Top 10 Performance Cars We Drove in 2013

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee
Considered by many to be the perfect street-able supercar at its launch, the team behind the creation of the Nissan GT-R has never slowed down. The relentless ongoing development of the GT-R has been driven by the fact that the GT-R competes in a rarified supercar segment against vehicles costing more than twice as much…

It has been another busy year at the AutoGuide office. Once again we have driven and evaluated hundreds of cars this year ranging from the Mitsubishi Mirage to the Dodge Ram to the Rolls Royce Ghost.

We love testing cars and will test anything we can get our hands on. However, every once in a while we come across a car that is something special; a car that separates itself from the over-populated crowd and wins over our automotive hearts.

These here are the top ten vehicles that stuck in our minds. They may not be the fastest or flashiest cars out there (though most of them are), but long after we had to return these press vehicles, we were still longing for just one more drive.

The Fiesta ST is the performance bargain of 2013. Delivering nearly 200 hp in a subcompact body, the ST is a proper hot hatch. The suspension, wheels, tires, transmission and even seats have all been upgraded to deliver a sporty feel far beyond a conventional sub-compact. This car absolutely loves to be driven hard everywhere it goes.

Best of all, thanks to the five door hatchback design and low curb weight, the ST is also a practical, everyday car that returns decent gas mileage.

Twice this year we were lucky enough to get our hands on the 2013 Porsche Carrera 4S; once in the winter and once in the summer. Unlike a lot of sports cars, it’s at home in either season and delivers smiles behind the wheel regardless of road conditions.

Furthermore, this 400 hp sports car is very fast around the racetrack ( setting the 2nd fastest time ever at the AutoGuide test track), but can also become a sedate highway cruiser when needed. Of course this Porsche continues to carry-on with traditional 911 styling and that intoxicating flat-6 engine sound.

The MP4-12C marks a return to road car production for McLaren. Aimed squarely at the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, the MP4-12C features a small 3.8 liter turbocharged V8 producing 616 hp.

Utilizing all the latest suspension, engine, brake and transmission technologies, the MP4-12C is a wholly capable sports car. In fact, this car is almost too capable. It does lack some of the visceral feel found in other cars on this list, but being one of the fastest, we’re still awed by it.

Unless you were isolated completely from society during the past year, it’s well-known that Jaguar has once again entered the sports car world with the awesome new F-Type. We were impressed during a first drive of the car, but we fell in love with the F-Type V8 S during a secondary drive and were impressed with how quick the V6 S is around a racetrack.

The look, sound and aura around the F-Type truly make this car something special, but the lack of a proper manual transmission and bit too much curb weight keeps it from placing higher on our list.

To celebrate 50 years of Lamborghini making seriously bad ass cars, as well as commemorating the last year of Gallardo production, the LP560-2 was created. The 560 in the name refers to the horsepower pumping from the Lambo’s 5.2 liter V10 engine and the 2 refers to how many wheels the power is sent too.

Yes, that is right, this is a rear-wheel drive Lamborghini featuring a frickin’ six-speed manual transmission. The term “attack on your senses” may be over used when describing sports cars, but the phrase definitely applies to this monster. Sadly, this car also attacks the wallet pretty hard.

Wait, what the hell is this car doing here? Well, truth is, even 20 years later, the 1993 Mazda RX-7 remains an absolute joy to drive. Weighing a scant 2,800 lbs., the 255 hp rotary engine loves to rip through the rev range and delivers some of the smoothest, tractable power found in an internal combustion engine thanks to sequential turbochargers. The balance and handling of this car are equally impressive and the steering feel is just so raw and mechanical.

Road Test Editor Mike Schlee and Features Editor Sami Haj-Assaad both rank this vehicle as one of the most fun to drive cars they have ever been in. As the saying goes, “they don’t build them like they used to,” and when it comes to the RX-7, we agree.

Take everything we like about the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, turn it up a level and you have the Audi R8 V10 Plus. An absolute monster, this car still holds the fastest time around the test track. The 5.2-liter V10, making an unofficial second appearance on this list, has been upped to 550 hp in the V10 Plus from the regular V10’s 525 hp. With all wheel drive and a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, this car makes use of the latest sporting hardware to deliver incredible speeds – and a sound to match!

Featuring the looks and specifications of an exotic car, the R8 is cheaper than most Italian supercars and far more livable day to day.

The Lexus LFA may well be one of the best cars ever built, period. It’s a technological masterpiece that delivers insane thrills by the second. The 552 hp 4.8 liter V10 screams down the road convincing all within earshot that a Formula 1 car must be on the loose. Grip, speed and confidence build as this car seems capable of breaking the laws of physics.

Insanely expensive and insanely exclusive, the LFA could not be placed any higher on our list as most will never get to drive this car, much like the F1 cars it tries to mimic. Even we were limited to a few short laps around the track, but oh, the memories we will have of those laps.

The 2014 Porsche Cayman S is a faster, more luxurious modern equivalent to the Mazda RX-7. Balanced to perfection, the mid-engine Cayman responds to the driver’s every move with lightening quick reflexes and delivers confidence regardless of driver skill. Being one of the best-looking Porsches in recent memory, that unmistakable flat-six rasp only adds to the terrific overall driving experience.

Contributor and AutoGuide Hot Shoe David Pratte claimed this was his favorite car to drive around our AutoGuide test track this year. That is high praise since other vehicles he piloted around the track this year included the Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911.

By now you, our valued reader may be getting the idea that we love the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. First we raved about it when driving the coupe this summer and then we rekindled our love affair with a drive behind the wheel of the Convertible this fall.

Without once again getting into the exact details as to why this car is phenomenal, let us sum it up this way. It trounces the cheaper cars on this list in terms of performance and can hang with a lot of the more expensive ones. Chevrolet is also about to unveil the hardcore Z06 model that, with any luck, will continue embarrassing much more expensive sports cars. Look for it near the top of this list next year.

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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4 of 6 comments
  • Alex Alex on Jan 02, 2014

    Come on, a corvette on the first place and a 911 4s gets 9th place. Typical American top 10. The F12 is nowhere to be found, but you do find a Mazda rx-7.

    • Phil Phil on Jan 02, 2014

      Best guess would be that THEY DIDN'T DRIVE THE F12.

  • From Kyoto From Kyoto on Jan 05, 2014

    Lol...As usuall at the first place an american much they paid you ? :D