Best used performance cars for under £30,000

Nick Francis

14 Sep 2021

Want something fast but don’t have a massive budget? Shopping for a used performance car means you can pick up something blisteringly quick for less than the price of a new mid-spec Hyundai Tucson.

1. Audi R8 4.2 FSI

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An early Audi R8 with the 4.2-litre V8 engine, rather than the V10 option, has just about dipped to the £30,000 mark. For that money you’ll have to buy the manual but that’s no bad thing because it’s such a slick box, and the interior doesn’t seem too dated for a car which arrived in 2007. And we would argue that the V8’s 420hp is much more usable on the UK roads than the modern V10 Plus’s 612hp.

2. Aston Martin DB9

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You can pick up a DB9 with a higher mileage from £25,000 these days. The 2004 grand tourer has an aluminium chassis and uses a 5.9-litre V12 engine to knock out 450hp and 570Nm of torque, producing a sub-five second 0-62mph time. That’s more than enough power for the roads, and for the track for that matter. Created by design legend Ian Callum, it’s a stunning car. 

3. BMW M5 (F10)

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At the time the F10 generation M5 caused controversy because it was the first to use a turbocharged engine. Getting upset about forced induction seems crazy today, just about every new performance car ekes out power and nibbles emissions with turbochargers. With 560hp from its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 on tap, the F10 does 0-62mph in just 4.4-seconds. It’s also a genuinely practical saloon, with room for three in the back and a decent boot. 

4. Porsche 911 S (997)

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Talking of controversy surrounding turbo-power, when the latest generation of the Porsche 911 introduced forced induction across the range Porsche purists were up in arms. For £30,000 you could bag a naturally aspirated 911 S from the 997 generation, which means you should still have plenty of cred with the owner’s clubs. The 3.8-litre engine is a peach and the 911’s timeless design means it will never look dated. 

5. Jaguar F-Type V6 

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With £30K you’ll be able to drive an early V6 Jaguar F-Type – one of the best-looking sports cars in the world – with an active exhaust system fitted, paddle shift transmission, reversing camera and 19-inch alloys. The noise from that exhaust alone is enough to justify the price tag, we reckon. The supercharged 3.0-litre 335hp engine helps the F-Type V6 arrive at the 62mph mark in 5.1-seconds and all the power is sent to the back wheels.

6. Audi RS5 FSI Quattro 

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Being two-door the RS5 doesn’t offer the same levels of practicality as the BMW M5, but it certainly rivals it for performance. You’ll be able to pick up a 2014 or 2015 model with 40,000-50,000 miles on the clock for £30,000. The 4.2-litre V8 engine revs to a glorious 8,500rpm and with the Quattro AWD system fitted as standard it’s very sure-footed, which makes it a good bet for those who live in wet or icy areas. So most of the UK, then.   

7. Maserati Spyder

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The Spyder was the first Maserati to be built under new owners Ferrari, which explains why many of the classifieds you’ll see describe it as a ‘Ferrari on a budget’. Its 4.2-litre V8 sounds great, knocking out 395hp and producing a 0-62mph time of five seconds and a top speed of 176mph. All of that lovely power is sent to the rear wheels too. It’s only a two-seater, and the gearbox isn’t the best, but you’ll get a decent example for £25K. 

8. Mercedes-Benz SL Class SL500

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Luxurious, beautiful and powerful enough to tow a tank, the SL500 is the ultimate top-down grand tourer and can be bagged for under £30,000 these days, if you’re happy with a 2014-2015 model. The cabin is plush even by 2021 standards and the twin-turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 absolutely thumps, knocking out 429hp and a 0-62mph time of under five seconds. You won’t fit much in the boot, but who cares when you’re driving a V8? 

9. Bentley Continental GT

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Yes, that’s right, a Bentley for £30,000. You can buy a 2006 Continental GT with around 30-40,000 miles on the clock for that money, a model which is powered by a phenomenal 560hp 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine. And because Bentleys are built to last you’re unlikely to encounter too many issues, providing it’s been well looked after over its lifetime. The interior is as luxe as it gets, and even the touchscreen infotainment system has aged pretty well.

10. Caterham Seven 270

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A bit leftfield, but if you want a new performance car for your money then you might want to consider the Caterham Seven 270. As lightweight as a ballerina and with 137hp on tap, it will sprint from 0-62mph in five seconds and top out at 122mph. Two seats and a canvas roof mean Caterham’s are far from practical, but if you’re only after weekend kicks and something you can take to a track day then look no further. 

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Nick Francis

14 Sep 2021