In the United States, vehicles are built with high performance at a lower cost.
Compared to other nations, it seems cars are more affordable, new or used.
There are a few cars out there, recently used in the U.S. market, that have outstanding performance and features given the price.
They don’t look the part.
They are practical cars for daily driven use.
These vehicles include the 2005 and later Toyota Rav v6 4×4, the 2008 and later Chevrolet Cobalt SS sedan, and 2007-2012 Acura RDX.
The third generation Toyota Rav4 has the 2GR-FE motor.
Those not familiar with the engine code, could recognize that it’s the same motor found in the Lexus ES350 (2006-2012) and the 2009 or later Lotus Evora.
The output of the motor is 270 horsepower and 246lb.-ft. of torque for the Rav4 application.
Not only did the SUV have tremendous output, it was also available with four wheel drive and additional third row seat as options.
The 0-60 m.p.h. tests were completed in just over 6 seconds.
Best of all, all of that performance could be had for under $20,000 in XLE form with lower mileage.
Modifications are not required to get sports-car-like acceleration, but it never hurt to get tires with more grip to enhance acceleration that much more.
In 2008, Chevrolet released the Cobalt SS sedan.
When the vehicle was first released, the 2.0 liter LSJ engine was supercharged with an output of 205 horsepower and 200 lb.-ft. of torque.
That made power accessible for just over $20,000.
Despite the modern design to the motor, it failed to reach emission standards in 2008.
Modifications were necessary to maintain the product line.
The supercharger was swapped for a turbo. Variable valve timing and direct injection were added to the 2.0 liter motor and gave an output of 260 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque.
The car was available as a sedan with a manual transmission.
Launch control allowed the car to jump off the line at 4800 rpm. A no-lift-shift feature allowed drivers to stay on the gas to maintain boost through the rev range while shifting gears.
The power, along with improved tires, no-lift-shift feature, and defeatable traction control allowed the car to accelerate in the mid-5 second range to 60 m.p.h. and reach the quarter mile in under 14 seconds.
The tires allowed for lateral grip greater than 0.9g.
A limited slip differential was a $500 option.
Brand new, the car started at $23,000. Sure, the car has a plastic interior. Steering feel could be refined. The shift feel is good enough.
The sedan can be found with lower mileage, still hovering over $15,000.
Of the trio, the Acura RDX is the luxury sleeper.
Acura may not exist in other countries by name, but it is the premium badge for Honda.
The first generation Acura RDX comes with a K23 Vtec motor with a turbo.
This gave an output of 240 horsepower and 260lb.-ft. of torque. Unlike the Cobalt SS and Rav4, the interior is made with quality materials and the highest of build quality.
Refinement comes to mind when it comes to the Acura line.
What isn’t expected is, the Acura RDX being thought of as the junior Porsche Macan.
They are small SUVs with high performance levels. Other small SUVs have greater practicality. They have more legroom, headroom, and larger boot spaces.
The RDX is a big hatchback.
With a 0-60 mile per hour time of seven seconds, it’s the slowest of the group.
Still, it provides skidpad numbers that compare to compact cars at 0.82g despite the raised ground clearance.
It provides the best ride and sound insulation of the three vehicles.
Four wheel drive is standard. Reasonable mileage vehicles can be found between $15,000 to $20,000.
While these three vehicles may be considered expensive, these are all bone stock vehicles.
Other drivers around you won’t anticipate the high level of performance.
Best of all, it’s possible to use these cars while having a growing family.
There’s no need to compromise fun for practicality!
Mike Garcia – Feature Writer / US Correspondent