I’ve driven dozens of high-performance cars over the past 6 years, but some really stand out. These are the best combinations of speed and design.

by insider@insider.com (Matthew DeBord) | Business Insider

I’d buy an Aston Martin DB9 if I could.

Hollis Johnson

  • Over the past six years, I’ve driven dozens of high-performance cars that also embody great design.
  • Not every car on this list is staggeringly powerful — and not every car is even a car — and some aren’t exactly jaw-dropping in their beauty.
  • But for me, each one of these cars is memorable.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since 2014, when I moved back to the New York area from Los Angeles, I’ve had the opportunity to drive dozens of amazing, high-performance cars. 

We’re talking everything from affordable Mustangs to price-out-of-reach Ferraris. But that’s the great thing about what we might broadly label as “sports cars” — we live in a Golden Age, when for under $50,000 you can buy serious speed and serious design and lots of it.

Sure, I’ve included more than a few cars on this list that top $100,000, and some that rip through that barrier. And yes, this is hardly a complete list. “Where’s the Audi R8?” fans of Iron Man might ask. Well, I didn’t dislike that ride. So consider this a snapshot.

Some of these cars have been discontinued since 2014, but you can still pick them up used. In fact, my favorite of the bunch, the Aston Martin DB9, is a set of wheels that I often think I might someday possess. 

The Aston has 21 friends that I think are commendable for their combination of performance and design. Here’s the rundown:

The Acura NSX. The hybrid supercar was designed by Michelle Christensen, and it combines rip-roaring velocity with show-stopping looks (the hybrid drivetrain serves up 573 horsepower). No surprise that we named it Business Insider’s Car of the Year for 2016.

Acura NSX.
Acura NSX.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Read all about our 2016 Car of the Year.

Aston Martin DB9. My favorite design, possibly ever, penned by Henrik Fisker. Perfection, in my book. Under the hood thrums a 540-horsepower V-12.

Aston Martin DB9.
Aston Martin DB9.

Hollis Johnson

Read the review.

BMW M5. The ultimate sports sedan is among a few four-doors on my list. Boldly conservative in its design, the M5 is motivated by a 4.4-liter, 600-horsepower, twin-turbo V8.

BMW M5.
BMW M5.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

Cadillac CTS-V. Discontinued, but still one of my most memorable driving experiences. If you want a four-door Corvette Z06, the 640-horsepower, supercharged V8 under the CTS-V’s hood should fulfill that need.

Cadillac CTS-V.
Cadillac CTS-V.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Read the review.

Speaking of Vettes, consider the Corvette ZR1 — its supercharged V8 has been maxed-out to 755 ponies, making it GM’s most powerful production car in the carmaker’s history. The over-the-top design isn’t for everybody, but I respect the unrepentant attitude.

Chevy Corvette ZR1.
Chevy Corvette ZR1.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

The Ferrari 812 Superfast pushed aside the 458 as my prancing horse of choice. I simply couldn’t get enough of the car’s taut flamboyance, and the song of combustion that rises from the 789-horsepower V12 is unforgettable.

Ferrari 812 Superfast.
Ferrari 812 Superfast.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Read the review.

I wrote a whole book about the Ford GT, the epic supercar that with its twin-turbocharged, 600-horsepower V6 revived the ‘Ford vs. Ferrari’ rivalry in winning the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. Check out those elegant, flying-buttress wings!

Ford GT.
Ford GT.

Hollis Johnson

Read the review.

The Ford Mustang GT is a GT of a different color — a fastback coupé muscle-machine with sleek, Thoroughbred lines and a potent 5.0-liter V8 sending 460 horsepower to the rear wheels.

Ford Mustang.
Ford Mustang.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

Yep, there are three Fords on my list. But who could overlook the mighty F-150 Raptor, the world’s premier, high-performance pickup truck? There’s a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine under the hood, cranking out 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque.

Ford F-150 Raptor.
Ford F-150 Raptor.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

Jaguar F-Type. My preferred iteration of the lovely coupé features a 380 horsepower V6 and a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Next to the DB9, the most gorgeous ride on my list. Bravo, Ian Callum, Jag’s former resident design genius! (He stepped down in 2019.)

