4. Audi S4 B6
Most drivers consider the Audi S4 to be a special car in the compact performance sedan class. Like most Audis, it features a powerful engine and elegant styling. But, what sets it apart is the famous Quattro all-wheel drive system as standard. This feature transformed handling and separated the S4 from the rest of the competitors, such as the Mercedes C-Class AMG or the BMW M3, which only had a rear-wheel drive configuration.
Audi introduced it in 2003 and sold it through 2005. The B6 generation of the S4 was a highly-praised and accomplished car. Under the hood was a 4.2-liter V8 with 340 HP, which sounded great and revved all the way up to 7,000 rpm. The performance was equally impressive with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of just five seconds. However, they electronically limited its top speed to 155 mph.
The great thing about the B6 S4 is the availability of a manual six-speed gearbox with close ratios. It is ideal for driving enthusiasts who want to explore the capabilities of the V8, all-wheel drive and manual transmission combo. The prices are around $10,000 for decent models, and the car is also available as a station wagon.
5. Mercedes S600
Most car fans probably don’t know it, but they can own a V12, 6.0-liter, top of the line Mercedes S-Class for around $10,000. The Mercedes S600 in question was the W220 model, which they produced from 1999 to 2005. It was the biggest and most powerful factory offered model.
When new, it had a base price of over $100,000. But, it is interesting to see how depreciation has affected it over the years. Today, you can buy a S600 in decent shape for $10,000. The first thing you have to know is that maintenance, parts and labor are costly. This is the main reason why this great car costs less than a new Ford Fiesta.
Under the hood is the 6.0-liter V12 engine with 391 HP. It can propel this big, heavy sedan from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. Mercedes had to electronically limit its top speed, but you can remove the limiter to reach 190 mph. If you buy this model, you will get the finest materials and an unbelievable number of options and features. You’ll also get uncompromised performance and effortless cruising.
6. Chevrolet Camaro Z28
The third generation F-Body was GM’s favorite muscle car. They offered it from the early 1990s to 2003 until they discontinued the Camaro and its twin brother, the Pontiac Firebird. They presented the Z28 Camaro in 1996. It featured a powerful 5.7-liter V8 with 325 HP, which was enough to launch it from 0 to 60 mph in just over five seconds with a 160 mph top speed.
The third generation Camaro was a simple car that was easy to maintain and work on. It featured a live rear axle, a strong gearbox and a tough chassis. Basically, this was the perfect modern muscle car. It was tough, durable and reasonably fast with a big aftermarket offering of spare parts and go-fast components.
In contrast to the more sophisticated cars on this list, the Z28 is a red-blooded American performance machine you can get for under $10,000. You may want to look for stock examples that owners haven’t modified.
7. Porsche Boxster
The Boxster marked Porsche’s return to its flat-six engine roots after the front engine 944, which featured an inline four-cylinder. Porsche introduced it in 1997, so the Boxster is almost a classic model. This means it is affordable and plentiful on the used car market.
Its power comes from a 2.5, 2.7 or 3.2-liter flat-six engine mounted centrally just behind the passenger seat. This ensures perfect road holding and weight distribution. When they launched it, the car magazines praised the Boxster for its handling and precise steering – qualities that still stand today.
With a power output ranging from 204 to 260 HP and 0 to 60 mph times in less than seven seconds and top speeds of 160 mph, the Boxster is capable. It also comes with two trunks, one in the back and one in the front, so this roadster is practical, too.
Who needs an expensive 911 when you can have a first-generation Boxster they built from 1997 to 2004? It drives just as nice and has the same driving feel for less than $10,000 in pristine condition.
8. Chrysler 300C SRT-8
The Chrysler 300C is an interesting car. It is one of the last true American boxy-looking sedans with V8 power and a chrome grille. It was a successful model on the market for almost 15 years. During that time, Chrysler produced numerous variants and versions, but one is especially suited for this list: the mighty SRT-8.
A competitor to the BMW M5 or Mercedes E-Class AMG, the SRT-8 was the performance version of the 300C sedan. With a 6.1-liter V8 Hemi engine pumping out 425 HP and a glorious soundtrack through twin tailpipes, the SRT-8 is a fast, capable sedan. A 0 to 60 mph sprint takes around 4.9 seconds with top speeds over 170 mph.
