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Best fast cars to enjoy slowly

Cars are getting quicker than ever but enjoying that performance responsibly can be tricky – here are some to enjoy at a leisurely pace

Dan Trent

Words by: Dan Trent

Published on 17 April 2022 | 0 min read

Speed limits and a sense social responsibility should, of course, dictate how much of a car’s ability you can experience day to day, whether it has 100 horsepower or over 1,000. But the idea of owning a fast car is still as thrilling as ever, and many of us place huge value on performance, whether or not we actually get much chance to use it.
So, given so many cars are capable of speeds way in excess of any limit – and can hit them in the blink of an eye – how are you meant to get any pleasure from owning them? It’s certainly a challenge, and one some manufacturers are better at addressing than others. So, with that in mind here are some fast cars you can enjoy at a more chilled out pace.

Maserati MC20

The Maserati MC20 is the latest Italian supercar on the block, and wears the brand’s famous racing heritage very much on its sleeve. With 630 horsepower to play with it can hit 62mph from rest in less than three seconds and nearly treble the motorway speed limit flat out. Which is an impressive feat, but not one to be putting to the test on the public road. What really impressed us about the MC20, however, was how nice it was to just be in. Gorgeous looks, surprising levels of comfort and a real sense of glamour are things you can enjoy even when pottering about at town speeds. The electric version coming in due course will even let you appreciate this with zero emissions and a clean conscience.

Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

There are over 20 flavours of Porsche 911 to choose from, all of them fast. And the GT3 is perhaps the most overt about its performance, its track breeding shouted with a huge rear wing and a selection of motorsport-inspired trimmings. It’s a fabulous car to drive on a circuit but, perhaps, a bit much for the road. Which is where the GT3 Touring version comes in. It has the same amazing 510 horsepower engine and will still do nearly 200mph. But without the wings it looks a little more discreet and, with the manual gearbox option, means you’re more involved in the driving process. Because it feeds back so much information through the controls it also – bizarrely – feels more interesting at lower speeds than ‘regular’ 911s, meaning you can enjoy the buzz of a GT3 without attracting as much attention to yourself and at a more real-world pace.

Toyota GR Yaris

Given you’re restricted to (at best) 60mph on the narrow, twisty roads the rally-influenced GT Yaris is built to be driven on it’s refreshing that this hottest of hot hatches is actually at its best at well under the limit. Small, agile and with a feisty, turbocharged engine, it loves dancing through the corners while the all-wheel drive means it is confidence-inspiring in all weathers and on all surfaces. Like the rallying Yaris that inspires it, this focus on acceleration and agility rather than top speed makes it actually more relevant than many supercars. Which explains why many owners of much exotic machinery are adding a humble Yaris to their collections of Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

McLaren 720S Spider

Supercar performance is so beyond that of regular cars you wonder sometimes how they’re allowed to even share the same roadspace. And the McLaren 720S Spider is among the very fastest, capable as it is of well over 200mph and going from 0-124mph faster than it takes most normal cars to reach 62mph from standstill. Like all McLarens, though, the secret of the 720S is not the quantity of the performance but the quality. The steering in particular is just perfect, with the kind of weight and feedback roadtesters obsess over but all drivers can appreciate. Attributes like this mean you feel hard-wired into everything the car is doing and, unlike rivals from Ferrari or Lamborghini, more engaged. Meaning the 720S is still huge fun to drive at a quarter of what it is really capable of, the more so in the open air Spider version.

Alpine A110

Renault-owned Alpine builds on a long alliance between the two iconic French brands and its A110 coupe puts the focus on weight-saving and delicate responses rather than out and out speed. Because it doesn’t weigh very much the suspension can be softer than most sports cars without diluting the fun factor, while the small tyres mean the steering is both light and responsive. So, you can steer the A110 with your fingertips and a light touch on the throttle and still enjoy strong acceleration and a lovely sense of carving through the corners, all well within the speed limit. Even better, these attributes mean it doesn’t use much fuel, so you can enjoy its performance with a completely clean conscience.

Bentley Continental GT Speed

With a massive 12-cylinder engine and over 650 horsepower there is absolutely no doubt about this Continental GT’s priorities. Speed by name, speed by nature indeed and this luxury express celebrates Bentley traditions of building fast, imposing and luxurious cars for covering huge distances at pace. Perhaps the most surprising attribute, however, is now nice it is to drive at a rather more sedate pace. In some fast cars the sense of untapped power beneath your right foot can be frustrating but, in a Bentley, it’s strangely comforting. Meanwhile, the deliciously smooth controls mean it’s as satisfying at town speeds as it is blasting to the south of France. Everyone knows the Speed is a fast car. The pleasure of driving it comes from not needing to prove it to anybody.

Hyundai i20 N

A hot hatch like the i20 N is the first step on the fast car ladder for many enthusiastic drivers, many of whom then graduate into more powerful and exotic machinery. In the scheme of things the little Hyundai’s relatively modest 204 horsepower doesn’t sound much but, like the GR Yaris, it’s plenty for enjoying the kind of tight and twisty back roads we have here in the UK, and doing so at speeds that are responsible and fun. Stiff suspension, fast steering and a slick-shifting gearbox all make it more fun getting to 60mph than doubling it as you might in a supercar, and even at speeds well under that the i20 N’s cheeky chuckability is a hoot.

Rolls-Royce Ghost

Rolls-Royce puts luxury before all other considerations but customers still expect impressive performance, something the Ghost delivers in abundance thanks to a creamy 12-cylinder engine and over 600 horsepower in the Black Badge versions. There’s a famous urban myth that Rolls-Royce technical specifications used to describe the top speed as ‘adequate’ rather than be so vulgar as to put a number to it, and something of that mindset endures. And while the Ghost is fast it feels more appropriate to waft, a sensation encouraged by the low-geared steering and soft suspension. As a car for those who’ve left the rat race behind this feels far more appropriate, and enjoyable.

Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster

With its snarling, crackling V8 engine and unmistakeably butch looks the AMG GT is blatant about its red-blooded performance credentials as a very, very fast car indeed. Which is fine if you live somewhere you can exploit such qualities, as you might on Germany’s famous derestricted sections of Autobahn. Over here we’d recommend the Roadster version, though, on the basis dropping the roof makes it feel like you’re going faster than you actually are and it’s the better for enjoying the glorious noise of the engine at more sensible speeds.

Ford Mustang GT

Back in the day muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and others like it were all about impressive looks and noise but rather more crude when it came to the driving dynamics. Which was fine for the quarter-mile but less suited to twisty European roads, meaning they never really took off here as they did back in America. The current Mustang retains a sense of those simple pleasures but is actually far more capable. Sure, a BMW M3 or even a hot hatch like a Golf R will probably still leave it for dead. But the joy of a Mustang is the more honest, mechanical connection between car and driver, no more so than with the V8-engined GT with a manual gearbox. From experience of driving one people seem to love the Mustang’s style as well, and even burbling through town at little over walking pace you’ll enjoy the smiles and thumbs-up the iconic all-American style attracts.

Tesla Model S

Tesla is famous for the electrifying (or, at least, electrified) performance of all its cars, Plaid versions of the Model S apparently capable of leaving even hypercars for dead off the line. But electric power isn’t what makes the Model S unique in this line-up – it’s the fact you can enjoy it when parked as much as you can when you’re driving it that sets it apart. Thanks to the range and big battery you won’t have to sit and charge as much as you might in some other electric cars. But when you do it’s no chore, Tesla’s giant screen and connectivity meaning you can sit back and watch Netflix or even play some videogames while you’re parked up to charge. A fast car you can actually enjoy at a standstill? That is revolutionary!