The fastest accelerating cars for £10,000

27th June 2024
Russell Campbell

"Speed isn't just about top speed," declared the keyboard jockeys, and we listened – these are the fastest accelerating cars you can buy for £10,000. On this budget, lightweight sports cars are out the window, if you can find a Lotus Elise for 10K, you probably don't want to buy it. Instead, we find our performance from big horsepower numbers, four-wheel drive, and trick gearboxes. It's an all-encompassing list that covers the Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes S-Class and everything in between.

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Audi S8 – 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds

The Audi S8 is a luxury saloon with a Lamborghini engine. Well, sort of; Audi revised the bore and stroke and added direct injection to give its car more lazy torque. We're not complaining, though, because it means this big limo has the off-the-line oomph to hurl itself towards the horizon from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds. Doing it with the V10 backing noise of a house-trained F1 car.

Sadly, the pure essence of F1 is missing because the S8 pushes through bends like its front tyres are plastic, which makes the bone-cracking ride even harder to accept. Treat the Audi as a fast eight-tenths car, though, and its combination of V10 power and four-wheel drive grip make it extremely impressive. 

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Mercedes ML63 AMG – 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds

On the face of it, the Mercedes ML63 is an unlikely candidate for this list. The Merc isn't small, light, or aerodynamic, but it doesn't need to be; it has a 6.2-litre V8 under the bonnet. There's something absurd about a practical SUV that shares its basic engine with the gullwing SLS supercar, but we don’t care because it means this practical family car can leap from 0-62mph in five seconds dead. 

However, you may feel like wanting to leap from a tall building when you see what a vast engine and brick-like aerodynamics do for fuel economy – anything in double digits will be a triumph, but at least you have a sublime NA V8 soundtrack to help keep your mind off it. 

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Chrysler 300C 6.1 Hemi V8 SRT-8 Estate – 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds

While fast German expresses of this vintage are likely ending their financially viable lives, they're not the only option – a lower mileage and newer Chrysler 300C 6.1-litre Hemi can be yours for the same money. In the UK, where Hemis are as rare as hen's teeth, simply saying you own one is cool enough, and that's before you experience the thundering soundtrack and its 5 second 0-62mph time. Not bad in a car that's as big as you'd expect an American station wagon to be. 

The 300C is stereotypical in other, less desirable ways though. This is not a performance estate in the classical sense; it handles exactly how you would expect of a car based on an old Mercedes E-Class chassis with minor drivetrain upgrades. Then there's the interior – like a gateway to Narnia, if Narnia was a 1990s Vauxhall. But at least you'll be able to sleep safe in the knowledge that the Hemi is unlikely to throw up wallet-crippling bills like one of its German counterparts. 


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Jaguar XFR – 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds

A £10,000 budget means feasting on the most luscious fruit, the likes of the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG, are off the menu. Instead, we'll pick from the low-hanging fructose in the form of a M/AMG alternative like the Jaguar XFR. Castigated for lacking the on-track nous of its German rivals (as well as the flash interiors and clever tech), the Jaguar sold in relatively small numbers. 

But should it have? Take a step back, and the XFR was arguably the best performance road car of the three; it's effortlessly good-looking and mixes sharp handling (it has an electronic-locking differential) with a creamy ride. Its supercharged engine lacked the zing of NA rivals, but its instant thrust meant it had more overtaking power when you needed it.

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Volkswagen Golf R – 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds

The Volkswagen Golf R was one of the first cars to bring a sub-5-second 0-62mph to the masses. Thanks to a combination of turbocharged wallop, four-wheel drive, and a twin-clutch gearbox, the R can zap from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and will do it effortlessly, time and time again. The performance is all the more startling because when you’re not on it, the R feels as mundane as any other Golf. 

A budget of £10,000 is enough for a MK7 model, which, with a higher quality cabin and more intuitive infotainment than its MK8 replacement, is arguably the best Golf ever made. Factor in fuel economy that will tickle 40mpg, and it's an almost faultless package. We say almost because the 4Motion does rob the R of some of the engagement offered by the GTI Performance with an LSD on the front axle, but that's probably a price worth paying for its shocking all-weather performance.

