To many consumers, the best luxury sports cars all tend to look the same --- expensive. When everything costs in the high 5- or 6-figure price range, it’s hard to look past that and see what the real differences are. That’s why many struggle to do so, and the result is often people considering the “best” as whatever is offered by a particular brand that they like personally. Ask them to elaborate on that and they probably can’t.
Below we dive into the details of some of our favorite vehicles in the segment and on the market right now. Before that, though, here’s some background on what makes a truly great luxury sports car.
What Makes a Great Luxury Sports Car?
As the name suggests, the two principal ingredients for a quality luxury sports car are luxury and athletic sporty performance capabilities. How are these two things best demonstrated?
Some sports cars are definitely fast, powerful and expensive, but couldn’t really be called “luxury” cars because they lack the fine trappings and features that make a car thus. Luxury can be defined as fine, soft-touch materials like Merino or Nappa leather, hand-stitched detailing, and not an inch of cheap plastic in sight. You’ll see brushed metal, piano black, real wood veneers, and perhaps a touch of the old world such as an analog clock.
Additional luxury elements are now also found in the digital realm. A luxurious car will feature sleek electronics, including a fully digital instrument cluster with eye-catching and easy-to-read graphics, as well as a large central touchscreen infotainment display. It will also be resplendent with ADAS features that make driving more comfortable and reassuring for any driver. These are the principal luxury elements.
The “sports car” element demands strong performance capabilities. Your typical sports car will feature a V6, V8, V10 or V12 engine (but not always), and horsepower usually in the 400-500-hp range if it’s a “supercar” type of vehicle, but it can be as low as 100-200-hp depending on the model year and brand.
The really important thing, arguably more important than power, is handling. A sports car has to have superlative handling, and will usually come with additional hardware designed to facilitate such handling, including great tires, suspension and wheelbase. It will also have an effective weight distribution, low center of gravity, and additional aerodynamic qualities in the body that allow air to flow over the vehicle, creating downforce.
Putting it All Together
Therefore, the best luxury sports cars are those that can best combine these various qualities. Overall, sports cars are more likely to sacrifice luxury in favor of performance, but the ones below, we feel, get the balance just right.
Our Favorite Luxury Sports Cars
1. BMW M4 Competition (MSRP from $71,800)
Although the BMW M4 in its newest form has been the subject of some controversy over the design of its front grille, the M4 is undoubtedly among the very best high-performance luxury cars on the market today. It’s powered by a 3.0L twin-turbocharged straight-six BMW engine with so much room to augment and increase the vehicle’s capabilities such as coilover suspension, titanium exhausts, forged wheels and much more. In short, it’s loaded with track DNA, but isn’t short of creature comforts, either.
On the inside you get the ultimate supportive sports seats, pleasing metal finishes on the pedals, all-digital instrument cluster with large central infotainment touchscreen, brushed metal and sporty vivid color finishes to complement the high-energy exterior.
The use of carbon fiber on the inside and out also makes not just for nice finishes, but durable and high-quality materials everywhere you look. If you're looking for a clean option with a more reasonable price, they have great CPO options as well.
2. Chevrolet Corvette (MSRP from $60,900)
One of America’s most iconic sports car marques is also among the most affordable in the high end sports car bracket. The 2021 model is actually available from $59,900, with leasing options also available , making it the first car in this category to break the $60,000 threshold. The Corvette features a mid-mounted 6.2L V8 engine outputting about 495-hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. It’ll rocket from 0 to 60 in just 3 seconds.
It also comes with many options to further enhance performance, including Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires, a higher rear axle ratio, adaptive suspension and more. The interior features a driver-oriented cockpit, supportive sports seating, an 8” touchscreen, 14-speaker audio system, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and more. It’s surprisingly comfortable and luxurious for a car that appears bound for a racetrack.
3. Porsche Cayman ( MSRP from $59,900 )
The Porsche Cayman received rave reviews from all kinds of outlets for its performance, and one of its most powerful signature engines is a 350-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes the Cayman quite special in our list as a 4-cylinder rather than a V6, V8 or higher. The most powerful, however, remains a V6 which you can find on the Cayman GT4 and GTS models, outputting 400-hp. While it's no 911 when it comes to power , the Cayman has more of a focus on finesse and luxury than the sportier models.
The mid-engine layout means you get a rear trunk and a “frunk” (front trunk), and while it’s among the smallest cabins in our list, the Cayman offers a great deal of comfort and elegance. It couldn’t be higher on the list because there are one or two pieces of cheaper plastic, but still very little compared to a typical hatchback or sedan car. The airwaves are made luxurious with a 10-speaker Bose audio system as standard, or an optional 12-speaker Burmester system.
4. Lexus LC 500 (MSRP from $93,050)
The luxury wing of Toyota isn’t always a brand people initially think of when they think of sports cars. It’s perhaps better known for its more luxurious sedans and SUVs. The LC 500 is obviously an exception to that rule, and comes as a hardtop model or convertible.
Under the hood of the LC 500 you’ll find a naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 engine with a 471-hp output paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s therefore not the most powerful in our list, but it’s still likely the liveliest Lexus you’ll ever drive.
