The 11 Most Engaging Driver's Cars on Sale Today

Canyon carving and backroad exploration are what these cars are all about.

best drivers car collage

Every performance manufacturer has a slogan that insinuates its brand of cars represents the pinnacle of driving enjoyment. From classic phrases like the Ultimate Driving Machine to self-aggrandizing mouthfuls like, "We are not supercars, we are Lamborghini," these slogans are not without merit. Which car drives the best is a subjective question at best, and one that has for decades captivated drivers across the spectrum—from carefree commuters and message board enthusiasts to Walter Röhrl.

But sometimes a car stands out for one reason only—its effortless ability to dance with its driver. It's hard to buy a truly bad car today, but a certain subset of modern cars can elicit an uncontrollable grin with every input. It's not about flat-out speed or extravagant horsepower either, just about fun. Here are our 11 favorite driver's cars on sale today.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Porsche 911 Carrera T
2023 porsche carrera t

There is no substitute, as Porsche says, for the 911. And the folks in Stuttgart are largely correct, given that the Porsche 911 has held the ranks of best driver's car since its inception. But the 911 has continued to rise in price, with the premium models like the GT3 and Turbo S approaching $200,000. If you want to have a 911 for the right price, however, Porsche has got you covered with its brand new Carrera T. Starting at $116,600, the Carrera T will come with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine from the 911 Carrera generating 379 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, fed through a 7-speed manual transmission.

Positioned between the base model and the Carrera S, the Carrera T comes standard with a rear seat delete, a mechanical limited-slip differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), and PASM Sport Suspension. Rear steering is option-able as well, as is an 8-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. The Carrera T packs a good deal of driver amenities, such as 4-way adjustable Sport Seats Plus and the Sport Chrono Package. Ultimately, the Carrera T is for owners who really like to drive, and don't want anything distracting them from the task at hand.

Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ
2022 toyota gr86

It's hard to argue with the formula of cheap, rear-wheel drive, and manual-transmission equipped. Mazda's Miata laid the framework for imported, affordable RWD fun back in 1990, but Toyota and Subaru have refined this recipe in the modern era. Since the chassis' introduction in 2013, it now sports an appropriate 2.4-liter flat-four engine that makes 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, fed through a delightful 6-speed manual transmission.

It's not the fastest or most luxurious option for drivers, but it might be the most fun. And at a base price of $31,325, it's hard to argue with the twins from Toyota and Subaru. Steering feel is a rarity in modern sports cars, but the GR86 is a pleasant surprise in that department, particularly on your favorite back roads and on track days as well. Any late-model car will be fine, but we'd recommend shopping for one with the new 2.4-liter engine option. Be sure to watch out for OEM engine issues with late-model units though!

Lotus Emira
2023 lotus emira

It's possible that Lotus came to be with the sole goal of creating driver's cars. Never mind proprietary engines or amenities—a Lotus was meant to be driven fast. The same is still true today, though the company has added some sound deadening and a screen or two. Enter the Lotus Emira, the company's last internal-combustion model, following its purchase by Chinese conglomerate Geely. Loosely based on the previous Evora, the Emira sports a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a supercharged 3.5-liter V6, from Mercedes and Toyota, respectively. Power figures range from 360-400 hp and 310-317 lb-ft of torque, with a dual-clutch available for the four-banger and a 6-speed manual for the V6.

Praise be to Lotus, for it has given us hydraulic power steering in the Emira. Its interior is actually somewhat modern, with an infotainment screen and digital driver instruments, but the real joy is the commitment to driver engagement put forward by the steering, seating position, and handling. Sure, the Sport suspension option is slightly harsh, but we can't fault a superb and consistent turn-in. If you want to be driving to the limit as often as possible, you want an Emira. You'll need to shell out at least $77,100, or a First-Edition cost of $96,100 for the supercharged V6.

Audi RS3
2023 audi rs3

This list wouldn't be complete without an all-wheel-drive offering, and Audi's new RS3 sedan is one of the best AWD performance cars on the market today. Released for the 2022 model year, the turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine puts down 401 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels through Audi's Quattro system. But a torque-vectoring rear differential comes with a drift mode, allowing hooligans to slide the rear. A 7-speed dual-clutch is the only transmission available, though its programmed character generally lends itself to aggressive driving.

Upgraded brakes and stiffer suspension are standard on the RS3, optimizing dynamic ability in all weather conditions. It also receives an interior upgrade from the A3 and S3, making for a slightly more advanced interior experience for performance buyers. And it comes at a middle-rate cost, with MSRP starting at $59,995. If you're itching for a piece of Audi heritage, grabbing this five-cylinder sedan is a must.

Chevrolet Corvette Z06
front view of 2023 chevrolet corvette z06 in amplify orange tint on a track
Richard Prince

If you told Chevy Corvette purists back in 2000 that a mid-engine model was coming to fruition, they would have been shocked. Sure, rumors and blueprints existed back in the 20th century, but a mid-engine production model is finally here and well received, now joined by a new Corvette Z06 for all who can afford it. A 5.5-liter V8 puts down 670 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, screaming all the way up to 8500 rpm and quick shifting up to the next gear thanks to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. It sports sticky Michelin rubber in a 345-mm rear section and razor sharp steering. The Z06 represents America's supercar response to well-known Italian competitors.

The technical features in this GM model are astounding as well, with just about every driver input being fully adjustable. You get a standard performance data recorder, WiFi hotspot, and a Bose audio system, but it's unlikely you'll ever need to use those last two features with how much fun you'll be having. The price of entry is a steep $109,295—but a fraction of the cost compared to its European counterparts.

