There's a wide variety of cars on this list, but it may seem sports-heavy—although that’s not a bad thing at all. After all, a sports car should be a favorite of a car junkie. You'll note that a lot of these are compact sports cars; they're not necessarily your high-end Ferraris or Lamborghinis, which they shouldn’t necessarily be. You know, a lot of us think that sports cars ought to look like what a Ferrari or a Lamborghini looks like. But that gets boring and cumbersome rather quickly.
Doug DeMuro, a staff writer for Jalopnik, tried driving a Ferrari every day. He drove it everywhere. He duct-taped a monkey to his Ferrari, tied a TV on the car's roof, and went through a McDonald’s Drive-Thru to be able to enjoy life, his sense of humor, and the practicality of the car. He did this after he had written a piece about how one could drive a Ferrari daily. And he even preached the daily applicability of Ferrari to others. But after a couple of days, he started realizing how impractical that was. And it wasn’t the gas—that’s expected, as Ferrari is no Prius. It’s the little things that got him. It was the taunting comments about the gas mileage. It was the unwarranted attention that he got all the time, unfortunately. It was the maintenance cost that got him. Finally, he decided he didn’t like Ferraris that much.
That’s why you won’t see many high-end cars on here. Plus, it’s a list for car junkies. Let’s dive in.
20 2008-2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Competing in the market with Mustang and Camaro, the Dodge Challenger made its way back into the game in 2008. The Dodge Challenger was first in production from 1970-1974. The second generation lasted from 1978-1983. There was a long hiatus before the introduction of the third generation in 2008. I’m not sure what they were doing during those years, but I can confidently say their third-generation car is a hit. I mean that seriously—all the models of 2008 were pre-sold, many for a price above the MSRP. And rightly so. The Challenger is one of those cars that have a novel design; it’s not a variation of another car and, more importantly, it looks exceptionally pleasing to the eye. The powertrain hiding under the hood isn’t average either. Unless you think a 6.1-liter V8 producing 425 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque is average.
19 2008-2009 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500KR
Here's another one that has some history to its presence. The high-performance car was in production from 1965-1970. And then there was nothing but silence until 2005, when Ford decided to resume producing the high-performance car. These cars not only looked powerful, invincible, and beautiful but also had the all-capable powertrain to back them up. This is quite in contrast to some of the Chevy Cobalt SS', which were powerful (although nowhere near this powerful), but just didn’t have that look of a sports car. The Mustang GT500 was what it was, but the GT500KR was “King of the Road,” both by name and performance. It outdid the performance of the Challenger from the same year with its 5.4-liter V8 producing 580 HP and 510 lb-ft of torque. Talk about power! The KR had staggered tires, also.
18 2009 Dodge Viper ACR
The Viper ACR was a sports car just like the Cobra R. It was stripped of the luxury and what some may even consider necessities. But that's exactly why the ACR made it on the list. Much like the Viper, the ACR had the powerful 8.4-liter V10 engine, generating 600 HP and 560 lb-ft of torque. But aerodynamics is where it beats every other car in the game. The car looks fabulous in black and red colors. The tires dance around the zone of legal and illegal, as they had an incomprehensibly high grip-strength. And if you wanted to understand what formidable meant, all you did was look at the downward-sloping curvy hood, which had several vents in the black region. Go, Dodge!
17 2005 Chevrolet Corvette (C6)
Let’s see, Dodge Challenger? Check. Ford Mustang? Check. Corvette? Time to check it off the list. As you'll see, a couple more variants of the Corvette will be found below in the list. For now, let’s just focus on the year that brought about the sixth generation of the Corvette. For some reason, the early ones from the sixth generation remind me of some of the Porsche 993s from the front (of course, not the back, as Corvette doesn’t have the wings or a slanting roof). Anyway, the sixth generation brought a faster, smaller, and lighter Corvette. And the fuel economy was also better than before, which meant your wallet didn’t suffer that big of a dent. If you wanted a beautiful sports car, this would've been it back then.
16 2004-2009 Cadillac CTS-V
The V meant it was the high-performance version of the CTS, and that started a year after the CTS came to light. All of the CTS-Vs feature sport-tuned suspension and a pushrod OHV engine. Gone were the days of the Cadillac being a car for the old; Cadillac got its act together to build a car appealing to all. The 2004 saw a sporty car with 400 HP rumbling out of a 5.7-liter V8. The engine slowly saw a continued increase in performance throughout its lifetime, but 2009 is when Cadillac got even more serious. The second-generation CTS-V sedan increased the power to 556 HP and the torque to 551 lb-ft. The engine was no longer the same either; the force-generating machine was a 6.2-liter supercharged V8. Cadillac added a coupe and a wagon to its fleet afterward.
