There's no sense trying to hide behind an image of practicality when you're shopping for a coupe, since everyone knows that the only things that are important here are style and performance. This is not about being practical. There is no pretense of being concerned with rear passenger accommodations or maximum cargo space. This is about the feeling of an arresting visual design, an intimate cabin and a responsive driving experience. For car shoppers drawn by such charms, there are plenty of choices, ranging from affordable but still entertaining to extravagant yet still exciting. Our recommended models include traditional coupes as well as two-door hatchbacks, as the coupe experience comes in many shapes at many price points.
Long a favorite in this segment, the Mini Cooper packs plenty of style and personality into its instantly recognizable boxy body. The entry-level Cooper loves curvy roads and so will its drivers, who will enjoy its quick reflexes and glued-to-the-road attitude. If you can pay a bit more, the turbocharged Cooper S boosts the grin factor even more. Both models also get excellent fuel economy. But the Cooper's biggest draw continues to be its customizable nature. From performance parts to roof graphics, it's easy to make the Mini Cooper special.
The cheeky little Fiat 500 is similar to the Mini Cooper, in that it's a modern yet still faithful incarnation of an old icon. It is also fun to drive, if not as quick and buttoned-down in the corners as the Mini, though it provides a smoother ride in exchange for its lesser athleticism. The Fiat 500 also provides plenty of room for its front occupants, plus strong fuel economy when you choose the manual transmission. If performance is your thing, the Fiat 500 Abarth with its turbocharged engine and sport-tuned suspension is a great choice for an inexpensive performance coupe.
For a more traditional take on an affordable coupe, the Hyundai Elantra coupe comes highly recommended. This new Hyundai is totally about the looks, really; other than revised styling and a reduction from four doors to two, it's pretty much identical to the Elantra sedan. And that's certainly a good thing. Like the sedan, the Elantra coupe offers exceptional fuel economy, a comfortable ride, an unexpectedly spacious interior and plenty of features for the money. Like every Hyundai, this coupe never strays too far from the practical side of its personality, no matter how stylish it might appear.
After plenty of concepts, prototypes and hype, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ have finally arrived. Unlike so many things in life, these compact sport coupe twins are actually well worth the wait. Codeveloped by Scion and Subaru, the nimble-handling FR-S and BRZ prove that you don't need a ton of power (or a ton of money) to have a ton of fun. There's minimal mechanical and stylistic difference between the two cars, so choosing one will come down to features and perhaps brand loyalty. Either way, you'll be getting one of the most impressive cars to come out for 2013.
For classic sport coupe performance, you can't go wrong with Detroit's latest batch of pony cars. But among the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, the Ford Mustang ranks as our favorite thanks to its strong performance, classic styling and wide range of customization options. Even the base V6 provides plenty of giddy-up thanks to its 305 horsepower, yet it still rates 23 mpg combined. On the other hand, the GT's muscle-bound 5.0-liter V8 boasts more than 400 hp and a sound that'll have you shutting off the radio. Whichever Mustang you choose, user-friendly features and good sight lines make this horse easy to handle.
Offering both practicality and an entertaining drive, the Volkswagen GTI is hard to beat as a daily driver and weekend back-roads plaything. For daily use, this efficient two- or four-door hatchback boasts a lot of space within its small footprint, making for a roomy rear passenger compartment and cavernous cargo hold. The GTI's interior quality is also among the best you'll find for the money. For fun, the GTI packs a spirited turbocharged engine and a well-sorted suspension that provides a supple ride, along with respectable handling capabilities. The Volkswagen GTI is a coupe that does everything well.
With its impressive combination of luxury, athleticism and refinement, the BMW 3 Series remains a top choice in this segment. The entry-level 328i is fast enough for most drivers, while the turbocharged 335i or 335is will delight even the most jaded of driving enthusiasts. Factor in the additional perks of available all-wheel drive and the ability to comfortably seat four adults, and it's easy to see why the coupe version of the BMW 3 Series enjoys such wide-ranging appeal. You'll have to be careful with the enticing list of options, though, as the price tag can quickly become breathtaking.
