The image of cars in a showroom
This is really one category, grouped by price, split into two sub-categories, based on the nature of the vehicles.
The two “Amurrican” muscle cars — the Camaro and Shelby Mustang — don’t really share much with two German roadsters, apart from four wheels, but here we are.
Judging from the results, AJAC testers preferred the German cars.
Best Sports Performance car over $50,000:
Price (base/as tested): $56,500/$73,470
The 2013 Porsche Boxster, which was selected the winner of this category, is a very handsome and upgraded remake of the original. It still shares some parts with big brother 911, but is more its own car now.
The biggest gains were made where you can see them — roomier interior, with more comfort and convenience features, and vastly better trim quality.
As is the story everywhere these days, even the base model has more horsepower (265), so performance is significantly upgraded too.
Thanks to Porsche’s currency price adjustment scheme introduced a few years ago to account for the strength of the Canadian dollar, the Boxster you buy today costs fewer dollars than what you would have paid 10 years ago — for a much nicer car.
Don’t you love good news stories?
Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
Price (base/as tested): $80,500/$94,980
The SLK has always been more of a cruiser than a blood-and-guts sports car.
This is reinforced when you step inside and note the beautifully-appointed interior, and note the disappearing roof that turns a snug coupe into an open roadster.
Yes, it does compromise trunk space, but when you are travelling light, you at least have the drop-top option; you don’t have to use it.
But when you fire up the twin-turbo V8 engine, developed by Mercedes-Benz’s in-house skunkworks AMG, the car’s image changes in a right quick hurry.
The little car rockets ahead with surprising alacrity, and the suspension — also tuned by the mavens at AMG — keeps thing well under control.
The only fly in the ointment is that the paddle-shifted automatic transmission is a bit slow to react to driver-induced downshifts which blunts the performance feel.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Price (base/as tested): $58,500/$60,495
Take a slightly de-tuned version of the mighty Corvette ZR1’s supercharged 6.2 litre V8 engine, stuff it into the Camaro body, up-rate the suspension with GM’s brilliant Magnetic Control Ride system, add big brakes from Italian race-car brake manufacturer Brembo, dress the car up with some genuine downforce-generating body mods and there you have the ZL1 — the hottest Camaro ever.
Oh, yes, and also build it in one of GM’s top-quality factories — in Oshawa, Ont.
Our tester was a six-speed manual — essentially, the same transmission as in the Ford Shelby Mustang (see below).
Unlike the Shelby, the ZL1 does offer an automatic, and according to Chevy’s internal test data, it is actually a bit quicker 0-100 km/h than the stick!
There is also a convertible, although only the coupe was entered.
The ZL1 is very quick on the track — it laps the famed Nurburgring Nordschleife in about seven minutes and 40 seconds, faster than cars costing orders of magnitude more.
Yet it is entirely tractable on the street too. Assuming you can live with the plasticky interior and the too-deep-bathtub seating position, that is.
Ford Shelby Mustang
Price (base/as tested): $61,699/$73,623
This car is a sledgehammer.
662 supercharged horsepower make it the most powerful production V8-engine car in the world.
A six-speed manual gearbox (automatic-only drivers need not apply) and a clutch that might require a few visits to the gym take care of delivering the urge to the rear wheels.
The suspension and steering can be adjusted to your preference; the latter will always be on the firm side.
So if you’re looking for a car to cruise to the office day in and day out — er, probably not. But if your weekends typically involve heading to your nearest race track to test your mettle against the laws of physics, then step right up.
And the Shelby name means a great deal to these customers. As it should.