The Best of the New Breed of Light-Weight Coupes

Slim is in for cars too: New materials are redefining looks, emissions standards and performance marks in the latest Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, BMW, Dodge, and Alfa Romeo.

The sport coupe is having a moment. And here's why: Carmakers have finally found ways to create performance models that are strong, sturdy, and lightweight. This is a big trend in the world of sexy two-door cars, boosting both acceleration and gas mileage. The primary credit goes to nimble materials like aluminum and carbon fiber, which help trim the fat off car designs and reduce carbon gas emissions. Beyond those things, however, these new-to-the-market cars all go in separate directions.

Twenty years is a long time to make American mouths water for the return of Alfa Romeo. It was worth it. The new taste of turbo, combined with a pared-down carbon-fiber cockpit, contributes to its rocket-like profile. The 4C is a precocious, old-school, mid-engine sports car (no power steering) but it climbs from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds.

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The occasional snarling sound and fury in this wildcat Jaguar will remind you that driving is supposed to sound fun too—a rarity in an era of quiet cars—and it's endowed with a substantial bite (0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds) to back up those chops. But what's most delicious about the aluminum body on the F-Type is its slinky form that peaks in a crescent moon arch at the top and tapers neatly into robust rear fenders.

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At the top of the spacious S-Class Coupe pecking order is the S63 AMG, a car built like a German soccer goalie—it's big in stature and armed with rare technical tricks (like active curve tilting and Swarvoski crystals in the LED headlamps). The ride goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, an act of athletic grace.

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The BMW M4 Series is a more savage take on the standard 4-series as a product of BMW's performance division, and it's even more technically sophisticated than its predecessor the M3 coupe. Aluminum front fenders, doors, and hood shave off pounds on this lightweight contender, which boasts 422 horsepower. It's wider stance, huge intakes and rear spoiler drive home its more menacing persona.

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The Hellcat won't win a trophy for being the biggest loser—it's hefty V8 engine hunkers it down. But since every pound counts in a race to the finish, the Hellcat has trimmed some fat; it has an aluminum hood and extra fuel-saving options in its eight-speed transmission. Hellcat does its damage in deafening numbers—it's equipped with 707 horsepower that squeals through the quarter mile in 11.2 seconds at 125 mph, making it the fastest street-legal muscle car on the market certified by the NHRA.

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Also on Details.com:
The Best Worst Cars Ever Made
Barely Legal: The Hottest First-Time-on-the-Market Foreign Cars
Topless Models: The 4 Hottest Roof-Optional Weekend Warrior Cars to Invest in Now

Photos courtesy of respective brands.
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