60 Greatest Performance Cars of all time: 50-41

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.

Click here for cars 60-51

50. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Marks the point at which AMG finally threw off any semblance of sensibility and embraced its inner hooligan. Lacks the delicacy and precision of an M3, but more than makes up for it with wonderful chassis balance and one of the greatest engines of all time. MOTOR will be holding a large wake when this thing ceases production.

49. Shelby Cobra

It might’ve been a horrendous financial failure, but in the mid-’60s, if you wanted the fastest thing on four wheels, you needed a 427 Cobra. After all, this is a car that could hit 100mph (161km/h) from rest and return to zero agin in under 14 seconds, despite the fact it was still wheelspinning at the 100mph mark. Not enough? Carroll Shelby put two turbos on his.

48. Audi RS4

No arguments here. In a long line of RS Audis one car stood head and shoulders above the rest – the B7 RS4. Remember, this is the car that knocked off the 997 911 Turbo on its way to PCOTY glory in 2006. Unusually for a product of Ingolstadt, while the screaming 4.2-litre V8 was a highlight, it was the balance and compliance of the incredible chassis that left everyone with their prejudices well and truly smashed.

47. Ford Escort RS2000

The bad news is that to secure an RS1800 – essentially a ready-made rally car – you’ll have to a) find one and b) be prepared to part with an eye-watering amount of cash. The good news is much of what made the RS1800 such a brilliant competition car can be found in the Pinto-powered (and much more affordable) RS2000.

46. Subaru WRX STI

Being the ram-raiders’ weapon of choice, early STIs became Australia’s version of the Jaguar Mk II, the car famously favoured by British bandits in the ’50s and ’60s. Any and all are
a great drive, but the arrival of tricky diffs and sticky tyres – while retaining the forged 2.0-litre boxer – makes the MY05 our pick.

45. Bentley Speed Six

Ettore Bugatti famously described Bentleys as “the fastest lorries in the world”. If that’s true, then truck driving in the ’20s must’ve been a lot of fun. Company owner Woolf Barnato proved their speed and reliability by driving from Cricklewood to Le Mans, winning the race (three times in succession!) then turning around and driving home.

44. Aston Martin V12 Vantage

For all the smooth, suave James Bond connotations, what Aston does best is make thumping muscle cars. Ok, so shoehorning a 6.0-litre V12 into the Vantage robbed it of some visual purity, but the ferocious, wheelspin-in-every-gear excitement that resulted was ample compensation. Latest ‘S’ version one of Aston’s best.

43. Volkswagen Golf GTI

It didn’t invent the hot hatch concept, but it might as well have. Automotive compromise was suddenly a thing of the past, the Golf GTI proving a car could be fast and fun yet practical and economical at the same time. Vee Dub nerds will debate whether the original eight-valver or Mk II 16-valve is the sweeter package, but we’d happily drive either.

42. Koenigsegg Agera R

The world needs cars like the Koenigsegg. It may lack the jewel-like detailing of a Pagani or the romantic allure of a Prancing Horse, but it more than makes up for it with the brutal savagery of its twin-turbo 5.0-litre V8 while continuing Sweden’s proud history of aviation-grade engineering. Wonderfully unhinged.

41. Lotus Exige

Drive an Exige and you’ll probably never want to get out. Which is just as well, as getting in and out of Lotus’s pocket rocket is a right pain in the arse. Early K-Series cars are the purest, but later cars, with the supercharged Toyota engines, offer true supercar performance for a fraction of the price.

Click here for cars 40-31

Click here for cars 30-21

Click here for cars 20-11

Click here for cars 10-1

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