- Sports car sales have been declining.
- That’s OK for some big-ticket automakers, but it’s tough to swallow for budget-minded enthusiasts, who could see their choices limited in the coming years.
- Ford still sells a lot of Mustangs, but many other brands struggle to surpass four figures in sales of sports cars. For our purposes here, the phrase “sports car” refers to two-door vehicles that are purpose-built for spirited driving.
- Automakers remain committed to performance motoring, which means two-door sports cars remain relatively abundant.
- Here’s a rundown of 17 favorites, from Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Toyota, MINI, and others.
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Is the age of the sports car coming to an end?
Maybe. Sales are down. The traditional youth market seems more attracted to not owning a car, or owning a versatile crossover SUV or electric car, than following its forebears down that twisting road of performance motoring.
Even older drivers are skipping the fun-mobile as a sort of late-life reward.
Still, carmakers continue to design and build great sports cars, and who can blame them? While much of the world sees the automobile as transportation, a dedicated slice continues to revel in the sheer joy of taking a thoroughly impractical set of wheels out for an exhilarating spin.
Here’s rundown of some of my personal favorite sports cars, driven over the past six years. Nothing here with more than two doors!
Porsche 911. Simply the greatest sports car ever built, and in continuous production since the early 1960s. Now produced in numerous variants, the base 911 Carrera is $97,000 and it’s still my favorite — a simply brilliant example of German engineering prowess.
The 911 platform seems almost infinitely malleable, providing Porsche designers with the means to build a pretty basic sports car while stretching to the higher reaches of performance. Always at the core is the magnificent flat-six boxer engine.
Hard to believe that the originating idea of the 911 has been with us for so long — and miraculously continues to improve. The car is all-new for the 2020 model year.
Aston Martin DB9. My heart belongs to this gorgeous machine, which I haven’t been able to get out of my head for years.
Henrik Fisker’s design is, in a word, perfect. It was $200,000 when it was new (it was retired to make room for the DB11).
Sure, the 510-horsepower, 6.0-liter V12 is a monument to inefficiency, but it’s a wonder to drive.
Porsche 718 Boxster. The mid-engine four-cylinder attempts to correct the basic design flaw of the 911 — and succeeds!
With a nifty drop-top, the 718 Boxster can serve up endless open-air driving fun. True, the trunk-space is effectively nominal. And the frunk doesn’t add much more cargo space.
But hauling stuff isn’t the point. Once you slip into the snug cockpit and get to driving, you lighten your load anyway.
Mazda MX-5 Miata. The reinvention of the classic roadster is the platonic idea of a two-door drop-top.
The MX-5 is a smile-maker. There are plenty of more powerful sports cars, but the Miata has cemented its place in automotive history by being the best at mainlining pleasure.
BMW M2 Competition. The 2-Series brought BMW back to its 1970s-era performance roots, and the M Sport iteration delivered the best new bimmer in a decade.
I can’t say that the M2 is particularly attractive. It’s actually sort of stubby, with its muscles in the wrong places. Price as-tested was $67,000.
The M2 has an impressive 405-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine under the hood. That’s some serious beef for a small two-door.
Jaguar F-Type. Suave yet aggressive, the F-Type is perhaps the most beautiful car money can buy.
The redesigned 2021 F-Type is a handsome update.
The Jaguar F-Type SVR is a screamer with a 575-horsepower V8 under the hood.
Ferrari 488. Now superseded by the F8 Tributo, the 488 brought a mid-engine turbocharged V8 to the prancing stallion definitive sports car. I took the Spider on a road trip to Lime Rock Park, a famous Connecticut raceway.
The 488 GTB I sampled tipped the cost scales at $360,000 — but the masterpiece was worth every penny. The twin-turbo V8 cranked out 661 horsepower.
The F8 Tributo perhaps marks the end of V8s for Ferrari. The world expects the next mid-engined machine in the bloodline to be a twin-turbo six.
Corvette Grand Sport. The are more powerful Vettes, but the GS is the sweet spot for this legendary American beast. A 6.2-liter V8 that we find in the Stingray, making 460 horsepower. No supercharger.
