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What's the Best Car
To a degree, asking "What's the best car?" is pointless. Forza 4 would not be a very good racing game if one particular car stood out from all the rest as without a doubt the fastest car in the game. In fact, to a degree Forza 3 suffered from that problem. There were number of cars that tended to drastically out-perform the rest.
That only became apparent after several months on the leaderboards, however. Over time, there may be some particular cars that become popular - and indeed, there's already some vehicles that seem to do very well. Let's have a look at some of the best cars in Forza 4 in different classes.
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Best F-Class Car
The F-class cars are generally made up of small city cars. Though not known for performance, these cars have a reputation of being a bit of a hoot because they're light and easy to flick around. They also have so little power that even the most inexperienced driver won't be overwhelmed.
Currently, in the Top Gear city car challenge, the Chevy Spark is an overwhelming victor. That particular race is just limited to city cars, however, and not other F-class entries. When it comes to pure speed, the 1969 Toyota 2000GT is popular, thanks to its high power and light weight. Those looking for a balance rear-wheel drive vehicle should check out the Datsun 510, which has a low base PI of 108, providing some room for either power or handling upgrades.
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Best E-Class Car
These cars were the least powerful previously found in Forza, and there's several new entries here along with the old favorites. The new Mazda 2 (available as DLC in Forza 3) is a favorite of mine.
With that said, it's not neccesarily a top performer on the leaderboards. There, the best legitimate car appears to be the Lotus Elan, which is a small and agile rear-wheel drive vehicle that is fairly low on the PI scale, providing some room for customization.
It should be noted that at glitches have severely plagued E-Class competition, as it's been found that dropping absurdly large engines in certain cars reduces their PI. The resulting cars are a nightmare around corners, but so fast in the straights that it does not matter.
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Best D-Class Car
As with the E-Class cars, glitches for vehicles are running rampant in the D-Class segment. Still, there are some vehicles that seem to do well.
All forms of the Mazda Miata are often seen on the leaderboards, but particularly the first and second generation (frankly, this may be as much due to personal preference of drivers as anything else). Much like the Elan that is common in E-Class, these are light rear-wheel drive cars that are difficult to beat on the tighter tracks.
It's also very common to see upgraded E-Class front-wheel drive cars doing well in the leaderboards. This includes vehicles like the Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta, and Citreon C1. It's not surprising that they do so well here, but the FWD cars become increasingly hard to upgrade without creating excessive understeer in higher classes.
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Best C-Class Car
Front-wheel drive cars seem to do very well in this class, but while the smaller vehicles like the Fiesta and Mazda2 appear, they are generally outnumbered by slightly larger brethren such as the Honda Civic '94 and '99 as well as the Toyota Celica '03 (which was a top car in Forza 3 as well).
With that said, leaderboards on most tracks tend to be mixed. Often, these small front-wheel drive cars are mixing it up with classic American muscle. It's not hard to take a variety of muscle cars starting in the E-class and D-class segments and upgrade them with additional power to create straight-line monsters. On tracks with long straits, these cars can clean up.
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Best B-Class Car
This is a dicey segment with a lot of cars showing strength on various tracks. On longer courses with a good mix of straights and curves, the Acura NSX '05 seems to be doing well. That would make sense, as it is a powerful car that is also well-balanced thanks to rear-wheel drive and a mid-engine design.
Other cars that seem to do well include the Lotus Elise, the Ford Escort '92, and the Alfa Romeo GTA. Rear-wheel drive muscle cars still do well in this class, but they're less common on the leaderboards than C-Class, glitched cars aside. You'll also still see the occasional race-ready front-wheel drive mini-car, such as the Ford Fiesta.
The big surprise, in my opinion, is the relative lack of all-wheel drive vehicles. Subarus and a number of solid Audis are viable in this class, and were dominate forces in Forza 3. So far, they're mostly absent from Forza 4 leaderboards.
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Best A-Class Car
The clear winner in the A-Class at the moment appears to be the Lotus Exige '06, which is a mid-engine rear-wheel drive car that started just within the confines of A-class with a PI of 510. So far, this car is dominating most leaderboards, but on a few tracks with long straits the Chevy Camaro Z28 '69, which starts life as a D-class car, seems to do very well.
The rest of the competition is a smattering of mostly rear-wheel drive cars that are fairly standard suspects, like the BMW M3. There's also a lot of cars from a class or two lower that fit this profile. The Acura NSX continues to do well, and the Honda 2000 is not an uncommon sight.
Front-wheel drive cars are almost entirely absent, and again, the all-wheel drive cars don't make much of a showing.
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Best S-Class Car
Lotus makes an extremely strong showing in S-Class. Several cars including the Exige, Elise and 2-Eleven do extremely well, taking top spots on most leaderboards.
The Ferarri F50 is a common sight on the leaderboards of a few tracks, and the McLaren F1 also appears in force on some courses. There is also a number of other cars here and there, but for the most part, this seems to be a Lotus party. On some tracks, all of the top 10 times are held by Lotus vehicles exclusively.
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First, in case you were wondering, I did not include the R-Class cars because they do not appear to be very interesting. Specific make and model does not seem to be as important in the race cars as driver skill, and the original base rating of the car. Furthermore, most of the cars in the game simply can't be upgraded to R1 performance levels.
Based on what we're seeing so far, it looks like the story is this: Front-wheel drive is common in low-class races, and is probably the best choice there for new players. With that said, on tight courses the small rear-wheel drive vehicles like the Elan and Miata do extremely well. American and Japanese cars with big engines, and rear-wheel drive, are a good choice for any race with a long straight or two.
Once you hit B-Class, however, the story really starts to change. Rear-wheel drive cars become a better choice, and cars with mid-engine configurations are a force to be reckoned with. That's why Lotus is so common - all of their cars, with the exception of the Carlton and Elan, are mid-engine.
All-wheel drive cars are almost entirely absent from leaderboards. This is a big change, and perhaps a sign that Turn 10 over-nerfed them. Another possibility is the additional stability in the driving model. It's more precise than before, and provides even more feedback, which in turn makes the cars that are prone to unpredictable motions (i.e. mid-engined sports cars) easier to control.
In any case, it looks like Forza 4 has seriously but not entirely altered the leaderboards. It will be interesting to see how it pans out over time, but for now, the vehicles above are the best places for new drivers interested in the fastest lap times to start.