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The 20 Most Powerful Production Cars To Buy Under $50,000

Photo: 2020 Toyota GR Supra

In previous decades, getting your hands on a high-performance vehicle required shelling out exorbitant sums only attainable by an affluent and lucky few. Though as American automotive manufacturers have increasingly set their sights on the competition coming out of Japan and Europe, the market has experienced an enormous influx of objectively high-performance vehicles that can be had at markedly more affordable prices. With so many legitimately stellar options currently available on showroom floors, we thought we’d take the time out to count down the most powerful production cars under $50,000.

While every car on this list is packing an extremely potent engine—with a minimum of 300 horses—the vast majority of them have also been equipped with equally high-performance, track-ready components and running gear to help keep their monstrous power figures in check. What’s more, each car on this list can be classified as a true “driver’s car,” engineered with a heavy focus on cornering and performance. So, whether you’re interested in a nimble Japanese hot hatch, or a HEMI-powered American-made ride, this list has got you covered.

2021 Jaguar XF R-Dynamic SE

Beautifully combining luxury and performance, Jaguar’s XF R-Dynamic SE just barely makes it in at under $50,000, though its substantial price gets you an enormous host of features and amenities including 16-way adjustable sports seats, an 11.4” touchscreen infotainment system, an audiophile-grade Meridian sound system, Jaguar’s Dynamic Stability Control, All Surface Progress Control, Hill Launch Assist, JaguarDrive Control, Electric Power Assisted Steering, Speed proportional steering, and Torque Vectoring by Braking. As the most performance-focused of the XF range, the R-Dynamic SE is bestowed with a sports suspension package, and a complete R-Dynamic trim package with R-Dynamic side vents, grille surround and finisher, bumper finisher, and special badges denoting the P300 AWD engine under the hood.

Horsepower: 300hp
Torque: 295ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L inline-four

Purchase: $49,995

2021 Honda Civic Type R

While the Honda Civic name might not carry much weight with the general public, those in automotive and tuning circles are well-aware of the capabilities of the mighty Type R. This genuinely-track-ready version of the popular commuter car has been modified for optimized performance on the race track, with standard amenities that include a drive-by-wire throttle system, an upgraded aero kit and rear wing, multiple fuel maps, and an onboard data-logger. Setting a new (front-wheel drive) lap record at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan upon its release, the latest Civic Type R generates a cool 306hp and 295ft-lbs of torque, all of which is fed through a six-speed manual transmission with Honda’s Rev-Match Control.

Horsepower: 306hp
Torque: 295ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L inline-four

Purchase: $37,495

2020 Subaru WRX STI

Born out of four decades of top-level rally competition experience, Subaru’s WRX STI is an ultra-high-performance version of the standard WRX, equipped with a host of track-oriented running gear. Powered by a turbocharged flat-four, the STI-spec gets top-shelf six-pot Brembo Performance monobloc calipers, super-stiff suspension, lightweight 19” alloy wheels, and Recaro Performance seats, just to name a few. The STI’s AWD 310 horses are regulated via a driver-controlled center differential and the Japanese marque’s Vehicle Dynamics Control with Active Torque Vectoring. On the technology end, the top-of-the-line WRX features a Harman Kardon premium audio system and Subaru’s STARLINK Multimedia infotainment center.

Horsepower: 310hp
Torque: 290ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Boxer four-cylinder

Purchase: $36,995

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD SUV

While not anywhere near as potent as the bonkers 1,400 horsepower prototype that was initially unveiled back in July, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E is still an objectively powerful car, with front and rear electric motors affording more than 400ft-lbs of instantly-available torque—more than the brand’s track-focused Mustang GT or BULLITT. Capable of firing off 0-60mph runs in under five seconds, the Mach-E also offers a range of 300 miles, and a thoroughly modern interior with an enormous touchscreen display and customizable accent lighting, while the exterior of the vehicle marries classic Mustang visual themes with modern SUV aesthetics.

