Top 10 Quickest Cars Under $50,000

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

While it may seem that automakers are focusing more on fuel efficiency than performance these days, cars are actually getting quicker.

If you’re in the market for a performance car under $50,000, you might be surprised just how quick they can get. Taking a look at 0-60 mph acceleration times, we’re at a place where cars priced less than $50K can dip under the 4 second mark. In fact, nearly half the cars on this list can break the 4.0 second mark.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 quickest vehicles available on today’s market for under $50,000 before destination charges. We understand not ever car will hit the numbers listed below in every circumstance. Some cars will be slower and some may actually be quicker. We are using official test results achieved by Car and Driver and Motor Trend for the purposes of our list.

8. (Tie) Nissan Z – 4.3 seconds

Starting our list is a three-way tie. 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 4.3 second range. As an enthusiast bonus, the Z is one of the few cars on this list available with a manual transmission, but it's the 9-speed automatic that's capable of those times. The six-speed manual is a few tenths slower.

Pricing for the new Nissan Z starts at $42,210, with either transmission a no cost option. There is a caveat here since the 0-60 time came from a Performance model which starts over $50,000. Can a base model without the limited-slip differential still achieve 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds? We're not sure.

8. (Tie) Hyundai Ioniq 6 AWD Long Range - 4.3 Seconds

Electric cars are known for bien quick and two models have entered our list. With instant torque, all-wheel drive EVs can scoot to 60 mph in surprisingly quick fashion considering their weight. The Hyundai Ioniq 6 comes in a variety of configurations. The dual motor all-wheel drive SEL model comes with a total system output of 320 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to propel the 4,462 pound sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Pricing for the SEL with AWD comes in at $48,750.

8. (Tie) Audi S3 – 4.3 seconds

The luxury performance S3 sedan from Audi is the final entry in our three way tie at 4.3 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. Like the Ioniq 6, the S3 uses its all-wheel drive system to get the most from it's relatively modest engine output.

The S3 features a starting price of $47,000 with standard quattro all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch transmission.

6. (Tie) Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack – 4.2 seconds

Want some good ‘ol American muscle? The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack does its 0-60 mph sprint in 4.2 seconds at a cost of $49,265. 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.

6. (Tie) BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe – 4.2 seconds

BMW's 2 Series comes in two flavours: regular Coupe or the four-door Gran Coupe. Confusing as this naming convention is, the two vehicles ride on completely different platforms. The Gran Coupe is front-wheel drive biased and features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder. When paired to the all-wheel drive system and 8-speed automatic transmission, it produces 302 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. It's enough to propel this small sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Pricing starts at $48,300.

5. Tesla Model 3 Longe Range AWD - 4.1 Seconds

Tesla's big vehicles are known for being absurdly quick, most notably the Model S and Model X Plaid editions. But the smaller duo are no slouches either. The Model Y just misses making this list while the Model 3 Long Range AWD lands in the 5th spot. Powered by a pair of dual motors, this version of the baby Tesla can hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.1 seconds. There is a significantly quicker Model 3, the Performance, but pricing before rebates just keeps it off our list. The Long Range All-Wheel Drive makes the cut though, costing $45,990.

1. (Tie) Volkswagen Golf R – 3.9 seconds

Starting our four-way tie for first is an all-wheel drive compact utilizing a fire-breathing four-cylinder eng i ne. The Volkswagen Golf R was new for 2022 and saw power increase form the 2.0-liter turbo to a stout 315 hp. Paired with a dual-clutch transmission, this combo is good for a 0 to 60 mph run in 3.9 seconds under optimal conditions. 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 $45,455.

1. (Tie) Ford Mustang GT Performance Package – 3.9 seconds

The next first place finisher is the newest vehicle on our list, the Ford Mustang. Heavily updated throughout, the new 'Stang is still powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine that now makes 486 hp and 418 lb-ft of torque with the Performance Package. When used with the 10-speed automatic transmission, this is enough to launch the American muscle car from 0-60 mph in a time of, you guessed it, 3.9 seconds. Grabbing the new Mustang GT automatic with the upgraded Performance Package comes in at a price of $48,445.

1. (Tie) Chevrolet Camaro SS – 3.9 seconds

The popular Chevrolet Camaro is tied at the top of our list, once again making the dash to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. To achieve that time, the Camaro Camaro needs to be equipped with the 10-speed automatic transmission and 6.2-liter V8 engine that makes 455 hp and 455 lb-ft. of torque.

Not only is the Camaro quick, it's also one of the more affordable options. Either the $41,990 LTI trim or the $45,490 1SS trim can make the price cut for the purpose of our list. Like the Mustang and Challenger, there are more powerful versions of this pony car, but none that come in under $50,000.

1. (Tie) BMW M240i Coupe – 3.9 seconds

BMW's other 2 Series, the Coupe, finds itself as the final first place finisher. In the M240i guise, it packs a powerful 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder making 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This rear-wheel drive rocket sprints to 60 mph in a 3.9 seconds under optimal conditions. Pricing just makes the list with n MSRP of $49,700. The quicker all-wheel drive M240i xDrive just misses making the list.

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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  • Ken Ken on Nov 08, 2022

    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.

  • Adam Adam on Mar 19, 2023

    Meanwhile, the Kia Stinger GT is destroying almost every one of them at the track.