Forget the notion that high performing vehicles are ridiculously expensive. On the contrary, you can obtain impressive speed without spending a fortune with the below high performance cars. But there is really no direct relation between “high” and “best” performances. Assessing the “best performance” cars would require passing on that snob’s appeal and looking in the corners of the cars we have included on this list. All of which, incidentally, have been proven excellent performers on the road.
1. 2005 Mazda RX-8
Balanced and poised, this Mazda has a small – only 1.3 liter – rotary engine that can rev up to an remarkable nine. The two half-doors and rear seats are useful for children passengers and the extra cargo space ideal to drive daily. The suspension and steering with six speeds make the RX-8 value for money.
2. Chevy Cobalt SS Turbo
This has a 2.0 liter capacity motor and 260 horsepower, making it faster than its supercharged earlier models. The SS Turbo comes with Brembo-sourced disc rotors and delivers excellent cornering grip, thanks to its tuned suspension.
3. 2002 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
This Lightning puts out a mean 380 horsepower and a 450 pound per foot of menacing torque from its V8-blown 5.4 liter. This big baby provides an unexpected smooth drive over other stock F-150s because of the ride’s lowered two inches out in its front and another inch back in its rear.
4. 1999 Ford Contour SVT
It would be pretty tough to spot the four door-Contour because it had such a short life. If you do come across one, you will find the Contour’s small 200 horsepower under its hood alongside its V6-blown 2.5 liter. The Contour lives up to its name with four wheeled disc brakes and an altered suspension for tightening corners. Given all that, the Contour, if you find one that isn’t beaten down, is capable of more horsepower than that same era’s BMW M3 liter per liter.
5. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
At 420 horsepower with 420 pound feet of intimidating torque, this particular Cherokee model is one sleeper that can chase the toughest Cayenne through a neighborhood’s steepest S-turns with ease. The SRT8 handles its Hemi V8-rated 6.1 liter with a surprising agility on its 20-inchers even as the Brembos manage to haul it, quite easily, right down from lightning speeds. If your idea of a best performance car is a hulking SUV with equally gigantic potential, the SRT8 is for you.
6. 2000-2002 Toyota MR2
Sold in several versions from the year 1984, the MR2 has a 138 horsepower that steers its low weight-body in a dance even on windy roads or tracks. The MR2 has comparatively less pretensions than its siblings from the 1999 to 2007 line, the classic “un-Miata,” really, in more ways than one.
7. 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP
The G8 has the Corvette’s purposed 6.2 liter V8-rated, 415 horsepower to auto or manual at six speeds and the Audi A8’s roomy space. The G8’s powerful speed might lead you to think that its price may hover around the $40,000 range but it doesn’t. Don’t be surprised that the G8 is at par with some of the most elite cars yet cost in the $29,000 price range. If that doesn’t make it one of the best performance cars ever, you don’t know what does.
8. 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP
Comfortable and agile, this GP has predictable cornering and quick steering ideal for daily driving. Not to mention that you get a V8-rated 5.3 liter, 323 pound per foot, and 303 horse-powered torque that can scoot easily to 60 mph under six seconds.
9. 2005 Acura RSX Type-S
Although the Acura has yet to explore the sports car’s lower end market, the RSX Type-S’s intelligent variable valve control or i-VTEC engine revs up beautifully. Its dual-phase cams can deliver much more muscle at a much higher rpm, and this capability is what makes it incredibly fun to drive even with only 210 horsepower. Yes, meek in comparison to the Subaru WRX, but the RSX Type-S was not designed to compete in races. It has one of the most exquisitely-designed manual gearboxes with a six speed shift. Not to mention that it’s meant for the frugal at 27 city/33 of highway mileage.
10. 2007 Saturn Sky Red Line
The Sky Red Line models are all pre-owned now, obviously, but the good news there is that they are all also certified with warranties. The Sky Red Line’s 2.0-liter engine is turbo-charged, kicks at 260 horsepower on 260 pound per feet torque, and can scoot up to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. With its distinctive rear wheel drive and cloth-top, this two door wonder is meaner than the Toyota MR2 or any Miata.
Some cars are just meant for show and while these look very luxurious and fast, looks can be deceiving even in cars. Just remember that it’s never the racing stripes or a particular shade of blue. When a car exhibits best performance, it’s really because of what’s under the hood.
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