For the purposes of this top 10 chart, however, we can narrow our terms of reference down a bit: Caterham Sevens, Ferrari 488s, Alpine A110s and BMW M cars are ranked and dealt with elsewhere. Here, we’re interested in full-sized, fulsomely endowed, dedicated sports cars priced between about £60,000 and £120,000. Only grown-up, big-hitting, multifaceted and purpose-built options get in.
Front, mid and rear-engined offerings are included, likewise rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive layouts, open and closed cockpits and both simple petrol and hybrid powertrains. There are plenty of routes towards the level of indulgent performance, vivid handling poise, immersive driver engagement and character you’d expect of a true sports car, after all. But which should you take – and why?
1. Porsche 911 (Carrera S and Carrera 4S)
So far, we’ve driven the new 992 generation of the Porsche 911 in both rear-drive Carrera S and four-wheel-drive Carrera 4S guises. Both tests suggested that this eighth-generation, rear-engined sporting hero is every inch as great a driver’s car as the 991 it has replaced – and, if anything, stands ready to take the game further away from its rivals.
Having grown longer and slightly wider, the 911 is available in 380bhp Carrera and 444bhp Carrera S forms. Both are twin-turbocharged and, for now, come with eight-speed automatic gearboxes. Manual examples are expected to arrive in the UK in early 2021.
Both versions use what used to be called the 911’s ‘widebody’ shell (which has been lightened by more extensive use of aluminium in its construction), while four-wheel steering is now an option even on non-GT-level cars and mixed-width wheels and tyres come as standard.
Although there’s as much reason as ever for the keenest of drivers to stick with the car’s purer rear-driven mechanical layout, the 992’s wider front axle track and quickened steering ratio seem to have sharpened its handling very effectively. Its turbocharged engine may not have the textural qualities of Porsche’s old atmospheric units, but it makes for very serious real-world performance – and, overall, for a car that remains without equal among direct rivals for usability, for rounded sporting credibility and especially for the accessible, everyday-use, any-occasion brilliance of its driver appeal.
The sales fortunes of Jaguar’s much-hyped successor for the Lyons-designed E-Type will tell you much about the development of the modern sports car market. When it launched in 2013, we imagined the buying public would value it as a sort of prettier and more dependable modern TVR – favouring the biggest-hitting eight-cylinder engines and viewing it as a cheaper and more powerful front-engined rival to the 911.