Fast and Sexy
Americans can’t flip through a news feed or change channels without being bombarded by reports about autonomous vehicles. Although we should not deny that the future of the automobile is in flux, the reality is that the transformation to a driverless society will be a long time coming, since those who know and love driving don’t want to fully relinquish their freedom to hit the road and determine their destiny via the gas pedal. We the people hold fast to the idea of being able to have fun behind the wheel. So until the time comes when our cold fingers have to be pried from our steering wheels, let’s celebrate the high-performance vehicles unveiled at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Yes this is an SUV, but it is built on the same platform as the all-new Giulia, and that car holds the record as the fastest 4-door sedan around the Nurburgring circuit in Germany. The new Stelvio — named for one of the greatest driving roads in the world — will be offered in three trims, but the one that grabbed our attention is the Quadrifoglio. Powered by an all-aluminum direct-injection 2.9-liter bi-turbo intercooled V6 engine producing 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, this sexy crossover can hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 177 mph. Expect to see Stelvio arriving in showrooms sometime next year.
Audi R8 V10 + Exclusive Edition
The Audi R8 is impressive in any guise, but this particular variant stands out, even among other R8s. The Exclusive Edition R8 features special Quantum Gray paint, Solar Orange trim, a carbon fiber rear diffuser, a fixed rear-wing spoiler and a 610-horsepower V10 engine. But what really makes this R8 unique are the laser headlights. Each headlight contains a laser module that operates with four high-intensity laser diodes. Each module bundles these diodes into a blue laser beam, then a phosphor converter transforms the blue laser beam into a very bright and pure white light. Only 25 of the appropriately-named Exclusive Edition R8s will be built.
Honda Civic Si
Most buyers of the Honda Civic think of it as basic transportation to get from point A to point B — and for the most part they would be right. But there’s another Civic designed to make the drive much more fun — the Civic Si. The current generation of Civic doesn’t have an Si, but the prototype rolled onstage in L.A., which means it will appear soon. “With the new Honda Civic Si, we’re injecting even more sporty goodness into our 10th-generation Civic lineup,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of Honda. “This will be, hands down, the fastest, best-handling Si we’ve ever offered to our customers.” With a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and short-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, the Si will be available as a coupe or sedan when it joins the Civic lineup next year.
Anyone fortunate enough to experience a Jaguar F-TYPE under hard acceleration knows that the British marque knows how to make performance sound good. However, the latest model from Jag goes its own way — it accelerates in total silence. The stunning I-PACE concept offers plenty of performance, but this sporty SUV is all electric. Two powerful electric motors — one driving each axle for all-wheel drive performance — are integrated with the transmission and provide a total of 400 horsepower and 516 lb-ft or torque. The I-PACE will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in around 4 seconds, with an estimated range of 220 miles on a full charge. The liquid-cooled 90 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is positioned as low as possible in the chassis and between the axles, which should provide for excellent handling when the I-PACE enters production in 2018.
At L.A. show press days, the big news at Mazda was the introduction of an all-new CX-5, but the car that held our rapt attention was this one. The new Mazda RT24-P race car will make its first appearance on the track in late January, racing in the Prototype class at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The Mazda RT24-P will be powered by the Mazda MZ-2.0T engine, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged powerplant making about 600 horsepower. “This is a huge moment for Mazda Motorsports and the entire Mazda family,” said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports North America. “To have a car which features Mazda design language at the top level of our motorsports program is meaningful for us as a brand. We believe we have the right team, the right drivers and the right chassis to win races and championships.”
Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
The Mercedes-AMG GT S coupe is an amazing sports car — and now there’s an option for those who want that same performance but prefer open-air motoring. The roadster retains the same beautiful lines as the coupe, and under its long hood lurks a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine putting out 550 horsepower. Teamed with the AMG Speedshift 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the GT C Roadster will hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of almost 200 mph. The soft-top roadster is available with a Burmester High-End Sound System; however, most drivers will prefer the music of the roaring exhaust.
At this year’s L.A. show, the German carmaker introduced an all-new high-performance E63 sport sedan. Two variants are available: the Mercedes-AMG E63 4MATIC+ and the Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC+. The latter boasts a twin-turbo V8 engine putting out 612 horsepower, making this the most powerful E-Class ever. All that power gets managed via the innovative AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system. Torque distribution from front to rear is completely variable, and on the ‘S’ variant an available Drift Mode permanently disengages the front axle, making this super sedan fully rear-wheel drive. Be forewarned: Drift Mode could get expensive due to its tire-melting capabilities.
Porsche 911 RSR
The Porsche 911 is an icon on the road, but this high-performance sports car is also legendary at the track. On the Porsche stand in L.A. sat the latest racing version of the 911, the 911 RSR. “While retaining the typical 911 design, this is the biggest evolution in the history of our top GT model,” said Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser. The 911 RSR is completely new — the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission were designed from scratch. For the 2017 racing season, Porsche plans to run the new 911 RSR in at least 19 races, including the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Spyker C8 Preliator
Spyker has built a reputation for creating some of the most stylish, unique sports cars on the road, and this one certainly fills the bill. The C8 Preliator continues the aircraft theme of previous Spykers with taillights that mimic jet engine outlets, small winglets on the sides and 19-inch “Rotorblade” wheels inspired by turbine blades of a jet engine. There’s even a red cover over the ignition switch like a missile launcher on a fighter jet. Power comes from a mid-mounted V8 engine producing 525 horsepower; a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission are available. Thanks to a lightweight chassis, the C8 reaches 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and claims a top speed of more than 200 mph.
Nissan debuted its Star Wars-themed Rogue crossover at this year’s L.A. auto show, tying in the design with the latest Star Wars film, “Rogue One.” No disrespect to the Rogue, but we’d love to take this model out for a spin. According to Wookieepedia (our source for Star Wars vehicle information), this TIE Fighter may be in the Nissan stand, but it was built by Sienar Fleet Systems. Only about 30 feet long — small for a space ship — the TIE Fighter is powered by twin ion engines (hence the acronym) that propel it to speeds of 750 mph. Apparently the twin engines provide impressive maneuverability. And unlike the Audi R8 with its laser lights, the TIE Fighter has laser cannons as well as proton torpedoes — quite useful in L.A. traffic. No word yet on pricing, or if Nissan plans to release their own version of this iconic — and ionic — vehicle.