Gas mileage, be damned! Sometimes, the number one reason to buy a car is because of its horsepower. You want that V-8 and enough torque to make weekend drives worth living for. But cars with gobs of power tend to have a few too many dollar signs for most people’s pocketbooks. Luckily, there are still a number of cars that can dance off the line with the best of them for a budget-friendly price. Here are DriverSide’s top 10 most powerful cars under $25,000.
1. 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 - $25,000
Highlighting Hyundai’s shift toward rear-wheel drive domination is the highly touted and incredibly good-looking Genesis Coupe. This car marks the first of three Hyundais on this list; how they manage to keep the prices so low on cars that deliver this level of power, we’ll never know. The 306 horsepower, however, we completely understand.
Drivetrain: 3.8-liter V-6, six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, 306 horsepower, 266 lb-ft of torque
MPG: 17/26 manual, 17/27 auto
2. 2010 Chevrolet Camaro - $22,995
As Hyundai takes a step into the future with its sleek coupe, Chevrolet has chosen to look back to good ol’ days with its new edition of the classic Camaro. But don’t think for a second that this is the one you coveted back in 1969. With an estimated 300 horsepower, this muscle car really has the brawn to move fast for a budget price.
Drivetrain: 3.6-liter V-6 engine with six-speed manual or automatic transmission; 300 horsepower, 273 lb-ft of torque, rear-wheel drive
MPG: not yet rated
3. 2009 Mazda Mazda6 - $24,800
Fresh off a major redesign, this Mazda sticks true to its racing roots. Not only does it sport a large 3.7-liter engine and 272 hp, but it looks real nice too. Mazda says they used Japanese influences when designing the interior – there’s a definite zen-like feeling to it all. Though, as long as it keeps pushing out this kind of muscle, it could get inspiration from a garbage truck for all we care.
Drivetrain: 3.7-liter V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive; 272 horsepower, 269 lb-ft of torque
4. 2009 Toyota Camry LE V6 - $24,215
A Toyota Camry, huh? Bet you didn’t expect to see this one up here. You’d be surprised though: When coupled with Toyota’s powerful V-6 engine, the Camry does a bang-up job of combining the easy functionality of its most popular sedan with actual drivability. Like the Mazda 6, we’d love a manual option, though for 268 horses we’ll keep quiet.
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V-6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive; 268 horsepower, 248 lb-ft of torque
5. 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX - $24,995
Just scraping under the $25,000 mark is the all-wheel drive WRX, a turbocharged beast of a car that can handle curvy roads as easily as city streets. Situated on the other end of the spectrum from the Camry, it hails from a long line of rally racing history. The turbo whines appropriately and the cabin space actually feels, dare we say it, upscale. It may not be the STI, but for 10 grand less, we think it will suit you fine.
Drivetrain: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Boxer engine, five-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive; 265 horsepower, 244 lb-ft of torque
6. 2009 Mazda MazdaSpeed3 - $23,410
The MazdaSpeed3 is what budget muscle is all about. Yes, it may be a little understeery through corners, but with 280 lb-ft of torque going through the front wheels, would you expect anything less? It only comes in wagon form, which means there’s some function included with the price too.
Drivetrain: 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual; 263 horsepower, 280 lb-ft of torque
7. 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS - $24,095
As the second American-made car up here, the Cobalt has a tough act to follow. But it does so with aplomb, sending 260 horsepower to the front wheels. The 2.0-liter engine may also be the smallest on the list, but that equates to the best gas mileage of the 10. Powerful and fuel-efficient? You can’t go wrong.
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, five-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 260 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque
8. 2009 Dodge Challenger SE - $22, 945
They sure do pack a lot of power into these muscle car remakes. You’d have to, too, if you had the literal weight of history relying on it. On paper, the numbers – despite bring significantly less than the Camaro’s – look impressive. But ultimately a heavy car like this needs more to move it along, especially with just a four-speed auto. Look at the $30,000 mark for the more powerful R/T model with a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 if 250 horses don’t tickle your fancy.
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V-6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission; 250 horsepower, 250 lb-ft of torque
9. 2009 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 - $24,550
The Sonata falls into the ‘large sedan’ category, meaning its V-6 has to be competent enough to haul a family of five if needed. Luckily the ample amount of brawn under the hood is just what the doctor ordered. The 2009 update vastly revitalized the people-carrier and it now features a comfy cabin space and nice styling touches in addition to its larger output numbers.
Drivetrain: 3.3-liter V-6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive; 249 horsepower, 229 lb-ft of torque
10. 2009 Hyundai Azera GLS - $24,970
Two Hyundais back-to-back – not a surprise considering that the brand is known for keeping price tags nice and low, where we like them. The Azera is the more luxurious sibling of the Sonata, and because of its size and tuning, delivers slightly less power out of the same engine. For the price and level of comfort, we think it’s a steal.
Drivetrain: 3.3-liter V-6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive; 234 horsepower, 226 lb-ft of torque