By on February 12, 2010

JM writes:

So, I am sitting in two feet of snow in DC with another foot to come this week. This, of course, means that I am thinking about the next vehicle to buy in the spring. I need to buy a first class, E ticket rocket for cheap $. I have decided that the next vehicle needs 400HP from the factory. Because I am not a big wig banker, looks like I am going to have to buy used. So here is the thing on which I am hoping to get some insight. What is the least expensive vehicle I can buy that has in excess of 400HP? I have been using KBB’s good trade in ratings, assuming around 10,000 miles/year. So far it looks like a 2000-2002 BMW M5 (around $14K) may fit the bill. It doesn’t have to be a sedan (would love a porsche turbo, but I’m afraid 50K+ is out o’ my league). Are there any 400+HP from the factory cars on which I should focus for less than $14K?

Thanks for your help

Sajeev Mehta replies:

Ever heard of the Terminator Mustang? That’s the 2003-2004 Cobra with 6-speeds, four independently sprung wheels, 32-valves and a big supercharger. It’s the poor man’s Ford GT. The Terminator’s (underrated) power figures were closer to 400 ponies than Ford shall ever admit, with plenty more available from a smaller pulley and ECU reflash. Not only are Terminators in your price range, they’ll stick to your budget for years to come. Once you get over the junk interior and vague steering. Then again, the E39 M5’s tiller is kinda dull: so the money saved on Ford-spec repair bills should go to M5-eating chassis and handling upgrades. Oh yes, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Hmm, a car with 400 horses for about 15 large: can I interest you in a late model V6 Camry with a huge bottle of NOS and a spare transmission in the trunk? Don’t get me wrong, the E39 M5 is the high watermark of modern performance saloons, still besting the average interior and steroid styling of today’s CTS-V. But your budget scrapes the bottom of the M5 barrel, high miles and questionable ownership records makes part and labor concerns even more relevant. It’s decision time, so pick one: be one to bask in the glow of a famous badge, or punish people like that with brute force.

Steve Lang replies:

400 horsepower is just a number. So is 500 pounds torgue. 600 pounds of thrust. 755 home runs (before Barry took to the juice)… and 30,000 pounds of bananas. Unfortunately, horsepower don’t mean a damn thing if the chassis is made out of parts bin remants and the interior is made out of cheap plastic. Please reference any Firebird with the name IROC on it.

If you really want the best bang for the buck… I would look more towards a power for pound deal with something a bit unique. Buy a Lotus Elise. Sure it doesn’t have the power of an M5. But in the United States it’s pretty much the most fun you can have on four wheels. The engine is made by Toyota. The handling is courtesy of a company that’s made it’s reputation on it. Plus it’s truly a rare sight. You won’t have to deal with seeing the 47th Mustang coming down the street on a Sunday afternoon.

But if you’re really looking strictly at the one dimension…buy a 2005 Pontiac GTO in Midnight Blue. It’s got 400 horsepower. It’s affordable to own compared with the BMW. Oh, and it’s not another Mustang.

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105 Comments on “New Or Used?: 400 Horsepower Edition...”


  • avatar
    UnclePete

    +1 on the GTO. I have a 2006 model in Cyclone Grey that I’ve owned from new and have had zero problems with. It’s somewhat bland look is not for everyone, but I appreciate the Q-ship aspect of it. I love mine!

  • avatar
    late_apex

    GTO or a pumped up Mustang are about the only good factory powered choices for $14K. There are a number of modified vehicles with 400hp at that price point, but mods=repairs or replacements at some point. (at least in my own experience)

    Do not even consider the E39 M5 at that budget. If you do it will be a short period of ownership before you are dying to unload the car. Expensive cars that become affordable to purchase will still have expensive repair and maintenance costs. The engine in this car is known to need care at higher miles (search VANOS). The clutch is pricey. The tires are going to need frequent replacements and are not cheap. Just a lot of things that can happen and it’s critical to get a very well taken care of model of any high performance car AND plan to have a few $K for fixes every year. This would be for any performance car.

    Best wishes finding your perfect beast and while I don’t want to discourage you from buying one, I’d strongly recommend you have ample repair monies set aside for any 400hp used vehicle.

  • avatar
    twotone

    +1 on the GTO
    1999 — 2002 MB E55 is just a bit under 400HP, but gobs of torque more than make up for it.
    Late 1990’s Corvette
    M3 with an add-on turbo or NOs?

    When you’re shopping for 400+ HP and your budget is only $14k, consider that amount to be a down payment.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    jmo

    A ten year old M5…. Would I be out of line to say you might want to consider putting 300-500 a month away to cover repairs and maintenance?

    I’m even willing to bet you could drive a brand new WRX for 5 years and end up with a lower total cost of ownership than a 2000 M5.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    If 400hp is a “need”, I’d hate to see what your wants are.

    Realistically, it sounds like you want a first class ride because you’re a narcissist. That’s ok, because I am one myself. The phrase “being admired by others is like a drug for narcissists” resonates with me. Keeping score is fun when the other team is losing.

    That said, you’d get good results from the 300+hp club with a used 2000-2003 GS400, M45, 540i, E55, RS6, or XJR. You’re still “beating” 98% of your competition in the status wars. You’ll also figure out soon what cost-of-ownership means on your $15k budget.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Q45?

    Mitsubishi Evo?

    Northstar-engined vehicles?

    Lincoln LS?

    X-Type R?

