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Cheap supercars - Old vs New Supercar Showdown

McLaren 540C vs Audi R8 Cheap Supercar

In 2019/2020, a healthy £70,000 – £80,000 budget will let you pick up a selection of “cheap supercars”.

Many wouldn’t look at £70,000 as cheap. Hell you could purchase a brand new range topping super saloon for that price!

However this price range is within touching distance for some. Allowing supercar fans the dream of picking up their dream supercar.

The question is, when you have the budget to purchase a cheap supercar… Do you purchase a modern day budget supercar hero such as the mighty Audi R8 or McLaren 540C… Or do you spend a similar amount of cash on a 12 year old exotic. Supercars such as the Lamborghini Gallardo, or Ferrari F430.

To find the answer to this question, we have gathered four mid-engined budget supercars ready to put them through their paces.

Cheap Supercars - McLaren 540C vs Audi R8

Cheap Supercars – Old Vs New

Fighting the battle of the older exotics, we have a Ferrari F430 and a Lamborghini Gallardo. These are true supercars from two Italian powerhouses within the industry.

Both cars were flagship models in their day, and posters of these cars would have adorned many bedroom walls. Coming from a strong motorsport heritage, both Ferrari and Lamborghini exude the emotive feeling of what it is to own and drive a supercar.

Then we move on to two modern supercars, and a couple of well established marques who are relative newcomers to the supercar world.

We have chosen a second generation Audi R8, a car which really flies the flag for cheap supercars. And a technologically advanced McLaren 540C.

Both of these cars give you an extraordinary amount of bang for your buck when compared to more exotic supercars. And because of that, are two of the best selling supercars over the past few years.

Cheap Supercars - Lamborghini Gallardo vs Ferrari F430

Old or New, It has to be mid-engined

There has been huge debate over which engine layout is the most beneficial for a performance car, and many manufacturers have dabbled with various layouts across the years.

Just think of the classic Porsche design with the engine hanging out of the back, compared to the typical front-engined Aston Martin design. There are multiple design philosophies at work across the engineering world.

Although you only have to look at the trend within motorsport and performance cars to see that mid-engined cars win.

With the engine strapped in to the centre of the chassis, you are much more likely to find a perfect balance when setting up the cars handling.

We have compiled our top 7 best cheap supercars which you can buy in the UK today. If you are searching for a cheap supercar for sale, have a read.

Cheap Supercars - Lamborghini Gallardo vs Ferrari F430

Ferrari F430

Back in 2004, when the F430 was released it offered stunning performance, with amazing bang for your buck. After all this was the “entry level” flagship Ferrari. A car which could deliver fire-breathing performance, and challenge the big dogs.

Despite the performance, the F430 offers a very pleasurable, relaxing drive.

The suspension is set up in such a way, that it offers predictable handling in all driving modes. All surface changes are taken in its stride, with the F430 coping extremely well under all circumstances.

This is not a savage, screaming Ferrari, instead it’s one that is extremely comfortable and easy to drive. Delivering its power in a smooth yet rapid way.

The new V8 engine powering the F430 lets you know of its presence. The emotive, visceral noise that is emitted is a constant reminder of the power that is waiting should you ask for it.

Its 4.3-litre V8 engine delivers over 25 per cent more power than its predecessor, the 360. 483 horsepower and 343lb-ft of torque propels the F430 from 0-62mph in just 4 seconds and won’t stop until you reach just under 200mph.

When you do ask for the power, the response is razor sharp. Delivered via a state-of-the-art F1 transmission, which for us is the better choice over the manual. This car feels so much better with the technological approach, and the power delivery and shifts are mighty fast.

For the first time ever in a Ferrari, the power was delivered to the rear axel via an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. This promised much faster response over a conventional differential.

As with all supercars, and even more so with cars over 10-15 years old, you need to give them a thorough inspection before parting with any money.

Cheap Supercars - Ferrari F430

Possible Used Ferrari F430 Issues

The Engine

The V8 engine in the F430 is very similar to the V12 found in the Enzo, just with a few cylinders missing. It shares its block with the Maserati Coupe combined with a lot of Enzo parts.

Generally they are very hard wearing with very few problems reported. The only consistent problem we’ve heard of is cracking exhaust manifolds.

When they split they could be sucked into the engine causing complete failure, so definitely worth checking this with an expert mechanic.

The Transmission

Clutches in the F430 will generally last 30,000 miles or so, and will set you back £3,000-£4,000 to replace.

They are much bigger and stronger than those found in previous cars equipped with the F1 engine, meaning reliability has improved.

Checking when the clutch was last inspected or changed will give you an estimated time frame until the next replacement.


The main culprit to report is the ball joints, which are prone to seizing up. Luckily this isn’t an expensive repair, with a main dealer being able to replace the joints completely for around £700.

Cheap Supercars - Ferrari F430


Engine – 4308cc V8
Power – 483bhp @ 8500rpm
Torque – 343lb-ft @ 5250rpm
0-62 – 4.0 sec
Top speed – 196mph
Price when new – £117,000
Price now – £65,000

The price of £65,000 will net you a 2007 coupe with 30-40,000 miles, which is a little high for our liking. However this does make the F430 the lowest price model out of all our cheap supercars.

