For the past decade, Road & Track has put together a list of the Best Performance Vehicles. They have then annually taken this list and used it to convince their bosses that they need to go have a series of track days with ten of the most incredible sports cars currently on the market so that they can determine which one is the best. They also get to drive on some of the most beautiful roads in the country—this year in the glorious Catskill Mountains of upstate New York—so they can make sure to thoroughly review how the cars handle on the road as well, and complete the mission of the Road & Track name.
Not that any of our Cincinnati car repair technicians are jealous or anything.
Their willingness to take one for the team and thoroughly test some of 2023’s best and most exciting cars means that we get to live vicariously through their experiences. And though we may not necessarily agree with their choice of winner, it’s fantastic to hear how some of the greatest cars produced today handle both on the track and in real world situations.
The Top Contenders: 9 Import Options and 1 Domestic
As import car maintenance specialists, we weren’t surprised to hear that a majority of the cars on the list were of foreign makes and models.
The list is as follows:
- Audi RS3
- BMW M4 CSL
- Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica
- Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS
- Honda Civic Type R
- Hyundai Elantra N
- Nissan Z Performance
- Subaru WRX
- Toyota GR Corolla Morizo Edition
- Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Most of these are models that wouldn’t surprise anyone who was into performance vehicles. Each of these options have a well documented history of predecessors that are great fun to look at and to drive. The Corolla and Elantra variants seem like an odd choice when you compare it to the pedigrees of the rest of the cars on the list, but when it came to their time on the track, they held their own, with both of them beating the WRX’s time, and the Corolla coming in 7th overall.
BMW M4, Porsche 718 Cayman, and Audi RS3: High Quality Fun
Because we admittedly do have a bias, let’s take a look at what they had to say about our favorite contenders in the lot.
The 2023 BMW M4 CSL
Coming in at a cool $145,395, this BMW has a pedigree that is worth every penny to the driver who loves a good time. It’s 3-liter turbo straight-six can produce 543 horsepower and 479 lb-ft or torque. While careening around the 1.9 mile north course track at the Monticello Motor Club the M4 came in 4th overall at 1:24:2. Though it felt larger that some of the other cars on the track, it was among the fastest—one of only 3 to break 140 mph. “With the traction control turned down,” the consensus was that the car “is a thrill.”
Though impressed by the M4 CSL’s driving experience overall, Road & Track just weren’t convinced that the car thoroughly earned the CSL badge (and new price tag). They wanted it to be a louder, simpler, and more raw driving experience to earn that badge. They absolutely enjoyed their time with the M4 CSL, however. Who wouldn’t?
The 2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS
The 718 Cayman GT4 RS was the second fastest on the track, coming in at 2nd overall at 1:22:7. Porsche let out all of the stops in this year’s model, and really brings something of spectacular, especially as future Caymans moving forward will be all-electric. The 4-liter straight 6 engine gives a delightful 493 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. And since it’s a Porsche, the price tag is also top notch, with this model retailing at $195,100.
According to Road & Track, this Cayman was like nothing else they had seen before from this model. They made sure the last traditionally engined Cayman went out with a bang. One of the changes included introducing air intakes that “feed an airbox just behind your head,” making the experience of driving the 2023 718 Cayman GT4 RS feels like “the engine is practically inside your brain.” With this level of connection, both the track and the road tests were loads of fun for the drivers.
The 2023 Audi RS3
Compared to the other two cars on this shortlist, the Audi RS3 is practically a bargain. With a smaller engine than the others, the RS3 offers a 2.5-liter 5 cylinder engine that produces 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This $67,690 beast came 5th overall on the track, with a time of 1:28:9. The drivers really liked this new version of the RS3 on the track, referring to the engine as “giddy” and the whole experience as “understated and pretty kick-ass.”
When it comes to the road test—the test that is likely going to be most important overall—the 2023 Audi RS3 dominated. The staff was convinced that if you are using any of the ten cars as a daily driver, the RS3 was the one to choose. It has the best interior, the most superior infotainment setup, and has a suspension that’s easy on the bones. And since it’s also pretty great on the track, it seems like the best of both worlds.
The Chevrolet Corvette Z06: The Only Domestic Option Won
We hate to say it, but seems like Road & Track had a bit of a bias. Their decision to choose the Corvette Z06 as the Best Performance Car of the Year focused on the total audacity and “sheer American-ness” of the car. The car is undoubtedly fun to drive—they did compare the experience to driving a “down-home Ferrari,” after all—but a Corvette loses the finesse that makes imported cars so special. But as we’ve said, as import car maintenance specialists, we also have a bit of a bias. Interested in learning more about all of the cars Road & Track tested? Take a look at their writeup and see what you think. And then you should go buy an RS3.