Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's like 2003 all over again

Ten years ago, we were introduced to some of the greatest supercars of all-time.  Around this time in 2002 (give or take a few months), we were introduced to the Ferrari Enzo, Saleen S7, Viper SRT10, Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche Carrera GT and McLaren Mercedes SLR, with the Lamborghini Murcielago, Ford GT and Ferrari F430 being introduced shortly before and after 2002, respectively.  It was an amazing time to be a sports car fan, but there was a sense that this surge of truly great cars would be the last of its kind.  After all, the turn of the century was when the "green" movement really took off.  Miles per gallon suddenly became more important than miles per hour.  It really did seem like outrageous sports cars were coming to an end.

But then, about three years ago, we got some good news.  The first car to revive the sports car world was the Ferrari 458 Italia in 2009.  Shortly after, Ferrari's old Formula One rival, McLaren, launched a similar car of their own: the MP4-12C, named after some random guy's license plate.  Then it was Ferrari's "other" rival who joined the party.  Lamborghini unveiled the Aventador, and the supercar scene suddenly had three new masterpieces.

Now it seems that there is another great surge of supercars.  Here's a look at some of the headlining supercars that are due to hit the market in the near future:

Pagani Huayra

When I think of Pagani, I think of spaceships and fighter jets and everything a 5-year old wishes he had.  Why?  Because Pagani's are built to be insane.  They're "poster cars."  When a non-sports car fan sees a Pagani, they realize that it's a special car, not that you'll ever see one on the road in the U.S.  The Zonda was not only Pagani's flagship from 1999-2012, it was their only car.  They built just over 200 Zonda road cars during that time.

The new 2013 Huayra is the second car out of Pagani's stable.  It resembles the Zonda in some ways, both in styling and with the Mercedes AMG V12 engine that it will still have, but this is an entirely new car.  It will trump the Zonda in the power department, as the Huayra has 720 horsepower.  That's more than Ferrari's old V12 road car, the 599 GTO and the new Lamborghini Aventador.  It can get from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds and top out at over 230 miles per hour (not miles per gallon).

But the Huayra was designed for a different purpose than the Zonda.  The Huayra was designed to give the driver a completely different feel than the Zonda, as Horacio Pagani himself explains to Jay Leno:

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

The Ferrari 599 was an amazing car from a performance aspect and a technological aspect.  Unfortunately, its looks weren't amazing.  However, Ferrari improved so dramatically from the F430 to the 458 in their mid-engine V8 department that there was absolutely no reason why they couldn't do it with their V12 GT car as well.  And from the looks of this new car, it looks as if they have.  Welcome to the F12 Berlinetta.

While Pagani's new creation has a tiny little 6.0 liter V12 with only 720 horsepower, Ferrari's new car has a 6.3 liter V12 that produces 730 horsepower.  The F12's 0-to-60 time beats the Pagani as well, albeit by just 0.2 seconds (3.1 for the F12).  The Ferrari can also reach upwards of 210 miles per hour.  So while most car companies are coming out with smaller turbocharged engines, Ferrari has unleashed quite a mammoth.

But the improvement with the F12 from the 599 is more than just performance, because the F12 looks amazing.  Oh, and it doesn't sound too bad, either:

SRT Viper

Over the past two decades, the Dodge Viper has been America's dream car.  The Viper of the '90s, the RT-10, was simple, as some consider it to be the modern-day Shelby Cobra.  It evolved gradually in the late '90s with the GTS and again in the early 2000s with the SRT-10, but now the Viper has leaped forward, after disappearing completely for a few years.  The catch is that it isn't a Dodge anymore, not that it matters.

The new Viper is stunning in every way.  First of all, it looks incredible.  They've managed to keep the traditional proportions of the Viper intact while making it look new and revolutionary.  Then there's the engine, which is simply enormous.  It's an 8.4 liter V10 that makes 640 horsepower, which is more than the Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8 or Lexus LFA, thus the most powerful production V10 in the world.  And at 8.4 liters, that's the biggest engine in the world, too (at least that I can think of).