    Hmmm…

    I realize these are more pedestrian (BTW, I really like the idea of a Camry V6). What about an Accord V6? I’d go for the rare Accord Hybrid. It’s the fastest Accord made…

    I hate this choice, but it is a choice… Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger with a hemi?

    That’s all that come to mind right now. WaftableTorque pretty much nailed the rest.

  • avatar
    brkriete

    I can’t imagine finding an Elise in reasonable condition for close to $14K. Cheapest one within 500 miles of me on Cars.com is $29K.

    An 03-04 Cobra might be tough to find in-budget too. These seem to be running in the low 20s.

    2002 Corvette Z06s go under 20K (one that’s a little banged up or high mileage might be around 16K), and there are plenty of standard C5s available for mid-teens.

    I like the suggestion of the Pontiac GTO. These have depreciated like rocks and you can definitely find your choice of auto or manual for 12-18K depending on year/mileage/condition.

    You can also find a 385 HP Ford Lightning in your budget, for something a little different. I’ve seen 400HP Trailblazer SSs for around 20K also.

    If we stick to sedans, there is a higher-mileage 2005 CTS-V near me for sale right now for 19ish. Newer ones with low mileage seem to be in the mid-20s. Same with the SRT8s – 300s and Chargers are available with low mileage for 24-26K. Might blow the budget for the original questioner though.

    This is a fun question for me, because I’m planning on buying a newish “performance” vehicle for ~20K in the next year or so.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why you’re so set on that 400hp. It’s just a number. I am assuming that what you really want is performance–in which case power to weight ratio is a much better predictor, and Steve Lang’s suggestion of an Elise is a good one. Except that I can’t imagine you can get a used one for 15 Gs, but Steve should have a much better handle on that than I do. If you really want that number though, the GTO suggestion sounds good to me.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Find yourself a Jaguar XJR, 400HP, loads of walnut and a slightly snooty attitude. Due to truly epic depreciation on these big cats, you can find plenty of examples in your range. 1999-2003 models crank out 370HP, 2004-2005 models hit 390HP and 2006-2009 claim 400 even.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a feeling that car makes an M5 look like a Honda in the reliability department. But it will be cheaper and more used car for the money.

    • 0 avatar
      Charles T

      As a current owner of a ’99 XJR I would like to second that suggestion. Reliability is surprisingly good even without considering the reputation, and it’s that reputation that helps/hurts the resale, depending on whether you’re buying or selling. Though I’ve only had the car for 9 months right now, it’s never failed to start even in the middle of a Boston winter, and as mine has the updated engine with steel (as opposed to Nikasil) cylinder liners and metal timing chain tensioners, the fundamentals are strong. The thing with my car as opposed to the Germans is that it doesn’t use any cutting edge technology in the drivetrain that ends up costing big bucks to repair; it doesn’t even have variable valve timing, just an intercooled Roots supercharger that can take pulley upgrades should you feel the need. Also, a lot of the engine electrical parts are sourced from Denso, so they’re pretty robust. The only major repair I’ve to do was to fix some stripped teeth in the power steering column, which uses the same mechanism as Lexuses, among others.

  • avatar
    Ernie

    I’m a big HP to weight guy (meaning you need more hp for your heavier cars pound) . . . Sajeev – Steve . . . my wife will be calling you: you’ve officially set the topic of conversation in my car for the next two weeks.

    -Mustang — always a staple, but modern owners have committed travesties beyond mention with regard to aftermarket body styling; does a well-treated item in this price range really exist?

    -Lotus — a friend of mine has been singing the praises of these. They’re totally cool, but they exude austere to the extreme . . .

    -GTO — Boy, now that was a car I liked. The G8’s nice too, but I’ve always been a softie for a Pontiac. I didn’t know they were this cheap!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Yuck on the GTO. They resemble last-gen Nissan Sentras from the rear.

    My concern with buying a used high-HP performance car is what did the last guy do to it, and why is it for sale?

  • avatar
    sean362880

    $14k and 400 HP are a two requirements with very little overlap. I think all of your options have already been mentioned. I think the GTO is probably the only realistic option; the M5 is the least advisable.

    Since you leaned toward luxury, I’d suggest an ’03 or so Infiniti G35. Fairly sporty, cheap to maintain, and a decent interior, all within your budget.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I noticed that this is the second time you recommended a lotus elise to a buyer looking to spend not too much money on a used performance car. I wanted to know if you could maybe give some insight into the elise market as I have really been interested in finding one ever since last winter I saw a 2005 elise with the touring package, 46,000 miles (no hard top) go on ebay for $17,000 and ever since I have been keeping an eye open. I was wondering what you thought was a realistic price for one with around 30-40K miles and do you happen to see any of these at the car auctions?

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    Am I the only one who thinks a $14k budget for a 400hp machine means the shopper is a bit of a dreamer?

    Sajeev and Steve have got to be feeling like the guidance counselor who’s sitting across from a kid with Cs and Ds who flunked sophomore bio, cleared 900 on his SATs on the fourth try and is asking which colleges have the best pre-med program.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      +1 are you guys serious? This should be filed under Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

      Even when C&D did a $25,000 used car challenge all the high horsepower stuff had fairly high miles and came with high dollar lists of what a new transmission ect would cost.

      How bout a W-Body V8 Impala SS? At least with the right tires it will be good in the snow. And for 15 grand you ought to be able to pick up a fully loaded example with way less than 50,000 miles.

