3. BMW M2
The current BMW M3 and M4 models are way up in terms of power, performance and price. So, BMW decided to introduce a more affordable, but still immensely exciting and fast two-door coupe. The 2015 M2 is one of the best driver’s cars on the planet. It combines BMW’s driving dynamics, proven German quality and M Power heritage. It is also a modern-day equivalent of the legendary 2002 Turbo.
And it’s a pure German muscle car. To create the M2, BMW took the compact platform of the 2 Series models praised for its precision driving and sharp handling and added a performance-tuned suspension. Also, it has a wider track, bigger brakes, and best of all, a 365 HP 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine. And as you can expect, the result is fantastic.
The M2 is a true Autobahn missile of the highest order with 4.1 seconds 0 to 60 mph times and a top speed of 168 mph. Also, as a nod to classic performance cars, the new M2 is also available as a six-speed manual. And this is the version you should take if you consider yourself a true car enthusiast. For the 2018 model year, BMW slightly upgraded the M2 both mechanically and cosmetically. So, it has a new grille, sharper handling and a slight bump in power output.
4. Mazda Miata
Any list of affordable sports cars wouldn’t be complete without the legendary Miata or MX-5. Although this is a little roadster with a diminutive four-cylinder engine, the Miata’s perfect balance, rear-wheel drive, rev-happy engines and precise handling make it a joy to drive.
And that is why they sold over a million Miatas since its introduction back in 1989. Since the power output of the Miata is relatively small, you can engage in some spirited driving down twisty roads.
Enjoy yourself to the fullest and still be under the speed limit and out of trouble. But for those who want something more out of this little convertible, the number of aftermarket companies who offer various bolt-on kits and components is enormous. So, you can easily and affordably personalize your Miata to make it go and handle even better.
5. Porsche 718
When they presented the Porsche Boxster in 1996, it was a big step forward for the company. Porsche replaced their four-cylinder 944/968 series with a mid-engine six-cylinder sports car with great road handling. Fast forward 20 years, and we now have the new generation with a new name and new engines.
They call it the 718, and it is a fully restyled and redesigned Boxster with 2.0 and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines. The smaller engine delivers 300 HP, while the bigger has 350 HP with the help of turbocharging. This kind of power guarantees a brutal performance. In fact, the 718 is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds, topping 170 mph.
And if you choose the more powerful version, you can see the 60 mph mark in 4.1 seconds, but the top speed will stay the same. However, the ultimate driver’s version would be the Porsche Cayman GT4. Unfortunately, it was a limited model that is now out of production.
6. Honda Civic Type R
The latest addition to the powerful four-cylinder car club is the fifth generation Honda Civic Type R. The new performance Civic looks like every racer’s dream with numerous spoilers, scoops and air vents all over the body. The aggressive design, great performance and JDM appeal make this Civic a valuable and highly sought-after addition to the hot hatch class.
For long, Honda has resisted the temptation to turbocharge its performance engines. But now, the Civic Type R has exactly that under the hood, which is the same as any other competitor in the class. The 2.0-liter turbo four delivers 306 HP and can propel the nasty-looking Civic Type R to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and top 170 mph.
The acceleration times are somewhat slower than its competitors because the Civic is front-wheel drive and not AWD like most other models in its class. However, the absence of heavy all-wheel-drive hardware makes the Civic Type R a light and nimble car, which is something hardcore performance driving enthusiasts will appreciate.
7. Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2
The new for 2018 Ford Mustang GT is one of the best muscle coupes around. In fact, you’ll find it on the lists of best driver’s cars you can currently buy. However, drivers had to wait for 2018 to fully enjoy the Performance Pack 2, which is an option on the GT. And it totally transforms this car and further enhances its qualities.
So, what does the “GT” stand for in the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2? GT means it has a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with 460 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque. They mated it to a six-speed manual transmission in the best tradition of classic muscle cars. With the 0 to 60 mph times in the low four seconds range, the Performance Pack 2 is fast. But the numbers are just half of the story.
The essence of the Performance Pack is in the handling and braking. Add the fact it has less weight and a whole lot of driving dynamics, too. So, for $6,500 above the price of a regular GT, you will get some chassis and aerodynamic improvements, stiffer springs and beefier anti-roll bars. You’ll also get some performance tires, bigger brakes, racing seats and a lot more. With this package, the standard Mustang GT transforms from a great sports car into a fantastic driver’s machine.
