Star Cars 2009: Coupes, cabrios, sports - Performance cars, part two

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  • The best upcoming cars
  • Open-tops
  • Performance cars
Nissan GT-R
Price from £52,900
On sale March
What’s great? Supercar power at a fraction of the usual price

After years of anticipation, Nissan’s awesome GT-R finally arrives in the UK next spring.

With a 3.8-litre V6 engine producing 473bhp, the hand-built GT-R accelerates from 0-60mph in an astonishing 3.5sec and on to 195mph – it’s supercar performance, but at half-price.

Don’t think it’s just about straight-line speed, either. We’ve driven an unrestricted European-spec version, and found it to be one of the sharpest, most capable cars ever.

Best supporting evidence for this comes courtesy of Nissan’s test driver, Tochio Suzuki, who has taken a standard production GT-R around Germany’s 13-mile Nürburgring circuit in just 7min 29sec – the fastest time for a production car ever posted.

Indeed, our only major concern at present is that the ride is relentlessly stiff, which might not make the GT-R the most comfortable of companions over typically lumpen UK roads.

With four seats and boot space, the GT-R is also unusually practical for such a focused high-performance machine.

First deliveries start next March, but with the allocation for all of Europe in 2009 standing at just 1400 cars, you’ll either have to join the queue or pay well over the odds to get your hands on one.

Fiat 500 Abarth
Price from £13,500 (est)
On sale January
What’s great? Not the quickest hot hatch, but certainly one of the most in demand

If you thought that Fiat’s 500 was just a cute, retro city car, the new Abarth version might change your mind. With its chunky bodykit, fat alloy wheels and striking decals, it looks every inch the snarling hot hatch.

It doesn’t just talk the talk, either; thanks to a 135bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre engine in a small, light body, the Abarth should hit 60mph in under eight seconds. Uprated steering and suspension promise handling to match, but when you’re not in the mood, pressing a switch drops peak pulling power from 152 to 132lb ft for smoother progress.

If the standard Abarth isn’t hot enough for you, the Esseesse, with its anticipated 160bhp, chassis tweaks and even more aggressive bodykit, should fit the bill.

Expect the standard car to start at about £13,500 with the Esseesse at around £16,000.

Audi R8/Spider
Price from £100,000 (est)
On sale Late 2009
What’s great? The ultimate ‘affordable’ supercar from Audi

The ultimate version of Audi’s R8 is coming and it’s going to be plenty quick enough to trouble pricier supercars such as Porsche’s 911 GT2 and Lamborghini’s Gallardo LP560-4.

There’s still some discussion as to whether it will be powered by a development of the R8’s 4.2-litre V8 or a twin-turbo 5.0 V10 taken from the RS6, but it’s clear the car will have at least 550bhp. Expect it to crack 62mph in under 4.0sec, 100mph in around 8.5sec and to top out way beyond 200mph.

If raw power isn’t your thing, there’s also a Spider variant coming, which is expected to feature a folding fabric roof rather than a lift-out panel. This means Audi will have to strengthen the car’s body, which will add weight and blunt performance – albeit only slightly. Worry not, there will still be plenty of scope for high-speed wind in your hair.

Lotus Evora
Price from £45,000 (est)
On sale Spring
What’s great? A light, fast, mid-engined 2+2 with Lotus handling

If Lotus can match the balanced mid-engined brilliance of the Elise with the Evora 2+2, it will have built a car that can make four people very happy all at once.

Actually, back-seat passengers will have to be children or compact adults, because the Evora isn’t designed for the larger-framed.

A Toyota 3.5-litre V6 petrol provides the power, producing ‘only’ 270bhp. However, the Evora weighs no more than a Ford Fiesta, so it will be able to reach 170mph and travel from 0-60mph in a tad under five seconds.

The cabin has all the creature comforts of a luxury cruiser, including touch-screen sat-nav, Bluetooth and iPod connections and air-conditioning. There are also figure-hugging adjustable sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Only 2000 cars will be produced a year, so get your order in quickly.

Audi TT Clubsport
Price (est) £40,000
On sale Summer
What’s great? The bad boy of the TT family
No roof, 300bhp and uprated suspension and brakes – one for the hardcore enthusiast.

Jaguar XFR and XKR
Price (est) £65,000
On sale Spring
What’s great? Hot versions of Jag greats
Outputs of more than 500bhp are expected from this duo – details follow next January.

Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder
Price (est) £157,000
On sale Spring
What’s great? It’s a convertible Gallardo!
Whip down the roof and get ready to rumble with your 560bhp.

Lamborghini Murcielago SV
Price (est) £240,000
On sale Spring
What’s great? Lighter than an LP640
It’s got 680bhp and weighs 130kg less than the LP640. Oh yes.

Mercedes SLR Speedster
Price (est) £600,000
On sale Summer
What’s great? Loads of power; light weight
Cutting the roof and windscreen off has helped to shave pounds.

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