Defining what constitutes a sports car isn't as simple as it used to be. In the good old days, i.e. the postwar era, a "sports car" was any car that seated two, had a soft top, and could be used for competition. The same car with a roof would be considered a "grand tourer."
Then, in the 1970s, the definition changed, turning GT cars into sports cars as well. So we could just call all 2-door cars sports cars then, right? Nope. Because some of those are muscle cars, supercars, and hypercars. For this list, we've chosen to go with 2-door cars (some don't even have doors) with relatively high powered engines. They must have inspiring handling characteristics and be capable of driving on both the road and the track – although some compromise heavily in some areas.
20 Porsche 911 Carrera
The eighth-generation 911 is every inch as great a driver’s car as the generation before it, meaning it really remains without rivals. It's a little longer and slightly wider than the previous model, but the 992 is more powerful – its 3.0-liter turbo engine packs 450 hp – making it eminently fast and capable. The shell is lightened by more extensive use of aluminum, and four-wheel steering is now an option even on non-GT-level cars.
19 Maserati GranTurismo
While it does have its flaws, the GranTurismo offers bucketloads of Italian style and temper. It’s powered by a V8 engine that revs to the right side of 7000rpm, and you won't find aural pleasure like this unless you buy a Ferrari. Designed by Pininfarina, we wouldn't expect anything less than an eye-wateringly beautiful end-result.
18 Jaguar F-Type
The F-Type is an absolute beast – and with the larger, supercharged engine options, it sounds like one as well. It’s a machine of incredible, multi-faceted allure and, just like the E-Type was, it’s a great value. The F-Type's handling is so athletic and responsive, it will make driving enthusiasts seek out the twisty scenic route every day when driving home from work.
17 Chevy Corvette
The 'Vette is a fairly large supercar with a brawny naturally aspirated engine up front, a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive – very traditional. The car’s chassis is very enjoyable. You do need to find the right places to deploy the power though as the car’s character is old-school and best sampled with the electronic driver aids left switched on; there's certainly no lack of drama here.
16 Honda/Acura NSX
The NSX features a mid-mounted twin-turbo V6 engine and three electric motors. It's one of the few luxury sports cars with all-wheel drive, which coupled with its hybrid powertrain, offers lightning-fast acceleration at any speed. The NSX has sensational handling, it's nearly impossible to unsettle it due to the high-tech systems that allow heart-pumping thrills while keeping the driver out of trouble.
15 Nissan GT-R
The GT-R, known by enthusiasts as ‘Godzilla,' features a 565-horsepower twin-turbo V6 that's extremely powerful, agile, and offers blistering acceleration – making it insanely fun to drive on twisty back roads or a racetrack. However, don't expect much luxury and refinement – that's not what the GT-R is about. The suspension keeps it planted around turns but sacrifices some comfort.
14 BMW M4
Not only does BMW know how to play the 'sporty coupe game,' they pretty much created it! Equipped with a 3-liter twin-turbocharged straight-six, there's no doubting the M4’s performance which matches that of supercars from not long ago. The latest M4 is lighter than the coupe it replaces, and as a result, feels more alert and agile.
13 Lotus 3-Eleven
The Lotus 3-Eleven series is one of the fastest and most exciting track day sports cars there is. It's Lotus’s fastest ever production car, using a supercharged 3.5-liter Toyota V6 that’s good for 430 hp. With its aggressive aero, the 3-Eleven pulls a peak cornering force of 1.5G – after all, it's a Lotus, a company known for making cars with superior handling.
12 Ariel Atom
Speaking of road-legal cars that excel on the track, we can't escape the Ariel Atom, one of the most exhilarating cars you could ever wish to drive. It's definitely not for everyone as it offers next to no creature comforts – even the tiny windscreen is optional. This thing is all about stunning performance and sharp handling. The powertrain is from a Civic Type R and ranges from 245 hp to 350 hp.
