Automotive

Showtime: The year's best sports cars

Showtime: The year's best spor...
Rear-wheel steering makes the AMG GT R sharper at low speed, but more stable at high speed
Rear-wheel steering makes the AMG GT R sharper at low speed, but more stable at high speed
View 88 Images
The Porsche 911 R was launched at the Geneva Motor Show
1/88
The Porsche 911 R was launched at the Geneva Motor Show
The 911 R focuses on driver purity with a manual gearbox
2/88
The 911 R focuses on driver purity with a manual gearbox
The Porsche 911 R will be built in very limited numbers 
3/88
The Porsche 911 R will be built in very limited numbers 
The 911 R swaps big wings for a smooth, clean bodyshell
4/88
The 911 R swaps big wings for a smooth, clean bodyshell
Power comes from a 4.0-liter flat six in the Porsche 911 R
5/88
Power comes from a 4.0-liter flat six in the Porsche 911 R
The 911 R is lighter than the GT3 RS, but its manual gearbox makes it slower
6/88
The 911 R is lighter than the GT3 RS, but its manual gearbox makes it slower
The 911 R is sweeping magazine road tests and car of the year events 
7/88
The 911 R is sweeping magazine road tests and car of the year events 
Simplicity is the order of the day in the 911 R cabin
8/88
Simplicity is the order of the day in the 911 R cabin
The 911 R is available with white or green stripes
9/88
The 911 R is available with white or green stripes
With no rear wing, the 911 R is a cleaner shape than the GT3 RS
10/88
With no rear wing, the 911 R is a cleaner shape than the GT3 RS
The Mazda MX-5 RF wowed the crowds in New York when it launched
11/88
The Mazda MX-5 RF wowed the crowds in New York when it launched
The MX-5 RF is like a cut-price Porsche 911 Targa
12/88
The MX-5 RF is like a cut-price Porsche 911 Targa
With a bit of extra weight on board, the RF should be a bit more relaxed than the regular roadster
13/88
With a bit of extra weight on board, the RF should be a bit more relaxed than the regular roadster
The MX-5 RF looks like a regular Miata, with added roof
14/88
The MX-5 RF looks like a regular Miata, with added roof
The RF has a unique shape, thanks to its funky folding roof
15/88
The RF has a unique shape, thanks to its funky folding roof
The RF with its roof up
16/88
The RF with its roof up
The folding metal roof of the Mazda MX-5 RF in action
17/88
The folding metal roof of the Mazda MX-5 RF in action
The MX-5 RF will be slightly more expensive than the regular roadster
18/88
The MX-5 RF will be slightly more expensive than the regular roadster
The new Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback
19/88
The new Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is pitched as the ultimate pony car
20/88
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is pitched as the ultimate pony car
Big brakes on the Camaro ZL1 are tuned for the track
21/88
Big brakes on the Camaro ZL1 are tuned for the track
The ZL1 is powered by a supercharged V8 with 640 hp
22/88
The ZL1 is powered by a supercharged V8 with 640 hp
Just in case you weren't sure what kind of Camaro this was
23/88
Just in case you weren't sure what kind of Camaro this was
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a fitter, faster take on the classic muscle car
24/88
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a fitter, faster take on the classic muscle car
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 rides on tires almost wider than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS
25/88
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 rides on tires almost wider than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
26/88
Behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
The cabin of the Camaro ZL1 is all business - perfect for track work
27/88
The cabin of the Camaro ZL1 is all business - perfect for track work
The new AMG GT R is the fastest rear-drive production car around the Nurburgring Nordschleife
28/88
The new AMG GT R is the fastest rear-drive production car around the Nurburgring Nordschleife
The rear end of the AMG GT R has been inspired by the racing AMG GT3
29/88
The rear end of the AMG GT R has been inspired by the racing AMG GT3
Mercedes calls the shiny grille on the AMG GT R a Panamerica grille
30/88
Mercedes calls the shiny grille on the AMG GT R a Panamerica grille
The AMG GT R on the move at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
31/88
The AMG GT R on the move at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
The AMG GT R made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year
32/88
The AMG GT R made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year
The GT R makes use of a race-inspired traction control system
33/88
The GT R makes use of a race-inspired traction control system
The AMG GT R runs a wider track than the standard GT S 
34/88
The AMG GT R runs a wider track than the standard GT S 
Rear-wheel steering makes the AMG GT R sharper at low speed, but more stable at high speed
35/88
Rear-wheel steering makes the AMG GT R sharper at low speed, but more stable at high speed
Mercedes puts the AMG GT R to the test
36/88
Mercedes puts the AMG GT R to the test
The AMG GT R on the move at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
37/88
The AMG GT R on the move at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
The 718 Cayman drops the naturally aspirated flat six for a turbocharged four cylinder 
38/88
The 718 Cayman drops the naturally aspirated flat six for a turbocharged four cylinder 
The Porsche 718 Cayman has more power and torque than before, but uses less fuel
39/88
The Porsche 718 Cayman has more power and torque than before, but uses less fuel
The 718 has the new signature 'ice cube' headlights Porsche has fitted to the 911
40/88
The 718 has the new signature 'ice cube' headlights Porsche has fitted to the 911
The 718 Cayman won't sound quite as good as its predecessor, but it will be a more effective sports car
41/88
The 718 Cayman won't sound quite as good as its predecessor, but it will be a more effective sports car
Behind the wheel of the 718 Porsche Cayman
42/88
Behind the wheel of the 718 Porsche Cayman
The Cayman recipe has changed for 2017 - turbo power is now the only option
43/88
The Cayman recipe has changed for 2017 - turbo power is now the only option
The Porsche 718 Cayman alongside the Boxster, which has also gone turbocharged
