Looking for a car that can stretch that $3 gas—and has some get-up-and-go?" You're in luck. The U.S. News Muscle Per Gallon Index rates more than 400 passenger car models according to a combination of gas mileage and horsepower. Other lists rank cars according to the highest mileage, or the most power, and ours can be sorted in that order, too. But those are simplistic rankings, and we have gone a step further to identify vehicles that truly provide the most bang for the buck. Our formula is simple: Using data provided by Kelley Blue Book, we multiplied the city gas mileage rating for each model by the horsepower rating, and divided by 100 to create an index. Then we assigned a numerical rank to each model to indicate where it stands on our list. The median index number is 45.3. Those above the median are better performers, while those below the median are worse performers.
Since we are measuring two factors–fuel economy and horsepower–that are usually inverses of each other, the Muscle Per Gallon Index highlights vehicles with smart engineering and the most modern components. Not surprisingly, those with the highest rankings are expensive–a few cresting $100,000. That's why our list can be sorted by price, model, gas mileage, or number of cylinders. If you're looking for efficient, exciting cars under $30,000, for instance, simply sort by price and scroll down. Or maybe you want to find a car that gets 30 miles per gallon or better and has some zip to boot: Sort by gas mileage, then see which selections have a high index rating. Or simply play around with the list–it's a different way to get under the hood and still keep your hands clean.
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Notes: Data are for 2007 and 2008 models. Does not include pickups or vehicles over 8,500 pounds. Some trim lines may be excluded.