      BTW I know it’s only 303hp. Get over it.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      +1

      Plus, he probably knows nothing about cars other than the horsepower number. After all, power is not how the performance of a car is measured. 0-60 or lap time are.

      For cheap performance, it’s hard to beat a STI. However, it needs to be bought new. So, he will have to increase his budget by one fold and lower his expected hp by a quarter.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      dan,

      303hp to front wheels? I think he was asking about ///M5 is because he does not want to have torque steer and be able to wag the tail.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Bimmer, the guy has chardonnay taste on a beer budget, or more accurately BMW taste on a beer budget. I was using the Impala as an illustration of what he could get at his prices, honestly he’d be better off trying to find a Corvette on eBay with a solid body and a blown motor/trans. Pick up the Vette cheap and dump the rest of the money into the engine/transmission build up, that is if you have to have 500hp. Personally I think the 500hp requirement is like me dumping my girlfriend because she’s a 1/2 inch shorter than my ideal.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    I think the M5 is the most car you will get for that money but can’t advise it if budgets are part of the plan. M car’s are not inherently trouble but as street cars with near race car drive trains they need TLC to stay in top form and that cost money, a lot of money. I say Mustang or GTO

  • avatar
    Roxer

    Buy a motorcycle. Cheaper, faster, deadlier. What more could you ask for?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Amen. Any four cylinder Japanese 600cc sport bike built in the last ten years will happily run with the 400hp auto you so desire. And any like 750 or 1000cc sport bike will happily leave that car for dead. Don’t want Japanese white bread? You want class? Go Ducati, but just make sure you’ve got a mechanic you trust and you’re never late on service. With those two points met, you can rest easy. And discover just how good Italian can be.

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      I’m too young to remember when (nice) motorcycles were actually CHEAP. Of course, I went to H-D-High. No one could afford one, but everyone wanted one.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      ++ on this. I know my (now 5 year old) 600cc spot bike tested new did high 10’s quarter @ 125’ish with a good rider. Old-model-year’s new here go on sale all the time in winter for $7500. Or buy one a few years old used for $5000. Have a knowledgeable friend go with you and if it hasn’t ever been down, not stunted, and not just beat to crap, you might have to replace a sproket or two + a chain. Parts might be $200-$300 + labor. That is if you are unlucky.

      In the bang/$ ratio, nothing goes faster than a bike. Nothing is more dangerous either. Make sure you put aside $100-$200 for a jacket, $100 for a helmet $50 for leather gloves and $150-$300 for pants.

      If this will be your first bike, get a ninja 500…..they should be super reliable and do high 12’s in the 1/4 mile stock and are not a bad beginner bike! Also: You can probably pick them up 3-4 years old for $3k’ish.

  • avatar
    Geeky1

    You’re probably going to want to avoid the M5. They’re cheap to buy, but they’re not cheap to run. Can you afford to drop $1000 or $2000-or more-every 6-12 months to keep the car in good working order? If not, the GTO that other people have suggested is probably your best bet. A C5 Z06 or an early CTS-V might fall in that price range now, too.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    If 2 feet of snow make you whine, don’t get a RWD car. This might be OT, but I can’t hear those DC whiners anymore with their little snow and it all breaks apart. Here in WI we don’t even get our snow blowers out for a foot of snow. We had 40″ on one day in November and the next day everything was clear and ready to go to work and school again. Well, if you know how to drive and remove snow you don’t make national news.

    to your car question, you should consider maintenance cost since you are not a banker. Most of the 400 hp cars will be exotic somewhat and expensive to fix. but I’m sure the guys in DC already planned a bailout for everyone stuck int he 1-foot snow :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      It’s hard to take your tough talk seriously when you need a snow blower. Use a shovel and muscle if you want to brag. Love, erstwhile Wisco resident.

      Yeah, cost of maintenance as well as driving qualities should be considered. It seems kind of ridiculous to have such a low entry price for such a lofty HP rating, especially since high HP is usually just window dressing and you pay a premium for an engine that’s worked closer to its breaking point to pump up its stats. The GTO is a good suggestion, those cars are beasts. BMW for that kind of money is folly.

  • avatar
    brkriete

    Geez, one more thought: How about a 2007+ Toyota Tundra, two wheel drive, two door, short-bed with the 5.7L V8? Might be tough to find that particular combo but I would think it ought to be doable for 14Kish and it would go like stink.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Good condition 2000-2002 E39 M5’s will run you in the mid $20’s. I would be very suspicious of an example offered for less than that. I will join the chorus in saying that the Bimmer will cost you in maintenance. Driving a 1999 E36 M3, believe me I know. That said, they are robust cars. Sure you’ll have to replace the shocks every 60K miles and replace all of the chassis bushings at around 100K. Inspection 1 and 2 must be performed religiously. The cooling system and AC will have to be replaced around 100K. You’ll probably need to replace steering hoses around then as well. Expect the thermostat to go at 80K. Etc, etc. That said, buy that car. It will run forever if properly cared for and it is the greatest sports sedan of all time, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Yeah but any car can be made to run forever with an unlimited repair budget.

    • 0 avatar
      camoeto

      Money and time have to be worth something. I have a friend that almost bought a 1998 540i 6 speed from a honest guy. The car had around 130k miles and the guy wanted something like $6k for it, maybe a little less. The reason I say “almost bought” is because the guy told my friend (being as honest as he is) that he puts away about $300 every month for maintenance/repairs. My friend was in disbelief, and then the guy told him that number is probably on the low side since he was a mechanic at the BMW dealership and got a discount on parts.

