10 fastest cars under $50,000

The 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S can churn out nearly 400 horsepower, but it’ll set you back close to $100,000. Want to feel just as much power for half the money? Buy a Ford Shelby GT500.

Thanks to improved engine technologies that produce higher horsepower, and lighter materials that lower a car’s curb weight, the latest generation of relatively affordable, mass-market sports cars can go as fast if not faster than many of the fancier vehicles blazing down the highway, according to auto experts at Edmunds.com.

Quantifying speed can be tricky. Automakers have been steering clear of advertising a car’s top speed for legal reasons, explains Bruce Harrison, a research director at IHS Automotive. So what about zero-to-60 times? That measures acceleration, and the significance of that number is waning, some experts say.

“The numbers are getting so close and so good,” says Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury. “The fact that the Toyota Camry can go from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds is kind of mind-blowing compared to the muscle cars in the ’60s doing the same time,” he says.

So what’s the best way to determine a car’s speed? Horsepower and weight: the lower the ratio of power to curb weight, the faster the car, experts say. Based on that metric, researchers at Edmunds.com helped us determine the fastest cars under $50,000.

One surprise: U.S. automakers sweep the top five spots.

A big part of why horsepower, and therefore speed, has improved so drastically in recent years is that stability control, antilock brakes, and even the more complicated details of fuel injection, variable valve timing and turbocharging or supercharging are now being facilitated by computers, says Harrison of IHS.

“There are so many other factors that go into it, how big are the brakes, how many speed transmission is it, what gear ratio is in the vehicle, what kind of suspension helps it get around a corner. There are so many different variables that go into it,” Harrison says.

For instance, Ford says it uses electric power assisted steering instead of engine-driven hydraulic pumps that use up a lot of power. “These changes also enable better engine performance because more of the power output is directed to the wheels,” says Truett of Ford.

But cars are getting faster across the board, across all brands as well as price ranges.

“I wouldn’t say that advances are impacting low-priced cars more than high-priced vehicles, but I do think that, as economies of scale kick in, it’s easier to put some of the more advanced technologies on the less expensive vehicles,” Harrison says.


#10 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Horsepower: 305
Power-Curb Weight Ratio: 11.1
Price: $36,095

Pagination

(10 Pages) | Read all

Follow Yahoo! Autos

More Articles

  • MotorWeek recalls the glory days of the VW Cabriolet

    MotorWeek remembers a highlight of Volkswagen's recent past with its original review of the 1989 VW Cabriolet.Remember the car that the rich, very attractive girl in your high school got on her 16th birthday? Was it a Volkswagen Cabriolet? But time marches on, and the boxy convertibles have attained a certain quirky …

  • Hacked Tesla Twitter feed leaves one phone ringing

    A voice mail greeting that says, "There is no free Tesla," and asks callers not to call back.

  • Volvo Understands True Luxury, Eliminates XC90 Front Seat for Passenger Comfort

    Mercedes-Benz doesn’t get it, BMW doesn’t get, Audi doesn’t get it, Infiniti doesn’t get it, Range Rover doesn’t get it, and Cadillac doesn’t get it. Not even Maserati gets it. But Volvo? Volvo gets it: “it” being complete and total luxury. And no, the Swedish company isn’t offering whale penis leather. That’s not luxury, …

  • Thirty-two seconds of the new Batmobile. That is all.

    YouTube graces us with 32 seconds of B-roll footage of the new Batmobile from the Batman vs. Superman movie.New Batman, new Batmobile, that's how this goes. Christopher Nolan's Bruce Wayne spent a bunch of screen time figuring out how being a billionaire industralist defense contractor could make him a more efficient …

  • The 2016 Fiat 500X is Surprisingly Fun to Drive: Review

    Here’s a dirty little secret about the 2016 Fiat 500X; in the top-of-the-line Trekking Plus trim level, it’s actually fun to drive. It’s no Abarth, but this could just be the most enjoyable mainstream compact crossover on the market. It’s that good. Fiat invited the media out to Beverly Hills for some wheel time with