Let's cut right to the chase: you want to win in Forza Motorsport, because crossing the line in anything other than P1 feels like a vial of acid being poured over your ego. Online racing is particularly competitive in this game, and any possible advantage you can glean from the best car choice in each performance category is worth taking.
With that said though, some caveats: a car is only as good as the best tune that exists for it. Mediocre cars can become race winners with the right settings, so assume for each of the below picks that you've applied a five-star-rated tuning to it and brought its performance rating up to the max for that category with upgrades.
Secondly, there are over 500 cars in FM at launch and no, I haven't forensically tested each one against the others. It's going to be an ongoing process, seeing how the meta evolves, and which cars come to the fore. Obviously, there's no outright "best" vehicle—if there was, everyone would pick it, the game would be incredibly dull, and everyone would lose interest in two days. So it's in Turn 10's interests to balance the vehicle list.
With those legalities out of the way, what I've identified here are the best cars in Forza Motorsport that balance speed with grip and predictability, which tend to perform favorably against other cars in their class, and which additionally look absolutely sick. What? Like that doesn't matter.
1973 BMW 2002 Turbo
The problem with class E cars, of course, is that they're extremely slow. Revs are low, top speeds take years to achieve, and you're punished all the more for small mistakes because they take longer to correct and longer to accelerate back up to speed.
Why is the 2002 Turbo the answer to that problem? It delivers a bit more power than most, particularly when tuned up to 300 PP, and it delivers that power in a way that doesn't feel like magnets have been activated that pull you into every gravel trap. It's a bit quicker, a bit stiffer, and a bit easier to manage drifts. It's got the edge.
2003 Renault Sport Clio V6
This is a bit of a heart-over-head pick, but only a bit. The Nissan Fairlady and For Sierra RS500 are also really strong contenders in D class, but Renault's ultimate hot hatch just wins out. It's the mid-engine, RWD drivetrain combo that makes it work so well—the chassis is nice and compact, which means the short wheelbase complies with your inputs in corners, but you can get a bit of extra rear rotation by managing the revs on corner exit when you need to.
Nimbler than most longer wheelbase cars in the category and rapid at max tune thanks to its light overall weight, it's got many a D class win in it.
1956 Jaguar D-Type
This isn't your dad's Jaguar. Unless your dad's an incredibly discerning car collector, in which case, can I come over for tea? And then borrow his D-Type for some online events?
C Class cars, like E and D, are all about keeping rolling momentum wherever possible to minimise rear slip and lose revs, because there's still not much engine power to accelerate away from mistakes. And while the 2009 Ford Focus RS and 2019 Hyundai Veloster N Forza Edition are both very fast, very safe options, I'm highlighting the Jag because it's different, and gorgeous.
There's inherently more slip to the steering than you find in those hot hatches, but since the centre of gravity is so low it's easier to countersteer and keep momentum going. Also, you'll look cool doing it, and at stock settings, it's at 493 PP which is pretty close to the max for C class cars anyway, so you've got a really strong foundation to apply tunes to.
2023 Lotus Emira
Here are some guiding principles in Forza Motorsport's smorgasbord of vehicles: track cars will always handle better than road cars, higher stock PP usually means better performance at max PP tuning settings, and newer cars will nearly always feel easier to drive than old cars.
With those points fresh in your mind: the Emira was made in the year 2023, and its stock PP is maxed at 600. It's not a stock car though—that particular point will become more salient as we get to the faster categories.
2018 Audi Sport RS3 LMS
A class has an interesting mix of road and track cars, and while some of the road models feature phenomenal power, you just can't beat a machine that's been designed and manufactured for racing extremely quickly around tracks. That's exactly what we have here with this nice grippy RS3. It's just that bit easier to keep the rear tidy through corners than other A class vehicles, and balances that stability with a strong top speed.
For circuits where top speed is less of an issue, KTM's X-Bow has unbeatable grip and acceleration levels, so consider that. Mercedes' C63 AMG Forza Edition is also beautifully planted and if you bought the premium edition of FM it's already in your library.
1997 Mclaren F1 GT
Cards on the table, there's an element of heart-over-head in this pick too. Ferraris' 812 Superfast and Lamborghini's Huracan Performante both offer more modern, precise supercars that are marginally easier to keep neat and tidy through corners, but all the way back in 1997 Mclaren's GT variant of the legendary F1 had speed and responsiveness to rival even these modern machines.
In reality it's an incredibly rare vehicle—only 10 were ever made to this 1997 spec, so it's simply a thrill to see and drive. But it's here on merit in the S class as it's got one of the highest top speeds across the whole category, and that low-slung chassis makes weight transfer feel fast and stable.
2012 Ferrari 599X Evolution
This big red machine is a Forza Horizon legend. Often considered the outright best car throughout FH4's meta, it's so incredibly planted that it feels like it's being sucked onto the track. That feeling persists here, even in FM's radically different physics model, and it's married to preposterous speed and acceleration attributes.
Radical's RXC Turbo—another Horizon legend—is worth exploring in the R class too for its lightweight zippiness, as is Aston Martin's track-minded Vulkan AMR. But to a true icon of Forza games, we have to give a reverent bow and the overall R class recommendation.
2014 Audi Team Joest R18 e-tron quattro
If you can look past the fact that it has far too many meaningless words in its title, Audi's fearsomely dominant prototype will reward you with one of the most stable, predictable drives in the P class category, where engine power is so high that it's often a real mission just to keep the platform pointed in the right direction.
For a more road-going option, Raesr's Tachyon Speed is a sheer pleasure to hurl around a circuit, and Mercedes' genuinely iconic Sauber C9 prototype is nearly as quick as this Audi. But if you're trying to win races at all costs, the latter is your safest bet in this category because not only is it rapid, it's easier to keep on track and intact than its contemporaries.
1990 Ferrari 641
Before you apply tunings to vehicles that take them beyond their stock PP category, there are only three X-class cars in the game: vintage F1 cars and a Porsche prototype. And in fact, there's little between them, though don't say that with Prost or Senna fans in earshot. Our provisional pick goes to the Ferrari 641, but only because it looks so red.
Realistically, it's going to take some time to see how the community tinkers with tunes before we see the best X class cars emerge. Probably the Ultima Evolution Coupe 1020 will feature, as it always does in Forza games, as an X class destroyer. For now, just enjoy the amazing engine sounds of this classic F1 machinery.