    • 0 avatar
      guyincognito

      @ educatordan,

      Fair enough, but few cars are actually worth doing so. This is one of them. Besides anyone can drive a car that coddles them and requires nothing of the owner. Where is the bond between man and machine bread in that situation? No, it is much better to be able to say that you did not buy your car but rather you built it.

      BMW’s actually aren’t that hard to work on yourself either. The enthusiast community is unsurpassed, so there is ample documentation on common problems and how to fix them. Also plenty of aftermarket parts support for much less than the dealer.

      Fair disclosure: I’m a former automotive engineer and do all of my own work.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I’d have to guess that if $15k is your budget the cost of repairing/maintaining a M5 is not in your budget. You would do well to heed almost everyone’s warning about those costs.

    If it’s gotta be 400hp my vote is for the GTO.

  • avatar
    relton

    A 1970 Eldorado has 400 HP, and goes for a lot less than $14K,

    This may not be what you were thinking of, though.

    Bob

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Go “power to weight” and good handling. Raw power is useless, you want something nimble and light: light == fun.

    So Elise, S2000, or the like. You can easily get an S2000 in that pricerange.

    And its amazing the difference weight can make.

    The E39 M5 may be 400hp, but its 4000 lbs, so .1 hp/lb

    An S2000 may be “only” 240hp, but its 2800 lbs, so it has close (.085 hp/lb) on the power/weight and vastly VASTLY better handling.

    I’d gladly give up the little power-weight for the vast weight savings.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      Yeah and you can look around for a Mazdaspeed Miata from the pre-pokemon face vintage. They might be rare and fetch a premium, but they’re aged enough to fall within the price range and that extra kick in the pants can really make that car even more special. But it doesn’t have 400hp, so it barely counts as a car, right?

      I can’t believe we’re discussing this. A rigid power threshold like that is just dumb. That’s like saying you want liquor that’s over 100 proof for a cocktail without considering the type of liquor, quality, taste, or the cocktail your mixing.

  • avatar
    BostonDuce

    Please, the next time someone asks if they can buy a 5+ YO super car with a Dollar Menu budget – IGNORE THEM.

    BD

  • avatar
    william442

    Re-read late apex; especially the last paragraph. Keeping used, or even new, high performance cars running is not for the faint hearted, or the budget constrained.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    The best rule of thumb for buying a used high performance German car is find the nicest, lowest mileage example you can find within your budget, with COMPLETE maintenance records. Contrary to popular belief and based on personal experience, not every German car owner owner is a fastidious maintenance nazi, and these cars probably got hooned in previous lives every bit as hard as your worst Detroit mullet mobile nightmare. And they eventually break just the same.

    Bottom line is your bottom line: You don’t want to be the one that gets to pay the big $$$ to correct the results of previous owner carelessness. You get what you pay for, so it’s better to pay more up front for a nicer car with complete records, or you’ll surely pay later.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    If 400HP is the only goal, how about some of the factory souped up “light” trucks? There was a Jeep-branded vehicle a few years back that was somewhere around 400 HP. That said, I see no practical value of shopping a specific horsepower figure. Why is 400 HP in a 4000 pound vehicle better than 300 HP in a 3000 vehicle?

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      Just searched Ebay Motors to get some ideas on this subject.

      Chrysler 300 SRT-8 – ~$19k-23k

      Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 – cheapest are still in the low $30k range

      Chevy Trailblazer SS (380 hp) – some bidding for ~$15-16k, many in the low $20k range

      Agreed that this quest for 400 hp is a bit silly at this price range.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      Or silly period based on the automotive dreck you just listed. Those cares are all awful. It does illustrate how having a criterion as incomplete as high horsepower doesn’t really narrow your search or weed out the garbage.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      No kidding – it was a theoretical exercise intended to pick out anything out there that might approach 400hp for the money.

      And as we’ve all demonstrated, whatever is in that range is likely to have been either abused/unreliable (M5) or garbage to begin with.

  • avatar
    gsnfan

    The only M5s you can get in that price range are from 1991. 2000 models cost from $16K-$20K. However, there are plenty of last-generation GTOs. They are more reliable and cheaper than the M5, because resale values aren’t very good (their styling doesn’t match the power they have).

    • 0 avatar

      FYI: I scanned AutoTrader before writing this, and there are E39 M5s below 15k. Most have well over 100k on the clock, and I’d be terrified of owning any of them as a daily driver with a non-bottomless bank account.

      So the question isn’t irrelevant simply because you can buy one. Not that you should…

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Have a strong left leg. The 90’s M5’s had one of the heaviest clutches I’ve ever driven in a car (my wife’s ex- had one, I’m still sorry I didn’t buy it from him when he lost interest).

      As to repair costs: If you’ve got a car you can love, repair costs are meaningless (see: front engined Porsche’s). If you’re not completely enamored with the car, then repair costs matter.

    • 0 avatar
      guyincognito

      @ Sajeev Mehta,

      I do agree that E39 M5’s for less than $15, likely should be avoided, especially those on Autotrader (where all cars are priced about %20 more than they are worth).

      Still, it is worth noting that a high mileage BMW, under the right care, is not necessarily a bad buy. If the owner has been meticulous, and has the repair records to prove it, you could actually avoid having to deal with many expensive issues. For example a clean 50K mile car is likely due for lots of work between 60K and 100K, while a 100K mile car could have all of that taken care of and give you 30K trouble free miles.

