Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0

14 Expensive Sports Cars and Their Affordable Alternatives

In gearheads’ mentality, champagne tastes, lemonade money, or the fastest cars for less. Everyone covets the highest-spec and fastest cars, but few can afford these dream machines. However, sacrificing a few tenths for half the price of less is possible.

Even the most exclusive carmakers know value for money is a big selling point. It’s how supercar makers lure new buyers into their showrooms. Glitzy displays of budget sportscars wearing that famous badge are nothing more than the automotive equivalent of a worm on a hook. Porsche has done it dozens of times. Both the 914 and 924 ranges were aimed at younger buyers, planting the seed for future upgrades.

It’s a similar story in group brands; Volkswagen promotes the Golf GTi as the best hot hatch, and yet for less, Seat and Skoda sell you the same essential car dressed in different badges with nearly identical performance. Shop wisely, and cheaper options are a great alternative.

Porsche 911 Turbo

Porschwe 911 turbo (992)
Image Credit: Porsche.

One of the most highly coveted sports cars, the Porsche 911 Turbo, is an icon of speed, handling, and surprising usability. It is also one of the more expensive cars, with a list price of $197,000. However, gearheads crave the raw performance only a rear-engined sports car can deliver. Long gone are the tales of demonic handling; Porsche has tamed the unusual engine placement.

Surprisingly, at this price point, the 911 Turbo is a bargain compared to its main rivals, Ferrari and McLaren. As near as it makes no difference, the Porsche boasts 200 mph performance from its iconic flat-six turbocharged engine. Turbo base spec equates to 572 hp, yielding an impressive 0-60 mph time of 2.7 seconds.

Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0

Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0
Image Credit: Porsche.

Delivering most of the performance for half the price, Porsche’s purer driving experience, the 718 Cayman GTS 4, is a bargain too good to pass up. Admittedly, there are some compromises versus a cheaper sticker price. In a drag race, the 911 is a full two seconds fast to 60 mph, but sprinting to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds isn’t exactly slow.

At the top end, both cars will quickly help you lose your driver’s license, closing on the magic 200 mph barrier. So why is the 718 Cayman so cheap? The answer is a straightforward forced induction versus naturally aspirated comparison. Unlike the 911 Turbo, the Cayman has a 4-liter unit producing 394 hp and much less weight to haul around.

Audi R8

Audi R8 V10 RWD
Image Credit: Audi.

Audi’s ticket to the supercar club, the R8, promised everything its VAG group stablemate, the Gallardo, could do, only cheaper and more solidly built. By its demise in late 2023, the all-aluminum R8 was a fully-fledged member of the 200 mph club blessed with a Germanic sense of perfection. Naturally, all this comes at a price. Depending on how deep your pockets are or how tempting the extras list is, R8 ownership starts at $163,000 and stretches beyond $250,000.

Think of the R8 as a more refined Lamborghini, sharing a closely related drive train encompassing engine and transmission. Since its introduction, the R8 has evolved from the original 4.2-liter V8 to a 562-hp V10 monster capable of 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. 

Audi TT RS

Audi TT RS 40 Years Of Quattro
Image Credit: Fabien Canela/Flickr.

A clear winner of less is more; the now-defunct TT-RS looks like a shrunken R8. The same can be said of the powertrain. In place of a V10, the TT-RS used a compact 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine dishing up 400 hp. Half the cylinders, half the displacement miraculously only gives up three-tenths in a drag race, with the TT-RS hitting 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.

Big versus small, Audi nailed the thrills per dollar recipe perfectly. Unlike its big brother, stretching into six digits price-wise, the TT-RS, before its demise, was listed for $65,000. 

Ferrari Roma

2024 Ferrair Roma
Image Credit: Wikicommons.

A dream for every gearhead, sportscars don’t get any better than a Ferrari. Whether it’s the allure of the prancing horse or a history soaked with racing success, Ferrari ownership is a very exclusive club. That level of exclusivity comes at a price. In Ferrari speak, prices for the most affordable Roma model start at $243,000.

