Finding the perfect car that offers the perfect balanced chassis, the greatest engine, and the purest driving experience is like searching for hen’s teeth – it’s impossible. However, there are some dream cars that fill the criteria – whatever yours may be. You see, we gearheads are all different. Some of us want a comfortable ride, and others prefer a hardcore sports car driving experience.
So in order to find the perfect balance, we have listed 10 of the best cars that we think define automotive excellence – whether that be through flat-out speed, superb cornering skills or horsepower figures taken from the respective car manufacturers.
10 Lotus Emira – 400 HP
When Lotus discontinued the Elise, Exige and Evora in 2021, the world of sports car enthusiasts was left in a sorry state. These were three small British sports cars that changed the way we drove and offered a real departure from the norms of large American Muscle cars and heavy sports SUVs. But Lotus knew this, and that’s why it launched the Emira – a mid-engined V6 British lightweight sports car to rival the likes of the Porsche Cayman.
Its 3.5-liter engine may make just 400 hp, but don’t forget that it weighs just 3,214 lbs, so it’s a real hoot to drive. Plus, there’s the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, and anyone who’s driven a stick-shift Lotus will know it’s a real gem.
9 Alpine A110 – 300 HP
It takes some huge courage to come out and take on the competition that’s already out there. You’ve got brands such as Porsche and Audi, so rivaling them is never going to be easy. But when you’ve got a heritage as strong as Alpine’s and the backing from Renault, there’s no doubt that it won’t succeed, and the A110 is the result everyone wanted.
This is a car that proves you don’t have to strip out everything to make a good car, and that you don’t need some features either. It’s a true back-to-basics sports car that still has the standard creature comforts you’d find in any Renault. Power comes from a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 300 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque – very modest but perfectly adequate.
8 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 – 493 HP
When the original Cayman GT4 launched in 2015, it received endless praise and gratitude for its great driving position, a screaming flat-six engine note and perfectly balanced chassis. So much in fact that we thought it was almost impossible to improve – until 2020 rolled around. This is when Porsche introduced the all-new Cayman GT4, based on the 718 generation of its small sports car. This thing absolutely changed the game and made rivals quiver in dread.
You can think of this as a baby GT3, even though its 4.0-liter flat-six is actually derived from the turbocharged 3.0-liter engine found in other 911s. From its large rear wing to its aggressive front, there aren’t many road cars out there that leave you lost for words following a quick canyon blast, but this is one of them.
7 Mazda MX-5 (NA) – 115 HP
It may be the oldest car on this list, but it’s far from the most boring. In fact, we’d go as far as to say this plucky little two-seater convertible is the most fun you can have on public roads. This is firstly, because they’re affordable, so you don’t need to fret as much about any scrapes or mechanical issues, and secondly, these NA Miatas are incredible to drive.
The ’90s were a time when the world was on the up again. The Soviet Union fell, the Cold War came to a close and the TV show Friends was all the rage – so why wouldn’t you want to drive around in a 2,210 lbs car with a DOHC 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a manual gearbox?
6 McLaren Artura – 671 HP
With a hefty starting price of $237,500 the McLaren Artura is hardly an affordable way into sports car ownership, but what it does offer is one heck of a supercar driving experience. It took McLaren a while to fully commit to hybridization, but when they did, it was only going to be amazing – and that’s precisely what this car is.
With its new lightweight platform paired with an all-new twin-turbocharged V6 engine, the Artura symbolizes a new era for the Woking-based carmaker. This new powertrain means that this 671 hp supercar can launch itself from 0-60 mph in a staggering 2.6 seconds, then on to a top speed of 205 mph – quite a bit faster than the Miata above.
5 Toyota GR86 – 228 HP
It would be wrong to assume that the only way to enjoy a sports car is through top-speed runs and high-speed accelerations because there’s so much more to the thrill of driving than that. And stripping everything back to basics is exactly what the new Toyota GR86 does – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
This little car signifies a last hurrah for the affordable manual sports coupe as brands look to a future of ultra-fast electric supercars, so we should be grateful for releases such as this one. Sitting under the hood is a 228 hp naturally aspirated two-liter flat-four motor that puts out decent mid-range torque and will certainly put a smile on your face the more you work up the rev range. It’s a true joy to drive, and these kinds of cars will really be missed as we move to an electrified future.
4 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera – 715 HP
The closest thing to being Bond without actually being Bond can be done with two things: an Omega/Rolex watch or an Aston Martin. In this case, let’s focus on the car because that’s what you came here for, right?
Aston Martin’s DBS Superleggera is the finest motoring experience you can get if you’re after immense speed, proper raw British horsepower and ultimate comfort – after all, that is basically what this brand stands for. From its striking looks to its monstrous 5.2-liter V12 engine, the DBS is a serious piece of kit, producing 715 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque. There is really no other modern car like it, unless you go for a Bentley Continental, but that’s generally for men who are retired or well out of their prime – unlike the average Aston owner which is growing younger by the Martini.
3 BMW M3 GTS Coupé (E92) – 450 HP
This choice is a slight departure from the norm, but a very welcome one. The BMW M3 GTS Coupé is one of the rarest modern sports sedans out there because only 50 were ever made. How can we describe this? Well, what BMW did was take an E92 M3 and tune it to the max, giving it 450 hp, a GT3 RS-style rear wing and a weight saving of around 165 lbs. It’s also finished in a loud orange paint which can only mean one thing: many slides and lots of loud barking noises from the exhaust.
Under the hood is a brilliant 4.3-liter V8 engine, which, predictably, makes this very fast, including a top speed of 190 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds.
2 Ferrari 458 Italia – 562 HP
Back in 2010, Ferrari saw how well the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, McLaren 650S and Porsche 911 GT3 were doing so decided to say ‘hold my beer’ and do something of their own. The Ferrari 458 Italia was the successor to the F430, and what a breath of fresh air it was. For many people, the car before felt too much like the 360 Modena, so to have a completely new look and a different setup pleased Ferrari fans very much.
It’s common knowledge that Ferrari hasn’t been the same without winning an F1 constructors’ championship since 2008, so for them to release this, was marvelous. Sitting behind the two seats is a 4.5-liter Italian V8 engine that produces 562 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. So pair that with a brilliantly balanced chassis, and you’ve got yourself an excellent supercar for all occasions.
1 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring (991.2) – 493 HP
Finding a sports car that you can daily is a bit like wanting to walk in football boots everywhere you go – it’s going to be manageable at first but will soon become uncomfortable beyond belief and very impractical – but not with this brilliant car.
The Porsche 911 GT3 Touring – and more specifically the 991.2 generation – is one of those few cars that come along and do everything you want, and well. Want practicality? It’s got it. Want power? It’s got it. Want an excellent engine note? It’s got it. Want fuel efficiency and reliability? It’s got that too. Name anything and the Touring can probably do it. It’s just such a versatile piece of kit – so it’s no wonder then why Chris Harris has daily-driven one for the last 50,000 miles or so.