JOHANNESBURG - Despite being a relatively small market, South Africa still has a very decent selection of performance cars, but there are still a lot of exciting options available globally that don’t reach our shores, usually because they’re left-hand-drive only.
But which of these cars would we really love to see in South Africa? Below is a list of our favourite ‘forbidden fruit’ performance cars. You might notice a lack of truly exotic machines in this list, but we purposely sought to include real-world cars of the kind that would sell in reasonable volumes if they ever came our way.
Dodge Challenger Hellcat
Want to make that Mustang up the road look like a sick mule? All it takes is some Hellcat fury, although that’s only if you live in the United States, that is. Dodge has taken the muscle car to a whole new level of fury with its Challenger SRT Hellcat line-up, which Americans can order in a multitude of flavours, priced from $60 695 upwards, which equated to a shade over a million rand at the time of writing.
Buyers can choose between a standard SRT Hellcat with 535kW or a Hellcat Redeye with 594kW and both are available in standard or widebody formats. While the 626kW Demon has been banished, there is apparently a 602kW Super Stock Challenger on the way for 2021. Dodge also offers a four-door alternative to the Challenger, in the form of the Charger SRT Hellcat.
All are powered by a 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi V8 powerhouse that, along with the rear-wheel drive configuration, has made the Challenger something of a tyre-smoking celebrity on YouTube. Customers can also choose between manual and eight-speed automatic transmission.
The Demon, incidentally, also became the world’s first production car to lift its wheels under acceleration, as certified by Guinness World Records.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Chevrolet’s Corvette recently underwent its most radical transformation ever, with the 2020 Stingray having shifted from a front to a mid-engined layout. This set-up is often considered to be the holy grail of sports car configurations, as it allows better responsiveness, balance and sense of control, as the driver sits closer to the front axle.
This all sounds very exotic, but it’s interesting to note that the Corvette is actually quite affordable in its home market, with prices starting at just under $60 000 (R1 million) in the US, which is about half the price of a Porsche Carrera S.
Power is provided by a new-generation normally aspirated 6.2-litre ‘Small Block’ V8 LT2 engine that produces 369kW and 637Nm, when equipped with the performance exhaust. It powers the back wheels through Chevrolet’s first eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and 0-96km/h is said to come up in 2.9 seconds.
There is talk of a right-hand drive version for Australia, but with The General having abandoned our market, the new ‘Vette will remain forbidden fruit to South Africans, at least for now. That is, of course, unless an independent importer strikes a deal of some kind…
Tesla Model S P100D
A decade or two ago we would never have imagined that one of the world’s fastest accelerating cars would be a rather unassuming looking large electric sedan from a start-up owned by Elon Musk.
But the Tesla Model S, like many modern electric performance cars, has been turning heads at drag strips with its instantaneous acceleration that has sent many a muscle car home with a bruised ego.
With a zero to 100km/h acceleration time of 2.3 seconds when in Ludicrous Mode, the range-topping Tesla Model S P100D dual motor sedan is as fast as a Bugatti Chiron. Incidentally, there is an electric saloon being launched in South Africa soon that comes very close to matching the Tesla’s acceleration time, and that is none other than the Porsche Taycan Turbo S, although it is set to cost a cool R4 million.
The Tesla P100D’s driving range is not too shabby either, with the American carmaker claiming it’ll manage 560km between charges. However, go for the Long Range model, albeit with a little less power, and you could get up to 647km between charges.
This luxurious P100D costs a cool $89 490 in the US, which equates to around R1.5 million.
Ford Fiesta ST
Back in the day the original Ford Fiesta ST was one of our favourite pocket rockets, but sadly Ford South Africa no longer imports it.
Those who love the off-beat hum of a three-cylinder engine would be in for a treat if the latest Fiesta ST ever came to South Africa. It’s 1.5-litre turbocharged engine produces 147kW and 290Nm, making it one of the most powerful three-pot powertrains in the world. For the record, that’s also 13kW more than the previous generation ST mustered with four cylinders.
0-100km/h? Expect that to come up in just 6.7 seconds.
Drivers can now choose between three drive modes that affect the engine, exhaust, steering as well as stability control, with Normal for everyday driving, Sport for fast roads and Track mode for, well you know. Traction control is disabled completely in this mode, while the electronic stability control is set to wide-slip mode, and can be switched off completely through a separate switch. A torque vectoring system that applies brake force to the inside wheel is also in place to help you slice those tight bends with minimal understeer.
If you’re a hot hatch fan then you’ll certainly remember the Seat Leon Cupra that was available briefly in South Africa between 2006 and 2008, until the VW-owned Spanish brand’s bungled pricing strategy sent it home with its tail between its legs.
But Seat’s Cupra badge has continued to evolve in Europe. In fact, it’s done a lot more than just evolve, it’s become a brand in its own right. One of the first products to emerge from this fiery stable is the Cupra Leon, which is based on the latest generation of the VW Golf’s spanish cousin.
Customers can choose from three 2-litre TSI turbopetrol engine options, all paired with DSG dual-clutch gearboxes, and with outputs of 180kW, 221kW and 228kW. The latter, however, is only available with the wagon body style, paired with an all-wheel drive system, yet despite its load-lugging status this range-topper can launch from 0-100km/h in under five seconds.
Those wanting a greener option can also opt for a Cupra Leon plug-in hybrid model, which pairs VW’s 1.4 TSI unit to an electric motor for system outputs of 180kW and 400Nm.
Hyundai Veloster N
South African performance hatch fans have just been treated to the most exciting Hyundai ever to hit local shores, with the recent launch of the i30 N, but there is something potentially even more enticing available overseas and it comes in the form of the Veloster N.
While its engine is essentially the same, producing 205kW, the Veloster is set apart by its quirkier styling, with an asymmetrical design that places a single door on one side of the vehicle and two on the other. Unlike the current i30 N, the Veloster N is also available with Hyundai’s eight-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, although that is set to become a reality in the facelifted i30 N too.
To keep it honest in the bends, the Veloster N features upgraded brakes and suspension, with high-tech grip assistance provided by electronically-controlled suspension with a track-focused N mode, and an electronically-controlled N Corner-Carving Limited-slip Differential.
At this stage it’s not known whether the Veloster will ever make a comeback in South Africa, but there is more than a good chance that the updated version of its i30 N hatch cousin will find its way here.