These are the cars that we would choose for a "Top Gear" cheap car challenge.
We love the idea of a cheap performance car. We have even dedicated an entire series to finding cars with supercar power for less than $50,000. If you can't afford that, we have also put together a top five list of affordable turbocharged cars for less than $10,000. "Top Gear" has had many exciting challenges where Clarkson, May and Hammond bought dirt-cheap cars that were near death. With that in mind, here are our favorite cheap performance cars that would fit into such a challenge. Our budget? Just $6,000.
The words performance and cheap don't usually go together. For example, you may have no shot at affording the $61,000 Jaguar F-Type with a 340-horsepower supercharged V6. However, what if we told you that you could get a supercharged Jaguar for one tenth of the cost? We found a 2002 Jaguar XKR for sale in South Carolina for $5,999. The car may have over 150,000 miles on it, but it does include a 370-horsepower 4.0-liter V8. That is 30 hp more than the F-Type for more than $50,000 less. Old Jaguars are notoriously unreliable, so we doubt that this old XKR would be able make it to the end of a cheap car challenge. It is still amazing to think that the F-Type might be just as cheap in another 14 years.
Another unlikely suspect for a cheap car list is the BMW M division. Some BMW M cars have become modern collectibles, but you can still find an E36 generation M3 for less than $6,000. We found a 1997 automatic sedan model in California for just $4,999. The car's mileage is unspecified, which worries us. However, since these cars will just be used in a series of challenges, we don't really care if they conk out on us. The 3.2-liter 240-horsepower straight-six doesn't hold a candle to the new M3's 425-horsepower twin-turbo engine, but a new M3 will set you back more than $63,000. For our cheap performance challenge the M3 is the oldest car, but it is also the second least expensive.
Our next cheap car is another German sedan, although this one has a V8. Amazingly, we found a 2005 Audi S4 for a measly $4,995. Our S4 comes with the six-speed automatic and is currently offered for sale in Illinois. The 4.2-liter V8 in the S4 produces 340 horsepower, which is a lot even by today's standards. However, like the Jaguar, old Audis don't have the best reputation for quality. We have talked about the S4 and its poorly designed timing chain tensioners before and that probably explains why our 154,000 mile example is so cheap. A replacement service would easily cost more than the value of the car, so the Audi probably wouldn't be easy to sell again after the challenge concluded.
When you think of affordable performance, you typically think of American V8s. So of course we have an American V8 on this list. We picked a red 2003 Ford Mustang GT with 114,000 miles on it. The car is for sale in Detroit, the home of American muscle cars. Unfortunately the 2003 Mustang was not the best example of American V8 muscle. The 4.6-liter V8 only produced 260 horsepower, although our 2003 model does come with the five-speed manual. Like the other cars on this list, the Mustang has clearly seen better days, but with a simple American V8 under the hood, this might have the best chance of surviving a series of "Top Gear "-inspired challenges.
Our final car may only have a V6, but it does have 287 horsepower. We found a 2004 Nissan 350Z for $5,997 with 148,000 miles on it. The car is for sale in Florida with a six-speed manual transmission. The 3.5-liter V6 engine was used in many Nissan and Infiniti products and even produces more power than the V8 in the Mustang. We think that the 350Z has the best chance to survive a series of wacky challenges. These cars would be beat up, drag raced, tracked, and probably tossed off a cliff at the end. With that in mind, which car would you bring if you were a "Top Gear" presenter looking to win?