It's a tough time for yesterday's heroes. With the current automotive zeitgeist increasingly focused on economy, weight has become more relevant than sheer power, mechanical and electronic advancements have had an increasing effect on driving pleasure, downsizing has grown in importance, and design and engineering are guided not only by performance but by efficiency issues. That's why even the two newest members of this group of four performance coupes -- the Nissan GT-R and the Lotus Evora -- have, for different reasons, already started to show their age. The V-8-engined BMW M3 introduced in 2008 and the Porsche Cayman, which first came to market in 2006, are even longer in the tooth.
The good news is that all four of these cars have recently received a dash of modernity: BMW has developed a competition package for the M3, Lotus has added a supercharged S model to the Evora range, Nissan has refined and upgraded the GT-R, and Porsche has introduced a lighter and slightly more powerful R version of the Cayman. If speed were the sole decider in this matchup of extremely talented high-performance coupes, we would have one clear winner and three runners-up. After all, the Nissan GT-R continues to play in a performance league of its own.
In our testing, the 2012 GT-R hit 60 mph in an incredible 3.2 seconds, a mark that rivals any current Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche. But at 3829 pounds, Godzilla's own tarmac-peeler weighs 919 pounds more than the Cayman R, which explains why speed is not the only quality that matters. Still, the other three contestants had to come out of their shells to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds, according to their manufacturers' estimates.
The Cayman R with a PDK dual-clutch automatic and the Sport Chrono package requires 4.4 seconds to reach the 60-mph checkered flag, the M3 with a DCT dual-clutch automatic takes 4.5 seconds, and the Evora S (which is available only with a six-speed manual gearbox) needs 4.6 seconds. Not surprisingly, the Nissan also dominates the top-speed sweepstakes by hitting a claimed 197 mph against 175 mph for the Porsche, 172 mph for the Lotus, and a governed 155 mph for the BMW.