Some car magazine editors think that Ford should’ve named this Performance Pack 2 the Boss 302 since it captures the same idea and they aimed it towards the same type of customers. So, if you are in the market for a performance version of the new Mustang and you can’t afford the Shelby GT350, the Performance Pack 2 is the perfect alternative. It offers almost the same level of performance and handling for a significantly lower price.
8. Ford Focus RS
The first generation Focus RS had a powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 220 HP, but it was a limited production model and not available in the U.S. The second generation had a five-cylinder engine, but it’s the third one that is most notable. It has one of the most powerful four cylinders on the market, and for the first time, it’s available as a regular production model to American car buyers.
Under the hood of the new Focus RS, there is a 2.3-liter turbocharged unit that delivers 345 HP to all four wheels, making the Focus RS a capable hot hatch beast. The performance is incredible since get from 0 to 60 mph takes only 4.7 seconds. And its top speed is 165 mph. This kind of performance deserves special packaging.
So, the Focus RS has a unique front spoiler, bulging fenders and side skirts. Simply looking at this furious compact will tell you that this is a genuinely fast Ford. However, if you are in the market for a fast and brutally capable Ford Focus RS, you better hurry. Ford plans to end its production this year, so buy it while you still can.
9. Subaru BRZ
One of the typical small, affordable-performance cars is the Subaru BRZ. This little sports coupe comes with a signature flat four naturally aspirated engine that delivers 205 HP out of 2.0 liters. The BRZ is a light and nimble coupe but the secret is in the position of the engine. Since Subaru is using flat-four engines, the center of gravity is lower than with regular inline four cylinders.
The lower center of gravity means that the car is better planted to the ground. This helps with driving dynamics by allowing the car to handle better. And they equipped the BRZ with a six-speed manual gearbox. This makes it a pure driver’s car that offers a lively performance and an engaging drive.
The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes 6.7 seconds while the top speed is 145 mph. With the affordable price and those performance numbers, the BRZ is a highly desirable model. Also, since they developed the BRZ in cooperation with Toyota, the BRZ and the Toyota GT86 are practically twins with different badges on the grille.
10. Chevrolet Corvette Gran Sport
The Chevrolet Corvette always was a benchmark performance car that delivered amazing power at affordable prices. Although the Corvette is not exactly budget-friendly, it is less expensive than the Porsche 911 and other European sports cars. But the lower price doesn’t mean the Corvette is less of a car. That’s quite the contrary since the new Gran Sport model is the perfect example.
That is why it is featured on this list, but we left out its archenemy, the 911 simply because it is too expensive. But Chevrolet realized the Z06 was too much to handle for some buyers. And despite its fantastic looks and brutal performance, the car was close to the limits of a front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration with little or no space for improvement.
That is why they made an interesting hybrid model that proved to be one of the best Corvettes they ever made: the 2017 Grand Sport. They named it after the ill-fated racing Vettes from the early ’60s, giving the modern Grand Sport a 460 HP engine from a regular Corvette.
It also comes with a wide body and track from the Z06 version. This combination proved to be the winning formula. The Grand Sport has normal handling and driving dynamics they improved with a wider stance while retaining the dramatic looks of the Z06.
11. Kia Stinger GT
One of the biggest surprises for 2018 is the new Kia Stinger GT. And most car enthusiasts are already crazy about it. You probably wonder how a boring brand like Kia could generate such hype. This Korean brand has introduced a genuinely good-looking, fast, powerful and affordable sports sedan. Basically, Kia has made the perfect BMW, since BMW has moved on to more luxurious, heavier and much more expensive models.
The Stinger has rear-wheel drive and optional all-wheel drive, which is new for Kia’s non-SUV models. Under the hood, there are two engines. The turbocharged four-cylinder delivers 255 HP and the twin-turbo V6 pumps out 365 HP. Car buyers can expect the acceleration times to be 60 mph in around 5.0 seconds for the twin-turbo V6 version.
This is respectable for any model, especially coming from an economy car brand such as Kia. Of course, the Stinger comes with a nice selection of standard equipment and a long list of optional extras. Prices start at around $40,000, which is affordable considering that all comparable cars are much more expensive.
12. Alpine A110
This car is the epitome of the perfect driver’s car, even though it isn’t available in the U.S. However, if you are familiar with the classic Alpine, you will instantly recognize the shape and the idea behind this fabulous car. It’s a small, lightweight sports coupe with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive.
And it is capable of providing lots of driving excitement with an unparalleled road holding and feel. That was the idea behind the new Alpine A110. This small coupe weighs just over a ton and has a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder behind the driver to power the rear wheels.
