Furthermore, by going with $24,000 as our budget, it puts us smack dab in the middle of what most people would generally spend on a reasonably priced entry-level compact car in 2023 – say a brand-new Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which you can get for $23,050 MSRP.
MethodJust as before, I have to mention that this is by no means a Buyer’s Guide. It’s meant to be informative more than anything else, so don’t come crying to me when your used AMG-powered Merc needs new turbos.
As for our sources, all prices were double and triple checked on websites such as Cars.com, as well as Edmunds, CarGurus, and TrueCar.
Finally, we won’t be doing any rankings, because there are simply too many factors at play. I could give you my personal rankings at the end, but other than that, we’ll be laying them out in no particular order.
2010 Dodge Challenger SRT-8
Don’t get too excited, you won’t be able to buy one any time soon (if ever) for just $24,000. But what you can do is buy a 2010 Challenger SRT-8. That’s the one that features a 6.1-liter Hemi V8, and not the 6.4 Hemi V8 available for the 2011 model year. In other words, you’re much more likely to find a nice 2010 SRT-8 than a 2011 model, which is why we went with the former.
In terms of performance, that 6.1L engine produces 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque and will help guide you from zero to 60 mph in about 4.9 seconds. It’s not the quickest car on this list (nearly the slowest, actually), but it still gets the job done. It will put a smile on your face, and for $24,000, some might consider this a steal.
Now, there is another way you can get the 6.4L Hemi and not go over budget, and what do you know, it’s coming up right now.
2012 Dodge Charger SRT-8
The seventh-generation Charger underwent several changes for the 2011 model year, featuring a more aggressive front fascia, new hood, a more modern rear end, plus an interior upgrade. The redesign worked and would only be changed again in 2015 – that's the Charger we know and love today.
To reiterate, buying a 2012 Dodge Charger SRT-8 means that you get the 6.4L Hemi V8, which is more powerful than the 6.1L version at 470 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. So not only is there more grunt, but you’ll be able to smoke that previously-mentioned 2010 Challenger SRT8 at the light in this Charger, which is roughly half a second quicker to 60 mph off the line.
For $24,000, this is a really good purchase, I reckon. Finding a really nice one won’t be easy, but it won’t be a struggle either – we found at least a dozen and didn’t even look too hard.
Compared to some of the other four-door sedans on this list, you could say the Charger will hold its own, but not in every department. We’ve got a lot of variety coming up, so get ready.
2008 BMW M3
A lot of superlatives were thrown around back then, with regards to the E92 M3. Words like “greatest” and “best” were often used by automotive journalists to describe this Bimmer. I remember driving one back in the late 2000s and was absolutely blown away by how raw and mechanical it felt – and that was a time when people had still not gotten over the E46, which was even more analog.
I kept thinking how this wasn’t the type of car to be taken lightly. It was absolutely brutal at high revs, and felt really nimble. It was definitely more fun to drive in the twisty bits than its larger sibling, the E60 M5 (also on this list). As for how it compared to the likes of the Audi RS4 and the AMG-powered C-Class, let’s just say that for a real driving enthusiast, the BMW would have been the best choice.
In terms of specs, that naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 would have been good for 414 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The E92 M3 could also go from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, which is proper quick even by today’s standards.
This car would make a super interesting purchase for the budget we’ve just laid out, don’t you think?
2006 BMW M5
Anyway, the main reason why the E60 M5 offers such a different driving experience is because of its incredible 5.0-liter V10 engine, generating an output of 500 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. Like the M3’s 4.0L V8, this too was a high-revving beast, but the torque band was a lot more... flexible. It would just pull and pull effortlessly like a freaking starship.
It’s by no means a unique power unit in terms of feel, but it’s not something you’ll frequently come across either. The only other naturally aspirated car I’ve driven that felt remotely close to the E60 M5 in terms of how it utilized its output was a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, and that had a 6.0-liter V12, mind you.
Now, I wasn’t going to talk about maintenance costs and reliability, since this isn’t a buyer’s guide. But let’s just say that the E60 M5 isn’t what you might call the most trouble-free car in the world. They require proper maintenance, and if you’re genuinely looking to buy one, you better inspect it from head to toe – watch out for oil leaks, cracked hoses, and injector issues. Also check the state of the clutch.
2008 Shelby GT500
Still, your next-door neighbor will look at it and say: “Damn, that’s a Shelby GT500”, and in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Just kidding, but yeah, that’s what he’ll say.
The Mustang S197-based Shelby GT500 was launched for the 2007 model year as a direct replacement for the old SVT Cobra Mustang. Underneath, this was still a ‘GT’, albeit one that packed a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 rated at 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque.
On the plus side, that engine is pretty relentless, so you’ll definitely have some fun driving this thing. Still, if quick/agile sports cars are your bread and butter, the S197 Shelby GT500 isn’t going to cut it.
Another big minus is the build quality of the interior. These older Ford models featured notoriously cheap plastics inside, to the point where European car journalists would often make fun of them.
