Currently reading: Top 10 best performance coupes 2022
Huge performance, enthralling dynamics and a swooping, delicious shape are all hallmarks of a performance coupé. We pick our top 10 currently on sale

The recipe for a performance coupé is simple: take one good-looking coupé, give it a more muscular look if it needs one, make the dynamics sharper, drop a powerful engine in the nose and aim the performance figures for the stratosphere.

The hot versions of these slick-looking coupés each exhibit their own exhilarating traits, making them unique to own, drive and live with. The appearance in this list of some of the usual suspects may not come as a surprise, but the big question remains: who can reign supreme in our rundown out of Audi Sport, BMW M, Mercedes-AMG and one or two others?

1. BMW M4 Competition

The all-new BMW M4 is considerably more powerful and heavier than the old F82 model, and also, you might think, quite a bit gawkier, at least from the front.

The M4 remains a compelling proposition, however. It offers striking and tangible handling poise, fine precision and superb controllability, along with trademark M division positivity of feel flowing through its axles, driveline and engine and back through to its controls.

So it's indulgent to drive but also more usable than ever, and the way the configurability of its driving experience can be negotiated via the steering wheel-mounted driving-mode shortcuts is truly rare in a modern performance-car driving experience: complexity brought emphatically to heel. There's also the option of rear-wheel drive of xDrive four-wheel drive, the latter melding all-weather security with genuine playfulness when you're in the mood.

Perhaps it lacks a certain rawness, and it's a shame that we cant get the manual gearbox option in the UK, but the M4's blend of versatility and engagement makes it a stand-out option.

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2. BMW M240i Coupé

BMW's smallest high-performance coupé is also one of its finer efforts, the M240i combining a pugnacious street-fighter attitude with an easy-going everyday personality that makes it fun when you want to be and hassle-free when you don't.

Although it isn't a full-blooded M car, the M240i certainly looks the part, with its wide-tracked stance, while its turbocharged engine delivers hard-hitting pace, with 0-62mph done and dusted in just 4.3sec - about the same time as the original M2. Built on cut-down version of the larger 3 Series platform, the 2 Series gets a 368bhp version of BMW's muscular and creamy smooth B58 3.0-litre straight six, which is mated to a rear-biased xDrive four-wheel drive system that hits just the right balance of adjustability when you want to play the fool and cast-iron security when the conditions turn nasty and you just want to get your destination.


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Yet it combines this pace and poise with an easy-going refinement that gives the car some junior-GT credentials. The ride is firm even with the adaptive dampers in their softest setting, but the noise-insulation is excellent and the tall-striding top gear of the eight-speed automatic 'box makes for relaxed long distance progress.

The interior is also a cut above, with a classy-looking dashboard from the 3 Series and top notch materials used throughout. Then there's the price, which at a touch under £48,000 actually represents decent value when you compare it to four-cylinder rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S.

Bmw m240i front tracking

3. BMW M2 Coupé

There's a lot riding on the new M2, not least because in its ultimate Competition guise, its predecessor was one of our favourite go-faster compact coupés. So far we've only driven the car in prototype from on the track, but the initial signs are encourage, certainly in terms of performance and poise. Like the M240i, the new M2 is actually based on the scalable CLAR architecture that underpins that larger 3 Series and 4 Series models. As a result, this is a slightly more grown-up and sophisticated proposition than the old car.

Still, it's definitely a proper M machine, not least because it packs a detuned, 444bhp version of the twin-turbocharged S58 3.8-litre straight six already used in the M3 and M4. There's also bespoke calibration for the steering, stability control and electronically controlled limited-slip differential. There are also stiffer front springs than you'll find on the M4 for sharper turn-in, softer rears for greater mid-corner adjustability and the uprated adaptive dampers that will also appear on the M3 Touring. It's also rear-wheel drive and, praise be, a six-speed manual gearbox will be offered alongside the eight-speed automatic.

We will have to wait until we drive a full production version on UK roads to deliver our definitive verdict, but on the basis of a quick sampling of the pre-production model, we reckon a podium on this list is pretty much nailed on.

Bmw m2 front tracking

4. BMW 4 Series M440i Coupé

Yes, another BMW product at the sharp end of our list, although this time one that is brand-new underneath its controversial skin. With its beefy kerb weight and new torque-converter gearbox to replace the old DCT, the M440i is top-dog in the sub-M 4 Series range, and boy is it worthy of that status, at least from behind the wheel.

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Unlike the hard-edged M4, this is a car that begs to be used every day, but whose chassis still rewards the driver like few others can, should you find yourself on the right road at the right moment.

Available only in four-wheel-drive guise, the M440i has a turbocharged straight six that makes 369bhp, which is more than enough to reveal the car's playful side, albeit within the context of a very stable and secure overall handling complexion. Better still, the M440i has excellent GT qualities in its locker, being long-legged, refined and luxurious.