      Of course you will not find such an M5 for $15K.

  • avatar
    jaron

    2001-2002 Audi S8, if 360HP is enough. The depreciation is amazing, and you won’t be sorry. Read the D2 forum on quattroworld.com for maintenance advice.

  • avatar
    camoeto

    +1 for 05-06 GTO. I just did a quick autotrader search and there were quite a few 05-06 GTOs with < 60k miles for $15k or less.

    This car is actually quite decent for what it is. Think of it as a 2 door Opel Omega B with a Australian designed interior and a C6 Corvette powertrain. Even though it's a 1990s design it's definitely more modern than the 03-04 Mustang. The car is realatively cheap to maintain and the LS2 engine and T56 trans are pretty much bullet proof. The interior is surprisingly decent.

    The downside is that the suspension is pretty soft and there was an issue with collapsing strut mount bushings.

  • avatar

    If you want an old M5, consider the purchase price the first payment of many. You could easily spend half the value of the car on repairs. Nobody seems to understand that. I read forum posts constantly from 20-somethings who’ve scraped together just enough cash to buy an M3. Nevermind the $150 oil changes, $1000 brake rotors, out-of-warranty subframe mounts, and $800 valve adjustments; foresight seems to extend only to the dotted line.

    Anyway, if you want big power for cheap, Chevy small-blocks are where you need to be. GTOs, sure. C5 Corvettes. The supercharged Mustang isn’t a bad idea, but good luck finding a copy that hasn’t been abused within $5000 of your budget.

    The alternative is to find something that handles. It’s nice to peel your face back, but how often do you really do that?

  • avatar
    E30-LS1

    Don’t bother with anything from BMW. Take a look under the hood, and run. It would be worse than owning a boat (boat owner’s happiest days – day one and last day when its sold). BMW’s need one of those stickers that are seen on electrical equipment: “No user-serviceable parts inside”.

    Buy a late-model GTO or a Mustang SVO — don’t touch one that the PO has done any of the following to: chipped, lowered, cammed or other. PO’s are usually idiots.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    Model Year 2000 Freightliner for $380 a month! 470 hp!

    http://www.advancetruckcapital.com/truck-listing4.htm

    2000 FREIGHTLINER FLD13264T
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    Engine Specs Detroit Horsepower 470
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  • avatar
    The Guvna

    I’m inclined to agree with some of my bretheren here—400 factory horsepower for $14K is a bit, uh, let’s be charitable and say “optimistic”. As noted, the best bets are without question an ’05-06 Pontiac GTO, or a 1998-2003 Jaguar XJR. The former is a hooligan special with lots of cojones and wonderful handling, the latter is an altogether more agreeable place to spend time, to say nothing of being perhaps a bit more “grown-up”; whether that’s a positive or a negative for you is something else entirely. Your mileage may vary.

    The curious thing is that rather amazingly for a Jag, this particular vintage were pretty damned reliable, certainly as supersaloons go. It’s still not exactly a Camry, mind, but someone who is looking for 400 bhp for that kind of money is dreaming if he thinks bulletproof reliability is a realistic secondary goal. If he were to scale back his horsepower demands a bit, a boatload of other options suddenly present themselves. The 326 bhp Mercedes 500E from the early to mid 90s should get a good long look at that price, particularly since it was one of the last cars that Mercedes bothered to build properly—see also a well-maintained V12-engined S or SL Class of the same vintage. Oh, and to the chap who bemoaned the reliability of the Audi S8: Have a gander at the classifieds over at http://www.mobile.de sometime. There are an awful lot of S8s (among other highline Audis) with starship mileages on them. Last month, I saw half a dozen with more than 400,000 KM on the clock. Clearly, they can’t be *that* unreliable if Zee Chermins can commute hundreds of miles a day in them without issue, now can they?

    Personally, I’ve lucked out by not living in the States (and thus skirting the daft 25 year import rule): 1992 Toyota Aristo Twin Turbo. 300+ bhp, bulletproof reliability, loads of comfort, loads of space, and even with barely-broken-in mileage on the clock, it was well under this hypothetical $14K budget. Oh, and having the 2JZ Supra motor, it will also cope with tuning ludicrously well without sacrificing its reliability or road manners.

  • avatar

    old GTO, new G8s (I think one year old cars are selling or under $20,000 on eBay) M5 – they’re all ok. Don’t forget old Corvettes -you can easily juice the LS1 up past 500 whp without nitrous/turbo/supercharger.

    Also, stop using dealer trade in value – use private party value for transactions on the private market. Dealer trade in value is what the dealer will pay you when you try to sell your car to them. They’ll never sell it out the door for that unless its a real dog (at which point it USUALLY winds up at auction instead).

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    @Educatordan,

    For the record, I never had a mullet, and I never would even look at a Camaro. A little rude to make such a statement, no? As rude as my saying those that can, do, and those that can’t, teach.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I’m being a [email protected]$$. Don’t you ever look at an owner of your vehicle with it’s heavy enthusiast following and think, that guy gives BMW owner’s a bad name?

      Just as I sometimes think that other teachers are giving the profession a bad name. I’m on my way to a principal position. I’m used to being on the brunt of the bad feelings people have about the education profession.

  • avatar

    +1 for holydonut

    Those Freightliners not only have horses to go, they make quite a nice sound if you like heavy metal!

