Top 10 performance cars of the 2000s

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

Against all odds, the first decade of the 21st century turned out to be a cracker for performance cars, so here at MOTOR we put our collective heads together to pick our best ten (in no particular order) from 2000-2009.

Audi RS4

MOTOR’s Performance Car awards have often cruelly been labelled Porsche Car of The Year, so it was one hell of an achievement for Audi’s brilliant V8 RS4 to wrest the 2006 crown away from the 997-series 911 Turbo.

And that’s because it’s one hell of a car, from the addictive NASCAR-like soundtrack that bellows from its 309kW 4.2-litre V8, to its discreetly muscular bodywork and its delightfully chuckable all-wheel-drive, rear-biased chassis.

Despite being in strong demand second-hand, the RS4 remains a bargain and Audi has a lot to live up to with its successor.

Audi RS4

BMW M5 (E39)

Officially launched in mid-’99, but on sale until 2003, the E39 M5 is regarded as the last of the pure Bavarian bahn-stormers.

There’s no tricky dampers or fiddly SMG gearbox like the current V10-powered M5; just one of the sweetest V8s of any era – a crisp 4.9 that produced 294kW and maxxed out at 7000rpm – hooked up to a simple six-speed manual and a beautifully balanced chassis. It was – and still is – perfect.

BMW M5 E39

Porsche 911 GT2 (997)

No fast-car list would be complete without the ultimate 911, the ferocious GT2. This twin-turbo, rear-drive racer for the road is an experience at any speed, on any road.

Although a few Porkers have since eclipsed the GT2 as Stuttgart’s fastest car to 100km/h, its 390kW force-fed flat six is a scorcher, complemented by mind-bending cornering ability. It was a no-contest winner for our 2008 Performance Car crown.

Porsche 911 GT2 (997)

HSV W427

Even though its enormous price tag created plenty of headlines – mostly negative – HSV’s big-banger W427 lived up to the hype as the greatest Aussie muscle car ever built.

Powered by the Corvette Z06’s hand-built 7.0-litre LS7 V8 producing 375kW, the W427 is as close as we’ll ever get to a road-going V8 Supercar.

It’s also the easily the best Commodore to date, and the 150-odd that exist are instant collector classics.

HSV W427

Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG

If ever a car epitomised the iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove analogy, it was the SL55 AMG. Strapping a supercharger on Benz’s 5.4-litre V8 was AMG’s winning shot in a brewing German power war, and dropping it into the nose of the sweetest-looking SL since the 1960s produced an instant classic.

It was blindingly quick, but the SL55 is best remembered for its monstrous torque, neck-snapping throttle response, and wall-of-thunder exhaust bellow. As brilliant and generally superior as the SL63 is today, we still miss the charm of the blown V8.

Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

Mitsubishi’s latest Lancer Evo X is a great car, but it seems evolution has taken it in a new direction. It’s fatter and more comfort-biased than its predecessor, and – for us – that makes the Evo IX the best of the breed. Sure, it feels like a $20,000 car from the driver’s seat, but it certainly doesn’t drive like one.

With six gears to stoke it’s high-revving 4G63 2.0-litre turbo and a hugely focused, STi-beating all-wheel-drive chassis set-up, it’s one of the highlights of the decade.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo

It’s probably stretching the truth by saying the XR6 Turbo is the car that saved the Aussie-built Falcon from extinction, but it certainly helped delay its demise.

Following the failure of the 1998 AU, Ford Australia, led by the visionary Geoff Polites, revolutionised the local performance landscape with the force-fed BA Falcon XR6 Turbo.

The original 240kW/480Nm version was superb, and over the years the XR6T has become even better, culminating in 2008’s balllistic 310kW/565Nm FPV F6.

In any guise, Ford’s boosted Falcon is easily the most significant Aussie performance car of the 2000s.

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo

Porsche 911 GT3 (997)

Even though Porsche’s 911 GT3 misses out on the huffers of its GT2 big brother, it doesn’t lose out on any of the thrills. In fact, the GT3 is just as exciting, with its atmo 3.8-litre flat six screaming all the way to 8000rpm and driving the most balanced 911 chassis ever.

It’s the closest thing to a road-legal race car, as it forms the basis of Porsche’s global Carrera Cup competition cars. It’s so damn good, it won the toughest Performance Car contest of the decade, beating Lamborghini’s Gallardo Superleggera and Audi’s R8 to claim our 2007 gong.

Porsche 911 GT3 (997)

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640

Forget the Bugatti Veyron – Lamborghini’s Murcielago LP640 is the biggest, baddest, ballsiest supercar of the Noughties. It’s so wide that it’s intimidating to drive and it’s so bloody expensive it’s, no doubt, just as intimidating to own. But it has more presence than Uluru and the sound from its magnificent 471kW 6.5-litre V12 is to die for.

It’s also an incredible road car that has gob-smacking cornering talent and even rides well. Plus it has scissor doors. And the world’s sexiest arse.

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640

Renault Megane R26

The last decade produced a horde of fantastic hot-hatches, but none could quite match the driving experience of the Renaultsport Megane.

It didn’t start out that way, because the 2004 original had serious steering, damping and torque-steer issues, but by the time the French introduced the Team F1 R26 version, with a limited-slip diff garnishing the many other improvements wrought over the years, the whole package came alive. There is no other front-driver that’s as much fun, anywhere.

 Renault Megane R26

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