In these tough economic times, it seems that those of us who still lust after six-hundred horsepower blown modular V8’s (or perhaps, own them) are having to constantly defend our position against those who consider earth-saving power and your car’s cool factor to be an inverse ratio.
I didn’t live through the first car crisis of the 1970s, but so help me I’m not going to sit by while Prius-lovers start spreading that ancient lie: that it is un-American to have a nice car.
So, to aid in defending all of Cardom against our Mongol assailants drinking water from the tailpipes of their hydrogen cars, I propose the following thesis–
The modern age has produced the modern man. And the modern man–thanks to all those French and German philosophers no one understands, like Hegel and Heidegger and Camus and Kierkegaard–has ingested these ideas to appalling results. In order to cope with the Nietzchean declaration that “God is Dead”, Western philosophy has slowly forced us to divide our intellectual self from our emotional self, placing us in a polarized diaspora of nihilism and amorality.
Oh, the humanity!
Thankfully, the solution is simple: Muscle cars. Pony Cars. Sports cars. Cars that make your heart pound. Cars that make you question your sexual preferences. (Tera Patrick or a Tech-Art Ferrari 599? Choices, choices.)
Beautiful cars bridge this barbarous divide. American muscle taught us a long time ago that driving is an emotional experience. How else could Dodge, purveyor of self-detonating Hemi’s, survive this long? And year after year, we are reminded that the maniacal pursuit of technological innovation is pointless if our hearts are not stirred (read: Nissan GT-R).
And so, in the spirit of a new humanity (and in case you haven’t already just skipped ahead to the list), I submit a list of ten lustable cars that just might remind us all how it felt when stimulus checks were no substitute for smart business practices.
1. 2011 Ford Mustang
The revised bodywork, specifically, the raised hood, flared haunches of the rear quarter panel, and the aesthetic tummy-tuck about the middle have made America’s favorite pony car both more mature and aggressive, while interior upgrades such as a one-piece aluminum dash and the use of soft-touch materials convince us against all odds that Detroit can intimate European sport-luxury if pressed. Borrowing the underpinnings of the previous generation’s Bullett package, a conglomerate of suspension upgrades, cold air intake, chassis stiffening, taller gears, custom engine mapping, and an exhaust note Steve McQueen made every Charger fanatic abhor, has proved sufficient to keep the Mustang competitive with the bigger, stronger, and heavier Camaro, though, as we all know, “there is no replacement for displacement.”
Despite the recent economic downturn, judging from Ford’s ixnay on the ailoutbay, we may still expect the return of the most famous engine of them all, the legendary 5.0–codenamed Coyote–with four valves per cylinder and four hundred horsepower capable of regaining blue oval pony dominance.
2. 2010 Lotus Evora
After nearly 15 years, the British lightweight firm finally brings us a new design. And this time, “special” accommodations like carpeting, power windows, a radio, and an air conditioner are no longer “California Edition” only. The Evora promises to hold two lardy Americans in the front, and two munchkins in the back, making the latest Lotus heart-throb something you could actually bring your equally less practical girlfriend home to your mother in. Even with the extra space, the Evora still promises a curb weight of 3000 pounds. Combined with a 3.5 liter Toyota V-6 churning out 276 naturally aspirated horsepower, and a six-speed manual gearbox, the Evora will be no slouch with a 0 to 60 time under 5 seconds. And if the projected price-tag of $60,000 doesn’t inflate too much, we can expect a lot of beleaguered Cayman and Z4 owners out there.
3. 2010 BMW Z4
Just as some of us had finally convinced ourselves that the Z4 coupe might not look like a tiger shark / datsun terrier mix, BMW up and beautifies its Porsche (and Lotus) fighter. Flowery words are strictly unnecessary as the new body language speaks for itself. Suffice it to say: they fixed the front, they fixed the hood, they fixed the roofline, they fixed the side skirts, and the rear end for good measure. Adding a hard-top convertible option likewise solves the brain-bending choice between coupe or drop-top by combining both in an attractive and functional hybrid (not the green kind, the good kind). And if all that wasn’t good enough, inserting the torque happy twin-turbo 3.0L I-6 of the 335i is Bavaria’s apology for making us wait more than a decade for a car that is both fast and classically beautiful.
4. 2010 Ferrari F450
Despite early reports that Ford might not be the only 5.0 happy manufacturer come next year, word has it that the next mid-engine prancing horse will be four and a half liters in displacement. Ferrari will revise its iconic F430 nameplate, enlarging the V-8 engine and upping the output to more than 550 horses (about 520 to the rear wheels) without any suspected weight gain. This new engine will also be higher-revving, potentially as high as 10,000 rpm–accompanied by a soundtrack guaranteed to send you running back to the confessional booth again and again.
Aesthetically, the F450’s front air and rear intakes are enlarged and restyled, playing the mature adult filmstar to the F430’s flirtatious collegiate athlete. Ferrari will retain its coupe and convertible options again, as well as a stripped-down track-based Scuderia variant commanding $300,000. Thankfully, the base version is a whole $100,000 more affordable, continuing Ferrari’s tradition of offering affordable exotic performance for doctors, actors, and football players everywhere.
5. 2010 Ford Shelby GT-500
In the event that Ford does not do the decent thing and give us what we really want–a Camaro-spanking–we can rest assured knowing that the Shelby will deal out death in the name of justice to the Chevy’s top of the line ZR-1 powered Camaro Z28…
Oh, wait. That’s right. GM didn’t eat all their vegetables and now their out cutting brands and looking for handouts. No time to settle old scores here.
