Product Reviews
Take Action

Save Net Neutrality

Preserve an open internet where you can access websites without barriers. Make your voice heard by standing up for net neutrality.
Take Action
Why Do We Have Campaigns?
We're fighting to ensure you and your family can get a fair deal in the marketplace, especially on the choices that matter most: health care, privacy, automobiles, food, finances and more. Join our campaigns and together, we'll hold corporations and lawmakers accountable.

5 hottest performance cars at the Detroit Auto Show

Automakers from around the globe revealed their take on modern performance

Published: January 15, 2014 06:00 PM

At the Detroit auto show, we were struck by the diversity of high-performance machines being offered from across the globe. Every manufacturer, naturally, has their own spin on going fast, giving car shoppers and dreams a diverse array of choices.

In narrowing our picks, there were a handful of others worth mentioning that didn’t make the final cut. First off, the redesigned Ford Mustang with its four, six, and eight-cylinder engines provides many muscle car flavors, but Ford choose to introduce this car last month. Not technically a Detroit car.

The Porsche 911 Targa conjures an instant smile for its clear visual connection to early, silver-banded Targas and the mechanical ballet it performs when raising the removing the roof and stowing it in the back. This is just another variant of an established car, but still, it’s pretty cool.

The Mini Cooper John Cooper Works was also tempting, as past versions have been endlessly entertaining on the track. But performance details were too thin to assess.

So, we stuck with cars that truly peg the needle and are going on sale in the year ahead. We present, the hottest performance cars from Detroit:


BMW welcomes the latest generation of M3s, now separated to M3 sedan and M4 coupe (shown). These new Ms are lighter than their porky predecessors, enabling blistering performance from an inline six-cylinder engine, rather than the former sledgehammer V8. In this case, it’s a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter that belts out 425 hp. Traditionalists will take heart knowing that a six-speed manual transmission will be available. But our guess is that most buyers will choose the seven-speed M Double Clutch automatic. BMW claims that drivers can sprint 0-60 mph in a rapid 3.9 seconds with that transmission, slightly quicker than using a manual gearbox. Where the rear-drive M3/M4 are expected to shine is in the twisties, especially on the track, where they aim to further build on the defining characteristics that make BMW’s “ultimate driving machine” tagline a legitimate claim.

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

A new, heritage-inspired Chevrolet Corvette variation with more sting, the Z06 bridges the gap between a traditional Corvette and the full-bore C7R race car, sharing many elements of each to create a street-legal, track-ready sports car. The heart of this beast is a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 generating 625 horsepower, available with a choice of seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.  Helping put this brute force to the tarmac, the Z06 has huge rubber measuring 1.5 inches wider up front and 2 inches wider in the rear than the meats on a Stingray. Aerodynamic enhancements aim to provide more downforce, aiding track stability at higher speeds. The Z07 package expands on the standard kit with an even more dramatic front splitter winglets and an adjustable see-through rear spoiler section. Other visible modifications aim to route cooling air where it is needed, and further visually distinguish this lust-worthy sports car.

Lexus RC F

This Japanese take on the muscle car boldly throws the gauntlet down in Motor City. Based on the coming, all-new RC sport coupe, the RC F takes this new rear-drive platform to the extreme with a 450-hp, 5.0-liter V8 engine. This prodigious power is routed through an eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission to the rear wheels with a torque-vectoring differential. Lexus says there will be no AWD variant. This new differential offers three driver-selected modes: Standard, Slalom, and Track. Specific performance claims were not offered, but Lexus says the car will be faster than the IS F and offer better fuel economy. Consider it be the long-awaited heir to the Toyota Supra, wrapped in a more prestigious package.

Subaru WRX STi

Ever eager to tap its rally racing heritage and in-house development team, Subaru has cranked its latest Impreza sedan up to 11 with the introduction of the big-winged WRX STi. As in the past, Subaru has elevated a humble commuter into to a track terrorizing, turbocharged beast by fortifying the suspension, boosting the turbo output, enhancing the brakes, and dressing it up for business. There is no mistaking the STi, with its wide fenders, aggressive intakes and hood scoop, picnic-ready wing, and available gold wheels. As a nod to performance purity, it is only available with a six-speed manual transmission. The real magic with the STi has been in how all that high-pressure horsepower is transmitted to the ground at all four corners. Past examples have been tremendous fun on the track, yet relatively benign in suburbia. Hopefully, this delicate balance continues.

Volkswagen Golf R

As Volkswagen prepares its next-generation Golf for sale in the United States, the German automaker is rapidly introducing tempting variations, with the diesel, GTI, e-Golf, and now the range-topping Golf R. This version employs permanent all-wheel-drive. It gets its power from the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the GTI, but with output cranked up to 290-hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque that comes on at just 1500 rpm. Volkswagen says that will catapult this hot hatchback to from 0-60 mph in a blistering 4.9 seconds with its optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. That’s certifiable muscle car acceleration. Aiming for more than straightline thrills, a Dynamic Chassis Control option gives the Golf R adjustable suspension with three driving modes: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Further, a driving profile selector offers individual settings for different drivers, allowing different throttle, transmission, and suspension tuning settings. It also has a Race mode that delivers maximum performance on the track and won’t beat you up on the way home after you turn it off.

See our complete coverage of the 2014 Detroit auto show.

Jeff Bartlett

Find Ratings

Sports cars Ratings

View and compare all Sports cars ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Cars News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more