On the internet, if one wants someone to click their video or article link about a car, they put in a horsepower number. It’s a quick and dirty metric of how interesting something is. If someone built a 600 horsepower Toyota Tercel, that’s definitely worth a click.
The issue with this is that a horsepower number doesn’t say much about how fun a car is. In the ethereal and largely theoretical world of internet bench racing and fantasy car ownership, a faster car is generally better. But in reality, even for someone who certifiably sends it every day, the only places you can use 1,200 horses are a freeway, a runway, or a salt flat. And that’s only assuming you don’t get arrested, which is a legitimate possibility with some of those options.
To make that kind of power something close to usable, the cars which have it are built to be incredibly competent machines, capable of handling cornering speeds that can make one’s eyes water. This is excellent on track, but on the street, even in very spirited driving, it means you will never get close to the car’s potential.
With a slow car, it is different. Every mile, if one wishes, can be driven on the edge, pedal to the metal and clipping apexes. Every input matters. Sure, you won’t win any internet bench races, but life will be far more fun. And since fun is the reason we’re into cars, slow cars make a lot of sense.
23 Fast But Boring - Lamborghini Huracan
Mid-engined supercars were never meant for the faint of heart. Fast and unforgiving, they gave rise to some of the greatest automotive icons of all time in both drivers and cars, partially because they required real skill to be taken to the limit.
Lamborghini built many of these cars, with the wildness of raging bulls they created one of their selling points. But now that Lamborghini is owned by Audi, things are a lot less wild. Keeping customers alive is a good thing, but going so far as to create extreme under-steering in a supercar isn’t, according to Motor Trend.
22 Slow Riot - Ford Mustang Foxbody
The simple things don’t really age. In the legendary Foxbody’s case, the simple things are an old school 60s derived V8 up front, rear wheel drive, and a hatch in the back for a little practicality.
Just the act of starting an old Fox can put hair on one’s chest.
The car may look like it’s from the 80s, but it sounds every bit the 60s muscle car, but at a tenth the price. They can be easily and cheaply built into just about anything, from time attack machines to drift mavens to drag missiles, according to Motor Trend.
21 Fast But Boring - Nissan GT-R R35
Perhaps the poster boy for overly competent cars, the GT-R caused a sensation during its first release. Like many supercars when first unleashed, it was a game-changer, capable of accelerating and cornering with seemingly supernatural stability and speed.
All this competition-destroying performance and handling was due to the GT-R’s black magic computer-controlled all-wheel drive system, according to Motor Trend. The problem, which only surfaced in reviews after drivers had become somewhat used to the extreme performance of the car, is that the system is so good, it does a lot of the work for them, including a lot of the fun stuff.
20 Slow Riot - Toyota Corolla GT-S AE86
A proper sports machine doesn’t do anything for the driver and that is where the legend of the AE86 begins. No traction control, no stability control, not even ABS were to be found in this bare-bones lightweight.
Limited power and grip also meant that every mistake a driver made was very clear, meaning this was a car that taught its driver.
Through this, some of the greatest drivers of all-time were honed with this machine, including several well-known street racers and the Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya, according to Hot Version.
19 Fast But Boring - Second Generation Acura NSX
Some things are better off left not brought back from the dead. In this case, the zombie in question is the NSX, a car that even on release underwhelmed. What is especially sad about the case of the new NSX is that if any of the other stillborn NSX projects had reached production on time, they would have been excellent.
But instead, we got a high tech hybrid that’s too heavy to be pure, too underpowered to impress, and far too driver-aid full to entertain, according to Motor Trend.
18 Slow Riot - First Generation Honda NSX
Things were different back in the day. The first generation NSX was a technological showpiece like the new car but in a more timely and focused way. Entirely new metallurgy techniques were developed and used on the NSX, tied to old school racing suspension geometry and high-performance brakes.
The entire package was hundreds of pounds lighter than its rivals and had infinitely sharper handling.
That handling, both accessible and challenging, is hard to surpass with even the greatest supercars of today, because some Honda engineers back in the 90s didn’t muck about, according to Motor Trend.
17 Fast But Boring - Early BMW M4
They were practical everyday machines, looking the part of a normal car in traffic, but under the skin had the suspension and weight distribution of a taut and focused sports car. This gave them the handling to match. But recently BMW changed priorities, as their customer base aged.
