If you’re like me, you spend half your life browsing cars you can’t afford in the classified ads.

And if you’re a lot like me, you sometimes set yourself parameters to spice things up. "What’s the nicest 911 I can find for under 50K?", "What’s the cheapest way into a V8?" and so on.

Today, I’ve come up with a corker - what is the most powerful car you can buy for £10,000? Just how much horsepower can you stretch 10K to, if you throw caution to the wind? In ascending order, I present to you my findings:

10) Nissan 370Z: 325bhp

Bringing up the rear, we have the only outright sports car on the list. The 370Z was the sequel to the immensely popular 350, which never seemed to quite live up to the hype. It’s bizarre how few of these you see on the road because there’s a lot to like here - an excellent driver’s car with a generous 325bhp and a buzzing V6 soundtrack to boot. An underrated bargain?

9) E46 BMW M3: 343bhp

Trumping the Nissan by 20 horses is the E46 M3. One of the most iconic M cars ever made and, currently, one of the cheapest. Legendary engine and handling, timeless styling. A guaranteed future classic.

8) Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged: 385bhp

In practice, there's very little point in owning a supercharged V8 Rangie... other than the fact that it’s awesome. 8 grand or so buys you more engine than you could ever need, a deep, grumbly soundtrack, and a raised ride height that lets you lord over the road. Bow down, peasants.

7) Lexus LS600: 389bhp

No doubt the least sporty car on this list, the LS 600 would be just as at home in a conversation about the ‘poshest cars for under 10K’. It’s hybrid-assisted 389bhp V8 won’t feel very fast - but that’s understandable given the size of the land-yacht it’s being asked to pull around. You don’t drive an LS 600 - you waft.

6) Maserati Quattroporte: 395bhp

When the Ferrari-engined Quattroporte first came out in the early 2000s it was the fastest 4-door saloon in the world. I distinctly remember Jeremy Clarkson marvelling at it’s remarkable straight-line performance, which is why it’s so odd that its 395bhp sounds a bit… conservative by today’s standards. The latest Mercedes E63S has over 200bhp more - an indicator of just how preposterously fast modern performance cars are getting. Don’t be fooled though - The Mazza is stil 'una macchina veloce’.

5) Jaguar S-Type R: 400bhp

Somewhere in the UK, Mike Fernie is tingling right now. Our resident engineer is a self-proclaimed Jagophile - in fact, his father drives this very car. With 400 all-English horses, the V8 S Type combines the buttery smooth Jaginess you expect with a legitimately ferocious powertrain. No one makes engines sound angry quite like Jag.

Audi RS4: 415 bhp

In my opinion, one of the most broadly talented cars you can have for the money. What can’t the RS4 do? Nothing makes a better daily than an RS-badged Audi. 415bhp family car with bombproof reliability.

3) Porsche Cayenne Turbo: 450bhp

Unsurprisingly, you can’t have a Porsche 911 Turbo for this kind of money. In fact, you can’t have any 911, except maybe a ragged old 996 with 200,000 miles on it. But fear not - if you’re looking to own a Turbo-badged Porker on the cheap, Stuttgart’s finest has an alternative. The Cayenne was the car that pretty much began then trend of super-SUVs that now dominate the streets. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but that aside it also happens to be one of the most powerful cars you can buy for less than 10 grand. Just try your best not to look at it too much before getting in - early Cayennes have a face only a mother could love.

2) Mercedes CLS55 AMG: 500bhp

Into the 500s now, with some properly mad stuff. The CLS - in case Merc’s confusing range isn’t your specialty - is a sleek, stylish saloon that sacrifices a little practicality in favour of added coolness. And the 55 is the mad one. There was subsequently an even more ballistic CLS63, but 10 grand won’t quite stretch to one of those - so you’ll have to make do with a measly 500 horses. I think you’ll be ok.

1) E60 BMW M5: 507bhp

Disclaimer: DO NOT. DO NOT buy a cheap E60 M5. Their bonkers V10 engines - even on well looked-after examples are infamous for going bang out of the blue, and a new one will cost you 50 grand. That probably goes a long way to explaining why this is the only 507bhp car you can pick up for less than the price of a new Dacia Sandero. But catastrophic shortcomings aside, this is still one of the coolest, maddest performance cars ever made. A V10 super-saloon? What delicious insanity.

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