JOHANNESBURG - As part of our Best Buys awards for 2019, Drive360 and IOL Motoring has named our top three cars in five different categories.

These are the three performance cars that continue to impress us for their value for money, segment-defining characteristics and overall pleasure to live with and experience. 

Our top 3 lists are based on our experience with the cars, and our team’s interactions with one another based on these experiences, which might come in handy as you go tyre-kicking this holiday season.

BMW M2 Competition is a thrill machine

It's cars like this that we’re going to miss the most one day when vehicles all drive themselves and the word petrol is something the curator shyly whispers at the Motorhead Museum.

The M2 Competition is a compact rear-wheel-drive thrill machine that requires a skilled driver who understands the art of oversteer. It’s even available with a manual gearbox, which is becoming a rare option in the sports car world, although BMW also sells an M-DCT auto version for those who appreciate a good dual-clutch set-up.

It’s a car that will reward richly with its 302kW turbocharged straight six engine, which is a detuned version of the 317kW motor that you find under the bonnet of its larger M3 and M4 brothers. In fact, it even shares the same torque output of 550Nm.

Activate launch control and the M2 Competition will screech from 0-100km/* in only 4.2 seconds, when fitted with the automated ‘box, and 4.4 seconds in manual form if you’re snap-changing is up to scratch.

But much of the thrills are to be had in hard cornering, meaning this is a car that you must take to the track if you’re lucky enough to own it.

BMW has beefed up the driving dynamics by fitting a carbon fibre reinforced plastic strut across the engine compartment, as per the M4, to improve front section rigidity and increase steering precision.

The Active M Differential and Dynamic Stability Control systems have also been recalibrated by the M Division experts to match the car’s persona and increased outputs.

Drivers can play with various combinations for the vehicle’s engine and dynamic systems through selector switches on the centre console, while preferred settings can be saved for easy access later via the M1 and M2 buttons.

So what else has BMW’s M Division done to make the interior feel special?

For starters, there’s a sill plate with the M2 Competition logo, M-specific steering wheel, red stop/start button and M-striped seat belts, while buyers can also opt for grippy M Sport seats with integrated headrests - a must have.

The M2 Competition is also tricked-out with an exclusive new metallic Hockenheim Silver paint job and 19-inch alloy wheels, double-arm wing mirrors.

Expect to pay R972030 for the manual version and R1026 506. - Jason Woosey

Porsche 911 is built for the driver

Even people who have no interest in cars will know what you mean when you mention the Porsche 911.

Upgraded this year, it's no wonder the eighth generation finds itself as one of the contenders for Car of the Year in the performance vehicle category.

The 911 has often been the benchmark for what a performance vehicle should be.

It's no different here with 331Kw and 530Nm of torque coming from the flat-six turbocharged 3.0-litre engine coupled to a newly developed eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Top speed in the Carrera S is a claimed 308km/* and it gets to 100km/* 3.7 seconds.

The Carrera 4S all-wheel drive tops out at 306km/* and will jolt you to 100km/* in 3.6 seconds. If you add the optional SportChrono package you get a further 0.2 second advantage.

And even though this version is the most advanced and loaded with modern technology it stays true to its roots of being a purist's sports car. Turn the key and there's no doubt that the roar from the tailpipes means business. The car isn't shy to let you throw it around either.

Stomp on the loud pedal and you're pushed back in to the plush seats while it picks up speed at a rate of knots that never feels out of control or violent. It sticks to the black stuff like you know what to a woollen blanket, and even at its limit it stays calm and sophisticated without you becoming concerned about "what if".

The cockpit is a driver's set-up with dials and vehicle information perfectly set up to see what's happening at a glance.

Whether you're burning up rubber, using it as your everyday drive or cruising to your holiday destination the 911 is the perfect fit for all three.

What's not to like about it? Well, to be honest, nothing. - Willem van de Putte

Toyota GR Supra - a sense of grown-up

Like the 911 and the BMW M2 that feature in this category this year, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Supra doesn’t have insane amounts of horsepower from the factory.

Nor does it have bloated two-ton running gear.

And it’s actually quite light on fuel, if you are reasonable with the accelerator pedal.

The Toyota Supra, then, is one of the best cars you can buy right now if you want something that’s dripping with street-cred and if you want to turn more heads than any other vehicle in the bank’s multi-storey parking structure.

Seriously, if you have a decent car allowance, or if you’ve managed to save up enough to buy a car for around R1million, the Supra is a good way to spend your cash.

You might feel that the M2 Competition is better than a Supra, and you will be right, from a driving perspective, but the Supra is different - it delivers its grunt with less snappiness (although it’s still a feisty bugger). There’s a genuine sense of grown-up in the Supra, away from all the Gran Turismo hype and all the chatter around how it’s built for tuners to eventually explore and turn into a manic sportscar. But, to be honest, with a standard Supra you have a perfectly good car to keep you satisfied day-to-day or as a weekend chariot.

Our test car was the highest-spec model, which is currently retailing for R1072300, all BMW bells and whistles included, and you don’t feel like you could add to it in terms of options (apart from better speakers in the door and a boom box behind the seats).

I particularly like the accessible nature of the performance on tap because things happen progressively in the Supra if you aren’t a complete loon, when it comes to entry speeds and throttle positions.

Gentle in and smooth out, and that glorious straight-six soundtrack just delivers more thrills every time you grab another gear. My one recommendation, if you don’t care for the warranty, is to slap on a custom high-performance exhaust and intake (not for the added power, but to let that engine sing like it should).

It comes with a three-year/100000km warranty and a four-service/80000km service plan, which isn’t as reassuring as BMW’s plan for the Z4 that this car shares a platform with. But that’s okay, because everything should keep going right, right? - Pritesh Ruthun

Drive360