Their cars were even faster than before, but lacked the same feel and charisma, almost like an athlete replaced with a drone. Their cars got so artificial even the engine sounds were digitally altered and played through the speakers in the cabin, according to Motor Trend.
16 Slow Riot - Nissan Skyline GT-R (Hakosuka)
Handling is a special thing and is often best accessed for fun through simpler, more basic automobiles. The original 2000 GT-R, nicknamed the Hakosuka for its box-like proportions, is one of those basic autos.
The engine is small and far from powerful, but revs heavy and sounds like the trumpets of heaven.
The car moves through corners without massive grip but with a balance and character on its own. Very few other machines are this joyful to pilot, but that's what makes the Hako so endearing, according to Motor Trend.
15 Fast But Boring - VW Golf R32 Mk5
Volkswagen is not known for building driver cars these days. They build boring sedans and shrug-worthy hatchbacks. But one of those late model hatches just so happens to be incredibly fast.
The R32 line of Golfs one-ups the GTI nameplate as the hottest hatch VW builds. The problem is that all the hatches VW builds are sedating in character, especially the fastest. They are computerized to the point where in some cases incredibly intrusive driver aids that simply won’t let you have fun and can’t even be turned off, according to Motor Trend.
14 Slow Riot - Datsun 240Z
Normally, the original is the best. The original Nissan Z follows this trend, as the lightest and most focused Z car, which single-handedly started a car revolution here in the US.
This revolution where people discovered the wonder of a lightweight and agile sports coupe could be considered similar to what the Mustang did on its first arrival, just on a smaller scale.
Over time, the Z drifted away from its roots, becoming laden with technology and weight, but the original 240 and 260 Fairlady Z cars will always be a beacon, according to Road and Track.
13 Fast But Boring - Ford Focus RS
When covering the “next big thing” in cars, the media seems to have a cycle of shell shock when something is first released, which then fades into a more realistic view later. That happened with the R35 GT-R and to a lesser extent the supposed STI-killer, the Focus RS.
With a far higher tech four-wheel drive system, more power, and generally better running gear, Ford intended to blow their competition out of the water with the RS, but only matched them in the end. Insult was added to injury when the simpler front wheel drive Civic Type R started beating the RS around tracks, proving that more tech does not equal better engineering, according to Motor Trend.
12 Slow Riot - Honda CRX
In some cases, less is more. The CRX is proof positive of that. A cheap featherweight front wheel drive hatchback, the CRX is cheap to buy, run, and repair, making an excellent first car.
While not fast in a straight line, it has incredible maneuverability for a front wheel drive car, and offers nearly as much driver teaching ability as the AE86, thanks to very easy to grasp basic handling characteristics.
But the low skill floor masks a high skill ceiling. The nuances of braking from full-speed with such a short wheelbase and front-heavy design still require a driver to build the skill to achieve it correctly, according to Motor Trend.
11 Fast But Boring - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
When first released, the Evo X was touted as a mini GT-R of sorts. Adorned with a seemingly similar advanced four-wheel drive system, while the GT-R blew away supercars, the Evo X did the same for sports cars, especially on track.
What all this speed when pushed hard masked, however, was an incredibly boring standard driving experience off the track. While fast, this is only when boost has built, and while competent at handling, the vehicle is so insulated it feels like a modern Corolla or minivan, according to Mighty Car Mods.
10 Slow Riot - Toyota MR2 (Non-Turbo)
The MR2 does not have that problem. While the non-turbo version is slow as all get-out, especially compared to its Testarossa-beating turbocharged sibling, it still provides an experience so raucous as to be occasionally dangerous.
From the driver’s seat, one sits low, with a supercar-like seating position, and a formula car like steering feel, with every crease and dip in the road sensed through the wheel, allowing the driver to compensate for them himself.
Similar to the AE86, the MR2 has no driver aids and not even power steering in some cases. It trades most driver training ability for more cornering capability, thus being harder to drive but as fast through the corners as an NSX, given the proper driver, according to Hot Version.
9 Fast But Boring - Subaru WRX (Stink-Eye)
Subaru has the unenviable position of being a small car-maker competing directly with the big boys. Its small size means it has very little money to develop new technology, and that whatever it makes, Subaru has to get a lot of mileage out of.
