December 6, 2021
| On 2 months ago

The Most Powerful Engine Under $40,000: Top 10 List

You want power, but you don’t want it to break the bank. We got you.

Some may lament the relative lack of performance cars on the market, but truth be told, we’re still in the golden era of cheap, accessible performance. Not only are cars putting down more power now than they did before, but tire technology has improved by leaps and bounds. So these mad machines are quicker around the corners, too.

SEE ALSO: The Only 15 ‘Real’ SUVs Left on the Market

For this list, only power matters, so we’ve ordered the Top 10 in ascending pony count. How much horsepower can you buy for $40,000?* Read on for the full list.

* – USD, but we’ve included CAD pricing nonetheless! We’ve also avoided work pickups.


Nissan Maxima: 300 hp, $38,215

SEE ALSO: 2019 Nissan Maxima Review

Don’t worry, we forgot the Maxima still existed, too. Nissan’s large sedan might not be the Four Door Sports Car of its youth, but it’s still packing serious ponies under that creased hood. The venerable VQ V6 pumps out an even 300 horsepower, along with 261 pound-feet of torque. All that power heads to the front wheels via a continuously-variable transmission.

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Kia Stinger GT-Line: 300 hp, $37,135

SEE ALSO: 2022 Kia Stinger GT Review: Life in the Touring Lane

There’s another 300-horsepower four-door in town. Kia dropped a larger 2.5-liter turbo-four into the “base” Stinger for the 2022 model year, and that’s brought the car up to a Maxima-matching power figure. The Kia sends its power rearwards though, through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Stinger isn’t all about muscle either, with a well-stocked interior featuring a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, heated front seats, and a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Sorry Canada, you only get the larger V6 and AWD. Mo’ power, mo’ money.

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Toyota Camry TRD: 301 hp, $33,385

SEE ALSO: 2020 Toyota Camry TRD Review

That’s right: Toyota will sell you a 301-horsepower Camry. What’s more, the TRD is the cheapest way into the V6-powered sedan, so even better. This is the last V6-powered front-drive sedan of its kind, and in TRD form, the Camry is a fun-loving four-door that won’t break the bank.

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Toyota RAV4 Prime: 302 hp, $39,565

SEE ALSO: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime First Drive Review: Plug-In Power

Yes, it’s true: if you want the most powerful sub-$40k Toyota out there, you’re looking at plug-in power, baby. The RAV4 Prime is the second-quickest Toyota in the Japanese brand’s lineup, behind only the Supra. You’ll gain access to a combined 302 hp here, plus an EV-only range of 42 miles (68 km).

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Subaru WRX STI: 310 hp, $38,170

SEE ALSO: 2019 Subaru WRX Raiu Review

It’s not long for this world, but the WRX STI squeaks onto this list at its current $38,170 entry price. Subaru’s venerable rally-bred rocket packs a 310-horsepower turbocharged flat-four, sending that power to all four wheels, as per tradition. The STI remains one of the very few models out there that comes only with a manual transmission.

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Ford Bronco: 330 hp, $34,285

SEE ALSO: 2021 Ford Bronco First Drive Review: The Real Deal

The flexibility of Ford’s Bronco is that you can spec the big V6 with any trim you want. Even the base model. That’s what the $34,285 sticker represents here: the upgrade to the V6 (and required 10-speed auto) and nothing else. This is for the two-door version as well, which looks way cooler to our eyes. But you’ve got budget left for the extra pair of ports, if needed.

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Dodge Challenger R/T: 375 hp, $37,260

No surprise that it’s the muscle cars that excel here. Up first is the Dodge Challenger, presented here in R/T form. With a 375-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 engine under that long, long hood, the Challenger has the show and the go, all for less than the starting price of a BMW X3. If you’d rather an extra set of doors, the Dodge Charger R/T also comes in under the wire at $39,720.

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Chevrolet Express Cargo Van: 401 hp, $36,065

SEE ALSO: The Best Van Covers for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Look, who doesn’t giggle at the possible fun a 401-horsepower cargo van can provide? Thank you to whomever at GM was in charge of making this particular combination a reality. Sure, it’s not going to trouble any of the others when the road changes direction, but it’ll haul a lot more than any of them.

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Chevrolet Camaro V8: 455 hp, $35,195

SEE ALSO: 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE First Drive

The second Bow Tie entry on our list is the Chevrolet Camaro. It has the distinction of being the cheapest way into a V8 car out there, with the LT1 model coming in at just $35,195 ($43,498 CAD). With that much money left over, you have a few options: the 10-speed auto bumps the price to $36,790 ($45,333 CAD); or there’s the $38,695 ($46,998 CAD) 1SS, which brings additional cooling, wider rear wheels, Brembo brakes, and more. The convertible is just out of reach: it’s an even $40k to start, but that’s before destination.

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Ford Mustang GT: 460 hp, $37,480

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

Ford’s evergreen pony car tops the list thanks to its thunderous, 460-horsepower V8. You’ll pay more for the Blue Oval than its Bow Tie rival, but the Mustang comes with a more modern interior. Just like the Camaro, the quoted price is for the manual-equipped model, but there’s enough wiggle room for the 10-speed automatic, if you’re so inclined. Similarly, it’s a coupe-only option here, at least if you’re sticking to eight cylinders. That iconic sound should prove worth it, though.

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