Our headline stat is mouth-watering – and true. You can buy a car with 500 horsepower for the price of a decently kitted Ford Fiesta. That’s full-fat old-fashioned bhp, too, not your semi-skimmed German Pferdestarke, of which you need 507PS to make a real 500.
Not long ago, you needed to buy a supercar to score this kind of horsepower, and a pretty serious one at that. The first wave of 500bhp-plus supercars arrived during the 1990s. But the new century brought 500bhp closer to less voluminous pockets, Mercedes-Benz progressively unleashing a whole series of AMG-tuned versions of E, SL, CL and S-class.
At a push, you might find a tired and leggy 500bhp AMG Merc for about £10,000, but £15,000 lets you fish in a pool of better-kept cars that are astonishing value, given their seismic go, bubblegum grip (until torque overwhelms traction), bountiful equipment and business class comfort. Very obvious, though, is that these cars can cost, with their thirst, maintenance bills, high VED rates and insurance premiums.
But the choice is big and getting bigger; Pistonheads alone lists several hundred 500bhp cars for under £50k. So here are some tempters.
Price £15,995; Power 507bhp; 0-62mph 4.5sec; Top speed 155mph
Your archetypal thunderous AMG V8 saloon and the first Benz built entirely by AMG. You get the legendary 507bhp handbuilt V8 coupled to a seven-speed paddle-shift auto. A 2006 ‘W211’ E63 can be acquired with 70,000 miles, shedding over £52,000 doing it. The model we found has a full history, two keys, a warranty, sat-nav, surround-sound and the usual executive extras.
Mercedes was stumbling through its sub-standard quality era at this point, although the post-facelift E63 was better. Check for rust, transmission issues and equipment integrity. This example looks promisingly sharp.
Price £30,000; Power 505bhp; 0-62mph 3.9sec; Top speed 198mph
Sub-four seconds to 62mph and a 198mph top speed for £30,000 looks like value, especially when the mileage can be as low as 13,500 miles. This money will get you a genuine European-spec model, too.
Corvettes have always edged towards the crude, but this sixth-generation version came closer to European capabilities, the 7.0-litre V8 Z06 version providing real grunt. You’ll have the challenge of left-hand drive and relatively few repair specialists, but reliability is good and you’ll rarely see another example.
Price £30,900; Power 501bhp; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 155mph
A supercharged V8 in one of the best-looking 500bhp-plus cars that you can buy for £30k and one that’s more advanced than many, with its aluminium bodywork. Better still, the XK is a reliable car that has few high-mileage issues.
It’s not quite as raw with its potency as a BMW M5, M6 or Mercedes AMG 63, but it’s very liveable and is deft on meandering roads. We found an XKR that has travelled 32,000 miles and is on sale with a franchised Jaguar dealer, so a full service history and a decent warranty can be expected. There’s plenty of XKR choice beyond £31k.