This is the enthusiast’s class…or at least, the wealthy enthusiast’s class. Its members include some of the fastest cars offered for sale in the U.S., though we draw the line at starting prices of more than $120,000. Those priced above that figure we consider to be “exotics,” which aren’t covered in this magazine, because we don’t choose a Best Buy in that category.

Considering the cost and focus of this group, there are quite a few contenders. Least expensive is the BMW 2-Series, which starts at about $35,000. At the opposite end are cars like the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and Porsche 911, which start at more than $88,000 and reach past $200,000 in top-line form.

There are no front-wheel-drive vehicles in this class. The BMW 2-, 4-, and 6-Series; Infiniti Q60; Jaguar F-TYPE; Lexus RC; and Porsche 911 offer all-wheel drive as an option to rear-wheel drive. The Audi A5/S5, Audi TT, and Nissan GT-R come standard with all-wheel drive.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2018

The Lexus LC coupe debuts as a flagship grand-touring coupe that slots above the RC in size and price in Lexus’s lineup; the LC is offered as the LC 500 (powered by a 471-hp 5.0-liter V8) and the LC 500h hybrid (powered by a 3.5-liter V6/electric powertrain that puts out a combined 354 hp). The Audi A5 and S5 coupes and convertibles are redesigned with a sharper- edged body design, gaining new engines and several new technology features. The Audi TT adds an S Line competition package and a high-performance TT RS model with a 400-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine.

The Jaguar F-Type lineup undergoes an extensive refresh that includes a 296-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder as the base engine, an R-Dynamic trim level with the 380-hp version of the supercharged 3.0-liter V6, and a 400 Sport model with a 400-hp version of the same V6. New F-Type features include revised front-end styling, LED headlights, and a new infotainment system. The Porsche 911 lineup gets new GTS models with a 450-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter six, and a GT3 with a 500-hp naturally aspirated 4.0-liter six. The BMW 2-Series and 4-Series are both mildly refreshed; their updates include revised exterior styling and updated interiors, LED headlights, new wheels, and retuned suspension and steering on the 4-Series.

The rest of the class is unchanged or sees minor updates such as revised trim-level names, new appearance packages, or reconfigured standard-equipment levels. No 2018 information was available as of this writing on the Nissan GT-R, though we are not expecting any significant changes after the GT-R’s refresh for 2017. The Chevrolet SS and Dodge Viper are discontinued.

MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL

Since there are no hybrids or diesels in the class, and both coupes and convertibles are well represented, the only standouts are those with unusually powerful engines and those available with all-wheel drive. The latter have already been listed. As for power, a car really has to offer more than 600 hp (!) to “stand out” in this class. Those that do are the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Mercedes-Benz SL65.

Vehicles in the Premium Sporty/Performance Car class:

Alfa Romeo 4C
Audi A5/S5
Audi TT
BMW 2-Series
BMW 4-Series
BMW 6-Series
Chevrolet Corvette
Infiniti Q60
Jaguar F-TYPE
Lexus LC
Lexus RC
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class
Nissan GT-R
Porsche 911
Porsche 718 Boxster
Porsche 718 Cayman