Since its acquisition by Mercedes-Benz in 2005, AMG has turned out successively more impressive luxury sports cars based on existing Mercedes-Benz models. With the SLS AMG, the AMG division has proved itself beyond any doubt. The stunning design hearkens back to the legendary 300 SL, yet uses thoroughly modern technology to deliver supercar performance.
Gull-wing doors allow stylish and easy access to the comfortable cabin. With a frame and body comprised of aluminum, using steel selectively for safety, the SLS AMG only weighs 3,571 pounds. Weight distribution is 47 percent to the front and 53 percent on the rear, making for well-balanced handling. An automatic spoiler rises from the lip of the trunk at high speed to create more downforce.
Although we've seen a version of this engine in previous AMG cars, this latest hand-crafted 6.3-liter V-8 in the SLS AMG is refined even further. Horsepower is up at 571, while torque is 480 pound-feet. That kind of power gets the light SLS AMG to 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds, while the top speed is given as 197 mph.
For serious gearheads, Mercedes-Benz had a cut-away version of the SLS AMG's power train on display, showing the big, ceramic brakes, the engine, and a new innovation from AMG, the rear-mounted seven-speed double-clutch transmission. Instead of a standard driveshaft, the SLS AMG uses a torque tube, within which spins a carbon fiber shaft. Mercedes-Benz also claims to be working on an electric power train for the SLS, which would be tuned for performance.
The cabin of the SLS AMG is large, and can easily accommodate tall drivers. Similar to what we've seen on the CLK63 AMG Black, the console sports a small drive selector, and paddles behind the steering wheel for shifting. Console and stack sport typical Mercedes-Benz cabin electronics, with the COMAND controller used to make infotainment selections on the LCD. Bang & Olufsen provided its premium audio system, with acoustic lenses at the corners of the dashboard and speakers all around.
As Porsche 911 styling changes little from model to model, it's difficult to mark the changes in the 2010 911 Turbo, yet Porsche boasts more power, less weight, better handling, and better fuel economy than the outgoing model. Shedding 55 pounds and featuring an all new turbo-charged 3.8-liter engine, the new 911 Turbo reaches 62 mph in 3.4 seconds. With fuel economy of 21 mpg, the car isn't subject to the gas guzzler tax.
Part of the new 911 Turbo's performance success comes from the new Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK), the dual-clutch transmission launched last year. Porsche Torque Vectoring is another optional technology that reduces understeer by braking the inside wheel in a turn. Last year Porsche also modernized its cabin electronics, something the 911 Turbo benefits from.
The 911 GT3 RS is a homologation special version of Porsche's GT3 race car. As such, it lacks the turbocharger of the 911 Turbo, but its performance has been honed to the Nth degree. Every opportunity was taken to reduce weight, to the point of replacing the standard car battery with a lithium ion version. The 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine puts out 450 horsepower, taking the 911 GT3 RS to 62 mph in 4 seconds.
Racing wheels attached by a single, central bolt are standard on the 911 GT3 RS, along with extra large brakes. The car uses a version of Porsche's Active Stability Management system designed for racing. But even with all this racing gear, the 911 GT3 RS can still be equipped with Porsche's latest infotainment system.
Although Ferrari makes a couple of GT models, the two-seater midengine sports car has always been its signature car. The outgoing F430, which offered stellar performance and refinement, is replaced by what Ferrari claims is an even better car, the 458 Italia. With its new V-8 engine and dual-clutch gearbox, the car reaches 62 mph in just 3.4 seconds.
The body, which makes a virtue out of simplicity, was designed for aerodynamics, not only with drag reduction but to send cooling air to the car's running gear. The flat underbody includes ducts to cool the engine, while vents just before the rear wing cool oil radiators for the transmission.
The new 4.5-liter V-8 produces 560 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, with a redline of 9,000rpm. It's mated to a seven-speed dual clutch F1 transmission. Fuel economy is only 17 mpg, although better than the outgoing model.
With the car turned off, all the driver sees is a big yellow tachometer in the center of the instrument cluster. But screens on either side light up when the car is on, showing speed, navigation, and other information. Carbon fiber shift paddles are mounted to the steering column, while the steering wheel sports a variety of controls, including the Manettino, for adjusting the car's performance, and the engine start button.
The dark horse in this exotic car roundup is the 695 Tributo Ferrari, a car built by Fiat in-house tuner Abarth as an homage to Ferrari. The car is based on the popular Fiat 500, yet Abarth manages to squeeze 180 horsepower from its 1.4-liter four cylinder engine with a turbo and tuning. That engine will bring it to 62 mph in less than 7 seconds.
Last year Lamborghini showed off the Reventon, a limited edition model that marked an extreme take on Lamborghini styling. This year, Lamborghini chops the top of the Reventon to make it a roadster, and again offers it in very limited quantities, with only 20 scheduled for production, at $1.6 million each.
Last year, Audi announced a V-10 version of its R8 supercar, and follows up this year with a convertible version. The R8 Spyder uses the same 5.2-liter V-10 as its hard-top brother, but going to a convertible format changed the styling drastically. Gone are the side blades that gave the original R8 such a unique look, replaced by more conventional venting.
In the Spyder version of the R8, the glass hatchback, which showed off the engine, gives way to a vented opaque engine cover. The Spyder is a soft top, as fitting a retractable hard top would have added weight and presented a packaging challenge. We didn't notice a rear wind deflector, so expect tousled hair and lost hats at the speeds this car can reach.
Aston Martin expands its model lineup--all exceptionally beautiful coupes to this point--with a sedan, a four-door car that retains much of the style of its sports cars. The all-new Rapide features a 6-liter V-12 pumping out 470 horsepower, getting it to 62 mph in 5.3 seconds.
The Rapide gets Aston Martin's current cabin tech set-up, which includes iPod integration and an impressive optional premium audio system from Bang & Olufsen, with the company's unique acoustic lenses and 1,000 watts of power.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom epitomizes stately luxury, but to increase its market, Rolls-Royce had to develop a smaller car, with performance characteristics that could compete with Bentley. Hence, the Ghost. Hinted at in 2006, the wrapping is finally off this latest statement of extreme luxury.
It may be smaller than the Phantom, but the Ghost still gets a 6.6-liter V-12 engine producing 563 horsepower, giving it a zero-to-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds. Power is delivered through an eight speed automatic transmission. We expect that this running gear will deliver its power incredibly smoothly, the goal of all Rolls-Royce engineering.
Rolls-Royce fits the cabin with a new generation of both infotainment and driver aid electronics. The 600-watt audio system has a 10 channel amp and 16 speakers, along with iPod integration and a 12.5 gigabyte hard drive for music storage. Night vision is incorporated into the car, along with lane departure warning and a host of other driver technology.