Where Lexus did not let anyone down is with the interior quality. The interior is full of high-quality, soft-touch materials, as well as very roomy, comfortable and supportive seats and there’s even plenty of room in the rear, which isn’t common on sports cars, of course.
What big and tall drivers like is that this is one luxury sports car that’s easy to get into and out of despite having a typical low profile. It’s main interior downside is the infotainment system, which is a little outdated.
Top Exotic Sports Cars in 2021
For those with excessive cash to spare or just enjoy browsing the trappings of the ultra wealthy, we also put together some of our favorite luxurious but performance-focused cars that sit nicely within the exotic segment.
1. Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Omologata (STO - MSRP from $327,838)
To look at the Lamborghini Huracan it can be hard to imagine how the angular sporty design could possibly be so matched with sumptuous and luxurious interiors. Lamborghini has always been about producing luxury street-legal sports cars --- it’s where it differs from its racetrack-oriented competitor, Ferrari --- so actually Lambo produces some of the best interiors.
The Huracan STO is powered by a very impressive 5.2L naturally aspirated V10 engine paired with a RWD drivetrain and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Besides the sea of soft-touch Alcantara and fine finishes on the inside, the rest of the Huracan STO can also be summed up by “ergonomic perfection.”
The sloping center controls are there if you need, but just about everything else is controlled from the unique and supremely soft and comfortable Lamborghini steering wheel.
2. Audi R8 (MSRP from $146,500)
The R8 is top of the pile in the eclectic Audi selection and is a stunning example of superlative dynamism and aerodynamic capability. The ultra-low center of gravity makes high-speed performance, especially on tricky corners both a breeze and a pleasure, especially when you factor in Audi’s signature quattro AWD technology.
Its most powerful engine is the V10 Performance model (MSRP $197,000) which is a 5.2L V10 with an output of 602-hp and 413 lb-ft. The standard drive train is RWD, but you can go for the Audi AWD option for even greater control.
The interior is somewhat more minimalist than other cars in the list, but it’s impossible to deny its broader elegance. The many digital enhancements like a 12.3” digital gauge cluster and a 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system add those tones of luxury that otherwise would leave this as a plain but solid sports car only.
Photo by: Alexander Migl
3. Aston Martin DBS Superleggera (MSRP from $304,995)
Aston Martin couldn’t be left off this list, of course, but the question would always be which model fits our criteria best? Our answer is the DBS Superleggera, which has under the hood a 5.2L twin-turbo V12 gasoline engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Technically it’s a grand tourer model, but 715-hp being sent to the rear wheels makes for one hell of a sports car. It’ll launch from 0 to 60-mph in just 3.4 seconds.
On the inside, soft-touch, quilted and embossed leather is the order of the day when it comes to seating upholstery with beautiful contrast Aston Martin stitched logos and lining. The front of the DBS is roomier than you might think, too, with ample storage, which together help add a grandiose dimension to the design.
The DBS Superleggera is of course blessed with dynamic drive controls, digital instrument cluster and infotainment, and much more.
4. Bentley Continental GT Speed
Completing our list today is the Bentley Continental GT Speed. When you think of Bentley cars, you most likely picture huge, wide grand tourers with massive front grilles and great-big carriage doors. Of course, Bentleys have always been quite fast despite the size because of the enormous V12-style engines under the hoods.
The Continental GT Speed has a top speed of 208mph and its standard W12 engine can get the car from 0 to 60 in just 3.5 seconds. That’s what you get when your engine produces 650-hp and 664 lb-ft of torque.
The exterior is sleeker and more dynamic than your typical Bentley grand tourer, finished with athletic lines and sloping curves to make a unique and unforgettable look. On the inside, Bentley spared no expense in ensuring not a single bit of cheap plastic is used.
Typical interiors get quilted leather upholstery with microfiber detailing throughout, optional carbon fiber detailing on the dashboard, and a rotating infotainment screen that turns your 3-dial old-world center display into a thing of digital beauty.
Not Forgetting the Classics
We shouldn’t forget that many of the above models, and other sports car brands, have been around for a long time and have classic versions or sibling models that make for worthwhile investments. Some sports cars from the 1990s and 2000s are in fact great cars to invest in now for potential profit down the road, for example the 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10, the 1999 Honda S2000, the 1989 Acura NSX and others.
“Classic” no longer means that it’s from the 1950s, 60s, or 70s. As the 80s and 90s get increasingly distant, the definitions begin to shift and luxury sports cars from yesteryear that you never thought much of can actually become hidden treasures. It’s definitely worth thinking about.
Conclusion: Lists Can and Will Change
The above cars are all great cars in the 2021 and 2022 model years to enjoy and luxuriate in, but remember that no such list will remain definitive for long. If you’re in the market for something new, or even a hardly-used version of one of the above models, then you should be clear on what balance of luxury and performance you either want or need.
The world of luxury cars and sports cars has never been more rich with choice, so take your time to study the options carefully. Never underestimate the ability of a brand you’ve never driven or owned before to win you over. In a world of cut-throat automotive market competition, every brand and their dealerships are eager to please.