Best supercars 2021: 6-10

We furrow through our favourite supercars of the moment, from Ferrari to Nissan, and all those in between

Nissan GT-R Nismo

The R35 Nissan GT-R has been with us in one form or another since 2007, launching on values of a techno-fest chassis and powertrain that at the time was considered hideously complicated, often to its detriment. Fourteen years have since passed and the GT-R is still here and in much the same form, but where it once sat at the cutting edge, the latest and greatest GT-R – the Nismo – appeals for rather different reasons.

To begin with, the Nismo’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine is now a fine example of undiluted brute strength, without so much as a tickle to the torque curve by any means non-mechanical. Peak power is rated at 592bhp, which in this company seems a tad underwhelming, but in reality we’d challenge you to really want more on the public road. Yet what’s so brilliant about it is not its raw pace, but the sustained turbocharged rush that always feels as if it smears you onto the road surface like mayonnaise on soft white bread.

This is the GT-R’s parlour trick (it always has been), but compared to the digitally metered powertrains from Ferrari and McLaren, it feels as raw and unabashed as any naturally aspirated icon. There are many compromises of course – the comfort setting on the dampers is more an ideology than actuality – but as driving experiences go it still rates as one of the most intense and outright enjoyable you can have on four wheels.

Aston Martin Vantage

The Aston Martin Vantage has had a tumultuous first few years on sale. But if a compact V8-powered supercar with a traditional front-mid-engined layout, the smell of fine leather and a bombastic soundtrack are key elements that appeal to you, one could do a lot worse than a modern Vantage.

Its 503bhp leaves a standard 911 firmly in its wake, and drive one and you’ll be in no doubt of its supercar status.The whole car is utterly dominated by the AMG-sourced 4-litre V8 engine. Don’t be fooled by its commonplace appearance, as it remains one of the most sonorous and effective V8 engines on sale today.

The Vantage’s spiky, sharp and playful chassis only heightens the appeal, and with a superb ZF automatic or seven-speed manual transmission to put that power down onto the road there are few supercars that are as enjoyable when doing 40mph as 140.

Audi R8 Performance

In many ways the polar opposite to the Aston Martin above, the almost clinical Audi R8 V10 Performance might be nearing the end of its successful tenure as Audi’s flagship supercar, but that doesn’t belittle its undeniable talent.

Sharing many of its underlying components with the Lamborghini Huracán, the R8 V10 Performance takes a more precise approach, with more power and even faster responses wrapped up in an inherently more sensible package. Its design, clearly of German origin and with none of the Italian’s flamboyance, has its own appeal – a sort of supercar Q car and one more than happy to spend most of its time on the daily commute, rather than pulling at the leash like an impatient labrador.

Yet when the space and circumstances allow, the R8 finally reveals its true character, with just as much crispness and aggression as the best cars on this list. The 603bhp V10 might lack the suppleness and baritone edge of the original 2007 V8, not to mention its open-gate gearbox, but the R8 continues to do precisely what it was designed to – combine the best bits of sensible Audi and flamboyant Lamborghini into one package.

Ferrari 812 Superfast

When the Ferrari F12 arrived, it moved the hyper-fast luxury GT market on in a manner few could comprehend. In replacing the F12, Ferrari had a massive job on its hands. But it’s clearly succeeded, and the 812 Superfast is nothing short of spectacular.

With a naturally aspirated V12 that is unhinged and without restraint, the character of the car is hard to match. The engine note is exquisite but angry and provides a sense of theatre that every supercar should possess. Straight-line performance is nothing short of otherworldly, and throttle response from the V12 is beautifully quick. But despite this, the 812 is nowhere near as scary as its ‘Superfast’ moniker would suggest.

A large part of this is down to the immense traction that the 812 generates. With a new four-wheel-steering system aiding handling, the traction is initially hard to understand as the amount it is able to muster leaves you with a sense of disbelief.

The steering is quick, and after a few minutes guiding this big car from bend to bend becomes almost intuitive. However, due to this it can also come to feel disconnected – quite unnerving, and takes some getting used to. In our eyes, the 812 is not quite as good-looking as its predecessor, either.

Despite the marginally negative aspects, we really are splitting hairs. The car is miraculous. We had no idea how the 812 Superfast could be moved on to another level to that of the F12, or if in fact there was another level at all, but Ferrari has managed it and created an all-time great supercar.

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

The Aventador SVJ – as all V12 Lamborghinis should – has the intimidation factor. It’s an essential part of the Lamborghini recipe after all. Lift the scissor door and drop into the comically uncomfortable bucket seat and you’ll find that visibility is limited to say the least. Its girder-like A-pillars have always compromised forward visibility, and thanks to the addition of new ALA ducting, rearward visibility is further reduced too – not so much a letterbox any more as a slit window in a modern art gallery. Look through the side mirrors and you’ll see little more than chiseled flanks. It’s a proper supercar, then.

Everything we loved about the Aventador’s naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 power plant has only been amplified in the SVJ, too. The car pulls slightly harder in the mid-range, but it’s still all about that race to the red line. Bang through the gears in a dramatic, not-so-refined manner thanks to the single-clutch ISR ’box and the engine noise at 8500rpm is all-consuming; from the outside it’s utterly spectacular.

Although this is a more focussed version of the standard Aventador S, at 1525kg it’s not quite what you’d call featherweight. Brake from high speed and you’ll be made very aware of the heavy V12 behind you, the car teetering on its tiptoes. The enormous ceramic brakes have a softer pedal feel than those of one of McLaren’s track-oriented offerings, but there’s good modulation on offer and no questions over their outright stopping ability.

Turn-in is impressive despite the SVJ’s sheer size though, with fantastic agility and grip on offer. Go into a corner too hot and a lift of the throttle hands you back an impressive lump of control without the car feeling nervous as the weight shuffles between the axles. It’s certainly a car that demands the utmost of respect at the limit, but there’s always the invisible safety net of the systems to rely on. So deft is its operation that the Ring lap time was recorded with some of its assistance left in place, in fact.

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