Stereotypes, like any other good lie, are based on truth. A prevailing stereotype for cars from the US is that they can’t corner well, which historically was largely true. US manufactures built cars for the wide open spaces in the US that foreign automakers didn’t have, and the large and powerful boats produced by the Big Three automakers reflected this. Over the years, however, the US has produced some stereotype-shattering automobiles.
Before the modern day, these cars were made because of a shift from the normal requirements that made the Big Three build cars the way they did. Most were spawned by competition in racing series that required more agility to be competitive. When the gas crisis hit, this created a whole new US market for cars that were fun without being heavy or powerful. Recently, though, Ford and General Motors have been building muscle cars that can rival European exotics in every area of performance as modern Pro Touring builds from the factory. Even the basic Camaro SS has been tested on track by Motortrend to be a superior handling machine to the early BMW M4, which is something no one saw coming.
There are also stereotype breaking European cars as well, which are nowhere near as adept in the corners as their badges might suggest. This list will cover both sides of the surprise, from modern muscle that can destroy a racetrack to old exotics built when their manufactures were resting on their laurels. These could surprise you.
20 Domestic That Can Corner: Mustang GT350R
This, so far, is the ultimate Mustang for the track. A Ferrari-like flat plane crank V8 screams to over eight thousand RPM while punting the car forward in an equally Ferrari-like manner. A stock Mustang with a splitter and wing would have impressed, but this car goes much further than just standard race car parts. Supporting massive semi-slick tires are carbon fibre wheels- a first on a volume production car, and a technology that not even Ferrari, Porsche, or BMW implements on their race cars. These high tech and high end parts are cohesively put together to produce a vehicle that not only keeps up with exotics in a straight line, but decimates them in the corners.
19 Euro That Can't: Mercedes SLS AMG
The SLS is a blunt instrument not unlike a classic muscle car in some ways. Despite its nature as a high end grand touring machine and even borderline supercar, turns were never its strong suit.
Mid corner it is very easy to go from understeer right into oversteer, quickly escalating from the car not rotating enough to rotating far too much and spinning.
This unwieldy nature keeps it from being a true sporting machine, and even hampers its cache as a grand tourer to a degree. The SLS may have plenty of raw power, but simply does not have the capability to put it to use while cornering.
18 Domestic That Can Corner: Corvette ZR1 (C7)
After decades of playing catch up with its European rivals, the Corvette, with its seventh generation, is finally capable of dueling directly with these vastly more expensive rivals as equals. This is largely due to dramatic upgrades in refinement and interior quality, but the one area the Corvette never lacked in was performance. The current ZR1 is a truly beastly machine reigned in by high tech magnetorheological shocks, massive sticky tires, and the most aggressive rear wing ever put on a volume production Corvette. The ZR1 is lively, and bringing the most out of it is challenging, but very rewarding.
17 Euro That Can't: Ferrari 400I
The mid 70’s into the 80’s were a dark time for a large part of the car world, with the gas crisis killing off the muscle car and economic woes and mismanagement holding back European exotic manufacturers.
A product of those dark times is the better off forgotten Ferrari 400i.
A car that was not only unreliable and uninteresting to look at, but pathetically slow and wallowy in the turns. Many old cars have charm that transform them into classics, but the 400i wears its age in its bland body panels and uninspired handling. While it might not be the worst Ferrari ever made, it is certainly the most forgettable.
16 Domestic That Can Corner: Camaro Z28 (Fifth Generation)
This car shattered expectations and stereotypes, and showed the world what a small dedicated team of engineers at Chevy can do when told to make a Camaro go fast. The result was the weight reduced, 500-plus horsepower naturally aspirated, slammed track annihilator called the Z28. With gigantic 305-section width tires all the way around, this was a Camaro that could out turn a Mclaren from the factory, especially at low speed. For a moment this new Camaro even outshined the Corvette in the Chevrolet range, which was something else no one thought Chevrolet would ever have the guts to allow. This is the car proved that the US can make a world beating track machine from the likes of a Camaro.
