$100,000 doesn't go quite as far as it used to - or does it? In the world of the fastest cars under $100k, there are a number of stand-outs and a few surprises in what works out to be a huge slice of the automotive market. It turns out that there are some relatively inexpensive machines out there that can keep up with much pricier models, at least for a little while, and there are also a few exotics that squeak in right under the $100k barrier. Although these cars aren't typically cross-shopped against each other, they each have their place in the high performance pantheon.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the fastest cars under $100k.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 01 - 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S
The 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S features an MSRP of $98,900, which means it just barely qualifies for our list of the fastest cars under $100k. Opting for the Porsche 911 Carrera S over the base Carrera means benefiting from an adaptive suspension system as well as grippier 20-inch tires and upgraded brakes. More importantly, it also swaps out the car's 3.4-liter flat-six for a 3.8-liter, six-cylinder mill that generates 400 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Situated behind the rear wheels, this unit is capable of launching the Carrera S to 60-mph in just 3.9 seconds. The Porsche can be had with either a traditional seven-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automated manual gearbox.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 02 - 2013 SRT Viper
The 2013 SRT Viper is perhaps the most exotic of domestic sports cars. Priced at $97,395, the redesigned SRT Viper has seen some of its rawness tamed by the installation of stability and traction control, but at its heart it still remains a potent performer that rewards skilled driving and punishes mistakes made behind the wheel. Thrust is provided by a monster 8.4-liter V-10 that can be relied on to produce 640 horses and 600 lb-ft of torque. No autoboxes here - the Viper doles out its power to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, and it can leap to 60-mph from a standing start in a mere 3.7 seconds.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 03 - 2014 Nissan GT-R
The 2014 Nissan GT-R can be thought of as essentially the 'anti-Viper.' The Nissan GT-R makes use of a trick all-wheel drive system, a twin-turbo V-6, and scores of electronic driver's aides to provide one of the most drama-free rapid transit experiences in its class. The GT-R coupe squeezes 545 horsepower and 463 lb-ft of twist from its 3.8-liter motor, and its six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is so adept at distributing this output that the Nissan takes only 3.1 seconds to reach 60-mph. For its base MSRP of $99,590, the GT-R is one of the most technologically-advanced sports cars on the market.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 04 - 2013 Ford Shelby GT500
The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 steers in the opposite direction of the Nissan GT-R's technological embrace, relying on the tried, tested, and true philosophy of sticking a huge engine in a small car for a good time. The Ford Shelby GT500 takes the basic Mustang package - live rear axle and all - and adulterates it with a 5.8-liter V-8 that has been supercharged to produce 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. That's not a typo - one of the least expensive cars on our list (MSRP $54,200) is also the most powerful. The GT500 gets a stiff sport suspension, launch control, and a six-speed manual transmission, and hitting the throttle hard with computerized clutch assistance engaged will net a 0-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds - supercar status for a car that costs just over half of what several others in this roundup command.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 05 - 2013 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The 2013 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the track-oriented edition of the popular two-door coupe, a vehicle that offers an aluminum chassis and a suspension system that has been tuned to deliver competitive lap times. Not the quickest Vette in the showroom but the most potent model that makes our price cut-off (MSRP $75,600), the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 over-delivers with its 505 horsepower, 7.0-liter V-8 engine. Also capable of generating 470 lb-ft of torque, this motor and its matching six-speed manual transmission allows the Z06 to reach 60-mph in just a tick under four seconds.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 06 - 2013 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG mixes luxury and sport performance in a compact package that can be had in both coupe and sedan form. In some ways, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG can be thought of as a German muscle car, as it, too, features an over-sized V-8 engine between the front fenders of a small automobile. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG also leverages the racing know-who behind the brain trust at the German brand's team of in-house tuners, and its 6.2-liter V-8 cranks out 451 ponies and 443 lb-ft of torque. Managed by a seven-speed automated manual transmission, the rear-wheel drive Benz (MSRP $62,330) checks in with a 0-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 07 - 2013 Subaru WRX STI
The 2013 Subaru WRX STI's MSRP of $36,295 makes it by far the most affordable automobile on our list of the fastest cars under $100k. Step inside its austere cockpit and you'll immediately see where some of those cost savings have been realized, but once the ignition has been switched on it's hard to deny the appeal of the Subaru WRX STI's all-wheel drive, active center differential, and turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The rally-inspired compact (which offers both sedan and hatchback editions) makes use of its excellent traction off of the line and its 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque to claw its way to 60-mph in a swift 4.5 seconds. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available with the vehicle.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 08 - 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
The 2013 Cadillac CTS-V coupe is a snarling cheetah locked up inside the stylish - but still intimidating - styling that defines the Cadillac image. The Cadillac CTS-V coupe (MSRP $63,215) might be designed to offer drivers exceptional luxury, but under its metallic skin the two-door automobile hides a menacing 6.2-liter V-8 that makes use of a supercharger to churn out 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque. Cadillac is civilized enough to allow buyers to select between either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, and with the row-it-yourself box installed the coupe can hit 60-mph in a blazing 4.2 seconds.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 09 - 2013 BMW M3
The 2013 BMW M3 continues the automaker's tradition of producing track-ready versions of its best-selling 3 Series entry-level coupe, convertible, and sedan. Our pick is the two-door, fixed-roof edition of the BMW M3 (MSRP $60,100), which comes with a high-revving, 4.0-liter V-8 and the availability of either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission. With a tight suspension system that keeps the car pointed straight and true even through the most challenging S-curves, M3 drivers will get wherever they are going exceptionally quickly - especially when considering the coupe's 0-60-mph time of 4.6 seconds.
Fastest Cars Under $100k - 10 - 2014 Porsche Cayman S
The 2013 Porsche Cayman S is intended as the road racing edition of the company's entry-level sports car. Somewhere along the way its designers must have gotten ahead of themselves, because the Porsche Cayman S (MSRP $63,800) is one of the most compelling coupes around from a performance perspective. The Cayman S, which is all-new for the current model year, features a mid-mounted 3.4-liter six-cylinder engine, a unit which produces 325 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The lightweight, rear-wheel drive Porsche makes the most of this output, as the car can reach 60-mph in a scant 4.5 seconds. A six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission can be ordered with the car.