Behind the wheel of a sports automobile, the most thrilling moments can be had. While luxury automobiles frequently compromise weight, handling, and precision, sports cars are all about performance at all costs. Combining both features is sometimes achievable, but it comes at a price.
Buyers of automobiles priced just around $50,000 will have to make do without extra features, but lower-priced models offer more customization options.
Sports cars vary in appearance depending on their region of origin, but this list of the greatest sports cars under $50,000 includes vehicles from all around the world.
Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86
With Cars like the Acura NSX and Toyota Supra, Japan pushed hard into the sports car market in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but there are now only a few analog performance cars available. Fortunately, the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86, which was co-developed by the two companies, provides vintage rear-wheel-drive fun in a modern package.
The BRZ/86 has excellent balance, sharp steering, and a low center of gravity. Although its 200-horsepower engine may be considered weak by some, its approachable performance should not be overlooked. For aspiring aficionados, the sports vehicle is a perfect introduction, as well as a blissful throwback for analog drivers. The BRZ/86 also one of the most affordable cars on the list, with the BRZ costing $25,395 and the 86 costing $95 less.
Who says sports cars have to have only two doors? For several years, Subaru’s WRX STI has outperformed some of the fastest 2-door sports cars in its 4-door and 5-door body types. The Subaru WRX STI was revamped in 2015, and it retains its rally-bred history while also being capable of tearing up any paved road.
The 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the WRX STI produces 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed manual transmission is the only choice, and the only drivetrain is Subaru’s incredible all-wheel-drive system with three mechanical differentials.
Few cars can rival a Subaru WRX STI through a straight line, and only a few can match it in the turns. At $34,695, the 2016 Subaru WRX STI is also thousands less than our $50K threshold.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda’s MX-5 Miata may lack the power of the other performance cars on this list, but its zippy powertrain and go-kart-like handling win it a spot as one of the top ten sports cars under $50,000. The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport is powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower.
Cadillac ATS Coupe
The Cadillac ATS Coupe epitomizes modern luxury in America. It’s also how the United States lands on this list of the top ten sports cars under $50,000.
The ATS Coupe, which starts at $37,995, is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 272 horsepower and 285 lb-ft of torque. Most people will be satisfied with that amount of power, but those who want more will choose the 335-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 that costs $47,750. The ATS challenges its German rivals with a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission and GM’s famous Magnetic Ride Control.
Ford Mustang GT
The Mustang GT is anything from subtle, with classic looks, a 435-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine, a spacious cabin, and the ability to lay burnouts the length of football fields.
The Mustang’s new independent rear suspension is designed to negotiate with ease, despite the fact that many sports car buyers still believe the Mustang is a straight-line specialist. Choose between a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission, activate the launch control, and accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. The Ford Mustang GT starts at $32,395, but it quickly becomes a $40k vehicle with all of the performance options.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
With an all-new design, platform, interior, and engine, the Ford Mustang’s rival is returning for 2016. For a variety of reasons, it earns a spot on a list of the best sports cars under $50,000, but the fact that it’s faster around a circuit than BMW’s M4 should raise some suspicions.
The LT1 V8 engine in the Camaro SS produces 455 horsepower and is mated to either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission. Sure, you can have a turbocharged 4-cylinder Camaro, but life is better with a V8, and nothing growls like an 8-cylinder battle cry. The 2016 Camaro SS has a starting price of $37,295.
On our list of the best sports cars under $50,000, we have a few worthy mentions from the country of beer and schnitzel. The Audi TT has been completely overhauled for 2016, and the result is a gorgeous vehicle. The TT’s appearance features sharp LED headlights, body creases, and wheel designs, but the interior features luxurious leather and some of the most cutting-edge vehicle technology.
Not to mention Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel-drive system and powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. A 7-speed dual-clutch transmission in the TT produces 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The entire kit costs $42,900, but cool does not come cheap.
The S4 performance sedan is Audi’s other contender in this contest. Although the 2016 S4 isn’t as powerful as its supercharged and V8 predecessors, its 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 still produces 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Its Quattro all-wheel-drive technology, which keeps a tight hold on the pavement even during high-speed bends, is also outstanding.
Audi S4 purchasers can opt for either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic manual transmission with a torque-vectoring rear differential as an option. The S4 accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under 4.7 seconds, with an electronic governor limiting the top speed to 155 mph. At $49,200, the S4 is just under our $50,000 price restriction.
A list of the best sports cars under $50,000 wouldn’t be complete without a BMW, but our options are becoming increasingly limited with the Bavarian automaker’s costs continuing to rise. The 2 Series — especially the M235i — is the best bet for the money. Though a 2 Series can be had for as cheap as $32,000, if you’re prepared to spend a little more, you can obtain the 320-horsepower M performance version.
The M235i can reach 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and is available in a coupe and convertible body type, with a robust 330 lb-ft of torque routed through either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic gearbox. The M235i has a sticker price of $44,150, so be cautious when selecting options.
Volkswagen Golf R
A hatchback sits at the bottom of our list of the best sports cars under $50,000. The Volkswagen Golf R, on the other hand, isn’t just any hatchback; it’s an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged, grin-inducing utility vehicle. While the Volkswagen GTI is the industry standard for hot hatchbacks, the “R” on this Golf’s grille denotes an additional 72 horsepower for a total of 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.
Power is channeled to all four wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission, providing the Golf R plenty of traction for quick acceleration and outstanding handling. Like the Subaru WRX STI, the Golf R starts at a moderate $35,650, which means a lot of performance for the money.
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