Austerity is over, the supercar is back

Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Daimler have all revealed new models that would make James Bond salivate, writes Hannah Elliott

OK, really it’s the maker of an especially exotic line of hyperfast track cars. But it feels like there should be a blanket Scandinavian term for many of the new cars this week at the Geneva Motor Show. All austerity measures seem to be called off. Consider this the year of the supercar.

For example, Aston Martin showed its 800-horsepower, 2 million Vulcan. Mercedes showed a AMG GT3 race car with a 600hp V8 engine that screamed like a banshee as it rolled on stage to wild applause during its debut; Ferrari unveiled the turbocharged and (relatively) efficient 488GTB; Lamborghini showed an extended version of its Aventador called the LP 750-4 Superveloce (Aventador SV for short). As if the Aventador wasn’t aggressive enough.

On the more driveable end of the spectrum, Bentley surprised the world with its beautiful EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept coupé. It’s sexier — more svelte — than its beefier Continental cousins, thanks in part to a redesigned front grill and leaner sculpting throughout its body. Inside, it has quilted bucket seats and a softer, continuous design line around the cabin. Audi updated its long-standing R8 line with an electric variant; Porsche gave us a 911 GT3 RS. Koenigsegg showed two stunners: The 1,500hp Regera and the multimillion- euro Agera RS.

While the dozen or so new luxury sports cars would make James Bond salivate, they differed from supercars we’ve seen in previous years. This year, carmakers seem to have struck a healthy balance between attaining increasingly stupendous new levels of power — a race that was unsustainable anyway — and bolstering lightweight efficiency.

Austerity is over, the supercar is back

It’s not enough anymore that your car of choice gets 600-plus horsepower. Now it must also learn how to subsist on fuel as lightly as a hummingbird sips nectar.

“The car must be up to the task of delivering blistering, lightweight performance at new levels of soothing luxury,” Christian von Koenigsegg said about the Regera. “Get the luxury but keep the weight down.”

Amedeo Felisa at Ferrari, Andy Palmer at Aston Martin, and Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche, among others, all spent portions of their opening speeches bragging about the records set by their new products in power-to-weight ratios.

“The Vulcan is the most extreme Aston Martin we’ve ever made,” said Palmer, who pointed out that at 2,976 pounds, the all-carbon-fiber coupé weighs 300 pounds less than the famous One-77. “It sets a whole new standard in the ultra-high luxury supercar class.”

Others, such as Mike Flewitt at McLaren, reiterated promises to diversify powertrains in favour of alternative fuels. In 10 years, more than half of McLaren’s cars use hybrid energy, he said. Zetsche committed Mercedes to offering 10 plug-in hybrids by 2017.

Not that it changes anyone’s appetite for speed. “The new GT3 is packed with potential to keep our customers ahead of the competition, with less weight, faster lap times, and more aggressive looks than its predecessor,” Zetsche said. “And we are hungry for more.”

These days, apparently, weight loss and whopping power aren’t mutually exclusive. Let’s hope the partnership lasts.

And then there’s Mercedes.Elvis — a king in his own right — owned one. So did Coco Chanel and Elizabeth Taylor.

These days, Kanye and Kim will probably get one. Or maybe George and Amal Clooney, for pulling up to red carpet events such as the Oscars.

Whoever buys one, the new version of the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman will set you back the best part of €1m in armoured form.

The new version is based on the modern S Class, with a wheelbase a full meter longer than that car. It has a 530hp V12 turbocharged engine and specially refined suspension and transmission systems to ensure that any ride in the back of this goes undisturbed by whatever is happening on the outside, whether it’s paparazzi or hand grenades.

The grille is impressive.

Inside, you can make the car whatever you want it to be. (Popular necessities include hand-stitched leather pillows, silver champagne sets, and privacy curtains.) John Lennon installed a special hifi sound system in his during the late 1960s. You, on the other hand, could add champagne coolers, a theatre system, a fragrance system, a humidor, and any number of supple leather and exotic wood combinations.The floor mats are thick and plush and the windows cancel out virtually all exterior noise and harmful UV rays. The quilted stitching on the dashboard and centre armrest alone is far superior to the interiors of lesser vehicles.

And if you haven’t guessed, the back is big enough for three rows of seats — or a lay-flat lounger.


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