With what could be the sexiest styling in the segment, the Audi A5 is nonetheless more than a pretty body. With a handsome cabin furnished in top-grade materials and a chassis that provides a comfortable ride and confident handling, the A5 excels at meeting the desires of luxury coupe shoppers. The A5's turbocharged four-cylinder might seem outclassed for this segment, but it delivers respectable acceleration and high fuel economy. As with all things Audi, all-wheel drive is standard. Also standard is a seductively stylish look that is finding more enthusiasts daily.
A less expensive, albeit less roomy alternative to the BMW 3 Series is its baby brother, the BMW 1 Series. This small sport coupe boasts engine fitments similar to those of the bigger and heavier 3, meaning spirited performance across the board. It also provides its driver with sharp handling and a forgiving nature. It may not be the most handsome thing to roll out of Germany, but it more than makes up for that with a fun-to-drive personality that rivals that of many pure sports cars. The BMW 1 Series coupe shrinks the BMW price tag to a size that fits your budget but without shrinking the BMW personality in the process.
It should come as no surprise that the BMW M3 is one of our top recommendations. This sporty coupe has been a consistent pick year after year. Featuring a sublime blend of performance, luxury and cutting-edge technology, it's easy to see why. From the very beginning, the M3 has embodied the "everything to everybody" notion by tackling track day, daily commuter and night-on-the-town duties with equal poise and excellence, and this latest model is no different. It's a sedan with the soul of a sports car, BMW's expression of pure performance, and yet it's practical enough to drive every day. Remarkable.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is also no stranger to our top recommended list, but for different reasons. With cosseting luxury as its primary focus, the E-Class serves as a benchmark for cars in this class. Whether you opt for the strong E350 and its 302-hp V6 or the more powerful E550 with a 402-hp V8, these touring coupes fulfill the promise of superb comfort, impeccable workmanship and stately German perfection. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the benchmark for this marque, the vehicle that best expresses what the brand is all about — refined, reserved and reliable.
In the role of party crasher, we have the Ford Mustang Boss 302. Luxury? Forget about it. This sharply tuned Mustang is a brash interpretation of the good ol' American pony car. While we contend that any Mustang will likely satisfy the vast majority of drivers, the Boss 302 is the choice for that rare individual who seeks even more performance and raucous entertainment. A limited-edition Laguna Seca model further emphasizes performance for those who intend to unleash their Boss 302 on the racetrack. In the same way that the very first Mustang brought together style and performance in a personalized package, this Mustang also cuts through the clutter of muscle-bound cars on the market.
If this Edmunds Top Recommended list dated back to 1963, there's no doubt that the Porsche 911 would have been a top pick then and every year thereafter. The 911 is quite simply the definition of the sports car. It is capable of delivering stunning performance and upmarket luxury wrapped up in that seductive, iconic shape. As an added benefit, it seems like there's a Porsche 911 for every taste. Numerous models are available, ranging from desirable touring manners to all-out speed and handling, and even more variants are on their way. This latest version is larger and more refined than ever before, yet it still has a bold personality.
While the Porsche 911 embodies the classic sports car, the Audi R8 represents the future. By comparison, the Audi is a bit clinical in terms of driving enjoyment, but is still capable of mind-altering performance. Furthermore, the R8 is easy to live with on a daily basis, with few compromises to contend with. The ride is pleasantly calm and creature comforts are plentiful. It is undoubtedly a pleasure to drive, no matter your style, and you just feel special when you're in one. The Audi is the midengine exotic car that is drivable enough and even affordable enough for practical people to own.
For a distinctly American take on the high-end sport coupe, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and ZR1 kick down the door and storm their way onto our list. While the European entrants in this category have their engines behind the driver, the Corvettes drop a huge V8 under the hood to exhilarate and terrify. Admittedly, these top-tier Vettes are a handful to drive hard, but they are incredibly satisfying when you get it right. At the same time, the Corvette Z06 and ZR1 are surprisingly well-mannered when driven conservatively. Sometimes, doing things the American way is best.