Not unlike purpose-built race cars, high-performance sports cars tend to lack the practicalities and creature comforts of regular commuter vehicles, with seating for two, ultra-tight track-focused suspension and running gear, and little to no cargo space. And while there’s no denying that these cars are exhilarating to drive, the reality is that the lion’s share of these models make for wildly impractical choices for everyday driving duties.
There is, however, a shortlist of cars that offer spirited performance in more practical and utilitarian packages, capable of taking on commuting and grocery-getting duties as well as weekend canyon carving and track days. And though this is admittedly a tough balancing act to achieve, there are a handful of Goldilocks sports cars that have managed to pull it off in spades, and it’s this selection of vehicles that we’ll be counting down today in this guide to the best daily driver sports cars.
Elements To Consider When Buying A Daily Driver Sports Car
Purchasing a solid daily-drivable sports car requires finding the right balance of performance and practicality. And while this may sound fairly straightforward on the surface, the reality is there are numerous finer points that one needs to be privy to when shopping in this unique space. Below, we’ll briefly touch on half a dozen of the most pivotal factors to consider when looking for a sporty yet utilitarian daily driver.
Cargo Space: One of the biggest factors that makes a lot of sports cars less-than-conducive to daily driving is their lack of cargo space. Because storage space also tends to be somewhat limited even on daily driveable sports cars, the trick is to consider a car’s accumulative cargo space, factoring in the cubic feet of the trunk, as well as the backseat (and even an empty front passenger seat).
Number Of Seats: Another factor that plays a significant role in determining how practical and daily drivable a car is is its number of seats. And while this may seem fairly obvious on the surface, it’s extremely important to think about the size of each seat, as a lot of small coupes are equipped with back seats, though in many cases these seats are only large enough to accommodate a small child (or bag of groceries).
Acceleration: While it’s obviously fun to pilot cars with blistering top speeds, the reality is that in most daily driving situations, you’ll very seldom come anywhere near a vehicle’s top speed. As a result, off-the-line acceleration is markedly more important, as you’ll experience this every time you’re behind the wheel which will hugely contribute to the overall enjoyment of daily driving. The easiest way to get an objective sense of this metric is to review a given vehicle’s 0-60mph time.
Handling: One of the main variables that makes a car “sporty” is its handling, which is why this is a crucial area to consider when shopping around. This factor will primarily boil down to a vehicle’s curb weight (as well as power-to-weight ratio) and its suspension package. As a result, it’s important to review the running gear on each vehicle, including the suspension and the braking components.
Bells & Whistles: Though they admittedly aren’t vital for simply getting from A to B, extra features can hugely bolster a vehicle’s convenience and/or comfort. Unlike supercars with largely spartan cabins, daily drivable sports cars often come outfitted with a plethora of creature comforts like heated and/or cooled seats, connectivity to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, built-in GPS, and central infotainment displays, just to name a few.
Maintenance & Ownership Costs: Because these vehicles are being purchased for daily driving, maintenance and ownership costs are super important factors to consider when shopping around. This is especially true when dealing with more high-end makes, as these can often only be serviced by trained specialists. More high-end supercars are also not only markedly more expensive to maintain, but also tend to depreciate in value when loaded up with miles from daily commuting duties — a factor that doesn’t affect sporty daily drivers to the same extent.
Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport
Nimble, lightweight, and affordable, the MX-5 is a sporty true driver’s car that’s engineered from the ground up with a major focus on performance. Boasting a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the car is powered by a 181-hp 2.0-liter four-banger and features a host of bells and whistles such as Mazda’s i-Activsense safety package, plush race-inspired Terracotta Nappa leather seats, and the Mazda Connect infotainment display with Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) integration.
Engine: 2.0L Four-Cylinder
Power: 181HP & 151FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 5.7 Seconds
Jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, the BRZ is a sub-3,000lb rear-wheel-drive sports car that makes for an absolutely stellar daily driver. Benefitting from a recent facelift, this car features a retuned track-developed suspension, paddle shifters, an upgraded steering setup, a revised braking package, new wheels, a 2.4-liter direct-injection Boxer four putting down 228hp, and a suite of tech that includes a digital cluster, the SUBARU STARLINK Multimedia, Safety, and Security package, and EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. A fold-down rear seat also affords this vehicle — which is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission — a surprising amount of cargo space.
