We all may be stuck at home, but that won't stop us from maintaining our office debates and arguments. With that in mind, I've created a list of the top 10 new sports cars on sale right now.
What makes a sports car? It's hard to define, but like an SUV, you know it when you see it. In my mind, all good sports cars have two traits: 1) they prioritize driving fun, and 2) they have two doors. After that, things get messy.
I'm basing the rest on my own driving experiences, be they during manufacturer drive events or while performance testing for Edmunds.
10. BMW M4
The BMW M4 (and four-door M3) gets the sports car fundamentals right. Its brawny engine packs a punch, and its tight handling allows for very high speeds and plenty of fun on smooth roads. It also has a manual transmission standard. Want an automatic? It's going to cost you.
But once you line the M4 up against newer, less expensive sports cars, the faults start to show. The stability control lacks the finesse you'll find elsewhere, and the ride seems needlessly firm. Though the M4's six-cylinder engine has robust power delivery, it doesn't sound particularly good, especially when paired with the upgraded exhaust that comes as part of the Competition package. Despite the name, that package doesn't include the available carbon-ceramic brakes, which have a jaw-dropping price of their own.
The Competition package does include arguably the coolest-looking wheels you can get on a new sports car (they're even called 666M!). And you can't ignore the carbon-fiber roof. Alas, this generation of the M4 originally came out six years ago, and the age shows.
Like the M4, the C 63 is a luxury coupe that's based on a sedan platform, but one that's spent a bunch of time in the gym throwing kettlebells around.
Compared to the M4, the AMG C 63 coupe is a little slower around a racetrack because of its additional weight and relative lack of tire grip. But how often do you take a 4,200-pound German coupe to a racetrack anyway? When it comes to normal driving pleasure, the C 63 is more fun, more of the time.
Sure, your only transmission choice is an automatic, but you also have a twin-turbo V8 that sounds terrific each time you fire the car up or find a freeway on-ramp. My experience with both is that the M4's superior dynamics and racetrack performance come at the expense of joy during regular driving. The C 63 gets the formula right.
If I ran a driving school, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ would be the students' cars because they are the best representations of rear-wheel-drive handling balance for the least amount of money. They teach you all the important bits, and they offer enjoyment for drivers of all skill levels thanks to their meticulously engineered handling balance.
The downside? They're slow. Seriously slow. I lived with one for a year, and it was demoralizing getting dusted by compact SUVs and EVs with drivers who weren't even paying attention. Sports cars don't need to be fast, but you shouldn't have to wring out every last bit of power just to keep pace with a Honda Accord.
These complaints quickly drift away when you find empty mountain roads, where these cars truly shine. And we also give the 86 and BRZ credit for each coming standard with a manual transmission. That's how you should order it even if the automatic isn't as bad as you might suspect.
The modern Camaro, especially when equipped with the 1LE performance package, has blurred the line between muscle car and sports car. Whether you get it with the turbo four-cylinder, V6 or V8, you're going to have an excellent time behind the wheel.
Beyond handling prowess, the Camaro is available with remarkable go-fast technology, from an advanced stability control system that helps you drive faster to an onboard data logger. There's even tech built in that allows for guilt-free flat-shifting with the manual transmission, a usually abusive driving technique that involves keeping the gas pedal pinned while you upshift for faster acceleration. What's better is that the Camaro delivers all this for the same or less money as comparable sports and muscle cars.
Why seventh? The Camaro has appalling usability. That may sound like a strange complaint for a sports car, but the Camaro is difficult to see out of and get into. It also lacks even the basics when it comes to storage space. The diminutive trunk and trunk opening are simply laughable.
Note: This placement doesn't consider the recently introduced six-cylinder variants of the 718 (the 2020 GT4/Spyder or the 2021 GTS 4.0) because I haven't driven them yet. Based on the rest of the 718's attributes, it's safe to assume that I'd rank the Boxster and Cayman a few places higher with the larger engine.
Nearly everything is perfect with the Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe. From the perspective of steering response to handling and braking performance, the 718 is massive fun, whether you're on a racetrack or snaking around a mountain road. But I have to emphasize that "nearly everything." While the 718's turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers solid power, it sounds coarse and unrefined, especially when piped through the optional sport exhaust. To my ears the 718's sound is so unpleasant that I don't want to stay on the gas pedal as hard or as long as I'd like, which runs against the notion of driving fun.
But we've gone on too long about the four-cylinder already. Six-cylinder versions are available — and with manual transmissions — and I eagerly anticipate driving them.
