No one can deny that the past 10 years have been the decade of the crossover SUV. The sales charts make that case very clearly. But at the very same time, we are living through a golden age of performance. The capabilities of today's top-rated sports cars are the stuff sports car aficionados of the last century could only have dreamed of.
Sure, some track-bred sports racers of the 1960s could top 200 miles per hour on the high banking at Monza. Today you can buy cars that will top 200 miles per hour right off the showroom floor. (Something we advise you not to do, by the way.) Further, the best sports cars of this era aren't just fast in a straight line; they are also able to corner and hold the road in ways that seem almost magical. In this compilation, we have gathered the top-rated sports cars that are the most accessible (that means affordable) to most buyers. Don't expect to top 200 mph in them. You won't need to, because these top-rated sports cars are fun at virtually all speeds.
2020 Subaru BRZ
The Subaru BRZ is the spiritual successor to cars like the Datsun 240Z and the Mazda RX-7. Like those sports coupes of a previous era, it isn't the fastest or best-handling car on the block, but for the price, it offers a large chuck of sports-car enjoyment.
One of the best things about the Subaru-developed BRZ from a performance point of view is its rear-wheel drive platform. While today's front-wheel drive cars offer reasonable performance characteristics most enthusiast drivers still prefer the more neutral-handling rear-drivers to the understeer of front-wheel drive. The BRZ is powered by a normally aspirated 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine that can be paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. The manual-equipped engine delivers 205 horsepower compared to 200 horsepower from the automatic-equipped version. Enthusiasts will enjoy the BRZ's handling, grip, and stopping prowess. In base form, the BRZ can be had for right around $29,000.
2020 Toyota 86
While we are surprised by the unlikely fact that Toyota has two sports cars on this list — not something we'd expect from the famously stolid brand — both the 86 and the Supra (described later) are deserving members of this praiseworthy club.
The Toyota 86 was originally part of the company’s Scion division, but when Toyota bigwigs pulled the plug on the Scion brand, it and its production agreement with Subaru slid under the Toyota banner. Mechanically, the car is virtually identical to the Subaru BRZ. It offers the same chassis design, the same engine, and the same transmission choices. Like the BRZ, it is basically a two-seat coupe with vestigial rear seats suitable for American Girl dolls or grocery bags. Like the BRZ, the sleek coupe is a neutral handler that won't bowl you over with its acceleration. In its least expensive form, it has a base price just under $27,000.
2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a consensus choice to be on this list, and that has been the case for 30 years now. The compact two-seater feels so good to drive that it can transform even the shortest trip into a pleasant excursion. With its 181-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Miata has newfound accelerative abilities, but that isn't the point. Instead, it is so well-balanced and responsive to your touch on the steering wheel that straight-line acceleration becomes secondary. If you need 500-plus horsepower, there are other vehicles for you on this list, so settle down.
The Miata was introduced three decades ago to capture the cachet of the European sports cars of the ’60s, but now it has at least a few modern amenities. For instance, all Miatas have keyless entry with push-button start, and even the base Sport trim now includes the Mazda Connect infotainment system. We like the quick-shifting of the six-speed manual transmission, but if you buy the automatic, you can still keep your sports-car card. A well-equipped upper-trim MX-5 Miata Grand Touring costs around $31,000.
2020 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
Fiat 124 Abarth... The name sounds expensive, exotic, foreign, and — for those who know and care — filled with sports car history. The Fiat 124 Spider was an icon almost from the day it was introduced by Pininfarina in 1966. Carlo Abarth was an Austro-Italian vehicle tuner who specialized in making small cars like Fiats go faster and handle better. Happily, this two-seat sports car lives up to its names. These days it isn't precisely Italian, but the product of a fleeting dalliance between Italian-American Fiat Chrysler and Japanese Mazda; it shares most of its mechanical equipment with the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
One big difference between them lies under the hood. The Fiat is equipped with a 164-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged engine versus the Miata's more potent 2.0-liter. In return, you get Fiat-heritage-inspired exterior styling and the Italian-influenced interior. As a sports car fan, you'll love snicking through the six forward gears with the short-throw shifter. The 124's handling is so direct that some might be offended. The performance-oriented Fiat 124 Spider Abarth has a starting price of about $30,000.
2020 Toyota Supra
The 2020 Toyota Supra’s debut has been upstaged by the debut of the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette, but its reintroduction is worthy of celebration. Those who venerated previous editions of the Supra might be disappointed that this iteration was engineered by BMW, and frankly, those who have driven a lot of recent BMWs will find many things about the Supra very familiar.