15 Euro That Can't: Aston Martin Virage (First Generation)
Aston Martin was never known for producing cornering machines, but this one is particularly bad with curves in the road. Weighing in at well over two tons, and with soft badly-tuned suspension, the Virage goes beyond just being a poorly handling car and reaches into the realm of being dangerous as speed. With no anti lock braking system, this was a car one should think twice about before driving onto a rainy British B road. While these attributes did not make it less than competent at the Virage’s primary purpose of being a GT car, this is certainly not an exotic you take to the track.
14 Domestic That Can Corner: Saturn Sky Redline
Redline was a series of performance trims for Saturns, just before the brand fell. Like other offerings from immediately post-bankruptcy General Motors, this was car was a ray of hope from a company that had for far too long rested on its laurels.
Like its Ion Redline sibling, the Sky Redline benefited from forced induction.
But while the Ion had an underwhelming roots supercharger, the Sky was given an updated turbocharged engine. While not as spritely as other roadster rivals, this car is more forgiving and easy to drive at the limit, making it a good vehicle for novices or those unwilling to brave more challenging cars.
13 Euro That Can't: Golf GTI MK3
Hot hatches are a fun idea, taking performance and practicality and shoving them together with an added bonus of affordability. The MK3 GTI, however is not fun. Ugly, heavy, and prone to understeer, the MK3 generation of GTI is a shadow of what used to be, a mere facsimile of the great original MK1 and proper MK2 GTIs. While an aftermarket has developed around the bargain basement hatchbacks that lifts them somewhat, compared to the MK3s rivals it does not stand a chance, in looks, speed, and definitely not handling. With terminal understeer and lackluster feel, the MK3 is universally known as the low point of the Golf GTI.
12 Domestic That Can Corner: Plymouth AAR Cuda
Once upon a time, there was a racing series in the United States called Trans Am. This was back in the 60’s and early 70’s, when the original full-fat muscle cars ruled on the street and drag strip, and the track was no different. Armed with weight reduction, modified suspensions, and specialized lightweight versions of their legendary V8 engines, Trans Am racers from the Big Three tore up tracks all over the US. Chrysler’s entry was the AAR Barracuda, a version of their Mustang-fighting pony car that was built to hit apexes and swing through corners as if on a string.
11 Euro That Can't: Aston Martin Lagonda
A huge slab of 70’s and 80’s wedge styling draped over an Aston Martin sedan, the Lagonda was never meant to be anything like a sports car. At 4400lbs, the Lagonda was well past two tons, with the standard wallowy Aston suspension of the era, and nowhere near enough brake to slow the whole package down in a hurry.
This Aston was meant to be more of a Rolls Royce competitor, and handles more like a bus than an exotic.
It is a very good thing that many of these were driven by drivers hired by their owners, as they are not driver’s cars.
10 Domestic That Can Corner: Pontiac Fiero (1988)
The Fiero was originally bean-counted into nothingness, with engineer’s hopes of a true mid engine sports car dashed by suspension, tires, and engine out of econoboxes. This was exacerbated by these parts being installed in a mid engine layout, which created a truly dangerous handling characteristic of random snap oversteer. Years later, just as General Motors was about to scrap the vehicle, the engineers were given permission to upgrade the car to almost their original spec. With a new suspension layout often compared to Lotus, the Fiero suddenly came into its own as a true mid-engine sports car handling machine.
9 Euro Tat Can't: Fiat Coupe
Front wheel drive never made a good sports car, but Fiat tried it anyway. Ideally, a front drive layout can be a weight saving measure and can be leveraged with suspension tuning to handle decently, but the Coupe is most certainly not an example of that. The handling of this supposed sports car is a limp understeer-heavy mess, the car unable to rotate easily around corners.
The car manages to be heavy for its size as well, which holds back handling even further.
In the end, the Coupe attempted to cut corners that should not have been cut, leaving an incredibly underwhelming vehicle as the result.
8 Domestic That Can Corner: Ford Mustang Cobra R
Ford managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat with the 2000 Mustang Cobra R. With only minor suspension modifications and tuning, including an aggressive alignment and high performance track tires, the car with a solid rear axle and a very front heavy weight distribution manages to pull over one G in lateral force on the skidpad, up there with the very best exotic supercars of the era. In addition to this was a rear wing to provide high speed lateral stability, keeping the powerful muscle car in control at triple digit speeds through corners. Don’t underestimate the power of proper tires and tuning.
