As professional car detailers based in Hampshire, we’ve been fortunate to find ourselves behind the wheel of many performance cars during work.
Guests in our Hampshire studio have included various Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren models, BMW M cars, and Audi RS models. We get the occasional classic sports cars such as Maserati and a Jensen Interceptor.
Matt and I have also owned and driven some pretty stellar performance cars outside work.
Matt has owned various Mini Cooper S examples, a classic Mk2 VW Golf GTi 16v, Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 and an Audi TT. I’ve owned Peugeot Mi16 (when I was seventeen years old!), R56 Mini Cooper S, Mk1 VW Golf GTi, BMW E36 M3.
Some of the more obscure cars I’ve driven are a Lotus Sport 350, McLaren SLR and Morgan Aero 8 around the Nurburgring. The last was in the pouring rain with the roof down. It was one of the most memorable drives of my life!
So, with a few performance cars under our belts and a few more in our fantasy fleets, we thought we’d each share our top 5! But first… What defines a performance car?
What is a performance car?
A vehicle usually has a primary talent. That might be luxury; it might be load capacity; it might be the ability to drive somewhere off-road. Cars typically have a combination of those things, but a performance car should prioritise its dynamics and performance above other traits. To me, this doesn’t mean it has to be the outright fastest car, but you’d like to know that it has been designed with a greater level of performance in mind than you’d expect of an ‘all-rounder’.
Our Top 5 Performance Cars of all time (to date!):
Matt’s Top 5:
The 2022 Audi RS6 Avant
0-60mph 3.5 seconds, top speed (limited) 189mph. Bi-turbo 4.0 litre V8 with 621bhp. Weighs 2075kg.
Probably the ultimate do-everything performance car. Extremely fast, amazing tech and interior quality. There’s room for five adults; you can bring your dog too. Genuinely, the only car you’d ever actually need!
The 2020 BMW M760i M Sport
0-60mp 3.6 seconds, top speed (limited) 155mph. Bi-turbo 6.6 litre V12 with 600bhp. Weighs 2345kg.
Something about this car defies all sorts of logic and physics. It is a large, very heavy car. It is very luxurious, with all the creature comforts you can imagine, plus a load you can’t. However, the M department clearly had their time with this car, and the performance is staggering. Perhaps more telling than the 0-60 time (which is mad, considering its weight) is the 40-70mph acceleration time of just 2.7 seconds. That is actually a tenth of a second quicker than Paul’s Corvette Z06 choice (see below)! That is real-world performance, pulling out to overtake or accelerate away from motorway traffic. And always, you are cossetted in near silent, wafting luxury. Amazing.
The 1987 Peugeot 205 GTi
0-60mph 7.8 seconds, top speed 128mph. 4-cylinder naturally aspirated 1.9-litre engine producing 128bhp. Weights 860kg.
The Peugeot 205 was one of the original hot hatches and is held with extremely high regard these days. In its day, it was quick. The engine was a peach and dominated the car. They were extremely light, so the performance was brisk and handling ‘lively’. They had a bit of a habit of throwing lift-off oversteer into a journey if you weren’t careful, and combined with the structural integrity of wet cardboard, they gained a bit of a reputation for ending badly in hedges for inexperienced or cocky drivers. These cars defined great fun. These days, good ones change hands for a lot of money.
The 2023 Porsche 911 Turbo S.
0-60mpg 2.6 seconds, top speed 205mph, Bi-turbo 3.7 litre flat 6 with 641bhp. Weighs 1733kg.
If you don’t need to take more than one passenger, or your dog, then the Porsche is the next best all-round fast car after the Audi RS6. Probably just about the fastest way to travel by land from one point to another. The modern Porsche 911 is four-wheel drive, so hugely stable, unfathomably fast, and beautifully built. It is as easy to drive fast as it is slowly and will most likely never go wrong. All while accelerating so fast it makes you feel sick
The 2020 Bentley GT Continental
0-60mph 3.5 seconds, top speed 207mph, Bi-turbo W12 cylinder engine with 626bhp. Weighs 2277kg.
Another example of superb performance, but wrapped in opulence and luxury. You know you’re somewhere special when you get into a Bentley and feel the plush Wilton carpet mats tickling your ankles. High-end hi-fi is underlined by a unique baseline from the W12 engine, and it’s impossible not to make very quick, subtle progress in this car. If I needed to drive across Europe, this would be my car.
Paul’s Top 5:
The 1973 Lotus Elan Sprint.
