A Subaru WRX STi is the best bang for the buck interms of performance. I think it looks nicer than an Evo, but the Evo drives a little better out of the box. I have a 2.0 WRX that is upgraded with bigger turbo, shocks, springs, ect. I blows me away with it's capabilities. Mine also doesn't have that boy-racer looking spoiler, which I'm not a fan of. For a bit less money you could get a 2.5 RS WRX sedan or a Legacy sedan that have nice power also.
If a little less sporty is ok...you can get a fully loaded Camry for mid-30s and it is basically a Lexus for less cash. It is Motor Trend's Car of the Year currently. It still kicks about 265 hp, so it won't be a slug.