You’ve done well for yourself. You’ve recently acquired the coveted corner office, your business is booming or you’ve just liquidised some assets – whichever the case, you now have a fair wedge of cash and it’s time for a reward.
So what do you get? Something special and something fast of course, and the overwhelming majority of performance cars North of the $50,000 mark offer plenty of both those qualities.
We’ve assembled a list of five of the best performance cars over $50k – each is not only one of the most accomplished in their respective domain, but also (relatively) good value to boot.
There’s no shortage of fast metal in this price bracket, but when you enter value for money into the equation these are the ones that rise to the top.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Sedan
Engine: 375kW/700Nm 4.0 litre twin-turbo petrol V8
Transmission: 7sp automatic, rear-wheel drive
Before you rush to the comments section to advise us of the fact the BMW M3 is some $15k cheaper, hear us out.
For starters, the C63 wins the arm wrestle. With 375kW and 700Nm against the M3’s 317kW and 550Nm, how could it not? It’s heavier by 180kg, granted, but it still pips the M3 to 100km/h by a tenth of a second (4.0 seconds to the BMW’s 4.1).
Mix that stonking performance with its delectable fun-sized S-Class interior, thunderous V8 soundtrack and pointy, accurate steering, and the C63 comes out on top as the more desireable German whip.
Our review verdict:
The motorsport-obsessed nuts at AMG would seem to have been given the freedom to go wild on this S version.
A ‘Q car’? The toughest C 63 ever, perhaps it’s more the R-rated beast.
There are plenty of buyers who will love that about the C 63 S AMG. I wish them the best of luck in keeping their licences, because temptation will be their constant companion.
Volkswagen Golf R
Engine: 206kW/380Nm 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol inline 4
Transmission: 6sp manual/6sp twin-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Priced just above the $50k barrier, the Golf R is the bargain buy of this group.
But don’t let its relatively low price fool you. Powered by a potent 2.0 litre turbo four-pot, the Golf takes 206kW of power and 380Nm of torque and channels it to all four wheels via a sophisticated all-wheel drive system.
Its grip is phenomenal, its ability to win stop-light drag races is difficult to top. in manual form it’ll rip to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds, with the snappy twin-clutch auto it’ll do it in five seconds flat.
On top of all that, the Golf R also possesses a well-built, finely finished interior and sits on a suspension that’s not too choppy for the daily grind. As a do-it-all performance car, it’s one of the best out there.
Our review verdict:
Put simply, the Golf R is the best, baddest, boldest way to enjoy a performance Golf. Compact, stuck to the tarmac, it has far more get-up-and-go than you can readily use on public roads.
It’s the rightful flagship for the brand, with unique front and rear styling, sporting interior and a bespoke drivetrain. And, if there’s a chance you’re going to get your feet wet, then this is the car to be in. Its grip will astonish you.
Porsche Cayman GT4
Price Range: $189,900
Engine: 283/420Nm 3.8 petrol 6cyl
Transmission: 6sp manual
Can a $189k car ever be described as “good value”? In the case of the razor-sharp Cayman GT4, it’s a dead-seat high-performance bargain – its indelible badge cred is just a nice bonus.
By taking the 3.8 litre flat-six of the 911 Carrera S and slotting it into the more dynamically-balanced mid-engined frame of the Cayman, Porsche has at last done what hordes of enthusiasts – and journalists – have been begging it to do for years.
The folks at Stuttgart were also kind enough to transplant some of the 911 GT3’s greasy bits into the GT4, including its quick-ratio steering rack and complete front suspension setup.
In a straight line the Cayman GT4 will reach triple-digit speeds in just 4.4 seconds, a tenth quicker than the $252k Carrera S that provides the GT4 with its engine. Starting to see the value equation now?
And then we get to the sublime way it handles corners. The GT3 DNA is well and truly present in this chassis, and though there’s no coveted ‘911’ badge on its rump there’s no 911-esque pricetag either: at $189,900, the Cayman GT4 is almost $20,000 cheaper than a base model 911.
Our review verdict:
If the design brief was to produce an absolute weapon, but one that was a joy to drive on the track, that tucked and pointed through corners with the most sublime balance, then the GT4 nails that brief.
The Cayman GTS is a more realistic mix of road and track ability, and you can actually buy one, which is a bit of an advantage.
But at the very top of the range, this GT4 finally unleashes all the potential of Porsche’s entry level, mid-engined sports car. You might even choose one over a 911.
HSV Clubsport R8 LSA sedan
Engine: 400kW/671Nm 6.2 supercharged petrol 8cyl
Transmission: 6sp manual/6sp automatic
Porsche isn’t the only performance car marque that’s been busy swapping engines around: local icon Holden Special Vehicles has been getting in on that game too.
Last year the Clayton-based company took the brawny supercharged 6.2 litre V8 from its flagship HSV GTS, trimmed down the wick a tad and dropped it into the Clubsport R8 range to create the Clubsport R8 LSA.
And it is magnificent. If you ever though the Clubsport R8 was just a little lukewarm, the Clubsport R8 LSA might burn your tongue.
400kW ain’t nothing to sneeze at, and neither is 671Nm of torque. It’s a massive increase on the “regular” Clubsport R8’s outputs of 340kW and 570Nm, and it shows in the way it drives. At full pelt, the R8 LSA isn’t that far off the pace of its big bro the GTS.
Our review verdict:
If you’re looking for a 21st-century muscle car, this is it. It needs a strong hand to guide it, but, for the most part, it offers fine handling and insane performance.
HSV still hasn’t outlined what its future product might include, so there’s a very good change the Clubsport R8 LSA will be the last of its ilk – certainly, without question, it will be one of the last Aussie-made pure performance passenger sedans.
That endows it with a unique set of qualities, long-range comfort, seating for five, and a presence that could only come from the wild imaginations at HSV.
You may not realise it now, but this is a car that will be lamented for a long time after the last one rolls off the production line. Whatever you do, don’t miss your chance to own one if you can.
Audi RS3 Sportback
Engine: 270kW/465Nm 2.5 litre turbocharged petrol inline five
Transmission: 6sp twin-clutch automatic
The Audi RS3 arrived on our shores last year and quickly asserted itself as the king of hi-po small hatches.
With 270kW and 465Nm blaring out of a turbo inline five, the RS3 is an AWD firecracker worth lusting after. 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds but civil enough to drive to work every day, the RS3 is like a Golf R that’s been fed a steady diet of anabolics.
There’s now renewed competition from the Mercedes-AMG A45 which received a power boost this year to bring it to 280kW, but the RS3 still wins for its more spacious interior and nicer ride quality.
Our review verdict:
Cars like the RS 3 make a huge amount of sense to enthusiastic drivers prepared to pay the price premium. Compact and easy to park, blessed with huge grip and gifted with enough power and torque to shame more expensive V8s, the appeal is tremendous.
If you enjoy blatting up mountain passes on your days off, yet need something that’s easy to drive, easy to park and still has space for you and three (maybe four) of your mates, the RS 3 deserves your attention – and your money.