The original Grand Sport Corvettes were created by the car’s first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, in 1963. They were intended to be race cars, designed to run in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. My tester was $70,000, an amazing bargain.
The new C8 Vette has relocated the engine from the front to amidships, transforming the car into a $60,000, all-American Ferrari 458. No word yet on whether a Grand Sport version could be added to the lineup.
Ford Mustang GT. It’s hard to go wrong with a Mustang, which in GT form serves up a heapin’ helpin’ of American muscle.
Trivia: the Mustang doesn’t bear the Ford Blue Oval badge anywhere on the vehicle.
Turbos? Ha! Supercharger? No thanks! Just give me displacement. My GT tester had a 5.0-liter V8, making 460 horsepower. With a delicious six-speed manual transmission, the price was about $45,000
Chevy Camaro SS. My $52,000 test car came with a wild Hot Wheels extra package, along with a few other options, bringing the price up from $42,000 — an insane bargain for this much power and performance.
With its high beltline, bold rear haunches, low-slung stance, and overall spirit of throwback, muscle-car aggression — not to mention the orange paint job — the Camaro SS makes a statement, anywhere and everywhere.
Under the hood, a 6.2-liter V8, making 455 horsepower with 455 pound-feet of torque. This mill is all motor — not turbochargers or superchargers anywhere in sight.
Mercedes-AMG GT. I tested a $168,000 GT C trim — and it was love at first drive.
The AMG GT C is simply flat-out suave. It prizes good tailoring. But it also isn’t afraid to throw a punch.
The 4.0-liter V8 rocks twin turbochargers, making 550 horsepower with 502 pound-feet of torque. This example, as with all AMG GT motors, was handbuilt in Germany.
Lamborghini Huracán. The newest “little” Lambo proved that the VW Group’s ownership of the Italian marque could bring a level of refinement to the bull that few thought was possible.
I’ve driven a whole bunch of Lambo Huracáns. This Performante was $320,000 and had a 5.2-liter, 631-horsepower V10 engine. No supercharger. No turbochargers. Just old-school power, produced by displacement. Torque? 443 pound-feet of push.
I also sampled a $314,000 Huracán Spyder, which brought open-air motoring to the monster.
McLaren 720S. Sports car … or supercar? The terms sometimes overlap. When we tested a $296,000 example, we decided it was the best supercar … ever.
We took the 720S out on a track in Italy and discovered that it staggeringly aggressive looks were more than matched by its staggeringly compelling performance.
A 710-horsepower, 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine live beneath that hatch. The mid-mounted powerplant enables a 0-60 mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 212 mph.
MINI John Cooper Works. My $37,000 car, as-tested, was downright terrifying.
The MINI JCW has legitimate racetrack credibility.
228-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and its claimed zero-to-60 time of about six seconds. True, there are much faster sports cars out there — cars that can saw the MINI’s acceleration in half. But in the JCW you just feel every single one of the those six seconds fly by in joyous flashback of you life.
Nissan 370Z. Yes, the Z-car is aging. But I think it’s aging well! Here we have one of the 50th anniversary special editions.
I’ve driven the 370Z on several occasions and with multiple setups. The 370Z Nismo is shown here.
But I never get tired of the smooth 3.7-liter V6, which serves up well over 300 horsepower and doesn’t need any help from turbos or superchargers.
I didn’t like the way the revamped Supra looked, but I richly enjoyed the way it drove.
My $56,000 tester had a juicy 335-horsepower inline-six-cylinder engine under the hood.
Subaru BRZ. The Subie, which is also sold as the Toyota 86, is possibly a favorite everyman’s track car. The sub-$30,000 coupé makes 205 horsepower from a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter motor.
But the driving dynamics are what sets the BRZ apart: This rear-wheel-drive ride wants to rotate at 40 mph! Tail-happiness was never so easy or affordable.
For wannabe track-rats on a budget, the BRZ is something special. I’ve tracked the thing and can vouch for how much fun it is to max out the horsepower while fighting to keep the back end in check.