The words performance, handling and fun go hand-in-hand when talking sports cars. Many would argue these speedsters should seat only two passengers and sport rear-wheel drive, but automotive thrills can arrive in many forms. While the affordable Ford Mustang has been top of mind with visitors to MSN Autos for many months, in the third quarter of 2008 it was unseated by another American icon — the Chevrolet Corvette.

For nearly two years the 'Vette held the second spot on the list of top 10 sports cars, but the introduction of the new ZR1 helped pop it into the top spot, pushing the Mustang to second position. This list of popular sports cars is based on customer visits to vehicle research pages on MSN Autos, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the MSN Autos editorial team.

A newcomer to this list of popular sports cars is the much-anticipated Nissan GT-R. Streaking straight out of video games and onto the street, the GT-R seems to defy the laws of physics with incredible acceleration, enormous amounts of grip and impressive brakes — all in an easy-to-drive package.

View Pictures:  Popular Sports Cars

The remaining seven vehicles in the list represent a wide range of cars, from the sporty Mazda MX-5 (Miata) to the modern-day muscle of the Dodge Challenger, which slots just behind the Mustang. Venerable entries such as the Porsche 911, Nissan 350Z and the powerful BMW M3 continue to be favorites of shoppers on MSN Autos.

The list of the 10 most popular sports cars on MSN Autos is based on visits to the site's vehicle research pages during months July through September, 2008:

1. Chevrolet Corvette

Click to enlarge pictureChevrolet Corvette (© General Motors)

Chevrolet Corvette

Long an American icon, the current Corvette is also a world-class, high-performance sports car. And for 2009 the 'Vette moves into exotic car territory with the all-new ZR1. Powered by a 638-horse supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, the Corvette ZR1 is capable of 205 mph on the track. The standard Corvette is no slouch either, with its 430-horsepower V8 and impressive fuel economy numbers of 16 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

2. Ford Mustang

Click to enlarge picture2009 Ford Mustang California Special (© Ford Motor Company)

2009 Ford Mustang California Special

When the latest Mustang debuted in 2005, its flashback styling tapped into a deep well of American automotive lust. Its retro design — plainly displayed via round headlights, triangular windows, three-element taillights, and galloping-pony grille — only added appeal to one of the last affordable American sports cars. Available as a coupe or convertible, the Mustang continues to be one of the most popular cars in the Ford lineup, offering a variety of performance options, including a 300-horsepower V8 engine in the GT.

3. Dodge Challenger

Click to enlarge pictureDodge Challenger R/T (© Chrysler LLC)

Dodge Challenger R/T

After a 35-year hiatus, Dodge brought back this classic muscle car in thoroughly modern form. Anticipation has been growing for this HEMI-powered blast from the past ever since it debuted in 2006 as a concept vehicle in Detroit. Available in three different trims, the flagship SRT8 boasts a 6.1-liter V8 engine pumping 425 horses to the rear wheels via a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. And unlike that original model from decades ago, this new Challenger is available with such high-tech features as the MyGIG music storage system, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, Keyless Go and remote start.

4. BMW M3

Click to enlarge picture2008 BMW M3 Convertible (© BMW North America)

2008 BMW M3 Convertible

The M3 is the high-performance version of the BMW 3-Series and was completely new for 2008, powered for the first time by a V8 engine. Offered in coupe, sedan and convertible versions, the M3 is even more aggressive than its predecessor with a power dome in the middle of the aluminum hood, a rear diffuser, and gills in the front fenders that include the blue/purple/red M3 logo. The 4.0-liter V8 puts out 414 horsepower at a high-revving 8300 rpm, and is teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission or a new 7-speed M Double-Clutch transmission with Drivelogic, specifically designed for the M3's engine.

What attributes of a sports car are most appealing to you? Is it power, handling or something else?

5. Porsche 911

The legendary rear-engine sports car, the 911 has managed to retain its trademark silhouette since its inception over 40 years ago. A number of different versions are available, with the range-topping 911 Turbo cranking out 480 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter flat six. With a high-tech all-wheel-drive system, the Turbo can lunge to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and hit 100 mph in 8.4 seconds using the standard 6-speed manual transmission. Opt for the 5-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and acceleration times improve to 3.4 and 7.8 seconds. A revised 911 will debut later this year as a 2009 model.