Ten of the Best-Handling Cars on Earth for 2020
If you love setting corners on fire, you can’t go wrong with any of these performance cars.
We spend a lot of time debating all manner of merits for all manner of cars, including performance, utility, multimedia systems, and where they rank within their respective vehicle classes. From sedans to crossovers to EVs and more, there's never a shortage of new automotive offerings to assess. But we're drivers at our core. Practicality be damned, the driving experience is what we relish most, and is what we look for more than anything when we ponder throwing down our own (imaginary) cubic dollars in search of the ultimate four-wheeled rush. This list is certainly by no means exhaustive, but here are 10 cars that beg you to push them to their physical limits, and that reward you hugely for doing so.
2020 BMW M2 Competition | Price: $59,895
BMW absorbed plenty of criticism from longtime fans in recent years who complained its cars had grown to big, too fat, and too far removed from what for decades made them so popular amongst enthusiast drivers. The M2 Competition put a lot of those grumblings to rest, proving itself so good that we last year named it an Automobile All-Star. At 3,665 pounds, it's still on the heavy side for what is a relatively small car, but it boasts a fine balance that makes it a satisfyingly engaging machine to drive on the twistiest roads and racetracks you can find. With the S55 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine as BMW also uses in the M3 and M4, detuned slightly to make 405 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, it's quick in a straight line, too. The taut suspension is playful and lively, and a workable rear end allows for fun chassis rotation on corner-entry as you make exceptionally quick work of apexes.
2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE | Price: $44,995
Some people still might not think of Chevrolet's pony car as a first choice for handling, but it's a legitimate driver's car. Yes, many might focus on its 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 , 455 horsepower, 455 lb-ft of torque, and its 4.1-second zero-to-60 time. But its outstanding brakes and suspension setup allow it to do things that only a few years ago defied the laws of physics. With the $7,000 1LE Track Performance Package—the regular facelifted 2020 SS is pictured above— the Camaro rises to another level thanks to Brembo brakes, plus an electronic limited-slip differential, front splitter, rear spoiler, GoodYear Eagle F1 Supercar 3 tires, and upgraded suspension featuring magnetic ride control. Like the M2 Competition, the SS 1LE is no lightweight at 3,685 pounds, but it still finds its way around corners at breakneck pace. The result is a smoking good time on the track, thanks to impressive apex speeds and a chassis that laughs off curb attacks while doing so. Back roads and stop-light racers alike, beware.
2020 Ferrari 488 Pista | Price: $345,300
Whenever Ferrari names a model after its famous Pista di Fiorano private test track in Maranello, you expect nothing short of rail-splitting precision in the handling department. The 488 Pista is no exception, and that's also no surprise when you consider how capable the standard 488 GTB is. Sure, Ferrari's new F8 Tributo is the new king of Ferrari's mid-engine lineup, but a lot of the Pista's hardware forms the basis of that new car, starting with its 3.9-liter twin-turbo V-8. With 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque under your right foot, combined with dazzling chassis balance and Ferrari's sensational Side Slip Control driver-aid algorithm, the 488 Pista makes even the most novice of driver look like a burgeoning talent—as long as they have the cojones to put their foot down and get the rear tires sliding. From there, it's a cinch to keep the Pista moving at gut-busting slip angles. If there's a downside, it might be that once someone gets used to a car like this, they might get in trouble attempting the same antics in other high-powered vehicles that don't forgive a lack of talent so mercifully.
