When looking for a car, the main focus is usually the number of cylinders an engine has, whether it is turbocharged or not, the transmission, and most of all, the horsepower. The one overlooked area is the torque of an engine. Partly it is because many can hardly pinpoint precisely what torque is. Also, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about what torque does, especially in comparison to horsepower. All of these elements play a dominant role in performance, with torque enabling cars to achieve faster acceleration rates from standstill and horsepower, ensuring the vehicle has higher speeds over the length of the course.
Updated February 2022: Torque doesn’t come cheap. However, each year, cars get more powerful and more affordable, with many putting up torque numbers that were reserved for the heartiest of muscle cars. Electric vehicles have put their hats in the ring for most torque. We’ve had to update this list to include a few more cars that offer ample torque with little cost!
In the past, high horsepower and torque have been the preserve of expensive vehicles, usually with big fuel-thirsty engines. Not anymore, thanks to the high turning and turbocharging of smaller engines, among other recent technological advancements. You can now enjoy higher engine power for much less and hit crazy acceleration rates and high speeds in cars you use for daily purposes without a huge pocket dent. Torque amounts of 250 lb-ft and above are where the fun begins. Thankfully, for payments less than $50,000, you have a pick of more than 20 cars of different sizes and makes. Most of these cars provide high performance both on the track and on the highway, ensuring you get to enjoy the total thrill of a powerful engine. There are a couple of big engines on the list, but still providing better returns on fuel economy while most are your favorite hatchbacks. Here are the least expensive cars with the most torque.
27 Tesla Model 3
Electric vehicles are everywhere. The company that proved to the world that electric could be everything gas is, and more was Tesla. Though at the time, the Model S was far beyond affordable, it did feature some pretty impressive specs. Then came the Model 3 and the electric car world trembled!
Starting at less than $45,000, the Model 3 is cheaper than most luxury cars powered by gasoline, but its status as an EV means that purchase of a Model 3 grants a very nice $7,500 tax break! Effectively, this brings the price well below $40,000, making it quite affordable. Further, the Model 3 makes 221 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque!
26 BMW 335i
The BMW 3-Series is a beautiful driving machine. For 2011, the 335i sports a supercharged V6 engine good for 300 horsepower. In addition, the 335i had a peak torque rating of 332 lb-ft of torque, making it a sneaky fast sedan! For all that it brings to the table, one might expect it to be pricey.
Luckily, since 2011 was only a few years ago, these models have come down in value, so they’re now quite affordable. Further, the 335i is fitted with some luxury that can’t be ignored, so picking one of these bad boys up will have everyone thinking you’re loaded!
25 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Land Rover is well known for producing vehicles that are go-anywhere. To achieve this rating, The Land Rover Range Rover Sport uses its tremendous torque to make it past obstacles. Featuring a powerful V8 that puts out more than 300 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque, the Range Rover Sport is also able to haul over 7,000 lbs!
Further, you save yourself a ton of cash by purchasing a used Range Rover Sport. For example, a 2009 model can run as little as $10,000, making this SUV powerful and cheap. There’s no excuse now to take the trip off-road and discover a new adventure!
24 Audi TT
The Audi TT Coupe may be due for a redesign with its 2019 model, but that does not mean the current one has become boring. A sleek and sporty look complimented by the LED taillights and dual exhaust outlets means this car will always stand out in a crowd. Besides that, the Audi TT manages to squeeze itself into the performance discussion thanks to its VW redesigned turbo 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine.
The output is 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque which peak at 1600 rpm, while all the horsepower is felt at 6200 RPM. All these enable the car to go from 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds which is fast, especially for a vehicle not optimized for performance.