  • avatar
    jmo

    You can now lease a 2010 WRX for 363/month with 1299 down. How much are you willing to bet keeping a 2000 M5 on the road for three years will end up costing more than the lease on the WRX?

    Keeping in mind with a 2000 you aren’t likely buying it from the original owner. The doctor/lawyer/management consultant who bought it new might not have hooned it, but the second owner suredly did.

    • 0 avatar
      werewolf34

      You forgot banker / hedge fund jerk

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Wow jealous of those who made better career choices are we?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      jmo: Those jobs aren’t better career choices and high pay and conspicuous consumption via automobile don’t signify a better career choice much less more fulfillment in work. If you’re using salary as a metric for career choice and life choice, you’re pretty simple minded and most likely miserable.

      Some people prefer to deal in things other than counting beans, and for those who like counting beans, good for you. For those who do other things to make the beans that are counted, good for you too. For those people who think salary or job titles designate your worth and fulfillment as a human, keep trying to buy yourself happiness.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Dr.

      “Money can’t buy hapiness” is just something rich people tell poor people to make them feel better. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor an let me tell you, rich is better.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

      Not rich and never will be. Very happy. Enjoy condescending upon the happiness of us proles.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    2002 Ford F150 SVT Lightning. While it’s only rated at 380 HP on paper, I have been informed by a highly knowledgeable insider that not only was the HP claim underrated, but with a very easy and FREE mod to the air intake, it would blast well beyond the 400 HP barrier.

    Not to mention with virtually no weight on the rear wheels, you can smoke Goodyear rubber to your sideways heart’s delight… which is about the only fun you can have here in the US with 400 hp without ending up on the evening news.

  • avatar
    meefer

    Jaguar S-type R if you can stand the repair bills. C5 vette or GTO if you can live with the styling.

    Ideally? Increase your budget or lower your 400hp to 300hp. You’re flying mighty close to the sun with those expectations.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    A educatordan,

    I too am being a [email protected]$$. I happen to think that being a teacher is a noble effort. Once you attain that principal position you will finally receive the compensation that you should have been getting for your entire career. The only BMW people I don’t like are the rich kids that never had to work for their cars, and let Mommy and Daddy pay for the repairs and crashes. I would advise the OP that a BMW can be maintained for a reasonable price, if the owner can turn a wrench. Take care of the easy stuff yourself, join a Bimmer forum, and let a good indy handle the tough stuff. As the B&B mentioned, a good service record is a must. I would also only purchase a car that has had a quality pre-purchase inspection. A good mechanic can be found a bimrs.org. If you go the BMW route, you will be rewarded with one of the finest machines available to the common man. I bought one of the low power cars as tickets and insurance surcharges are not my thing.I used to be into American iron a long time ago, but those cars only excelled at going fast in a straight line. As we all know, there is much more to driving than that.

  • avatar
    Ernie

    Sooooo, EVERYONE left off the obvious:
    2010 Taurus SHO, wait 2 years and pick it up used for $8,000

    Mod it up to 400HP with the extra $2,000!

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Hmmmm….

    1) Shitty quality roads & highways?

    Check!

    2) High School-level driver’s education system taught to the lowest common denominator?

    Check!

    3) Tens of millions of cars with poorly maintained braking & steering systems?

    Check!

    4) 75mph federally-mandated speed limit?

    Check!

    Yeah…I can see why you “need” a 400hp car in the God Blessed U.S.A.

    I mean, seriously? I think the guy who suggested narcissism as the primary factor here hit it on the head. Dude, do everyone a favor: Get a Subaru and check the ego…

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    Sedan or sports car? The overlap is pretty minimal in your price range

    If you need 400hp
    – Mercedes e55 2004-06 – wont be under 20k

    If you need 320hp+ and a stick
    – Chipped early 2000s Audi S4

    If you need 300hp+ and reliability
    – Lexus gs430

    If you need 300hp+ and some prestige / heritage
    – 996 911 with maintenance records – $16-19k

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    First of all I must commend your hunger for power. It’s a refreshing change from the usual people who’d rather whine about what they think everyone else “needs”. If you achieve your goal of owning a powerful vehicle you’ll eventually come accross these people. A good pop to the mouth usually shuts them up and re-establishes the pecking order.

    I’d also like to suggest buying a Crown Victoria on the cheap and using the money you saved (they can be had for dirt cheap and last forever) to mod it up to 400hp. When people think you’re a cop they’ll usually get out of your way and give those 400 horses some room to gallup.

    Enjoy whichever you pick. Sadly, your kind is slowly becoming extinct. Another symptom of the pussification of America. I salute you.

    • 0 avatar
      itsgotvtakyo

      It sounds like his hunger is for a number and a badge, not power. I get that. I love BMWs and I love horsepower and I love when the two cross paths but that doesn’t mean it’s smart or practical to demand you get both on such a modest budget. I don’t think anyone here is trying to tell him what he “needs”, just that his “needs” aren’t practical at this price point. Wreaks of poser. And as much as I love obnoxious horsepower and ft/lbs figures I think, like myself, a real enthusiast is more concerned with the drive. What can a car do when you get your nose out of a magazine and actually drive it? But I wouldn’t expect a knuckle dragger that “pops” people in the mouth to re-establish some imagined pecking orders to get that.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I had no idea GTOs were so affordable until I read through this thread. Sure it looks like an overgrown Cavalier but performance wise it really can’t be touched for the price. Just checked Auto Trader and an ’05 with 22k miles can be had for $15,000. To me the only other vehicle that comes close performance and price wise would be a WRX STI, of course it has *only* 300hp.

