Electrification, future mobility, carbon neutrality, and sustainability were buzzwords at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show that left sports car enthusiasts wondering if we are the next generation of dinosaurs right before a giant meteor crash. While I may have yet to determine the timeline indicating when gas-powered cars will become the stuff of legend, I know we still have time to enjoy today’s new sports cars, both foreign and domestic, at various price points.
From the high $20Ks to the low $100Ks, I highlight five sports cars offering an experience worth chasing. Starting with the most affordable:
Over half a century ago, Ford stole Americans’ hearts with the sporty Mustang. Now combining modern technology with the lines of its late 1960s ancestors, the 2023 Ford Mustang offers a variety of performance and pricing options like no other “mass-produced” sports car. While we could get a bit excited discussing its 760 hp Shelby edition, we’ll stick to the base model most enthusiasts will select, which features a 310-hp turbo-charged inline-four EcoBoost engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Of course, many will choose the GT edition’s V8 to have that “muscle car” feel. But given a tight, curvy road, I prefer the lighter turbo-4 that requires me to work harder at making time. With an MSRP of just under $30K, this is a lot for the money. Add cargo space and some comfort options, and this would be the best American “one car” sports car.
With an MSRP in the low $30Ks, the 2023 VW Golf GTI is as popular as ever. Propelled by a turbo 2.0-liter, 241-hp 4-cylinder engine, the original “hot hatch” VW has developed one of the most loyal followings over the decades of its evolution. Originally badged the Rabbit, the new VW GOLF GTI is about as fun as it gets for a compact, front-wheel drive car that won’t break the bank.
Whether you choose the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddles or the 6-speed manual, the 5.1 seconds 0-60 time will impress, as will the standard 18″ wheels (19″ available). But forget specs for a moment; this car begs for a windy road to show off its nimble handling. You will enjoy feeling “in control” versus overwhelmed, and that’s the whole point of owning one of these fun boxes—definitely a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Toyota GR Supra
Is it a Toyota or BMW? Who cares because the 5th generation Toyota GR Supra offers all the qualities of a genuine sports car; braking, handling, acceleration, and a manual gearbox. Branded by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing branch, the rear-wheel drive GR Supra offers superb handling, partly through its stability control system that gives you just enough freedom to let you get out of shape if you’re not respecting the pedal on the right. The GR Supra is manufactured at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria, alongside the BMW Z4.
Making 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque, the inline 6-cylinder provides an easy car to drive to the market, yet one that can also pull hard out of corners at your local track using its electronic limited-slip differential. Starting in the mid $50Ks, this is a feature-rich sports car that would cost much more if sourced from a European brand.
Emptying your kid’s college savings account, my next pick is the biggest “bang for the buck” juggernaut anywhere; the Chevrolet Corvette. Powered by a mid-mounted 6.2-liter OHV V-8 that makes 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, the base 1LT Corvette offers a taste of supercar feel no other car can match at this price. Maybe that’s why its mid $60Ks MRSP is like finding a unicorn in the forest; you’re dreaming. But even after adding another $10K in “market adjustment” fees, grabbing one for under $80K would still be a deal in the grand scheme.
From the base LT1 to the diabolical 670 hp Z06 cousin, all 2023 Corvettes feature an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Not wanting to start WWIII over the manual vs. automatic debate, I’ll abstain from expanding upon it. Conversely, for the money, the 2023 Corvette offers more of a performance experience than any other mid-engine V8 sports car available.
The 2023 Porsche 911 continues to set the standard for European sports cars by offering refined performance at a low six-figure price tag. Internally code-named the 992, it would take several nights of dedicated reading to learn all of the variations and options of the current 911 line. So, let’s keep it simple by starting with the engine. Porsche now uses a turbo-charged flat-6 engine on all 911 models, except for the GT3 models. Manual transmissions are available on most editions, even though their highly sophisticated dual-clutch PDK units result in faster performance times (but remember, the customer is always right).
Upper-end “Turbo” models deliver 0-62 mph in under 3 seconds; absolutely ridiculous. Many performance options exist, including ceramic brakes, 4-wheel steering, active suspension, and active aero; the list is long and varied. While it’s probably impossible to find a base 911 at the 2023 MSRP of $107K and change, those who can afford one will be rewarded with an experience no other sports car, regardless of price, can match.
Now, I already know what some of you are thinking. What about a BMW M Series or an AMG Mercedes? No Acura Integra or Mazda MX-5? Still recovering from the chip shortage and supply-chain issues, not to mention fears of a looming recession, numerous manufacturers skipped the LA Auto Show.
Like the current downsizing at Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter, it’s cost-cutting time, so layoffs and reduced marketing budgets are the current trends. If there ever was a time to enjoy your hard-earned dollars on the open road, now is it. Figure out what fits your needs and give your kids a talk about how college is overrated; the roads are calling!