Buying Guides

2017 Best Performance Trim Vehicles

For when you need more pep than the standard offering

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Some fast cars are built strictly as performance cars and others are built off existing non-performance vehicles. These performance trim levels bring what is a regular, every-day car to a whole new level. They're equipped with more power, better suspension, and superb handling capabilities. If you want something you can daily, but you also want something that can handle a run around the race track, these are the cars that you should consider.

2018 BMW M550i xDrive

  • PROS: Brawny twin-turbo V8, blisteringly fast, attractive exterior and interior, especially luxurious.
  • CONS: Artificial engine noise, tiny bit of turbo lag, electronic steering could use more feel.

The BMW M550i xDrive is a supremely impressive 5-Series sedan. The car is even faster than the F10-gen M5. The new M5 will be faster, most likely, but that’s a conversation for another day. Until then, let’s focus on the M550i. It’s comfortable, luxurious, fast, and more than competent around a corner. The car’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 456 hp, and the car’s competent suspension and chassis mean you can pitch this car into a turn with confidence. It’s no hardcore racer, but it’s still much more sports sedan than most people will ever need.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

  • PROS: Handles and brakes better than you expect, superb power, comfortable seats, good-looking inside and out.
  • CONS: Heavy, not as comfortable ride as other Grand Cherokees, expensive for a Jeep.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is known as the comfortable and somewhat upscale SUV that can handle both on-road situations and off-road trails with ease. The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is that same model but spiced up a whole heck of a lot thanks to the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 Hellcat engine that makes 707 hp. With this engine, the heavy vehicle can sprint from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and it has a top speed of 180 mph. It’s fantastic in a straight line, but it has the goods to make it around a racetrack, too.

2018 Audi SQ5

  • PROS: As comfortable front seats as you could possibly hope for, looks great, attractive inside and out, fast and fun.
  • CONS: Some rivals are faster, rear seats could us just a little more space, dated safety tech.

Love performance cars, German engineering, and crossover utility vehicles? The Audi SQ5 is the thing that you’re looking for. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is pretty impressive but if you can’t stand the brashness of it, go for the Audi SQ5. The model has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 that makes 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That makes the SQ5 good for a 0-60 mph run of just 5.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 127 mph. We bet you never thought you could go that fast in Audi’s classy but somewhat bland looking Q5.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

  • PROS: Looks mean as hell, huge and powerful supercharged engine, supremely fast, capable on the racetrack, available manual transmission.
  • CONS: High curb weight, super stiff suspension makes ride mildly uncomfortable.

Looking for a car that can straight up kill many supercars? Meet your new best friend, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The car has a massive 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that makes 650 hp. This makes it wicked fast on just about any road and capable around most racetracks. Altogether the car is good for a 0-60 time of about 3.5 seconds and a top speed of about 195 mph. This is the most impressive pony car of all time.

2017 BMW M2

  • PROS: Small, fast, very fun to drive, looks great, is pretty affordable for what you get, available manual transmission.
  • CONS: Some interior materials aren’t up to snuff, stiff suspension, cramped back seat.

The BMW M2 is the sporty little German coupe that we want the most. It’s compact, tons of fun, and offers a lot of performance parts for the money. The car feels light a nimble in just about every situation. If it weren’t for the model’s stiff suspension and somewhat harsh ride, we’d say it was the perfect car. The M2’s 3.0-liter turbocharged straight six-cylinder engine makes 365 hp and the car can shoot from 0-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. It has a manufacturer set top speed of 163 mph, not that you’d need to go any faster.

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

  • PROS: A lot of horsepower in a small car, well-tuned chassis, great to look at, beautiful cabin.
  • CONS: On the heftier side, no manual transmission, thirsty V8 engine.

The Mercedes-AMG C63 can be a wild and ravenous machine. Whereas many of Mercedes-Benz’s vehicles focus on being luxurious and comfortable, the C63 looks to the racetrack and just about nowhere else. You can easily daily this car, but we suspect owners will find that its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine making 503 hp is most at home around a circuit. The car can sprint a quick 0-60 in just 3.8 seconds, and the car has a manufacturer-claimed top speed of a 180 mph. If you want a real German muscle car that can roast its rear tires with ease, this is it.

2017 Volvo V60 Polestar

  • PROS: Fantastic engine, sleeper status minus the special Rebel Blue paint job, still a practical wagon, attractive overall styling.
  • CONS: Hard to find, no manual transmission, more interior space would be great.

The thing we love most about the V60 Polestar is that Volvo didn’t go and put a bunch of goofy looking wings and vents on the thing. The blue paint and bigger wheels are the only indications that this car can perform as it does. Anyone who isn’t a car enthusiast will be blown away by what this thing is capable of. The car’s 362 hp turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic make the car good for a 4.4 second 0-60 mph run and quarter mile time of 13 seconds. Additional upgrades include upgraded suspension and chassis improvements meant to make the car handle beautifully. By all accounts, it does.

Why Performance Trim?

  • More power and better handling than the standard car.
  • Still easy to daily drive.
  • More interesting to look at inside and out.