Fancy a sports car you can get the most out of, more of the time, without fear of flying into the weeds?
These five models are communicative and cohesive, always on your side and can be spanked until Christmas without being threatening.
1. Mazda MX-5
The inspiration for this piece, particularly the 2.0-litre manual with grippy 17-inch Bridgestone Potenza tyres delivers near-perfect engine and chassis unison. Along with lenient stability control – that incidentally gets tripped up with the grip-less 16-inch Yokohamas of the 1.5-litre version – it is possible to drive the ‘big block’ Japanese roadster at the limit, everywhere. Ticket: $34,990 plus on-road costs.
2. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
K-Rudd had just landed the top job (the first time around) when the tenth-generation Evolution lobbed, and we’ve had four changes of prime minister since. Yep, it’s old, but back before the Focus RS was playing with all-wheel drive and the Golf R actually sent drive to its back wheels, there was a car, hard and fast, that could be driven at its maximum until you drained its tiny (55-litre) fuel tank. Still can, as the Final Edition is in runout. Ticket: $53,700 plus on-road costs.
3. Holden Commodore SS V Redline
The 6.2-litre V8 upgrade and Brembo brakes all ‘round takes the Commodore to new heights and fresh frontiers. It’s now a performance car all-rounder, with the sound to match newfound speed, and the tyre grip and chassis balance to wrap it all together. It just gets better the harder you commit and the Redline-exclusive Competitive Mode ESC is a gem. Sedan, the only bodystyle with standard sunroof and Bose audio, is the pick. Ticket: $53,990 plus on-road costs.
4. BMW 2 Series
Choose your 2 Series. More chassis than engine? That would be the charming 220i, but make sure your tyres are small and chubby for maximum effect. Perhaps the sweet spot between those two aspects? Go the powered-up 228i. Even the M235i when equipped with a $4000-optional limited-slip differential can be absolutely spanked along a road without fear of biting – unlike an M4. Ticket: $48,900 to $77,500 plus on-road costs.
5. Porsche Boxster/Cayman
The 911 is epic, but for less than half the price you can have a base Boxster or Cayman that is primed for hard driving from the get-go. Playing with Sport Chrono and adaptive suspension lifts the experience to the next level, but you really need the extra power of the S or GTS to go there. Or the Spyder or GT4. They’re all sub-$200K propositions and we can’t think of cars in that pricerange that are easier to drive very hard. Ticket: $104,700 to $189,900 plus on-road costs.