1. BMW M2
Even though it’s set to be the cheapest M car in the BMW range, it wont come as any surprise if it ends up being the most popular. Continuing where the brilliant 1-Series M Coupe left off, it too comes with a turbocharged straight-six engine, although with a single twin-scroll turbocharger rather than a twin-turbo setup. It has 370hp (30hp more than the 1M), and a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox is now optional. Examples of starting prices for the M2 are CHF 69,900 in Switzerland, £44,070 in the UK, or €56,700 in Germany.
2. Porsche Cayman GT4
For the longest time, car enthusiasts as well as automotive journalists have claimed that the Porsche Cayman wasn’t built to its full potential despite being a very capable sports car. Porsche finally addressed this issue by introducing the Cayman GT4 -- giving it more power than the standard Cayman S as well as stickier tyres, re-tuned suspension, dynamic transmission mounts, as well as a locking rear differential and torque vectoring. It weighs 1,340kg and is powered by the same engine found in the outgoing 991 Carrera S, a 3.8-litre flat-six engine with 385hp and 420Nm of torque. The Cayman GT4 is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
3. Shelby GT350
The new Shelby GT350 marks a first in the world of American muscle cars. For the first time ever, the Mustang is powered by a flat-plane crank V8, and what that means is that it occasionally sounds like a Ferrari V8. However, if you were to go by those YouTube videos, the GT350 still retains some of that traditional cross-plane crank rumble, but then has that Italian exotic-like sound at certain revs. It does revs quite high, redline is set at 8,250rpm, while its power output is 526hp with 429 lb-ft of torque. While the GT350 (MSRP $47,795) will be the ultimate trackday weapon for a lot of people, you can get it as the GT350 R which is even more hardcore ($61,295) thanks to stickier Michelin tyres, lighter weight, a menacing aero package and other cool features like carbon fibre wheels.
4. Mercedes Benz C63 AMG
The new Mercedes Benz C63 AMG came out this year as well, but it no longer has that wonderful 6.2-litre V8 engine of the previous version. However, it does get the same engine as the AMG GT coupe, a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine that gives it 476hp in normal guise and 510hp in S guise. Although this new motor doesn’t growl and roar as good as the previous 6.2-litre V8, it still retains that characterful AMG exhaust note. The new C63 now comes as standard with a mechanical limited-slip differential, where as the C63 S has an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, giving the new car an extra edge when driving spiritedly.
5. Audi RS3
When the new Audi RS3 came out earlier this year it became the most powerful hot hatch on sale with its 367hp. But then Mercedes Benz updated their A45 AMG and made it produce 381hp, stealing Audi’s brief stint at the top. Where Audi still trumps Mercedes is with the engine sound – the RS3 has a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine vs. the A45 AMG’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit. As good as the A45 AMG sounds, there’s nothing quite like a five-cylinder exhaust note that’s followed by bangs and pops between gearchanges and on the overrun.
6. Ferrari 488 GTB
Ferrari’s new mid-engined V8 sports car saw the return of an old formula not seen since the F40 – turbocharging. While the F40 used turbocharging as means simply to extract more power from a 2.9-litre engine, the new 488 uses it more for efficiency purposes. However, you can’t really say that the 488 GTB lacks grunt at 670hp – a whole 100hp more than the 458 Italia it replaces. Despite the big horsepower number, reviews have shown that it’s still a controllable and delightful car to drive. It has lost some of the aggressive noises made by its naturally-aspirated predecessors, but the aftermarket will definitely find a way around that in no time.
7. McLaren 570S
There has been some talk for quite some time about a "baby McLaren" joining the 650S and P1, and the 570S is it. As the name suggests, it has 570hp coming from the same twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 found in the other McLaren supercars, albeit in a different state of tune. In addition to that power is 600Nm of torque, and if the 570S proves to be a bit much, you can get the slightly cheaper 540C with “only” 540hp. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the big horsepower numbers being flaunted in the world of performance cars, but the 570S and 540C are both fast and very capable cars (the 570S will reach a top speed of 204mph or 328km/h), and they represent a much-needed addition to the limited choice of supercars.