Engine: 2.4L Boxer Four
Power: 228HP & 184FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 5.9 Seconds
Hyundai Veloster N
Available with the driver’s choice of an N eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters or a six-speed manual, the Hyundai Veloster N is an ultra-sporty front-wheel-drive model that features a myriad of race track-focused features while still lending itself plenty well to daily driving. Powered by a 275-hp turbocharged inline-four, the car sports an N Corner Carving electronic differential, adaptive dampers, a sporty adjustable large bore exhaust setup, and four drive modes; one of which is the customizable N Mode that allows users to custom-dial-in elements such as throttle response, the limited-slip diff, rev-matching, stability control, and steering weight.
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
Power: 275HP & 260FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.8 Seconds
Honda Civic Type R
Since its release in 1997, the Type R Civic has been something of a legend in tuner circles, and the compact corner carver has only gotten better over the last quarter-century. The latest iteration of this model packs an onboard data-logger, a drive-by-wire throttle system, Brembo brakes, a factory aero kit, multiple fuel maps, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission equipped with Honda’s Rev-Match Control. And, as much as we love this car, we would advise anyone currently interested in buying one to hold off, as Big Red is poised to soon unleash sixth generation of the Civic Type R.
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
Power: 306HP & 295FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 5.15 Seconds
Nissan Z Coupe
With production scheduled to begin in March of 2022, it won’t be long until the all-new Nissan Z will be hitting public roads. This modern retro-inspired car is powered by a front, mid-ship twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter two-dozen valve V6 with an aluminum alloy block and heads that’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission and good for an even 400hp. Performance brakes and suspension — plus a race-inspired yet still fairly plush cabin — round out what’s sure to be an instant classic.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L V6
Power: 400HP & 350FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 3.5 Seconds
Ford Mustang GT Fastback
While there are admittedly higher-performance variants of the Mustang currently available from Ford (looking at you, Shelby GT500!), the GT Premium Fastback offers an ideal blend of performance and practicality. It’s tame and utilitarian enough for grocery-getting or chauffeuring the kids to school, but powerful and agile enough to still allow for some seriously spirited experiences behind the wheel. And though this spec’s twin independent variable cam timing tech-equipped 5.0-liter V8 offers plenty of oomph, Ford’s GT Performance package cranks this modern-day pony car’s performance up several notches with 19” aluminum wheels, Brembo six-pot calipers, a strut tower brace, a TORSEN diff, a retuned chassis, a performance wing, and a host of other track-focused goodies.
Engine: 5.0L V8
Power: 450HP & 410FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.1 Seconds
Kia Stinger GT2
Kia is a brand we once gave little thought to, but in recent years has really impressed us with its cars’ performance and build quality, which is why we weren’t surprised by the practical and high-performance nature of the Korean carmaker’s GT2-spec Stinger. Equipped with a full-time torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, the Kia features a 3.3-liter twin-turbo GDI V6, launch control, an electronic variable valve dual stainless steel exhaust with chrome tailpipes, Brembo brakes, 19” wheels shod in sticky Michelin rubber, and electronically-controlled suspension, all as standard.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.3L V6
Power: 368HP & 376FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.7 Seconds
Toyota GR Supra 3.0
While the new GR Supra technically shares the same chassis and engine platform as BMW’s Z4 M40i, the Toyota’s vastly different tuning, hardtop design, and twitchier handling not only make it a better performer, but its more accessible MSRP and slightly larger cargo space (10.2-cubic feet versus 9.9) also make it a superior choice for daily driving duties — as does the fact that the BMW cost around $15,000 more to maintain and care for over a half-decade of ownership.
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0L Inline-Six
Power: 382HP & 368FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 3.9 Seconds
Audi S5 Coupe
Offering one of the best values as a used luxury sports car, the Audi A5 is a fantastic daily driver that’s comfortable and practical while still being thrilling in the corners and in the canyons. With a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, this lightweight coupe is nimble and accelerates off the line quickly, plus its two rear seats and surprisingly large trunk can accommodate a great deal of cargo and luggage. And while the A5 is a great car and probably the more sensible choice, the S5 is a much sportier machine, with a markedly more powerful 350-hp engine and state-of-the-art suspension and braking packages, along with a more premium cabin with optional carbon trim and S-line-badged seats and dash.