To step up to a lower mileage model, with the much sought after carbon ceramic brakes would set you back around £75-£80,000. This pulls the price in line with our newer models. However, the F430 still remains one of the cheapest modern day Ferrari models you can buy.

Service Costs

Prices including VAT from an official Ferrari dealership

Annual service – From £900
Second-year service – From £1100
Major service – £2000

Cheap Supercars - Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Gallardo

Stepping out of the F430 and in to possibly its closest rival, the extravagant Lamborghini Gallardo.

The Gallardo was a landmark car for Lamborghini. It was the first model to be produced under the influence of parent company Audi, and it was the first entry level model Lamborghini ever built.

The Gallardo may have been built under the watchful eye of Audi, but that doesn’t make it as refined as the F430. Where the F430 offers super smooth yet devastating performance, the Gallardo offers all of the performance in a little rawer method.

This is of course down to the Lamborghini DNA coursing through its veins. Where pure performance and outlandish looks are king.

The Lamborghini Gallardo was a hit back in the mid 2000s, thanks to its stunning performance mixed with Audi reliability. However the true appeal of buying a Gallardo was its ability to turn heads. It did this like no other supercar!

The 5-litre V10 engine in the launch edition Gallardo was adequate producing 495 horsepower. However as the years passed, much more impressive engines emerged. The 513 horsepower V10 that is in our 2007 test model offered a little more performance.

Unlike our recommendation for the Ferrari F430 (where we suggest looking for an F1 automatic transmission). We highly recommend searching for a 6 speed manual transmission Gallardo.

That is due to the infamous e-gear transmission which was prone to issues. The transmission itself is a manual transmission operated by an actuator, leading to poor engagement.

Best case scenario, you will be looking at a new clutch and flywheel costing £5,000.

However due to the repair costs which can easily spiral over £15,000 we would recommend avoiding these transmissions entirely. If you would definitely prefer an automatic, try to find a model later than 2008 where the transmission software was updated.

Another positive for the manual transmission is that it should hold its value much better than its e-gear sibling.

Cheap Supercars - Lamborghini Gallardo Interior

Possible Used Lamborghini Gallardo Issues

The Engine

Overall, as you would expect from an Audi manufactured car, the Gallardo are reasonably bulletproof. However some owners of very early V10 models have reported oil pump problems. This is easily checked with a compression and pressure test.


As mentioned above the e-gear transmission can be a real headache. There is always a little clutch slip as you change through the gears, and the clutch will need replacing at a fairly quick rate.


If purchasing an early year Gallardo, inspect the front bumper for cracks. Early models weren’t fitted with a lift kit to get over speed bumps so often took damage when scraping over a bump.

2007 Specs

Engine – 4,961cc V10
Power – 520bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque – 375lb-ft @ 4500rpm
0-62 – 4.2 sec
Top speed – 195mph
Price when new – £150,000
Price now – £67,000

Cheap Supercar - McLaren 540C vs Audi R8

Stepping out of the Lamborghini and into the McLaren 540C couldn’t be more jarring.

As fantastic and visceral as the Gallardo is, the McLaren is a different beast. Despite being relatively new to the domestic supercar market, McLaren come from a strong motorsport background. They certainly have the caliber and experience to produce some of the best supercars and that is exactly what they are doing.

The difference between the older supercars with the much newer McLaren is immediate. The McLaren feels so precise, with almost no body roll and ultra responsive steering input.

And the speed at which it travels across the road is incredible. The Gallardo and F430 feel fast. But the McLaren is a world ahead, simply eating the road ahead of you.

One aspect where the past ten years have been kind on supercars is the transmission.

The F1 box in the F430 feels nice and smooth in operation, and the Gallardo is sluggish at best. McLaren’s automatic transmission is lightening fast and more importantly predictable.

When you are driving with the car changing gear for you, the choice always seems correct for the occasion. You want to drive through town, it’ll be quiet, smooth and hassle free. You want to attack a B road, and the gear choice for the next corner or straightaway is just what you would have asked for.

Even despite how good the automatic is, we found that changing gears manually with the paddle shifters was just so much fun. Shifting down when entering a corner sounds amazing. And shifting up powering out of the corner is lightening fast.

The ride itself was also perfectly balanced. While driving on bumpy back roads, the car felt very well dampened. Harsh bumps were softened well, and the 540C remained flat throughout the corners.

The car we were driving was a base level 540C with very few optional extras. And to fit into the cheap supercars price range it has to be.

With a little more cash available the slightly quicker 570S is available, however there is very little difference between the two.

McLaren have positioned the two cars very well, allowing customers with wide budgets to purchase exactly what they’re after.

The 540C is ever so slightly toned down and lacks a few extra touches that the 570S and pricier McLaren models include.

The front splitter is slightly different. You get cheaper brakes opposed to the carbon kit which is found on other McLarens. And the interior lacks a few nicer finishes, but is still just as nice of a place to be.