8. Porsche 911
The 991 series of the Porsche 911 received some major updates this year, the biggest one of which is the exclusive use of turbocharged engines for the 911 Carrera range. Enthusiasts will be happy to learn that the GT3 models still make use high-revving naturally-aspirated engines, but those who like new things will be glad to find that the Carrera models are now more powerful and more efficient than the cars they replace. The Carrera models now have a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six, with the regular Carrera now having 370hp while the Carrera S has 420hp. The Turbo models make use of the same 3.8-litre engine as before, but both the Turbo and Turbo S have received an increase in horsepower as well (540hp and 580hp respectively).
9. Porsche 911 GT3 RS
The new GT3 RS represents the most hardcore 911 made to date – not the most powerful but definitely the most hardcore. You’ve got four-wheel steering, super sticky tyres, a wide track, an engine that revs to the moon, a superfast double-clutch gearbox, and a body with such a sense of purpose it will impress even the most jaded car enthusiast. The chassis is without question one of the best assets of the 911 GT3 RS, but the star of the show is undoubtedly the 500hp 4.0-litre flat-six engine with a redline just shy of 9,000rpm.
10. Toyota Prius
As mentioned on this website before, the Toyota Prius is the car that car enthusiasts love to hate. The lack of performance and unattractive styling are the main reasons for criticism, but also a small number of Prius owners who felt superior for driving a car that seemingly pollutes less doesn’t do it any favours with car nuts either. Despite these drawbacks, it has to be said that the Prius has always been one of the best daily drivers you could buy – being affordable, comfortable, practical, economical, and reliable. The latest generation Prius was revealed in September and it definitely hasn’t gotten any prettier, in fact it probably looks worse than the previous Prius. But if it’s as good as its predecessor in terms of being an everyday car, then we shouldn’t really give grief to anyone who decides to get one.
11. Cadillac CTS-V
Not too long ago Cadillac was associated with building floaty, not-at-all fast cars targeting people with pensions or private chauffeur hire companies. Now they make the Cadillac CTS-V, which has a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 producing 640hp, accelerates from 0 to 60mph in 3.5 sec and can cover the quarter-mile in 11.6 sec. It’s more powerful than any current super sedan from Germany, but is still cheaper than any of them. But it’s not just brute force; it more than holds its own when it comes to some corners, but is still as easy and as comfortable to drive on a daily basis as any other Cadillac.
12. Honda Civic Type-R
The new Honda Civic Type-R was one of the most anticipated hot hatches of the year and probably the decade. The biggest change is moving from Honda’s signature high-revving naturally-aspirated engine formula to a now more mainstream turbocharged engine. Some might begrudge the fact that Honda are conforming, but it’s now powered by 310hp and, crucially, 400Nm of torque – finally giving the lowdown grunt the Civic Type R has always needed. It holds the record for a front-wheel drive production car at the Nurburgring (7:50.63 min), so there’s no denying that the Civic Type-R is very fast. But while the engine doesn’t sound as sweet as the older Type-Rs, it does show that Honda very much intends to be a part of the high performance future.
13. Honda/Acura NSX
People have been waiting for a very long time for the legendary Honda NSX’s replacement, and this American-developed NSX is what has been delivered. On paper there’s a distant similarity to the Porsche 918 – being an all-wheel drive, mid-engined, hybrid supercar. The NSX has a power rating of 573hp and 406 lb-ft coming from a 3.5-litre twin turbo V6 and electric motor sending power to the rear wheels, and a couple of electric motors powering the front axle.
