With so much emphasis on safety, fuel economy and emissions these days, you might think this is a bad time for performance cars — but nothing could be further from the truth. Clean, efficient engines extract more power from each drop of fuel while modern safety gear is designed to ensure that cars go where they are pointed. Today's performance cars are quicker and sharper than ever, and few suffer from the mechanical frailty that plagued past generations of hot-rod rides. In this 2017 list you'll find both performance vehicles (including performance-oriented daily drivers and high-powered versions of mainstream cars) as well as luxury sports cars that coddle as well as thrill.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Ford Focus RS: The Focus ST has long been one of our favorite hot hatches, but it's been surpassed by the even hotter Focus RS. The Focus RS' 2.3-liter turbo-four turns out 350 horsepower and drives all four wheels instead of just the front pair. The RS boasts adjustable dampers, bigger brakes and super-grippy tires. And it's a Focus, which means it's still practical — certainly far more than a sporty coupe. Ridiculously fast, remarkably sticky and respectably easy to live with, the Ford Focus RS may well be the ultimate hot hatchback.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Ford Mustang GT: The Ford Mustang has been part of the American motoring scene for well over 50 years, and the 2017 version is every bit as exciting as the original. We've come to expect tire-smoking power and classic styling from the Mustang, and now thanks to a recent redesign, we can add a top-notch interior and excellent handling to that list. Both V6 and turbocharged four-cylinder engines provide strong acceleration, but in our opinion, the 5.0-liter V8 in the Mustang GT is the best performance choice and the one best in keeping with the Mustang's character.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Subaru WRX: Fast cars and family cars would seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, but they come full circle and meet up in the 2017 Subaru WRX. With a 268-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving all four wheels and a sharply tuned suspension delivering lightning-quick responses, the WRX delivers serious performance along with a roomy four-door body and a spacious trunk. There are some compromises: The ride is hard and loud, and the higher-performance version, the 305-hp STI, is so stiffly sprung that we gave it a B rating. Still, we expect cars on this list to emphasize performance, and the WRX delivers by accelerating quickly and keeping up a rapid pace in the curves.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Volkswagen Golf R: Most enthusiasts are familiar with the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the car that introduced the hot-hatch concept to America, but fewer know its more powerful sibling, the Golf R. This is the GTI turned up another notch thanks to a 292-hp 2.0-liter engine, standard all-wheel drive and DCC adaptive dampers (optional, though base model Golf Rs without them are nearly impossible to find). Like the GTI, the Golf R offers both a traditional manual transmission as well as a DSG dual-clutch gearbox, the latter offering the convenience of an automatic with no real performance downsides. The steering feel leaves a bit to be desired, but aside from that it's hard to fault the Volkswagen Golf R, which blends tire-shredding performance with a decidedly upscale demeanor.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Audi RS 7: We love the smooth styling of Audi's A7 and the power and performance of the S7, but the RS 7 turns things up to a completely ludicrous level. With 560 hp — 110 more than the S7 — delivered to all four wheels, the RS 7 is blindingly quick and incredibly agile. And yet the ride is much smoother and more comfortable than we've any right to expect from such an accomplished performer. And practicality? With a roomy four-door cabin and a big hatchback cargo area, the RS 7 is still practical, though tight backseat headroom is a drawback. In our opinion, the RS 7 is a bargain-priced Porsche Panamera Turbo — and it's better-looking to boot.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 BMW M4: The M4 is the two-door version of the BMW M3, and if you've read our reviews of that iconic sport sedan, you know we can pay the M4 no higher compliment. The M4 shares its smooth-spinning 3.0-liter turbo-six (425 hp, rising to 444 hp with a new-for-2017 Competition package), outstanding chassis and high-luxe interior. The M4 grips the road like Velcro, yet its ride is surprisingly compliant. Another surprise is the back seat, which is commendably roomy for a two-door car. Whether you're ripping up the track or slogging through your daily commute, the BMW M4 is the ultimate enthusiast's coupe.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63: BMW's M3 is a tough act to follow, but the Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG has largely caught up. Straight-line acceleration has never been a problem for the AMG C-Class; the C 63 offers 469 hp and the C 63 S provides 503 hp, and both have a howling exhaust note that blows away the Bimmer. Though older AMG C's fell behind in the handling department, today's C 63 has the skills to keep up with the M3, and the level of luxury and sophistication it delivers is simply unmatched among its competitors. The C 63 AMG delivers sport and luxury in equal measures.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette: There is simply no better performance bargain on the market than the Chevrolet Corvette. The base model Stingray is ridiculously fast and incredibly capable. You would have to spend twice as much to buy a German sport coupe that can match its performance. The supercharged Z06 delivers world-beating performance and is just as much of a bargain when compared to exotic hypercars, many of which it can handily dispatch on the track. Previous Corvettes belied their price with cheap interiors, but the latest C7 version feels properly luxurious, offering high-tech options such as adjustable dampers and a built-in data logger. The Corvette nameplate may have some baggage, but if you're shopping for a serious performance car, it's a must-drive.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman: We didn't think it would be possible to improve on the Cayman and its drop-top sibling, the Boxster, but Porsche has proved us wrong with the new-for-2017 version. Though we miss the wail of the old Cayman's flat-sixes — they've been replaced by more powerful and efficient turbo-fours — our experience with the new car has impressed us. The Cayman's mid-engine layout is superior to the 911's rear-engine setup, and while it's hard to find fault with the way the 911 goes down the road, we'd argue that the Cayman is every bit as satisfying, if not more so. Porsche offers a long list of options that can drive the price of a Cayman way, way up, but bear in mind that you need not specify custom-tinted leather or painted brake calipers to enjoy the driving experience.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Porsche 911: Forgive us for stating the obvious, but the 911 is both a classic and a legend — and with very good reason. Fifty-plus years of development and refinement have resulted in a car that is as luxurious as it is thrilling. Few cars engage their drivers the way the 911 does. The driving experience is visceral and nearly flawless, giving the driver an unparalleled sense of control — all the more remarkable when you consider that its engine is hung out behind the rear axle. The 911 rides firm and the options can get ridiculously expensive, but the 911 is one of the finest performance cars on the market, something you'll feel every time you get behind the wheel.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2017 Jaguar F-Type: The best sports cars seem to form a deep emotional bond with their drivers, and few cars do that as well as the Jaguar F-Type. There are so many things we like about the F-Type, chief among them the stunning styling (which looks great in both coupe and convertible form), the elegant interior, and the soulful wail from its powerful supercharged V6 and V8 engines. While we love the big V8s, even the base model is huge fun.