With the economy in a tailspin and multiple automakers living on borrowed time (and borrowed billions), it’s completely inappropriate to get excited about the priciest, the prettiest and most powerful belles at the auto show ball. Or is it? This is the new age of responsibility, of guilt-free electrons and low-speed hypermiling, or somewhat ho-hum automobiles, which is exactly why we can’t take our eyes off of these super slick, performance models. Here are our picks for the top performers in the Big Apple.
It’s not new by any stretch, but this was the CCX’s first appearance at a major stateside auto show. The Koenigsegg booth was manned by one person at any given time, sitting near the gleaming supercar and avoiding eye contact with anyone who strolled by the display. After all, what is there to talk about? The CCX develops 806 ponies at 7000 rpm and 693 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm, has a maximum speed of 245 mph, and rockets from zero to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds. As they say, enough said.
The GTI’s updates are mostly about looks — fresh sheet metal, red striping on the newly bisected front grilles, and more red detailing inside. The 2-liter turbo FSI engine received a 10-horsepower bump (up to 210 ponies), and a stiffer, retooled suspension. Not a banner year, in terms of innovation, but this nimble hatchback (available with two or four doors) has banked enough goodwill to keep it competitive with the Mazdaspeed3.
Everything seems to be in order with the new GT3’s styling and silhouette, as iconic as ever despite being peppered with vents, so let’s pop the hood. A 3.8-liter naturally aspirated flat-six engine develops 429 horses and more torque than the current model. This car wants to race — it gallops to 62 mph in 4.1 seconds, and has a top speed of 194 mph. If you insist on tooling around the neighborhood, a button-activated lift system raises the suspension by 1.2 inches to give you more clearance on the pothole-riddled roadways.
Nissan didn’t bother with a press conference this year, but its debut of the sleek, convertible take on the current 370Z coupe might be the best-looking open-air Z yet, and quickly became one the most talked-about debuts at the show. The coupe’s 3.7-liter V6 engine, which develops 332 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, is carried over. As is the coupe’s sleek style. The difference is the drop top. The cloth power-retractable top opens and closes in 20 seconds with a single button push, automatically latching and unlatching to the windshield header.
We appreciate the E63’s nod towards better fuel economy; it gets 12 percent better mileage than the current model and has a Controlled Efficiency driving mode. But Mercedes knows what we want in a sports-sedan hot rod. An all-new AMG Speedshift 7-speed multiclutch transmission shifts gears as fast as some Ferraris, and the 512-horsepower 6.2-liter normally aspirated V8 launches the car from zero to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds.
If muscle cars could dream about evolving into something better, the 570X is how they’d envision themselves. SMS Supercars, the newest venture from performance car-builder Steve Saleen, is selling just 500 of these supercharged Dodge Challengers. The stats are good: a 700 horsepower 5-liter Hemi engine, zero to 60 mph in a hair over four seconds and a 200 mph top speed. But it’s the Red Butterfly hood intakes and eccentric, remixed muscle-car coolness that suddenly make that $85,000 starting price seem perfectly reasonable.
Claiming that the previous model year’s 263 horsepower, 2.3 liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine had more than enough power for a front-wheel-drive compact hatchback (thank you very much), Mazda decided to focus instead on performance with its new Mazdaspeed3. Redesigned intakes, including a slick intercooler scoop in the hood, give the engine more air to gulp, and everything from the steering and the suspension has been tightened. And at just over $23,000, it’s hard to resist that impish new grin.
The 599XX is standard-issue Ferrari: a limited run of 30 cars or fewer, packed with technology designed for those who want to fancy themselves as fledgling Formula 1 racers. The 12-cylinder engine can hit 700 horsepower at 9000 rpm, but that’s not even the best part. The 599XX is master and commander of its airflow, using a combination of synthetic jets, boot-mounted fans and a porous diffuser to maximize downforce. So even at speeds, it’ll stick to the ground like glue. There’s no word on the price yet, but as they say, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
The X6 isn’t the most obvious choice to get the legendary BMW M makeover. With coupe-ish looks, sedanlike handling and a nod to SUV cargo capacity, the X6 is the definition of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. BMW’s solution: Make it really fast! The X6 M has a 555 horsepower, 4.4-liter V8 M engine, and can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. And it might not handle like an SUV at all, thanks to tweaked xDrive technology that makes it the first M with all-wheel drive.
For the gentleman who prefers a supercar with just a dash of environmental responsibility, the Bentley Supersports isn’t simply the fastest Bentley in history. And its 6-liter, 12-cylinder twin-turborcharged engine is more than a 610-horsepower, 204 mph top speed, zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds masterpiece. You see, it’s flex-fuel compatible, the first of its kind for Bentley, and part of the company’s new push to transition its entire fleet to run on renewable energy sources by 2012.