Want to go fast, but don't want to spend a lot of money? There are quite a few different new cars out there that can accommodate your needs. The fastest cars under $40k prove that it's not necessary to swallow a monster payment every month in order to enjoy the visceral thrills offered by strong acceleration, a lively exhaust note, and a willing chassis. Technology has put affordable speed into the hands of almost everyone, and the list of quick and affordable cars gets longer with each passing year.
Let's take a brief look at 10 of the fastest cars under $40k.
1) 2015 Ford Mustang GT
The 2015 Ford Mustang GT marks both the 50th anniversary and sixth generation of this beloved model. No longer purely a muscle coupe, the 2015 Mustang positions itself as a luxury option, but it still puts down a startling amount of power from its 5.0-liter V-8 engine. The Ford Mustang GT's motor is rated at 435 horses - a figure which wouldn't have looked out of place if associated with a supercar just ten years ago. This allows the GT to sprint to 60-mph in roughly 4.5 seconds. The Mustang GT also offers a Performance package, which provides an upgraded suspension system, Brembo brakes, and a limited-slip differential in order to make it more track-capable, and it can be ordered with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
2) 2015 Nissan 370Z
The 2015 Nissan 370Z is an affordable sports coupe that is guaranteed a spot on our list of the fastest cars under $40,000. The Nissan 370Z is built around a 3.7-liter VQ-series V-6 that can be relied on to produce 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is the best option for sending this output to the rear wheels, but an advanced seven-speed automatic unit (with auto-rev matching on downshifts) is also available with the Z. 60-mph arrives from a standing start in a quick 5.1 seconds, and the Z car offers the kind of chassis that is equally at home on a road course as it is on a drag strip. If you can afford to splurge a little more, there’s a new NISMO edition of the 370Z for the 2015 model year, which boosts power to 350 ponies (but rings up just a little over the $40k mark).
3) 2015 Subaru WRX STi Limited
Prices are creeping upward, but for 2015, Subaru’s totally redesigned WRX STi in Limited trim still comes in just shy of our $40,000 cutoff. (Subaru’s recently dropped the Impreza badge from the WRX, to help the upscale WRX become more of a brand of its own.) The philosophy is simple enough: take the relatively lightweight chassis of a compact sedan (or hatchback), stuff a turbocharged engine under the hood, garnish with all-wheel drive, and enjoy! The Subaru WRX STi benefits from a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine that develops 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, and combined with its full-time all-wheel drive system this is good enough to propel the WRX STi to 60-mph in 4.5 seconds. This powerplant and its stats are about a decade old, but they’re still great, and Subaru chose instead to focus on refining the driving experience and upgrading the cabin. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available with the Subaru, and it also features a beefy suspension system and BBS alloy wheels.
4) 2015 Ford Focus ST
Ford’s made some additions to the compact Focus lineup for 2015, such as the introduction of a 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder powerplant. For our $40,000, though, we’d opt for the Focus ST, which is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that has been turbocharged to generate 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. This engine is matched with a six-speed manual transmission, and 60 mph is achievable in roughly six seconds with the foot to the floor. The Ford Focus ST also provides a electronic limited-slip differential, an active anti-torque steer feature, and a suspension system that grips the road far better than that of the standard Focus. You can use the leftover cash to add some optional features, though you might not even need to.
5) 2015 BMW 228i
The BMW 1 Series, which previously occupied a spot on this list, was discontinued and replaced in 2014 by the all-new BMW 2 Series. There was a slight upward creep in base price, but otherwise, the 2 Series is everything you’d want and expect from an entry-level BMW. To keep it under the $40k mark, opt for the 228i model, which is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower, capable of a 5.4-second 0-60 sprint, less than half a second slower than the old 135i, not bad considering the car’s dimensions are slightly larger. Rear-wheel drive makes this sports coupe fun to drive, and there are plenty of add-on options.
6) 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS
The 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS is the fire-breathing edition of the brand's retro-themed pony car. The Chevrolet Camaro SS sets hearts a-quiver with the bark of its dual exhaust system, which is itself connected to a 6.2-liter V-8 engine. This beastly drivetrain has been massaged by Bowtie engineers to deliver 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque when paired with its standard six-speed manual transmission (those who opt for the six-speed autobox will see output drop to “only” 400 horses and 410 lb-ft of twist). Unsurprisingly, the Camaro SS will peg the speedometer at 60 mph after only five seconds of throttle application. Interested in a slightly different experience? The convertible version of the Camaro also boasts an MSRP just shy of the $40k mark.
7) 2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 is a treat for budget-conscious performance fans looking for a healthy amount of equipment to go with their affordably-priced sports car. The exterior is new for 2015, with a profile undoubtedly inspired by the German luxury heavy-hitters. The compact Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 is a pleasantly quick version of the Korean Mustang-fighter, and it offers a 348-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 under its hood that is carried over from the previous version, paired to a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. Also capable of generating 295 lb-ft of torque, the Genesis Coupe 3.8's mill helps it achieve a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, right up there with its V-8 competition. Both the R-Spec and Ultimate trims offer plenty of performance upgrades and come in well below the $40k threshold.
8) 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (or Evo, as it’s commonly known) can be thought of as the more hardcore counterpart to the WRX STi. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is also predicated on the “turbo motor, compact platform” concept, but it throws in more technology in the form of all-wheel drive featuring an active center differential with active yaw control, and the availability of a dual-clutch automated six-speed manual transmission (a traditional five-speed manual is also available with the Lancer Evolution). 2015 is the final model year for the Evo, and unfortunately, it loses its popular Recaro sport buckets. However, it retains its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine putting out 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, which allows the Mitsubishi to spin up to 60 mph in just a tick under five seconds.
9) 2015 Dodge Charger R/T
The 2015 Dodge Charger R/T is an aggressive-looking full-size family sedan, with refreshed styling for this model year, that also doubles as a comfy muscle cruiser. The Dodge Charger R/T comes with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine that impresses with 370 ponies and 395 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters are standard with the Charger R/T, which can make the run to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Should additional handling be desired, the Super Track Pak options package installs a more finely-tuned suspension system, quicker steering, adjustable electronic stability control, and bigger brakes. For 2015, the R/T model is available only with rear-wheel drive.
10) 2015 Infiniti Q50
The 2015 Infiniti Q50, a model that’s just a couple years old, was designed as part of the brand’s comprehensive overhaul to its lineup. As such, this five-seater sedan is well-rounded, even if it seems like it’s trying to hit all corners of the market. That said, the 2015 Q50 offers a smooth and pleasurable drive, thanks to a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that’s eager to accelerate and a seven-speed auto gearbox that shifts easily. The Infiniti Q50 comes standard with rear-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available, but is likely to push the Q50 over the 40 grand mark.