Punches were thrown. Names were taken. Integrity, honesty, and parentage were all called into question.
The Car Connection’s best-performing cars draws deep divisions among our staff like whether a taco is technically a sandwich. (Eds note: It is and suggesting otherwise should be a felony if it isn’t already.)
Nearly 300 cars were scored by our staffers this year, and only nine were perfect performers by our gumption. What netted a perfect score? Power, speed, and handling all figure heavily, but each perfect performer needed to do something that we deemed excellent.
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It’s not excellent enough to have scads of horsepower—it also needs to stay on the road with sharp steering, planted feet, and keep its shiny side up.
Each of the following cars brings something different; whether it’s handling or approachability, power delivery or a world-beating powertrain.
For each, we could debate all day which one is best, better, or betterest—and in some cases we did.
What was left after all the cursing, spitting, and name-calling were these nine.
2019 Acura NSX
The Acura NSX embraces digital like a teenager with a smartphone.
Spinning up 573 combined horsepower from a twin-turbo V-6 and electric motors, the new NSX evolved far from its mechanical-feeling predecessor.
This new NSX is perfect performance—in its own time. As the future of supercars plugs in to electric powertrains and the past stays firmly rooted in growling internal combustion engines, the hybrid NSX exists in a singular moment of time with its performance.
Beyond raw power, the NSX synthesizes its handling feel and dynamic prowess into a natural rhythm that’s unexpected. It’s never nervous or twitchy on the road, and the low-slung cockpit hugs each corner (and our wide bodies) like a timeless sports car.
It’s the future, now.
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 53 4-Door Coupe
What’s better than a two-door Mercedes-Benz that’s a perfect performer? A four-door Mercedes-Benz that’s a perfect performer.
Although the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT two-door coupe and four-door sedan share a name, and a perfect 10 rating on our scale, the two cars are relatively different.
That’s because the four-door version, which was new this year, packs an inline-6 or V-8 powerplant that’s thrilling in any configuration. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 (also found in the coupe) spins out up to 630 hp in some models, and the sedan can rocket up to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. The inline-6 is no slouch at 429 hp, either.
What’s more impressive is what the four-door does with its power. The AMG GT sedan shrinks around its driver with rear-axle steering and an electronic limited-slip differential that slices through track corners.
AMG has perfection nailed so far in its short history as a standalone automaker.
2018 BMW M5
Despite its radical departure from M5 history, the newest BMW super sedan doesn’t let the side down.
This time around the M5 is all-wheel drive, a first for the nameplate’s history, a must-have for 617 surging hp.
The M5 handles it all with grace and alacrity, a shocking sedan that nearly rivals its speed with its interior comfort that’s beautifully wrought for four adults—swaddled in leather, festooned with LED lights.
The silent partner in the M5’s successful corporation of power and comfort is its handling and transmission. The M5 dials in performance through a multitude of drive options that can adjust firmness of steering, dampers, and throttle response, on the fly. What’s left are possibilities of granular walks through every corner—check that: sprint through every corner—just like a Formula One racer. Even better? A telepathic 8-speed automatic transmission that can be similarly adjusted for rapid shifts on the highway or holding gears through long sweepers.
Yes, the new M5 is a far cry from the analog sedans of yesteryear. No, we don’t mind so much.
2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Pour one out for the front-engined Corvette.
This last ‘Vette was one of the best, from soup to nuts. Our testers nearly universally agreed that there’s not a bad choice to make throughout the Corvette lineup—base to ZR1—and every configuration along the way challenges cars that can cost three times more than the iconic Chevy.
Our favorites? A classic Grand Sport that makes 460 hp from its sonorous V-8 and shifts through an expert 7-speed manual should be on any shopper’s short list. How about the ZR1 that makes 755 hp from a supercharged V-8 and shifts through the same 7-speed? We can’t forget the Z06 or the Z51…there’s not a bad pick, is what we’re saying.
It’s hard for us to fathom where the next mid-engine Corvette will take performance, the current ‘Vette’s ceiling is too high for us mortals.
But for now, we say its performance is perfect.
2019 Porsche 718 Boxster T
Our opinions on the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman are split like an everything bagel—and just as delicious.
We all agree that the mid-engine Porsche two-door has the engine in the right place, with the right gearbox options: manual’s a bona fide classic, PDK is a screamer.
Where we draw lines in the sand is what our favorite two-door Porsche sports car is on the road these days—911 included. The 718 GTS makes a compelling case with 365 hp, taut suspension, and 0-60-mph runs in less than 4 seconds.
Paired with steering that’s sharper than 5-year-old aged cheddar, and the 718 is tasty in its temptation away from the 911.
Where’s the division? The 718 is powered by a new-fangled turbo-4 that makes Porsche enthusiasts wince…
2019 Porsche 911 Speedster, 2019 New York International Auto Show
…because the 911 is all flat-6s—still.
The new Porsche 911 is a 10 on our scale, same as the old Porsche 911. The incoming Porsche 911 is even quicker, and it expertly sands and sharpens the iconic Porsche’s rougher edges like Norm Abram.
Regardless of model or powertrain, the 911 sits atop our performance chart thanks to its seamless power delivery—up to 690 hp, beautifully weighted steering, telepathic transmission, and ease of use.
Every Porsche 911 feels special, regardless of how far it climbs into six figures, and every 911 begs to be driven.
We may argue between the 718 and 911 all day, but shoppers are the winner: there’s not a bad pick.
2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition
The GT-R trades drama for speed—gobs of it.
Nissan’s supercar aced our performance scale, once we realized what just hit us. Its 467 pound-feet of torque surges through the hand-built twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 in ways that are silent, but violent. Its 565 hp in base cars swells to 600 hp in Nismo versions that are already track day legends.
What’s doubly shocking is the way the all-wheel-drive system and suspension keep its power planted in every corner, all the time.
We’ve driven many GT-Rs, and all of them are impressive, but it’s the way the car silences the road outside and makes 0-100-0-mph in mere seconds feel relatively commonplace.
2019 Cadillac ATS-V
We bid a fond farewell to the Cadillac champion of sport compacts.
This is the last year for the ATS-V, relegated to coupe-only body style. Its reign was superb, and the Caddy challenged established rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz C63 and BMW M3 without abandon.
At its heart is a twin-turbo V-6 that makes 464 hp and cleanly cuts through the air and pushes its power through the rear door. It’s distantly related to a Camaro, but we don’t wish for a V-8 lump in the Caddy. The ATS-V’s V-6 hooks to a standard 6-speed manual transmission that makes quick work of tracks and corners, and magnetic dampers that plant the wide tires on terra firma.
The ATS-V doesn’t make many compromises—especially in the rear seats—but that’s why we loved it.
So long, ATS-V.
2019 Cadillac CTS-V
Cadillac ripped off the sports car bandage faster than we could imagine.
The four-door mid-size rocket with rearview mirrors is going away and taking all 640 supercharged horses with it.
The CTS-V put the world (and Germany) on notice that GM could build a super sedan with legs—and the ability to take a corner. That’s not a coincidence, really: the CTS-V uses an electric power steering rack sourced from German supplier ZF to steer the CTS-V.
Coupled with stiffer shock towers and staggered-width, sticky tires, the CTS-V never slowed too much for any corner—it lands right at perfection, according to us.