Welcome to true-blue petrolhead territory. This is where incredible outright grip and pace, vivid driver engagement and thrill, supreme handling poise and track-day-ready specification and purpose all abide. You’ll like it here.
The cars we’re saluting are genuine immortals of speed and excitement. Some of them are so exciting, in fact, that they don’t really belong on the road at all — although all are road-legal with numberplates. But all are cars you’d be in the market for if you wanted a money-no-object track-day tool to enjoy through the summer months — and something you could drive home in afterwards.
Here, we rank both current production machines as well as those that have gone off sale but have yet to be replaced; because these kinds of cars don’t come along often, don’t stay around for long, and the best remain relevant long after they’ve disappeared from the sales brochures.
To chart 10 of these cars without counting those that are technically defunct would be to deny some amazing driver’s cars the recognition they’re undoubtedly due. But which are due the most?
The supreme hardcore focus, track-day hardiness, handling brilliance, driver involvement and performance value of the Porsche 911 GT3 make it a car that absolutely demands the highest recognition we can give. It has become the default answer to any number of questions a newly inducted petrolhead might ask about which car they should buy to maximise return on investment for speed, excitement and driver reward. The only fly in the ointment is that, these days, everyone knows it — and so GT3s have become highly sought after.
This isn’t a car that advertises its brilliance particularly loudly on paper. The car’s 493bhp 4.0-litre flat-six makes it look a bit outgunned in this company, and even in Porsche’s own model range there are several 911s with greater claimed power and outright accelerative performance. But no rival has the GT3’s blend of pace, grip, balance and usefully positioned weight; none has the all-round dynamic precision and outstanding controllability needed at once to set blistering laptimes and set your imagination racing on track. And few seem as well suited to road use once the pitlane has closed.
Through three generations and as many mid-cycle revisions, the GT3 has got better and better since the very first one appeared in 1999. Counting some very closely related GT3 derivative offshoots, it has won Autocar’s annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest four times. Porsche 911s of various types have won it seven times. For the record, no other sports car in three decades of competition has won it more than twice.