Naturally, this thoroughbred packs a mighty punch. Under the hood, Ferrari opted for a front-mounted twin-turbocharged V8, driving the rear tires through an 8-speed transaxle. However, appearances and power figures count for nothing without big performance numbers. Entry-level the Roma might be, it doesn’t disappoint with a top speed of 199 mph.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51

Chevrolet Corvette (C8) Stringray
Image Credit: Chevrolet Pressroom.

Economies of scale combined with an unrivaled knowledge of V8 engines set the Corvette C8 apart from every other sports car. No carmaker, brand, or model delivers a bigger bang for your buck. American sportscars have always been excellent value for money, but the C8 takes that to another level. If you have been living under a rock since 2020, a base-model Corvette is as quick as a supercar for $60,000.

Introduced in 2020, the C8 became the first model to use a mid-engine layout. At the same time, this upset a few Corvette purists; the C8’s startling performance more than makes up for it. Despite the enormous price difference, the Corvette has an edge in a drag race, only losing out at the upper end of its performance envelope. A simple push-road naturally aspirated V8 cranks out 495 hp at the heart of America’s favorite sports car.

McLaren Artura

McLaren Artura
Imge Credit: McLaren Cars.

Another year, another revised McLaren sportscar wearing a closely related carbon body. In 2022, the UK carmaker announced the Artura, a more refined and useable sportscar that evolved from the MCLA chassis design. Under the skin, differences included a smaller V6 turbocharged engine and a mild hybrid unit rated at 671 hp. 

In practice, the toning down exercise and swapping out cylinders for battery and motor support hasn’t drastically affected overall performance. McLaren claims the Artura will reach 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and run on to a maximum of 205 mph. Unfortunately, the reduction exercise doesn’t stretch the asking price. Artura’s pricing starts at $253,00 and only goes upwards.

Shelby Super Snake

Ford Shelby Mustang Super Snake
Image Credit: John Andrew Ford NZ.

Ford and Shelby, two of the greatest names in the car industry, share a long history of high-speed and affordable cars. The latest Shelby Mustang Super Snake is no exception, boasting 825 hp for $131,000. It’s not pocket change but a bargain alongside the McLaren.

Not long ago, 800+hp guaranteed entry to the supercar club, usually accompanied by sky-high prices. This makes the Shelby Super Snake all the more appealing. Unlike expensive exotics, Ford supplied the base Coyote V8, leaving Shelby to bolt on a blower, doubling the car’s power output over stock Mustangs. With more power, half the price, and barely any slower, the Supersnake is only four-tenths behind in a sprint to 60 mph.

Lexus LC500

Lexus LC500
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Lexus’s all-conquering rise to fame began in 1988 when it took on the might of Mercedes-Benz in the luxury segment. Japan’s premium car maker has firmly set sights on the sports car scene. Somewhere in between, the LFA changed most gearheads’ view of what sports cars could and, in most cases, should be. However, lower down, the same precision approach produced the LC.

Think of the LC as Japan’s answer to the US V8 sportscar, only better built, refined, and arguably more resilient. Now, Lexus’s premium image might suggest the LC is a sports car in appearance only thanks to a modern, precision sculpted body. But stripping away the glitz and glamour, the LC is a bonafide sports car, boasting a 5-liter V8 belting our 471 hp. All things said and done, Lexus nailed the sweet spot between performance and price, giving their 168 mph coupe away for as little as $100,000.

Toyota GR Supra

Toyota GR Supra
Image Credit: Toyota.

Japan’s finest comes under attack from a cheaper, more gearhead-friendly coupe. Worse still, the same parent company that produces the Lexus LC500 is also its biggest competitor. Enter the Toyota GR Supra, everything the Lexus is, but only faster and cheaper at the slight expense of curb appeal. Supra’s have always been outstanding value for money.

