We've already taken a look at the best green concept cars of 2013; now it's time to turn our attention to the other end of the car-tech spectrum and focus on full-blown, engine-growling, asphalt-scarring performance cars. The year was a big one for high-tech, high-priced supercar hardware, seeing the restart of several iconic lineages, extravagant special-edition birthday presents, and numerous all-new start-ups with intriguing ideas.
Twenty-thirteen was a big birthday year for the exotic sports car industry. Old man Aston Martin blew out 100 candles, and McLaren and Lamborghini met it halfway at 50. A pair of legendary sports car rivals also joined the celebration – the Chevy Corvette turned 60 and the Porsche 911 joined the big 5-0 club.
With a healthy respect for our elders, we start with Aston Martin. Aston celebrated with the little piece of retro insanity called the CC100 Speedster concept. The windshield-less roadster owes much to the DBR1 race car of the 1950s, but it uses that heritage within a forward-looking design flush with the latest materials and equipment. Unique elements include the door cutouts, split two-seat cockpit and stunning carbon fiber/leather interior. The car is powered by Aston's latest AM11 6.0-liter V12 engine, which helps it kick through the 62 mph (100 km/h) door in just over four seconds on its way to 180 mph (290 km/h).
The CC100 is a celebratory one-off, so don't expect to see it at the dealership the next time you're in the market for a new Aston.
Lamborghini may only be half the age of Aston, but it took its birthday celebration to even greater heights, with not one, but three wild concept cars. We had a tough time narrowing the field of Veneno, Egoista and Veneno Roadster, but eventually we came to the conclusion that the Egoista is truly the most radical of the bunch.
Lamborghini's four-wheeled trident is built around a single-seat cockpit inspired by a helicopter, a cockpit so tight and dialed in that the driver actually has to remove the steering wheel to get in and out through the opened glass enclosure. As if the car's entire styling package isn't quite extreme enough, the orange glasshouse, wheels and accents scream out violently to get your attention. The Egoista is powered by a 600-hp 5.2-liter V10, but Lamborghini didn't go into other performance details when it revealed it in May, perhaps because the one-off will not be sold.
Return of legends
McLaren didn't go nuts with a wild, special-edition design for its birthday, but it didn't really have to. The all-new P1 was a more-than-generous present to itself and its most loyal fans. We included the P1 in last year's top concepts list, so we we'll skim over it with the recently inked specs: sub seven seconds around the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (you can see that in the video down below), 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds, 0-124 mph (200 km/h) in 6.8 seconds and 217 mph (350 km/h) at the top end.
The McLaren P1 was joined by another hybridized next-of-kin that it can call a friendly rival (that's sure better than the car's actual name) – LaFerrari. The name still sounds as bad as it did in Geneva, but that's okay because the car still looks every bit as new and incredible. The long-awaited successor to high-tech road-racers like the Enzo and F40, the LaFerrari packs a 950-hp V12-backed HY-KERS powertrain inside an ultra-advanced, F1-derived structure. It sweats trickled-down F1 technology out of every Ferrari-red pore and should compete very closely with the P1, both when pointed straight at the horizon and when muscled around the track.
A different type of supercar
Certainly one of the more interesting developments in supercar design during the course of the year was the appearance of the off-road super-coupe. The car type provided a teaser of a future when two of the most fun things that you can possibly do in a motor vehicle – grapple dirt and rock in an off-roader and brush up against 200 mph (322 km/h) on the track – could both be available from the same car.
It all started with the Parcour concept at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Italian design house Italdesign Giugiaro was the mastermind behind that luscious-red beauty, and it evolved the design into a proper Audi for September's Frankfurt Motor Show.
Called the Nanuk Quattro, the Audi super-offroader has a more-than-capable 544-hp 5.0-liter V10 TDI driving all four wheels and a driver-adjustable ride height that tweaks clearance for the terrain ahead. The car will hit 62 mph in 3.8 seconds and 190 mph (305 km/h) on the track, but unlike every other exotic sports car in that class, it won't be afraid to use its 737 lb-ft of torque on the gritty dirt and gravel beyond the manicured asphalt.
Building on technology introduced on the Rimac Concept One concept and funding provided by the European Commission, Spanish company Applus+ Idiada revealed in February what it called the world's most powerful electric prototype, putting it to the test during Formula 1 test days at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Developed over the course of just four months for an EC project that sought to prove that electric vehicles have every bit as much potential as ICE-powered vehicles, the Volar-e uses four individual motors backed by a 38-kWh lithium-iron-phosphate battery. Each wheel is powered by its own dedicated motor, which all combine for a total of 1,000 hp and 737 lb-ft. The Volar-e hits 62 mph in 3.4 seconds, completes the standing quarter mile in 10.3 seconds, and reaches its top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h) in 12.1 seconds. Applus says the car's fast-charging system is capable of juicing the battery in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.
Stunning Italian designs done up in molten lava-red are something we've come to expect every year. A shining example this year was the Icona Vulcano show car that debuted at the 2013 Shanghai Motor Show.
The one-off combines luscious Italian style with powertrain technology designed by Claudio Lombardi, former Ferrari powertrain technical director. Lombardi envisions two possible powertrain configurations: a 950-hp, RWD with a front V12 engine and hybrid system in the gearbox and a rally-inspired 870-hp, 4WD combination of rear-driving, twin-turbo V6 and dual front motors. The latter offers some slight gains in acceleration estimates, promising 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds, 0-124 mph (200 km/h) in 8.9 seconds, and a top speed of 217 mph (349 km/h).