23 VW Golf GTI
The GTI is a multiple award winner and makes the top ten best cars for most car magazines. It may not be the most powerful or the fastest among hot hatchbacks, but few cars are synonymous with their segment as the VW Golf GTI. The way it balances the fun and practicality of a daily driver means it continues to be a favorite for many ahead of its faster and more powerful rivals. Both the joy and practicality are, to a more prominent part, possible thanks to the 2.0-liter inline-four engines that pump out 220 hp and 258 ft-lb of torque. That is quite some torque for under $30,000
22 Nissan Maxima
A large sedan car affordably priced should not offer the performance levels of the Nissan Maxima. The exterior styling is bold and significant, while the interior is also comfortable. For a car not meant to be luxurious or performance-oriented, it manages to offer great impressions of these two aspects. Add in the fact that it has excellent safety features, and you see why this car is a sleeper.
The jewel in the crown, though, is under the hood. A 3.5-liter V6 engine has an output of 300 horsepower with 261 lb-ft of torque. With a finely tuned CVT, it can hit 0-60 mph in just 5.7 seconds.
21 Chevy Impala LT
The Chevy Impala is one of the best sedans around, thanks to its roomy interior and accompanying comfortable ride. It may not always grab the headlines, but the sales indicate that the market knows where to get the most bang for their back. It also does well when it comes to the riding experience, though speed is not one of the most vital points. There are three trims, and the Premier is what you should go for if you are looking for more power, thanks to its V6 engine, which delivers a handy output of 305 horsepower and 264 lb-ft. Even this version still manages to stay below $40,000.
20 Chevy Bolt
The Chevy Bolt may not even bear Tesla’s ambition when it comes to styling, speed, and performance, but it does more than just match offerings from Tesla in terms of everyday practicality. The styling may be odd, and the interior is beset with cheap materials, but the Chevy Bolt offers a long driving range at 238 miles, can be charged fast, and the interior is quite roomy.
The sizeable electrical motor also packs quite a punch with its output of 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This power adds to the car’s usability, increasing the luggage hauling ability and acceleration, all at a very affordable cost.
19 Nissan 370Z
The Nissan 370z does look like it is dated, especially when compared to other rivals, but it hardly feels like it. Even with minor improvements over the years, it still delivers quite a performance package, while its styling ensures it will still get the necessary looks.
There is the higher trim level, Nismo, but the base version is still the better value when looking at the gains against the price increase. A powerful 24-valve V6 engine delivers 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque which easily beats most of its four-cylinder rivals. This is enough to power the car from 0-60 mph in just 5.0 seconds.
18 Volkswagen Golf R
Power, agility, and an all-wheel-drive grip blend with the powerful braking to make this version of Golf the perfect car for those who want the popular hatch to add more bite. The VW Golf R is not here to play and ensures VW does not lose ground to its fierce rivals, who have taken the performance aspect of hot hatches to another level.
A more significant reason for this athleticism is a turbocharged and inter-cooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block, and aluminum head engine. With an output of 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the Golf R is well armed for the fight.
17 Audi S3
The lovely svelte shape, a similar engine to Volkswagen Golf R, and a great performance package make it easy to forgive the few faults of the Audi S3. It still costs more than the Volkswagen R, which is still roomier and has more performance than the S3, but it does everything else suitable for a sedan.
Even in the tight seating, the seats are well supportive and comfortable. An excellent infotainment screen and a well-set interior make it easy to enjoy the output from the powertrain. The 292 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque are enough to make the Audi S3 fast, accelerating from 0-60mph in just 4.7 seconds.
16 Subaru WRX STI
Subaru WRX STi is a legendary name in the automotive industry, and that is thanks to its performance ethic. The race car looks promise an entertaining ride, and that is what you get if you can forego the stiffness that comes with firm suspensions. Better handling ability comes with the new fully electronic center differential for the 2018 version.
The grip and speed still maintain the thrilling heritage of the car that concurred racing tracks worldwide. This is all thanks to the gusty engine, the long-serving turbocharged flat-four engine, which has an output of 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque.
15 Hyundai Genesis Coupe V6
The 2016 Hyundai Genesis came up with several improvements turning an underperforming car but one full of potential, into a well-fitted challenger of the status quo. The intention is stated by the whole new and appealing front outlook. Even the base engine got a power uplift to 274 horsepower with 275 lb-ft of torque.