The power is more than adequate with 252 HP running through the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The specifications sound fantastic and acceleration times are under five seconds. However, they just released this car, so most car fans are afraid it will not come to America’s shores anytime soon.
13. Cadillac ATS-V
Cadillac presented the ATS-V in 2016 as the newest American muscle four-door car. Compact but immensely powerful, this model attacked the likes of the Mercedes C Class and the BMW 3 Series. It’s a modern executive sedan with recognizable styling and brutal power. Under the hood is the twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 engine with 464 HP and 445 lb-ft of torque.
That is enough to launch the ATS-V from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and top speeds of an astonishing 189 mph. Even though the ATS-V doesn’t have a V8, it is still a proper muscle car and a precision driver’s machine available in a two-door form, as well.
The sad news for Cadillac enthusiasts is that the company plans to discontinue this model by the end of the year despite the stellar reviews from the press and the fans. This also means that you can get a great deal on the 2018 ATS-V and pay much less than the $61,000 Cadillac currently asks for this perfect-performance sedan.
14. Nissan 370Z
Despite the fact it is one of the oldest cars on the list and due for a replacement soon, the 370Z is still a capable coupe with lots of appeal. Available as a coupe or a roadster, the Nissan 370Z is a sports car legend in an affordable package. And this handsome front-engine rear-wheel drive car has a potent V6 engine and limited slip differential as standard equipment.
This feature makes it safe to drive hard, which makes it a favorite drift car. And don’t forget the enormous aftermarket support for this model. This means you can easily tune and customize your car.
Nissan introduced the 370Z in 2008 with a new design and an upgraded V6 engine. And it has remained popular ever since. The 300 HP engine and sharper, more agile Nismo version make this model a desirable yet affordable sports coupe with perfect driving dynamics.
15. BMW M4 CS
BMW introduced the M4 CS in 2017. And the new version BMW sports coupe featured numerous improvements over the standard and already sublimely capable and fast M4. The CS has slightly more power at 460 HP.
It also has different suspension tuning, better brakes, and an aerodynamics package. However, it is somewhat more expensive with a limited production of just 3,000 worldwide. So, if you want one, you should hurry and get your example today.
16. Fiat 500 Abarth
Although the 500 Abarth produces only 160 HP from its tiny turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, it is a seriously fast and fun little car. This is due to its small weight and compact dimensions. Also, it is extremely practical for everyday driving and easy to park, as well.
And they completed the package with a small price and running costs. For enthusiasts on a tight budget with an irresistible need for speed, this small but wicked car could be your answer.
17. Volvo S60 Polestar
Those who are tired of the same old BMW M cars, Mercedes AMG models or Audi S sedans should try the Volvo S60 Polestar. It is the newest player in the fast-but-stealth performance sedan field. And it has all the right ingredients with loads of power. From the outside, the S60 Polestar looks ordinary with its subtle styling cues.
However, underneath the metal, there is an intelligent AWD system. Also, they paired it with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with a hybrid drivetrain and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This makes for a combined output of 367 HP with fantastic performance and driving dynamics.
18. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
The basic specs of the new Giulia Quadrifoglio are fantastic. It comes with a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter turbo V6 with 510 HP and a sports-tuned suspension. And with its unbelievable performance, it has a NÃ¼rburgring record under its belt.
They presented the Giulia in 2016, and it is one of the best sports sedans money can buy. Also, it is one of the best driver’s cars from Alfa Romeo in decades. And once the car customers recognize it as such, they’ll buy it in significant numbers.
19. Abarth 124 Spider
Do you remember the old Fiat Spider? Now there is a new one sold under the Abarth brand. They’ve equipped it with a 1.4-liter turbo engine delivering 168 HP. It comes with a small weight, well-balanced chassis, updated transmission and rev-happy engine, too.
So, this hot 124 Spider is capable of under seven-second 0 to 60 mph times. However, the best experience is to drive it fast on those windy mountain roads. That is what makes this compact roadster a proper driver’s car.
20. Subaru WRX STI
A classic in the driver’s car genre, the legendary WRX STI is still one of the most desirable affordable performance models. With 310 HP coming from its turbocharged flat-six engine, along with its signature Subaru AWD system, the WRX STI is a seriously capable machine.
The technical layout guarantees great performance. And the 2019 Subaru WRX STI is capable of reaching 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. That means it can embarrass some much costlier sports cars at the stoplight.
These are the 20 best driver’s cars you can buy today. If you like to push the pedal to the metal, any of these cars will fill the bill. However, some are not as easy to find as others, so you should get out there and go car shopping soon.