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Mercedes SLK55 AMG – 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds

With looks and muscle, the Mercedes SLK55 AMG will surely become a future classic. Faced with taking on the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes went out of its way when building this high-performance small sports car – nimbleness and agility went out the window and in came a 5.5-litre naturally aspirated V8 that had no right to be fitted to a car smaller than a Volkswagen Golf. It was a combination that gave the Merc a soundtrack to kill for and performance that meant you could swiftly leave the crime scene, 0-62mph bludgeoned in 4.9 seconds. This traction-limited yardstick is only half the story, though the Merc hit 100mph in 10.3 seconds and 150mph in 28 seconds.

Despite this, you get the sense that the Merc is an average car with a spectacular engine. Its handling is unwieldy, its cabin cheap, and its stability control is far too eager to call an end to the fun. 

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BMW M135i – 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds

The new BMW M135i has just been updated, but our hearts still very much lie with the old model – a six-cylinder, turbocharged, rear-wheel drive superhatch that was cheaper to buy than a Golf R. Big power and tiny dimensions meant the M135i could accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds and pulled hard right up to its 155mph limiter. This power meant that the M135i dominated track days against far more exotic metal. 

In some ways, though, it felt like a halfway house M car (which is actually what it was). So, while you got the power, there was little of the poise of a BMW Motorsport product, with an open diff that spun power away and suspension that was quickly found out on bumpy corners, issues easily corrected with third-party parts.


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Mercedes E55 – 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds

The old E55 Mercedes E-Class AMG is long forgotten, pushed into the back of our brains by its 6.2-litre naturally aspirated, 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged and 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged successors. That's a shame because the E55 should be at the top of our minds. After all, it uses the same 5.5-litre supercharged V8 found in the SL55 of the time, an engine that propels it from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. Its rounded, unassuming styling turns the E55 into an iron fist in a silk glove, and, in estate form, it's also hugely practical.

By 2001, when the W211 hit production, Mercedes had started sorting out its 1990s patchy build quality, but the corner had yet to be turned entirely, so expect E55 ownership to come hand in hand with some hefty bills. Oh, and fuel economy is unlikely to better 15mpg on a fast run. 

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Bentley Continental GT – 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds

Having already dominated our fastest top speed lists, we shouldn't be surprised to see the Bentley Continental GT poke its stately head above the parapet of our first 'fastest accelerating cars' list. But we are surprised. It's hard enough to make a big, heavy car go quickly, but it's even harder still to make it accelerate with serious pep. The GT's secret is its four-wheel drive system and the spadefuls of torque generated by its twin-turbocharged V12 – they combine to get this four-wheeled, wood-lined mammoth from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds.

Alas, there is a reason why a car that cost plus-£100,000 not too many years ago can now be had for less than £10,000: colossal running costs. Bentley's ferocious grip on the supply chains means the most mundane parts cost thousands of pounds. The old saying that a £100,000 car has £100,000-car running costs has never been more accurate. 

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Mercedes S-Class S600 Biturbo – 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds

To our minds, the W221 Mercedes S-Class is the greatest of all, effortlessly matching 1980s chisel with 1990s curve to produce a much prettier car than the W220 that preceded it or its W222 successor. The interior was just as impressive, a significant leap over the W220 with quality materials and a layout that balanced infotainment and conventional controls. We're here for the performance, of course, and the S600 has loads of it, its twin-turbocharged V12 ramming the S-Class from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds, with turbine smoothness and no help from four-wheel drive. The S600 is positively loaded with kit, far beyond the rest of the range, with extended leather, electrically adjustable rear seats, and a fridge. 

Old-school Mercedes toughness returned to the W222, and its trick ABC suspension shouldn't suffer the problems that afflicted the previous model. That being said, expect any issues that come up to be expensive; merely servicing a V12 will be costly. 

  • Road

  • News

  • List

  • Audi

  • Bentley

  • BMW

  • Chrysler

  • Jaguar

  • Mercedes

  • Volkswagen

  • S8

  • Continental GT

  • M135i

  • 300C Hemi

  • XF-R

  • ML63

  • S600

  • E55

  • SLK-55

  • AMG

  • Golf R

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