Best coupes 2021 – our top-10 style-led sports cars in classical form
Diverse and eclectic, our favourite coupes hit all sorts of different notes
It’s difficult to quantify what makes a good coupe as the sleek body shape can package cars of widely varying focus. This makes bringing together a concise top ten of the best coupes on the market a controversial exercise as there’s so much scope in terms of the form they take and the experiences they can offer. As a result, the team have chosen the best coupes not on the purity of the driving experience or the explosiveness of the 0-62mph times, but simply on how well the cars achieve a complete and desirable package.
Our cross section of the coupe market represents a spread of different types of coupe. You’ll find cars with four- six- and eight-cylinder engines, turbocharged, supercharged and naturally aspirated, front-mounted, mid-mounted and rear-mounted, plus a myriad of different characters.
Above all these choices are great to drive, but do so in wonderfully different ways. From the tyre shredding hooligans of Mercedes and BMW to the scalpel sharp Lotus with just about everything else in between, we should be in no doubt that we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to 2021’s crop of coupes.
Top 10 best coupes to buy in 2020
Below is our pick of the 10 best coupes on the market right now. Scroll down for our verdict on each car or click the links for the full reviews...
- BMW M2 CS
- Alpine A110
- Lotus Evora GT410
- Aston Martin Vantage
- Lexus LC500
- Nissan GT-R
- Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe
- Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0
- Porsche 911 Turbo S
- Bentley Continental GT V8
Best coupes 2020
BMW M2 CS
Some observers, probably those with a few more miles on the clock, might see the M2 a two-door saloon, but for everyone else there’s no doubt BMW’s latest M2 CS is quite simply one of the best coupes money can buy. It comes at a time when BMW, and more specifically the M Division, has been under quite a bit of pressure from the media and enthusiasts over recent model launches. The M2 CS is not just a fantastic car, but a statement of intent that shows BMW hasn’t totally lost its way.
The M2 CS’s strong £75k price point might raise a few eyebrows but while it finds its origins in the 2-series launched way back in 2014 (and by extension the original 1-series from 2004), the M2 doesn’t feel even a bit dated. Instead it combines the best bits of BMW M into one small, playful and above all, deeply entertaining package. That it looks like a small German hotrod and can happily be used daily thanks to some rear seats and a reasonable boot only compounds the appeal of the package. Long live the Coupe (or two-door saloon).
There can scarcely have been a car that has garnered so much attention from enthusiasts over the years leading up to its launch than the Alpine A110. The basics sounded too good to be true – a bespoke lightweight aluminium chassis, 1100kg weight, zesty turbocharged engine and styling that’s nostalgic without being a retro pastiche. Add to this the fact that its set up by RenaultSport’s suspension boffins and the dual-clutch transmission stands out as the only potential chink in its armour.
In reality, things were even better than they appeared on paper, as what really sets the A110 apart from so many of its contemporaries is its quite astonishing ability to float down the road with unmatched levels of compliance and sophistication. This, combined with the intensity of its powertrain, steering and brakes, makes it one of the best coupes in recent memory. A testament to the A110’s chassis brilliance is the fact that the supposedly faster, harder A110S, a model we should theoretically prefer, only diminishes the brilliance of the original. Alpine got it right first time.
Lotus Evora GT410
While the Alpine A110 reminded us of the place for a softly sprung, delicate coupe, it’s worth remembering that Lotus has been playing this game quietly in the background for years. The Evora is over a decade old now, and while it certainly feels that way in some aspects, the inherently superb chassis still shines bright enough for us to overlook the shoddy interior and general lack of refinement.
The latest GT410 is a particularly pleasing example, combining a 410bhp supercharged version of the Toyota 3.5-litre V6 with a more laid back and forgiving chassis. Like with the Alpine A110, the softer road-biased setup helps accentuate the car’s lightweight qualities, making the most of its superb steering and delicate feedback.
Aston Martin Vantage
It’s been a long time in the making but 11 years after the previous Vantage made its debut we have an all-new version to enjoy. It features a revised version of the DB11’s structure and while most agreed its predecessor was stunningly beautiful, the new Vantage has a more challenging look.
There’s nothing wrong with the powertrain though – an Aston tweaked version of Mercedes-AMG’s 4-litre twin-turbo V8 that kicks out 503bhp and 505lb ft of torque, good enough for Aston to claim a 3.7sec 0-62mph time. On smooth, dry roads the Vantage can use the power to its advantage, but on less than perfect surfaces or in damp or wet conditions it can struggle to put the power down.
On the whole the Vantage handles well, but when you really up the pace on less than perfect roads it can become a little ragged as you approach the limit. The car’s size can also count against it and with a relatively small glasshouse it can be hard to place the car on tighter roads. As it stands, the Vantage is an entertaining steer with a delicious soundtrack and a practical cabin. With a few chassis tweaks it could be an absolute belter.