When compared to the cheaper Ferrari and Lamborghini, the interior is night and day. Both the Ferrari and Lambo exude a mid noughties feeling, with the lack of technology which modern day supercars boast.

Cheap Supercar - McLaren 540C Infotainment

McLaren 540C Common Issues

With the McLaren 540C being relatively new, we lack data across the years which could diagnose common problems.

To date, the only major issue which has been reported is a variety of tech issues with McLaren’s in-built infotainment system IRIS.

The DAB radio is often the heart of these issues, with some reporting that a hard reset offering a simple fix. If you do need some work done on the infotainment system then it could be fairly pricey, so check to see if the car is still covered under warranty.

Electrical gremlins aside, the 540C is a solid supercar, offering supercar ownership without too much maintenance involved.

McLaren 540C Specs

Engine – 3.8-litre V8
Power – 533bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque – 398lb-ft @ 3500-6500rpm
0-62 – 3.5 sec
Top speed – 199mph
Price when new – £128,000
Price now – £85,000

Cheap Supercars - McLaren 540C vs Audi R8

Audi succeeded extremely well in developing a cheap supercar which can be used everyday when it designed the original R8.

It was an instant success.

When you break down what makes the Audi R8 great, it is plain to see its a superb choice for anybody wanting a reliable, relatively cheap supercar.

It handled supremely well, was produced by one of the most reliable manufacturers, featured a great amount of interior space, and was ultimately fun to drive.

Audi took all of the above and improved on almost every aspect when it built the second generation R8. This is the car which we drove in this comparison.

If you ever looked at an Audi R8 and thought it doesn’t belong side by side with other, more renowned supercar manufacturers you’d be mistaken.

At heart, the Audio R8 is essentially a Lamborghini Huracan in an Audi package. It shares a lot of its driving mechanics with the Huracan, which is no surprise as Audi own both companies.

The 5.2-litre V10 engine, shared with the Huracan, is a stand out. It’s a naturally aspirated V10 engine, in 2019 where most supercars are utilising turbo power. This is refreshing.

The lack of turbo allows for zero lag when you press the throttle. You have to work the engine hard to get the performance, keeping it above 4500 rpm for it to really shine. The performance from its 562bhp is more than enough.

Once you are finished roaring around the track or B roads and you enter the school run, the engine is extremely comfortable to drive. It isn’t too twitchy at low revs, and you could be mistaken for driving a super comfortable grand tourer.

The gearbox is OK for a modern supercar. It’s a little jerky in stop start traffic, and when kicking down it feels a little clumsy. When driving at any speed above stop start, switching over to manual mode is a solid choice. Gear changes are responsive and quick whenever you ask for them.

Driving the Audi R8 is a pleasure, with the driving dynamics very well tuned for both town and track. Compared to the McLaren 540C, the handling isn’t quite as responsive, but grips incredibly well. Better than both of the older cheap supercars, the F430 and Gallardo.

Similarly to the McLaren, the Audi R8 is superbly well dampened. Despite not communicating the feel and grip of the road as well as the McLaren, the R8 still does a superb job when turning in.

Cheap Supercar - Audi R8 Engine Bay

Audi R8 Common Problems

As with the first generation Audi R8, problems and issues are few and far between. Being built by Audi, who are renowned for their built quality and reliability echos through to their only supercar.

Replacing elements such as the clutch can be costly, at around £4000 a pop. You’ll find yourself doing this every 20,000 miles or so.

We would always suggest purchasing an optional Audi warranty which would set you back around £3000 for 12 months. This way you’ll have piece of mind should the worst happen.

Audi R8 Specs

Engine – 5204cc V10
Power – 540bhp @ 7800rpm
Torque – 398lb-ft @ 6500rpm
0-62 – 3.5 sec
Top speed – 199mph
Price when new – £126,000
Price now – £75,000

Cheap Supercar - McLaren 540C vs Audi R8

Comparing old supercars vs new supercars in this exercise to find the ultimate cheap supercar has been a pleasure.

Giving an answer as to which route you would be best off going is entirely dependant on what you are after from a cheap supercar.

The raw emotive feeling of driving a Lamborghini is unlike any other. You will get looks wherever you go, so be prepared for this. We couldn’t whole heartedly recommend the Gallardo over the much newer, much better Audi R8. The R8 will set you back £10,000 more than the Gallardo, but for pure driving dynamics and everyday use, the R8 wins out every time.

The Ferrari F430 is a different story. It is technologically advanced to stand up better against its newer rivals. The boyhood dream of owning a Ferrari, and the opulence that comes with Ferrari ownership is ever present.

The Ferrari stood out in a way none of the other three cheap supercars did during our test drives. It has a charisma about it, its refined and smooth, but houses a potent amount of performance.

The McLaren 540C was our pick of the bunch from a pure driving perspective. It handled and performed like no other on this list.

Despite this, at the end of the day when we had time to drive just one more car… We were excited to jump back in to the Ferrari F430 for one last drive.

To be able to own a relatively cheap Ferrari, cheaper than any other cheap supercar we drove would be a hard factor to ignore were we to pick a cheap supercar to own.

Check out our top 7 cheap supercars for sale in the UK today.

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