60 Greatest Performance Cars of all time: 20-11

Welcome to MOTOR’s 60 Greatest Performance Cars of all time.

The list first appeared in our June 2014 issue as part of our 60th Anniversary celebrations. What better way to celebrate 60 years of testing performance cars than to name the best we’ve ever driven?

Now, given the last was compiled almost 12 months ago there are some obvious cars missing. At the time, we hadn’t driven the incredible LaFerrari or the sublime 458 Speciale, and we hadn’t yet sampled the excellent 991 GT3.

Bar a few recent models, however, it’s a list that’s unlikely to significantly change, now or into the future, as these 60 cars represent the pinnacle of performance motoring. That said, if we’ve missed your favourite, please let us know in the comments below. Enjoy.

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20. Mini Cooper S

The greatest front-wheel drive of all time is the Mini Cooper S. Of course it is. ‘The Flying Brick’ tore up the motorsport rulebook, dominating racetracks and rally stages alike, including winning four straight Monte Carlo rallies and filling the top nine positions at the 1966 Bathurst 500. Drive one today and you’ll truly know the meaning of the phrase ‘go-kart handling’. A legend.

19. Ferrari 250 GTO

When it’s worth $50 million you know it just has to be good. Ok, so the 250 GTO’s sultry, feminine curves go some way to explaining its wallet-wilting value, but they’d be scant compensation if it drove like a Datsun 120Y. Substantial competition success proved that not to be the case, as we’re reminded every year when GTOs rub panels at the Goodwood Revival.  

18. Nissan R32 GT-R

With the advent of the R32 GT-R, Nissan was responsible for launching the greatest technological terror since the Death Star. The clever, continuously-variable ATTESA all-wheel drive system put the power of the twin-turbo straight-six to devastating effect on the racetrack, while on the road it banished the parasitic understeer that plagued traditional all-wheel drive setups. Also changed the face of Aussie motor racing.

17. Pagani Zonda F

From fledgling start-up to one of the supercar elite in less than a decade is no mean feat, but Pagani’s rise to stardom was thanks to one incredible car. The Zonda’s stunning design, incredibly well-sorted chassis and thumping AMG V12 created a weapon that was fired across the bows of Ferrari and Lamborghini. 

16. Caterham 620R

Its core design has changed little in almost 60 years, which speaks volumes about how right Colin Chapman’s original concept was. But while the basics remain the same, the details differ drastically. In ballistic 620R form, the Seven now develops 231kW (just 201 more than the original), fed through a six-speed sequential ’box.

15. Ford XY Falcon GT-HO Phase III

It’s easy to forget with the passing of time that the Phase III, a limited-run homologation special built by a tiny local team, was in its day the fastest four-door car in the world. Mel Nichols best captured the ferocity of this beast in his famous story ‘HO Down the Hume’; you are left in no doubt that this was a car unlike any other. This was a car that meant business.

14. Mercedes-Benz SLS Black Series

Welcome to Mercedes’ dark side. Giving a car the Black Series treatment is essentially like sending it to SAS training, and the SLS emerged a fitter, harder version of itself. The hardcore revamp transformed the gullwing supercar from a slightly wayward hot-rod into a GT3 racer with numberplates.

13. Audi Ur Quattro

Remember when you traded your old Nokia brick in for a new iPhone? Remember the world of new possibilities it opened up? The Ur Quattro was an automotive smartphone, its all-wheel drive traction consigning wheelspin to the annals of history in 1983, even with a monstrous 147kW (hey, it was 1980).

12. Lamborghini Miura

Beautiful, yes, but the Miura’s substance can’t quite match its style. That gorgeous shape created aerodynamic lift, aspects of the driving experience had strong ties with Lambo’s agricultural past and Ferrari’s Daytona could show it a clean pair of heels. But the Miura’s mid-engined layout set the template for all future supercars.

11. Bugatti Veyron

An incredible technical achievement, the Veyron  redefined what was possible from a production car. It also proved there was a market for ₤1m hypercars; without it the 918, P1 and LaFerrari would not exist. So why does it rank so low? In chasing those all-important numbers, VW created an engineering dead-end and failed to remember cars should be fun as well as fast.

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