For the purposes of this top chart, however, we can narrow our terms of reference down a bit; Caterham Sevens, Ferrari 488s, Alpine A110s and BMW M cars are ranked and dealt with elsewhere. Here, we’re interested in full-sized, fulsomely endowed, fully rounded dedicated sports cars priced between about £60,000 and £120,000. Only grown-up, big-hitting, multi-faceted and purpose-built options get in.
When picturing a modern sports car, you might imagine anything from a lightweight track car or a modern hot hatchback, to a mid-engined two-seater or a front-engined grand touring coupé.
For the purposes of this top 10 chart, however, we can narrow our terms of reference down a bit; Caterham Sevens, Ferrari 488s, Alpine A110s and BMW M cars are ranked and dealt with elsewhere. Here, we’re interested in full-sized, fulsomely endowed, fully rounded dedicated sports cars priced between about £60,000 and £120,000. Only grown-up, big-hitting, multi-faceted and purpose-built options get in.
Front-, mid- and rear-engined offerings are included, likewise rear-drive and four-wheel-drive layouts, open and closed cockpits and both simple petrol and hybrid powertrains. There are plenty of routes towards the level of indulgent performance, vivid handling poise, immersive driver engagement and character you’d expect of a true sports car, after all. But which should you take – and why?
1. Porsche 911 Carrera
So far we’ve driven the new 992 generation of Porsche’s 911 in both rear-driven Carrera S and four-wheel-drive Carrera 4S guises, the former only on track, and yet both early tests suggested that this eighth-generation, rear-engined sporting hero is every inch as great a driver’s car as the 991 it’s replacing this year – and, if anything, stands ready to take the game away from its rivals.
Having grown longer and slightly wider than the car it replaces, the 992 is so far only available in 444bhp 3.0-litre turbo ‘S’-derivative form, with an eight-speed PDK gearbox and with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Both versions use what used to be called the 911’s ‘widebody’ shell (which has been lightened by more extensive use of aluminium in its construction), while four-wheel steering is now an option even on non-GT-level cars and mixed-width wheels and tyres come as standard.
Although there’s as much reason as ever for the keenest of drivers to stick with the car’s purer rear-driven mechanical layout, the 992’s wider front axle track and quickened steering ratio seem to have sharpened the car’s handling very effectively. Its turbocharged engine might not have the textural qualities of Porsche’s old atmospheric engines, but it makes for very serious real-world performance – and, overall, for a car that remains without equal among direct rivals for usability, for rounded sporting credibility and especially for the accessible, everyday-use, any-occasion brilliance of its driver appeal.
2. Jaguar F-Type
The F-Type shows that Jaguar can produce a car of true sporting specialism as well as any German manufacturer. It’s a machine of incredible, multi-faceted allure – and, like the E-Type was, it’s great value.
The car falls short of being truly exceptional – it has too many imperfections and shortcomings for that. On usability, it comes up short next to plenty of sports cars, having only two seats, offering slightly cramped accommodation even for two, and limited boot space in convertible forms. And yet, in multi-cylinder engine guises particularly, it has performance and handling dynamism every bit as boisterous as its throaty, vivacious soul – and a driving experience to savour.
3. Lotus Evora
At the time of its introduction, the car brought plenty of qualities to embrace but also flaws to regret. Today, it retains a chassis and steering system that both truly deserve top billing. Few sports cars have such immersive, positive steering, or a ride and handling compromise so suited to life on British roads.
However, that which was questionable about the Evora’s wider case for ownership back in 2009 has become nothing short of decidedly problematic for it now. This Lotus has never really had the powertrain its chassis deserved. Although Hethel now conjures as much as 430bhp from the car’s soulful Toyota-sourced supercharged V6, the Evora’s truculent transmission remains the limit of your enjoyment of it.
A particularly small boot would make weekend touring jaunts difficult, while a tight, inaccessible and relatively antiquated interior stretches the bounds of acceptability on how simple a modern £80,000 sports car ought to be.