2020 Ford Mustang GT350/GT350R | Prices: $61,535/$74,530
Like its Chevrolet Camaro rival, Ford's Mustang has not always been the enthusiast's choice for corner carving. But if you still doubt what the platform can do, climb aboard the Shelby GT350 or GT350R—winners of a 2016 All-Stars award—and it won't take long for you to have a revelation. Ford has updated both models within the past year (click the last two links to read our reviews), infusing them with lessons learned during the development of the all-new Mustang kingpin, the GT500. The standard GT350 received grippier Michelin rubber and suspension revisions including new spring rates and recalibrated magnetic shocks, plus the addition of available camber plates. The GT350R has standard, weight-slashing carbon-fiber wheels, rear-seat delete, a revised front suspension knuckle, retuned steering, and recalibrated ABS behavior to help assist corner-entry rotation. Each car uses the same screaming 5.2-liter overhead-cam V-8, good for 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque, and its flat-plane crank architecture ensures it is one of the best automotive soundtracks available to the public. But the best part is, both GT350s are easier than ever to drive, their improvements refining the overall experience while upping their capability level—and somehow, if anything, reducing the intimidation factor. That's no small accomplishment.
2020 Honda Civic Type R | Price: $37,230
If it seems strange that just about every member of the Automobile staff thinks the Honda Civic Type R is fugly, and yet to a person we all deem it one of our favorite cars in a decade, well, there's a simple explanation: This is the best-handling, most-impressive front-drive performance car we've ever come across for sale in our market, and it was a shoo-in to win one of our 2018 All-Stars awards. It doesn't torque-steer to any meaningful degree, it rotates into corners with giggle-inducing eagerness, and it produces racetrack lap times on par with some significantly more expensive, rear-drive sports cars. It's quick in a straight line, too, thanks to 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft from its 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. In fact, its 5.4-second time for the 0-60 run is deceiving, as the Type R delivers delicious midrange punch and builds speed quickly once you're rolling, to the tune of a 168-mph top end. So good is this Civic at tearing curves apart, we mourned its departure from our long-term test fleet for weeks after it left, and championship-winning sports car racer and Automobile contributor Andy Pilgrim bought one of his own to thrash on racetracks; a year later he traded it in for…another Civic Type R. Strong endorsements, indeed.
2020 Hyundai Veloster N | Price: $30,420 (w/ Perf. Pkg)
The loss of the Civic Type R from our Four Seasons long-term test stable was at least softened by the fact we have another All-Star in the form of Hyundai's Veloster N sitting in our garage. Don't think twice about it: This is the best driver's car Hyundai has built to-date. And that makes sense, considering the Korean automaker hired engineering/handling mastermind Albert Biermann away from BMW's lauded M division to work on it, among other cars. If you order one, make sure you select the $2,100 Performance package, which includes stickier Pirelli tires, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, a sport exhaust, and an extra 25 horsepower, pushing the 2.0-liter turbo-four's output to 275. Thus armed, the Veloster N ("N" for "Nürburgring") is a joy to drive hard, with a slick six-speed manual shifter, good chassis feel, and a wide range of adjustability at your fingertips for the suspension, steering, diff, and engine. (A word of caution: Stay out of Sport+ when it comes to the suspension unless you enjoy paying astronomical chiropractor bills.) The key to driving the Veloster N is to not be afraid to plug its nose into corners, otherwise the balance leans a bit too far toward understeer, but once you figure it out, you'll be happy with what you find. No, it's not as good—or should we say, its limits are not as high—as the Civic Type R, but for thousands less, it's right where it needs to be, and then some. And it's spitting, cracking, popping exhaust never fails to catch passersby off-guard as it makes you smile with every overrun.
2020 McLaren 600LT | Price: $242,500
When McLaren returned to the road-car ring back in 2011 with its MP4-12C coupe, it signaled a challenge to the world's established sports-car manufacturers that they had a new opponent—and one steeped in motor-racing bona fides. But while McLaren's first modern production-car efforts were bullet fast down an open road, they left something to be desired in the handling-balance department, tending to understeer into oblivion at the edge of adhesion. Systematically, McLaren chipped away at it, and perhaps no other car in its lineup—save the hyper-focused, track-oriented Senna model—represent the leap it has made better than the 600LT. For a street-legal vehicle, it feels like a formula race car, with fast-twitch reflexes and a view of the road ahead rivaled by few competitors. After flicking it around the Streets of Willow road course last year, feeling every dynamic twist through the steering wheel and the seat of our pants, we needed little deliberation to select it as a 2019 All-Star. The nose turns-in aggressively, the tail works as one with your brain, and when you catch a glimpse in the mirror of the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8's top-mounted exhausts spitting 592-hp flames behind you, well, there's nothing else you'd rather be in as you blaze to the limit of your abilities—which is almost certainly below that of the 600LT's.
