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—19 by our count. Least expensive is the BMW 2-Series, which starts at about $33,000. At the opposite end are cars like the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and Porsche 911, which start at more than $86,000 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.
After taking the 2016 model year off, the Infiniti Q60 returns as an all-new coupe based on the platform of the recently redesigned Q50 sedan. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a Q60 convertible return in the near future as well. Lexus is planning to launch its LC 500, a dramatically styled grand touring coupe powered by a 468-hp 5.0-liter V8, but it’s unclear whether it will be a 2017 or 2018 model.
Several premium sporty/performance cars undergo name changes this year. The BMW 2-Series gets two new engines: The base 228i becomes 230i with the addition of a new turbocharged 248-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, while the M235i gains a turbocharged 335-horsepower 3.0-liter 6-cylinder and becomes M240i. The BMW 4-Series gets the same basic engines as the 2-Series, so the 428i becomes the 430i and the 435i becomes the 440i. Porsche’s entry-level coupe and convertible are respectively renamed 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster; both get a pair of new turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, freshened styling, retuned suspension, and other new features. The Porsche 911 is similarly updated with a new twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat six, horsepower upgrades to the existing 3.8-liter six, updated styling, and revised suspension tuning.
Mercedes-Benz’s SLK-Class convertible is renamed SLC-Class to better align with Mercedes’s passenger-car naming structure. The SLC also gets revised styling and an available 362-hp twin-turbo V6. The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is freshened with revised styling, horsepower increases for the SL450 and SL63 AMG models, and a 9-speed automatic transmission for SL450 and SL550 models. The Nissan GT-R gets a thorough refresh that includes updated styling, a more upscale interior, and 20 more horsepower on the base model (for a total of 565). The Jaguar F-TYPE gets a new base trim level and an ultra-performance SVR model with a 575-hp supercharged V8 and a promised 200-mph top speed. The high-performance Lexus RC F model gets a Linear Adaptive Variable Suspension System.
The rest of the class is unchanged or sees minor revisions such as updated standard equipment or wireless device charging capability. The 2017 model year is the last for the Chevrolet SS sedan and the legendary Dodge Viper. The SS sees no significant changes, but the Viper offers five specially trimmed limited-edition models. The BMW Z4 two-seat convertible is discontinued, but an all-new replacement—probably named Z5—is likely to appear in the near future.
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 include the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper, and Mercedes-Benz SL65.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Porsche 718 Boxster
Porsche 718 Cayman