Jaguar F-Type.
Jaguar F-Type.

Hollis Johnson

Read the review.

Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year was the thrilling Kia Stinger — a sport sedan from Korea that was just as good as anything BMW or Audi was selling. And a sharper design, if you ask me. The top-spec 3.3-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 makes 365 horsepower, and makes it convincingly.

Kia Stinger GT.
Kia Stinger GT.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Read all about our 2018 Car of the Year.

The Lamborghini Huracán Performante is my Lambo of choice these days. The styling is brash, and the 5.2-liter, 631-horsepower V10 engine — no supercharger, no turbochargers, just old-school power, produced by displacement — is staggering.

Lamborghini Huracán Performante.
Lamborghini Huracán Performante.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Read the review.

The Mazda Miata in its latest generation is a return to the spry roadster stole the motoring world’s heart decades ago. The lighter, crisper design makes you want to squeeze mile after mile from the 155-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine and the snappy six-speed manual.

Mazda Miata.
Mazda Miata.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

The McLaren 675LT as the McLaren that changed my mind about the technocratic supercar maker. After I savored its joys — including the best small V8 in the world, a 666 horsepower, 3.8-liter V8, with twin turbochargers — in the canyons above Malibu, I understood the company’s greatness.

McLaren 675LT.
McLaren 675LT.

Bryan Logan/Business Insider

Read the review.

The MINI Cooper John Cooper Works is perhaps the most INSANE little beast I’ve ever driven — a demon barely contained by that cute MINI package. It shocking how much terror the JCW wrings from a 228-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

MINI Cooper JCW.
MINI Cooper JCW.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Read the review.

Polestar 1. The newcomer, a compelling gas-electric hybrid, is the best car China has ever built. The styling borrows from parent Volvo — those ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlights! — but adds some distinctive touches, including some cool exposed electronics in the truck. The car is a rocket. The 2.0-liter inline four is turbocharged and supercharged, cranking out 326 horsepower before a pair of battery packs (34 kilowatt hours total) and two electric motors take that to 619 horsepower.

Polestar 1.
Polestar 1.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

The Nissan 370Z is an oldie but a goodie. Everyone complains that Nissan has been milking this version of the Z car for too long, but I continue to like to medium-aggressive design and I loved the 350-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 in the Nismo tuning. Can’t beat an all-motor six!

Nissan 370Z Nismo.
Nissan 370Z Nismo.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.

The Nissan GT-R. Godzilla isn’t my favorite supercar, and its design is dated. But for what it is, the GT-R is a standard-bearer, and I never get tired of the twin-turbocharged V6 and its beefy 600 horsepower.

Nissan GT-R Nismo.
Nissan GT-R Nismo.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Watch the video review.

The Porsche 911 is all-new for 2020 — and while the bug-eyed legend isn’t for everyone, the flat-six-engined, 443-horsepower 4S I recently is easily the best 911 I’ve ever strapped into. Porsche has been making this thing better and better without interruption since the early 1960s.

Porsche 911.
Porsche 911.

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Read about my endless love for the 911.

The Porsche Cayenne. What? An SUV? Yep, but also the greatest SUV ever produced by human hands on planet Earth. OK, I’m not an enthusiast for the design, but it’s grown on me over the years. But the performance is magical, thanks to a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 that cranks out 541 horsepower.

Porsche Cayenne.
Porsche Cayenne.

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Read the review.

The original Tesla Roadster is still my favorite Tesla, and I’ve driven them all. Is it a looker? Nah, it’s more purposeful than that, based on a Lotus design. What’s beautiful about the Roadster is how it proved that electric cars could be fast, fast, fast.

Tesla Roadster.
Tesla Roadster.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Read about my favorite Tesla.

I didn’t dig the new Toyota Supra when I first saw it, but after a week of driving it, it was clear why lots of other people think it’s the bomb. The 335-horsepower inline-six-cylinder engine lets you fully enjoy it punchy output.

2020 Toyota Supra.
2020 Toyota Supra.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Read the review.

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