The Cars that Draw us to the Show
The first car I found for one of the clients I squired around the show was an Audi TT. The iconic shape has hardly changed, but they have actually gotten lighter (a trend) and added horsepower (another trend). There is also more room in that tiny back seat than the one I squeezed into for the test drive back in the day.
The literature does not state whether the four-liter direct-injected dry-sump V8 (inset) hidden under all that shrouding in the Mercedes-AMG GT S’ engine bay includes the specification du jure – a flat-plane crankshaft. It has a turbocharger in the valley between the cylinder banks, and the signature of the technician who assembled it from a bare block. Claimed output: 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, the latter available at a mere 1,750 rpm. Many who saw it remarked that in this view it looks like a Porsche
Note the distance from the front wheel arch to the door cut. Unlike say, the recent Maserati coupes, with their short noses and compact wheelbases, Mercedes attempts to counter the Porsche 911’s advantage of rear weight bias by adopting classic front-mid engine practice, placing the mass of the engine entirely behind the front wheel centerlines. Weight distribution was stated at 47%/53% front/rear. The result is a pleasing long hood, short deck proportion like early front-engine race cars.
The car we all suspect was the target of the Mercedes-AMG GT and GT S is the Porsche 911. You can be forgiven if you have trouble keeping up with all the variations thereof. This is the GT-S, just introduced the week before at Press Days. It slots between the Carerra S and the GT3. Not as quick as the Mercedes-AMG above in a straight line, but in real world driving, hard to beat.
Strange wheels with what look like supplementary composite bicycle spokes adorn the muscular Maserati Alfieri Concept. Better proportioned than their Maserati 2+2 coupes, it’s a more fitting example of a proper descendant of the Ghiblis of the late sixties and early seventies than their sedans of that name.
Hidden behind the Maserati exhibit, the first real offering of a returning-to-the-US Alfa Romeo, the 4C, represents a candidate to replace the Lotus Elise. At only about 2,300 pounds, its 137 horsepower Toyota-sourced turbo four has no trouble motivating its sexy carbon fiber and sheet moulding compound shape. No power steering blunts the road feel of this corner carver, although purists may protest the dual-clutch automatic transmission. No manual is available.
On the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the first Mazda MX-5 Miata, the ground-up redesign relieves the anxiety of lovers of light sports cars, by actually losing about 200 pounds. The best-selling two seater in history, it will share some architecture with a similar car to be built by Fiat/Chrysler as an Alfa Romeo.
We featured Dodge’s Challenger Hellcat, with its 707 horsepower supercharged V8, in our Auto Show Pony Car edition. Chevrolet showed the convertible version of its “Regular Production Option Z06” Corvette, whose supercharged V8 only (!) produces 650 horses. But the Hellcat weighs 4,439 pounds, while the Corvette burdens its engine with just 3,558. Both claim 650 pound-feet of torque. Which do you think is quicker?
In 2009 BMW showed a concept car at the LA Auto show called the Vision Dynamics (inset). It promised 356 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. THat was with a diesel-electric hybrid power train. Today you can buy the i8 with 357 horsepower, and while its torque falls a bit short of the concept, at 420 pound-feet, it’s still impressive, with an EPA estimate of 76 mpge. As Automobile magazine says in naming it an All-Star, “The Future, Here Now.” BMW even claims that with their more cost-effective carbon fiber technology, it does not lose money on them.
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