14. Volvo XC90
This is not only one of the nicest SUVs, but one of the nicest cars to go on-sale this year. The new XC90 carries a very elegant and contemporary design, and yet it is still unmistakably a Volvo design. Not only is the exterior nice, but the interior is a nice place to be as well, with a good mix of high quality materials, a great design, space, and high-tech gadgets. The touchscreen user interface is a big standout feature of the XC90’s interior with its great graphics and tablet-like usability. The car will come exclusively with 2.0-litre four cylinder engines, with power ranging from 254hp to 407hp for the petrol engines, and 190hp to 225hp for the diesel engines. Oh yes, and in true Volvo fashion the new XC90 is a safe car -- it has received five stars from EURO NCAP and Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
15. Mazda MX-5
The Mazda MX-5 might be a small car but it has always worn big shoes, making it a difficult task when time comes to make a worthy replacement. The new MX-5 starts off very well, being both stylish and lightweight (the 1.5-litre version weighs just 998kg). The MX-5 has taken the approach of modest horsepower (the most powerful 2.0-litre version has 160hp) but plenty of driver involvement through an obedient chassis and controls that make the car even more fun to drive. The MX-5 has been around since 1989, and it has proven once again that you don’t need crazy horsepower figures, semi-racing tyres and insane speed to enjoy driving.
17. Mercedes-Maybach S600
The Maybach brand died in 2013, so it came as a surprise that Mercedes Benz decided to bring the name back this year. However this time the name is being used in Mercedes Benz’s ultimate luxury sedan – the Mercedes-Maybach S600. The car makes use of a twin-turbo V12 engine producing 530hp and 830Nm of torque (a Mercedes-Maybach S500 is also available in certain markets), and comes equipped with all the luxury amenities you could ever need on four wheels.
18. Chevrolet Camaro
The new Chevrolet Camaro is a mix of brand new and the familiar. Both of these apply to the design and mechanicals; it has a brand new design but is instantly recognizable as a Camaro, and the SS version still has a 6.2-litre pushrod V8 engine but now makes use of direct injection. The new Camaro also has a new entry-level engine – a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder producing 275hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A new eight-speed automatic transmission is available as an option for all three engines (a 3.6-litre V6 is the other option). There’s definitely going to be a more powerful version at some point, possibly next year in the form of a Camaro ZL1 or Z28.
19. Audi TT
The first Audi TT was always a bit of a daring car to buy in terms of looks, especially for male buyers. However with the new TT, the car manages to be stylish without being too much of a fashion accessory. The interior is also up to Audi’s usual high standards, and the graphics on the satnav and instrument binnacle are amongst the best in any car currently on sale. You get a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, with the most powerful being the 310hp one in the TTS. A TT RS should be made available in the near future, and it should get the same engine as in the Audi RS3 – a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder with at least 367hp.
20. Lamborghini Aventador SV
If you think the standard Lamborghini Aventador isn’t crazy enough for you, how about the new Aventador SV? It’s only got an extra 40hp over the standard Aventador, but it’s got a big rear wing, modified suspension, a new exhaust system, and a slightly higher redline (8,500rpm vs. 8,250rpm). It accelerates from 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds, and it set a simply incredible lap time of 6:59 min around the Nurburgring.
21. Bentley Bentayga
There are not a lot of SUVs that have been powered by 12-cylinder engines, in fact only four SUVs come to mind: Audi Q7 V12 TDI, Volkswagen Touareg W12, Lamborghini LM002, and the Mercedes Benz G65 AMG. Bentley clearly saw a gap in the market and has thus introduced the Bentayga. Its looks – to be kind – takes some time to get used to, but it’s the interior that really sets this car apart from other premium brand SUVs. Its 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 engine produces 608hp, which makes it one of the best SUVs to cover ground quickly. It can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.1 sec and maxes out at 301km/h. It might not be the best-looking SUV on sale, and at £160,200 it’s not the cheapest either. But with that nice of an interior and that much performance, it’s definitely one of the most impressive.
22. Audi R8
The Audi R8 made a comeback this year, and there’s good and bad news. The bad news is there’s no V8 version anymore, nor is there any manual transmission available. The good news is that you now get two V10 options rather than one, with power rated at 540hp for the normal version and 610hp for the Plus version. A seven-speed double-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. Its 5.2-litre V10 engine is closely related to the engine found in the Lamborghini Huracan, but while that might give it extra desirability, its great driving dynamics are still just as good as any keen driver would want it to be.
Written and compiled by Alex Kisiri