It was eye-opening to me when I heard that the chief engineer of the reintroduced Supra said Toyota's target for the Supra was the Porsche 718 Cayman. It was even more impressive to realize that, after driving the car, that Toyota's mission was successful. Yes, some people get caught up in the fact that underneath the Toyota badging is pretty much all BMW hardware, but put that thought aside and you'll find a fantastic driving car.
Toyota clearly paid careful attention to the driving experience and making the Supra fun. It is a loose car, so if you don't like oversteer, or aren't used to it, this probably isn't the one for you. Speaking as someone who likes oversteer very much, I was delighted to find it easy to hang out in third and fourth gear on track. And on public roads, the steering and overall feel are enjoyable enough that you don't need to risk oversteer and, consequently, your license.
Downsides are the absence of a manual transmission, too much wind buffeting when you roll the window down, difficult entry and exit, and a slightly elevated price compared to the Camaro and Mustang. Regardless, we look forward to driving the 2021 model, which offers a more powerful six-cylinder and a less expensive four-cylinder variant.
If the Camaro is the sharper-handling car with all the fancy tech doo-dads, what's the Mustang doing up here? Simple: The GT350 and GT500. The former packs an astoundingly high-revving V8, the latter a performance breadth unmatched by anything south of $100,000. And, as icing, you can get both with carbon-fiber wheels.
On top of the handling, I simply adore the GT350's V8 and its ludicrous 8,250-rpm redline. When you wind the thing out, you have to watch the tach to make sure you shift at redline. If you just go by feel and sound like you would in another sports car, you can end up shifting well before you get to redline. The GT350 is hilarious and immature and so, so very loud. It activates all the high school driving impulses you've repressed for years. That's why it tips the scales.
Where the GT350 gets points for only offering a manual transmission, the GT500 is automatic only. But the two are on different missions: The GT350 is raucous high-school fun, the GT500 is world domination. That both offer usable trunks, good visibility, and modern technology and safety features make them exceptionally well-rounded packages.
The appeal of the Mazda Miata comes less from empirical performance measurements and more from the simple joy of driving. Most of the other sports cars on my list are exceptionally fast, but the Miata proves that having superlative power and grip is unnecessary in the pursuit of driving fun.
The Miata is far from fast, but its responsive engine and low weight mean it still feels quick during the day-to-day commute — unlike the BRZ and 86. What's better, its lower engine output and not-extreme tire grip allow you to drive enthusiastically without running too much of a risk of breaking traffic laws.
When I tell someone about a really powerful car I just drove, the person often asks, "But yeah, where can you actually use all that power?" With the Miata, the answer is everywhere. There's a saying that goes: "If you can't have fun driving a Miata, you can't have fun driving anything." It's true.
Why a tie? Because deciding is too hard and it's my list and I do what I want. The AMG GT and the 911 are two different formulas with the same solution. One has a big V8 up front and the classical lines of a coupe, and the other has a six-cylinder in the rear with the classical lines of a, well, 911.
Porsche has spent decades ensuring the 911 provides a particular type of driving experience. But the engineers also worked to ensure it's a car that can be enjoyed by everyone. Whether you're a commuter or a pro race car driver, you'll enjoy driving a 911. The Mercedes isn't as immediately friendly, but I love its outlandish character. Plus, the high-performance GT R version gets that really cool DTM racing series-inspired traction control knob on the center of the dash.
You just can't go wrong with either. When people ask me which 911 or AMG GT they should get, the answer is easy: Whichever one you can afford. It's just that simple. I don't envy the people having to decide between these cars, which is why I didn't.
Could it be anything else? The C8 Corvette is a stellar package. It's a mid-engine sports car with a naturally aspirated (read: non-turbocharged) V8. Not only that, it's one of the few V8s of that type left among sports cars.
There's no manual transmission, but the dual-clutch automatic works great. As with the Camaro, you have a suite of technology features that help you go faster, but you also have access to a front axle lift with GPS memory to help you more easily clear driveways and the like without scraping.
Handling and steering are stellar, though the Porsche 911 is a smidge better. The Corvette's true advantage is its price. Not that unicorn $59,995 base price, but the sensibly equipped Corvette, the one I'd spec out, which sits right around $75,000. Even a sensibly equipped Carrera S with a few performance goodies gets to $130,000. And there's just something about a real mid-engine American sports car with a pushrod V8 at this price. This is attainable dream car stuff, a blue-collar sports car.