Horsepower: 332hp
Torque: 417ft-lbs
Engine: Front & rear electric PMAC motors

Purchase: $49,700

2020 Toyota GR Supra

Another legendary Japanese model that needs no introduction, the Toyota Supra experienced an extended hiatus before reentering production with the fifth-generation Supra in 2019 to much critical acclaim. Looking like a modern-day 2000 GT, the current Supra model is a high-performance coupe that also lends itself to daily driving duties. Riding on forged billet aluminum alloy wheels, the car is powered by an inline-four mated to a twin-scroll single-turbocharger, and ejecting spent fumes through a cat-back exhaust. For an additional $8K over the base model, Toyota also produces a 382hp version with an active rear sport differential, adaptive variable sport suspension, and a 3.0L turbo’d six-cylinder mill.

Horsepower: 335hp
Torque: 365ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L inline-four

Purchase: $42,990

2020 BMW M240i xDrive

A comfortable and plush daily driver that’s still more than capable of track day duties, this version of the BMW M240i is equipped with a 355hp M-tuned twin-turbocharged 3.0L six-banger and the German brand’s xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system. Good for 0-60mph runs in just 4.2 seconds flat, the 2020 M240I xDrive is brimming with performance-oriented equipment, from its M Sport brakes to the 18” M Double Spoke wheels to its sleek aero kit—all of which are offered as standard features on the Bavarian-built coupe.

Horsepower: 335hp
Torque: 368ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0L inline-six

Purchase: $48,350

2021 Audi S4

Audi’s S4 is one of the world’s best-selling luxury sports sedans, and for good reason, brilliantly balancing comfort, performance, and style, in a relatively affordable package. Under the hood, the S4 packs an aluminum alloy block and cylinder head, a twin-scroll turbocharger, and a 24 unit double overhead cam valve train setup with Audi’s valve lift system. Its approximately 350hp are sent through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that, when coupled with the car’s sub 3,850lb curb weight, allows for 0-60mph runs in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. The S4’s immense oomph is kept in check via a race-derived suspension and braking package, too.

Horsepower: 349hp
Torque: 369ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0L V6

Purchase: $49,900

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo

For those less interested in driving a car that carries a prestigious brand’s badging, and simply want a street-legal high-performance track weapon, it doesn’t get much better than the 370Z Nismo. Powered by one of the few naturally-aspirated engines on this list, the 370Z’s 3.7L V6 has been extensively tuned and fitted with a 2.4-inch cat-back exhaust system, numerous lightened internals, and several other tweaks that enable it to put down 18hp more than the already impressive base model. The car’s lightweight, front-engined setup, RWD configuration, and optional manual six-speed transmission also make the 370Z a stellar drift car.

Horsepower: 350 hp
Torque: 276ft-lbs
Engine: 3.7L V6

Purchase: $45,790

2021 Cadillac CT5-V

Over the course of the past decade or two, Cadillac, unfortunately, developed a bit of a reputation for producing over-priced, under-performing models, though in the last few years the iconic American manufacturer has made a tremendous effort to alter the public’s perception of the brand through the release of some genuinely capable luxury car models like the CT5 V. On top of a seriously plush and tech-laden interior, the V-spec CT5 also features an electronic limited-slip rear differential, twin turbochargers, and Cadillac’s MAGNETIC RIDE CONTROL which monitors road conditions 1,000 times per second to automatically tweak the suspension.

Horsepower: 360hp
Torque: 405ft-lbs
Engine: Supercharged 6.2L V8

Purchase: $47,695

2020 Chrysler 300C

Upon its release in 2005, the Chrysler 300 was widely touted as a “poor man’s Bentley,” though that moniker couldn’t be further from the truth today. A bonafide American luxury car, the top-of-the-line S-spec 300 is outfitted with plush, perforated, quilted, and ventilated Nappa leather seats, a genuine natural-pore Mocha wood interior trim, heated and cooled cup holders, and adaptive high-Intensity discharge headlights. The 300 S’s piece de resistance, however, is unquestionably its naturally-aspirated 5.7L HEMI V8 that produces a class-leading 363hp and 394ft-lbs of torque. The car is also offered with an available all-wheel-drive setup.