Unfortunately for Chrysler, the recession that shocked the car industry in 2010 killed the SRT-8 and lots of other performance models. Fortunately for car enthusiasts looking for good deals, the SRT-8 costs around $10,000 today, which is a steal. You will get a classic American muscle sedan with all the modern luxury features. You will also get timeless styling, a legendary Hemi V8 engine and 425 galloping horses at your disposal.
9. Pontiac GTO
The last generation of the Pontiac GTO was one of the biggest examples of a misunderstood car. The Holden-built, LS-powered GTO was a proper muscle car with a powerful engine. It also had a sleek design, a modern suspension and delivered a brutal performance. All that came in an affordable package with a long list of desirable options. Unfortunately, it never reached the sales numbers Pontiac hoped for despite the 350 and 400 HP engines that provided such great performance.
The 2004 to 2006 GTO could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds and reach 175 mph which is fast for a muscle car. In the short time it spent on the market, Pontiac built over 40,000 examples. This means used GTOs are plentiful and affordable, too.
If you can get over the fact you’re driving the last GTO and a U.S. model they built in Australia, go for it. With a powerful engine and a sorted chassis, the GTO is a blast to drive. It is also a great alternative to those more modern, costlier muscle cars.
10. Corvette C5
They introduced the fifth generation of Chevrolet’s sports car, the Corvette in 1996. It stayed on the market until 2005, selling in big numbers and becoming a popular choice for sports car fans all over the world. The layout of this car is competent. It has a 350 HP, 5.7-liter V8 engine in the front and the gearbox and rear suspension are together as a transaxle system. This gives the C5 the perfect weight distribution for sharp handling with its lightweight, aerodynamically efficient body.
The C5 can go from 0 to 60 mph in just under five seconds, reaching 175 mph. Also, the maintenance costs are lower than with similar imported sports cars. So, if you are looking for a fast and affordable car, this is your perfect choice. The prices for decent Corvette C5s start at around $10,000, but they can cost more, depending on the condition and model. Still, you should be able to find a decent Corvette C5 in coupe or convertible form for $10,000.
11. Jaguar XJR
If you love the everlasting Jaguar XJR’s style and looks, you will be pleased to know you can pick up one of those beautiful but problematic machines for under $10,000. Jaguar introduced it in 1998 and discontinued it in 2002. The Jaguar XJR featured a supercharged version of their venerable 4.0-liter V8 engine. It powered the rear wheels through an automatic transmission and delivered 375 HP.
Thanks to a blown 4.0-liter V8 motor, the sleek and sexy Jaguar XJR could accelerate to 60 mph in just five seconds. They electronically limited its top speed to 155 mph. But, by removing the limiter, it could reach almost 170 mph. Even with the looks, luxury, driving dynamics and sheer power, it is not the most reliable car in the world. Maintenance could be expensive, so keep that in mind before you go looking for this gorgeous sedan.
12. Infinity G35 Coupe
Arguably the best-looking Infinity coupe up to date is the 2003 to 2007 G35 Coupe. It was a well-engineered two-door model based on the G35 sedan’s architecture. With a 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood and 280 HP on tap, the G35 Coupe was a more mature, luxurious version of Nissan’s 350Z, which is not a bad thing.
This means that the G35 possessed the same sharp handling, great driving dynamics and performance, but only in a more upscale package. The 0 to 60 mph acceleration took just below six seconds. The top speed was close to 160 mph. Decent examples with a full-service history and updated equipment cost less than $10,000. Lastly, with this car, maintenance shouldn’t be a problem.
13. BMW M3 E36
The original E30 M3 is stratospheric in price and the E46 is still expensive, so the only way to feel the M Power magic on a budget is with the E36 M3. They built it from 1992 to 1999 and the E36 M3 featured a newly designed six-cylinder motor. Earlier models had a 3.0-liter engine with 291 HP. However, from 1995 until the end of production, they installed a bigger 3.2-liter producing 321 HP.
In America, those E36 M3s had only 240 HP due to emissions regulations, which crippled the otherwise powerful BMW engine. Available as a sedan, coupe or convertible, the E36 M3 was popular. It also introduced new standards in handling and performance. The 0 to 60 mph times were around six seconds. Thanks to a good chassis and sharp steering, the driving dynamics are perfect.
You can find well-maintained and accident-free examples for around $10,000 which is a bargain compared to newer M3 and M4 prices. The best part is, you’ll get one of the most legendary performance models of the 90’s, which are destined to be classics in the near future.
If you have $10,000 to spare, consider grabbing one of these great cars before prices skyrocket. You’ll be the owner of a fast yet an affordable street machine that will turn heads wherever you go.