What's The Best Small Car With a Big Motor You Can Buy For $30,000?

It’s the classic muscle car recipe: take a small car and cram in the biggest motor available. Not a new concept, but it’s a good one. So if you have $30,000 to spend, new or used, what is the best small car-big motor combo?

There was a time before the age of turbo-takeover when German automakers were just shoving big, naturally aspirated V8s into anything they could. Think most of the AMG lineup for a while, or even the E92 M3. One such bonkers example was the 2008 SLK 55 AMG. The SLK roadster did just fine with a four-cylinder or even a nice V6, but that wasn’t good enough for the engineers in Affalterbach. By some miracle, they managed to squeeze a 5.4-liter naturally aspirated V8 making 355 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque into their smallest two-seater.


Now, it wasn’t a super lightweight car, and the front end styling was supposed to resemble the ridiculous Mercedes SLR, which didn’t quite translate as well. But the result was a silly little car with serious V8 power and sound.

These things retailed for north of $70,000 when new, but as always depreciation is your friend, and low mile examples can be found just shy of $30,000 with more risky ventures closer to the $20,000 mark:

Later examples with better styling and more power will command prices near $40,000, but if you have the need for a roadster with muscle car power and aren’t concerned about things like “balance and handling”, the SLK 55 AMG is worth checking out.


Can you find a better example of a small car with a big motor for around thirty large, or less?

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About the author

Tom McParland

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)