The appeal of a car is often much more complicated than its spec sheet, but when you’re in the hunt for a performance bargain, horsepower and dollars matter. Specifically, getting the most of the former for the least of the latter. You’ll likely find yourself asking, what is power truly worth?
About $837 per horsepower, according to our data. Let us explain.
As of this writing, Hagerty tracks the prices of 32,957 cars and trucks in our valuation database. Factoring in everything from a 12-hp Isetta to a 1001-hp Veyron, the average value of each horsepower sits right about $837. (On average, for example, a 201-hp car will cost $837 more than a 200-hp car.) That made us curious for more information, so we ventured back into the numbers to find the vehicles with the highest horsepower that fell below that average value. That is, the vehicles that offer the most output for the least money. Though we threw trucks into the mix, the raucous Dodge SRT/10, sadly, didn’t make the cut.
A brief disclaimer before we dive in: There are delightful deals to be had for much, much less than the cars featured within this list. (We bought seven of them ourselves, in fact.) We support your automotive performance journey in just about any four- or two-wheeled vehicle you choose, and a Ferrari 599 GTB isn’t a pocket-change purchase for most people. This list represents a very specific slice of data: These are 11 cars with the highest factory horsepower that can be had for less than our Hagerty Price Guide-determined $837-per-hp average.
First up is the home-grown supercar from Steve Saleen, of ’80s Mustang fame. The first 30 S7s sat on in-house chassis and packed a Windsor small-block bored and stroked to 427 cubic inches, good for 550 hp. The naturally-aspirated S7 debuted in 2000 as a homologation special, letting the S7R loose on the endurance racing circuit on both sides of the pond—over the model’s nine-year career, it notched class wins at both the 12 Hours of Sebring (2001) and 24 Hours of Le Mans (2010).
Four years into the S7’s run, however, Saleen decided the S7 was destined for greater output than a measly 550 horses and bolted twin Garrett turbochargers to another 30 road-going cars. Say hello to 5.5 psi of boost, 750 horsepower, and a 0–60 run of 2.8 seconds. The visual differences between the naturally-aspirated and forced-induction cars are subtle; your best cue is the Twin Turbo’s chunkier rear diffuser. To be fair, there wasn’t much that needed to be changed; the naturally-aspirated model’s body had side scoops, brake vents, front air intakes, and even a hood scoop to satisfy your wildest highschool doodles.
However, the S7 Twin Turbo’s 750 horses, racing legacy, and American-built goodness don’t come cheaply. Middle-of-the-road, #3 (Good) condition variants still garner over half a million, and that works out to $733 per horsepower.
Let’s just admit it—the SLR McLaren may pay homage to Fangio and Moss’s 300 SLR, but its styling doesn’t hold a candle to that elegant Silver Arrow. The side-exiting exhausts are cool and the chrome-straked gill-style vents are swanky, but this grand tourer has got a beak, plain and simple.
It also makes one hell of a noise, thanks to a dry-sump 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 shoved almost 20 inches behind the front axle and nearly underneath your nose. Add butterfly doors and finned wheels, and you’ve got a polarizing, powerful coupe that rings in at roughly $327 per horsepower, roughly half the S7 Twin Turbo’s metric.
Car and Driver likened the FF’s schnoz to “the original BMW M coupe or even the Jaguar E-type.” With all due respect, this is heresy. The FF has a long hood, like those venerable European models, and there’s where the resemblance stops. The wide-hatched egg-crate grille and beady front bulbs leer at you with all the charm of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Perhaps it’s for good reason this four-seated, all-wheel-drive Ferrari falls well short of the $837-per-horsepower benchmark—due partly to significant depreciation from a $300,000 base price when new. However, maybe you’re spellbound by the song of that 651-hp Maranello V-12.
With this $226-per-horsepower four-seater, we’ve fallen down the steepest section of this list; from here on, change in performance value will become more incremental.
Sandwiched between the agreeably-styled 575 Maranello and the frankly terrifying F12berlinetta, Ferrari’s 599 GTB filled the most-expensive, front-engine GT slot. And it filled it impressively, with bragging rights as one of the few engines producing over 100 hp per liter of displacement. In this case, that was 612 horsepower from 6.0 liters of naturally-aspirated V-12 majesty. Take your pick of a six-speed manual or a flappy-paddle automatic, if you’ve got the financial flexibility—and the patience to hunt for one. Given the manual’s far-more-limited production run, you’ll pay a hefty premium to row your own gears—$150,000 at least.
