With plenty of top speed and versatility, the SUVs on this list offer thrilling driving in almost any environment. Some even offer enough luxury to make you wonder why you’d spend more than $15,000 on a car, at all.
Options from around the world in the form of JDM sports cars and luxury European cruisers mean there are plenty of options in this price range, but here are some of our favorites. Here are 10 fast and affordable SUVs that we love to drive.
10 Subaru Impreza WRX ($13,200)
The Subaru Impreza has been the mid-size performance car for generations. The rally heritage behind the Impreza is virtually unparalleled, and its AWD capabilities make it one of the most versatile cars we’ve ever seen. At home on the track, on the rally platform, and on the street, few compete with the Impreza in this regard.
Perhaps surprisingly enough, the Subaru Impreza WRX is available for under $15,000, although it won’t be a top-spec WRX STi model, there’s still plenty to love about the highly-rated 2004 Impreza in particular, like the comfortable seating for 5, and room Generous storage, plenty of stability and acceleration to tackle any problem you encounter.
9 Jeep Wrangler Sport ($10,900)
If off-road AWD performance is what you crave, very few can beat the Jeep Wrangler. Jeep is now an ideal off-road capability, with excellent ground clearance and a compact agile tire, the Wrangler outperforms cars at nearly twice its price, while still maintaining good build quality and a reasonable price tag.
Given the large number of Wranglers available for this low price, the improved Sport model from 1997 is also fairly inexpensive, and comes with an upgraded rear axle and an optional Trac-Lok limited-slip differential, for slightly better off-road performance.
8 Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO ($8,600)
This is a great option for anyone who intends to use the AWD functionality on the trail. Like Subaru, Mitsubishi has made its name on the track, and as such, has developed some very high quality all-wheel drive systems, one of which was implemented in the 3000GT.
With a 3.0-liter V6 and a top speed of about 160 mph, the 3000GT is a track weapon with great grip and ’90s style, which makes us wonder why it’s available as low as $8,600. The advantages of this vehicle’s all-wheel drive (AWD) system include great traction and excellent off-line acceleration.
7 Audi TT quattro ($9,200)
It’s always the target text that divides opinions, some think it looks cool, others think it’s perhaps a bit too feminine to describe it nicely.
Regardless of the styling, underneath you’ll find a massive 3.2-liter V6, and the popular high-end Quattro AWD system. This makes it an exceptional Mini GT and a high-performance coupe. And its small frame delivers great acceleration with an excellent level of grip, with its famous German build quality and a decent level of interior luxury, the TT Quattro is arguably an improved version of the similar Mazda MX-5.
6 Dodge Charger SXT ($12,200)
The Dodge Charge was and still is one of the staples in the American auto market. Although a variety of high-performance variants of the charger are available, the prices make them difficult for most buyers to obtain.
However, the sixth-generation SXT model delivers plenty of power from its 3.5-liter V6, and generous help of comfort options, storage space and passenger space to make it a great family car with all-wheel drive. Of course, the V8 option is a bit more expensive, but don’t doubt the performance of the V6 supercharger, especially in a straight line.
5 Mazda Mazdaspeed 6 ($8000)
One of the cars that flew a bit under the radar when it was first announced was the Mazda Mazdaspeed 6. It’s certainly not the most obvious choice, but it’s understated but the cheerful look makes it something to sleep on.
The impressive chassis and AWD functionality give it a balanced, exciting feel, which is hard to achieve at this price point, and the 274-hp four-cylinder means it’ll leave its rivals in the dust on straights too. Ease of use and speed are the Mazdaspeed 6’s best, but its low sales numbers also mean it’s one of the rarest cars on this list as well.
4 Audi S4 ($12,800)
With one of the most powerful engines on this list, the third-generation Audi S4 comes standard with a 4.2-liter V8. If you want something that combines power and luxury, the third generation Audi S4 is hard to beat.
The available muscle allows the S4 to sprint from 0-60 mph in around 5.6 seconds, despite its large and heavy frame. We shouldn’t say the S4’s interior is well-made and offers enough luxury to fool anyone into thinking your car costs less than $13,000. The S4 remains an exceptional and luxurious executive cruiser.
3 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX ($10,200)
The Mitsubishi Eclipse has been known to put its name on the big screen, and practically speaking, it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as the star of the first Fast and Furious movie.
Built using the same Mitsubishi EVO platform, the Eclipse GSX features the timeless design of a sports car from the ’90s, with the grip and drivability of Mitsubishi’s most iconic sports car. The stock Eclipse GSX is somewhat hard to find now, but if you don’t mind it, this car makes an excellent platform for tuning and customization, as one of the most popular and well-known JDMs ever. This is definitely one for those who want to make their cars their own.
2 Cadillac CTS Performance ($11,200)
The Cadillac CTS has offered American buyers unparalleled levels of luxury and power for several generations now.
Some performance models equipped with all-wheel drive also give customers more refinement than an already smooth luxury car. This won’t be as on-track home as the other cars on this list, as the CTS excels in providing comfort and a massive amount of interior passenger space and storage space. Both technically advanced and great to drive, the CTS comes with Bose audio, remote start, real-time traffic and weather data. Living with CTS is a breeze.
1 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC ($13,000)
Mercedes-Benz is one of the biggest hitters in the luxury sports car market, and the C 300 4MATIC is no exception.
Quality is the name of the game here and inside, the C 300 cabin is a sight to behold. Decades of advanced German engineering are immediately present inside, with high-quality leather and metals adorning the interior. Sure, it lacks the agility of a 3000GT and even a Subaru, but this car is for those who want the best possible experience for under $15,000.
Sources: Auto Express, Auto Car, Auto Blog, Edmunds, RAC, Review Center, Motortrend
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