The Camaro will have to rely on aftermarket treatment from Hennessey, Lingenfelter, Felser-Ross, and others in order to match the stock Ford Shelby, boasting 540 ponies, better handling, and without argument the most aggressive nose-piece this side of the ’68 KR of old. Add on the same interior accouterments of the base model, plus five styles of striping (on each seat as well as the cue-ball shifter knob), and the Snake finally begins to live up to its own heritage.
6. 2010 Audi R8 5.2 V10 FSI Quattro
Since its appearance a few years ago, the R8 has received industry-wide acclaim for demonstrating what a true everyday supercar can and should look like. But the car’s 420-hp rating wasn’t quite up to the supercar moniker for many, despite its handling prowess and its ability to “do more with less.” But come next year (or the very end of this year) Audi will solve this little “problem” with V-10 power laden with 525 horses all strangely similar to the newly revised Gallardo powerplant, though the Audi has been tuned out of striking distance of its Italian sister. The extra 105 horsepower enable the R8 V10 to keep pace with the Porsche 911 GT2, turning a 3.7 second 0-60 time and breaking the 12-second quarter mile.
All this extra grunt thankfully doesn’t have an adverse effect on the R8’s most endearing feature: it’s user-friendliness, and its ability to woo you out of its exotic rivals’ cramped, hard, and often times, hot cockpits and into its own plush, comfortable, compromise-free driver’s seat. Now, all of this extra gimickry can go unnoticed–if it is possible for any R8 to go unnoticed–as the “new” R8 is still badged as an R8, not the logically deduced R10, and will have only subtle body mods to distinguish it from its diminutive sibling, including ostrich-egg sized rear tailpipes, wider intakes behind the doors, two crossbraces over the front air intake (rather than three), and standard LED lighting in the rear tail lights. These revisions boost the price to $162,000.
7. 2010 Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SV
Super Veloce. That’s the name. A title bestowed upon aging Lambo’s on their last hoorah through the production cycle. Under the SV treatment, the Murcielago sheds 220 pounds, gains 29 horsepower, and sprouts a titanic “Aeropack” wing with enough drag to supersede the use of the standard “on or off” 15-inch carbon-ceramic disc brakes at all four wheels. If top speed is your thing, buy a Veyron, or a Venom 1000, because the SV is all about grip–albeit high speed grip. The wing turns the fidgety and sometimes frightening Murcielago into a track champion, while limiting its top speed to 209 from 213 mph. Below the 200 mph barrier, the SV is good for a 3 second 0-60 time. But no matter. Lamborghinis are about being seen, though not always in one piece.
Perhaps the improved handling dynamics will at least staunch the number of “crash photos” streaming in, seemingly, everyday into blogs and forums. In an effort to deter hooliganism from any but the fabulously wealthy, Lamborghini has priced the SV around $460,000 and limited production to just 350 cars worldwide.
8. 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series
Welcome to the most powerful production Mercedes ever produced. With 661 horsepower lurking under the hood, the bodacious bodywork channels ripping pectorals rather than the typical exotic’s allusion to soft bust lines. There is nothing soft about this car. Even the name is all hard core and intimidating. Black Series. It’s gunmetal gray, but its still a Black Series, dammit! Why? Because the suspension straight from the factory is tuned for the Nurburgring. Because Mercedes accompanied the test car they sent to Jeremy Clarkson with a memo warning him that he’s not as good of a driver as he thinks he is, and that if he’s not careful, this beast of a car could wind up silencing the biggest mouth in the car industry.
Mercedes will have you believe that universal axioms and paradoxes were broken in the creation of this vehicle for use in the public domain. Perhaps. Its twin-turbo V12 certainly tries at every turn to tear the entire car apart, and the wheels wage constant war with the traction-control module. But the numbers aren’t out of this world, and other manufacturers have found ways to create cars that don’t want to kill you like a Viper wants to kill you–swiftly and without warning. $300,000 buys you a chance to risk your neck for one of the 175 examples that will make it over the Atlantic.
9. 2010 Porsche 911 GT3
When compared with the likes of Ferraris and Lamborghinis, $113,000 is a small price to pay for the level of performance contained within any Porsche 911. But in its raciest form, the GT3 offers a form of driving purity unique to Stuttgart. The 2010 model receives more of everything. Power is increased from 415 to 435-hp thanks to a .2 liter increase in displacement. Revised bodywork essentially triples the aerodynamic downforce of the previous generation, from 66 pounds at 186 mph to 220 pounds. There is the obligatory alphabet soup of add-ons, like PADM (Porsche Active Drivetrain Mounts), which are hydraulic engine mounts that stiffen up to improve feedback between the powertrain and the body. There is also the handy front axle-lifting feature, which is self explanatory and around $4,000.
Lateral grip is expected to equal or exceed a stellar 1.05g, and you can count on a 0-60 time of around 3.7 seconds for when the road straightens out. If you’re thinking of using one of these everyday, you should know–the clutch and shifter are heavy, but there is ample grocery space in place of rear seats. It’s no wonder that about 70% of all GT3 owners use their cars at the track, and many never even bother registering them. Sometimes, when you have something that draws as much attention and inspires such hooliganism as the GT3, a racetrack (or deserted back country road) is the ideal driving destination.
10. 2010 Pagani Zonda F
The Zonda receives its first major update in 10 years in the F model. Sporting a new front clip and revised rear quarter panels, the biggest story is under the hood. Pagani has been careful to keep the details under wraps. But we do know that it will be AMG-sourced. And whether it be the 5.4L supercharged V8 from the McLaren SLR 722 or the bi-turbo V12 of the Mercedes SL65 Black series, we can expect power output to be between 600 and 700-hp. We can also expect an equally hefty price tag of $650,000. However, despite the mansion-sized cost and the recent economic downturn, Pagani is increasing its yearly production from 16 units to 60 units to compensate for the increased demand for its mono-wipered supercar.