Power is not the defining aspect of a sports car. The way a car drives has as much to do with its weight, suspension, tires, steering, and transmission as it does the power output of its engine. But there is absolutely something to be said for high-horsepower antics in an affordable funmobile.
For the purposes of this list, we’re defining a sports car as a vehicle developed with a primary emphasis on driving dynamics and handling. That definition does not include performance versions of luxury sedans or 4,500-pound muscle cars developed for stat-boasting, making loud noises, and looking great in your driveway. There’s value and fun to be had in those vehicles, but they’re not sports cars. With that said, here are the highest-horsepower sports cars under $100,000 that you can buy.
Toyota Supra – $50,945 | 335 Horsepower
Stop complaining about the new Toyota Supra. We won’t deny that it shares lots of parts with the BMW Z4 or that it’s powered by a BMW inline-six, but that is no bad thing. Toyota sourced the best inline-six in the industry, and in the Supra it makes an alleged 335 horses. That number makes it the least powerful car on this list, but after a session on the dyno, we discovered it makes a good bit more than Toyota’s figures suggest.
Nissan 370Z Nismo – $46,685 | 350 Horsepower
The Nissan 370Z is an old car at this point. It’s been sold in the U.S. since 2009, and despite a refresh for the 2013 model year, Nissan’s rear-drive sports car is in desperate need of a replacement. Until that (hopefully) happens, the king of the 370Z lineup is the Nismo, which adds unique styling and interior trim, a wheel and tire upgrade, and the highest-horsepower version of Nissan’s naturally aspirated VQ 3.7-liter V-6, which makes 350 hp but is really showing its age.
Porsche 911 Carrera – $98,750 | 379 Horsepower
No list of sports cars under $100K is complete without the Porsche 911, regardless of how powerful it is. That’s not to say the new 992-gen Carrera is some weakling. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six churns out 379 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque—the most horsepower of any base 911 to date. All signs point to the base Carrera being a more affordable, slightly less powerful version of the 992 Carrera S we’ve driven and adored. That’s a very good thing.
Jaguar F-Type – $85,325 | 380 Horsepower
Jaguar’s spiritual successor to the legendary E-Type has been around for a while now, but it’s still just as stunning as it was when we first drove it in 2013. It’s not a cheap car; even the four-cylinder F-Type starts above $60,000, and things get especially pricey if you step up to the 550-hp supercharged V-8-powered F-Type R. That said, Jag will still sell you an F-Type coupe with a 380-hp supercharged V-6 for well under $100K.
Audi TT RS – $67,895 | 400 Horsepower
The hottest version of Audi’s TT, like the rest of the lineup, is on its way out; but while it’s still around, we want to celebrate this car and its unique powerplant as much as possible. It’s powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine—the TT RS is the only five-cylinder car currently for sale other than the Audi RS 3—and those five cylinders pump out a burly 400 horses.
BMW M2 Competition – $59,895 | 405 Horsepower
The M2 is the closest car to the E30 M3—the 1980s classic that established the automaker’s reputation as the builder of the ultimate driving machine—that BMW makes. With the introduction of the M2 Competition, BMW’s smallest coupe now has a version of the S55 twin-turbo inline-six straight out of the M3 and M4. It makes 405 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque in this application, up 40 hp and 63 lb-ft over the base M2.
Porsche 718 Spyder – $97,650 | 414 Horsepower
The Porsche 718 Boxster GTS is something of a rock star in the world of athletic, well-rounded sports cars, but $84,050 for a turbocharged four-cylinder is hard to swallow, even if that four-cylinder makes 365 hp. If you long for the days of naturally aspirated six-cylinder Boxsters, then you’re in luck: The new 718 Spyder gets an engine derived from the 911 GT3, which makes it the highest-horsepower open-top Porsche under $100,000. It’s a more focused, more purposeful car than the GTS, and its 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six makes a much better sound than the turbo flat-four. Oh right, and its 414-hp output makes the 718 Spyder the most powerful Boxster Porsche has ever produced. It’s also the highest-horsepower convertible on this list.
Lotus Evora GT – $96,950 | 416 Horsepower
Yes, the 3.5-liter V-6 mounted amidships in the Lotus Evora GT is a version of the engine that powers the top-spec Toyota Camry, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s mated with a gorgeous, lightweight, manual-transmission sports car that looks fabulous in green. We can’t say no to a car that looks great in green. Plus, that Camry V-6 is supercharged and tuned to 416 hp. That makes it the highest-horsepower V-6 and most powerful mid-engine car on the list (just barely edging out the Porsche 718 Spyder). Sign me up.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 – $64,695 | 650 Horsepower
Chevy has a knack for huge-power engines, and the sixth-generation Alpha-platform Camaro completed the nameplate’s transition from heavy pony car to light, athletic sports car. The ZL1 is the top dog in the Camaro lineup outside the track-focused ZL1 1LE, but the two mega-Camaros share a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that sends 650 hp to the rear wheels. At just under $65K, the ZL1 is a no-brainer on a list of the most powerful sports cars under $100,000.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – $82,990 | 650 Horsepower
Do you dig the Camaro ZL1 but need a little more? The C7 Corvette Z06 should do the job. It’s lighter, lower, more focused, and has only two seats. You get the same 650 horses and 650 lb-ft you would get in the Camaro, and with that you’d have the most powerful sub-$100K Corvette ever produced. If you have a little extra cash and are seeking the front-engine Corvette with the highest horsepower, take a look at the mighty 755-hp ZR1. And of course, if handling and mid-engine driving dynamics are more your style, the next-generation C8 Corvette is on the way with up to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft and a starting price below $60K.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – $73,995 | 760 Horsepower
We haven’t had a chance to drive the GT500 yet (nobody outside Ford has) but if it’s anything like the fabulous GT350, it should be a very capable car. It will be powered by a version of the high-revving flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V-8 in the GT350, but for duty in the GT500, Ford is changing to a cross-plane crank and strapping a big ol’ supercharger on top. The result: a tire-punishing 760 hp—the most horsepower of any car on this list. If you don’t need the highest-horsepower Mustang and are looking to spend significantly less than the GT500’s roughly $74K starting price, the Ford Mustang GT with Performance Package isn’t a bad option for just over $40K.
Highest-Horsepower Sports Cars Under $100K:
- Toyota Supra – $50,945 | 335 Horsepower
- Nissan 370Z Nismo – $46,685 | 350 Horsepower
- Porsche 911 Carrera – $98,750 | 379 Horsepower
- Jaguar F-Type – $85,325 | 380 Horsepower
- Audi TT RS – $67,895 | 400 Horsepower
- BMW M2 Competition – $59,895 | 405 Horsepower
- Porsche 718 Spyder – $97,650 | 414 Horsepower
- Lotus Evora GT – $96,950 | 416 Horsepower
- Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 – $64,695 | 650 Horsepower
- Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – $82,990 | 650 Horsepower
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – $73,995 | 760 Horsepower