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Bang for your buck III: Performance cars

Over the past fortnight, CarAdvice has crunched the numbers on the best value for money cars available in Australia from both a power and a power-to-weight perspective.
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Today, again as requested by readers, we bring you the price-to-power-to-weight ratios of performance cars on sale in Australia. In simple terms, it answers the question: “What is the best-value power-to-weight proposition among the cars in my price range?”

You’ll find there are significantly less Protons and Kias in the following tables; rather a selection of performance models divided into three categories: ‘Up to $60,000’, ‘$60,000 to ‘$120,000’ and ‘$120,000 and above’.

Obviously, buying a performance car involves juggling a complex set of variables, some of which resist numerical analysis (such as: Ford V Holden). There is much more to a good sports car than simply these three variables, but it makes interesting reading when you break the market of desirable cars down in this way. It's utilitarian, too. As a simple measure of the level of performance your dollar can buy in the sports car market, the tables below are a reasonably comprehensive representation.

Up to $60,000

MakeModelBestPrice ($)Power-to-weight (kW/tonne)Price-to-power/weight ratio ($ per kW/tonne)
VolkswagenPoloGTI 3dr27,790111.0250
SuzukiSwiftSport23,99084.4284
MazdaMazda3MPS hatch38,435130.5295
FordFalconXR8 (M6)48,390163.8295
SubaruImprezaWRX hatch (M5)39,990132.7301
RenaultClioRS 200 Cup36,490120.4303
FordFalconXR6 Turbo (M6)48,990159.4307
HoldenCommodoreSS (M6)47,790152.5313
FordFocusXR5 Turbo36,490115.5316
RenaultMeganeRS 250 Cup41,990132.7317
MazdaMazda3SP25 sedan (M6)29,25591.2321
VolvoC30T5 S (M6)36,950115.0321
FPVSedanGS (M6)56,990171.8332
MitsubishiLancerRalliart TC-SST43,890130.6336
VolkswagenGolfGTI 3dr (M6)38,990114.0342
MINICooperJCW hatch48,800137.2356
HondaCivicType R (M6)39,990110.0363
SkodaOctaviaRS (M6)37,49099.7376
VolkswagenGolfR 3dr (M6)48,490127.4381
FordFocusRS59,990152.7393
SubaruLibertyGT Premium (M6)52,990131.1404
SubaruImprezaWRX STi hatch (M6)59,990145.4413
PeugeotRCZ1.6 turbo petrol (M6)54,990107.1513

In the first category, the recently launched Volkswagen Polo GTI comes out on top. Its combination of 132kW of power, a total mass of less than 1200kg and a starting price of $27,790 for the three-door model puts it ahead of the game, and makes it the best-value power-to-weight sports car in Australia.

Among the larger hot hatches, the Mazda3 MPS just beats the Subaru Impreza WRX, while the less powerful Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R finish around the middle of the pack.

The Falcon and Commodore have a good battle with three models inside the top eight. The SS may be the cheapest, but it is as heavy as the more powerful XR8, and only as powerful as the lighter XR6 Turbo, meaning it finishes third of the traditional Aussie threesome.

$60,000 to $120,000

MakeModelBestPrice ($)Power-to-weight (kW/tonne)Price-to-power/weight ratio ($ per kW/tonne)
HSVE SeriesClubsport R8 (M6)65,990174.9377
FPVGT(M6)71,290180.6395
FPVF6(M6)67,890171.7395
Nissan370Z(M6)67,990166.6408
MitsubishiLancerEvolution (M5)61,190138.7441
Chrysler300CSRT874,990155.4483
BMW1 Series135i Sport (M6)74,700151.5493
VolkswagenPassat CCV6 FSI65,990132.9497
LotusEliseSC94,990186.2510
AudiS366,500129.2515
VolvoS60T664,950118.6547
LotusEliseS69,990114.2613
Mercedes-BenzC-ClassC250 CGI66,95099.7672
Alfa Romeo1593.2 V6 Ti79,990113.0708
BMW3 Series335i M Sport110,200149.0740
BMWZ4sDrive35i (M6)116,900149.5782
AudiS4115,000145.4791
Mercedes-BenzSLKSLK350 (M6)119,690150.8793
PorscheCayman(M6)115,100143.9800
PorscheCayenneV6103,500104.5990

The roles are reversed in the second category however, with the HSV Clubsport R8 the better-value option than both the FPV GT and F6. Price is the most telling factor, with the R8 offering 317kW for just $65,990.

Despite its higher price, the BMW 135i Sport edges out the Audi S3 thanks to the extra 37kW under the bonnet. The story is the same in the next category up, with the lightweight 335i M Sport nudging aside the more powerful S4.

$120,000 and above

MakeModelBestPrice ($)Power-to-weight (kW/tonne)Price-to-power/weight ratio ($ per kW/tonne)
BMWM3(M6)145,000192.5753
NissanGT-R158,800205.2774
Mercedes-BenzC63 AMG150,980194.2777
BMWX5M172,900177.0977
JaguarXFXFR204,990198.31034
Mercedes-BenzE63 AMG238,060209.81135
JaguarXKXKR Coupe255,000213.91192
BMWM6M6292,555218.11341
Aston MartinV8 VantageCoupe (M6)260,852192.01358
AudiR85.2 FSI quattro (M6)341,900238.31435
Porsche911GT2 RS560,000332.81682
Mercedes-BenzSLS464,000259.31790
LamborghiniGallardoLP560-4 E-gear502,204274.71828
Ferrari458 Italia526,950286.21841
MaseratiGranTurismoS319,500171.81860
Aston MartinDBSCoupe497,441224.22219
BentleyContinental GTSupersports506,311212.42384
LamborghiniMurcielagoLP640 SV E-gear889,000315.02822

An epically tight battle at the top of the third table sees the 309kW BMW M3 just hold off the 357kW Nissan GT-R and the 336kW Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. As well as being the cheapest, the BMW is more than 120kg lighter than both the GT-R and the AMG.

The BMW M6 and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe run a tight race in the middle of the pack, while at the absolute supercar end of the spectrum, next to nothing separates the SLS, Gallardo, 458 Italia and GranTurismo S.

All of this needs to be put into perspective though. Numbers on a screen are one thing, but the intangible factors of these vehicles are just as important. Questions like: How does it feel on the road? How well does it brake into and accelerate out of corners? How jealous does it make your neighbours, and how cool do you think it is? What does that particular car say about you? How good does it look, sound, maybe even smell? And most importantly, how does it make you feel?

There’s no equation for any of that. Fortunately, for the vehicles listed above, it’s simply a matter of trial and error - or not, depending on price-point. Not everyone has 10 or more average annual salaries to drop on a car, but it's therapeutic to argue the toss even over cars you could only afford if those pesky Lotto numbers come up next week.