0-60mph 6.2 seconds, top speed 121mph. 4 cylinder 1.6 litre engine with 126bhp. Weighs 687kg.
Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, knew that the key to ‘performance’ was to manage the overall packaging of the car. He famously said, ‘To go faster, add lightness’. And he was right. The Elan, as well as being a gorgeous classic British sportscar, is just so beautifully balanced. Not enough power to overwhelm the chassis, and nothing unnecessary onboard to add superfluous weight. They are fingertip-light to drive, offer constant feedback through the floor, seat and steering as to what the chassis is doing and how much grip there is, and nothing dominates the experience over something else. Utterly glorious.
The 2012 Bugatti Veyron Gran Sport Vitesse.
0-60mph 2.6 seconds, top speed 253mph. Quad turbo W16 cylinder engine with 1184bhp. Weighs 1968kg.
About as far away on the other end of the scale to the Lotus Elan is the Bugatti Veyron. It is a truly staggering piece of engineering. Subjectively, it’s never going to be considered the prettiest of cars, but I’m very fortunate to have visited the factory in France and met some of the engineers behind the Veyron. What they achieved with this car was groundbreaking, and some of the technology that had to be developed for this car has filtered down to benefit more mainstream cars.
People criticised the Veyron for being too heavy, fat, or excessive. Maybe some of that is true, but compared to what? The Veyron is a car that can be pottered about in, no more challenging to drive than a VW Golf. It is well-behaved, very comfortable and luxurious, and easy to drive. But then, when the road clears and you can open the taps, the performance on offer is simply otherworldly. Its ability to bring the horizon to you is mind-blowing, imparting the sort of feeling you would only get on an extreme rollercoaster as you go over the top of a massive drop and start hurtling to earth. We’re unlikely to see a car like this again, so I’m glad it exists and feel very fortunate to have driven one.
The 2018 Corvette C7 Z06
0-60mph 3.3 seconds, top speed 196mph. Supercharged 6.2 litre V8 with 625bhp. Weighs 1598kg.
My list wouldn’t be complete without some American muscle. The Corvette is an iconic car, having been around since the 1950s. The C7 was the last front-engine model, the C8 has a mid-engined configuration. The experience of a C7 is better than it might seem on paper – they sound like an angry, angry thing. They handle far better than an American car could be expected to, and it’s genuinely very fast. Most of all, the theatre that goes with it is priceless. I’d love one!
The 1990 Ferrari F40
0-60mph 4.5 seconds, top speed 201mph. Bi-turbo 3.0 litre V8 with 471bhp. Weighs 1253kg.
Another iconic car, there are few lads who didn’t have an F40 poster on their wall in the 90s. Almost a race car for the road, the F40 was raw, scary, bitey and horrible to live with… Until you reached an open circuit or wide smooth bit of flowing road. Unlike modern supercars, it wouldn’t do well crawling up and down the King’s Road in Chelsea; it would either break down or break you down. But off its leash, the F40 was a proper race car for the road and brought the whole experience with it. Covered in lightweight Carbon Kevlar bodywork, the weave could be seen through the wafer-thin paint. So much so that many customers complained and had them add more paint to hide this. So if you find an original with the weave visible, it’s much more collectable!
The 1992 BMW E30 M3 Sport Evo
0-60mph 6.4 seconds, top speed 154mph. 4-cylinder 2.5 litre naturally aspirated engine with 235bhp. Weighs 1200kg.
The E30 M3 was a homologation vehicle – that is to say, for certain racing classes that are based on ‘road cars’, a manufacturer has to build and sell a minimum number of these cars to be eligible to race. The M3 was intended for the German touring car series, DTM, and it was extremely successful.
The M3 only shared the bonnet and windscreen with the regular E30 models. Every other panel was different. Compared to the M3 of today, it would probably seem quite gutless and certainly wouldn’t see which way the modern car went in terms of a straight race. But the E30 M3 is a delight to drive. The steering is so full of feedback, and the car is so much smaller than a modern 3 series. It’s easy to place and drive with your fingertips. The engine is naturally aspirated, each cylinder fed with its own individual throttle body. This means throttle response is instant and super accurate, which will be completely alien to someone brought up on turbocharged cars. There was nothing in the way of electronics. All the connections from one thing to another were mechanic, and it is a joy to drive at any speed. Out of my top 5 performance cars, I think this would be my Number 1.
Performance cars or daily drivers:
You don’t need to own performance cars to enjoy our vehicle detailing services; you simply need to own a vehicle you love.
As professional car detailers, we are always happy to give your daily driver the love and attention it deserves!