Performance cars are the ultimate form of the automobile. They display the unbelievable level of engineering required to make a car race around a track without any problems. It also doesn’t hurt that much of that engineering often trickles down to lesser cars as well. While even a standard economy car can be transformed into a performance machine, the real head-turners are cars that are built to be fast from the start. Cars like BMWs, Porsches, and Ferraris are often some of the most incredible cars on the road. Such vehicles are truly something special due to their amazing motors and impressive suspension designs. These cars are often the highest form of mobile status symbols as well if that matters to the buyer. If it wasn’t for the cost of all that performance and engineering, everybody would be driving a fast car.
However, sometimes it’s for the best that only the wealthy can afford such vehicles. While performance cars must be built tough to achieve such performance, sometimes, glaring design flaws are left in the production car, and it’s up to the consumer to discover them. Given the sheer number of components that go into every car, it’s not surprising that a few problems sneak through the cracks. It’s a real shame, as all 20 of these cars are incredible vehicles that just have a single element that damages their reputation.
Porsche currently has a reputation for making some of the most reliable supercars on the market. While they may be more exotic, comparable Ferraris and Lamborghinis won’t keep beating around the track as long as a rear-engine Porsche. However, this wasn’t always the case. In 1997, Porsche switched from its old-fashioned air-cooled engine design to a modern water-cooled motor. This was the beginning of the modern Porsche, and it was an incredible car, save for one little component.
While the 996 generation 911 was well engineered, for the most part, the IMS bearing is a legendary weak point in this famous car. This little engine component is known to fail, and it when it does, it'll take the motor with it. At least, the part can be changed regularly, even if it isn’t cheap to do so.
To say the Bugatti Veyron is a landmark car is an understatement. Until the Veyron came out, the world’s fastest car was the McLaren F1, which was a brilliant car, but it was built solely for performance. In comparison, the Bugatti could accelerate quicker and topped out at a record-breaking 254 miles per hour while keeping the driver in the lap of luxury.
Everything about the Veyron makes it the ultimate supercar in every way, with its all-wheel-drive system, ultra-high-speed rated tires, and that ridiculous quad-turbo W12 motor that makes the magic happen.
And of course, it’s worth remembering that all those parts need to be maintained. The mandatory annual service costs over $20,000. Being that the car is worth over $1 million, most owners probably don’t worry about being able to afford the costs. Regardless, that’s quite a price just for maintenance.
Muscle cars have always been about horsepower. It’s always the most powerful model that everyone remembers years later, and today’s most powerful muscle car is the Dodge Challenger. While the Demon version sits above the rest of the Challenger lineup, the Hellcat was the first to cross the 700-horsepower barrier. With all that power, this supercharged Challenger will outrun substantially more expensive vehicles in a straight line.
The Hellcat has even proven to be a surprisingly durable car, as it's able to take many demanding hours on the track without flinching, despite being a product of Fiat Chrysler.
Unfortunately, when fitted with drag radials, the automatic Hellcat has a tendency to twist drive shafts. That’s quite the oversight in a car that was destined to be popular at the drag strip.
There aren’t many brands that have transformed the way Lexus has. The brand started back in 1989, only producing soft, safe, and reliable cars for the traditional luxury buyer. While the brand did shift a little over the following decades, it hadn’t experienced anything like the change in 2010, when the LFA was released. That supercar set the pace for the brand’s halo cars. One of these new halo cars was the Lexus RC F, a performance coupe with a naturally aspirated 467-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 and a lot of impressive suspension technology under the skin. These sports cars may be fast, but they have a rather large flaw: the styling. The RC F definitely has love-it-or-hate-it looks, with many people falling in the latter category. As a result, individuals put off by the busy styling won’t experience this V8-powered sports car.
Four-door supercars are seemingly an oxymoron. Supercars are almost never practical, as they often seat only two people and have an outrageous engine where the rear seats usually are. It should be impossible to match the performance of a supercar with a boring sedan. However, the M5 is anything but a boring sedan.
The E60 model that ran from 2005 to 2010 was powered by a 5.0-liter V10, which produced 500 horsepower and was hooked up to a race-inspired semi-automatic transmission. This gray sedan is often claimed to have a top speed of 200 miles per hour when the speed governor is disabled. Unfortunately, that fancy transmission was a constant source of expensive bills for many owners. And while it can be repaired, it’s only a matter of time before the new parts break, too. However, if you live in America, you can get one with a durable manual transmission instead.
Ferrari is one of those brands where everything they make is hugely successful and popular, even if it isn’t any good. The Ferrari F355 isn’t one of those cars. While it was never the fastest car in the world, it's still a quick car while being absolutely gorgeous at the same time. The F355 is one of the last old-school Ferraris, as nearly every following model had a focus on being technological and pushing new dual-clutch transmissions each year. With a low stance and pop-up headlights, this Ferrari manages to have classic lines without looking dated.