Horsepower: 363hp
Torque: 394ft-lbs
Engine: 5.7L V8

Purchase: $43,500

2021 Genesis G70 3.3T RWD

Though Genesis released its first official model in 2017, the South Korean company—which is essentially a luxury offshoot of Hyundai not unlike Lexus is to Toyota—the marque has already gained a dedicated customer base thanks to objectively premium cars sold for a fair price. Taking aim at its European and Japanese competitors, Genesis is now offering a performance-focused 3.3T RWD-spec of its G70 with a potent twin-turbocharged 3.3L V6 feeding power through an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s run through via a shift-by-wire-enabled set of paddle shifters.

Horsepower: 365hp
Torque: 376ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 3.3L V6

Purchase: $46,200

2021 Kia Stinger GT1 AWD

Interestingly, the Stinger Gt1 utilizes the exact same chassis, blown 3.3L V6, and automatic eight-speed shift-by-wire transmission as the previous entry on this list—this is owed to Hyundai owning a decent stake of Kia Motors—though with that said, these are two very different creatures with their own unique character and performance. Appropriately making its public debut at the world-famous Nurburgring race circuit, the Stinger GT1 AWD is packed with race-inspired elements including a paddle shifter-equipped flat-bottomed steering wheel, 19” wheels shod in track-ready Michelin rubber, electronically-controlled suspension, Brembo quad-piston calipers, multiple fuel mapping modes, a Heads Up Display, and cornering G-force monitoring. The Stinger’s aviation-inspired interior also gets Harmon Kardon speakers, Nappa leather trim, and metal accents.

Horsepower: 365hp
Torque: 376ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 3.3L V6

Purchase: $45,490

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

Powered by a cutting-edge triple-cooled twin-scroll turbocharged engine that’s entirely hand-assembled by a single person in Affalterbach, Germany, the AMG CLA 45 is a true testament to German engineering, brimming with all the latest race-derived bells and whistles. Noteworthy features on the car include a paddle-shifted AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT transmission with carbon fiber friction linings, an array of drive modes including dedicated modes for racing and drifting, ESP Dynamic Cornering Assist, and AMG Sport Suspension, Exhaust, and Braking systems—the latter of which is available with an optional composite upgrade. Equipped with launch control, the CLA 45 is also good for four-second 0-60mph times.

Horsepower: 382hp
Torque: 354ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L inline-four

Purchase: $49,500

2020 Tesla Model Y

Deceptively high-performance, the Model Y may look like your average sleek luxury SUV, but its low center of gravity, chassis design, and dual independent electric motors afford the electric car some impressive performance capabilities. The AWD Model Y has an (electronically-governed) top speed of 135mph and a 0-60mph time of 3.5 seconds. The Model Y’s cutting-edge battery pack—which can be recharged at any of Tesla’s more than 20,000 Supercharger stations—offers a generous 326-mile range, plus can receive over 150 miles of autonomy after only a 15-minute plug-in. Your nearly $50K also gets you a UV-protected glass roof, 15” touchscreen infotainment display, and 68 cubic feet of cargo space and roomy seating for up to seven.

Horsepower: 384hp
Torque: 375ft-lbs
Engine: Independant front & rear electric motors

Purchase: $49,990

2020 Lincoln MKZ Reserve AWD

Lincoln is another storied American marque that’s experiencing something of a return to form at the moment with equally elegant yet potent models like the MKZ. And while the $36,750 base model is admittedly a fantastic car, the higher-specced Reserve AWD version packs significantly more punch. This is thanks to a twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 that allows it to fire off the line, while electronic power-assisted steering and performance-tuned adaptive suspension–with a trio of ride modes (Comfort, Sport, Normal)—make the MKZ Reserve AWD a pleasure to pilot in the corners. The MKZ also boasts a decidedly sophisticated and dignified outward appearance that doesn’t really resemble anything else on the road.