Toyota doesn’t deserve all the credit here; many of the car’s underpinnings come from BMW. Despite a Frankenstein mishmash of Japanese and European design ideas, the Supra remains the benchmark for affordable performance. Starting at $47,000 in GR spec, finding a faster car for so little is nearly impossible. Under the hood, BMW-sourced turbocharged 3-liter straight-sixes produce at least 382 hp.

BMW M3 Competition

2023 BM"W M3 Coupe Compeition
Image Credit: BMW Pressroom

Representing hooligan tail-wagging performance on call, the BMW M3 Competition is a candidate for the best track tool money can buy. It is a recipe BMW has followed for decades, honing a compact coupe chassis and potent engine package. In this lineup, it’s a hard act to follow, considering it’s asking for $80,000.

The original M3 combined the practicalities of a 2+2 coupe body with a rev-happy naturally aspirated engine. While the DNA remains the same, all modern BMW M spec cars pack a turbocharger or two. Under the hood of the M3 Competition, twin turbochargers augment a 3-liter straight six, yielding a staggering 503 hp. Despite a gentleman’s agreement limiting the car’s top speed to 155 mph, the M3 Competition shows its muscle with an impressive 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds.

Caterham Seven 420

Caterham Seven 420
Image Credit: Caterham Cars.

There are cheaper ways to unleash your inner demon on a track. Purer of design, the Caterham Seven 420 owes much of its basic design to the legendary Lotus Seven, only with much more power. Ignore, for the moment, the 420 monicker. It doesn’t refer to the car’s power output but its power-to-weight ratio.

That’s not to say the Sven 420 isn’t lacking in the power stakes, but it’s far from it. Under the hood, a 2-liter Ford Duratec engine cranks 210 hp without turbos or blowers. However, the car’s incredibly lightweight construction is responsible for matching the M3 in a drag race. On a track, sixty comes up in 3.8 seconds for a low asking price of $53,000, less if you build it yourself.

Aston Martin DBS

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
Image Credit: Aston Martin.

Purely on aesthetics, the DBS is a winner regardless of cost or speed. It’s a trait Aston Martin has understood since the brand’s DB7 revival under Ford Ownership. Times and ownership have changed since the ’90s, moving away from Ford/Jaguar parts to customer-supplied AMG engines, adding a much-needed quality injection.

Getting away from its curb appeal, the DBS is a full-on supercar capable of matching the best in either a sprint race or a top-end battle. Below those curves lays a 715 hp 5.2-liter V12 engine driving the rear wheels to a potential top speed of 211 mph, passing 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. The downside is that adrenalin rush and beauty come with a steep $333,000 sticker price.

Jaguar F-Type R-75

2024 Jaguar F-Type R-75
Image Credit: Jaguar Cars.

The fly in Aston’s ointment comes from one-time Ford stablemate Jaguar. Nearly as pretty and every bit as dynamic, the F-Type R-75 is only a whisker behind in outright performance. Yet its most significant selling point is the price; at $116,000, you could buy two Jaguars and still have money to spare for tires.

The F-Type R-75 stands out as the best sportscar the Jaguar has ever made, and it is better than the E-type in terms of driving dynamics. It’s better than the XJ220 for aural pleasure, thanks to a revised 5-liter supercharged V8 cranking out 575 hp to booms, pops, and crackles of its exhaust. The real test, however, comes on a track where the F-Type R-75, despite less power, is only two-tenths behind the DBS, reaching sixty in 3.4 seconds.

Jason Garbutt

Author: Jason Garbutt

Title: Business Development Managger

Expertise: Cars, Military Vehicles, Computers, Gaming Consoles, Aviation, Movies

Bio:

From a young age, vehicles of every shape and size significantly impacted Jason. But a surprise birthday gift of a ZAP racing kart ignited the spark in earnest. Cars, planes, military vehicles, and ships have been the center of attention ever since.

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