Looking for a newer used factory-tuned performance car? Five options stand out when it comes to delivering world-class thrills.
Winter is coming, and it’s going to suck, super El Niño or not. Thing is, nothing combats the winter blahs like researching used factory-tuned performance cars, especially when the goal is to make one of them your own as soon as the springtime weather hits. If you’ll keep warm this winter dreaming of a springtime filled with motoring thrills in a new-to-you rocket sled, read on. Let’s take a look at five popular models, specially set up by each automaker’s in-house performance division, and a few tips on how to shop smart for the one that interests you.
2013-14 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
This isn’t the sort of Mustang you buy your daughter before she heads off to college. A supercharged 5.8-litre V8 is good for 662 horsepower. Engineers removed the front grille to facilitate high-performance airflow and a 200-mph top speed. If you’re after a used ride with more horsepower than just about anything with four wheels and a warranty, this one’s for you.
Test Drive: Most owners report solid reliability and minimal issues, but feel the clutch and shifter for signs of slippage, grinding or biting back, which could indicate clutch problems or gearbox trouble, which aren’t entirely uncommon and likely stem from abusive driving.
Look Out For: Scrutinize the paint finish, and track down a model at a Ford dealership as part of a Certified Pre Owned program for maximum confidence. A full mechanical and electronics inspection by a Ford technician should be considered mandatory for maximum peace of mind.
If you’re after a used ride with more horsepower than just about anything with four wheels and a warranty, this one’s for you.
2007-13 BMW M3
This one packs a high-strung, hand-built screamer V8 that displaces four litres, outputs 414 horsepower, and spins to an 8,300 RPM redline. Coupe, sedan or convertible models were available, reliability looks solid, and the M3 blends daily-driveable manners and thrilling performance into a highly covetable package.
Test Drive: Using the iDrive display, click ‘Menu’ then ‘Vehicle Information’ then ‘Check Control’ to see if the candidate has any issues hidden away. This on-board interface can alert you of some problems or overdue maintenance work, and a highly-advised ‘scan’ of the M3’s drivetrain computer systems at a BMW dealer should be considered mandatory, too. Seek out a model with all service records and, especially, proof of regular oil changes, for maximum peace of mind.
Look Out For: Vertical scratches on the windows of a two-door model typically result from the need for revised window seals. Finally, prod the throttle hard, several times, in first gear, where appropriate. You’re listening for a clunk or pop through the rear floor, which could indicate a worn differential mount. A model purchased through a certified pre-owned program with full service records is your safest bet.
2008-14 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Used copies will have no less than 425 horsepower from a 6.1-litre V8, and more recent copies got a 6.4-litre unit that made it 470. Look for available dual-mode dampers, Brembo brakes and a variety of track-tuned chassis upgrades to complete the package. There’s room on board for four, and browsing the Challenger SRT8’s forward gears with your boot to the floor is an experience not to be missed.
Test Drive: Most owners report minimal issues, but note that big, heavy, high-powered cars like this can chew through tires, brakes and clutches like a pitbull through a soup bone, so approach a used Challenger SRT8 assuming the seller is trying to pass o the replacement bill until you prove otherwise.
Look Out For: Confirm that all window seals are present and in good shape, unless you like water leaks. Inspect the plastic rocker panel covers for signs of cracking, and scrutinize the driver’s seat for signs of ripping or excessive wear. Any biting back or grinding during gear shifts could indicate gearbox trouble. Listen for a troublesome whining or groaning sound from the differential while turning tightly at a low speed, and check all on-board electronics twice for proper operation.
2008-15 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
With no less than 451 horsepower from its massive 6.2-litre V8, expect 0-100 km/h in about four seconds, en route to a quarter-mile pass in the 12-second range. This rocket-propelled C-Class is a total beast when pushed, though civilized and sensible enough for day-to-day errands, too.
Test Drive: Some owners report issues surrounding head studs, which hold the engine together internally. If these studs fail, catastrophic engine failure can result. Low coolant levels could be signs of this pricey problem. Ditto poor performance, or difficulty in getting the engine to start, or stay running. If any of these signs are present on your test drive, run don’t walk away.
Look Out For: Sporadic performance and poor throttle response could also be the result of a bad throttle position sensor, which may trigger a check engine light. Be sure to have a dealer technician double-check if any issues are noted. Any unwelcome noises or sensations while steering may be the result of a power steering pump that’s about to fail, likely as a result of systematic aggressive driving. Shoppers are advised to seek out a newer, lower-mileage unit from a certified pre-owned program, and to opt for any extra warranty coverage available.
2012-15 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1
A supercharger the size of a toaster oven drives output from this top-dog Camaro’s 6.2-litre V8 engine to 580 horsepower, backed fully by chassis, structural and aerodynamic upgrades. The most powerful factory Camaro variant yet packs acceleration and handling that’ll peel your face o and leave it in the back seat.
Test Drive: Ensure the seller hasn’t pre-warmed the car ahead of your arrival. Start the engine from dead cold, pop the hood, and listen for any whining or rattling sound from the supercharger, on top of the engine. Unwelcome sounds could be the result of a supercharger defect, which can result in engine damage. Chevrolet dealers have replaced superchargers on affected models under warranty and, with the VIN number of your used ZL-1 candidate, can check to see if it qualifies.
Look Out For: Check the air conditioner for proper operation, and scrutinize the alignment of body panels and the condition of the paint. Most shoppers should avoid a model that’s been modified to run higher-than-factory levels of boost, which could void the warranty and adversely affect durability.
The most powerful factory Camaro variant yet packs acceleration and handling that’ll peel your face off and leave it in the back seat.
Contributors: Justin Pritchard, Chris Koski