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Six cars that will surprise and delight you with their handling prowess

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 7/31/2015 Jeff Jablansky

© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News

Looking for a new car that offers great handling is not an exercise in compromise.

As much as enthusiasts complain that cars are becoming less fun to drive as technology and safety requirements evolve—and we push toward autonomous driving—there are still diamonds in the ever-softening rough. And they’re not out of reach for everyday driving. Think of this cadre as the antidote to unattainable hypercars and supercars.

These six cars and trucks prove that pleasure still exists in all corners of the automotive market. Read on to see why they’ve caught our attention:

All-rounder: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

We’re happy to say that there’s nothing quite like the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata currently on the market.© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News We’re happy to say that there’s nothing quite like the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata currently on the market.

We’ve just driven the 2016 MX-5 Miata—the convertible that reinvented its segment—and we’re happy to say that there’s nothing quite like it currently on the market. The fourth-generation model is lighter and quicker than the brilliant-handling convertible that it replaces, and it loses nothing in the transformation. Lest you think that 155 horsepower isn’t enough pep for really spirited driving, factor in the Miata’s 2332-lb. curb weight, and you’ll viscerally feel the impact of its ability to have fun. Toss the Miata quickly into a corner, and it eagerly responds with sharpness and precision. Buy one already, won’t you?

Best at: Reminding us what it means to love driving.

The one we’d have: MX-5 Club

Price: $29,420 (includes $820 destination fee)

Powertrain: 155-hp four-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.

Related Link: Research the Mazda MX-5 Miata

Weekend track day car: 2016 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop 

MINI's hotter Cooper S is still a fun ride, but the one that really gets us going is the 228-horsepower John Cooper Works edition.© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News MINI's hotter Cooper S is still a fun ride, but the one that really gets us going is the 228-horsepower John Cooper Works edition.

Mini already offers a hotter version of its Cooper hardtop, called the Cooper S, but it left us wondering whether its dynamics could be sharpened to once again offer go-kart-like tightness and manners. The answer comes in the form of the John Cooper Works, which adds stronger brakes, a revised turbocharger and sport suspension, and an exhaust pipe flap that opens to make it sound ferocious—among accessories like lighter wheels and some go-faster paint trims. The JCW is best enjoyed in parking lot slaloms, and can also hold its own on the race track The best part about the John Cooper Works, other than its price tag? As soon as the track day is complete, you can slip on your loafers and drive it to work. (Just mind the parking lot restrictions, OK?)

Best at: Slaloms. Any of them.

The one we’d have: The one and only trim level.

Price: $31,450 (includes $850 destination fee)

Powertrain: 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, front-wheel drive.

Related Link: Research the Mini Cooper

Crossover: 2016 Mazda CX-5

Is it an oversight that there are two Mazdas on this list? Hardly.© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News Is it an oversight that there are two Mazdas on this list? Hardly.

Is it an oversight that there are two Mazdas on this list? Hardly. In the realm of crossover SUVs, which ranges from capacious offerings to over-styled tall coupes, the CX-5 stands out as a dynamic driving partner. Mazda honed in on all of the characteristics that make a car fun to drive, and then applied them to their midsize crossover. Its on-center steering has none of the vagueness or looseness of its competitors’, and the chassis is well suited for smooth highway driving and responsiveness on less than perfect terrain. It’s safe to say that the CX-5 is the SUV that we’d love to drive home on twisty backroads after a long day of work.

Best at: Dicing through tight spots in city traffic.

The one we’d have: CX-5 Touring AWD

Price: $27,345 (includes $880 destination fee)

Powertrain: 184-hp four-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Related Link: Research the Mazda CX-5

SUV: 2016 Volvo XC90

No detail is overlooked in the XC90’s interior and exterior styling and overall execution, and the same could be said for the way the XC90 drives.© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News No detail is overlooked in the XC90’s interior and exterior styling and overall execution, and the same could be said for the way the XC90 drives.

From the moment we first stepped inside the brand-new XC90 sport-utility vehicle earlier this year, it was clear that we were in for a treat for all senses. No detail is overlooked in the XC90’s interior and exterior styling and overall execution, and the same could be said for the way the XC90 drives. With a turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder under the hood, the XC90 packs an unexpected punch on the highway, and the Swedish SUV rewards drivers on back roads with crisp steering turn in and ride quality that borders on almost too comfortable, regardless of seating row. The best part about the way that the XC90 handles is that it drives three size classes smaller than it is, thereby removing the stress from pushing a three-row SUV around a corner.

Best at: Providing luxurious accommodations for those who love to drive.

The one we’d have: XC90 T6 Inscription

Price: $55,495 (includes $995 destination fee)

Powertrain: 316-hp turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Related Link: Research the Volvo XC90

Coupe: 2015 Lexus RC350 

The RC coupe attracts attention as the most refined example of Lexus’latest design evolution, and it’s also one of the best coupes to drive in the luxury segment.© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News The RC coupe attracts attention as the most refined example of Lexus’latest design evolution, and it’s also one of the best coupes to drive in the luxury segment.

The RC coupe attracts attention as the most refined example of Lexus’ latest design evolution, and it’s also one of the best coupes to drive in the luxury segment. Sure, the BMW 4-series and Audi A5 are perennial best purchase picks, but the Lexus offers as much polish with equal reward behind the wheel in similar environments. Sure, a drive mode selector helps in adjusting the feel of steering and suspension, but the RC350 is pleasurable to drive, regardless. (If sheer power is what you seek, consider the RC F.) Ignore the perplexing Entune infotainment mouse pad and concentrate on the RC350’s mature but sporty manners.

Best at: Refining the experience of sporty and luxurious driving.

The one we’d have: RC350 F Sport AWD

Price: $50,645 (includes $940 destination fee)

Powertrain: 306-hp V-6 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Related Link: Research the Lexus RC

Dream car: 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS

The Cayman GTS exemplifies everything that we love about the seriousness of driving.© Jeff Jablansky | New York Daily News The Cayman GTS exemplifies everything that we love about the seriousness of driving.

We’ve already sung the praises of the most driver-focused coupe that Porsche currently offers (under $100,000, at least), but we’re far from finished. The directness of the steering. The tolerance of its brakes. The balance of its suspension. The growl from just behind the driver’s head. The Cayman GTS exemplifies everything that we love about the seriousness of driving. Opt for the manual transmission, and you’ll feel like a hero every time you set off for a drive—even to the local bodega. We recommend longer stints behind the wheel.

Best at: Dicing through tight spots in city traffic.

The one we’d have: As it comes, with the manual transmission.

Price: $76,195 (includes $995 destination fee)

Powertrain: 340-hp flat six-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.

Related Link: Research the Porsche Cayman

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