44/88
The Porsche 718 Cayman alongside the Boxster, which has also gone turbocharged
The new Audi TT sticks with a five-cylinder engine for 2017
45/88
The new Audi TT sticks with a five-cylinder engine for 2017
The TT RS is almost as fast as an R8 on the sprint to 100 km/h
46/88
The TT RS is almost as fast as an R8 on the sprint to 100 km/h
The TT RS is available in coupe or convertible form
47/88
The TT RS is available in coupe or convertible form
The roof might be soft, but Audi is adamant the TT RS is racy to drive
48/88
The roof might be soft, but Audi is adamant the TT RS is racy to drive
With the massive front grille, there's no questioning the fact this is an Audi
49/88
With the massive front grille, there's no questioning the fact this is an Audi
The TT RS on the move
50/88
The TT RS on the move
Power is sent to all four wheels in the TT RS, but Audi says it should be more adjustable than its predecessors
51/88
Power is sent to all four wheels in the TT RS, but Audi says it should be more adjustable than its predecessors
The TT RS runs with a five cylinder engine again
52/88
The TT RS runs with a five cylinder engine again
Under the skin of the Audi TT RS
53/88
Under the skin of the Audi TT RS
The engine in the TT RS might not be a screaming V10 or V8, but there's doubting its effectivness
54/88
The engine in the TT RS might not be a screaming V10 or V8, but there's doubting its effectivness
Caterham hasn't changed all that much in its lifetime - as evidenced by the bonnet clips on the Seven 310R
55/88
Caterham hasn't changed all that much in its lifetime - as evidenced by the bonnet clips on the Seven 310R
The Seven 310R was actually not meant to be a production car, but motorsport engineers found it was so good on the road it was put into production
56/88
The Seven 310R was actually not meant to be a production car, but motorsport engineers found it was so good on the road it was put into production
The Seven 310R has more power thanks to a few choice modifications under the hood
57/88
The Seven 310R has more power thanks to a few choice modifications under the hood
The Seven 310R comes with optional LED headlights - not a huge deal on most cars, but a big change in Caterham world
58/88
The Seven 310R comes with optional LED headlights - not a huge deal on most cars, but a big change in Caterham world
The Seven 310R is small inside, but that is a key part of the Caterham experience
59/88
The Seven 310R is small inside, but that is a key part of the Caterham experience
The Sigma engine under the hood of the Seven 310R
60/88
The Sigma engine under the hood of the Seven 310R
Caterham was developing the changed on the 310R as a motorsports upgrade package
61/88
Caterham was developing the changed on the 310R as a motorsports upgrade package
The Seven 310R has been designed to hit the sweet spot of power and handling fun
62/88
The Seven 310R has been designed to hit the sweet spot of power and handling fun
The Seven 310R looks like almost every other Caterham launched in the last 30 years
63/88
The Seven 310R looks like almost every other Caterham launched in the last 30 years
The E63 AMG S has more than 600 hp on tap
64/88
The E63 AMG S has more than 600 hp on tap
The engine in the E63 is shared with the AMG GT R
65/88
The engine in the E63 is shared with the AMG GT R
For the first time, all-wheel drive is the only option on the E63
66/88
For the first time, all-wheel drive is the only option on the E63
The E63 AMG will go head to head with the upcoming BMW M5 replacement
67/88
The E63 AMG will go head to head with the upcoming BMW M5 replacement
The AMG E63 can be put into a special drift mode for tail-out fun
68/88
The AMG E63 can be put into a special drift mode for tail-out fun
Under the hood of the E63 AMG
69/88
Under the hood of the E63 AMG
It's standard E-Class in here, albeit with a bit more carbon fiber
70/88
It's standard E-Class in here, albeit with a bit more carbon fiber
The E63 AMG is much more powerful than its predecessor, but Mercedes promises it will be easy to handle
71/88
The E63 AMG is much more powerful than its predecessor, but Mercedes promises it will be easy to handle
The DB11 on the floor of the Geneva Motor Show
72/88
The DB11 on the floor of the Geneva Motor Show
The DB11 debuts a new look for Aston Martin, after the DB9 was retired from service
73/88
The DB11 debuts a new look for Aston Martin, after the DB9 was retired from service
There is no rear wing, but clever aerodynamics create downforce over the rear axle of the DB11
74/88
There is no rear wing, but clever aerodynamics create downforce over the rear axle of the DB11
The DB11 on the ground at Geneva
75/88
The DB11 on the ground at Geneva
The DB11 borrows some of its interior components from Mercedes
76/88
The DB11 borrows some of its interior components from Mercedes
The clever aerodynamics on the DB11
77/88
The clever aerodynamics on the DB11
The DB11 is undoubtedly an Aston Martin, it just has a different look than the current range
78/88
The DB11 is undoubtedly an Aston Martin, it just has a different look than the current range
The DB11 is powered by a twin-turbo V12 engine
79/88
The DB11 is powered by a twin-turbo V12 engine
The Caterham Seven 310R
80/88
The Caterham Seven 310R
The new GT-R NISMO creates more downforce than any Nissan before it
81/88
The new GT-R NISMO creates more downforce than any Nissan before it
The new Nissan GT-R NISMO is more track ready than the regular GT-R
82/88
The new Nissan GT-R NISMO is more track ready than the regular GT-R
The new front end plays a big role in the extra downforce coming from the GT-R
83/88
The new front end plays a big role in the extra downforce coming from the GT-R
Lightweight NISMO wheels reduce unsprung mass on the GT-R NISMO
84/88
Lightweight NISMO wheels reduce unsprung mass on the GT-R NISMO
The cabin of the GT-R NISMO is a more refined place than before
85/88
The cabin of the GT-R NISMO is a more refined place than before
The red stripe on the wheel tells you which way is straight ahead
86/88
The red stripe on the wheel tells you which way is straight ahead
The Nissan GT-R NISMO
87/88
The Nissan GT-R NISMO
With a stiffer bodyshell and completely revised suspension, the NISMO is designed to tackle the track
88/88
With a stiffer bodyshell and completely revised suspension, the NISMO is designed to tackle the track

