5 Jaguar XF
3.0D S V6 Luxury
Target Price 36,462
Used from 29,545
The executive saloon class is packed with cars that can relax you and thrill you in equal measure. On that score, the Jaguar XF is best of the bunch.
Youll never tire of the drama that unfolds whenever you fire up the engine. The air vents across the dashboard open electrically and the cylindrical gear selector rises majestically from the centre console.
Twist that selector to Drive and things get even more momentous. The potent diesel engine delivers eye-widening acceleration, while the beautifully balanced chassis and sharp steering will give you a buzz in every bend.
The XF is a largish car, but it doesnt feel that way from behind the wheel. Plus, when the road straightens out, youre treated to excellent refinement and one of the slickest rides in the class.
Sure, this V6 model is pricier than some to own, but its worth it for the fun youll have.
4 Vauxhall VXR8
Target Price 49,550
Used from 26,890
Muscle care aren't exactly politically correct. Part of whats so great about the Vauxhall VXR8, though, is that you can park one on your drive and the world will know you dont give a hoot about being PC.
This powerhouse saloon now looks brasher than ever, thanks to the outta-the-way styling brought by the recent face-lift. Bury the throttle pedal and the VXR8 gives an even clearer statement of intent. The snarling 426bhp 6.2-litre V8 engine will hurtle you forwards with insane force, especially when you consider that youre dragging 1831kg of car with you.
The VXR8 isnt a one-trick-pony, either. Its also surprisingly agile in the bends, thanks to continually adjustable shock absorbers, sweetly weighted steering and a traction-boosting limited-slip differential. Throw in the biggest brakes fitted to a road-going Vauxhall and its one serious piece of kit.
3 Porsche Cayman S
Target Price 48,373
Used from 21,000
There are some people who think the Cayman is no more than a Porsche for those who cant afford a 911. Theyre wrong. Yes, it costs less, but its no poor relation.
Youll realise that as soon as you climb into the plush cabin and put the 315bhp 3.4-litre engine to work. Its at its best when you give it a bootful of revs, and then its blisteringly fast.
It snarls away satisfyingly, too. The Caymans handling is even more impressive than its pace. The mid-engined layout and immense grip give the car incredible agility, and the steering gives a near-perfect sensitivity and feel. You corner with breathtaking speed and accuracy.If youre after something even more full-on, you can upgrade to the more powerful, stripped-out Cayman R. However, when the S is just as much fun and 4000 cheaper to buy, we wouldnt bother.
2 BMW 1 M Coup
Target Price 40,020
There's one important thing that separates the new 1 Series M Coup from recent products to have come from BMWs M stable. Other M cars have to be driven at breakneck pace for you to really appreciate them this one can be enjoyed at speeds that neednt risk a fine and licence points.
Most of this is down to the suspension, which is taut enough to keep things level through bends, but which also has enough give to let the car move around and communicate whats happening beneath it.
The steering helps, too, because its devilishly quick to react and is packed with feel. All this gives the 1 M Coup a level of interactivity that allows you to engage with it far more easily and thats rare.
Of course, being an M car, the 1 Coup can do out-and-out speed whenever you ask it to. The bonnet conceals a 335bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo motor that delivers its punch in great big surges. That means you can have just as much fun in a straight line as you can through a set of bends.
The raucousness of the exhaust note is addictive, and so is the hardcore look that the wider wings, deeper front spoiler, beefier side skirts and lowered ride height lend to this 1 Series.
The interior looks and feels suitably racy, too, thanks to the Alcantara trim that comes finished with bright orange stitching. You wont go short of creature comforts, either, thanks to two-zone climate control and leather seats that have part-electric adjustment as standard.
1 Lotus Evora
Target Price 50,550
Used from 42,000
For us, the Lotus Evora is the ultimate sports car bargain. You see, the next few pages include some sensational supercars, but they cost the earth. The Evora will do most things they can, and perhaps do them better, for a fraction of the cost.
For starters, the Evora has enough pace to embarrass many more expensive rivals. Thats due as much to its lightweight build as it is to the Toyota-sourced 276bhp 3.5-litre V6, but it does mean the engine can concentrate on hurtling you towards the horizon without shifting excess tonnage.
It gets even better when you arrive at a set of bends. The strength with which it grips is staggering, while the low weight, neutral balance, tight body control and quick steering also help the car change direction in a heartbeat. The steering is packed with feel, too, so youre kept informed about whats going on beneath you. You also get lightning responses from the throttle and brakes. When you put all this together, you get a car thats sublimely precise and engaging.
What you might not expect is that the Evora is good at playing the relaxed cruiser. It rides more smoothly than some family cars incredible considering its handling prowess and its impressively refined.
The engine sounds great when youre giving it everything, but settles down when youre not, while suspension- and tyre noise are extremely well suppressed.
Granted, the Evora isnt perfect. The view rearwards is poor, its woefully impractical, the build quality isnt great, the ergonomics are a mess and most of the instruments are tricky to read. None of that will matter once you get behind the wheel. For anyone who loves driving, its sensational.