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Top 10 best sports cars 2024

10 porche 911 top 10
10 porche 911 top 10

There's a very obvious part of the new car market for dyed-in-the-wool petrolheads to go in search of meaningful driver entertainment: the sports car segment. And even as so many other segments undergo such rapid change, this one still deals in big power, lightweight engineering, high-revving combustion engines and outstanding handling dynamism.

A genre that's almost as old as the car itself, sports cars were first developed to bring some of the speed and excitement of early motorsport machines to the everyday driver on the road. Over the decades, these cars have matured into more talented all-rounders, abandoning their direct links to racing but retaining the same remit to place the driver squarely at the centre of the action but also give him or her a product to be used ever more widely.

Of course, the passage of time has meant that the definition of the sports car has been stretched in all directions, with everything from hot hatchbacks to scalpel-sharp track cars being grouped under the banner. However, for this list, we're going to limit those that qualify to the sort of full-sized and sophisticated machines that deliver deep-chested acceleration and uplifting handling but are as home on the road as the track. And while having more than two seats isn't a disqualification from consideration, we're keenest on those that place more of an emphasis on performance than practicality. Their grown-up status is cemented by pricing that falls between about £60,000 and £150,000, so we're short of supercar territory here - although in some cases with a little more breathing space that in others.

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However, that's not to say there isn't room for variety, which is why front, rear and mid-engined contenders make the cut here. The same goes for engine layout and cylinder count (the more the merrier in the latter's case).

So read on as we run the rule over the best sports cars still on sale in 2024.

1. Porsche 911

Pros Unrivalled blend of four-seat usability, multi-faceted driver appeal, as much power and pace as you've got budget for

Cons A certain sense of ubiquity next to rarer sports cars

The derivative range of Porsche's latest-generation 911 (the 992) has filled out quite a bit since its introduction in 2019. The car is now available in 380bhp Carrera and Carrera T444bhp Carrera S and 473bhp Carrera GTS forms, all powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six engine; in coupé, cloth-top Cabriolet and folding fixed head Targa bodystyles; with rear or four-wheel drive; and with eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic and seven-speed manual gearboxes. There are also the extra-rapid Turbo, Turbo SGT3 and GT3 RS versions higher up, not to mention extra-special limited-run versions like the 911 Dakar and 911 S/T.

We've tested most versions of the 911 and not found much to dislike in any of them. Although the 911 has certainly become a better and more refined and sophisticated luxury operator than it ever used to be, the 992 iteration of this rear-engined sporting hero is every inch as great a driver's car as the 991 it replaced - and, if anything, stands ready to take the game further away from its rivals.

For performance value, the Carrera T takes a lot of beating, its blend of pace, poise and rawness making it closest in spirit to 1960s and 1970s 911s. It's particulary pleasing with the manual gearbox (the first time the three-pedal layout has been made available with the entry-level 380bhp Carerra engine), but Porsche's dual-clutcher effortlessly mixes precise control with ease of use.

The 992 grew longer and slightly wider than its predecessor, all versions using what used to be called the 911's 'widebody' shell (which has been lightened by more extensive use of aluminium in its construction), while four-wheel steering is now an option even on non-GT-level cars and mixed-width wheels and tyres come as standard.

Although there's as much reason as ever for the keenest of drivers to stick with the purer rear-driven mechanical layout, the 992's wider front-axle track and quickened steering ratio seem to have sharpened its handling very effectively. Its turbocharged engine may not have the audible qualities of Porsche's old atmospheric units, but it makes for very serious real-world performance.

Overall, for a car that remains without equal among direct contemporary rivals for usability, rounded sporting credibility and especially for the accessible, everyday-use, any-occasion brilliance of its driver appeal, the evergreen 911 still stands head and shoulders above its peers.

Read our Porsche 911 review

2. BMW M2 Coupé

Pros Great blend of power, space, compactness and usability, appealing price

Cons Not always a much fun as earlier iterations, poor RHD pedal layout in the manual version

When BMW's M division decided to wrap modern BMW M4 sports coupé mechanicals in a shorter, slightly lighter shell and then to retune what resulted to suit even keener enthusiast tastes, it hit on a winning recipe for the current BMW M2. The sense of technical inferiority that hung around previous iterations of this car was banished, and while the car grew (and grew heavier) as a result, it gained a sense of integrity, maturity and completeness as a modern M car that earns it a very high ranking in this chart.

The M2 now uses a slightly detuned version of the same turbocharged straight six that powers the M4 and has a healthy 453bhp to call on. Driven exclusively by its rear wheels and available with a six-speed manual gearbox if you want one, this car is a simpler, purer driver's car than bigger M cars, and it retains just enough compactness to appeal in a way that the company's bigger saloons and estates can't. It's fast, balanced, involving and communicative yet also versatile, capable and very instantly driver-configurable, as characterises modern M cars so uniquely.

