reported that the Hellcat might come with some certified or factory warranty at $50,000. It is one of the newest entries on the list.
Dodge Viper RT/10 / GTS ($28,900 - $53,600)
The first-generation Dodge Viper features a V10 engine originally designed for heavy-duty trucks, so it looks, sounds, and drives like a Ferrari. The 1992-1995 Viper RT/10 was powered by a powerful, 8.0-liter V10 engine producing 400 horsepower exhaled through aggressive side exhausts. The first super-snake was probably a little too crude for most people, especially since it was the only one without side windows. It is worth noting that the 1996 version of the RT/10 featured a rear-exit exhaust system that was said to increase horsepower by 15 and removable glass side windows that replaced the plastic curtains.
Even so, the GTS coupe's fixed roof and roll-down windows would likely be appreciated by owners of Vipers who use them daily. There is a good chance that any of the above models will be available on the used market for a price range of $29,000 - $50,000. If you have the money, you could have the second-generation Viper 2003-2007, but I'm sure you'd prefer the hairy-chested RT/10 roadster or GTS coupe, wouldn't you, adventurous reader?
Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca ($44,959)
While hundreds (if not thousands) of Mustang special editions are available, we chose the 2012-2013 Boss 302 Laguna Seca (the model year 2012-2013) because of its unusual form and distinctive ability to connect corners gracefully. Although the Boss 302 LS still utilized a live rear axle, the suspension was tuned so well that an independent rear suspension was probably no longer required on this car.
In addition to the comprehensive package, there were many other features of the 5.0-liter V8 which were of a modern design, including forged engine internals and a Manual transmission option that enabled the engine to reach up to 7,500 rpm and provide plenty of power. Laguna Seca's tires were stickier, the back seat was eliminated, an X-brace was added for increased stability, and a special orange accent was added to the interior, wheels, and roof. A very good example of either the Laguna Seca or an easier-to-maintain base model, Boss 302 will come in at about $40,000 when it comes in excellent condition.
Lotus Esprit V8 ($36,835)
Lotus Esprit V8 occupies a place on this list that is both old-school and classic, especially considering that the basic body structure dates back to when the nameplate was introduced in 1975. With a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V8 developed in 1996, the X-type was a completely modernized engineering object, sending 350 horsepower to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. There is a nostalgic nod to the 1970s in this doorstop styling, and the V8 model is rooted deeply in the realm of radical '90s nostalgia in the additional trappings of strakes and spoilers. A brand new $50,000 Esprit is not difficult to find, or even a $40,000 Esprit, but caveat emptor should be observed. There is no question that you will be responsible for your Lotus ownership in terms of financial responsibilities.
Maserati GranTurismo Sport ($42,100)
This is what makes the Maserati GranTurismo stand out on this list. A luxury boulevardier that replaced the unimaginatively named Coupé and Spyder, it tends towards comfort and style rather than outright speed a lot of the time. Nonetheless, the more fun and sporty GranTurismo Sport, with its 4.7-liter V8 engine that can produce 454 horsepower, can be had for less than $50k, making it a worthy alternative to those who want the Italian sex appeal without paying the sort of down payment required to buy a Ferrari. What makes this car even better is that you can have a comfortable coupe or a convertible that is big enough for four people.
Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG ($37,282)
It would be better if we suggested the 2007-2014 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG to you if the Dodge Viper is far too uncouth. This 4-seater vehicle is powered by an M275 V12 engine, the CL65 has a mighty horsepower rating of 604 hp (upgradable to 621 hp for 2011) and a torque rating of 738 pound-feet. Even though the four-door hatchback sedan is only marginally faster (and worse in corners) than the considerably less expensive CL63 AMG, its owner is nonetheless treated to an unparalleled driving experience that will make them feel like a million bucks. There is no way that impression would reflect on the dotted line - even if a CL65 is rare and difficult to find, it will still only cost between $30,000 and $50,000 to its next owner.
Nissan GT-R ($44,446)
When Nissan GT-R arrived on the market in 2009, the world was stunned by the automobile. This neo-Datsun car is powered by a twin-turbocharged engine with a dual-clutch transmission and various electronic gadgets that put it into the supercar category. With its spacious, four-seat cabin, it was even a comfortable day-to-day driver - if you could put up with the harsh ride. It is understandable why today, a wise buyer would not have trouble finding a 2009-2010 GT-R in excellent condition for less than $50,000. Some of the 2011 models will have a more powerful version of the 3.8-liter V6 engine, offer a greater level of luxury, and are a bit more expensive than earlier models.