Best performance cars 2023

The best performance cars combine sports car-rivalling acceleration and engaging handling with impressive everyday usability, but which should you consider – and which are best avoided?...

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Mark Pearson
Published22 August 2023

Best performance cars

What makes a great performance car? On the surface it's simple: gobs of power from a charismatic engine, along with agile, involving handling.

However, while pure sports cars are often weekend toys, performance cars have to be practical and comfortable enough to use every day. And that means they also need at least four seats, a decent boot, a compliant ride and a plush, user-friendly interior.

Here, then, we count down our top 10 best buys and reveal the one performance car to avoid. 

If you want to read more about a particular car or see what deals are currently available on it through our free New Car Buying service just click on the relevant link. Of course, if you don’t fancy reading the full story and are simply looking for the model which tops our list, then look no further: the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo is the best performance car you can buy. 

Learn more about how we test cars, or see the best and worst performance cars below


Porsche Taycan

If you want the best performance car, and one which mixes enjoyable driving with electric power, then look no further than the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo.

Turbo and Turbo S trim levels deliver on power and performance, forsaking range for a rapid 0-62mph time of as low as 2.8sec. However, our preferred 4S trim strikes a much better balance between performance and range – it can cover the same sprint in just 4.1sec, yet can travel 304 miles between charges officially.

The Cross Turismo wraps all of its power in a compelling package which offers greater versatility than the regular model, thanks to a bigger boot and roomier rear passenger space – even though you can fit more inside the combustion-engined Audi RS6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate

Inside, the Taycan Cross Turismo is finished with high-quality materials to provide a truly premium feel.

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  • Incredible point-to-point pace
  • More spacious rear seats than in the coupé
  • Wonderful interior quality


  • You'll want to add a fair few options
  • Range isn’t spectacular
  • Non-electric rivals have bigger boots

Audi E-tron GT

The Audi E-tron GT is a 523bhp four-door coupé that can sprint from 0-60mph in 4.1sec. It’s more subtle and comfortable than its Porsche Taycan rival, striking a good balance between all-out speed and ride comfort. 

As expected of such a pricey car, the E-tron GT is well equipped inside and features a crystal-clear infotainment and driver display, albeit with the exception of some fiddly touch-sensitive buttons. 

The saloon boot is a little tight to squeeze luggage into, but it’s deep enough to swallow a few cases. And despite the E-tron GT’s sleek silhouette, there is enough room in the back for two six-footers to travel in comfort. That being said, performance-oriented versions of the Tesla Model S are even more accommodating for taller passengers.

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  • Potentially rapid charging
  • Comfortable ride and great handling
  • Very well equipped and strong resale values


  • Ionity rapid chargers are few and far between
  • Not as spacious as a Model S
  • Low-speed motor whine and gearbox shunt


The BMW M3 – and its M4 coupé sibling – are traditional performance cars, offering superb handling and exceptional body control, alongside a powerful petrol engine. In fact, the M3's 3.0-litre engine develops a heady 503bhp.

The M3 also offers considerable configurability, allowing you to tailor the car’s behaviour to the conditions and your mood. Moreover, stick the M3 in Comfort mode and it transforms itself into a supple-riding daily companion. 

Move inside and the M3 continues to excel, with high-quality materials used throughout and a more intuitive infotainment system than in the rival Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. And better still, there is still room in the back of the M3 for a couple of six-footers. 

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  • Staggering pace and grip
  • Surprisingly comfortable ride
  • High-quality interior


  • Doesn't sound that special unless you go for the CS version
  • Pricey to buy
  • As expensive to run as you'd expect

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

This two-time winner of our Performance Car of the Year Award is one of the best sports saloons to drive on winding B-road, due to its engaging handling and characterful 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine – welcome to the wonderful Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Putting this Italian performance car into its race mode provides an excellent soundtrack too, with the exhaust barking and cracking loudly as the gearbox helps you to press on. 

As a daily driver, the Quadrifoglio is comfortable and quiet. On the inside, however, there are areas where it falls short of its rivals – both the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 feel more premium inside. Plus, space in the back is lessened by the car’s low roofline. 

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  • Wonderful engine
  • Agile, involving handling
  • Pliant ride


  • Interior quality disappoints in places
  • Inconsistent brake feel
  • Race mode switches of stability control

BMW M240i

With the performance and fun factor of a bigger M-car, the BMW M240i is a great all-rounder that’s fast and easy to live with. Press on down a twisty road and the M240i comes alive, providing excellent handling and producing a substantial 369bhp from its 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine. 

Although the steering doesn't provide a great sense of connection with the road, the M240i remains an entertaining performance car, with the gearbox remaining smooth in automatic mode, yet reacting quickly when you pull the paddles behind the steering wheel. 

Given that it's a coupé, you don’t get the same level of practicality as a BMW M3, but it’s more roomy in the back than the Audi TT and its boot can still swallow a few small suitcases.