Unfortunately, one of those things happened to be the bad replacement to the Hawkeye generation of Impreza, the unaffectionately nicknamed "Stink-Eye." The issue with the Stink-Eye wasn’t so much the look, as the feel. While the Evo X that rivaled it felt like a minivan with how insulated it made the driver, the Subaru was even worse, according to Top Gear.
8 Slow Riot - Porsche 356 Speedster
There’s nothing quite like the classics, and while the 356 Speedster costs massive heaps of cash and will probably be outrun by a factory-spec 90s station wagon, the experience it provides drivers remains quite special.
Rear-engined like the 911 that followed it, but with less power and grip, the 356 utterly shines with a good driver but is perhaps a bit more forgiving than the powerful 911 turbos that would eventually follow it. The Speedster is a car unbound by time, slow yet somehow awesome, according to Motor Trend.
7 Fast But Boring - Porsche 911 Turbo 996
The 996 Turbo was supposed to be part of a brave new frontier for Porsche, a step away from their iconic air-cooled cars and into an era of higher power and greater performance. It certainly accomplished both of these things, and was also surprisingly reliable for a sports car- but it was also a handling mess from the factory.
Porsche had long been trying to make their rear-engined layout more accessible for drivers who weren’t capable of making use of its performance capabilities, but in the end, went too far and ended up with a lot of floppy under-steering, according to Road and Track.
6 Slow Riot - Caterham Seven 270
One of the purest driver experiences one can ever get comes from a car you can buy brand new right now, at least if you’re an Englishman. The Seven 270 is extremely lightweight, has no driver aids whatsoever, and only enough power to allow the driver to learn to conserve momentum.
One of the best vehicles to learn high performance driving in, as weight shifting is still a factory like in larger vehicles, unlike go-karts, but every input is very clearly shown to be positive or negative, according to Motor Trend.
5 Fast But Boring - Volvo S60 T6 R-Design
The photo above shows the most extreme performance variant of the S60 Volvo is prepared to sell you. Don’t hold it against them, they’re Volvo. Reliability and safety are their claims to fame, but with that said the T6 is quite the sleeper and will put a range of sports and muscle cars to shame in a straight line.
The problem, from a driver’s perspective, is that it’s still a Volvo. Cushy, insulated, under-steering, and filled with intrusive driver aids. Unexpectedly fast, but expected to be boring, according to Motor Trend.
4 Slow Riot - Lotus Elise
The poster child of the modern mid-engine lightweight sports car, Lotus’ pride and joy, the Elise has earned quite a few accolades over the years. Its handling is legendary, not only in overall capability but also in feel and character.
If you mess up as a driver, the Elise won’t save you, but that only makes victory all the more rewarding, as every corner, crest, and dip presents a new and engaging challenge.
Many cars are fast, but few feel anywhere near as good to hammer on as this tiny two-seater with the engine from a Corolla, according to Top Gear.
3 Fast But Boring - 2011 Audi RS5
Excellent as a long distance luxury GT, but try anything sporting and the heavyweight will slow you down, the driver aids will frustrate you, and the under-steer will bore you, as you desperately attempt to get the thing turned into a corner as the front lazily continues to torpedo into the corner, according to Motor Trend.
It really isn’t enough to be fast as an expensive performance car, as cheap stuff like the Type R Integra provides a lot more smiles in the twisty stuff.
2 Slow Riot - Ford Fiesta ST
Long live the hot hatch, as long as they stay small. These cars fly off the shelves in Europe and were actually quite popular here. A little turbo engine makes all the proper whooshy noises as it propels you along the road at speed, and lightweight and good suspension tuning means that cornering is not just good, but a riotous good time, according to Motor Trend.
The Fiesta ST makes its big sister, the Focus ST, look like a poser car. Why be heavier and less agile when you can change direction like a bumblebee?
1 Fast But Boring - Audi S4
The A4 was always meant to be a low-end luxury, and never a driver car, but the S4 variant was made to be more than a little bit quick. When modified they can be fast, enough to threaten just about anything else on the street.
The problem, however, is that they’re Audis.
Very front heavy, very heavy in general, very complex, and very saddled with electronic nannies that plunk every opportunity to have fun away from you, according to Motor Trend. Speed is great but does not necessarily equal fun. Fun is engagement, fun is an accomplishment. Fun is a challenge.
Sources - Road & Track & Motor Trend