The problem with the F355 is its reliability, which is typically Italian.
Certain components of the engine supposedly have a 100% failure rate and will cost thousands of dollars to repair in preventative maintenance, which still won’t permanently fix the problem.
For a few years, Mercedes released a line of track-worthy performance cars that were a step above the already impressive AMG lineup. These cars were known as Black series. These incredible automobiles were relieved of their excess weight and had loads of carbon fiber installed onto every surface of the interior. Despite being based on heavy Mercedes vehicles, the Black cars were still incredibly fast and were famous for shredding their tires at the slightest provocation. The CLK 63 AMG Black was the first of these incredible cars, and the center of its performance was its 6.2-liter V8. This incredible motor put out 500 horsepower without the aid of forced induction. However, these engines suffer from a chronic head-bolt failure that can result in coolant entering the cylinders and hydro locking the motor. Needless to say, this problem will bring the fun to an end really quick.
Until the new 750-horsepower ZR1 is released, the Z06 is the fastest Corvette you can buy right now. While that statement wasn’t all that impressive years ago, the Corvette has evolved greatly over the years, becoming a true supercar competitor.
Today’s Z06 is an incredible machine with 650 horsepower under the hood, track-ready suspension, and fat tires that allow this ‘Vette to outrun Porsches and Ferraris with ease.
It even has a Z07 track-day package. This all makes it a shame that the 2015-2017 model years of this fast Corvette are affected by an issue that causes the car to practically shut down on the track. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Chevy, the case positing that the 2015-2017 Corvette Z06 has a cooling problem that'll put the car into limp mode after 15 minutes on the track.
The Bentley Continental was the car that brought the company into the modern age. Before the Continental, Bentley solely built stately luxury cars based on ancient designs for similarly ancient billionaires to be chauffeured around in. Granted, they still build a car for that purpose, but they also sell more contemporary models that are every bit as sporty as they are luxurious. The Continental made Bentley relevant again in the world of young millionaires for the first time in decades. Powered by a twin-turbocharged W12 motor, the Continental also brought back Bentley’s performance. Unfortunately, early examples of this car are prone to a vacuum leak problem that'll make the car rather noisy—the last thing you want in a Bentley. The only way to fix this simple problem, due to the location of the vacuum hoses, is to drop the transmission.
The Shelby name is about as iconic as they come. As a brand that’s been modifying Mustangs for decades, it’s no surprise that the brand has created and continues to create some of the most impressive muscle cars ever made. The modern Shelby Mustang first started in 2007, when Ford sold the GT500—a supercharged, 500-horsepower, striped Mustang that provided impressive straight-line performance when it was new. The model continued to be improved until 2014, when it was discontinued. However, the final models produced 662 horsepower, which is still a lot of power to this day. Ford even insisted that the GT500 could do 200 miles per hour. The big problem is where that power is sent. Even as late as 2014, the Mustang was still using an ancient live rear axle, which is fine for drag racing but disastrous for those who like going around corners.
Porsche is primarily known for particular types of vehicles: rear-engine sports cars and supercars. Other than some experimenting in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Porsche hasn’t really strayed from this formula. However, one of their more recent deviations is the Panamera. This four-door sedan was quite a change to the lineup. With a powerful V8 in the front of the car, some purists may not approve of the Panamera due to its departure from Porsche tradition. However, that’s not really a problem for people who just want a fast luxury car. And it’s reliable, given Porsche’s track record. What really ruins this car is its looks. With lumpy styling all around, it’s almost unrecognizable as a Porsche without its badging. At least, it’s the fastest car that was styled after a sack of potatoes.
The Mercedes SLK is basically a rich man’s Mazda Miata, as it’s a tiny, lightweight (at least, considering the folding metal roof) convertible. Early AMG SLKs simply featured a supercharger on the V6 engine to give the little convertible a little more power. However, by the mid-2000s, AMG decided to stop messing around and stuffed a 375-horsepower, 5.5-liter V8 under the SLK’s tiny hood—an amazing feat by itself. With such a huge motor in a tiny car, it would be no surprise to see the SLK outrunning supercars. However, that was hardly the case. The big motor was simply too much for the little Mercedes, and it couldn’t put its power down. With zero-to-60 times of just under five seconds, this little car should’ve been much faster.
The BMW M4 is already one of the best performance cars on the market. Its great powertrain matches its well-sorted chassis design. However, BMW decided that it wasn’t done with the M4. The M4 GTS is a stripped-out, caged, track-ready version of the already amazing M4.
Its massive weight savings and suspension alterations make it a commendable performance machine.
