The fastest cars you can buy for £50,000

21st May 2024
Russell Campbell

It's another week and another opportunity to ask: “How quickly can you go on X British pounds?” Today, we're working with a £50,000 budget, which means we can choose between anything from estate cars and saloons to GTs and bonafide supercars. These are the fastest cars you can buy for £50,000.


Mercedes-AMG E63 S estate (Driver's Package) - 186mph

The E63 is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of most. Speed is a given, but it also handles very well with agility missing from E63s of old and a trick four-wheel drive system you can switch off altogether if you're feeling particularly brave. Needless to say, when you're not in a hooligan mood, you can wind it all back, slide the drive select into Comfort and bask in the E63's luxurious cabin and superb refinement as it transforms from super saloon to luxurious family estate, with a 640-litre boot that makes a Volvo's carrying capacity look weedy. You'll not find a more rounded car for £50,000.


Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - 191mph

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is another car that combines a huge top speed – 191mph in this car, with a decent practicality that means it can slide easily into family life.

Being Italian, the Giulia is also drop-dead gorgeous with a heavy set grille and body lines that look like they've been sculpted by hand, not computer. Where Alfa often comes unstuck is in the driving department, but not so in the Quadrifoglio. Its rear-wheel drive chassis is agile and communicative, and its Ferrari-designed 2.9-litre V6 engine metres out the power of its turbos with control that made a period M3 seem ham-fisted. Sadly, the Alfa's reliability is also resolutely Italian, with various issues reported during the car's launch and since.


997 Porsche 911 Turbo - 193mph

The Porsche 911 Turbo has developed a reputation for being the do-anything supercar – its 193mph top speed granting it easy entry to this list. That's only half the story, however, because top speed doesn't factor in the Turbo's relentless acceleration – 0-60mph takes 3.2 seconds, 0-100 comes up in 7.8 seconds and ten seconds later, you'll be doing 150. Factor in the Porsche's trick rear-biassed four-wheel drive and dinner-plate-sized brakes, and the Turbo is likely the fastest point-to-point car on this list.

The 997 is the connoisseur's choice of modern 911s – better looking than the 996 but without the ballooned dimensions and electric power steering of the 991. Factor in the excellent reliability of the Mezger engine, and this is arguably the most sensible car here, too.


Ferrari 612 Scaglietti - 196mph

Upping our budget to £50,000 means we can welcome our first Ferrari to our fast-car lists. And, as you'd hope, we've done things properly with this, the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. You could have a 360 coupé for the same money, but if straight-line performance is your requirement (and it is ours), it's hard to look past the power that a V12 brings. Sadly, it is also quite challenging to look past the questionable looks of the Scaglietti, and while we're grumbling, it's a shame our budget doesn't rise to a more desirable gated-manual car.

Now, to the good news. Our money is enough to buy us the HGTC handling pack, which adds electronically controlled dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, looser traction control, a sports exhaust, and quicker gear shits from Ferrari's F1 auto. The result? The Scaglietti is as fun in corners as it is fast on the straights.


Nissan GT-R - 196mph

It's not often a car like the Nissan GT-R comes along and turns the performance car world on its head. This was a near two-tonne coupé that could give a Porsche 911 Turbo a pasting off the line. Thanks to a four-wheel drive system that appeared to be governed by witchcraft rather than physics, the Nissan got from 0 to 62mph in 2.7 seconds and kept going to a maximum top speed of 196mph – try doing that in your Tesla Model S.

Back in 2007, only some people knew about the GT-R. It cost half as much as a Porsche, yet was quicker and had genuine space for four people with a decent-sized boot. In fairness, the Nissan lacked the tactility of the Porsche. The noise of the gearbox and differentials made it sound agricultural, and inside, it felt no more special than a Qashqai. But it remains a legend to this day.


Audi R8 V10 - 197mph

While a £50,000 budget is enough to afford a Lamborghini Gallardo (just), the only option we could find was a ratty example with an even rattier wrap. Your money would be much better spent on the mechanically identical Audi R8 V10, not least because the German is considered to be the better-driving of the two cars.

A budget of £50,000 means you can choose between coupé or spyder models, the latter a tempting proposition because it brings your ears closer to the glorious V10 action. But the coupé wins the day because, with a 197mph top speed, it's a full three mph quicker than the drop-top. Count them. The top speed completely undersells the R8 because it was about more than just going quickly in a straight line. It also handled beautifully with sharp steering, loads of grip, and a four-wheel drive system that would let the tail break loose. It was the perfect tonic for the company's quick-but-stale saloons and estates.


Chevrolet Corvette Z06 - 198mph

The Corvette Z06 may look like any other Corvette, but it's actually the result of the company's experience in endurance racing. It packs a 7.0-litre hand-built V8 that's good for a top speed of 198mph.

Corvette didn't just shoehorn in the new engine on a wing and a prayer. Underneath the Z06's fibreglass body panels, you'll find an aluminium space frame in place of the steel chassis found in the standard car. The regular wings are swapped for carbon fibre items, while much of the standard car's sound deadening goes in the bin. The result is a car that weighs 22kg less than standard despite having a bigger engine, larger brakes, and bigger wheels.


Aston Martin Rapide S - 203mph

The Aston Martin Rapide has already featured in our fastest car list, but increasing our budget from £30,000 to £50,000 requires us to call in the big guns in the form of the Rapide S. It uses a reworked version of the 5.9-litre V12 in the standard car, now good for 558PS (410kW) – 81PS (60kW) more than before – which takes the top speed up to a sky-high 203mph, with help from an eight-speed gearbox that replaces the old six-speed.

In most other respects, the S, which was actually a facelift rather than an all-new model, was the same as the orignal Rapide. It had a beautifully built cabin, terrible infotainment, and lovely leather. Oh, and it also suffered from crippling depreciation that makes it an ideal candidate for this list.


The fastest cars you can buy for £30,000

15th May


Bentley Continental GT Speed (Cat N) - 206mph

It wouldn't be a fastest-car list without an obligatory appearance from a Continental GT. Today's car is a later 2016 model GT, whose Cat-N write-off status only highlights our commitment to bringing you as much speed as possible for the money. 'N' alludes to the fact that the car hasn't suffered any structural damage – reassuring when your steed has 206mph potential.

In most other ways, this speed is the same as every other Continental GT that came before it. It has a twin-turbocharged V12 that dumps enormous power into the road via a four-wheel drive system that makes the whole experience fuss-free. Inside, it has one of the poshest interiors for the price and room for four adults. It's the third time we've written about the Continental GT in as many weeks, yet we still can't believe how much car you get for the money.


McLaren MP4 12C - 207mph

We couldn't find a McLaren MP4 12C up for less than £50,000 on the classifieds, but one did sell for under £47,000 at auction less than a month ago, proving that the concept of the £50,000 MP4 12C is sound. The MP4 12C is the result of McLaren wanting to take on and beat Ferrari at its own mid-engine supercar game, featuring innovative roll bar-less suspension, a carbon tub, and a twin-turbocharged V8 that meant the car - McLaren's entry-level model don't forget, was good for a 207mph top speed.

Amusingly, the MP4 12C wasn't really about top speed. Its lightweight and turbo punch meant it could accelerate faster than most Ferraris, while its clever suspension gave it a ride quality approaching that of a luxury saloon. Early cars suffered from various issues (probably to be expected of an all-new supercar), but previous owners should have ironed out most of these issues by now.

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