Pricing that allows you to escape from the showroom having spent less than £70,000 seals the appeal for a car that has a right-sized compromise of just enough power and space at just the right price - and no shortage of vivid driver reward.

Read our BMW M2 Coupé review

3. Lotus Emira

Pros Supremely poised chassis, talkative steering, driver involvement like little else

Cons Four-cylinder engine is a little unworthy, still isn't as easy to live with as a Porsche 911 or 718 Cayman

The last hurrah for ICE power at Lotus, the Emira certainly has a lot resting on its shoulders. And the good news is that the Norfolk newcomer gets so much right, from its junior exotic looks through to a chassis that maintains the decades-long tradition of Hethel handling greatness.

There are some novelties for a Lotus, too, such as an interior that delivers previously unheard of levels of luxury and quality, plus all the latest gadgets and gizmos. It's decently practical too, proving easier to get into and out of than the old Evora and packing handy storage. This is an everyday-usable sports car.

However, this extra usability and refinement comes at a cost, with the Emira weighing in at a very un-Lotus 1440kg, which is heavier even than a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0. That means the supercharged Toyota 3.5-litre V6 doesn't feel quite as strong as you would expect, its efforts aided and abetted by the slightly slack six-speed manual gearbox. That said, this is still a quick car, with the 0-62mph sprint taking 4.3sec.

More importantly, it drives like a Lotus where it matters: in the corners. The extra mass means it doesn't feel quite as lithe as the old Elise, but the Emira is beautifully balanced and damped, helping it breathe with the surface where others attempt to pummel it into submission. The steering is quick and feelsome, and as a result the Emira dives through bends with quick-witted agility, its ability to shrug off unsettling bumps further boosting your confidence.

Read our Lotus Emira review

4. Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman GTS 4.0

Pros Nimble, balanced, fluent and composed like little else, now with an engine fully worthy of the chassis

Cons Only the GT and RS versions have really big-hitting pace, some will be snobby about them

Yes, there are two Porsches towards the top of this chart – and quite rightly so. The German firm really knows what it's doing when it comes to screwing together a sensational sports car. No more so than when Zuffenhausen took the decision to answer the critics and return an atmospheric flat six back into this car in 2019, creating series-production 718 derivatives with prices well above £60,000 before you put a single option on them. So while the more affordable four-cylinder, sub-£50,000 derivatives of the 718 continue to present themselves to buyers with less to spend (and are ranked in our affordable sports car top 10), the higher-end models have absolutely progressed in among the bigger fish of the sports car class.

Not that they struggle in such treacherous water. Porsche's latest naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine is an utter joy, offering as much outright performance as any road-going sports car really needs but also wonderful smoothness and response and an 8000rpm operating range. Unusually long-feeling gearing makes the six-speed manual versions slightly less appealing to drive in some ways than the seven-speed paddle-shift automatics, but for pure driver interaction, the three-pedal versions are hard to beat.

The 718's beautifully poised handling, incredibly linear handling response and effortless body control at speed are now widely celebrated. This is the kind of sports car that can seem word-perfect in how it takes apart a cross-country road tough enough to expose a lesser machine. If you like a sports car with more power than its chassis can easily deploy or whose dynamic quirks and flaws present something of a challenge to be 'driven around', you might even think a GTS 4.0 too good. Only kidding: it's flippin' brilliant.

Compared with some cars in this list, there's also perhaps a slight lack of desirability about this car. But its usability is first-rate - and its powertrain can be considered every bit as stellar as its ride and handling. Quite simply, it's one of the most complete driver's cars there has ever been.

Read our Porsche 718 Cayman review

5. Audi R8 V10 Performance RWD

Pros Supercar-grade mid-engined chassis, heroic atmo V10 engine, Audi-typical cabin quality

Cons None of the above comes cheap and it won't be available at all for much longer

For the past 18 years, there has been an anomaly in the sports car space-time continuum that has allowed people to buy a mid-engined Audi with a spaceframe chassis that might otherwise have been used in a Lamborghini for about 70% of the money than that Lamborghini might have cost. It has been known as the Audi R8 - and, after various stays of execution, it finally went out of production in Neckarsulm, Germany, earlier this year.

Which means that the very last examples of this extra-special Audi can now be snapped up if you hunt them out. And since the cheapest of them might just crop up for less than £150,000, they can just about be considered here. For that money, you get one of the most involving rear-driven chassis that the R8 has ever had, together with an unforgettably dramatic atmospheric V10 engine making 562bhp at a heady 8000rpm.

It's a very special combination, and it would make a wonderful alternative to a higher-end Porsche 911, for those spending that kind of money. The rest of us may only be able to dream, but if you're in a position to do more than that, you will need to act quickly or else miss your opportunity for good.