Best cars

Best sports cars 2022

Sports cars are designed to do one thing, and one thing only: put the driver at the centre of the experience.

Few motoring genres offer so much variety in terms of layout as the sports car. They can feature any number of different engine types in different positions, cylinder counts, natural aspiration or forced induction, manual or automatic gearboxes, two- or four-wheel drive… we could go on.

But while they come in many forms, all have one thing in common: a sports car’s raison d’être is to make you, the driver, the most integral part of the driving experience. This gives these cars intense focus – they need to be engaging, capable and, above all else, entertaining.

In its rawest form a sports car can be incredibly sparse yet also comfortable; the best manage to be accessible and amenable while still offering the purity of driver involvement and character that underpin the thrill of driving. Here, we pick our ten favourite sports cars currently on sale.

Best Sports Cars 2022:

> Best cars to buy for £35,000 – evo garage

Porsche 718 Cayman

Although it might have gained a noise-restricting particulate filter and a few kilos of weight, the latest 718 Cayman, especially in six-cylinder forms, is still a stunning example of what might be considered sports car nirvana. 

The GT4 is the highlight of the range, and along with its engaging, agile chassis is a powertrain that’s about as good as it gets in the class. That engine is Porsche’s naturally aspirated 4-litre flat-six, putting out 414bhp and 310lb ft of torque to the rear wheels through the six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK. Both are the best examples of their type, although the manual does come with achingly long ratios.

Lesser models have nearly as much capability, with the GTS 4.0 losing some of the GT4’s edge, but replacing it with an even more approachable demeanour – not to mention price point. Of course, if you’re less bothered about a resonant flat-six there are the four-cylinder models, and while they are a little flat (no pun intended) they’re also torquey and, especially in 2.5-litre S form, perform extremely well.

> Porsche 718 Cayman review

Alpine A110

The Alpine A110 was an outstanding first effort from the revived marque when it arrived back in 2018, receiving almost full marks in our review and coming just a few points short of the top spot in that year’s eCoty. Sitting in line with the likes of Porsche’s class-leading Cayman, but with a different driving experience thanks to a lower kerb weight and softer spring rates, it’s a distinctive and hugely entertaining machine.

A 2022 update has seen some subtle tech and styling changes, and Alpine’s new combinations make the A110 range more rounded and desirable than ever.

Three distinct models now make up the range: the base car, the GT and the S. The GT and S now share the same 296bhp variant of the 1.8-litre engine, but the former matches it to the base car’s softer set-up. On top of this are, and will continue to be, a consistent range of special editions, often dipping into the Atelier programme for colour and trim inspirations. Yet beyond having fun on the configurator, the A110 is simply a brilliant sports car – one that makes you feel at the centre of it, which is the whole point.

> New Alpine A110 goes electric

Toyota GR86

If there was an ultimate template for a sports car, it might look a little something like the GR86. This is a front-engined, rear-drive, two-door coupe with a six-speed manual transmission up front (an auto is optional, but why would you?) and a limited-slip differential out back. It’s a recipe that was defined by the previous GT86, but one refined and extrapolated on in this latest iteration.

This isn’t a numbers car; with only 231bhp on tap to motivate itself it’ll struggle to keep up with a well-driven Fiesta ST. Instead, this is all about balance and involvement – which is exactly our cup of tea. Every element of the GT86’s dynamic repertoire has been fettled, sharpened and refined, resulting in a fabulous sports car that operates with a quality beyond what you might expect from its power and price points.

But there is a catch, and that’s being able to get your hands on one. Only a very limited number of Toyota GR86s are being brought to Europe, and as it stands the entire three-year run has sold out. The reason it’s been limited to three years is thanks to a European safety regulations rule change that means the GR86 will become non-homologated for our consumption – both a shame, but also an opportunity for Toyota to start working on a new one.

> Toyota GR86 review

Porsche 911 Carrera

While it might seem predictable, the Porsche 911 is the universal sports car benchmark, and despite now being regularly equipped with the performance and capability levels more commonly associated with supercars, it continues to be that yardstick that’s impossible to ignore.

The new 992 has its compromises as a sports car, namely more weight, expense and larger dimensions, but get behind the wheel and there’s no mistaking you’re in anything other than a superbly engineered machine. The quality of its controls are immaculate, with every driver-machine interaction coming with a level of sophistication that other sports cars continue to aim for.

But while the 911 remains the standard-bearer, its sheer speed and accessibility make it one that’s fast becoming increasingly hard to exploit on the road. Whether this is a good thing when it applies to even the most basic Carrera models is for you to decide, but it marks the beginning of the 911’s transformation into something other than a sports car.

> Porsche 911 review - is the 992 still the ultimate everyday performance car?

Lotus Emira

The first all-new Lotus in 15 years was always going to be a big thing, but has it been worth the wait? Initial impressions suggest that while there are a few rough edges to sort out, overall the Emira is a fabulous sports car.

On road, the Emira’s biggest asset is feel and flow, the chassis and steering portraying the very finest of detail about the road surface below. Its relatively soft suspension does mean there is some roll and pitch, even with the stiffer ‘Sport’ specification chassis, but like the best of Lotus’s efforts before this, it allows the body to breathe with challenging road surfaces. On track this manifests itself as a lack of control, though.