15 2007 Mazdaspeed3
The hot hatch is the performance-enhanced version of the Mazda3, which replaced the Mazda Protégé in 2003, though in Japan, the Mazdaspeed3 is called "Mazdaspeed Axela." The 2.3-liter V4 produces 262 HP. That’s plenty of power to take this sweet car on a curvy road and have a blast as the car responds quickly to the gas pedal and steering. The semi-sleeper styling offers a comfortable interior, with the cabin giving an aura of elegance through and through despite the tight legroom for taller passengers. A car junkie, and most of us also, can appreciate the beauty of the car. And let’s not ever forget the price of this car. Costing $25K brand new, this car provides some good sports vibe that a lot of pricey cars miss.
14 2000 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra R
Known simply as "Cobra," the SVT Mustang Cobra was in production since 1993 and had a good run until 2004. It was built by SVT and ranked higher than the GT and Mach 1 models. Now let's bring in the R version, which was a street-legal race-ready car, produced in limited numbers on three different occasions. The last occasion was in 2000. And boy, was that a sight when it came out. It was devoid of any features that would've made it heavy on the tracks, meaning, no radio, AC, antenna, fog-lights, speakers, etc. The naturally aspirated 5.4-liter V8 generated an awesome 385 HP and 4.7-second 0-60 mph time. With a top speed of 170 mph, it was the fastest factory Mustang available to the masses, but even then, only 300 units were produced.
13 2008-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo
The Chevy Cobalt SS encompassed three slightly different sports cars; one had the forced induction engine, the other, I4 Ecotec, and the other, a naturally aspirated engine. With the aim of hitting the tuner market, this was GM’s first attempt at such an endeavor. The results weren't bad at all; the Cobalt SS received positive news at large, especially for the turbocharged version. Despite all the positive reviews, the SS turbo remained rather unknown, compared to some of the other sports cars. Perhaps, it’s its compact nature or the fact that it doesn’t look like your average sports car, but this is, nevertheless, one of the best cars produced by America in the 2000s. It produces 260 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is a lot for a car of this size. The car drives a lot better than what it may look to you.
12 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO
It’s one of those cars that had a run for ten years, back in the day, and then reappeared in the 2000s for a few years. These were the muscle cars of the beloved ‘60s and ‘70s, of which John Cena was one of the biggest fans. (He owns a ’69 Carousel Red Pontiac GTO Judge, a ’70 Cardinal Red Pontiac GTO Judge, and a ’71 Black Pontiac GTO Judge!) The ones from 2004-2006 retained just the shaker hood, but the design, of course, changed. The ones from the 2000s were a failure as they were just an expensive rebadging of an ill-looking Australian sports car. Despite the car not gaining much momentum in the market, it did very well on the road. It had a powerful powertrain that any car junky would want to drive.
11 Mini Cooper
Mini cars generally don’t have that much momentum in the market, for whatever reason. And while we might laugh at the ‘60s model of a Mini Cooper if we saw one in real life, they did save a lot of space because of the transverse engine FWD layout. That led it to be labeled as the second most influential car of the 20th century, right after the first production car of the world, the Ford Model T. That was back in the ‘60s. Fast forward to the 2000s, and you'll meet the Mini Cooper R52 and R56. Now, these weren't invented from thin air; the Austin/Morris Mini from the past 40 years helped shape the Minis into what they are today. Overall, a true junkie needs to give it a shot.
10 2002 BMW Z3M Coupe
Here’s something that a car junkie would love to drive: a shooting-brake styled car. While it looks like a “clown’s shoe,” it has a little more to it than that. First, it’s kind of a limited-edition type since it was in production from only 1998-2002. After that, nothing was heard or said about it. It’s a mixture of the Z3 and the E36 or the E46. It looks decent, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the looks of the car, I can’t say someone else won’t be either. The 3.2-liter I6 produces a decent amount of power of 240-315 HP. While the cost in 2002 was $46K, now things have, of course, changed, meaning, you can buy one for a lot cheaper and still call yourself a distinct individual.
9 2001-2009 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The Z06 was seen sporadically in the '60s, but the 2000s saw the Z06 more regularly. Starting from 2001, the fifth generation saw the production of the Z06. Compared to the ZR-1, the Z06 was lighter and carried a little less power under the hood. The car was lighter due to the lack of run-flat reinforcements and thinner glass in the windshield and rear window. While the internal codes of the Z06 were confusing, the car came out as a beauty. Compared to the base model of that year, this one had a better engine as it was redesigned, resulting in 385 HP at 6,000 rpm and 385 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. Overall, it had effortless power and artful handling. Nice touch!
8 F-150 Lightning
The name of this pickup says a lot. The high-performance version of the F-150 was produced by the Ford Special Vehicle Team, which does something similar to what Toyota’s TRD Pro department does: produce specially tuned vehicles. The concept of lightning saw the light in 1993, but production stopped in 1995, only to be resumed by 1999; it’s the later versions that we’re proud of, though. It had a 5.4-liter supercharged Triton V8, producing 360 HP and 440 lb-ft of torque, which were later bumped up to 380 and 450, respectively. The transmission of these was borrowed from the F-350 diesel pickups. That’s a huge amount of power in a pickup. Any car junkie worth his salt would beg to own and drive this car now.
