The term ‘performance car’ should be banned from all good car websites. It is loathsome, ambiguous tosh whose biggest offence is to lead us to deny the richness and variety that exists in a widening market for driver’s cars.
By lumping together everything designed and engineered to go fast, the term encourages the people who make, judge and own these cars to think in common terms about models as different as 600bhp grand tourers, 200bhp hot hatchbacks, four-wheel-drive sledgehammer estates and £200,000 super-sports cars. And it does so when the key to making those cars great actually lies in understanding those differences.
Let’s take the super-saloon as an example, given that we’re about to devote our attention to three prime examples of the breed. With super-saloons, power and pace are important. Not all-important, granted, but they matter. A lot.
In sports cars, as with hot hatches, fast coupés and elsewhere, seldom will the fastest and most powerful car in the competitor set also be our class champion. With super-saloons, however, there’s a decent chance that it will.
The legendary fast four-doors you’d put in an all-time top five spring to mind in no small part because of their engines: E60 BMW M5, Lotus Carlton and Mercedes-Benz 300E AMG ‘Hammer’.
All were crushingly effective motorway cars. And needless to say, if you’re buying a super-saloon now, you’ll probably want it with enough grunt to seize total command of the fast lane.
Mercedes-AMG has always understood that, and by bringing its new C63 S saloon to the market with no less than 503bhp, it has provided a fine head start for the car. But the new AMG C-Class won’t enjoy the numerical top-dog status its maker believes it deserves, due to competition from an exotic Antipodean thunder-domer imported to our shores via the decidedly unexotic location of Luton.