Despite what my high school algebra teacher might have told you about my math skills, I've always been a little bit of a stats geek. I grew up organizing my baseball cards by batting average and ERA, before falling into the wonderful, nerdy arms of the Strat-O-Matic corporation (I'm offering a virtual high-five to those of you that know what that means without having to click the link).

These days, of course, my predilection to sorting by numbers often runs to the world of the automobile, where statistics are plentiful and often meaningful for real-world application. As usable objects, cars are suffused with subjective qualities that inflect heavily on their objective data points, but that doesn't mean number-crunching can't lead to some interesting results.

An excellent case in point is the relationship between a vehicle's curb weight and its power and torque outputs. The oft-referenced power-to-weight ratio has always made more sense to me when expressed as weight-to-power, where I can see exactly how many pounds each horsepower (or pound-foot of torque) is being asked to lug, which is why you'll find the numbers below in the pounds-to-horsepower format. In any event, the ratio represents a single number that affects a vehicle on a number of dynamic fronts. And it makes for great bar trivia, especially when new, very powerful cars like the Dodge Challenger SRT "Hellcat," or very light ones like the Alfa Romeo 4C get thrown into the mix.

Of course, the very lightest and most powerful cars are generally the most expensive, too. But what does the "performance car" space look like if we set some price caps? It bears noting here that this list doesn't include trucks, SUVs or crossovers, and we attempted to pick from the most performance-oriented products on sale (or nearly on sale). Let's start low, and build up.


Under $25,000 – pounds per horsepower
  1. 2014 Ford Mustang V6 ($22,510) – 11.479
  2. 2014 Chevrolet Camaro V6 ($23,555) – 11.514
  3. 2014 Ford Focus ST ($23,625) – 12.790
  4. 2014 Ford Fiesta ST ($21,400) – 13.807
  5. 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec ($21,300) – 13.930
  6. 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI 4-Door ($24,995) – 14.152
  7. 2014 Mini Cooper S Hardtop ($24,100) – 14.603
  8. 2014 Honda Civic Si ($22,790) – 14.644
  9. 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata ($23,790) – 14.850
  10. 2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI ($24,535) – 14.910
When Ford and Chevrolet kicked off the latest generation of V6s for their respective pony cars, the last vestiges of the sophomoric "secretary's car" label should have died at the same time. Both over 300 horsepower in 2014-model-year trim, the most basic Mustang and Camaro are very clearly more poised for high performance than at any time in history. With a 218-pound advantage on the Chevy, the Mustang V6 still nets a lower lbs/hp number despite the GM car offering 18 more ponies.

A small measure of the Mazda MX-5 Miata's magic formula can be seen by its inclusion in the top ten at this price point. The Mazda is the lightest rear-wheel-drive car you'll find here.

Moving back to the top, where you'll find every one of our price categories is heavily represented by the Blue Oval, I'm happy to report a pair of ST models. The Fiesta ST is good enough that it might actually win a straw poll amongst Autoblog staffers to upset the Miata as our favorite car to drive on this list overall, though the numbers do bear out that its bigger brother outguns it on the scales.

Notable exclusions here include the Subaru WRX (12.190) and Scion FR-S (13.790)/Subaru BRZ (13.810), all of which just miss the $25k price cap. Also, those looking for the Mazdaspeed3 will be sad to note that 2013 was its final (for now) model year.



Under $50,000 – pounds per horsepower
  1. 2014 Ford Mustang GT ($31,210) – 8.614
  2. 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT ($40,485) – 9.002
  3. 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS ($34,350) – 9.174
  4. 2014 Dodge Charger SRT ($44,385) – 9.272
  5. 2014 Chevrolet SS ($43,475) – 9.578
  6. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG ($48,375) – 9.842
  7. 2014 Nissan 370Z ($29,990) – 9.873
  8. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec ($47,400) – 9.883
  9. 2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec ($29,350) – 10.328
  10. 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design ($42,700) – 10.855
$50,000 is a really interesting cutoff point, as it turns out. For starters, while no one should be surprised to see the historically great V8 pony cars at the top of the charts here, note also that the Mustang GT and the Camaro SS start about $19k and $16k under the max-money cap. If there is a single best bang-for-buck car on sale in the US today, you'd be hard pressed to pick better than the 'Stang or Camaro.

