Best Of

Best sports cars

Choosing a sports car may be an indulgence, and you want something that's great to drive, but you don't have to completely give up on comfort or even reasonable running costs.

Words by: First published: 15th December 2017
If you're looking to buy a sports car, you're going to want something that's great fun to drive, whether that's down to speed, the way it goes around corners, or a combination of both.

That may mean you have to make some sacrifices – like having two seats instead of four, and not having a boot that’ll fit much more than a few small shopping bags – but you don’t have to compromise on everything. The best sports cars provide plenty in the way of comfort, luxury equipment and everyday usability, and with many, even reasonable running costs aren’t out of the question.

Tempted? You should be, so here’s our guide to the best of what’s available.

Our selection:
  • Mazda MX-5 – the low-cost one
  • Alpine A110 – the super-light one
  • Porsche 718 Boxster – the precise one
  • Jaguar F-Type – the pretty one
  • McLaren 720S– the super-fast one
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Mazda MX-5 – the low-cost one
The Mazda MX-5 has been flying the flag for affordable sports cars for almost 30 years, and the latest model takes its inspiration from the much-loved original. This means low weight is the key to its great handling and performance. With so little mass to move around, it doesn’t need a big engine, though we’d choose the 2.0-litre over the 1.5 for its extra power when overtaking or zinging down back roads. Neither is as quick as a hot hatch, but the super steering and handling let you make the most of what’s available. The cabin offers good space for two and comes with an intuitive infotainment system, and the small but well-shaped boot can hold a couple of cases. There’s also the RF version, with a folding hard top, that offers a less windy experience than the fabric-roofed roadster.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Alpine A110 – the super-light one
The Alpine A110 is the newest offering here, and it slots straight into our list of recommended cars. Any car that goes toe-to-toe with a rival as talented as a Porsche Cayman S and comes away unscathed is worthy of anyone’s recommendation.

It’s a truly fabulous car to drive, and it’s all down to extremely light weight that’s distributed very evenly between all four wheels, putting the car’s centre of gravity somewhere around your hips. That means the whole car feels like it pivots around you as it turns, giving a truly intoxicating level of engagement. The engine is modest, being a turbocharged 1.8 with 252 horsepower, but when the car is so light, that’s enough to let it outsprint a Cayman S. Yes, it can’t match the Porsche on either quality or practicality, but as soon as you hit the road, you won’t care.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Porsche 718 Boxster – the keen driver’s one
We could’ve picked either the Boxster or the Cayman for this slot, but since the hard-topped Alpine has already featured, we decided the Boxster was worthy as it gives buyers something a little different with its open-air appeal. For years, this has been the go-to sports car for buyers who want everything. Speed, thrills, quality, practicality, classiness, looks, desirability; this thing has the lot. The recent switch to four-cylinder power hasn’t gone down too well with purists who miss that six-cylinder howl, but the fact remains that the car is now faster, cleaner and easier on the wallet. Go for the faster S model, and it also goes like the clappers and sounds pretty good. However, it’s the other bits of the drive – the handling, the ride, the steering – that really make this car stand out. It’s not cheap and you’ll have to spend a fair bit more on optional extras, but you’ll never be left feeling short-changed.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Jaguar F-Type – the pretty one
The F-Type is available in both hard-top and soft-top forms, but for us, it’s the Coupe – with its curvaceous, slinky roofline – that represents the truer expression of glamour. The rest of the car looks absolutely stunning, with lots of inspiration from the iconic E-Type sports car of the 1960s. It’s a similar story in the cabin, where the F-Type mixes luxuriousness and sportiness really effectively, even if one of two of the plastics could feel a little higher in quality. You choose from a series of engines whose performance ranges from quick to cataclysmic, with our favourite being the reasonably restrained 300 horsepower 2.0-litre. And while the rest of the driving experience doesn’t really have the precision or accuracy of some rivals, there’s easily enough to keep you smiling. The car’s slightly raucous and unruly character gives it its own special appeal.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
McLaren 720S– the super-fast one
No list like this would be complete without at least one ridiculous, money-no-object choice, and the McLaren 720S is ours. Of all the super-exotic cars we’ve driven, this is the pinnacle. In a great number of ways, the 720S bridges the gap between supercar and hypercar. The performance is just one example. With its 720 horsepower twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine that throws it from 0-60mph in just 2.8 seconds, it’s really not far behind the (much more expensive) P1 that sits above it in McLaren’s range. The suspension delivers the sharpness of a racecar with the ride comfort of an executive saloon, while the controls provide ultimate sensory satisfaction and bits of the bodywork move themselves around automatically to maximise down force and keep you glued to the road. This car really does have to be experienced to be believed, and even when judged alongside other great supercars, it truly is something special.
Or, if none of those appeal, here are some new sports cars coming along in 2018 and beyond that you might want to hang on for…
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Volkswagen Up! GTI – the small one
Alright, we know, we know, this isn’t technically a sports car. However, we so love the idea of affordable fun that we thought we’d sling the Up! GTI into our list. If it’s half as much fun as its spiritual successor – the Lupo GTI – it’ll be about as much fun as anything else on this list. We don’t yet know exactly how much it’ll cost when it’s released in 2018, but we do know it’ll have a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 115 horsepower. Doesn’t sound like much, but we expect this car to be feisty, and generally rather hilarious.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Toyota Supra – the throwback one
Anyone who loves a fast-and-furious approach to their sports car will be elated to hear the Supra will make its return in 2018. It’s being developed in conjunction with BMW, and it’s been rumoured that it’ll take much of its styling from the FT-1 concept car, pictured here. Very little is known about the technology on board, but knowing Toyota, we’d guess hybrid technology will be involved somewhere along the line. Whatever the case, expect shedloads of power and huge scope for tuners and modification fans to do their thing.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Jaguar XE SV Project 8 – the bonkers one
This proves you don’t have to sacrifice practicality in the pursuit of insane speeds. The Project 8 has four seats and a decent boot, but with 600 horsepower from its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and lots of carbon fibre body panels to reduce weight, it’s capable of blasting from 0-62mph in just 3.3 seconds, and onto a top speed of 200mph, making it the world’s fastest saloon car. Meanwhile, four-wheel drive, sophisticated adaptive suspension and all manner of electronics will help keep all that power going in the right direction. And the price of all this lunacy? Well, it starts from around £150,000. For an XE. What was that about lunacy?
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Bentley Continental GT – the comfortable one
The Conti GT isn’t a sports car in the purest sense – it’s more of a grand tourer – but anything with so much potency, technology and desirability just has to figure in the thoughts of the well-heeled sports car buyer. Power comes from the latest version of Bentley’s renowned 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engines, and as it happens, there’s rather a lot of it; 635 horsepower to be precise. It also has an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission and a 48-volt Dynamic Ride suspension similar to that found in the Bentayga SUV, which maximises both ride comfort and cornering ability. And, being a Conti, you can also expect strong practicality, superb refinement and a jaw-droppingly plush cabin.
Best sports cars
Best sports cars
Mercedes-AMG Project One – the Formula One car one
Ever wished you could have a spin in a Formula One car? Well, The Project One will be able to do a bit better than that. Not only will you be able to own one (if you can afford the astronomically high price), you’ll also be able to drive it on public roads. A Formula One Car? Really? Well, this plug-in hybrid has a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, four electric motors, and much of this hardware is pretty much the same stuff used by Hamilton and Bottas to humiliate the rest of the Formula One field for the past few seasons. The combined power output is said to be upwards of 1000 horsepower, while the top speed is rumoured to be getting on for 220mph. Fearsome stuff.