The term 'performance car' is rather vague. Of course, they need to be fast, have a powerful engine and offer an engaging experience when you want to have some fun behind the wheel. But there's way more to it than that.
Performance cars come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and there are even different niches within the term 'performance car.' There are some that are so focused on the sports element of being a performance car that they are more like a stripped out track car than a traditional sporty car. Others offer more luxury and everyday usefulness and sacrifice some of that sportiness. Where some will focus on making a car with a really powerful engine, others strive to fine-tune their machines and make them as balanced as possible.
So, with performance cars coming in all shapes and sizes, it's impossible to say what really is the best one, it all depends on a person's needs and wants. Some might like a loud, throaty engine roar, others want a car that handles like it's on rails, and there will be those who need some extra space in order to use it as an everyday car.
Naturally, this list of performance cars will have everything from Italian exotica and track weapons to sophisticated coupes and hot hatches. So there really should be something here for everyone.
20 Best: Jaguar F-Type
Just like its older brother, the E-Type, the F-Type is a machine that offers great value as well as showing that Jaguar can produce a real sports car just as good as the manufacturers can.
The smallest engine available is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, but there are more characterful engines available as well, with three variations of the supercharged V6 and two V8 versions. The most powerful SVR V8 is also the first Jag since the XJ220 to top 200 mph.
There isn't a bad F-Type, they all offer an inspiring driving experience, and while the F-Type isn't perfect, it is truly wonderful.
19 Worst: BMW i8
The BMW i8 looks absolutely amazing. It just oozes style, and it has more fancy, cutting-edge technology than a NASA space shuttle. However, there are a few problems with it.
First of all, the exterior makes it look like a full-blown supercar, but it's sadly lacking in the performance department, so a supercar it most definitely is not. It's more like a sportier looking hybrid version of the BMW M4, which isn't bad - it's just not special enough.
Which brings us to the second problem, the price. With a price tag starting at an incredible $145,000 it most certainly has a supercar price. No thanks! Offering performance that doesn't come close to what you pay for is what got the i8 on this list.
18 Best: Honda Civic Type R
The Civic Type R has been a favorite amongst fans of hot-hatches and fast Japanese cars ever since the 90s.
The new Civic's looks are definitely an acquired taste, but that doesn't make it any less sporty and performance-oriented.
The new Type R shares a lot with the previous model. It uses the same 2.0-liter turbo VTEC engine, front wheel drive, and six-speed manual transmission. The chassis has been fine-tuned to deliver an even more responsive drive than previously. If you need more proof that the new Type R is a massive improvement over the previous model, it should be said that it shaved seven seconds off the Nürburgring lap time.
17 Worst: Ford Focus RS
It might be surprising to find the Focus RS on the list of the worst performance cars of 2018, especially since it has done very well in various comparison tests, but there are a few reasons why it's on here.
The main issue is that the rear differentials have a tendency to overheat during heavy track use, which is a bit unfortunate considering it's supposed to be a car that's made specifically to be driven hard.
In addition to the rear diff, there seem to be a plethora of other problems according to Reddit and other social media, where people are less than happy with the quality of their fast Ford.
16 Best: Ford Fiesta ST
Whereas the old Fiesta ST was sometimes criticized for being too stiff, the new Fiesta ST is way more comfortable than the previous model thanks to its new suspension set-up. Featuring new, softer dampers makes it a much more rounded everyday car, although at the cost of some agility.
The new 1.5-liter turbo engine produces nearly 200 hp, transferred to the road via a limited slip differential. There are Normal, Sport, and Track modes to make sure the Fiesta ST will always perform at its best, and most cars in its class will struggle to keep up at high speeds on twisty roads.
All that performance should translate into poor gas mileage, but the Fiesta ST returns a claimed 47.1 mpg, and it's cheap to buy as well.
15 Worst: Nismo Juke RS
The Juke has always had a design that people either loved or hated, but its looks are far from the biggest issue here. The tiny, performance-oriented crossover struggles with what should be its biggest asset - the power. This is especially true for the front-wheel-drive, manual transmission version, where the drivetrain is completely overtaken by the engine's power and torque. Sure, you could get the 4x4 version, but that's a whole second slower from zero to sixty.