Tightening emissions regulations aside, this year has been an exceptional one for sports cars. From howling flat-sixes to thunderous twin-turbos, classic convertibles to cutting-edge coupes, there's been something for gear heads of all persuasions to drool over. Buckle up for our look at some of the best sports cars launched in 2016.

Porsche 911R

The Porsche 911 R will be built in very limited numbers 
The Porsche 911 R will be built in very limited numbers 

Porsche fans are notoriously resistant to change, especially when it comes to motorsport special editions. So you can imagine the reaction when the company announced it would fit the new GT3 RS with a double-clutch gearbox. Sure, it makes the car faster on a track day, but what about the sensation of shifting?

The 911 R is an expensive love letter to the purists. Power comes from the same screaming 373 kW (500 hp) flat-six fitted to the GT3 RS, but Porsche has connected it up to a bespoke close ratio six-speed manual. Sure, letting drivers shift for themselves makes the 911 R 0.6 seconds slower to 100 km/h (62 mph) than the GT3 RS, but that's not really the point here.

Along with the double-clutch gearbox, Porsche has turfed the big wings and scoops from the GT3 RS, instead running with a clean shape on the outside. Inside, bespoke buckets trimmed in retro houndstooth and a smaller, button-free steering wheel round out the package in style. Unfortunately, all 991 examples have already been sold, and secondhand examples are commanding figures around US$700,000 – that's $515,100 more than list price.

Mazda MX-5 RF

The folding metal roof of the Mazda MX-5 RF in action
The folding metal roof of the Mazda MX-5 RF in action

Based on sales figures, the Mazda MX-5 is the most popular two-seat sports car in the world. More than 1 million have been built since the nameplate made its debut in 1989, winning buyers over with its lightweight handling balance and unbreakable reliability. Even though the fourth-generation car has been a resounding success, there are still some buyers who don't want a soft top.

