What makes a sports car great? For some, it is pure power. Others enjoy the connected feel of a low-power, lightweight backroad scalpel. And some value beauty above all else. Should it be front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive? These are the 10 best sports cars for 2021, covering a wide range of prices, power, looks, and even comfort. There's a sports car out there for every type of car lover. With so many options available, and 2021 looks exciting.
After 55 years, the 2021 Ford Mustang is still one of America's most popular sports cars. Since its redesign for 2015, the Mustang has come equipped with an independent rear suspension, meaning it is no longer just fast in a straight line. The standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine still delivers satisfying performance with the standard 310 horsepower or 330 with the High-Performance EcoBoost Package.
But the GT, with its 5.0-liter V8 engine making 460 horsepower, is the one to get. Equipped with the GT performance pack, this car is a bargain racer for the drag strip, track, and fun for twisty back roads. Those needing more power can step up to the Mach 1, which adds 20 horsepower, and some performance goodies from the Shelby GT350, no longer available for 2021.
Either engine comes standard with a manual transmission for those who like to row their own adventure. The 10-speed auto will make the car faster if shifting isn't your style, though. Any Mustang is a livable daily driver with cramped rear seats and a large trunk. The interior can also be outfitted with all the creature comforts you would expect, for all the less spirited driving in daily traffic. With a base price under $30,000, the Mustang is within reach for many buyers and one of the best sports car bargains.
The Chevy Camaro follows the same formula as the Mustang, a semi-practical, rear-wheel-drive sports car with reasonably potent entry-level options, up to insane track-oriented performance versions. The 275-horsepower turbo four-cylinder is not as satisfying to drive as the base Mustang, though. The V6 shines with smooth, more than adequate power delivery, and buyers should have no shame in rolling without the V8. Those looking for maximum power should step up to the 455-horsepower V8, though. Any engine can be optioned with the 1LE package, adding a different exhaust, track-focused suspension, and bigger brakes. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with an eight-speed automatic transmission for 4-cylinder cars and a 10-speed auto for the V6 and V8.
The ZL1 is a track day monster, offering the most performance per dollar of any high-performance pony car. With a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 pushing out 650 horsepower and 650 foot-pounds of torque, as well as a 1LE track package, this Camaro is an even more compelling track day weapon than the mighty Mustang GT500. Pricing for the Camaro starts at a base MSRP of $25,995, climbing to $65,695 for the ZL1.
When Chevrolet moved the Corvette's engine from behind the front axle to behind the seats, they transformed the car forever. Chevy said they had pushed the front-engine RWD Corvette about as far as physics would allow, and after teasing a mid-engine 'Vette for decades, they finally put one on sale in 2020. The Corvette is now a full-fledged supercar, but with a base price of just under $60,000, it does not come with the expected high price tag. Offered in both a coupe, with a lift-off Targa-style roof, or a convertible, every Corvette can go roofless. The 6.2-liter V8 engine makes 490 horsepower in base trim and can be upgraded to 495 with the performance Z51 Package.
Checking the Z51 box also adds larger brakes, a limited-slip differential, and stickier tires. All Corvettes feature an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. New paint, stripe, and interior colors are available for 2021 and standard wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Porsche 911 Turbo S
The Porsche 911 Turbo S is meant to be outrageous sometimes but civilized all of the time. The interior is as luxurious and comfortable as you would expect from Porsche. The 911 Turbo S is powered by a 640-horsepower, twin-turbo flat-six engine, turning all four wheels with an excellent all-wheel-drive system. That allows the fastest 911 to reach 60 mph from a stop in just over 2 seconds. It is also a stellar performer on the track, and a very useable grand touring car, with tiny back seats better suited to a couple of pieces of luggage than human beings.
All of this performance and luxury doesn't come cheap, with the 911 Turbo S coupe starting at $203,500 and convertible at $216,300. However, compared to offerings from other competitors like McLaren GT, Audi R8, or Mercedes-AMG GT, the Turbo S offers a more refined interior, better performance, and a more sophisticated cachet. Of course, plenty of tech features, like a large infotainment screen and premium Bose stereo, are standard.
Porsche 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster
The 2021 718 Boxster and Cayman share a spot on this list due to their similarity. They are the convertible and coupe versions of Porsche's mid-engine, entry-level sports car. Starting at around $60,000 for the base trim of either vehicle, they aren't exactly cheap. The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder making 300 horsepower. S models get a 2.5-liter making 350 hp, and the top-tier engine is a 4.0-liter flat-six making 394 hp. The 4-cylinder engines more than do the job, but the soundtrack from the flat-six is worth the extra money, particularly in the soft-top Boxster.
Both the Boxster and Cayman deliver excellent road manners and thrilling dynamics. They are not the quickest or most powerful options in their price bracket, but they are the most refined.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Every sports car list needs the Mazda MX-5 Miata. It is a lightweight, inexpensive, two-seater, rear-wheel drive convertible, available with the all-important manual transmission. With the Fiat 124 Spider discontinued for 2021 and Honda S2000 and Lotus Elise long gone, the Miata is the last of its kind. The redesign in 2015 brought weight and dimensions in line with that of the original roadster. Tipping the scales at a svelte 2300 lbs., the Miata's 181-horsepower four-cylinder delivers satisfying performance, if not outrageous. But not every job needs a sledgehammer, and the Miata is more about balance, making the power-to-weight ratio just right. A driver can take the Miata near its limit without much trouble. The six-speed manual transmission delivers extremely satisfying action and driver engagement.