And there's another problem with the power as well. Even if it's too powerful to effectively put all the power to the ground, it is easily outmatched by a whole raft of hot hatches. Do you really want to buy a weird-looking car that doesn't perform very well?
14 Best: Lexus LC
The Lexus LC is an amazing car in several ways. Its engine is very charismatic and easy to fall in love with, and the handling is so balanced and involving it makes the LC feel more like a true rival for the Jaguar F-Type or Porsche 911 than a grand tourer.
However, the car does feel large and heavy at times, even a bit cumbersome on the road, so it's easy to get mixed feelings regarding the Lexus. Ultimately, it all comes down to what kind of performance car you're looking for. In the right hands and on the right roads the LC really is a diamond, albeit a rough one.
13 Worst: Subaru Impreza WRX STI
There are a few cars on this list that are sure to make some readers go into rage mode, and the Subaru Impreza WRX STI is surely one of them. Here's the thing though, it lost almost every sports-compact shootout. Not lost as in 'it didn't come first', but lost as in it came dead last pretty much every time. At least there's some comfort knowing it didn't break down.
The Subaru is rally-bred and features all-wheel-drive, but driving one feels more like driving a tractor rather than something that's supposed to be a performance car.
The gearshift is sloppy, the clutch is vague, there's turbo lag, and the steering feels less than precise and nimble.
12 Best: Chevrolet Corvette
The Corvette is pretty much exactly what it says on its spec sheets, a large, old-school supercar with a throaty and brawny naturally aspirated engine, manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive.
It sounds very traditional because that's exactly what it is. The interior might not match up to German standards, but it's lightyears away from that of the model it replaced. The V8 offers plenty of power and torque, and the handling isn't as bad as on previous 'Vettes, so the new model offers plenty of ability...as long as you can find the right places to enjoy what it has to offer.
11 Worst: Dodge Charger/Challenger
First of all, let me just say that the Challenger and Charger have some incredible engines. The Hemi V8, Hellcat and Demon, offer astonishing performance, so that's all good and I won't complain about that. At all.
The problem is what these cars are built on. Basically, the Dodge duo is built on Chrysler's aging LX platform and uses a bunch of leftover Mercedes parts, which doesn't do them any favors. The result is a pair of performance cars with uninspired handling, even when you've gone for the full-on high-performance versions. This just doesn't cut it in today's performance car market.
10 Best: Mercedes AMG C63
Since it's available as a saloon, estate, coupe, and cabriolet, you can pick the AMG C63 that best suits your needs.
The 4.0-liter V8 soundtrack sounds like a thunderstorm, especially if the optional sports exhaust has been added.
The engine comes from the Mercedes-AMG GT sports car and delivers a spine-tingling 500 hp, capable of launching the car from 0-60 in 4 seconds. Those who have driven the normal C-Class Benz might worry that the AMG has the same wooden handling, but there's no need to worry - The C63 has point and squirt steering, and tons of grip available. As far as the styling is concerned, the AMG is relatively subtle - but a true enthusiast will be able to spot the differences from a regular C-Class from a mile away.
9 Worst: BMW M3/M4
Personally, I believe the BMW E46 M3 is the best M3 ever made, sure it had some flaws - but it was its imperfections that made it so perfect as a performance car. As far as the coolest M3 of all time, there should be no doubt about that going to the E30.
Therein lies the problem with the new high-performance 3-series, it doesn't look cool or special enough and it's been fine-tuned down to the tiniest little detail, and along the way, it also lost its charm and became too sterile. To make matters worse, you can get the high-end versions of the Camaro or Mustang for a lot less cash, and they'll provide you with a lot more fun.
8 Best: Porsche 718 Boxster
The Boxster might have a reputation of being a girl's car or a poor man's Porsche, which really is undeserved. The Boxster is a great entry-level Porsche, and its amazing handling abilities can make any driver feel like a professional. The mid-engined layout is perfectly balanced and with lots of grip available, making the Boxster very confidence inspiring.
Gone are the days of the flat-six engine though, this latest model uses a turbocharged flat-four which might not sound as great but still offers more than enough performance for most of us.