The sole British offering on this list, the Bentley Continental Supersports boasted forced induction from the get-go. Though the Supersports did make some sacrifices for speed—losing the rear seats and swapping the the wooden dash for carbon fiber—more is… well, more seems to be the governing philosophy here. How else do you explain 4939 pounds, 621 horsepower, 12 cylinders, and a top speed of 204 mph?
Oh, and lots of blacked-out trim that essentially correlates to “faster than your pedestrian, bechromed, plain-Jane Continental.” The Continental’s got attitude and power, both of which can both be yours for roughly $129 per horsepower.
Power: 840 (with performance crate option and 100-octane fuel)
HPG #3 (Good) condition value: $100,000
Price per horsepower: $119
You know a car’s a big deal when the manufacturer breaks out the smoke machine for a box of extra parts… but when that box is a $1 option and contains enough goodies to chase down a 9.65-second quarter mile, why not? The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon deserves some hype for its combination of drag-strip performance and (relative) streetability.
The supercharged, 6.2-liter Hemi monsters are aging nicely, judging by the numbers. Examples in #3 (Good) condition carry values nearly $15,000 more than their original $86,090 sticker price, proving that this limited-run, high-performance, revered dragstrip brute packs some serious punch.
For another visit to the land of red, white, and blue muscle cars, we’ve got the C6 Corvette ZR1. The first factory supercharged ’Vette has fared well—all except for the one that fell through the crater in Bowling Green. Ouch. That dry-sump LS9 displaces a healthy 6.2 liters and features a forged-steel crank, titanium connecting rods, and, of course, an 2.3-liter Eaton supercharger. Thankfully, the ZR1 also got the first carbon-ceramic brakes ever fitted to a factory ’Vette. Chevy continued the supercharger theme to the seventh generation and, most likely, forced induction will continue into the mid-engine C8 generation, albeit with turbocharging.
2011–12 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake Coupe
Power: 800 hp
HPG #3 (Good) condition value: $62,000
Price per horsepower: $78
Praised by Car and Driver as “the first GT500 that truly handles well,” the 2011 Shelby GT500 brought an aluminum-block engine that improved front-end weight distribution over the previous GT500’s iron block. Handling, rather than raw power, was the news for this GT500; until Shelby trotted out the Super Snake package. An upgraded supercharger (a Ford Racing Whipple unit), Ford Racing adjustable dampers, and a 3.73:1 rear end combined for tauter handling and 200 more horsepower. The highest available tune boosted output to 800 horsepower, up from the GT500’s 550, all clad in the signature Shelby stripes.
Before the Demon, there was the Hellcat. To put things in perspective, the 5.7-equipped Challenger produced 375 horsepower in 2015, the year the Hellcat debuted; the R/T Scat Pack’s larger, 6.4-liter powerplant took that figure to 485. The Hellcat was king of the hill for three years, before the Demon knocked it off its pedestal; but if you’re looking for a high-po Mopar daily driver, you’ll likely prefer the Hellcat’s more-friendly suspension setup and better sound dampening.
Sure, many dream of convertibles in the summer months. Perhaps, however, you know full well that $34K would get you a pristine S2000, a loaded brand-new Miata, or a new base-spec EcoBoost Mustang drop-top. Should you really have a hankering for a twin-turbo V-12 with a healthy dose of mid-2000s Miami bling, step right into the 2005–09 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG. At $57 per horsepower, these roadsters are accessible to a much broader audience than when they were fresh from the dealership, where they pushed $180,000 mark. We’ll bet the punch of 738 pound-feet of torque hasn’t faded, though.
King of this numbers-slinging batch is the fifth-gen Chevy Camaro ZL1. Stickering for roughly $55K when new in 2012 (which is about $60K today), the Camaro ZL1 still stakes a claim to the bargain performance space. Its 6.2-liter LSA small-block sports a 1.9-liter supercharger and grapples all that power through corners thanks to GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system—the fantastic shocks first found on the 2009 ZR1. For $55 per horsepower, the ZL1 is the most powerful car that we value below the average $837-per-horsepower performance metric.