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  • Brilliant engine in M240i
  • Great infotainment system
  • Sharp handling


  • Firm ride without optional adaptive suspension
  • Road noise
  • Not as practical as the 4 Series

BMW M440i

Packing 369bhp from a smooth 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine that drives all four wheels, the BMW M440i is a seriously quick car that leaves rivals from Audi and Mercedes far behind it. 

It’s great fun to drive too, being composed and well mannered through corners. Adaptive suspension helps here, allowing you to stiffen and soften the ride at the touch of a button. 

The infotainment system in the M440i is truly excellent and is operated through a clear 10.3in display. Of course, you don’t buy a two-door coupé for its practicality, but the boot is spacious enough and the rear seats are roomy enough for adults to use for short journeys. 

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  • More fun to drive than direct rivals
  • Range-topping M440i is seriously rapid
  • More room in the back than you might imagine


  • Divisive looks
  • Rival coupés have bigger boots
  • Some wind and tyre noise

BMW M5 Competition

The battle between the BMW M5, Audi RS6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate is very closely matched. However, the M5 has both cars pipped because it can match the RS6 for comfort, yet out-handle the E63 S in the bends.

Granted, it might not be as practical as either of them, but as a driver’s car that you can drive right the limit, the BMW M5 is the best of the three. The turbocharged V8 engine is smooth and hushed at lower speeds, but when you deploy all 626bhp it fires you up the road like no other performance saloon can. 

The CS model is even more special, having been tweaked by BMW to offer a more supple ride. It’s an incredibly capable car that would make even the most potent supercars fear it. 

Inside, the interior has a welcoming premium feel that neatly blends sporty materials, including Alcantara, with plush metals and carbonfibre.

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  • Incredible straight-line performance
  • All-weather traction
  • Impeccable build quality


  • Expensive to buy
  • Underwhelming engine note
  • Lacks the drama of an E63

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate

Fast, practical and hugely capable, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S is a performance estate that sounds amazing and handles in an even more impressive manner than the Audi RS6 Avant

Sure, it’s not a cheap car, but its talents are wide-ranging, being both poised and agile on a winding road. Its ride is firmer than the RS6 Avant's, even in its softest setting, but this does settle down on motorways. 

And all that performance comes with the benefits of an estate car, with the boot able to swallow up to 10 carry-on suitcases. Rear passenger space is also excellent, providing a good deal of leg and head room. 

Inside, the E63 S doesn't feel as high in quality as the RS6 Avant, and the infotainment system can be fiddly to use when driving. 

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  • Terrific engine noise
  • Performance is outstanding
  • Entertaining handling and steering feel


  • Not as comfortable or relaxing to drive as the Audi RS6
  • Expensive to buy outright and pretty hefty depreciation
  • Road and wind noise on the motorway

Audi RS6 Avant

A stalwart all-rounder, the fast, comfortable and roomy Audi RS6 Avant is a menacingly quick estate car that is great to drive. It’s quick, but feels less entertaining when compared with the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate, especially since that car features a more entertaining soundtrack.

Being four-wheel drive, the RS6 is extremely surefooted, plus it grips strongly and steers accurately through corners. And even with 22in alloy wheels, the ride comfort is better than that of the E63 S and BMW M5

The RS6's interior feels very classy, but with a sporty edge. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, swathes of carbonfibre and Alcantara trim leave you in no doubt that you’re sitting in an RS model. And as in the E63 S, there is plenty of room in the back, plus a whopping 565-litre boot.

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  • Incredible point-to-point pace
  • Comfortable and refined
  • Outstanding interior quality


  • Not as entertaining as a BMW M3 Touring
  • Distracting infotainment system
  • Automatic gearbox not as sharp as rivals'

Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

If you’re looking for a sharper, more precise alternative to a traditional luxury saloon and fancy a plug-in hybrid, the Porsche Panamera should definitely be on your shortlist.

Our favourite 4 e-Hybrid version produces a hefty 455bhp, allowing for a rapid 0-60mph time of 4.4sec; that’s impressive for any car. And better still, you get 33 miles of electric range, according to official figures. 

When you’re pressing on, the Panamera is more entertaining than the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door, and is quite agile for a car of this size. Available as a saloon or Sport Turismo estate, the Panamera is suitably luxurious, featuring high-quality materials and great tech inside. 

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Read more: Best and worst sports cars >>

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  • Stupendous pace
  • Classy interior
  • Relatively low CO2 emissions from E-Hybrid


  • Expensive to buy
  • Touch-sensitive controls hard to navigate
  • Heavy V8 versions could be more fun

And the performance cars to avoid...

Audi RS4 Avant

The RS4 Avant is fast enough, but its steering is numb and it suffers from sloppy body control, making it much less rewarding to drive than rivals Read our review

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