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0L V6
Power: 349HP & 369FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.4 Seconds
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
At just slightly north of the $60,000 mark, Chevy’s C8 Corvette Stingray is an absolutely phenomenal buy that gets you an ultra-sleek, supercar-style set of bodywork draped over a mid-placed 6.2-liter V8 that puts down 490hp and 465ft-lbs of torque (or an additional 5 to each when fitted with the optional performance exhaust.). Other standard fare includes an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, four-piston Brembo brakes, a mechanical limited-slip differential, multiple drive modes, and a futuristic cabin that’s on par with supercars and hypercars costing ten times as much.
Engine: 6.2L V8
Power: 490HP & 465FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 2.8 Seconds
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Take the shell of a popular modern-day muscle car, shoehorn in a 650-hp supercharged and inter-cooled 16-valve pushrod aluminum block V8, round it out with a race-inspired cabin and a subtle aero kit, and you’ve got one of the best high-performance daily drivers in existence. Capable of firing off 0-60mph runs in just 3.5 seconds, this top-of-the-line Camaro variant features Brembo brakes, an electronic limited-slip diff, an oversized cooling system, and a cutting-edge Performance-Tuned Suspension package with Magnetic Ride Control and StabiliTrak electronic stability and traction control systems.
Engine: Supercharged 6.2L V8
Power: 650HP & 650FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 3.5 Seconds
When first debuting the E30 gen of the now-legendary BMW M3 in 1986, the Bavarian brand essentially took a proven luxury sedan and bestowed it with a higher-performance powertrain and a selection of upgraded components — a recipe that would ultimately give way to one of the best sporty daily drivers in history. Coming standard with a manual six-speed transmission, the latest iteration of the mighty M3 is kicked along by a 473-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and features a full suite of M running gear, along with an M-equipped interior that’s received features like an available M Head-up display and M Carbon Bucket seats. BMW also offers the even more capable Competition and Competition xDrive versions of the M3, both of which make an additional 30hp while boasting 0-60mph times of 3.8 and 3.4 seconds, respectively.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L Inline-Six
Power: 473HP & 406FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.1 Seconds
Porsche 911 Carrera
For the last 60 years or so, Porsche’s wildly-iconic 911 has stood as a symbol of cutting-edge automotive performance, while still coming in a somewhat understated — yet thoroughly attractive — package that makes it a more sensible and mature choice for daily driving than practically any other modern supercar. The latest base model of this fabled sports car (the 911 Carrera) is powered by one of Porsche’s signature mid-mounted Boxer engines — in this case, a twin-turbocharged six-banger that allows the automotive icon to achieve 0-60mph runs in four seconds flat and clock a respectable top speed of over 180mph.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged Boxer Six
Power: 379HP & 331FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.0 Seconds
Nissan GT-R Premium
While some traditionalists have accused it of having too “video-gamey” of a feel, we’d argue that they’re missing the point of Nissan’s insanely-capable GT-R. Unlike models like the Lotus Elise that aim to deliver an analog feel, the GT-R sits at the other end of the spectrum, relying on a host of cutting-edge technology to deliver a sub-3-second 0-60mph time and a top speed of more than 200mph. And, while it does start at over $210,000, the even more suped-up NISMO-spec is always more than worth considering if you’re ever shopping for a new GT-R.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.8L V6
Power: 565HP & 467FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 2.9 Seconds
Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe
While on the surface the AMG GT Coupe might not seem like a very ideal choice for daily driving, though for being such an objectively high-performance machine, it actually has a surprising number of tame qualities to it that make it a remarkably comfortable yet still thoroughly exhilarating daily driver. Adjustable suspension allows this car to go from regular city driving to ultra-tight canyon carving at the touch of a button, dramatically changing the driving dynamics of the car. Plus, for being so powerful, it’s surprisingly easy to control, with confidence-inspiring steering that doesn’t give a “frisky” feel. Lastly, the futuristic, carbon fiber-laden, high-tech cabin of this model also makes it a pleasure to climb into — as does the sound of its 523-hp bi-turbo V8 firing up.
Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0L V8
Power: 523HP & 494FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 3.7 Seconds
The 20 Best True Driver’s Cars
Looking for an additional selection of rides that offer a spirited behind-the-wheel experience? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best true driver’s cars for well over a dozen of the best-handling high-performance models currently in production.
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