We are living in a golden age of fast affordable cars, coupes, sedans, and hatchbacks that push the limits of performance without simultaneously doing serious damage to one's bank account. Champagne speed on a beer budget is the order of the day for 2015, and even teetotalers can appreciate the outrageous horsepower and handling available from a wide range of modern automobiles that are inexpensive to own, operate, and in most cases, insure. Let's take a quick look at 10 fast, affordable cars.
1) 2015 Ford Mustang GT
The 2015 Ford Mustang GT marks the latest generation of a long line of fast, affordable cars stretching all the way back to the vehicle's debut in 1964. Featuring a refreshed exterior and other new goodies, the Ford Mustang GT retails for $32,925, and for that price you get a 435-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 that additionally sends 400 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. If you want to grab even more performance for not much money, the Track package installs bigger Brembo brakes, heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling, and a limited-slip differential. 60 mph arrives in a scant 4.7 seconds for the Ford coupe.
2) 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS
It would be impossible to mention the Ford Mustang GT without giving equal space to its cross-town rival, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS. The Chevrolet Camaro SS cribs an enormous 6.2-liter V-8 engine that provides 426 horses and 420 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-speed manual transmission. The Camaro SS' $33,505 price of entry also includes a limited-slip differential right out of the box, along with a stiff suspension system, 20-inch rims, and the MyLink infotainment and communications interface. The sprint to 60-mph in the Camaro SS is accomplished in roughly the same time as that of the lighter Mustang GT.
3) 2015 Nissan 370Z
The 2015 Nissan 370Z might not flex its muscles in quite the same way as either of the domestic coupes so far profiled by this list, but this two-door sports car is just as quick and exciting to drive as its American counterparts. The Nissan 370Z continues the brand's long-standing tradition of building a track-ready performer at an affordable price ($29,990 for the base model), built around a supple chassis, a snug two-seat cockpit, and a 3.7-liter V-6 engine good for 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission that can automatically match revs while downshifting is included with the 370Z if you order the available Sport package, which also includes a limited-slip differential, and lightweight 19-inch rims. A NISMO version, new for 2015, adds even more flexibility. You’ll hit 60 mph in just five seconds when flooring the Nissan's go-pedal.
4) 2015 Subaru WRX
The 2015 Subaru WRX is notable for its ability to be a fast, affordable car in all sorts of different weather conditions, thanks to the grip provided by its standard all-wheel drive system. Subaru dropped the Impreza name from this model for 2015, helping the WRX stake its own territory. Whether blasting through snowbanks or snaking down a canyon road, the Subaru WRX enjoys 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque thanks to its new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, boosted by a twin-scroll turbocharger, an intercooler, and direct fuel injection. Order up a 2015 WRX with either a six-speed manual or a new CVT option. The WRX, which starts at $26,295, sizzles its way to 60 mph in an impressive 5.4 seconds with the manual gearbox.
5) 2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe presents itself as an even more affordable alternative to models like the Nissan 370Z, especially when found in its entry-level form. For 2015, Hyundai streamlined the Genesis Coupe lineup, phasing out the turbo four-cylinder and focusing on the 3.8-liter V-6. Starting at $26,750, the Genesis Coupe provides 348 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, put down through a six-speed manual or a tarted-up eight-speed automatic with rev-matching and paddle shifters. The rear-wheel drive 2015 Genesis Coupe arrives at the 60 mph mark in just 5.3 seconds.
6) 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T
The 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T is a bit larger, and heavier, than muscle car equivalents like the Mustang GT and Camaro SS, but the payoff of a large and practical interior plus the car's retro looks serve to balance that out. For 2015, the Challenger G/T got a styling overhaul, an interior refresh, and some mechanical updates. It’s still powered by the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which churns out 376 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, but it can now be paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission as well as the standard six-speed manual. For a base price of $26,995, the Challenger R/T propels you from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.
7) 2015 Ford Focus ST
The 2015 Ford Focus ST breaks the mold of our fast affordable cars list - so far, in any case - by presenting a front-wheel drive hatchback platform that has been boosted by way of a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and a considerable amount of chassis tuning expertise. With a system in place to mitigate torque steer, the 2.0-liter unit under the hood of the Ford Focus ST provides 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, numbers that permit the compact to surge to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. A six-speed manual is the sole transmission option for the hatchback, which starts at an MSRP of $25,195, and if you are comfortable paying a bit more, then you can specify items such as Recaro sport seats and HID headlights with the Focus ST.
8) 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR is a street-legal rally machine that makes our list of fast and affordable cars by way of its motorsports credibility and ultra-precise handling. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR, which is in its final year for 2015, starts at $34,495, and it delivers 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission shunts this output to all four wheels via the car's advanced all-wheel drive system, which in turn allows the compact sedan to hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Stepping up to the still-inexpensive MR trim adds the wrinkle of a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.
9) 2015 Volkswagen Golf R
A true high-performance version of Volkswagen’s hot hatch is a rare and noteworthy occurrence. New for 2015 is the arrival of the latest Golf R, based on the seventh-generation Golf, powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder that puts down 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels. Buyers can opt for a six-speed manual, which achieves the 0-60 sprint in 5.3 seconds, or a dual-clutch automatic, which takes just 4.9 seconds to get to 60 mph. The 2015 Golf R starts at $37,415, which is a hefty premium over the pedestrian version of the Golf, but comes with goodies like bi-xenon headlights, leather sport seats, and a dual exhaust.
10) 2015 BMW M235i
The 2015 BMW M235i stretches the limit of what could be considered “affordable” with its MSRP of $43,100, but given that the new compact coupe is essentially the modern reincarnation of the popular E46 M3 at a much lower price, we're going to include it on this list. The BMW M235i is essentially a worked-over version of the discontinued 135is coupe, which means a 322-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine is standard, along with the option of a close-ratio six-speed manual. The motor also generates 332 lb-ft of torque, and the rear-wheel drive coupe maintains stability by way of an adaptive suspension system and quicker steering when compared to the base 2 Series. An option to upgrade to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is available for 2015. 60 mph ticks by in just 4.8 seconds for the BMW.