    • 0 avatar
      camoeto

      I’m actually considering one since I am getting kind of bored with the auto in my G8 and would like to shift gears myself once again. The soft suspension issue in that car can be addressed for about $1-$2k with a nice aftermarket setup. Other than that not only are the 400 HP but have the performance to go with it. 4.6 0-60 and 13.0 @ 108 1/4 mile.

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      The GTO performs well, but there are problems. The trunk is way too small for a car of it’s size, the suspension is ok and nothing more, the rear seats are very cramped and require gymnastics to get into and it’s absolutely terrifying in inclement weather.

      It is one hell of a bargain, though. I’d rather have a Terminator Cobra for the cool factor, and a STi/Legacy GT for practicality here in the snow belt, but your mileage may vary.

    • 0 avatar
      UnclePete

      littlehulkster: “The GTO performs well, but there are problems. The trunk is way too small for a car of it’s size, the suspension is ok and nothing more, the rear seats are very cramped and require gymnastics to get into and it’s absolutely terrifying in inclement weather.”

      The trunk is tiny since they had to put a fuel cell in there. The original Monaro had the tank underneath the car in a spot that wouldn’t have made US regulators happy. I still can get a couple of average size suitcases in there.

      As others have mentioned, the suspension can be upgraded quite a bit for a grand or two, depending on how much you want to clip the apexes. You can go a little more money and have a track terror. I haven’t bothered on mine to this point. I treat it more like a boulevardier anyway.

      As for the rear seats, they are comfortable and have quite a bit of leg room. Access to them is about the same for any coupe, which means horrible. However the electrically operated seat tracks are so slow, your potential rear passenger can grow old waiting for it to get to the forward stops. The other downside for a rear passenger is fixed rear windows. Hardly anyone travels in the rear seats of mine, so it’s not been a big deal.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    Modified Crown Vic = manly?

    Go buy yourself a H2 before they sell out manly man

  • avatar
    George B

    Used Dodge Charger Police Car? Not quite 400 HP stock, but probably strong enough for some power upgrades. Looks menacing in black and white.

    http://www.insideline.com/dodge/charger/2007/follow-up-test-2007-dodge-charger-police-package.html
    http://en.kendincos.net/video-lrjldvh-dodge-charger-police-car-burnouts-.html

  • avatar
    littlehulkster

    You’re going to be a very sad man if you think you can support a well used 400HP car on a 15k budget.

    My advice? Buy a slightly used Subaru Legacy GT. Luxurious enough, fast enough and sporty enough to give the big buys worries, only without the monster repair bills.

    You could take it to 400HP easily enough, if you were so inclined, but unless you do it right it totally ruins the drivability and short of a full Cosworth build (That costs as much as the car, by the way) it’s not going to be near as reliable.

    I actually own a 400WHP Legacy GT. My days in tractor pulling served me well when it comes to turbo tuning, so I can actually drive it on the streets, but I have no illusions that unless I race build the engine and drivetrain, it’s not going to last even 1/4th as long as it would stock. However, even when you factor in the price of the build up, there’s not much that would beat me.

  • avatar
    late_apex

    I thought I’d chime in again on the posters suggesting a modified Subaru. Subaru’s are not reliable once modified in my opinion. I personally have a 08 STi that I’ve modified to 400+ WHP/WTQ and if I had it to do over again I would purchase something else. A 2.5L block is not suitable for this level of power on the street for anything more than a weekend play toy.

    Actually thinking of it’s loud, gnarly, beastly, belching nature makes me want to go out and flog it right now!

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      Hrm; I wonder how much money that guy has tied up in the “Punisher6” or the “Hellement” :D

      Power cravings do straaaaange things to us sometimes!

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      Trust me, man, I’ve been working with turbos since you were working with Ninja Turtles. The 2.5 Subaru can be built into a total monster, but you WILL pay for it. The only company that really makes high-po engine components for it is Cosworth, and they charge more than the GDP of Bostwana for a set of pistons.

      That said, the readily available and fairly cheap bolt ons for the Subaru turbo will take you to power levels that are wholly inappropriate for anything short of the 24 Hours of LeMans. Just be sure you don’t use the junk stock Cobb tuning, as it will boost spike your engine into oblivion. Pay a pro to give you a custom tune, or better yet, learn like I did and do it yourself.

      Just a tune and tubes will take you to the 300AWHP range, which is 354 crank if we assume 18% drivetrain loss (Which is somewhat conservative.) If you need more horsepower than that, I suggest you stop taking the Nurburgring to work.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My recommendation:

    If you can go 15 large for an old M5 that’s guaranteed
    to break down and drain your bank account,
    go another go another 10 large and pick up a lightly
    used Chrysler 300C SRT8 or Pontiac G8 GT.

