A few decades ago, owning a vehicle that boasted 400 horsepower from the factory was the stuff of legend, and even cherished muscle machines like the mid-1980s Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro only offered about half as many ponies. Today, almost every new-car dealership boasts a model offering horsepower of 400 or more.
Technology has allowed automakers to provide engines with more power than those of the not-so-distant past, and this is often teamed with better fuel economy and long-term reliability. Even the meekest of vehicles benefit from these improvements, and some compact economy models are powered with engines matching the numbers of yesteryear’s muscle cars.
Used car shoppers looking for gobs of horsepower and tire-searing torque have never had it so good. Though the latest and greatest 2016 models have the pinnacle of power under the hood, many vehicles of the last decade or so have 400 ponies on tap, and some can be found for bargain prices.
Below are five excellent examples of used high-horsepower heroes available to park in your driveway.
2011-2014 Ford Mustang GT
The fifth-generation Ford Mustang was already poised for muscle-car greatness when Ford introduced a new 32-valve, 5.0-liter V8 engine producing 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque for the 2011 model year. Ford wasn’t satisfied with simply shoe-horning a new engine under the hood, and changes to the 2011 Mustang GT also included a new six-speed manual transmission and a revised sport-tuned suspension.
This enthusiast-pleasing powertrain overhaul transformed an already great vehicle into a monster with more than 400 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph zips by in 4.6 seconds, and this model walks the line between muscle and refinement like no prior stock Mustang GT.
2010-2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS
When Chevrolet decided to bring back the Camaro after a 7-year hiatus, the manufacturer held nothing back, unleashing a futuristic muscle car with a robust 6.2-liter V8 engine under the hood. The 2010 Camaro, when coupled with a six-speed manual transmission, produces an incredible 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. When you engage the SS with the manual version’s electronic launch control, the 2010 SS catapults from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.6 seconds. Replacing the manual transmission with a six-speed automatic reduces horsepower to 400 and torque to 410 pound-feet.
Much like the aforementioned Mustang, the fifth-generation Camaro is more than a fire-breathing muscle car. With a sport-tuned suspension and sticky Z-rated tires, the Camaro SS hugs the road and excels at powering through twists and turns with ease. The Camaro SS also exhibits precise maneuverability with excellent driver feedback and noteworthy on-center feel.
2006-2010 Dodge Charger SRT8 and 2008-2010 Challenger SRT8
When the engineers at Dodge created high-horsepower versions of the Charger and Challenger, they didn’t fool around. The original first-generation SRT8 pony cars had a 6.1-liter V8 stuffed under the hood that generates a whopping 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Both models are governed by a five-speed automatic transmission.
Each SRT8 vehicle was much more than a massive engine and hood scoop. The package includes 20-inch wheels, a sport suspension and sport seats. Gigantic Brembo brakes aided in bringing the heavyweight Charger and Challenger to a halt, and a beefy suspension helped keep the duo composed on winding roads.
Falling in line with the Mustang GT and Camaro SS, the SRT8 Charger reaches 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. The SRT8 Challenger runs a tick faster, hitting 60 mph in 4.7 seconds.
2008-2013 BMW M3
Since its inception, the BMW M3 has served as the benchmark for performance sedans and sports coupes. Exceptional handling prowess, power and attractive styling make the fourth-generation M3 a top pick.
Powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine that produces 414 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the M3 is easily one of the fastest vehicles on our list, rushing to 60 mph in as little as 3.9 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic is available as an option.
The M3 may be more expensive than any of the pony cars on our list, but with standard features like a carbon-fiber-reinforced composite roof, aluminum chassis and suspension, and near-perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, the M3 is in many ways in a 400-horsepower class all to its own. Available as a sedan, coupe or convertible, the mighty V8-powered M3 can be configured to be meet the needs of an angst-filled boy-racer or a family looking for a track-ready grocery-getter.
2009-2011 Nissan GT-R
With the most expensive base price when it was new, the first run of the Nissan GT-R seems costly until you consider that it was built to compete with the likes of far more expensive Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche exotics. When stacked up against those pricey powerhouses, the GT-R actually looks like the bargain-basement supercar option. With 480-horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque, the GT-R single-handedly upgraded Nissan’s image in the performance-car world.
Featuring all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch rear-mounted transaxle, the Nissan GT-R boasts one of the fastest 0-to-60 mph times of any car ever. When outlets started testing the GT-R back in 2008, the universal gasp for air was almost as overwhelming as the sensation of launching the twin-turbo from 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds or less. For reference, the GT-R took the same amount of time to reach 60 mph as the 2009 Ferrari 599GTB with 611 horsepower, but for a quarter of the price.
Still, keep in mind that the GT-R, unlike the pony cars on the list, can be quite expensive to repair, and many of the original cars have lived a pretty hard life. But if owning a Japanese supercar is on your bucket list, very few will live up to the brilliant performance of the 480-horsepower “Godzilla” Nissan GT-R.