If a single car on sale today could be considered the most overlooked and underappreciated it might well be the Lexus LC500. Even with stunning looks, a healthy 470bhp and a chassis full of advanced tech, it just doesn’t seem to find the spotlight.
Lexus developed the LC Coupe to a set of metrics that most brands could no longer justify with a bundle of bespoke engineering sending the cost-per-unit skywards. The front suspension, for instance, was designed from scratch purely to allow for the sinewy bodywork to slip only just above the 20-inch wheels. The engine is Toyota’s superb 2UE-GZR V8, but there’s no turbos, no hybrid drive, only a quite spectacular bark created by induction in front of you and exhaust behind. Its playful chassis, charismatic drivetrain, superb quality and concept car looks combine to create a car that drives even better than it looks, we just wish more people took notice.
There’s a common misconception that the GT-R driving experience is similar to that of a computer game or simulator: easy, clinical and with no real talent required. Anyone who holds that view, quite clearly, has never driven a GT-R. Within the first few metres, after you hear the diffs chunter away, you know driving a GT-R is going to be a very hands-on experience. And once you’ve applied full throttle on the exit of a corner, felt the tyres try to rip up the tarmac and the back-end squirm, you know you’re going to need to be at the top of your game to get the best of it.
The latest version of the base car has become slightly softer and quieter compared to the 2008 original as Nismos and Track Editions have started to occupy the more aggressive quarters of the GT-R range. But that brutal character is still apparent in every iteration of the big Japanese coupe.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe
In the world of derivative coupes, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S has tended to be hidden behind the very long shadow cast from the BMW M4. But while there’s a hiatus in the BMW range until the new M4 comes on-stream next year, the AMG’s prominence is hard to ignore, especially with its M177 V8 shouting away in front of you.
It’s also one of the last remaining rear-wheel drive V8 coupes on sale, which might limit wet-weather performance, but replaces that with an exuberance you could only expect from AMG. In its current C63 S form, its price has pushed above £80,000, but for your considerable cash outlay you get a fully-laden example, with pretty much all the option boxes ticked. It’s also worth remembering that the new M4 will cost much the same, but can be priced up to six figures.
Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0
It’s tricky not to sound cynical when talking about the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0, as ostensibly, it appears to be simply the Cayman that everyone has been asking for since the 718’s controversial introduction. The package is certainly uncomplicated. Porsche has fitted the same 4-litre flat-six to the updated GTS as found in the GT4, but with a subtle detune pegging power back to 394bhp. The same could be said of the chassis, with a standard Sports PASM damper package lowering the ride by 20mm, active engine mounts and a torque-vectoring limited-slip differential representing the beginning and end of the dynamic package.
So how does it drive, you ask? In short, superbly. Its succinct ability to flow with challenging road surfaces like the Alpine A110, yet support its body under lateral load is unmatched in anything for similar cash. The powertrain’s response, flexibility and character are magnificent - the brakes are strong and reassuring. Then it’s all underpinned with a balance so cleanly communicated and trustworthy, one wonders how they instilled the character of a dedicated old sheepdog into an inanimate machine.
Porsche 911 Turbo S
Ah, coupe or supercar you ask? Well, the 911 Turbo has been answering that question since its origin, and so it still applies now. One difference this time around is that behind the supercar-beating performance, the new 992-generation 911 Turbo S has an extra layer of nuance to its package, almost as if Porsche’s GT Division got involved in the development (spoiler alert, they did).
It’s also by a large margin the most convincing 992 yet, one that seems to immediately improve on its predecessor in a subjective, and not just objective fashion. This is, of course, due to change as the 911 continues to diversify but until the GT3 and 911 T arrive, the Turbo S gets our nod in the range.
Bentley Continental GT V8
OK, so this is the only ‘true’ GT in this little collection (the Lexus is way too good to be thrown in with that lot) but the Bentley Continental GT in its V8 form really does feel like the Continental we’ve yearned for since the model line appeared in 2003. The reason for this is, ironically, in its somewhat Germanic foundations, the GT sharing a platform and V8 engine with the Porsche Panamera.
While this sounds like a compromise, it’s worth remembering that the original actually shared more with the Phaeton, and by extension a Volkswagen Touareg, than Bentley might care to admit, which makes the new GT’s proper front-engined, rear-drive base more suited to the notion of a Bentley GT than what’s gone before. The V8 is muted, yes, but it’s also more charismatic than the flagship W12 and contributes to the car’s new-found handling prowess. The GT does more than ever to engage its driver, all without losing the opulent (some might say over-the-top) ambiance inside and out.