Best buys sports car/coupé: Lexus is the big surprise
Our choice of the best sports cars - and coupes - on the market right now
Best One: Lexus LC
To say that the Lexus LC coupe is gorgeous is, frankly, to do a dis-service to the word gorgeous, and to make it sound entirely inadequate. The LC is so good looking that one feels it should be kept not in a garage, but in a very subtly and carefully lit art gallery. No flash-photography, please. You’ll dim the paintwork. The rather nice thing is that, once you’ve stopped regarding the LC as the work of art that it certainly is, it turns out to be rather good at actually being a car. it’s a proper GT, with a cabin that cossets, but which is itself as gorgeous as the exterior, and you have a choice of polar-bear-friendly hybrid or the last of the naturally-aspirated V8 petrol engines. That V8 makes noises that do funny things to our adrenal glands, and it’s sure not slow, but the clever hybrid is actually barely any slower, is much less thirsty, and has the best iteration of Lexus’ CVT transmission yet. On top of which, it’s fun. It’s too heavy to be Porsche-precise, but it grips, turns, and goes in a hugely satisfying fashion. Perfect for a brisk run to the Alps and back, before returning to the art gallery…
Best model: LC 500h for €110,950 Price range: €110,950 to €137,950. Finance from €934 per month. Co2 emissions: 145 to 263g/km Sum up: Beauty with brains behind it
The MX-5 continues its reign as the truly great affordable sports car. It may have been inspired by an MGB and a Lotus Elan, but it has long since surpassed the achievements of those, not just in terms of sales, but in terms of being a functioning car. The beauty of an MX-5, right from those 1990 originals, was that it was small, light, fun, and agile, but still a Mazda which meant it was practical (in two-seater terms) and reliable. Plus ca change, then, because that’s exactly the recipe for the current model. It’s still phenomenally good to drive (and you don’t need anything other than the base 1.5 engine) and still practical and solidly-built enough to use every day. RF version, with its folding hard-top, looks cool but the simpler soft-top captures the spirit rather better. (Closely-related Fiat 124 Spider looks mildly sexier, plus has a turbo engine for better response at low speeds,)
Best model: 1.5 Roadster GT for €29,995 Price range: €27,995 to €36,695. Finance from €267 per month. Co2 emissions: 139 to 161g/km Sum up: €267 a month for one of the best sports car you can drive. Why aren’t you driving one right now?
Ageing now it might be (albeit just mildly updated) but the Toyota GT86 remains one of the best-to-drive cars around. It does labour, slightly, under anodyne styling and an interior that’s almost 1990s in its use of dark plastics, but Toyota (with help from Subaru) worked hard to get the GT’s fundamentals right, and it shows. It’s relatively light, it has just enough (not not too much) power from its naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre flat-four engine, and it has steering so sharp it’s advisable to wear thick gloves when driving. Add all of that to deliberately skinny tyres and you have a sports car that doesn’t require law-breaking to enjoy, plus it has (just about) back seats and the backup of Toyota’s reliability reputation. Quite the combo.
Best model: GT86 luxury manual for €45,925 Price range: €45,255 to €45,925. Finance from €448 per month. Co2 emissions: 183 to 196g/km Sum up: Big fun at small speeds
It’s not long for this world, the BMW M2, and there is already an amped-up run-out ‘Competition’ version with more power and tweaked suspension. Even so, you don’t honestly need to look past the standard 365hp version, because this smallest of M-cars is also arguably the best one - pointy, agile handling. Relatively compact size, Snarling straight-six engine. Reasonable levels of day-to-day practicality. It’s just colossally good fun on a good road, and won’t be caught by much on a track day. It is, in fact, far more fun and enjoyable than the larger, more expensive M3 and M4. An Audi RS3 is quicker and is much better value, mind.
Best model: M2 DSG for €80,080 Price range: €80,080 to €POA. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 185 to 199g/km Sum up: Munich performance at its best
Wild Card: Ford Mustang
The Mustang, just updated for 2018 and relaunching in the Irish market shortly, is currently the best-selling sports car in Europe. An all-American bruiser coupe, a muscle car, taking over from grandees like Porsche and Jaguar when it comes to sales. Deserved? Well, sort of. There are two Mustangs, really, Drive a convertible, especially with the big, heavy, noisy (wonderfully noisy…) V8 engine then it’s a bit rubbish. Fast in a straight line but floppy and wayward in the corners. Go instead for the (better-looking) Fastback coupe, with the 2.3-turbo four-pot EcoBoost engine and… it transforms. Sharper, more agile, more rewarding, just plain quicker across country. Is a V8 Fastback the perfect combo, then? Possibly, but that EcoBoost is better, by far, than you’d think. Cabin remains too cheap, but you will feel like the hero of your own movie, regardless. Steve McQueen-liveried ‘Bullit’ version coming later this year…
Best model: Wait for the Bullit for €POA Price range: €55,500 to €82,500. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 179 to 306g/km Sum up: Just give us 24hrs to crack the case…
Incoming: BMW Z4, Alpine A110, Ford Mustang Bullit, Morgan EV3, Toyota Supra, Audi RS5 Sportback