Yet it’s the supercharged V6 engine and the gearbox which represent its biggest weakness. While charismatic, the engine itself just isn’t as capable or exciting as a Porsche 718 GTS’s, and the transmission remains obstructive, rather than encouraging. Still, there’s an AMG-sourced four-cylinder variant with a dual-clutch transmission on its way that we feel could, and really should, finally make the most of the Emira’s brilliant chassis.

> Lotus Emira review

Porsche 718 Boxster

OK, so the Boxster might seem a tad too close to include alongside the Cayman, but the two do offer some differences (if not in specification, then experience). The folding roof does the business, making the Boxster a marginally less practical but no less entertaining sports car.

The best bit is that there’s almost no compromise in the driving experience, with perhaps only the smallest loss in torsional stiffness. Of course, with the roof dropped we’d challenge you to notice, and when combined with one of the six-cylinder engines creates a real supercar-in-miniature experience with the rasping intake situated somewhere just behind your head.

And if the Cayman’s lack of glamour is an issue, you’ll also be given access to the fetching 25th Anniversary Boxster GTS, with its gold detailing, red roof and red interior. Beyond just feeling like another derivative, the Anniversary also has a specialness that permeates the experience more than its specification would lead you to believe.

> Porsche 718 Boxster S review – still the best?

Toyota GR Supra

We’ve had a love-hate relationship with the GR Supra because it has often fallen short on account of its prickly handling and dull powertrains. But over time, Toyota has acknowledged its flaws, and smoothed over its rough edges to help it become a much more interesting proposition in 2022.

This started with the four-cylinder 2.0 version, which goes some way to addressing the 3.0’s handling issues, being more balanced, more responsive and less snappy. Things got even better with the launch of the six-speed manual for the 3.0 car – the over-torqued rear axle of the auto is now more settled and the handling limits now more approachable thanks to small changes to the suspension set-up and differential.

The manual transmission also plays the role of upping interaction, making it feel a little bit more like an old-school muscle car with overtones of sports car-like agility. We’ll have to wait to drive the manual in the UK for our final verdict, but from our initial track-only drive, the Supra’s never felt better.

> Toyota GR Supra review - Japan's sports car hero driven on road and track

Audi TT

While the future of Audi’s TT might be uncertain, let’s just be glad Audi’s design classic is still in production. It’ll never rival a Cayman or A110 down a twisty B-road, but the TT still offers a curious sports car experience, especially in flagship TT RS form.

The current range comprises two engines in four outputs, with the turbo four coming in 194bhp, 242bhp and 316bhp forms, the last under the TT S banner. The 394bhp TT RS is the one of most interest, though, because while its dynamic handling traits aren’t quite as engaging as those of most rivals (it is still based on a Golf), the five-cylinder engine has plenty of character and performance.

Yet we can’t help but imagine what a more aggressive tyre compound (all RSs come with standard Pirelli P Zeros), and maybe even the RS3’s torque-vectoring differential might combine to create. So what about a TT RS Plus to sign off the model before it commits to an electric future?

> Audi TT review

Jaguar F Type

Jaguar’s F-type is another sports car that’s holding on to life by its fingertips, manning the fort of Jaguar’s sole sports car heritage in coupe and convertible forms. Of course, to mistake the F-type as a car without interest would be foolish, because in its V8 forms it’s still a brilliant sports car.

Without the boorish attitude of its V8-powered predecessors, both the P450 and P575 R models have found a new level of civility that suits their demeanour just fine. Sure, it’s not the Porsche 911 GTS rival that it probably should be, but there’s a unique character, wrapped up in a stunning body that has matured but yet remains striking.

One caveat would be the 296bhp base four-cylinder model – its powertrain and chassis just don’t quite cut it against those of smaller sports car rivals. Best stick to the V8s. And when you do, you’ll be left with a sports car that has a joy all of its own.

> Jaguar F Type review

BMW 2 series

Where once the 2-series seemed like something of an afterthought – a two-door coupe tag-along to the rear-driven M140i – the latest car is much more serious. With the 1-series ditching rear drive and going for a Mini-derived chassis this time around, the 2-series Coupe instead looks upward for its basis.

That means the 3-series saloon, but the 2-series comes with a completely overhauled set of proportions and powertrain elements that make the M240i specifically a fantastic little character.

It might weigh quite a lot more than it should and appear somewhat GT-like with its all-wheel-drive system and automatic transmission, but its steely eyed character makes it a fantastic little two-door saloon car that also feels like remarkable value for money, especially in this company.

> BMW M240i review

The one that got away... Nissan Z

If you’re reading this list somewhere outside the UK and Europe, it’s likely you’ve noticed that there’s another certain Japanese coupe missing from this list. Nissan’s new Z will not be making its way to our shores because of various factors, including new safety regulations that will cause some problems, as well as the emissions regs that its twin-turbocharged V6 has not been homologated to pass.

Since its debut the Z has proved to be an intriguing new part of Nissan’s global line-up, but the disappointing reality is that it will remain a conspicuous absence here. And with the demise of the GT-R it looks as if, for now, Nissan will put its sports cars to bed, with an eye to returning when technology will facilitate a move to electrification without obvious compromise.

> All you need to know about the 2022 Nissan Z

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