7 Euro That Can't: Jaguar X-Type
While being a stately sedan has its advantages, handling is definitely not one of them, especially in the case of the lacklustre X-Type. The other big sedans on this list can at least use their rear drive layout to help the car rotate, but the X-Type was front wheel drive, always wanting to pull itself straight instead of corner. And as one would expect with a car that literally did not want to corner, it was terrible at it. Bad suspension tuning and overly assisted power steering sapped not only cornering ability, but also feel from this terrible sedan. The X-Type earned its place on the ash heap of history.
6 Domestic That Can Corner: Cadillac ATS-V
Cadillac had been building proper sports sedans for nearly a decade when the ATS debuted on the Alpha platform, a lightweight foundation perfect for a performance sedan. Cadillac went to work and put the pieces together, ending with a machine that was kinematically superior to its German rivals and far more likely to be tracked by its owners.
While the ATS-V is luxurious, performance is absolutely a priority.
Twin turbos take care of this in a straight line, but for the turns specially tuned trick magnetic shocks keep the car planted like few would believe a Cadillac could ever be.
5 Euro That Can't: Jaguar S-Type R
One would think any car with “Type R” in the title would be a legend, but the S-Type R is more of a whimper. Terribly unreliable, less than pretty, and generally a let down, the S-Type really dulls with its handling. Bad suspension tuning meant that it simply had no chance against its german rivals on the skidpad, country road, or race track. Excessive weight of nearly two tons also kept it from being anything put a pig in tighter quarters, which would normally be a source of significant fun for a sporty car. This Jaguar is not one to brag about.
4 Domestic That Can Corner: Dodge Neon ACR
The Neon was always a car that could be fun if driven correctly, even in the early days when it was first introduced, and long before the second generation would punch far above its weight with a turbocharger.
The original Neon’s performance philosophy was not adding power, but subtracting weight.
This featherweight persona made the car not only faster in a straight line, but allowed its front wheel drive character to even be fun and engaging in the curves. This car actually proved quite a competitor in parking lot Autocross races, out maneuvering larger and more powerful cars in the tight spaces. Dodge commissioned an even further stripped down and up-suspensioned Neon that could only be sold to those with a racing license- the ACR.
3 Euro That Can't: Lamborghini Aventador
The early Aventador, a howling and powerful exotic with scissor doors and acceleration hard enough to violently pin one’s head to the seat, was definitely a show stopper. But a track machine it was not. Partly because of the car’s four wheel drive system, and partly because of the suspension tuning, the mid engine exotic was prone to understeer, and would plow through corners more like one of Lamborghini’s original tractors than a supercar. In the later Aventador S models this was fixed, but the Aventador was never truly effective on track. The Aventador’s little sister Huracan remains the more capable track car, at least in its Performante variant.
2 Domestic That Can Corner: SRT Viper ACR
SRT, a division of Dodge, was led by a racer, and was largely filled with racers for engineers. So when they were tasked with building a maximum velocity variant of the Viper, they turned to tried and true race engineering principles.
Less weight, more downforce, more grip.
They wound up with the Viper ACR, an American car that produced so much drag from its aero that it was significantly slower in a straight line than its European rivals- but mind blowingly faster in the turns. Track record after track record fell to this race car for the street, all because it did the basics better than anyone else.
1 Euro That Can't: Porsche 911 Turbo 996
Porsche is well known for producing incredible handling machines, but their stubborn reliance on the rear engined layout for the 911 has produced some problems over the years. The layout tends to produce extreme oversteer or understeer if not driven correctly, so over the evolution of the car Porsche continually tamed it. This largely meant just tuning the car for more understeer so drivers wouldn’t kill themselves with oversteer. The 996 Turbo generation of the 911 also adds four wheel drive, which makes the situation even worse with the front wheels given some share in driving the car forward. The result of this is plowing understeer. Don’t just trust the reputation of a car’s badge, they can be deceiving.