Those buyers can now get a taste of the popular Mazda sports car in the MX-5 Retractable Fastback. Launched at the New York Motor Show in March, the RF is like a Porsche 911 Targa, minus the sky-high price tag and midlife crisis looks. Power is provided by the same four-cylinder engines as the regular roadster, and owners can still choose between a slick-shifting manual or six-speed automatic, but Mazda has softened up the suspension to deliver a slightly more comfortable ride.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a fitter, faster take on the classic muscle car
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a fitter, faster take on the classic muscle car

The idea that a muscle car could also be a proper, world-beating sports car might have been unthinkable in past, but the current crop of pony cars is much smarter than their unrefined ancestry might otherwise suggest. Chevrolet is pitching the Camaro ZL1 as the ultimate all-rounder, mixing track day capability with continent-crushing comfort.

Power comes from a supercharged V8 making 640 hp (477 kW) of power, all of which is sent to the rear wheels through an electronic limited-slip differential. Drivers can choose between a six-speed manual or a ten-speed automatic gearbox, too, although we're not sure why you'd ever need more than six gears with 868 Nm of torque on tap.

All that torque is put to the road through a set of massive 305-section rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, which are almost as wide as the sticky Michelins fitted to the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. They're wrapped around forged aluminum one-piece wheels, and the package squeals to a halt on Brembo six-piston brakes.

AMG GT-R

Mercedes calls the shiny grille on the AMG GT R a Panamerica grille
Mercedes calls the shiny grille on the AMG GT R a Panamerica grille

When a manufacturer rocks up at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with a car painted a shade of green named after the Nurburgring, we're inclined to sit up and take notice. After all, the Green Hell is one of the toughest tests in the motoring world. The 20.8 km (12.9 mi) stretch of bumpy German tarmac has become a place for car makers to prove what they're really made of, something Mercedes has done to great effect with the AMG GT R.

Powered by a thunderous twin-turbo V8 making 577 hp (430 kW) of power, the GT R takes the base AMG GT S and injects a dose of motorsport focus into the mix. Drivers are able to play around with a nine-stage traction control system, and Mercedes has joined Ferrari and Porsche in developing a rear-wheel steering system for less understeer at low speed, and greater stability at high speed.

The result is a car that laps the Nürburgring North Loop in 7:10.9 – faster than any other rear-drive production car. If track time isn't your thing, the car also looks incredible and sounds like thunder.

Porsche 718 Cayman

The 718 has the new signature 'ice cube' headlights Porsche has fitted to the 911
The 718 has the new signature 'ice cube' headlights Porsche has fitted to the 911

Remember what we said about Porsche purists at the start of this list? Well, imagine their reaction when the brand announced the flat-six in the Cayman would be replaced with a new turbocharged flat-four engine. But look past the lag present in turbo engines, and the decision to dump the flat-six really does make sense.

Not only is the new four-cylinder turbo in the Cayman more powerful than the naturally aspirated engine it replaces, it uses less fuel on the combined cycle. Porsche has devoted plenty of time to the noise, too, and although it can't match the glorious scream of the old flat-six as it chased the redline, the new engine has an interesting character all of its own.

Even if you're not a fan of the new engine, the 718 Cayman should be able to put a smile on your face in the corners. Firmer springs and swaybars work with retuned shock absorbers to deliver more grip, and the new 911 Turbo-derived steering rack should deliver more feel. Tick the box for the super six-speed manual, point the nose at a sinewy stretch of road and the turbocharged engine will be the last thing on your mind.

Audi TT RS

The new Audi TT sticks with a five-cylinder engine for 2017
The new Audi TT sticks with a five-cylinder engine for 2017

Unlike its rivals over at Porsche, the team at Audi hasn't given up on naturally aspirated engines just yet. The new TT RS runs with a heavily reworked version of the five-cylinder from the RS3, with 294 kW (400 hp) of power and 480 Nm of torque on tap. Thanks in part to a clever all-wheel drive system, it'll scoot to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.7 seconds – or a measly 0.1 seconds slower than the V10 R8.

Usually, fast Audis are defined by their Quattro all-wheel drive systems. They provide great traction, but Audi RS cars have long been criticized for feeling inert and understeery at the limit, especially compared to tail-happy offerings from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. A new software setup in the TT RS aims to breathe a bit of life into the handling, sending extra torque to the rear wheels when the driver pins the throttle mid-corner.