7 Honda S2000
Dreams become a reality—through a process. Exhibited as a concept car in the 1995 Tokyo Motor show, the S2000 made several more appearances at other exhibits before it finally hit the assembly line to be produced as a production vehicle by 1998. It featured a lot of cool things. First, the name S2000 comes from its engine’s displacement of two liters. Second, it was built on a “high X-bone frame,” which allegedly improved the vehicle’s rigidity and collision safety. Third, it looked awesome. It didn’t have any of the sharp creases of other sports cars, but it did the job of looking good and driving well all the same. The best part about all this is that it’s a Honda product. You can keep bragging about its reliability on and on.
6 2009 Ferrari F430
A 2009 Ferrari—I think any person would drive this, let alone a car junkie. People have manifold opinions on a Ferrari, and while those opinions may have some rhyme and rhythm, a Ferrari is a Ferrari, at the end of the day. (Despite this, I don’t go putting every Ferrari on my list at the top. Imagine that!) Equipped with a 4.3-liter 484 HP-producing V8, the F430 was a successor to the 360 and reigned from 2004-2009. As amazing as the ride is, the drive is much smoother, whatever terrain you prefer (of course, you don’t want to stretch your imagination too much on the off-road side, as that wouldn’t be fair.) Everything is digital and calculated in this car. The original price was near-$190K.
5 2002 Porsche 911 GT3 (996)
The GT3 looked simple, but believe it or not, it was a high-performance version of the 911. The benign-looking car betrays the interior and the hood—the GT3 has won several races, including the 24 Hours Nürburgring six times. The entire concept of GT3 started from 1999 and has been going strong since. And that’s because it's a nimble car. It’s capable, yet looks innocent. It has a reduced weight for racing. And the wing also flatters you. If anything, you wonder how this car is able to pull off a wing when many others struggle to look decent, let alone wear a wing. It’s so capable that it completed the Nürburgring lap in four seconds short of eight minutes. The base model 911 took 40 seconds more to do the same.
4 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
A similar variant of the Corvette, the ZR1, was in production intermittently through various decades. Although I wish I could brag how nice the 2019 ZR1 will be, for now, we’ll stick with the one produced from 2009-2013. Internally labeled Blue Devil (after the CEO’s alma mater, Duke University), the car carried a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that generated a whopping 638 HP and 604 lb-ft of torque. First of all, that’s insane. Second, it’s more than what the Z06 offered. The ZR1 is neat in other categories also, especially the handling. Glance at the exterior, and you'll find carbon fiber being used on the roof, the hood, the fenders, the front splitter, and the rocker moldings. Peak in the hood—quite literally through the polycarbonate window, which is transparent—and it looks beautiful.
3 2006 Ford GT
Paying tribute to the GT40, the GT was done properly. It looks exceptionally complicated and fabulous. Whether it’s the long headlamps in the front, the impressive designs of the sides, or the aerodynamically favored rear, you can tell it’s no ordinary car. And a car paying tribute to the legendary GT40 can’t be ordinary itself. Roughly 4,038 were made between 2004-2006. People were so much into the car that some bought it for over the MSRP of $150K. One of the first people to buy this was the former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, who also happens to be a car collector. It’s one of those cars that’s not so uncommon such that no one has a clue as to what it is, but still not that common that every other person has it. Thus, those who had it garnered a lot of attention in public.
2 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
The Evolution is one beast of a sports-sedan car. There have been ten editions from the start, all of which have received positive reviews. All Evolutions use a two-liter turbocharged I4 and are AWD. If you want an economically feasible sports car—but an actual sports car—this would be it for you. A car junkie would beg to drive this. The hood is unique with three vents; the front is aggressive with the grille, and the back carries a beautiful wing, which undeniably supports the car with speed. What else do you need in a car like this? The previous versions were also smooth, but the reason I picked Evolution X is that it’s also a police car in England—that should give you some idea about its coolness.
1 2006 Audi R8
What can one say about an Audi R8? It’s the same vehicle that Cristiano Ronaldo was given because of his awesome performance in 2011. The Audi R8 Spyder is even more gorgeous, and it was given by Audi to the captain of Spain, Sergio Ramos. Then, Audi came up with the R8. Built on the Lamborghini Gallardo’s platform, the R8 is manufactured separately by the Audi Sport GmbH, a private subsidiary of Audi AG. The R8 derives from the R8 race car, which did some magic on the tracks. It brought about what the world was lacking in production cars: full-size LED headlamps. I can probably write on and on about the R8, but the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans summed it up nicely: “[It’s] the best-handling road car today.”
Sources: autoguide.com; jalopnik.com