The Miata is a real driver's car, but it's not the best on this list for long trips with a stiff ride and tiny trunk. Yet it delivers excellent sports car fuel economy, and drivers can expect a combined city/highway of 30 mpg. Starting price is $27,775 for the convertible, and $34,585 for the retractable roof (RF), making the Miata a more economical option. For those looking for an excellent convertible sports car with a low entry price, 2021 brings us the best Miata ever.
Hyundai Veloster N
Hyundai's first entry into the hot-hatchback segment was a revelation. The Hyundai Veloster N surprises with a standard 275 horsepower and 6-speed manual transmission and, new for 2021, an eight-speed dual-clutch automated transmission. Though the manual is more fun, the automatic is excellent and makes the Veloster even faster, pushing the 0-60 time below 5 seconds.
The Veloster delivers a firm ride, a little uncomfortable on rough roads but confidence-inspiring on the track or mountain switchbacks. And this is a hatchback, with a little third door to access the rear seats. Those seats also fold flat for maximum cargo capacity. The Veloster is a versatile grocery-getter, capable of delivering thrills and getting your stuff home from the big box store. With a base price of $33,255, it has the performance to match much more expensive cars on this list.
The Jaguar F-Type is one of the most beautiful cars on sale today. Its classic proportions are reminiscent of the gorgeous E-Type. Beyond its good looks, it's hard to beat the F-Type when it comes to aural pleasure, equipped with either the V6 or V8. The four-cylinder version is rear-wheel drive, while the two larger engines come standard with all-wheel-drive. for 2021. Four-cylinder cars get 296 horsepower, six-cylinder F-Types make 380, and eight-cylinder cars get up to 575. All engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Pricing ranges from $62,750 for the base P300 Coupe and into the triple-digits for the high-performance R models. But with prices that reach down to cars like the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman, Audi TT, and up to the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG G, the F-Type might offer something different for the driver who also wants some good looks and great engine sounds.
When it debuted in 2007, the GT-R was a shock to the sports car market. A "value-priced" competitor to the 911 Turbo, with a twin-turbo V6 engine, a tiny rear seat, and all-wheel-drive. Now the top-trim NISMO costs more than a 911 Turbo, and it is still based on the same car from over a decade ago. That said, Nissan used the last 14 years to fine-tune the GT-R into a more civilized monster. The newest GT-R truly is the best yet.
The NISMO now has 600 horsepower, enough to push this nearly 4,000-pound behemoth to 60 mph in 3 seconds flat. The base GT-R Premium starts at $115,335, while the NISMO is a staggering $212,535. Even at that price, the GT-R is worth looking at for those wanting a 911.
The new Supra took longer to arrive than the GT-R has been on the market, and when it did, it was polarizing. The styling is not for everyone, and the BMW-sourced parts disappointed Toyota purists, and there is no manual transmission available. But after a couple of years, the Toyota Supra is respected as an excellent driver's car.
The 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder offers smooth power delivery of 382 horsepower to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It gets from 0-60 mph in less than 4 seconds. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces a decent 255 horsepower and, paired with the same automatic, gets the car to 60 mph in well under 5 seconds. Pricing for the four-cylinder starts at $43,985, while the six-cylinder begins at $51,985. The Supra is an excellent option in the two-seat sports coupe category.
Bonus Entry: 2022 Subaru BRZ
The Subaru BRZ should be on this list -- were it offered for 2021. Instead, the 2022 BRZ will arrive sometime in 2021. Subaru already revealed the car and its engine. The new 2.4-liter boxer engine produces 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, a slight improvement that should address the old car's lack of power. A six-speed manual will standard and a six-speed automatic transmission will be available.
The styling is updated and looks more modern. Other updates include a slew of safety packages, 18-inch wheels, and stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. The evolution of an excellent driver's car should hit the spot. Keep in mind the BRZ has a rear seat that can fold down to accommodate a complete set of race tires and wheels. Toyota and Subaru designed the car to be used by enthusiasts, and the newest BRZ should be even more engaging.
Bonus Entry: 2022 Nissan 400Z
Without a 2021 Nissan 370Z, there is a Z-car-shaped hole in the market. Though the 370Z was dated, introduced in 2009, it was precisely the car many long for. A simple, naturally-aspirated engine, RWD, two-seater, with a manual transmission. Just as Nissan ended production of the 370Z, they showed off the Nissan Z Proto, expected to debut in production trim in time for 2022 as the 400Z. A twin-turbo V6 engine with around 400 horsepower, likely be paired with a manual or automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels, will provide the power.
The 400Z should keep the things that made its predecessors loved by fans and update the interior to modern expectations. The full LCD gauge cluster and touchscreen infotainment should complement three analog gauges oriented toward the driver. Exterior styling is pure Z, with the nose taking cues from the original 240Z and the taillights mimicking the second-generation 300ZX from the 1990s. Expect the Nissan 400Z in late 2021.