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Edmunds: The best performance cars for $65,000

The $65,000 milestone might seem like an arbitrary price cap for a list of excellent performance cars, but look carefully and you’ll discover that it’s a sweet spot for some of today’s most compelling performance offerings.
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This photo provided by Audi shows the 2024 RS 3. Based on the A3 compact sedan, the RS 3 has a special 401-horsepower five-cylinder engine. (Courtesy of Audi AG via AP)

The $65,000 milestone might seem like an arbitrary price cap for a list of excellent performance cars, but look carefully and you’ll discover that it’s a sweet spot for some of today’s most compelling performance offerings.

Look upmarket from here and you’ll quickly be shopping in six figures without a meaningful gain in performance. And below this cost benchmark are some solid entry-level cars, but they offer far less performance.

Here, then, are Edmunds’ five best performance cars for about $65,000 US. All pricing includes destination.

Audi RS 3

If you’re old enough to remember motorsports in the 1980s then you know why the RS 3’s five-cylinder engine is special. It was a five-cylinder that powered Audi’s greatest motorsport effort ever, the Sport Quattro, which won the brand four World Rally Championship titles. The RS 3 relives that glory with a turbocharged 401-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that routes power to all four wheels. It snorts and pops its way to a 0-60 mph time under 4 seconds while maintaining livable daily comfort, excellent tech, and room for 6-footers in the back seat. It’s a small sedan with a big attitude, especially at this price.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $63,395

BMW M2

With 473 horsepower from a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, a tidy coupe body style, and your choice of a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, the 2025 M2 checks all the small-car hot-rod boxes. In Edmunds’ testing, an automatic-equipped 2024 M2 — which had 20 fewer horsepower — hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and cleared the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds. The M2 is also a driver’s car with textbook rear-wheel-drive handling. an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and purposeful flared fenders stretched over performance rubber. Perhaps best of all, the M2 matches its bigger sibling, the M4, in most performance metrics using a smaller, lighter and less costly package.

Starting MSRP: $66,075

Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing

A lot of people only know Cadillac for its lineup of SUVs headlined by the Escalade. For them, the CT4-V Blackwing must seem like a restaurant’s hidden off-menu option. This small sedan packs a 472-horsepower turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 that drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or ten-speed automatic transmission. Standard adaptive dampers yield genuine compliance for daily use and controlled, confident handling. At the Edmunds test track, a manual-equipped CT4-V Blackwing sprinted to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and hit the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds. It might give up a few tenths to the M2, but it makes up for it by being one of the most engaging and inspiring driver’s cars sold today.

Starting MSRP: $62,890

Ford Mustang Dark Horse

If you want to experience the Mustang at its peak of internal combustion, the Dark Horse may be your last opportunity. Few things will make you feel more patriotic than the 500-horsepower glory song of the Dark Horse’s V8. And as the only V8-powered car on this list, the Dark Horse offers a uniquely American take on performance driving. Its 5.0-liter mill powers the rear wheel through a six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission. It hits 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, makes an incredible 1.12 g on the skidpad, and has braking performance rivaling some supercars. It’s pricey for a Mustang, but it performs well enough to justify the cost.

Starting MSRP: $60,530

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

The Ioniq 5 N does slightly exceed our $65,000 price target. But it’s such a standout as a performance car — not just as a performance EV — that we’d be doing the list a disservice to not include it. With 641 peak horsepower, all-wheel drive and SUV-like practicality, the 5 N is truly distinctive. Even better, there’s more to it than just outrageous acceleration like so many electric cars. Sure, it’ll rip from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and pass the quarter mile in just 11.2 seconds, but it also has enough grip and stopping performance for track use. Hyundai even made the effort to add a special mode that emulates the sound and feel of a gas-powered car, giving performance enthusiasts a familiar point of reference.

Starting MSRP: $67,475

EDMUNDS SAYS

If a price tag of about $65,000 is in your budget for a performance car, be sure to consider these options. There’s huge variety here both in terms of the purity of experience and everyday practicality. Almost any buyer can find a car on this list to suit his or her needs.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds.

Josh Jacquot is a contributor at Edmunds.

Josh Jacquot, The Associated Press