European sports cars are among the best in the automotive world. They have amazing designs, and beautiful interiors and make amazing sounds when being thrashed around a track, or just cruising along the highway.
European sports cars of the past were raw and visceral, requiring the driver to be attentive to drive the car fast. Modern European sports cars are much less fussy, and many don’t quite possess the same raucous driving experience as their ancestors did. Muscle cars are the opposite of this. Where they were a handful to control in the 1960s, they are even more of a handful today – especially the ones putting out more than 650 hp. A Jaguar F-Type R is much easier to control than a Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye – which simply means that the Challenger is the more fun option.
So, while European sports cars are great and fun to drive, muscle cars just multiply the experience times ten – even when simply driving on the daily commute. Muscle cars are built to be silly and ridiculous, which is why we’d rather buy a muscle car than these European sports cars.
8 Jaguar F-Type
The Jaguar F-Type is a pretty good sports car. Initially built to compete with Porsche’s 911, the F-Type has morphed into more of a GT car than a track-focused monster. The F-Type launched with a supercharged V6 and supercharged V8 but gained a 4-cylinder turbo a few years into the model’s life.
While the F-Type is great, it suffers from a harsh ride at slow speeds, making everyday drivability a bit annoying. This is not the case with many muscle cars which still have a comfortable ride to accompany the sheer amount of power under the hood.
7 BMW i8
The BMW i8 was another car designed to steer sales away from the Porsche 911. Unlike the F-Type which had larger engines, the i8 was fitted with the smallest engine BMW made – a 1.5-liter inline-3 turbo. The i8, being an ‘i’ model, was fitted with two electric motors to accompany the gasoline engine, turning it into a hybrid.
The i8 had a combined power output of 360 hp and 420 lb-ft, all while returning a claimed combined 76 MPGe. The i8 showed that hybrid cars didn’t have to be boring but could also look like it was from the future. The i8 has been discontinued, but it still looks like it should only be on sale in ten or so years.
6 Lotus Esprit V8
The Lotus Esprit V8 was one of the coolest British cars of the 1990s. The normal Esprit had either a 2.0-liter or a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder – both turbocharged – which produced around 300 hp. In 1996, Lotus unveiled the Esprit V8, which was fitted with their own 3.5-liter twin-turbo V8, producing 350 hp.
The engine was detuned from a potential 500 hp, purely to keep the Renault gearbox from exploding into a thousand pieces. To make sure it would hold, Lotus strengthened the input shaft and gears. The Esprit V8 was an awesome car with great handling and performance but suffered from reliability issues.
5 Alfa Romeo 4C
The Alfa Romeo 4C was designed with the engineering practices learned from the 8C Competizione, including the carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and lightweight body panels. Unlike the 8C, the 4C was a mid-engine sports car rather than a front-engine GT car.
The 4C was fitted with Alfa Romeo’s brilliant 1750 TBi 1.75-liter inline-4 turbo, which in this application produced 240 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine powered the rear wheels only via a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 4C caused quite the commotion when it was unveiled as a concept car and continued being a hot subject, but when the production version was eventually released, many were put off by the high price.
4 Ferrari 308 GTS
The Ferrari 308 GTS is most famous for its stint on the original Magnum P.I. series, being driven around Hawaii by Tom Selleck. The 308 was Ferrari’s mid-range offering at the time – equivalent to today’s F8 Tributo.
The 308 was powered by a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated V8, producing 250 hp and redlining at 7,700 rpm. The North American versions lost 10 hp and around 1,000 rpm due to emissions regulations but were still quite punchy. Today, the 308 GTS is one of the more affordable old Ferraris, but it usually has a lot of issues thanks to the car’s age. We’d still rather have a muscle car, thanks.
3 Porsche 928
The Porsche 928 was a luxurious GT car designed to replace the 911, but that obviously didn’t happen. The 928 followed the Porsche design philosophy and styling but stuck the engine in the front of the car, rather than hanging out over the rear.
The 928 was fitted with a V8 engine, which was updated as the model went along, starting with a 4.5-liter and ending with a 5.4-liter. The American market car produced 240 hp due to all the emission regulation devices, while the European models produced nearly 300 hp. The 928 S was later added to the North American line-up, but by then the model was on its way out.
2 Caterham Seven
The Caterham Seven started out life in the 1950s as the Lotus 7, a lightweight sports car designed and built by Colin Chapman himself. In 1973, Chapman decided to turn the car into a proper business and so sold his car’s rights to Caterham.
Caterham turned the Seven into a proper lightweight production car, still in keeping with Mr. Chapman’s “Simplify, then add lightness” philosophy. Today, the Caterham Seven is available in multiple different styles and versions, sporting tiny Kei-car engines producing 84 hp, rising all the way to the Supersport R600 series with their supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder producing 310 hp. The Caterham is an amazing driver’s car, but doing anything other than blast around a track or a twisty road, it becomes quite impractical and uncomfortable.
1 BMW Z4 M40i
The latest BMW Z4 will be the model’s last. The Z4 is the direct successor to the original Z3 – even though the Z4 is currently in its third generation. The Z4 shares its platform with the Toyota Supra, but the cars are very different. The biggest difference is that the Z4 is a convertible only, while there is almost no chance that the Supra will have a roofless version.
The Z4 M40i also has the same B58 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six as the Supra, but officially makes more power. The car sends all 380 hp to the rear wheels only via an 8-speed automatic transmission. The Z4 is a great car and looks much better in person than on pictures, but when cars such as the Ford Mustang GT, Chevrolet Camaro SS, and Dodge Challenger Scat Pack are on offer for less money, there really is no competition – we’d rather have the muscle car.