Honda Civic Type R
2023 honda civic type r

Front-wheel drive is fun, we promise, especially in the new Honda Civic Type R. Building on the tuner legacy of the original EK9 generation Type R hatchback, Honda has revamped the nameplate for a second modern variant. A re-tuned 2.0-liter inline-four makes 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, with the power put to the ground through a slick 6-speed manual transmission. Honda makes some of the best shifters in the market, and this model will be no exception.

The real fun goes beyond power numbers and into driver feedback. A well-tuned electric steering rack paired with wide, 265-mm section tires and a reworked steering knuckle make for a sharp turn-in and will eliminate almost all understeer, driving skills dependent. The cabin is logically laid out and the red bucket seats are nostalgic for millennial and Gen X car enthusiasts alike. Honda has yet to reveal precise pricing details, but we expect the base price to start around $40,000. For what's likely to be the automotive market's best hot hatch, that's not too bad.

Hyundai Kona N
hyundai kona n

A performance car doesn't have to be impractical, and Hyundai's N-line cars are out to prove exactly that. Hyundai classifies the Kona N as a performance crossover, but its dimensions don't tell the entire story. The lifted suspension pairs with a hilariously loud exhaust note and eager fling-ability to make for the most family-friendly hot hatch on the market today. Sharing a powerplant with its N-model siblings, the Hyundai Kona N has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 286 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque, all fed through an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Part of the Kona N charm is that it's an oxymoron—being a fun crossover is almost antithetical to the body style. This one proudly embraces that conundrum through its slightly awkward styling. Even so, the mechanical bits that matter (adjustable suspension and strong brakes) make the model a hoot to toss into corners. The price doesn't hurt either, coming in a $35,995. Just make sure the appropriate recall work has been done before buying.

Nissan Z Coupe
2023 nissan 400z

Nissan has finally brought its Z sports car into the modern era, and it's worth celebrating. It's not that the 370Z was a bad car—it was actually quite fun to slide around in—but its age was showing. Now, the company has moved from a naturally aspirated V6 to a 400-hp twin-turbocharged V6, upping torque figures to 350 lb-ft. A commonality among many of these cars is a 6-speed manual transmission, and the new Z is no exception.

And while the new Z is technically based on the previous generation's chassis, its front-end suspension setup and chassis bracing are significantly upgraded. By all accounts, this model feels like a new car, with a competitor-beating steering feel and power delivery character. At $41,105 MSRP, prospective owners will be happy to hear the cabin is renovated for the 21st century, complete with infotainment tablets and Fast and Furious-style triple pod gauges.

Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
2023 cadillac ct5 v blackwing in electric blue, front ¾ angle
DW Burnett

Finding a V8, manual transmission car is nearly impossible these days, but Cadillac still has the hot-rod hopefuls covered. The CT5-V Blackwing is the amalgamation of years of General Motors performance manufacturing and the result is, well, fantastic. A hand-built supercharged 6.2-liter V8 bellows out 668 hp and 659 lb-ft of torque, for optimum tire destruction or precise lap times. A 6-speed manual is standard but a 10-speed automatic is available as well.

Magnetic dampers are one of the best tools in GM's performance building kit and they work flawlessly on the CT-5-V Blackwing. Carbon-ceramic brakes are option-able, as is a performance data recorder with a lap timer and video recorder. Though it's a hefty car with a curb weight of 4092 pounds, it hustles around curves well and is an ample competitor against Germany's legendary sport sedans. Pricing starts at $87,090, but it would be money well spent. The V8 may not live long, but the CT5-V Blackwing is a great finale.

Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0
2023 porsche 718 boxster gts 40

We'd be remiss to leave a convertible off this list, and Mazda's MX-5 seemed like an obvious choice. But Porsche's Boxster is almost as classic, with a bit more of a kick in GTS form. It's hard to go wrong with any Porsche, but the 718 chassis generation is especially revered and the 4.0-liter flat-six sounds like heaven. With 394 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque, it's an appropriate amount of power, given that turn-by-turn enjoyment is the ultimate driving goal. Porsche requires GTS 4.0 owners to row their own gears through a 6-speed manual transmission. Suspension is set just right (1.04 g of grip) and slowing down the 3125-pound car is a breeze with an exceptional brake pedal feel.

It's a playful car with a mature character, reflected in the available (though skimpy) front and rear trunk space. Take a weekend trip or stuff your track gear into the car and hit the road. If having a convertible is your ultimate goal, it should be noted the 718 GTS is one of the most expensive roadsters available today, starting at $90,850. If you're looking on the cheaper end, try BMW's Z4 or the ever-classic Miata, depending on your budget.

2023 bmw m4
Mark Vaughn

Our list needed on more vehicle that mixes performance and daily-driver livability, and BMW's new M4 immediately came to mind, starting at about $75,000. We much prefer BMW's handling to anything from AMG, the latter which feels artificial and forced, almost coerced. The orange M4 Coupe we drove gave us all the power needed and all the handling anyone could want. The TwinPower Turbo inline gasoline 6-cylinder delivered up to 503 hp, just 40 hp short of the mighty CSL. But unlike the ultralight CSL, the M4 Coupe we drove was more than comfortable to drive all day and not beat us up, even with those thin carbon-fiber seats.

We took every backroad imaginable, and many that were new to even me, and thoroughly enjoyed them all, even the slightly bumpier ones. The best section was about 10-15 minutes on Hwy. 58 just west of the fading oil town of McKittrick, a road that rivals the Tail of the Dragon in its sheer enjoyability. This was an ideal setting for the M4, and we were able to exploit every one of the car's handling capabilities. We spent most of the section in third gear, enjoying the TwinTurbo's power and prodigious, wide-banded torque. Just step on the throttle and get a response in almost any gear. So much fun. If we had $75,000 to spend on a car that had to fulfill many roles—the most important of which was great handling—the M4 Coupe would be an obvious choice.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Porsche