As of right now we know the weight (3,704 pounds) and price ($32,100) for the 2015 Mustang GT, too, but we don't know the power. Ford has only indicated that it would be some amount better than the current 5.0's 420 hp. If you assume a very modest, say 5-hp gain in power for the '15 car, it would net out at 8.715-pounds per horse, still enough to lead this class. A jump up to 430 hp would be required to match the ratio of the outgoing car, however. Fingers crossed.

I was a bit surprised to see the Volvo S60 sneak in here – proof of that car's being a pretty solid performance bargain for the luxury compact class.

The featherweight Alfa Romeo 4C would have just snuck into this group (10th place with a figure of 10.401 pounds per horsepower), if only it were a bit cheaper. The starting sticker of $53,900 may help pay for the carbon fiber tub, but it also kicks the Italian off the list.



Under $100,000 – pounds per horsepower
  1. 2014 Ford Shelby GT500 ($55,110) – 5.808
  2. 2014 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe ($99,000) – 6.615
  3. 2014 Chevy Camaro ZL1 ($55,355) – 7.103
  4. 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ($53,000) – 7.248
  5. 2014 Jaguar F-Type S ($92,000)– 7.416
  6. 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 ($72,300) ­­– 7.564
  7. 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe ($64,900) – 7.585
  8. 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Sedan ($64,900)– 7.590
  9. 2014 Porsche 911 Carrera S ($98,900) – 7.688
  10. 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S ($99,770)– 7.697
For prices approaching six-figures, the weight-to-power ratios you see here obviously get a lot more impressive. It's also impressive that, by the book at least, Ford takes another top spot for a three-out-of-three sweep of our price points.

There's no doubt that the 662-horsepower Shelby GT500 (2013 model pictured above) is an impressive beast, however, some might quibble with its inclusion here. For starters, the car is sold out and to compound that, there's a good chance that many of the examples were marked up beyond its impressive $55,110 MSRP (though I'd guess most stayed under the $100,000 cap). Still, my hat is off to you, King Mustang.

The GM power players – ZL1, Corvette and CTS-Vs – a pair of Jaguars, and our lone Porsche (most killed off by their price tags on the lists above) round out a very compelling group of cars.

But yesterday's news out of Dodge begs the question: where would the devilish, 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat come to rest within this group (assuming that Dodge keeps it under six-figures, which I do)? The truth is that I don't know, as the weight of the car is still unclear, but we can make some educated guesses.

If the Hellcat ends up tipping the scales with the same heft as the 2014 Challenger SRT 392, that's 4,231 pounds, it would still finish just below the Mustang GT500 with 5.984 pounds per pony. In fact, the Hellcat would have to lose more than a hundred pounds versus the existing car to best the Mustang. With that said, when the 2015 model year comes around in earnest, there's little doubt that the Challenger Hellcat will reign in the sub-$100k category.

These are your winners, folks. Please feel free to debate the merits of each top ten, tell us what we may have missed, or suggest new metrics (we could easily drum up torque-per-pound comparisons or power-per-dollar), in Comments.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 103 Comments
      Chris
      • 5 Months Ago
      Love this article! Weight-to-power ratios are, in my humble opinion, widely undercited by publications. I think it is an essential stat that should be on every car's stat sheet. Two things that surprised me: 1) Everyone always pokes at the Challenger for being a heavy boat, but I was surprised to see it beat the Camaro SS. Wonder what the Hellcat will do. 2) The Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec made this list? Really?! Whatever its ratio may be, the performance doesn't match it. Lack of torque? Turbo lag?
        montoym
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Chris
        In regards to the Camaro/Challenger comparison, keep in mind that the Camaro featured there is the SS, the base V8 model. In order to best the power/weight ratio of the Camaro's base V8 model, it takes the SRT version of the Challenger. That's purely because the Challenger is even heavier than the already heavy Camaro (roughly 300lbs depending on configuration). Not to mention the not insignificant price difference as well. Agreed though, the Hellcat will change things, but recall that a new Camaro isn't far away and it will be lighter than the current model as well. Combine that with all the high performance engine options GM could shove into it and I'd bet that the Camaro will hold its own just fine.
          Kratos
          • 2 Months Ago
          @montoym

