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.
The 2016 Ford Mustang GT is no longer purely a muscle coupe, but positions itself as a luxury option. Still, it 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.
Photo by Ford
The 2016 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 NISMO edition of the 370Z for the 2016 model year, which boosts power to 350 ponies (but rings up just a little over the $40k mark)
Photo by Nissan USA
Prices are creeping upward, but for 2016, Subaru’s WRX STi in Limited trim still comes in just shy of our $40,000 cutoff. 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. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available with the Subaru, and it also features a beefy suspension system and BBS alloy wheels.
Photo by Subaru
The Ford Focus lineup is vast and offers value throughout, from EcoBoost econoboxes to joyful hatchbacks. 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.
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The 2016 BMW 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. A six-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive come standard; though an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are available, they’re more expensive and probably less fun. As is typical for BMW, the 2 Series lineup offers plenty of upscale features for an additional cost, although it’s plenty comfortable right out of the box.
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The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS is the fire-breathing edition of the brand's retro-themed pony car, fully redesigned for this year. 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 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque when paired with its standard six-speed manual transmission. Unsurprisingly, the Camaro SS will peg the speedometer at 60 mph after about four seconds of throttle application.
Photo by Joni Gray
The 2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 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 profile and generous features list are undoubtedly inspired by the German luxury heavy-hitters. The compact Hyundai Genesis Coupe is a pleasantly quick Korean Mustang-fighter, and it offers a 348-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 under its hood, paired to a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. Also capable of generating 295 lb-ft of torque, the Genesis Coupe’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.
Photo by Hyundai
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). Power comes from a 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. 2015 was the final model year for the Evo, but some fans are still hunting for it well into 2016.
The 2016 Dodge Charger R/T is an aggressive-looking full-size family sedan 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. The R/T model is available only with rear-wheel drive.
Photo by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
The 2016 Cadillac ATS is one of the more affordable small luxury cars available this year, and although it’s trying to capture the comfort crowd more than the performance crowd, there’s room for such overlap. Available both as a five-passenger sedan and a four-passenger coupe, buyers can tailor the ATS considerably. There are several available engines for the ATS, including a 202-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder (the base engine in the sedan), a 272-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (the base engine in the coupe), and a 335-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. However, the V-6 quickly puts the ATS above the $40k price cap. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard, but the turbo four offers an optional six-speed manual. Rear-wheel drive is standard in the 2016 Cadillac ATS; all-wheel drive is available for an additional charge.
Photo by Cadillac Media