Hellcats to Hybrids: The 10 Performance Cars that Defined the 2010s
With mere days left before the calendar rolls over to 2020 and the start of a new decade, it's time to take a look back at the 2010s—a period which may go down as one of the greatest performance car periods of all time. From supercars and hypercars to modern muscle cars, hot hatches and EVs—here are 10 cars that will forever define the 2010s for us.
1. McLaren Senna
While the idea of a "hypercar" was around prior to the 2010s, it wasn’t until this decade when the term became a competitive genre unto itself. And off all the hypercars introduced in the last 10 years the McLaren Senna may be the most iconic.
With a twin turbo V8 making nearly 800 horsepower and a carbon fiber-laden design that looks more jet fighter than automobile, the Senna will represent the high end automotive excess of the 2010s.
2. Ford GT
Is the Ford GT the greatest American car of the decade? With its stunning looks, genuine supercar performance and its competition pedigree (including a return to victory at Le Mans) there’s a lot of arguments in the Ford GT’s favor.
Not only that, but there’s unique way Ford allocates the cars, requiring potential buyers to submit an application and prove they were worthy of ownership. All of that and more means the Ford GT will continue to be sought after for decades to come.
3. Honda Civic Type R
The 2010s saw some fantastic entries in the hot hatch segment, but none caused the buzz that the latest version of the Honda Civic Type R did. Whether it’s the wild looks or the new turbocharged engine, the Type R earned strong reactions from all who encountered it.
The FK8 Is not only notable for being the first Civic Type R ever sold in America, it also became one of the fastest front wheel drive cars ever produced. It’s sure to be one of the most sought-after “normal” cars of the 2010s.
4. Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ
Perhaps no car on this list had as much pre-release anticipation as the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ in the early part of the decade. While some have criticized their low power, the 86 and BRZ very much delivered on the promise of great handling and inexpensive, RWD fun.
With affordable sports cars becoming more of an endangered species, Toyota and Subaru proved that there is still room for cars that focus on fun and excitement over raw performance.
5. Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 & GT350R
One of the biggest automotive stories of the decade came in 2015 with the debut of the all new Mustang. The move to a modern platform with independent rear suspension helped changed the perception of Ford’s legendary pony car, and things got even better with the debut of the Shelby GT350 for 2016.
In a time when so many cars were adding superchargers and turbochargers, the GT350’s 5.2 liter naturally aspirated, flat plane crank V8 immediately became a standout thanks to its stratospheric redline and Ferrari-esque exhaust note.
6. Tesla Model S
Along with many other automotive trends, the 2010s will be known for the rise of the electric car. And from a performance perspective, no vehicle shook things up like the Tesla Model S when it arrived in 2012. It didn't just impress with its driving range and luxury looks, the performance versions of the Model S also delivered acceleration capabilities that were almost unbelievable.
Electric cars still have a long way to go before they'll replace internal combustion vehicles as the mainstream choice, but the Tesla Model S helped show the potential of EVs as more than just gasoline-free transportation.
7. Dodge Challenger & Charger SRT Hellcat
The 2010s may go down as the peak of the "second muscle car era" and no car is better representative of that than the Dodge SRT Hellcat. With a 707 horsepower supercharged Hemi V8 both the Challenger and Charger Hellcat delivered incredible drag strip performance in a package that could be daily driven with ease.
With so many brands trying to build "sports cars," Dodge fully embraced the muscle car spirit and that formula has ended up working very well for them. Time will tell whether cars like the Hellcat will continue to be built, but there's absolutely no denying its importance.
8. Chevrolet Corvette C7 ZR1
The modern Corvette has always been about delivering incredible all around performance for a low price, and the C7 generation very much continued that tradition. With the ZR1 model, Chevy saved the best of the breed for last. It packs 755 supercharged horsepower, tons of aero improvements, giant brakes and is capable of lap times besting cars that cost twice as much.
Even more importantly, with the Corvette moving to its new mid-engines platform for 2020, the C7 ZR1 will likely go down as the baddest front-engine Corvette ever built. Whether or not the "old" Corvette stands the test of time remains to be seen, but it's no doubt one of the defining performance cars of the 2010s.
9. Porsche 918 Spyder
In some ways the 2010s can be seen as the convergence of gasoline and electric technology, and no car represents that blend better than the Porsche 918 Spyder. With a 4.6 liter V8 and a pair of electric motors combining to make 887 horsepower the 918 set a new benchmark for hybrid performance.
It's easy to see a future where electric cars are mainstream transportation and gas cars are for fun, but the 918 Spyder's formula shows that both the new and the old can be combined in a pretty incredible way.
10. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
What do you get when you take the 707 horsepower supercharged engine from the aforementioned Hellcat and put it into an AWD SUV? You get the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which is simply one of the most insane family vehicles ever built and one that's about as politically incorrect as a machine can get.
The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a vehicle that doesn't need to exist, but we are so glad that it does. And there's no doubt it will go down as one of the most unique and unconventional performance vehicles of the last 10 years.
There you have it. Will the 2020s end up being better than 2010s when it comes to factory performance cars? Here's hoping so, but it's going to be a tough task.
And, if you'd like to back a little further, you can check out our list of iconic cars from the end of the 2000s right here.