The year is 2021, electric car sales are growing exponentially, automatic gearboxes are rife, and petrol prices are on the rise again. But the sportscar still isn’t dead. Let’s take a moment to celebrate that fact, and to recognise the driver’s cars that you can still order brand-new today. Or, second-hand, soon…
2022 Toyota GR86 / Subaru BRZ
I’m a huge fan of drivers’ cars, and an even bigger fan of the old GT86 too (hell I raced one for long enough). After Toyota lost their way for a decade, their return to regularly producing sportscars has been slow but steady. Now the 86 is back, alongside the Supra and GR Yaris, and it jumps up a whole class too.
Thanks to a larger, 230hp, 2.4-litre engine, the new GR86 (and its Subaru-badged cousin) steps into the 2.5-litre category here at the Nürburgring Langstrecken Series (NLS, formerly VLN). That’s big news around here, as Klasse V4 has been slowing down for a couple of years.
Once upon a time it was common to see over 25 BMW 325i banging door-handles at every race, but the snappily-named VT2 (2.0ltr turbos) have been eating into the V4 grid for the last few years. As E90s get older, less sexy and less relevant, V4 has dropped into single-figure start numbers recently.
Maybe the new Suba-yota can reverse that trend, while also providing a great basis for a ringtool at the same time? It’s quite possible that a lot of the know-how, and maybe parts, from the TME-developed GT86 might just transfer over to the new car. And if they don’t, it’ll be fun to see if Gazoo Racing bring a GR to the N24 or NLS.
2021 Hyundai i20N
The constant march towards laptimes and performance has left some hot-hatches feeling a little bit numb. For example, the Golf 7 GTi Clubsport, for all of its awesomeness, is a little bit dull to lap in stock form. When Hyundai brought out the i30 N, offering 2013 performance at a 2018 price, I wasn’t that impressed. But the sensation of driving the Golf-sized i30 N is widely praised, and its engineering pedigree suggests a performance car that’s better than its spec sheet.
Now Hyundai are launching into a segment dominated by some VERY exciting cars, and the i20 N is getting similar reviews to its bigger cousin.
And, with an LSD as stock, and over 200hp in an 1100kg car, this is another manual-gearbox, three-pedal hoonigan that might well make a great ringtool AND a great N24/NLS car. Klasse VT1, if you were wondering.
2020 Porsche 718 T
The little two-litre turbo Cayman might not have too many fans, but I think it’s great. Available as a manual (can you spot a theme here) or as a PDK, it’s another car that’s lightweight, fun and puts the driver first. Industry rumours are that the 718 will be the last petrol-powered version of the Cayman/Boxster, and that wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Like the cars above, it’s also a wicked platform for building either a ringtool or a racecar. The diminutive 2-litre turbo puts the 718 T into the VT2 class in NLS, facing cars like the Golf GTi, Hyundai i30 N and Renaultsport Megane. Unsurprisingly, the Cayman is a little heavier on the balance-of-performance specs, but it’s still a beautiful car to take racing.
2021 Porsche 992 GT3
Oh yeah, of course I’ve played with the 911 GT3 configurator tool. Who hasn’t? The newest GT3 might be faster than ever around the Nürburgring, and even more expensive than ever before, but you can’t deny that Porsche are keeping the hardcore fans happy.
Still powered by a 4.0-litre N/A motor revving to the troposphere, you can even option a 6-speed-manual box with this machine. If that combination of rapid acceleration and hand-shifted transmission isn’t about putting the joy of driving above any theoretical laptime, then just shoot me and burn this website to the ground.
I applaud you Porsche. Absolutely slaying it. I can only hope to drive one soon.
2021 GR Yaris
I’m only slightly tired of reading about the new Yaris GR. And considering just how heavily it’s swamped my newsfeeds for the last 5 months, that’s impressive in itself. What’s even more impressive is how jealous the Americans are getting over a rally-spec hot-hatch that’s about as far from the typical American best-seller as I’ve ever seen.
It’s not really an obvious Nürburgring car either, with its 4WD drivetrain offering more problems than benefits for its power and size. That’s not stopped dozens of people buying them as #ringtools though, and fair play to them. Toyota have, once again, surprised everybody.
I’m intrigued that such a small streetfighter of a car could be offered in the year 2021. Intrigued but happy. The modern sportscar isn’t dead yet.
The 2018 Fiesta ST is still out and about, with bargains to be had. Get the ST-3 with the LSD. And the ND MX-5, with its high-compression, 2019-spec 180hp motor is just a fantastic car to drive to the limit (and beyond). In other news, a 992-shaped 911 T is rumoured to be breaking cover this year, for a 2022 launch.