2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R | Price: $163,895
An Automobile All-Star for 2018, the Mercedes-AMG GT R impressed us during our evaluation drives on public roads—and then it blew us away once we put it on a twisty racetrack. That's not something we tended to say, or perhaps ever said, about Mercedes-AMG offerings just a few short years ago, but the GT R proves there is some seriously smart dynamics engineering occurring within the company's walls. The two-seater's long hood and front-mounted 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 might make you think it's an awkward car to wheel to the edge, but somehow it's the opposite; this chassis delivers insane corner-entry turn-in, mid-corner stability, and a complete lack of drama. Meanwhile, the cockpit offers an almost-perfect performance-driving setup in terms of pedals, steering wheel, and seats, yet the car is surprisingly comfortable just cruising leisurely down the road as well. And with 577 horsepower and 516 lb-ft, you'll have the option of setting freeways ablaze just as easily as you blitz the stopwatch during your weekend track days, making fools of your friends and their cars—and proving that this AMG offering is one of the division's best of all time.
2020 Porsche 718 Spyder/Cayman GT4 | Prices: $97,650/$100,550
We could have a put all of Porsche's sports cars on this list, from the standard, new 911 to the previous-generation 911 GT3, GT3 RS, and GT2 RS. But we'll go with the German manufacturer's latest curve killers, the 718 Spyder (don't call it a Boxster) and Cayman GT4. After testing them recently, our in-house pro racer Andy Pilgrim said they might be the best-handling production cars he's ever driven, thanks in part to a new underbody and rear diffuser, increased overall aerodynamic downforce, reprogrammed active dampers, and new springs and antiroll bars. The result is a chassis that likes to rotate yet remains stable; it's mid-engine balance seems to never meet a combination of turns it can't dismiss with ease. Making the entire experience even better is a fantastic six-speed manual gearbox, a new development of Porsche's 4.0-liter normally aspirated flat-six with 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft, and exceptional brakes. These are the 718s we've been waiting for, and then some.
2020 Toyota Supra | Price: $50,920
After years—21 of them, to be exact—of anticipation, the new, fifth-generation Toyota Supra has hit the street, and what a way to come out of the gate, snorting along with its 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six. Yes, it was developed in conjunction with BMW's new Z4, but do we care? Not after driving this 335-hp, 365-lb-ft coupe. This is Toyota's counter to Porsche's Cayman, and it delivers a similar feeling of oneness to its driver. At the same time, the more you drive them, the more you realize where the two cars differ. The Cayman tolerates, and at times even rewards, aggressive inputs; the Supra prefers calm steering action to get the most out of it, as its rear end will dance through corners if you're too aggressive on the wheel. Not in a dangerous, snappy manner, mind you, but it's just not the quickest way around a corner to get so slidey. Find the sweet spot, though, and you feel connected to the Supra in a rare way, especially when you realize you can drive it hard on either the front or rear tires, depending on your driving style. Put simply, the Supra's chassis setup makes it comfortable and compliant on the street, and a riot on the racetrack. If you had any doubt about Toyota's sports car, we're here to tell you: This is the real deal.
The Best-Handling Cars You Can Buy for 2020
- 2020 BMW M2 Competition | Price: $59,895
- 2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE | Price: $44,995
- 2020 Ferrari 488 Pista | Price: $345,300
- 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350/GT350R | Prices: $61,535/$74,530
- 2020 Honda Civic Type R | Price: $37,230
- 2020 Hyundai Veloster N | Price: $30,420 (w/ Perf. Pkg)
- 2020 McLaren 600LT | Price: $242,500
- 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R | Price: $163,895
- 2020 Porsche 718 Spyder/Cayman GT4 | Prices: $97,650/$100,550
- 2020 Toyota GR Supra | Price: $50,920