It even has features unseen on other production cars, such as a water injection system that increases power on street gas. Given this car’s limited production run and incredible performance, it was priced at a steep $134,000—nearly twice the price of the standard car. That all makes it a bit embarrassing that this six-figure, track-ready BMW was more than a second slower than the considerably cheaper Shelby GT350R and the Camaro Z/28 during Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap.
TVR isn’t a well-known brand outside of its home country of Great Britain. However, that doesn’t stop it from having quite a legacy when it comes to performance cars. One of the brand’s more recent models was the Tuscan Speed Six, a sleek two-door sports car that had a simple, lightweight design, which made it every bit as fun as it was dangerous, and it was very dangerous. While the danger isn’t necessarily a flaw, the Tuscan and other modern TVRs were horribly complicated—and not in a technological way. For instance, the exterior door handle was a button on the bottom of the wing mirror, and the interior one was an unlabeled button on the dash. While some love this quirkiness, it's probably not endearing to newcomers. It’s also probably no fun maintaining a rare British sports car that has part of its hood bolted shut.
Tesla is becoming an amazing brand through its incredible technology and innovative electric-car developments. The model that encapsulates this best is the Model X SUV, which features partial self-driving technology and impressive-looking gullwing doors for easy access to the rear seats. And then, there’s the performance. T
he Model X’s straight-line acceleration is like nothing else. It can tear to 60 miles per hour in a mere 2.9 seconds, making this family hauler capable of embarrassing some of the most impressive supercars in the world.
So, what’s bad about it? Well, you'd hope that such an advanced car’s technology would work. Owners have been complaining about rampant problems with the Model X. Early models were so bad that Consumer Reports listed it as one of its least reliable cars of 2016.
Many companies have claimed that their new performance cars are racecars for the road, but such cars are rarely as hardcore as real racecars. The Caparo T1 was one of the few cars that actually managed to be a racecar for the road. While it’s not exactly the same as a real F1 car, it’s certainly as close as a street-legal car can get to one. Its wheels protrude out from its narrow body, and it has an open-top design. Behind the seats is a 3.5-liter V8 that sends 575 horsepower through the 1,000-pound body via a sequential gearbox. However, this car has a dangerous reputation—and not just because of its terrifying performance. These cars have caught fire and come apart just while being driven by automotive journalists.
The Mercedes G-Wagen is likely the oldest new car you can buy today. It started production in 1979 as a German military truck, and it was slowly transformed into a luxury SUV as more leather and technology was crammed into its interior. Even the current version of the G-Wagen isn’t all that different from the four-door model you could buy back in the early 2000s. The crazy minds at AMG decided that this German Jeep needed more power, resulting in the G65 AMG.
This G-Wagen has a 621-horsepower twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 shoehorned under the hood.
The issue is that this amazing engine is in a 40-year-old military truck that sends its power through twin live axles. Sure, it’s fast, but there are other fast SUVs that'll let you use similar amounts of horsepower with far more confidence.
Lamborghini has always been a highly exclusive brand—no surprise given their lineup’s price range. However, in the early 2000s, the company released a significantly cheaper model called the "Gallardo." At least, it was cheap in comparison to the faster Murcielago. As a result, this new Gallardo model was far more popular, allowing the brand to be more widely seen than ever. It helped that the Gallardo was fast enough to live up to its Lamborghini badge.
With a 5.0-liter V10 mounted in the middle of the vehicle, this was a true supercar.
It even had ambitious technology, such as its E-Gear semi-automatic transmission, which let the driver shift through the gears without requiring a clutch. However, that’s where the problems are, as the E-Gear transmission will eat through clutches, and it's expensive to repair.
If there’s a brand that manages to be exotic without solely producing supercars, it would be Maserati. This sleek Italian brand builds handsome, elegant, and fast performance cars in many different forms. Whether it’s a coupe, a sedan, or even a crossover, Maserati makes a high-speed luxury car for the segment. The Ghibli is the company’s entry into the mid-size luxury sedan market. Powered by a 325-horsepower twin-turbo V6, this Maserati is the more affordable alternative to the Quattroporte, and it shows. While the model certainly delivers on the performance front, it falls short in the luxury segment. For a car that has a starting price of over $70,000, it has a lot of accessories and components from the FCA parts bin, giving it poor value for the money.
In 2004, Ford released the incredible Ford GT. It was a mid-engine supercar with retro looks and performance that could match the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the day while costing significantly less. Its supercharged 5.4-liter V8 may have been largely based on a truck motor, but it was good for 550 horsepower. Even if its power output hasn’t aged too well, its performance certainly has, as it can sprint to 60 in under four seconds and can top out at over 200 miles per hour. Even though Ford has released a newer and faster GT, it doesn’t quite have the allure of the original model. And that’s the original GT’s problem. If you want one of these 12-year-old supercars, be prepared to spend more than double the original price. Even the cheap GTs will have asking prices of over $200,000, while the nicest ones will cost over $400,000.