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Top 10 Fastest Cars Under $50,000

While it may seem that automakers are focusing more on fuel efficiency than performance these days, cars are actually getting faster and (in some cases) cheaper.

If you’re in the market for a performance car under $50,000, you might be surprised just how fast they can get. Taking a look at 0-60 mph acceleration times, we’re almost at a place where cars priced less $50K can dip under the 4 second mark. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 fastest vehicles available on today’s market for under $50,000 before destination charges. For the purpose of this list, we are using manufacturer’s acceleration estimates where possible. And yes, we’re fully aware some third party testing has these cars accelerating even faster. 

10. Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 – 4.8 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Review: The Hot Hatch for Grown-Ups

The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has already done wonders for the German automaker in terms of sales, and the CLA 35 turns up the wick. Using a detuned version of the most powerful production four-cylinder out there, the CLA boasts a healthy 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to a quick-shifting DCT, the 35 sprints to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds, enough to earn it a spot on this list. The rest of the package includes typical Mercedes luxury, too. You can have it all for just $47,900.

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9. Volkswagen Golf R – 4.7 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2022 Volkswagen GTI and Golf R First Drive Review

Just beating the CLA is another all-wheel drive compact utilizing a fire-breathing four-cylinder engine. The Volkswagen Golf R is new for 2022 and sees power increase form the 2.0-liter turbo to a stout 315 hp. Paired with a dual-clutch transmission, this combo is good for 0 to 60 mph runs in 4.7 seconds, with some owners are capable of going even quicker in stock examples. As a bonus, the Volkswagen is arguably the most practical car on list thanks to its five-door body style, seating for five, and spacious rear hatch. The Golf R starts at a price of $44,290.

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8. BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe – 4.6 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2020 BMW 228i Gran Coupe Review: A Worthy Port of Entry

The BMW 2 Series is a bit unusual in the automotive world. The two-door coupe is a sport compact that sticks to BMW’s traditional rear-wheel drive architecture. But the 2 Series Gran Coupe is a four door swoopy sedan that is built on a front-wheel drive platform. The top performer in the Gran Coupe range is the M235i xDrive that incorporates all-wheel drive to hustle the 302 hp sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Not bad for a luxury car costing $46,400. 

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04. (Tie) Nissan Z – 4.5 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2023 Nissan Z Second Drive Review: Zee Grows Up

The reborn Nissan Z is a stylistic mash-up of nearly every Z car that came before it. With a bit of this and a bit of that mixed in, the Nissan does stick to the Z’s roots of using a six-cylinder engine; turbocharged in this case. Official output is rated at 400 hp which is good enough for a 0 to 60 mph time in the 4.5 second range. As an enthusiast bonus, the Z is one of the few cars on this list available with a manual transmission. Pricing for the new Nissan Z starts at $39,990, while the Z Performance, which is capable of the 4.5 second 0 to 60 mph run, clips in just under our price cap at $49,990. 

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4. (Tie) Audi S3 – 4.5 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2018 Audi RS5 Review

The luxury performance S3 sedan from Audi is part of a four-way tie on this list, with a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the Audi S3 has 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque while getting an EPA-estimated 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The S3 features a starting price of $45,945 with standard quattro all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch transmission.

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4. (Tie) Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack – 4.5 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody Review: The Simplicity Of A Hammer

Want some good ‘ol American muscle? The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack does its 0-60 mph sprint in 4.5 seconds at a cost of $46,940. Powering the American sports car is a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Don’t expect good fuel economy however, as the Challenger R/T Scat Pack gets just 14 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. It’s not all about straight-line speed for the Challenger though, as it comes standard with Brembo brakes.

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4. (Tie) Ford Mustang GT – 4.5 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2021 Ford Mustang GT Convertible California Special Review: Cloudy with a Chance of (V8) Thunder

The final entry in our four-way tie is another American muscle car, the Ford Mustang with a 0-60 mph time of, you guessed it, 4.5 seconds. The 5.0-liter V8 engine boasts 450 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque which is down slightly compared to years past, but still clearly capable of propelling the ‘Stang to 60 mph in a hurry. The Mustang is also one of the more affordable choices on this list, with a starting price of $38,045. 

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3. Dodge Charger Scat Pack – 4.3 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Review: The Friendly Demon

Want American V8 power but need four doors? The Dodge Charger SRT8 is exactly what you need. Given how potent the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 is—the same motor found in the Challenger—it’s no surprise that the Charger can hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. It is however, more expensive than the Challenger, with a starting price of $49,140.

