What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Performance car contenders

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  • 16 categories of awards
  • All the winning models featured here
  • What Car? Car of the Year 2010 revealed
Best buy less than £60,000
Lotus Evora 3.5 V6 +2
List price £50,959
Target Price £50,959

Take a look at the cars Lotus has beaten to win this sub-category and you’ll realise just how special the new Evora is.

The same sort of money buys Nissan’s sledgehammer GTR – a four-seater that can blast you to 60mph in less than four seconds and take corners so fast your ribs will be begging for mercy. Alternatively, you could have the light and tactile Porsche Cayman S, which is now better than ever thanks to a new direct-injection engine that improves throttle responses and delivers an extra 25bhp.Both feel almost clumsy next to the Evora, though.

Lotus has managed to create a sports car that offers lavish straight-line comfort as well as supreme cornering poise. What’s more, its near-perfect steering provides so much feedback that you can drive it right up to the vast limits of its tyres’ grip.

Performance isn’t exactly in short supply, thanks to a mid-mounted 276bhp V6 engine, and the Evora is far more refined than either of its rivals.

True, interior quality should be better and the rear seats in the +2 model are best left to kids. Yet this is still a car you can use every day.

The Evora is one of the first Lotuses that you can get into and out of without needing the flexibility of a gymnast, and it will even average more than 30mpg.

Lotus Evora performance
0-62mph 4.9 seconds Top speed 162mph
Running costs
Economy 32.5mpg CO2 205g/km Insurance group 50

What the testers thought...
You need to drive the Evora to believe how good it is. It handles as well in the rain as most rivals manage on the limit in the dry. When the sun comes out, it’s dynamite.Peter.Tullin@whatcar.com


Best buy £60,000 – £100,000
Porsche 911 GT3
List price £83,694
Target Price £83,694

The 911 was always going to be a strong contender in this section and, sure enough, it saw off the revised Aston Martin V8 Vantage early in the year.

For a long time we were tempted to hand the prize to the entry-level Carrera 2 version instead, which offers vibrant performance at a surprisingly modest price. However, the faster and more hardcore GT3 blew us away when we tested it just a few days before the deadline for Car of the Year entrants was due.

You’ll have to make sacrifices to use a GT3 every day, because the low-speed ride is firm and the clutch is heavy. What’s more, we’d recommend spending an extra £1939 on the optional lifting kit to help you get the low nose over speed bumps. Find a road where you can put your foot down, though, and any reservations disappear as fast as the car in
your rear-view mirror.

The GT3’s free-revving 3.8-litre engine will send you scorching past most other traffic long before you need to select third gear. Meanwhile its incredible high-speed stability, beautifully weighted steering and immense grip leave you free to simply keep your eyes on the exit of each bend, before picking the correct point to unleash the engine’s power.

The GT3 isn’t the most practical 911, but it is the most exciting – and by a considerable margin.

Porsche 911 GT3 performance
0-62mph 4.1 seconds Top speed 194mph
Running costs
Economy 22.1mpg CO2 298g/km Insurance group 50

What the testers thought...
This GT3 is the best 911 ever, and that’s really saying something. You won’t believe the speed, noise or handling it has – it’ll munch through a backroad like few others. Ivan.Aistrop@whatcar.com


Best buy more than £100,000
Audi R8 V10
List price £101,744
Target Price £101,744

Breaking the £100,000 barrier gets you the sort of car you dream about. You could have the wild Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, the latest Porsche 911 Turbo, a V12 Aston Martin or Ferrari’s flagship, the 599 HGTE (we’re yet to drive its 458 Italia in the UK,
so it isn’t eligible for contention this year). Our money would go on a car from a less exotic brand, though: Audi’s R8.

The R8 has been one of our favourite supercars since it appeared back in 2007 with
a 414bhp 4.2-litre V8 engine. Audi has now moved it onto a whole new level by slotting in a monstrous 518bhp 5.2-litre V10.

Even so, don’t think that this is a car that will give you lots of white-knuckle moments. The R8 has immense traction and grip no matter how bad the weather is, and it combines taut, agile handling with a supple ride thanks to trick shock absorbers.

You even get a decent amount of luggage space, so the R8’s practicality as well as its engineering make it a supercar you can use everyday.

True, the V8 is just as easy to live with and costs £20,000 less, but the V10 doesn’t just offer extra performance – it also sounds much better and comes with lots of desirable extras, including the world’s first all-LED headlights, satellite-navigation and a Bang & Olufsen stereo.

Audi R8 performance
0-62mph 3.9 seconds Top speed 197mph
Running costs
Economy 19.2mpg CO2 351g/km Insurance group 50

What the testers thought...
The R8 is not a car for shy and retiring types. When I got stuck in traffic in the V10, even other drivers wound down their windows to ask me questions about it. Barnaby.Jones@whatcar.com


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