In July, Belgium's Minerva pushed its way back onto the scene with the J.M. Brabazon. The Minerva name dates back to the automobile's earliest years, having sold cars from the turn of the 19th century into the 1930s. The badge was revived in 2012, and the J.M. Brabazon is its first new offering.
Details remain limited for now, but the Brabazon's AWD plug-in hybrid powertrain gives evidence of extreme performance. That powertrain includes a twin-turbo V12 mounted mid-rear and two motors up front. Along with carbon-Kevlar construction, that potent powertrain is sure to inspire mountains of performance, including an estimated top speed of close to 250 mph (400 km/h).
The rise of the track star
If there was one style that seemed to show up again and again among 2013 debuts, it was the barely-street-legal, track-purposed two-seater. The wave of new track cars included models from staples like Radical and Caterham, but what really caught our attention was the rise of brand-new automakers and relative unknowns whose first street cars were aimed right at the track. These cars were created to provide a mix of supercar-like levels of speed and cornering with more everyman-friendly price tags.
We'll start at the bottom of the alphabet and American continent with the VŪHL. The 1,532-lb (695-kg) two-seater ratchets up 400 bhp per ton from the 285-bhp Ford EcoBoost engine spinning the rear wheels. That pushes the car to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds, which isn't the most impressive time on this particular list, but not a bad ride for US$82,750. Of course, you'll probably need to factor in the cost of a commuter car for daily driving because, although the car is marketed as road legal, the 05's toy-like windshield and spartan cockpit don't yell "everyday comfort."
The MK5 from motorsport manufacturer Magnum has a black-white color scheme and open cockpit similar to the VŪHL, but much more radical styling thanks to its sharp carves and angular cut-outs. The styling definitely tells the story of a car that's out to hammer and slice the track.
Like its look, its numbers are similar to VŪHL's but slightly elevated. Its 250-bhp mid-rear-mounted four-cylinder gives it 460 bhp per tonne after lightweight materials like carbon fiber and aircraft-grade aluminum get done cutting its dry weight to 1,200 lb (544 kg). Once that engine puts power to the ultra-high-performance tire-shod 18-inchers, the car shoots out of the gate to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds. An adjustable, race car-type pushrod suspension system helps it zip and whip around the road or track.
Where the MK5 really differentiates itself from the 05, unfortunately, is in its US$139,000 price tag. Once a marginal brand's impractical street-track roadster penetrates into the triple digits, it starts to lose its luster when compared to some of the comparably priced sports cars from established marques.
What the L?
By sheer coincidence, a lot of unknowns and lesser-knowns in the supercar market started with the letter L this year, in make, model or both.
Even on a lawn dedicated to extreme motor cars, the Epitome Concept from Morocco's Laraki Motors stood out like a pulsating, red thumb covered in vents. Laraki has displayed supercar concepts in the past, but the Epitome is a true exclamation-punctuated statement piece. The long, pointed hood shooting forward from the stout, muscular rear-end is a visual reminder that founder Abdesslam Laraki's experience comes from the yacht industry, where such triangular configurations are the norm. The gratuitous use of venting and competing sculpts and curves gives the car a truly extreme, distinct look.
The Epitome's underpinnings aren't quite as unique as its body. It uses a C6 Corvette chassis and 7.0-liter V8 engine sourced from Chevy. What is unique is the twin-turbocharging that pumps 1,200 angry ponies out of that V8 and the secondary 110-octane fuel tank that, when called upon to feed the engine, dials things up to 1,750 hp. Laraki hasn't hinted at how quickly those horses will throw the sub-3,000-lb (1,360-kg) car around the track, but the privilege will cost future owners $2 million.
Another extreme supercar with an extreme price tag, the W Motors Lykan Hypersport debuted at the 2013 Qatar Motor Show and made a production-ready appearance at the Dubai show later in the year. Billed as the world's first Arabian supercar, the Hypersport packs a twin-turbo 3.7-liter flat-six in its mid-rear, giving the driver access to 750 hp at 7100 rpm and 708 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. The car hits 62 mph from standstill in 2.8 seconds, doubles that in 9.4 seconds from 0, and tops out at 245 mph (394 km/h).
The Lykan Hypersport's design and numbers are impressive, but we're not so sure that they're $3.4 million worth of impressive. To help convince seven buyers that they are, W adds tech and luxury features far beyond the potent engine and carbon fiber design. The LED headlights are surrounded by white gold packed with 15 carats worth of diamonds – about 420 individual stones in all. Buyers can also look forward to a $200K Cyrus Klepcy watch with their purchase and can add gems like rubies and sapphires around the remainder of the car. Technologies include a holographic display system, a premium sound system and a 360-degree-view camera.
Across the Atlantic from the likes of the Lykan and Laraki, Lucra Cars recently showed the 2014 L148, a more civilized alternative to its "Street Legal ... but just barely" LC470. The new model promises a similar dose of V8 power and performance but with added street comforts like a roof, air conditioning, satellite radio and navigation. Its single-piece carbon fiber body is a little too "Ferrari knockoff" for our tastes, but the side-mounted exhaust pipes just behind the front tires are an interesting touch.
And if the still images in our gallery aren't enough to satisfy you, here's that video of the McLaren P1 conquering the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in under seven minutes.