Every gear head wants to go fast. However, no one enjoys the idea of stopping in a cloud of smoke, which makes choosing a high-performance car not just about speed but reliability as well.
Moving faster has been a major contributing factor to the car’s design for decades. The 2000s in particular stand out as a generation of faster and crazier performance cars. Fortunately, reliability has improved as well, except for eliminating unplanned garage trips on the back of a tow truck. The performance cars as a whole were better. What has changed? Improved engine technology, electrical processes and manufacturing played their part. Self-diagnostics anticipate potential failures before they occur, in the worst case scenario switching to a limp home situation.
Who makes the most reliable cars? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. American cars with underpowered lazy V8s, or maybe a Japanese thing? What about the German cars Porsche, Mercedes and BMW? They all have a good reputation for build quality, but how do they stack up?
10 Honda S2000
After 10 years of production with very little alteration, the S2000 was near perfect from the start. Starting from the obvious, this two-seater high rear body kit is a pure JDM support vehicle. However, the secret to its success comes from Honda’s screaming 2.0-liter F20C engine in red at 8800 rpm.
The VTEC-equipped engine only steps halfway through its rev range, which exceeds 247 horsepower, prompting the gear heads to shift later. In anything other than a Honda, this level of abuse would be devastating over time. The F20C takes every red gear shift in its stride.
9 Porsche 997/911 Turbo
We won’t get bored of the technical details, but the 997 was a game-changer for Porsche. Introduced in 2006 and featuring a range of new interior and exterior kits, the 997 is one of the most reliable Porsche 911s ever. Visual changes included a Carrera 4s Widebody shell with revised lights and fenders.
However, no one buys a Porsche for looks alone; 911s are all about speed. The German automaker did not disappoint, equipping the 997 with a turbocharged 3.6-liter flat-six with 473 horsepower. Despite the impressive performance that drives 200 mph, you can easily drive one of these every day.
8 Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR
Avoiding the turbocharged clutter of larger, lazy engines is the way the Viper moves. One of the largest engines ever installed in production cars, the 8.4-liter V10 with 600 horsepower truck origins. An internal combustion engine design beast, you might think weight undercuts its performance. However, this beast would easily break at 200 mph.
Snake joins the ranks of supercars, with diabolical and impressive speed to explore the upper limits of force versus traction. Unlike its peers, you can abuse Vipers’ chassis and payment system all day long without fear of failure.
7 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black
Everything about the SL65 Black Series is huge. AMG’s tuning expertise turns the 6.0-liter V12 into a twin-turbo beast with 661 hp. Needless to say, the performance numbers are equally impressive, 60 mph in 3.8 seconds with a limited top speed of 200 mph.
Rare and expensive, 2008 buyers had to raise $300,000 to stand a chance of landing one of the 350 AMG SL65s built. The Mercedes M275 V12 engine, despite its high condition, had a lot of reserves. Additional revisions culminated in the Pagani Huarya M189 V12 that put out 800+ hp.
6 Audi R8 (Type 42)
Living in the shadow of the Lamborghini Gallardo and later the Huracán, the R8 is more conservative. The two VAG supercars share a similar but different mid-engine 4WD platform which leads to some confusion as to who makes what. In fact, the R8 uses a transverse design from the Audi Quattro Le Mans concept.
The differences continue under the R8s’ aluminum chassis, where Audi offered gear heads a choice of engines. In either V8 or V10 variants, gearheads can rest assured that Audi’s TFSi engines, considered some of the most reliable on the market, will not be a cause for concern.
5 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1
First came the basic C6 Corvette, with a fiberglass over steel, rugged LS2 engine stuffed into the nose. Chevrolet does what it does best, keeping the Corvette recipe simple and dependable—a solid foundation upon which to build. That base in 2007 will become the ZR1.
The stock engines gave way to the supercharged 6.2-liter LS9, cutting 604 lb-ft of torque and 638 horsepower, meeting GM’s suggested 100 horsepower per liter. Aside from observing the Corvettes’ oil life monitoring system, living with the ZR1 requires no more than a routine 10,000-mile/12-month service schedule.
4 Nissan GT-R
Nowhere shows the Japanese automaker’s attention to detail better than Nissan’s all-winning GT-R. Building on the legacy of Skylines’ performance in everything but the name, the GT-R bends the laws of physics, goes, stops and turns on par with the most exclusive supercars.
Turn the genius dial into an eleven. Not only do Nissan engineers coax huge numbers of power from the 3.8-liter V6, they individually match the engines and transmissions to each other. Fifteen years of production saw little change with the GT-R. Nissan’s confidence in the VR38DETT’s reliability has over time resulted in over 600 horsepower.
3 Pontiac GTO
Blinded by Australian origins, gear heads tend to overlook the latest Pontiac GTO. Meanwhile, forget the Holden, a part of General Motors that uses the same dependable engines. Under the hood of this badge-designed import are nothing but LS1/LS2 V8s from General Motors.
The LS1 was launched in two flavors, running the 2004 model year, and was later replaced by a larger 6-liter LS2, which reduced power by 400 horsepower. Ignore aftermarket performance upgrades, both of which will easily absorb all the abuse you throw at them. With routine maintenance, 200,000 miles is unheard of.
2 BMW M3 (E92)
The BMW E92 M3 represents the pinnacle of naturally aspirated engines. Any 3 Series then relies on highly computerized, powerful but often moody turbocharged engines. The E92 was the last M3 with a 4.0-liter V8, with no exhaust or induction systems.
Less reliance on electronic devices designed for a purer driving experience and also making the car more reliable. Of course, M-sports are all about performance, and while the turbocharged engines tend to be more powerful, the S65 doesn’t make 414 horsepower.
1 Honda Civic Type RGT (FK2)
Civic Type-Rs are the stuff of legends. Honda’s idea of the affordable rocket-ship hatchback segment has spawned six generations so far. For our money, nothing beats the 2007 eighth-generation Civic Type-R.
Space-age design inside and out is the most innovative, if not the fastest in the history of Type-Rs. Featuring a mild version of the S200S F20C, the four-cylinder engine produces 198 horsepower with the same level of reliability. Powerful power delivery, crisp handling, and Honda’s durability are why every gearhead should at least try the Type-R.