    Here’s a 2006 300C SRT8 with low miles for 27 large (asking):

    http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?tracktype=usedcc&csDlId=&csDgId=&listingId=36284365&listingRecNum=1&criteria=sf1Dir%3DDESC%26alMdId%3D20394%26mkId%3D20008%26stkTyp%3DU%26mdId%3D20394%26rd%3D250%26crSrtFlds%3DstkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-mdId%26zc%3D80134%26rn%3D0%26PMmt%3D1-1-0%26stkTypId%3D28881%26sf2Dir%3DASC%26sf1Nm%3Dprice%26sf2Nm%3Dmiles%26alMkId%3D20008%26rpp%3D50%26feedSegId%3D28705&aff=national

    And here’s an even better bargain: an ’08 G8 GT with under 10,000 miles for $23,000 (again, asking) – that has to be the bargain of the month.

    http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?tracktype=usedcc&csDlId=&csDgId=&listingId=35758864&listingRecNum=44&criteria=sf1Dir%3DDESC%26alMdId%3D21186%26mkId%3D20035%26stkTyp%3DU%26mdId%3D21186%26rd%3D500%26crSrtFlds%3DstkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-mdId%26zc%3D80134%26rn%3D0%26PMmt%3D1-1-0%26stkTypId%3D28881%26sf2Dir%3DASC%26sf1Nm%3Dprice%26sf2Nm%3Dmiles%26alMkId%3D20035%26rpp%3D50%26feedSegId%3D28705&aff=national

    In particular, that G8 is a GREAT car that drives an awful
    lot like a 5-series BMW.

    Plus, when you pop for a new car, you get all the latest
    safety stuff, which is important in a car with this kind
    of performance envelope.

  • avatar

    As others have said, If you are looking for big power on a Natural Ice Budget American is the way to go.

    $4k will get you a nice fleet maintained P71 Panther with plenty left over for your local tuner to dial the power up to 11.

    You might have to remove the giant bling bling rims but the older RWD Caprice has promise as well. The small block has to be the most tuned engine in the history of internal combustion.

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      Panther? You can’t really do much to a panther short of an engine swap. I wanted a Marauder for a long time, but it’s not that fast stock and unless I wanted to do some serious work, it wouldn’t be.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    I’m all for HP to Weight Ratio. I once calculated that my Dodge Durango with a Hemi had a slight HP/Wgt ratio over my Mitsubishi Spyder with a 3.0L V6.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Anybody can find a ritzy 400hp car for a cheap price, but if money is an object then buying the damn thing will be the least of your worries. Avoiding bankruptcy every time something breaks will become your new daily challenge.

  • avatar

    Take the 14K find a good used Miata for 7K. Spend 7K on Brakes, suspension and engine. Run circles around the 400 HP options suggested.

  • avatar
    blautens

    +1 on the GTO. LS2’s (actually LS1’s, also) have SO much potential for truly inexpensive performance enhancing modifications but already bring a lot to the table stock. The LS2 was used in so many GM cars, it’s a safe bet, so the big variable is the car around it, and the Holden platform is a good one, even if you might have to shop a bit for those airlifted spares unique to the GTO.

    By the way, 400HP at the crank *seems* like a good target, but you’ll soon realize you want 400HP at the wheels….and then 500…

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    My most recent used-car purchase was a 425 HP Chrysler 300C SRT8. Most here would turn their nose up at it, and that’s OK by me – they probably haven’t bothered to drive one, and thus don’t understand what a wonderful (if imperfect) car this is. The build quality isn’t bad, the reliability is quite good (especially with regards to the powertrain), and there are enough of ’em on the road where most people won’t look twice. Everyone has their own opinions, though, and I won’t sit here and throw darts at the other choices because each have their own advantages.

    The downside to a daily-driver of this type is that the power really isn’t all that accessible during the average commute. Sure, it’s a riot to light up the tires on damp pavement at 70 MPH, and there is substantial entertainment value to blowing the doors off a Mustang or WRX. But your license won’t last long if you explore WOT for any length of time.

    Fortunately, handling and braking may still be legally exploited if you find yourself alone on the road. I actually enjoy the firmer ride quality and heavier steering of my car, and it carves corners much better than any 4200 lb car should. Hell, I’ve even autocrossed it with moderate success.

    I personally find this a much more satisfying way to spend $20K than by buying, say, a new midsize sedan. Each to their own, though.

    Oh, yeah – no matter how much power you purchase, it’s never enough. Beware of thinking that crossing some magical numerical threshold will automatically result in being content.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Honestly I wouldn’t turn up MY nose at it. I honestly forgot it existed, nice choice. I’d have to give a Magnum with a Hemi much consideration, but what can I say, I’ve got a soft spot for station wagons.

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    I wouldn’t touch a P71 with a ten foot stick. I don’t care how good the alleged maintenance was on any government-owned vehicle. It’ll be a miracle if you find one in decent shape. Why do you think they get rid of them. Duh. They don’t call them Vomit Comets for nothing.

    If this guy would even consider a Panther platform vehicle (which I’m positive he would not) he should buy a Crown Vic LX Sport or Grand Marquis LSE. Or just a plain old Vic. They all have identical DNA to a P71 save for the P71 having some beefed up frame points and an engine oil cooler, neither of which you need. Oh yeah, the P71 comes complete with a destroyed electrical system, holes drilled all over the body, no cruise control and a nasty beat-to-shit interior. Sweet.

  • avatar
    saponetta

    yea you get a beater m5 for under 20k. I sold my 11k mile 02 last summer for over 40k. Even at those miles i had to replace a clutch which was very expensive.

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    I was also just going to comment…

    Needing 400hp…?!

    How much is a 10yr old 5 series.. and with THEIR high dollar repairs..

  • avatar
    hedrick5286

    buy a nice fox body for $3500 and put another 5k in it and youll have a really nice 400+ hp car. or you can buy a 99 cobra and put a supercharger on it.

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