Let’s just say that if you get out of an M6 Coupe and climb behind the wheel of a 2008 Shelby GT500, you’re not going to be very impressed. Still, it’s a flagship Mustang for the price of a 2023 Corolla Hybrid. Some would call that a good deal.
2009 Cadillac CTS-V
The CTS has always been one handsome S.O.B, and the same can be said about the ‘V’ variant, which came out just in time for the 2009 model year.
Built using GM’s Sigma II platform, this rear-wheel-drive beast also came with an upgraded suspension, larger brakes (than even the first-gen CTS-V's), a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, and a sublime 6.2-liter LSA V8 engine, supercharged of course.
The second-gen CTS-V would put down 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque, and on a good day, it would be enough for a 0-60 time of roughly 4 seconds flat. This car was stupid-quick, and it really put the fear of God into the likes of the BMW M5 and Mercedes E 63 AMG. It was by no means a lesser product than its German rivals, and for $24,000 today, it’s an absolute steal.
As a side note, I genuinely think that if one single automobile can be credited with turning things around for the U.S. car industry in terms of overall quality perception, it was the second-generation Cadillac CTS.
2014 Range Rover Sport Supercharged
To be fair, finding a good one within that price range isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but it’s by no means impossible – it just takes a bit of doing, that’s all.
When I began researching this article, I initially thought about the first-generation Range Rover Sport, knowing full well you could get an awesome one at this price range. It didn’t even occur to me that the second-generation model could be had too, and not just in any spec, but the so-called ‘Supercharged’ variant.
Naturally, this means that its 5.0-liter V8 is supercharged, which in turn explains that nifty power output of 510 horsepower. Trust me when I say that with this engine, the 2014 RRS is more than quick enough. It can get from zero to 60 mph in about 5 seconds flat, which is good for such a large vehicle. I happen to think we’re way too spoiled nowadays by all these ultra-fast super SUVs. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day.
As a family car, this right here is a hell of a choice. Spacious, fast, luxurious and overall great-looking.
2012 Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG
Still, I’m with those who believe that the pre-facelifted W212 E-Class is a better-looking car than the updated version. I loved the quad headlights and the more angular front fascia design. The E 63 AMG looked particularly badass, and yes, this was during a time when AMG-spec Mercs weren’t called Mercedes-AMGs. I kind of miss those days.
Anyway, here’s what you’re getting with that 2012 E 63 AMG. It all starts with an incredibly rowdy 5.5-liter biturbo V8, good for 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. This monster will get you from zero to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds.
I could write an entire feature story just on how awesome the W212 E 63 AMG is, and the fact that you can buy one today for just 24k is, as Max Verstappen would say, simply lovely. Keep in mind though that it likely won’t be a low-mileage example, because those still go for over $30,000.
2013 Audi S8
It would, of course, have to be a pre-facelift model, but that’s alright because you still get a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, good for 512 horsepower. With the help of its quattro all-wheel drive system, this S8 can hit 60 mph in as little as 4 seconds flat.
Full disclosure, I’ve only found a handful of these S8 models within our budget, and they were all high-mileage examples, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers. The finest one was a pearl white 2014 S8 with just over 100,000 miles on the clock. Just beautiful.
If you’re going to add up the comfort, performance and overall luxury, this here is by far the best choice you can make on the used car market at this price point. For that money, it edges out all equivalent Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series specifications.
2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo
Regardless, those first-gen models still offer tremendous value for money, and if you look hard (and by that, I mean really hard), you should be able to land the Turbo specification for your $24,000. It’s going to have over 100,000 miles on the clock (that’s a given), but hopefully no reported accidents – or unreported for that matter.
I know this is not the prettiest car in the world, but it does have one or two amazing angles. Also, it’s incredible to drive, it’s fast, luxurious, and most importantly, it’s imposing. The Panamera owns the road and is to this day probably the most ostentatious luxury four-door coupe.
As for what it can do in terms of performance, well, a 2012 Panamera Turbo will offer you access to its 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, good for 493 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. If you haven’t driven a Panamera, it’s hard to explain just how sporty this feels to drive, despite its enormous size and weight. But that’s Porsche for you!
Give me a ranking, please!Alright. But just because you asked so nicely, and to be clear, it will be subjective. Also, I’m not going to rank them all, because if it was my money, I’d only be looking at the best in each category. So, the Range Rover Sport Supercharged has to be on my list, if the goal here is to buy an SUV. I’m going to put the Charger SRT-8 on there as well, because it's a cool car, and it’s got the newer 6.4L Hemi V8. As for a pure luxury four-door sedan, I’d go with S8 because it literally does everything right.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that from an ownership standpoint, that Charger might just be the "safest" purchase here. It’s a muscle car and a family car, and (gulp) I think I’d rather have its supercharged Hemi than the E 63 AMG’s biturbo V8. It’s also not too old, and not as expensive to maintain as some of the German cars on this list. Ideally though, for me it would come down to either the Audi or the RRS.
By the way, on the off chance you're looking for a 300+ hp car, but your budget tops out at $10,000, we got you covered with that too.