GearJunkie Motors Editor Bryon Dorr hits the backroads of Oregon and Washington in 24 of the latest performance cars to see what this new breed of fun machines has to offer.
I’ve been craving a sportscar of my own for some time now but haven’t figured out which one I really want. Luckily for me, I was able to get behind the wheel of a wide variety of the latest performance vehicles at the recent press event Run to the Sun, put on by the NW Automotive Press Association.
While I only got about 20 miles behind the wheel of each vehicle, I learned a lot about each of the amazing driving roads around the Columbia River Gorge. I’m a full-time automotive journalist, so I’m hypercritical and aware of many nuances of a vehicle, both good and bad. I was surprised at how much of a quality impression I could get of each vehicle over such a small distance.
The task set out for us by the event organizers was to pick the overall “most fun-to-drive vehicle” of the group, which was no easy task! Every one of the 24 vehicles in this event put a smile on my face for one reason or another.
Most Fun Car? I Tested These
- Honda Civic Type R
- Volkswagen Arteon
- Volkswagon Jetta GLI 35th Anniv Edition
- Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S
- Subaru Legacy XT
- Kia Stinger GTS
- Genesis G70
- Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Wide Body
- Toyota GR Supra Launch Edition
- Hyundai Veloster N
- Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge
- Lexus RCF Track Edition
- Nissan 370Z 50th Anniv Edition
- Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
- Mercedes-AMG G63
- Ford Explorer ST
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio
- Mini Countryman JCW
- Acura RDX R Spec
- Volvo XC90 T8
- Polaris Slingshot
- Mazda MX5 Miata RF
- Fiat 124 Abarth Spyder
- Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
While all of these vehicles were a ton of fun, some stood out from the pack as truly impressive fun machines. Here are a few I won’t soon forget.
7 Most Fun Cars
Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge
- Power: 624 hp, 642 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
- Top speed: 155 mph
- Price: $427,875
The Goliath in the pack, both in terms of size and price, was the Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge. It just feels special and unique; and while big and heavy, it’s not slow. Rallying it up some steep switchback roads was super fun — but also unnerving.
The huge, couchlike, fine-leather front seat has nearly no bolstering to keep you from sliding all over the place while spiritedly driving the car. The massive steering wheel is also a bit cumbersome when trying to hit corner apexes and be precise with the car.
The starry night headliner, center dash clock, suicide doors, and integrated umbrella are just a few of the touches that make this car like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Oh, and the Rolls is also as dead quiet inside as everyone says they are.
That isolation from all things outside is a bit unnerving at first, but then you realize how nice it is and crank up the truly impressive 16-speaker sound system.
Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S
- Power: 630 hp, 664 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 3.1 seconds
- Top speed: 195 mph
- Price: $184,285
The GT63 S is a big beautiful car. The sound it makes from its massive, handcrafted 4.0L Biturbo V8 is something to be appreciated. The interior is one of the nicest I’ve ever experienced. Every surface is a pleasure to the senses.
My one gripe with the expansive interior is how snug the driver’s foot box is, as the center console encroaches on this area. The car is full of over-the-top tech, like a carbon fiber trunk liner and active seat bolsters that hold you precisely in the seat while cornering.
Corvette C7 ZR1
- Power: 755 hp, 715 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 2.9 seconds
- Top speed: 212 mph
- Price: $142,075
I’ve driven the ZR1 on the track, and that’s where the car should live. It is an insanely easy car to drive at speeds more than twice what public roads allow for.
With the top removed, the car is a super fun open-air cruiser, but the suspension is very firm, the steering heavy and precise, and it is an extremely wide car. I have to admit: Having that much power on tap under my right foot was more than smile-inducing — and huge bonus points for the loud orange paint job.
Lexus RCF Track Edition
- Power: 472 hp, 395 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 3.96 seconds
- Top speed: 168 mph
- Price: $105,160
The Lexus RCF Track Edition is an absolute surgical weapon of a car. I’ve never driven a car that’s this precise in all ways. It’s an extremely confidence-inspiring car to drive way too fast. Luckily, the brakes are phenomenally good.
While I really like the big, Japanese exterior styling, I have little love for the faux black-and-red carbon accents on the interior. The trackpad-like infotainment system controls are also not intuitive at all. The super comfortable and supportive seats make driving this car an extreme pleasure.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD
- Power: 505 hp, 443 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 3.4 seconds
- Top speed: 177 mph
- Price: $94,340
The vehicle in this fleet that pleasantly surprised me the most was the Stelvio. This luxury sports SUV is one of the nicest vehicles I’ve ever had the opportunity to drive. The attention to detail on the interior is second to none, and the seats and steering wheel just feel amazing.
The sound this SUV makes from its Italian 2.9L Twin-Turbo V6 when you touch the throttle is addicting. However, the backseat is pretty useless, and the rear styling is something that very much had to grow on me a bit. For sure this is the best-handling, most smile-inducing SUV I’ve ever driven.
Toyota GR Supra Launch Edition
- Power: 335 hp, 365 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
- Top speed: 155 mph
- Price: $57,375
The new Supra is an extremely fun sportscar that excels in the twisties. The interior is quiet from road noise, but the exhaust sound is a bit much.
While it has lots of headroom, it has very little room for the driver’s knees, which creates an awkward driving experience for someone tall like me. Bottom line is that the new Supra is a really fun, true sportscar, but its price and driver ergonomics let it down.
Mazda MX-5 Miata Club RF
- Power: 181 hp, 151 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 5.8 seconds
- Top speed: 130 mph
- Price: $38,955
All discussions by car people about sportscars start and end with the Miata. This little fun machine is an amazing value, inexpensive to upgrade and maintain, and is extremely fun to drive spiritedly. The chassis, short-throw crisp manual transmission, and quality perky little four-cylinder engine combine to provide an exhilarating experience, especially when the road gets curvy.
I love the seats and steering wheel but did find the hard plastic on the center console rough on my right knee. The interior, in general, is of way better quality and feel than you’d expect out of this little economy sportscar. The exterior paint rolled over the top of the doors into the interior is a nice touch. The best part about the Miata? It’s super easy to slide the back end out and flick it around on demand.
The general rule of road sportscars holds true: It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
If you got the chance to strap yourself behind the wheel of one of these performance cars, which one would plaster the biggest smile across your face?