Despite the craziness under the hood, it's actually ever-so-slightly more practical, too:

Porsche 918 [Spyder]

The last Porsche I cared about was the Carrera GT from ten years ago.  It was one of the all-time great cars when it came out, and its performance numbers can still rival almost anything in production today.  But since the Carrera GT, no Porsche's have really interested me.  The 911 has gotten a bit boring.  The Cayman is for people who can't afford a 911 and don't want a Mustang, the Cayenne is a big SUV and the Panamera is just plain ugly.

Have no fear!  Porsche has saved the day...from themselves, I guess.  After years of speculation, the 918 Spyder is going to be produced.  It remains to be seen how many will be made, but hopefully they'll build enough where you might actually see one on a nice Saturday afternoon drive.  The 918 Spyder is a completely new kind of sports car.  It has a V8 that produces 580 horsepower, but due to its electric engine system (which is far too complicated for me to understand), it can actually reach up to 900 horsepower.  Ferrari's Enzo replacement will follow a similar model.

The 918 really is coming to production.  Here's proof, as it drives the Nurburgring and public roads:

McLaren P1

If your company built what many consider to be the greatest car of all-time, how do you follow that up?  That's precisely what McLaren has faced ever since the final F1 rolled off the production line in 1998.  The McLaren name surfaced again on a production car in 2003, when the Mercedes-based SLR debuted, and again on their MP4-12C, but this is the P1, and it's been built to replace the F1, and that's a very tall order.

The new P1 is the opposite of the F1.  The P1, like the MP4-12C, is a car based on technology, while the F1 was a much more basic car.  The F1 was Gordon Murray's hobby, while the P1 is more of a science project.  The P1 will use an electric system with its 3.8 liter V8, which is the same basic engine as the MP4-12C.  The electric system, which is beyond my understanding, will somehow produce around 960 horsepower and allow the car to reach speeds of nearly 240 miles per hour.  For the record, that wouldn't beat the old F1's top speed.

Ferrari F70

There aren't any official pictures of the Enzo's replacement yet, but it is expected to be produced by 2014.  The F70 will be Ferrari's first hybrid.  It will have an electric system that will allow its horsepower to reach nearly 1,000.  But, of course, this Ferrari has big shoes to fill.  It's the successor to the Enzo.  The Enzo replaced the F50, which replaced the F40, so the F70 will have to be pretty amazing.

Luckily, despite the hyrbid-ness of the new car, the F70 will retain the V12 that the Enzo had, meaning that three of Ferrari's five base models will actually be V12s (FF, F12, F70).

The F70 will be the fastest, and most fuel-efficient Ferrari ever built.  That's a win-win for everyone.  Well, except for almost everyone, since most of us will never own or drive one.

Corvette C7

Like the F70, General Motors has been very secretive about the new Corvette, so there aren't any official pictures or performance numbers yet.  I already wrote, and ranted, about the C7.  Basically, it's going to be very fast and will have a better interior, but it isn't going to look like Corvette's that we're used to.  For some reason, General Motors decided that to attract younger buyers, they'd take the rear lights from the Camaro and put them on the Corvette.  Yes, the older brother borrowed from the younger brother.

Other than the not-so-exciting styling of the C7, the new Corvette will be an amazing car.  The C6 was a huge improvement from the C5 in the performance department, and the C7 will take that to the next level.  Now, finally, the Corvette will get an interior makeover and will shrink in size a bit.  Oh, and by the way, it'll get about 30 miles to the gallon, thanks to the first-to-fourth gear feature on all Corvette's.


Ten years ago, the sports car world saw a group of cars burst onto the scene that revolutionized performance road cars and set new standards.  Now, it's happening again, and this time, the cars are more powerful.  Thankfully, the supercar didn't die with the start of the green movement.  Hopefully, they'll live on well past the hybrids and stupid electric cars that are on the road now.  Only time will tell, but for now, at least we have these new cars to look forward to.

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