The best thing is that it can be used as an everyday car, and even if the purchase price is pretty high, the running costs are surprisingly low considering you get one of the best sports cars available.
7 Worst: Fiat 500 Abarth
The little Fiat 500 Abarth may look cute, but under that cute exterior, there's a tiny little beast of an engine which emits an unexpectedly rorty exhaust note. The fact that you can buy this quick little car for not a lot of money might be tempting, but there are several reasons why you shouldn't run out and buy a 500.
The Fiat has a very awkward driving position, like 80s supercar awkward. The ergonomics are all wrong, but just in case someone has a body that fits perfectly in the 500 Abarth, there is one more problem to be aware of. The blind spots are absolutely massive. It's pointless to turn your head to check before changing lanes, you won't see anything but the B-pillar anyway.
6 Best: Aston Martin Vantage
Performance-wise, the Aston Martin Vantage is all the way up there with the 911 Turbo, the only thing that lets it down is that the steering isn't quite as sharp as what you'd find in the Porsche.
While it isn't as sharp as the 911, the steering is direct and the suspension informs you about everything you need to know about the road surface, while still taking care of any bumps and unevenness.
The different driving modes will adapt the engine, gearbox, damping, and steering depending on your driving style. The whole package combined together makes the Vantage an incredibly well-rounded sports car that can actually be used every day, whether on the road or for some fun on the track.
5 Worst: Maserati GranTurismo
There are few things meaner than the Maserati GranTurismo's face. Well, apart from the mean roaring sounds coming from that 4.7-liter flat plane crank V8 built by Ferrari. And the massive depreciation. After paying a hefty $132,975 for a GranTurismo, you will lose 60% of that, or just over 80 grand in only five years.
Some might say that doesn't matter because it's such an enjoyable car and totally worth it. Well, except that it's not as enjoyable as we're led to believe. It looks and sounds nice, but the Maserati doesn't live up to its expectations and is far from as sporty as you think. That's not just the GranTurismo though, that's every Maserati.
4 Best: Porsche 911 GT3
The Porsche GT3 is perfect for some track action. Porsche has spent decades on the race tracks, so they know a thing or two about race cars - and with the GT3 they've managed to transfer some of that race car rawness into a road-legal machine.
A stripped out cabin, huge rear spoiler, and center-lock wheels are some of the things you'd normally find on a race car, but that's part of the package when you get yourself a GT3.
This latest model is arguably the best GT3 ever made and turns the driving experience all the way up to 11. The steering communicates every little bump in the road, and the sound of the naturally aspirated flat-six engine will give any car enthusiast goosebumps.
3 Worst: Audi S5
The Audi S5 doesn't haul forwards with the consistency expected from it. When you floor the throttle in manual mode there is turbo lag at lower revs, followed by a surge of power at 2000 rpm and again at 4000 rpm. It also lacks the torque to overtake from a part-throttle position.
However, we can learn to live with those things and adapt our driving style to suit the car. The bigger issue is the depreciation. With a starting price of $54,400, more than $33,000 is likely to have disappeared in just five years. That's a whole lot of cash gone in a relatively short time.
2 Best: McLaren 720S
In just a few years, McLaren has shot into supercar fame. With the all-new 720S, McLaren has further developed the engine and chassis from the 675LT to make the 720S the most focused and dynamic model to ever leave the factory.
The mid-mounted 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 churns out a whopping 710 hp, taking the car from 0-to-60 in 2.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 220 mph.
There is a range of electronics that control all aspects of the car's character, so you can easily adjust it to suit the way you want to drive. Want to get the tail-end out through the corners? Just alter the traction control settings and you can be as sideways as a professional drifter.
1 Worst: Morgan Plus 8
The old Morgan Plus 8’s chassis was no longer suitable to take a ferocious modern drivetrain, so Morgan has taken modern components and mated them with the old-school looks.
Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the Plus 8. There is directional instability when braking in the wet. It's extremely annoying on bad roads, with shivers and shakes moving through the chassis. And on demanding roads it won't stay in line when there are camber changes or grooves in the road.
If all the Morgan's good qualities had been combined with the old-school chassis, it would have been a very impressive car. However, it's hard to forgive it considering it has modern architecture underneath.
Sources: Top Gear, Evo, Edmunds