11 Alfa Romeo 4C
Richard Hammond absolutely loved the 4C, and not without reason. It's a relatively low-priced mid-engined lightweight sports car with a carbon-fiber tub. The 1750cc engine is turbocharged and produces 240 hp, which doesn't sound like much, but the 4C only weighs 2,040 lbs. There are no amenities to speak of, it doesn't even have power steering, but its tremendous handling gives drivers a direct connection with the road.
10 Mercedes Benz GT
Those who want a powerful engine, thrilling handling, and elegant cabin should look no further. The GT is a fantastic luxury sports car. There are six engine options, nearly all of them hand-built, twin-turbocharged V8s with power ranging from 429 to 630. It has a phenomenal suspension system and precision handling that really lets the driver carve through the corners, all while sitting in a refined cabin with user-friendly features.
9 Audi R8
The Audi R8 is an excellent two-seat luxury sports car available with either a V8 or V10 engine that offers enough power to rival the Millenium Falcon's acceleration. The R8 delivers precise steering and outstanding agility. The brakes are sturdy, and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system provides incredible grip in all situations. The cabin looks great, and the seats are comfortable for long drives.
8 BMW i8
The i8 uses a plug-in hybrid powertrain and offers an appealing driving experience and otherworldly design. It's exquisitely finished both inside and outside, and to top it off, it's easy to live with. The car’s handling falls slightly short of the very best sports cars, but the problem is only really noticeable when it comes to track driving. It's the sports car of the future right now.
7 Lexus LC
The Lexus LC offers all-round performance, an exquisite and luxurious interior, and great predicted reliability. A keen driver will instantly fall in love with its superbly charismatic V8 engine and its balanced, involving handling. It feels more like a natural rival for a Jaguar F-Type or a Porsche 911, rather than the grand tourers Lexus identifies as its true opponents.
6 Porsche Boxster/Cayman
The Porsche 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman are almost identical, with one key distinction: The Boxster is a convertible. The Cayman also has a lower price by about $2,000. Both cars are excellent choices and some of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class thanks to their energetic engines – ranging from 300 to 365 hp – and dynamic handling. They also deliver a smooth ride and provide an elegant, comfortable interior.
5 Mercedes-Benz SL
The SL is more of a powerful luxury cruiser than an outright sports car as it's not as athletic as some other cars in its class. It rewards drivers with a comfortable ride, surefooted handling, and muscular engine options. The interior is trimmed with high-end materials, and the seats provide excellent long-distance comfort and support. Being a Benz, it has a smooth ride and absorbs road imperfections with ease.
4 Lotus Evora
The Evora has a chassis and steering system that are both top-notch. We can't think of many sports cars with such immersive, positive steering. Being a British car, the Lotus's ride and handling seems to be made specifically for a life on British roads. Its soulful Toyota-sourced supercharged V6 engine produces more than enough power for most people with its 430 galloping stallions.
3 Audi RS5 Coupe
The RS5 is a seriously potent-looking car, both on the outside and inside. Its 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 delivers an astonishing punch to match the car's looks. The RS5 Coupe is a formidable grand tourer, and one heck of a daily driver. The 444 hp engine is not quite as unhinged as expected – making the RS5 insanely fast without being furious.
2 Ferrari California
Some might claim that the Ferrari California is a 'girl's Ferrari', but that's utter nonsense! The new version feels just like a product of Maranello should. It might be Ferrari's softest car, but it's been given an all-new twin-turbo V8 that delivers 552bhp and sounds pure and raspy. Other innovations include re-tuned suspension for a better ride and new body panels that improve its looks massively.
1 Morgan Roadster
Want to drive old-school style? The Morgan Roadster fits the classic sports car definition perfectly and is perhaps the ultimate symbol of old money – even if the car is brand new. Being built on a ladder chassis and wood frame, it's definitely not a car for everyone. This is the sports car you drive to fancy chateau parties with your supermodel wife in the passenger seat.
Sources: Top Gear, Car & Driver, Road & Track, Evo