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5. Ford Mustang

For this money, the sensible thing to do would be to buy an Audi TT or a BMW 2 Series Coupé, wouldn& 't it? And if you did, that would be a huge shame.

Yes, the Ford Mustang does have significant drawbacks in the UK. Yes, you do have to think twice about where you& 're going to park it in town, as well as factor in the far greater number of visits to the fuel pump than your peers will make. But no other car at this price – or several price points higher – can do what this American muscle car does.

Its powertrain brings with it an appeal that engines with fewer cylinders simply can't, and its inherent chassis balance is absolutely peachy. Go for the range-topping Mach 1 version and you will get a car with proper V8 power and combustive character, as well as significantly enhanced roadholding, and brimming with visual presence, for less than £50,000. Sensible be damned.

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6. Lexus RC F

The Lexus RC F is an important step along the road for a young performance brand and adds much needed variety to this part of the market. It has been created with no shortage of budget, effort and commitment. It& 's fresh, bold and different, and it& 's pleasingly unreserved and true to its purpose – an easy car to like.

The RC F isn& 't quite so easy to justify, though. As effusive as the car& 's V8 powertrain can be, it can also be underwhelming and even frustrating at times, with surprisingly weak-kneed low rev response and being shackled to an automatic gearbox of rather too many gear ratios. The chassis specification also makes dynamic promises that the handling fails to fully deliver on.

It& 's big on charm and bigger still on V8 noise, then, if a little short of real-world pace and well-rounded cruising manners.

1 Lexus rc f 2019 fd hero front

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7. Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupé

Recently facelifted, the flagship E-Class Coupé comes equipped with a 429bhp, 384lb ft turbocharged straight six in its nose - which is supplemented by a 21bhp and 184lb ft starter/alternator motor. The AMG E53 Coupé therefore boasts a suitably rapid and impeccably smooth turn of pace. It& 's a rich, mellifluous motor, this, if not quite as raucous as the full-fat AMG V8, but it counters with a not-insignificant amount of socially responsible hybrid-electric intrigue.

Its ride may be a touch on the firm side, but it still makes for a convincing long-distance cruiser, and it handles with enough conviction to satisfy an interested driver. It& 's a luxurious place to spend time, too, if one that& 's a little light on AMG-related paraphernalia.

99 Mercedes e class facelift official coupe front

8. Audi RS5 Coupé

The best reason for buying an RS5 previously was to access the last resting place of Audi's 4.2-litre V8 – a reason now manifestly gone. The twin-turbocharged V6 that replaces it no longer dominates the driving experience.

Any deeper appreciation of the new RS5 rests on a preference for the model& 's tactful repositioning. Dig the monster GT vibe, and the car& 's established gifts for interior splendour, technical prowess and sharp-edged looks start to make considerable sense.

Seen from this alternative vantage point, which has almost nothing to do with the hard-charging handling flair and dynamic exuberance that exemplifies its rivals, the RS5 simultaneously appears limited and perhaps more appealing than it ever has. That said, this is the most capable RS5 ever, with a less nose-led handling balance and an ability to pick apart a challenging stretch of road at a speed that barely seems possibly. Not exciting, maybe, but there's no doubting the clinical efficiency.

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Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance Coupé

Few cars on this list will be approached with as much trepidation and curiosity as the all-new C63, a car that takes the template of its illustrious predecessors and pretty much rips it up. Gone is the charismatic V8 that has provided the muscle and backbeat for every previous model to bear the badge and in comes an on-message, electrically assisted turbocharged four-cylinder unit.

Packing a combined might of 670bhp, the superheated C-Class isn't short of poke, the power coming from the 469bhp combustion engine and the 201bhp electric motor. The latter is mounted at the rear and is combined with a compact two-speed transmission (the traditional four-cylinder drives through a nine-speed auto) and electronic limited-slip differential. Underlining the performance-enhancing function of the 400V electrical architecture is the fact the battery is modest 6.1kWh and the claimed EV range in just eight miles.

Further high-tech additions include four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. We will have to wait until later in 2022 to drive the C63, but all the signs are that it's going to be interesting.

Amg c63 e proto side front driving

Ford Mustang

When the seventh-generation pony car arrives in 2023, it could well be the last of the line. Essentially a heavy facelift of the current Mustang, its combination of naturally aspirated V8 power and manual gearbox means it's already out of step with the electrified revolution, so expect it to act as a glorious swansong for the iconic muscle car.

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As before, there will also be a (heavily reworked) turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost option, while suspension upgrades run to stronger mounting point and revised springs and dampers. More exciting is the arrival of the 500bhp Dark Horse that features an engine remap and extra cooling for both the V8 and the brakes. A Handling Pack can also be added that includes Pirelli P Zero Trofeo RS rubber, thicker anti-roll bars, revised dampers and bigger brakes. Expect to see the new Mustang gallop (sorry) into showrooms late next year.

Ford mustang front tracking

James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

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