• Jaguar F Type

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car: 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

Note: Official category results will be revealed at the Montreal Auto Show in January and final results for Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year will be revealed at the Canadian International Auto Show in February. The following picks are our personal favourites.

Evan Williams By: Evan Williams November 10, 2019
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We here at Wheels.ca drive just about every new car every year, but driving one in January and one in November isn’t always the best way to compare two vehicles. Which is why the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year TestFest event is a great way to recalibrate and drive a whole class of new vehicles back to back. The event happens around Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, east of Toronto, and features plenty of driving on local roads. For performance cars like these, it also includes time on the Driver Development Track around the circuit and an autocross course. Both places where you can let a performance car really shine and test its mettle. Or test the metal, as the case may be.

Of course, cars are broken down into categories, with cars of similar intent battling it out for top spot.

Note: Official category results will be revealed at the Montreal Auto Show in January and final results for Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year will be revealed at the Canadian International Auto Show in February. The following picks are our personal favourites.

Fifth: Jaguar F-Pace SVR

You probably aren’t surprised to see an SUV at the bottom of this list, though you might be surprised to see it at all. But the F-Pace in SVR form is a monster. Plus if Jaguar was confident enough to let this bright blue monster on the track, we were more than happy to evaluate it.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

The SVR’s performance creds start with the 550 hp supercharged 5.0L V8 that sounds absolutely amazing. It’s enough that if most of your performance driving is done in a straight line or downtown, this should be your top pick. It delivers power everywhere in the rev range, and the eight-speed auto responds as quickly as you could hope for. And it may have had the best soundtrack of anything at the event.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

On the road, this one offers loads of room for five, even though the faux-racing seats and their “harness slots” should definitely only be used for normal three-point belts. What keeps this from a higher spot on the list are some things that might not be avoidable for an SUV, and a couple that definitely are. On road and track, the SVR could use some more suspension damping, especially in rebound. It couldn’t hide the floaty, heavy SUV feel coming off of dips. Similarly, this was the only vehicle I took on track that felt like it needed more brakes. On the inside, hard plastics and cheap-feeling buttons didn’t help the F-Pace’s case.

If you want a quick SUV with a hell of an engine, take this one. Otherwise, keep moving up the list.

Fourth: Mercedes-AMG C 43 Wagon

We have to thank Mercedes for giving us a wagon version of their second-hottest C-Class that isn’t available south of the border, but that doesn’t mean a free pass to the top of the list. The long-roof C 43 might offer a bit more stealth than the coupe or sedan versions, but if you’ve picked this 385 hp 3.0L twin-turbo V6 then the wonderful note from the exhaust is probably not going to keep the secret for long.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

With a fast-acting nine-speed automatic, and an adaptive AMG-tuned suspension, the C 43 wagon offers the same drive as the sedan and the coupe. Which means quick, though not as sharp or harsh (or quick) as the V8-powered 63s. Standard all-wheel drive, like most of the rest of this list, means the performance party continues all year long, and that roof rack is just asking for some summer bikes and winter skis. Plus it has crisp steering and a very well-damped ride that make the soundtrack even more enjoyable.

Ultimately, though, what keeps this one from a higher spot on the list is that there’s a quicker C-Class available. Even if you can’t have one as a wagon. The refreshed last year C is also missing the excellent Mercedes MBUX infotainment system, and up against that, the Command system is feeling a little less user-friendly and a little more dated. Still, if you want fast with space but can’t stand the idea of a small crossover, this is your best (maybe only) choice

Third: Jaguar F-Type

While most of the rest of this list nominates just one trim out of the range, the entire F-Type lineup is eligible for this class this year. That means the convertible and the coupe, and from the base 296 hp rear-drive turbo four to the 575 horse, supercharged 5.0L V8 of the SVR. Which might actually be to the car’s credit. Because if all your budget allows is the smaller engine, you’re still going to be happy. Because getting the RWD-only car with the lightest engine is certainly a performance car sweet spot when it comes installed in the gorgeous sheet metal sculpture that is the F-Type.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

We’ve called the smallest version “nothing to laugh at,” and commended the “communicative chassis, (and) quick steering rack.” The faster versions, of course, just ramp that up to varying degrees. Getting sharper, quicker, and more violent in their sound and power delivery, though in the SVR we wished for steering that had a bit more response on-centre.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

That last thing keeps this cat out of the higher spots, but so does the price. This is a quick cat, but it’s also a pricey one. The V8 versions are more expensive than the top car on this list, despite offering similar performance. The two together are difficult to ignore.

Second: Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S

Mercedes and AMG liked the GT coupe so much that they built a sedan. But not just any sedan, it’s a sedan that’s secretly a coupe. Ok, we’ll lay off, because this is one good-looking rocketship of a coupe-sedan. That’s thanks to the exquisite hand-built 4.0L twin-turbo V8 that lurks under the hood of the AMG 63 models. Here in S form, it makes 630 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, which it sends to all-four wheels. It’s a sharp-handling chassis that’s loaded with all the best tech to keep you moving quickly. Things like adaptive dampers, massive brakes, and even more massive tires and wheels. The all-wheel drive system comes with a drift mode for rear-out fun, or a race mode for when you decide to take things more seriously and get there in a hurry.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

Inside, this offers all the luxury you’d expect from a top-spec Mercedes, and that includes the digital dash as well as the MBUX infotainment system that’ll listen to almost anything you ask it to do. It’s an interior that will keep you coddled while you’re busy torturing tires around circuits or on-ramps.

What keeps this from the top of the list, ultimately, is the size and heft that comes with an AMG. This is a big car, with a big curb weight, and no amount of tech can give it the level of communication and driver involvement that our winner offers. The 21-inch wheels also don’t offer the ride that our top pick can when you’re tired of going all-out and are ready to drive home.

First: Porsche 911 Carrera

For decades, the 911 has been the quintessential performance car. It’s probably the first car you think of when the words performance car are mentioned. And there are some pretty good reasons for that beyond it having largely the same shape since Lester B. Pearson was in office. Porsche’s unique rear-engine balance has maybe been a bit of a compromise, but the automaker has worked it into the heart of the car. It allows for amazing traction on acceleration, they fixed the issues with oversteer on braking decades ago, and it gives the steering a lightness that can’t be matched by a front-engine model. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer feel, of course, because the massively thick steering wheel still has plenty to tell you as the 992-generation’s 380 hp 3.0L turbo flat-six rockets you out of corners.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

It’s the kind of car that inspires you to be a better driver, both on-circuit and on the road, with steering, brakes, and even throttle that seem a bit twitchy when you first start to go quickly but as you get better they’re there to respond to your every command. Even the ones you don’t realize you’re giving until your instructor points out that’s why the car is darting and diving. After this, everything else seems like it’s dialling out your inputs. They might do what you want, but this is doing what you ask.

Best Premium Sports and Performance Car 2020 Canadian Car of the Year

The massive rear fenders might look like they need dually markers in your side-mirrors, but behind the wheel this feels like a scaled-up version of Mazda’s MX-5, somehow offering all of that car’s directness with more power, less vibration, and a whole lot more comfort.

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