This is powerful enough to make this list but the real power lies in the 3.8-liter optional V6 engine which offers a powerful output of 348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. 0-60 mph is arrived at in 5.2 seconds while the ride remains dynamically on point. It is a pity it was discontinued after 2016 which makes its price even lower if you are looking for a bargain torque package.
14 Cadillac ATS
The unassuming styling hides a lot about the fun and sporty ride the Cadillac ATS offers. With several powertrain options and a classy interior, you get the feeling the ATS is a bit unappreciated. It sure could use a bit of an update all round except the powerful engine options. At the base is a 2.0L, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an output of 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
This is mated to a six-speed manual transmission though you have the option of a 3.6-Liter V6 engine with more horsepower at 335 hp but reduced torque at 285 lb-ft.
13 Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R may appear to be overly styled but it is this bold approach that seems to work wonders in this hot hatchback. It manages to marry its high power and blitzing performance to a new pleasantly refined suspension to achieve a ride that is both fast and fun at the same time.
The infotainment is a bit disappointing for a car with such lofty ambitions but it is a small blight at all the other levels of efficiency and perfection in the car especially the comfy seats the tuning the whole chassis has undergone. Powering up all this magnificence is a 2.0-Liter inline four turbocharged engine gushing out a massive 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
12 BMW 235i
The BMW 235i makes performance a standard. It may just be a class below the BMW 2-series premium model, but it offers plenty to enjoy nevertheless. Excellent handling especially at corners is seamless thanks to the adaptive suspension and the Dynamic Traction Control. The engine is quite fuel-thirsty, though, and the options can quickly drive to more than the $50,000 mark.
However, if you can get over that, there is plenty to enjoy about this car. For an entry-level model, it looks every bit like a BMW. The powerful 6-cylinder engine helps with that thanks to its output of 325 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque.
11 Ford Focus RS
It is coming to the end of its production run this year and what a sad thing that is. The Ford Focus RS has been one the standard bearers in the hot hatchback class and delivers in every way a driver wants. It is one of the few performance hatchbacks that can work all season with its torque vectoring all-wheel drive capable of handling snow and gravel.
It is famous for its great handling and grip, though the racing seats can be quite restrictive. Powering it is a 2.3-liter turbocharged in-line four engine and that gives out 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. This is enough to give it an acceleration from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds
10 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400
The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is a car that showcases the depth of the brand’s technical know-how and performance nous. Its fuel efficiency allows it to be used for any trip and the excellent handling and engaging ride ensures you are in for a thrilling experience. Throw in the fleet of safety and driver-assist technologies, and you realize the overall quality of this car.
As the rather mouthful name suggests, the engine, a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 has an output of 400 horsepower with 350 lb-ft of torque. This enables the car to get from o-60mph on 4.5 seconds quite a feat for a large car.
9 Mercedes AMG CLA45
Sharing the same engine under the hood as the hot hatch A45 but with a similar body design to the CLS, the CLA45 offers plenty to enjoy in a small package. It may have its interior cheapened with plastics and the ride quality may be stiff especially when compared to its rival the RS3 but the CLA costs far less and it does not shy on the performance side.
The handling is excellent and the fuel economy is also great while the exhaust note is just what you would want from a performance car. With 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, there is very little else you would want to be changed on this car.
8 Audi S4
The 2017 Audi S4 spotted a new engine and sublime styling improvements but above all, it maintained its elegant and calm personality. In a way, this belies the car’s performance and that is not much of a bad thing since the emphasis on this car is about enjoying it without needed to be wild or getting to the edge.
The interior is plush and classy as the exterior and even a spacious trunk compared to most cars of its size. it has increased power and fuel efficiency thanks to the move from the supercharged V6 engine to the 3.0-liter turbocharged direct injected V6. It now has an output of 354 horsepower and a massive 369 lb-ft of torque.
Ram EcoDiesel Is Here With 480 Lb-Ft Torque And Class-Leading 12,560-Lb Towing Capacity
About The Author