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2. BMW M240i xDrive Coupe – 4.1 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2022 BMW M240i Coupe First Drive Review: Focused on Fun

Here’s BMW’s other 2 Series, a two-door coupe packing a more powerful 3.0-liter turbo-six. With 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, this all-wheel drive rocket sprints to 60 mph in a manufacturer-estimated 4.1 seconds. We suspect that’s conservative, like many modern BMWs, but for now, that’s enough to earn it the penultimate spot on this list. It also just squeaks in under the limit, at a starting price of $49,900.

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1. Chevrolet Camaro SS – 4.0 seconds

SEE ALSO: 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE First Drive

The popular Chevrolet Camaro SS is at the top of our list, scoring an even 4.0 seconds on the dash to 60 mph. The Camaro LT1 can be had from $39,090 when equipped with the 10-speed automatic transmission, which is needed to achieve the 4.0-second time. Under the hood is a 6.2-liter V8 engine that churns out 455 hp and 455 lb-ft. of torque. Like the Mustang and Challenger, there are more powerful versions of this pony car, but none that come in under $50,000. 

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Bonus. Toyota GR Corolla – 4.9* Seconds

2023 Toyota GR Corolla First Drive Review

SEE ALSO: 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Review First Drive: Sporty Toyota International

An honourable mention to our list is the recently introduced Toyota GR Corolla. Packing a 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, 300 hp is on tap and fed through a manual transmission to all four wheels. A modern take on a rally-car-for-the-streets, the GR Corolla is available in three trim levels. The highest performance model, called the Morizo Edition, saves weight and has an estimated 0 to 60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. That would be good enough for 11th place on this list.

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46 Comments

ben says:

wow how much

poop goblin says:

this doesnt make sense

Mitch says:

Fact is my friends 4WD is the way things are going. In the wet, a RWD car becomes a liability able to do little more than make a great noise and a cloud of steam whilst you sit stationary. I own a C350 CDI, puts down a modest 261 BHP but 457lb/ft of torque. In the dry it’s properly quick (note I didn’t say fast), but next week I pick up my CLA45 AMG. Yes, it’s 4WD. Yes that means there’s less skill involved in driving it, but you know what? I don’t care. I’m not Lewis Hamilton, and nor do would I pretend to have even nearly the same level of driving prowess. But I get a kick out of going fast, the buzz of planting a car into a bend hard and coming out the other side alive and buzzing with adrenaline. Far too many people get caught up on saying “my car is better/faster than yours”, but you know what? Everyone on this site taking the time to comment on their ride – respect to them. You clearly love your cars. And personally, I don’t care if I was blown into the reeds by everyone on this forum – surely what we have in common here is our love of cars – new and old, small displacement / large displacement. It’s about the damn buzz you get when you go out in the thing, and know you’re pushing YOUR limits – regardless of whether you’re driving a £1.2 million Veyron, or a $40,000 Mustang. If you can’t recognize you’re one of a large group of people who share something special in common – a love of your machines – I’m not sure what you’re doing here. I regularly find myself out on an open road with another driver, who like me – is just out to feel the exhilaration of putting pedal to metal. I don’t think I’m better than him if my car is worth twice what his is, or worse than him if my car is worth half what his is – the fact is – a true petrolhead respects other petrolheads without the need to troll/ be abusive. I’ve had a number of encounters with other drivers giving it ‘some welly’ on the roads. And when we pull up at the lights, a respectful thumbs up is exchanged. Just my two pen’eth / cents 🙂

Nadun says:

Oh Mitch what u said is so true dude ur the man and yes ur not lewis hamilton but u said what is true

Nadun says:

and hello the 20178 370Z is slower than that it takes 5.1 secs to accelerate to 0-60

St.Regis says:

The only thing that made me comment on this is the difference between the title and the contents of the article. Comming from an automobile writer it was just wrong. Fastest is top speed, quickest is 0-60. I learned that fact from every car magazine I’ve read correcting others.
The nice thing is that it is comparing 0-60 times, as top speed is a joke and a useless statistic.
I am not sure there are any publuc places left that you can use speeds over even a hundred MPH. Does the autobahn still have any stretches left? Anyway the only thing that can be used by drivers is how quickly they can get their car moving. From the childish, but oh so fun, jumping off the line as a stop light turns green to the thrill of leaping forward as you come out of a tight turn on your favorite twisty road. The one thing that is always neglected when comparing 0-60 is road conditions, and as the previous writer stated AWD kicks any 2WD vehicles butt when the surface isnt dry. From the slightest rain or crappy roads to the skill of 90 percent of drivers on the roads AWD makes for much better 0-60. I found that out when in 2017 I bought my first Classic, a 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 Spyder. I was able to drive that car through a New England winter with out problems. The kicker was when I beat a Dodge Viper from stop light to stop light. When the light turned green I just floored it. The viper’s tires went up in smoke and the car started to sashay around, I just went straight. The only skill either of us had was, well we didn’t have any, I had AWD.