          "but recall that a new Camaro".... oh gosh another GM recall

      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 5 Months Ago
      Mustang, Mustang, Mustang. That pretty well sums up why they are such great deals.
      dollarbill
      • 5 Months Ago
      Mustang GT , great looks , great performance and handling .. Great Job Ford -it looks awesome .
      RocketRed
      • 5 Months Ago
      One thing that the handy findthebest graph highlights is the wide variation in acceleration performance relative to power/weight. (A pox on whoever posted that, costing me untold hours wasted with this thing!) So I would say that lb/hp is not the final word in bang for the buck.
        • 5 Months Ago
        @RocketRed
        ME ! (perhaps under my old login, which mysteriously canNOT post any longer)
      Pat McSwain
      • 5 Months Ago
      Great article. However, to remove inflated (or derated) HP claims, the best barometer known is perhaps the 1/4 mile trap speeds. 0-60mph, 0-100mph, and 1/4 mi ET's are only as good as the traction with these cars, but 1/4 mi trap speed is nearly all "true power to true weight". Poor traction affects the MPH little if any. It also brings "area under the curve" into play. Peak brochure HP numbers can be deceiving. Some cars accelerate a lot harder than their claimed HP would indicate. It's easy to verify, leave the line like you would when a cop is behind you at a stop light, then roll into it. Next, heat the tires and give-em-hell. The traps are often the same, and even backwards sometimes (sticky tires slow down your traps). Not that an automaker would fudge the HP numbers, right Mazda (RX8) and Ford (1999 Cobra), cough, cough?
        bwana343
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Pat McSwain
        Right Pat (Casper), and the small cars get proportionatly heavier with a driver than a large car, overspeak HP figures which are not BHP anyway, and lots of other inconvenient variables. Plus, some boring vehicles weren't included, like a new Suby Forester turbo w/about a 14-1 ratio.
      Arturo Rios Jr.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Where is Porsche? Ohh I see
        SCOTTM
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Arturo Rios Jr.
        If those ratios are correct, the Porsche should be in 9th place. Eight is smaller than nine the last time I checked.
      Dennis Brennan
      • 5 Months Ago
      Go Dodge. I think the Hellcat will be pulling 10.5 in the quarter mile and a 135mph trap speed. And this is on street legal tires. I have one of their competition supercharged. I don't have to defend my honor here with who's is the best. Instead I applaud Dodge with getting on the v8 Supercharged train. I'm so excited and the funny thing is that I can't afford another supercharged V8. It's just the fact that I feel like a kid again every time the automakers improve the performance of autos.
        Bandit5317
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Dennis Brennan
        I don't think the hellcat will be a full second quicker than the quickest stock GT500 run.
          SCOTTM
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Bandit5317
          It will be a ten second car. According to a test track where they ran a manual, it did consistent 10.9's. I bet the 8sp comes close to a 10.5.
      omgcool
      • 5 Months Ago
      Fun list. I'd love to see how correlative these lists are with 1/4 mile times, 0-100mph etc. Apparently my DD Chrysler 200 stacks up pretty well at 12.72; V6 could be had new for less than $25k. I know it's not performance-oriented, but the milquetoast Veloster and Jetta are included, so why not?
      kwin
      • 3 Months Ago

      could you speculate where the 2016 miata would faire? I'm thinking about 11:1 if 200hp

      Michael Demars
      • 1 Month Ago

      Well lets see...my Subaru BRZ with aftermarket turbo is at 375HP and weighs 2850LBS at a total cost with mods of $35,000.  It would have beat any of these cars on a slalom without mods.  Sure my warranty is void but for the $$ I am under 7.6LBS per HP and still can get 29MPG if I drive reasonably.   

      postpast
      • 5 Months Ago
      I am seriously considering the 2015 V6 Mustang. Manual, Guard green with the 51a package that gives you the spoiler and sweet 18" black and machined aluminium wheels; all in with destination comes to $25,420. I have never bought new before and I'm a GM fan, but man that's a nice looking car for the price.
      Jameskey
      • 5 Months Ago
      Awesome article
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