Horsepower: 400hp
Torque: 400ft-lbs
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0L V6

Purchase: $48,500

2021 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE Track Package

As you can probably guess from its name, the 1LE Track Package takes Chevy’s modern muscle car and transforms it into a bonafide race-ready track machine. Kicked along by a naturally-aspirated 6.2L V8, this upgraded Camaro is decked out with a wide range of amenities for the race track such as Brembo six-pot monobloc calipers, a full aero kit with a three-piece mounted blade-style spoiler and a large front splitter, Recaro performance front bucket seats, a suede-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel and short-throw shifter, 20” forged aluminum wheels, and Chevy’s Magnetic Ride Control active suspension setup.

Horsepower: 455hp
Torque: 455ft-lbs
Engine: 6.2L V8

Purchase: $43,745

2020 Ford Mustang BULLITT

A modern-day tribute to the iconic ’68 Fastback featured in the 1968 Steve McQueen film of the same name, the 2020 Mustang BULLITT is outfitted with a wide array of upgrades, both aesthetic and mechanical. On the outside this means a NitroPlate Black finished quad-tipped Active Valve Performance Exhaust, hood vents, rear diffuser, a badge-less black meshed upper and lower grilles, chromed window and grille surrounds, and blacked-out five-arm machined aluminum Heritage wheels and adorned in a dark green paint scheme. On the performance end, the Mustang’s been treated to TORSEN limited-slip rear axle, Monotube shocks, Brembo brakes, launch control, and a (track-only) electronic line-lock mode.

Horsepower: 480hp
Torque: 420ft-lbs
Engine: 5.0L V8

Purchase: $47,705

2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

While it is a significant jump up from the Challenger’s $28,000 base price, the R/T Scat Pack version brings quite a bit to the table in terms of raw performance prowess. Sitting on 20” aluminum wheels, this contemporary muscle car is powered by a 392 HEMI V8 that puts down 475ft-lbs of torque and a class-leading (at under $40K) 485hp. Four-piston Brembo calipers provide ample bite, while launch control allows for lightning-fast computer-optimized acceleration from a standstill, and a line lock function allows for wildly consistent, near-perfect cornering. This upgraded package also includes an 8.4” touchscreen with SRT Performance Pages and Uconnect 4C smartphone linking, as well as a heated steering wheel and front seats.

Horsepower: 485hp
Torque: 475ft-lbs
Engine: 6.4L V8

Purchase: $39,995

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack

Costing only $500 more than the previous Dodge-built car on our list—and sharing the same beast of an engine—the Charger shares a lot of common elements with the Challenger, both being modern renditions of classic American muscle cars. Unsurprisingly, the Charger Scat Pack also features most of the same performance-driven aspects previously mentioned on the Challenger, including the 20” aluminum wheels, four-piston Brembo performance brakes, the same 8.4” touchscreen, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and cloth performance seats, and line lock and launch control — though the Charger also gains launch assist mode.

Horsepower: 485hp
Torque: 475ft-lbs
Engine: 6.4L V8

Purchase: $40,495

2020 ROUSH F-150 Nightmare

The Roush F-150 Nightmare takes the wildly-popular pickup truck and bestows it with a series of upgrades aimed for the race track or drag strip. The modified pickup’s already-potent 5.0L V8 has been fitted with a ROUSH TVS R2650 supercharger system that enables it to generate a cool 650hp and 610ft-lbs of torque, translating to sub-four-second 0-60mph runs. Priced at approximately $20K over the base/donor model, the Nightmare also features 22” seven-spoke satin black wheels, a sport lowering kit, a custom front bumper cover, a custom grille with integrated lighting, a blacked-out tailgate, and a special graphics package that’s offered in one of five colors.

Horsepower: 650hp
Torque: 610ft-lbs
Engine: Supercharged 5.0L V8

Purchase: $47,895

The 20 Most Powerful Cars You Can Buy

Want to check out an even more impressive array of vehicles that aren’t limited to under $50,000? Then be sure to cruise on over to our guide to the most powerful cars you can buy for a look at the world’s most potent production models currently available on showroom floors.