Performance cars come in all shapes and sizes, making it tricky to definitively say which is best. A crucial ingredient of any performance car is the ability to entertain, to put a smile on a driver’s face, and this doesn’t require face splitting 0-60mph acceleration or sound barrier-breaking top speeds. What really matters is a car’s innate knack of involving the driver in the process of driving.
The 330i turns in with authority, even on low grip road surfaces, and the rear let’s go first under anything but the lightest throttle input. The steering rack quickens with a lock so progressively that the ratio change is imperceptible, and taking just 2.3 turns, lock-to-lock maneuvering requires far less hand-flailing than in most BMWs.
In comfort mode, the BMW 330i is compliant and quiet on potholed roads it still got the traditional firm composure of a German sports sedan, but it’s never bumpy or uncontrolled.
There’s a touch of body roll, but it comes on gradually. Pay close enough attention, and you’ll start to notice how your body counteracts every dive, squat and roll as you hustle along. You pivot gently from your torso, as natural and subconscious as walking.
It’s a wholly different experience from what you get in a dedicated sports car, where huge grip and NASA-grade seat bolsters leave it up to your neck muscles alone to keep your head from toppling. The steering is nicely weighted without being artificially firm, and surprisingly talkative. Mazda’s G-Vectoring system is standard, minutely reducing engine output during throttle-on turn-in to help shift weight to the nose.
It’s not something you can consciously detect the system operates in 50-millisecond increments and you can’t switch it off to see how the car handles without it. All I can say is that the car dives into turns and feels immediately settled, requiring hardly any throttle or steering adjustment to hold a steady.
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Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
It’s vivid steering and a perfect combination of handling control and comfort puts it in the most well-rounded version of Porsche’s mid-engine sports car. It’s not too soft, not too firm. It might not have the razor-edge dynamics of a circuit beast, but it won’t embarrass itself on a racetrack. It’s comfortable enough to be a daily driver without being, dull and boring. In short, we think it’s the sweet spot a sports car that favors a rewarding driving experience instead of all-out spec sheet dominance.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon
Everyone has crossovers these days, and they just aren’t that much fun to drive no matter how quick they are. A fast sedan vehicle might work, but not if you want to haul too many people and things in it. Its 603-hp twin-turbo V-8 powertrain and fortified all-wheel-drive system allow it to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds.
That makes it almost as quick as supercars such as the Audi R8. Unlike that impractical exotic, the Mercedes-AMG wagon can carry multiple adults in unrivaled quiet and comfort. It also boasts all manner of modern amenities and luxuries, which essentially make the E63 S wagon a one-size-fits-all supercar.
On the road, the new Ford feels modern and comfortable, cruising along calm and hushed in a way that the old school compact Ranger never could. The electric-assist rack-and-pinion steering is light and low-effort, with a slight dead spot right in the middle that, assumedly, helps to prevent the truck from feeling twitchy at highway speed. The new Ford Ranger is rather busy over small road ripples, and lateral pavement imperfections like frost heaves or small speed bumps toss you around a bit.