Still, this sports car has impressive performance credentials, and it is a blast to drive. Some of the fun emanates from the engine bay where a 335-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine gets the party cranked up. The engine is accompanied by a sophisticated eight-speed automatic that is enabled for quick manual gear selections. The Supra offers Normal and Sport drive modes, which involve changes to response from the powertrain, electric power steering, and adaptive shock absorbers. The car achieves a nice balance between performance prowess and everyday comfort and convenience. It has a base price of about $50,000.
2020 BMW Z4
You might look at the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 as being analogous to the coupe and convertible versions of the Jaguar F-Type. In fact, there are many similarities. The Z4 and Supra are very similar mechanically. Both are front-engine rear-drive vehicles powered by BMW-developed engines. But the Supra is a closed coupe while the Z4 is available only as a convertible.
One other thing the Z4 offers that the Supra doesn't is a four-cylinder engine. The base Z4 engine is a 255-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder, while the higher-performance version of the car is powered by a 382-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. Both engines are backed by eight-speed automatic transmissions. Performance addicts will like the added go-power the six-cylinder offers, but the added torque can make the car seem a high-strung, depending upon how it is pushed. In four-cylinder form, the Z4 has a base price of less than $50,000. With the bigger engine, the price jumps to a base of right around $64,000.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette
Some people have been waiting for a mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette for 50 years. Now, for the 2020 model year, it is finally here, and it is, if anything, better than you might imagine. Several things immediately struck us when we drove the 2020 Corvette for the first time: the sightlines from the driver's seat are excellent, the car is incredibly well-balanced, and, most of all, it is easy to drive. It suffers from none of the idiosyncrasies of some exotic cars.
With a 490-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 over your shoulder, the Corvette has plenty of motive force, and the rearward weight bias is especially helpful in launching the car. Some will decry the absence of an old-school manual transmission, but those of us who live and drive in the 21st century will respect the quickness and efficiency of the eight-speed "auto-shift manual." The 2020 Corvette is truly a car worth waiting decades for, and it starts at an eye-poppingly low list price of less than $60,000.
2020 Jaguar F-Type
The Jaguar F-Type is one of the most beautiful, sexy, and attractive sports cars on the market today. Available as both a coupe and convertible, the F-Type is thoroughly modern while offering a bow to Jaguar heritage. You do remember the legendary Jaguar E-Type, don't you? The F-Type has the classic proportions of its preceding letter, yet it offers a modern turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an array of contemporary electronic driver's aids.
Beyond the four-banger, the F-Type features a nearly baffling choice of engines and trims. At the pinnacle is the SVR all-wheel drive convertible that is stoked by a 575-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V8 engine. Cooler heads might find exactly what they want in the R-Dynamic rear-drive coupe with its 380-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. It offers sophisticated style and the charm only a front-engine rear-drive sports car can deliver. At the "affordable" end of the scale, the P300 has an MSRP of $61,000, while the high-horsepower SVR convertible has an MSRP of about $126,000.
2020 Ford Shelby GT 500
For decades, the Ford Mustang and its Shelby counterparts were low-tech bludgeons that wrenched their laudable performance from big engines and big tires. Well, that was then. This all-new iteration of the Ford Shelby GT 500 is equipped with a very sophisticated suspension, comes filled with electronic driving aids, and has big enough brakes to stop an 18-wheeler to go along with its massive horsepower. How massive? Can you say 760 horsepower from its 5.2-liter V8 engine that is treated to a heavy dose of supercharging?
One would think we that much horsepower on tap the GT 500 would be a bit twitchy in normal driving, but that's not the case. Oh, yes, you can have fun with it and break the rear end loose despite its huge Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. But if you want it to be, the GT 500 can be a real pussycat around town. The tiger comes out on the drag strip and the racetrack. Several drive modes are at your beck and call — Normal, Weather, Sport, Drag, and Track. The base price is around $70,000, and you can get virtually all the performance stuff you could ever want for less than $100,000.
2020 Porsche 718 Spyder
While it is hard not to like all the Porsche 718 variants, we have a special regard for the 718 Spyder for its minimalist approach. Its engine is powerful but not turbocharged; it doesn't feature a menu of driving modes as long as a bowler's right arm, and it offers a traditional six-speed manual gearbox. Even its top is rudimentary (or should we say useless?) In other words, this is a sports car in the Porsche Spyder tradition that dates back to the beginnings of the brand.
What it does have will thrill you. What it doesn't have, you don't need. The 414-horsepower 4.0-liter flat six-cylinder engine will vault you from zero to 60 mph in about four seconds. Road-holding can only be described as superb with ultimate cornering ability topping 1.0 g of tire grip. Sure, the open nature of the Spyder might not make it the best choice for multi-day travel where weather is an issue — but when the time is right, it is hard to top the exhilaration it can produce. The Porsche 718 Spyder has a base price of right under $100,000.