Although there is no manual gearbox on offer, the Volkswagen Group dual-clutch gearbox is one of the best in the business, shifting gears faster than you can blink on the move. It's available as a coupe or convertible, and is finished to Audi's usual exemplary standard inside.

Caterham Seven 310

The Caterham Seven 310R
The Caterham Seven 310R

Sometimes, no matter how much time or money you spend trying to solve a problem, the best solutions occur by accident. The Caterham Seven 310 is one of those happy accidents.

It's not just the Caterham shape that has stayed staunchly the same over the years – its engines have remained very similar. Power in the Seven 310 comes from the same 1.6-liter engine you'll find in the Seven 270, but high performance camshafts, new engine mapping and a higher redline have liberated an extra 18 hp (13 kW). Although they're small changes, they're enough to justify a whole new model in the wonderful world of Caterham.

These tweaks were initially aimed at owners moving up the Caterham Motorsport ladder, but the improvement in performance was so marked, the changes have become a factory option.

Mercedes E63 AMG S

The engine in the E63 is shared with the AMG GT R
The engine in the E63 is shared with the AMG GT R

It might wear a sensible sedan body, but the new Mercedes E63 AMG is a true sports car under the skin. The twin-turbo V8 punches out 420 kW (571 hp) of power in base E63 trim, and a staggering 450 kW (612 hp) in the range-topping E63 AMG S.

To make sure all that power isn't instantly turned to smoke when the driver thinks about accelerating, all that power is put to the road through a clever 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. Don't think the change from rear-wheel drive has turned the E63 into a pussycat though – the front driveshafts can still be deactivated to pull massive, smoky slides.

Aston Martin DB11

The DB11 debuts a new look for Aston Martin, after the DB9 was retired from service
The DB11 debuts a new look for Aston Martin, after the DB9 was retired from service

To say the DB11 is a big car for Aston Martin would be a huge understatement. The exterior of the DB9 might still look good, but it's a very old car underneath given that its chassis debuted back in 2003. With a new platform, new engine and new look, the DB11 signals the start of new era for Aston Martin.

In contrast to the free-breathing engine in the outgoing car, the V12 in the DB11 is boosted by two turbochargers. With 447 kW (600 hp) of power and 700 Nm of torque on tap, it will top 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.9 seconds on the way to a top speed of 322 km/h (201 mph). The new engine is hooked up to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, but keen drivers can take control with the slim paddles behind the steering wheel.

Even though it's a big car, the DB11 should still be able to get up on its toes and dance. The car has a fully adaptive suspension and steering setup, allowing owners to swap choose between relaxed GT mode, or two sportier options.

Nissan GT-R Nismo

With a stiffer bodyshell and completely revised suspension, the NISMO is designed to tackle the track
With a stiffer bodyshell and completely revised suspension, the NISMO is designed to tackle the track

The looks haven't changed all that much, but the new Nissan GT-R NISMO has been treated to a thorough refresh for next year. Although it looks similar to the car it replaces, the new nose on the NISMO feeds more air to the twin-turbo V6 under the hood without creating any extra drag. The new aero setup also creates more downforce than before, although Nissan doesn't say exactly how much. Suffice to say, it's probably still enough to ward off all comers at your local track day.

With a stiffer body, improved shock absorbers and new springs, the new NISMO should sit nice and flat through the twisty stuff, and drivers can tweak the engine, gearbox and dampers to suit their mood. Inside, the luxurious touches from the new GT-R have carried over to the NISMO, although there are still deeper bucket seats to stop you sliding around at high speed.

Take a browse through our gallery for a closer look at the best sports cars of 2016, and if we've neglected to mention your favorite sports car of the year, let us know in the comments below!

3 comments
Bob
Where's the Corvette, Mustang or even the Challenger? All these high performance cars are impressive but the American versions offer the best performance for the dollar.
Jeff Goldstein
While there are a lot of very expensive sports cars there is a very large gap in the market. Only the Miata exists at the lower end in a lower priced open sports car and it is too small for a lot of people. In the past there were cars like the Toyota MR2 Spyder, Honda S2000, Fiat 124 Spyder, Triumph TR6 and even the Celica Convertible. Nothing has replaced any of those. The Mustang and Camaro are too big and heavy. The Audi TT and Porsche Boxter come closest but are expensive.
DrexAdams
Audi has definitely abandoned natural aspiration for the TTRS... turbo 5 cylinder. The last one was turbo too