Nowadays, almost every automaker has a performance arm, but which one is the best? Our editors get into shouting matches daily, arguing over why certain companies are posers while others offer the real deal, so here’s you chance to get a look into that conversation.
Think we missed one? Disagree with us? Let us know in the comments below about which performance brand means the most to you.
Mercedes-AMG – Mike Schlee, Road Test Editor:
I’m pretty sure the letters AMG attached to fast Mercedes-Benzes stand for “Aw My Gawd!” One listen to the burly V8 fire up in the AMG GT S and you’ll understand why. It’s like crack for a petrol head that feeds an addiction of never ending V8 hunger. Best part is, nearly every AMG product makes this glorious sound, even the smaller C 63 AMG. And those looking for a few more cylinders might want to check out the SL 65 AMG with face distorting torque.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S Review
But AMG also does small 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbos, one of which happens to be a subcompact crossover that can rip through the quarter in the 12-second range.
AMG is about more than just ungodly engine power and burbling symphonies though. Every vehicle has handling, luxury and class baked in. It really is a total package of performance and sophistication for the affluent shopper with a serious need for speed.
But seriously, that V8 sound…
John Cooper Works – Jodi Lai, Managing Editor:
Scrappy little cars that are engaging and fun to drive are my jam. Slow cars that are fun to drive fast and more appealing to me that fast cars I will never be able to drive without getting arrested. I’m way more inclined to like something like a MINI Cooper over a Mercedes-Benz, so my favorite performance brand is MINI’s John Cooper Works (JCW).
John Cooper was the owner of an F1 team, so you know he means business when it comes to speed and handling. JCW takes MINIs that are already silly fun and injects them with a sort of hooligan magic sauce that makes them into scrappy little go-kart beasts. They get louder, more responsive, and are upgraded with all sorts of performance-enhancing goodies. No, JCW MINIs aren’t stratospherically fast, but they are ridiculously fun and realistically attainable.
Polestar – Sami Haj-Assaad, Features Editor:
I used to like the high-powered stuff coming from the German automakers, until I realized they’re all pretty much the same: high powered cars with a few extra bits of chrome.
I’d much rather pick something from the folks at Polestar, the official performance division of Volvo. Unlike other performance brands, Polestar started as strictly a race team, and now it applies lessons from the race track to production vehicles. Since 1996, the folks at Polestar Racing have claimed seven team championships and six drivers championships in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship.
See Also: 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review
All that experience racing has been brought to Volvo, helping to make Polestar-tuned vehicles some of the most engaging luxury cars I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. With more power, better steering, and fantastic handling capabilities the S60 and V60 Polestar were among my favorite cars to drive in recent memory. Oh, and that vibrant paint finish is probably my favorite hue of blue to ever be put on a production car.
Audi RS – Craig Cole, Associate Editor:
My favorite in-house automotive performance brand would probably be quattro GmbH because the mad scientists that work there crank out some of the most awe-inspiring street cars to ever grace the world’s roads. Models like the Audi S4 and RS 7 are luxurious, incredibly speedy and absolutely dynamite to drive. However, stylistically they’re also subtle and tastefully done, which pushes all the right buttons.
See Also: 2015 Audi RS5 Cabriolet Review
Products from rival divisions like Mercedes-AMG or BMW’s M are appealing in their own right, but for me they can’t approach the sublime sophistication provided by a quattro-enhanced product.
SRT – Stephen Elmer, News Editor:
I have to choose SRT as my favorite performance brand, simply because they were crazy enough to shove a V10 into a rear-wheel drive pickup truck. And while the Ram SRT10 is no longer available, there isn’t a single vehicle in SRT’s current stable that simply isn’t badass, from the Viper to the Hellcats to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
These are unapologetic, high-horsepower monsters ready to eat up miles of race track. Sure you could go for a fine tuned German sports car, or high strung exotic from Italy, but then you have to wear fancy clothes and own a nice watch. Blue jeans and a t-shirt are the standard SRT uniform, as these cars emit a down to earth presence that doesn’t come off as pretentious at all.
It’s also hard to argue with a V8 pumping out 707 hp like it does in the Hellcat. That makes this engine one of the most accessible ways to get loads of power, again cementing its reputation as a brand for the every man.
(Note to SRT: This world is in desperate need of another true performance pickup truck. I’m thinking: HellRam. RamCat doesn’t really have the same ring to it.)
Cadillac V – Jason Siu, News Editor:
Since Mr. Schlee called the rights to AMG with ‘no erasies,’ I’ll have to settle for my second favorite performance brand – Cadillac’s V-Series.
To me, the V-Series sub-brand is sticking to its ideology of “where the racetrack meets the road,” although the idea of Vsport models might begin to dilute the brand. Regardless, Cadillac is one of the few American automakers that has a true competitor to the likes of BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG and the latest ATS-V and CTS-V models not only pack serious heat under the hood, but they look pretty damn good.
And if you’ve ever seen any of the cars that comes out of D3Cadillac, you’ll know that the aftermarket is ripe with options to make V-Series models more powerful and more stylish.
See Also: 2016 Cadillac CTS-V Review