Electric cars may generate all the automobile industry’s top-of-the-page headlines, but it’s still horsepower that gets gearheads’ motors running. Horsepower is performance. Horsepower is excitement. Perhaps most of all, horsepower is bragging rights. And there’s no shortage of it coming in 2017. From Bugatti’s 1,500-hp Chiron to the supercharged goodness of Chevrolet’s latest ZL1 Camaro, there’s more than enough performance to excite the most jaded driver. Even the environmentally friendly have something to brag about: Tesla’s Model S is now the fourth-fastest production car and the fastest sedan in the world, and nary a tailpipe emission to be found.
Behold the automotive highlights of 2017, where faster is better and more just never seems to be enough.
1. 2017 Bugatti Chiron
2017 Bugatti Chiron
What is it? Son of Veyron; the most outrageous vehicle on wheels.
Why does it matter? Repeat these numbers after me: 1,500 horsepower, 16 cylinders, 11 radiators. Hell, the Chiron has as many turbochargers (four) as a Nissan Micra has cylinders. The powertrain alone weighs more than 600 kilograms. The Veyron hits 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds and tops out on the F-35 side of 400 km/h – and the Chiron’s 8.0-litre monster has 300 more horsepower. Call it silly, gluttonous or a sure sign of some kind of automotive apocalypse, the Chiron is simply too outrageous to ignore.
When is it coming? Um, you better phone Bugatti quickly. It already has pre-orders for 200 cars. Considering the build schedule, you might see yours sometime in late 2019 if you order now.
How much will it cost? If you have to ask the price …. But if you really need a hint of how out-of-your-pay-grade a Bugatti really is, consider this: Just the tires will set you back more than 40 large.
Should I buy it? Asking a lowly auto journalist whether you should buy a $2-million car is a little like asking a shoeshine boy what he thinks of $10,000 Louis Vuitton loafers. As one of the few auto scribes lucky enough to have driven a Veyron, I’m still not sure any car is worth US$2.5 million. If you need the biggest, fastest and most expensive car on the road, however, there is no other.
2. 2017 Tesla Model S P100D
Tesla Model S P100D
What is it? The electric car that thinks it’s a Ferrari.
Why does it matter? The Model S itself hasn’t changed — think sleek looks, phantasmagorical interior design and serious social consciousness props — but Lord Elon is now offering an even bigger battery. Thanks to an upgrade to 100 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion, a P100D — in Ludicrous mode — will now accelerate to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 2.5 seconds. If you’re looking to beat that, better get a Ferrari, McLaren P1 or the aforementioned Bugatti Chiron, because that is how stupefyingly powerful this eco-car really is.
When is it coming? You can head down to your Tesla concessionaire shortly.
How much will it cost? Expect at least a $10,000 uptick over the $160,000 or so a current P90D (with Ludicrous mode) costs.
Should I buy it? The P100D is faster than its predecessor, and its range has increased as well, with Tesla claiming an industry-leading 505 kilometres on a single charge. No wonder that the Model S is the best-selling luxury car — yes, more than Mercedes’ S-Class and BMW’s 7 Series — in North America.
3. 2017 Audi TT RS
Audi TT RS Coupe
What is it? The complete remake of a style icon.
Why does it matter? Audi’s TT has traditionally been the poor man’s sports car. A tad soft and a little underpowered, it’s always played second fiddle to Porsche’s Boxster. No more. The TT RS’s 400 horsepower — 60 more than before — is super serious, as is the incredible 19.6 psi of boost that the turbocharger force-feeds the little 2.5-litre five-cylinder (yes, five) engine. That’s good enough — thanks also to its Quattro all-wheel drive — to scoot the RS to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. That’s faster than even the latest 718 version of Porsche’s Cayman or Boxster and it’s within spitting distance of true supercars such as the Lamborghini Huracán and the Chevrolet Corvette.
When is it coming? Late fall this year.
How much will it cost? Audi Canada last offered the TT RS in Canada in 2013 for about $67,000. Based on that and the upgrade in equipment, the 2017 version will be knocking on $80,000.
Should I buy it? There’s certainly some serious competition in the TT RS’s segment, with BMW’s M4, Cadillac’s ATS-V and Porsche’s Cayman/Boxster all vying for sports coupe relevancy. Its unique appearance — fans think it looks like a baby Porsche; critics liken it to a squashed Bug — Audi’s legendary interior quality and all-wheel drive are its calling cards. Unfortunately, like so many sports cars these days, there’s no manual transmission available. All TTs will come with a seven-speed, dual-clutch manumatic.
4. 2017 Genesis G90
2017 Genesis G90
What is it? A Hyundai by any other name would be as luxurious.
Why does it matter? Hyundai has been dancing around the luxury sedan segment for the past decade, first with the XG350 and more recently with its Genesis and Equus sedans. For 2017, it’s finally taking the plunge and, like Nissan, Honda and Toyota before it, introducing an entirely separate brand of luxury sedans that is so distinct that the Genesis folks are loathe to admit the G90 is made or even sold by Hyundai. Anyone who wants to shop the South Korean definition of luxury will have to visit little, boutique-like kiosks in local shopping malls. Making the G90 experience even more unique is that Genesis will pick up your car for service, leave you a loaner and even, if you really don’t want to brave the wilds of a suburban shopping mall, deliver a car to your home for a test drive. Theoretically, you could own a G90 for five years and never once step inside a dealership, Hyundai or otherwise.
How much will it cost? The company remains mute on exact pricing, but expect to pay somewhere between $85,000 and $90,000 for the incredibly well-equipped G90.
Should I buy it? Absolutely. The G90 has a few advantages even when compared with the BMW 7 Series, Audi’s A8 and Mercedes’ top-of-the-line S-Class. First and foremost, the G90 has the best leather of any current luxury car. Produced by Italian hide specialist Conceria Pasubio, it’s softer than the proverbial baby’s bottom; expect some embarrassing incidents of leather frottage in those mall boutiques. It also rides better than any of the above German trio and even the base engine, a twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6, is plenty powerful, though a 5.0-litre V8 is available for those who must have more power. It would appear to be time to lay the Pony jokes to rest.
5. 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
What is it? Chevy’s Tesla Model 3 fighter.
Why does it matter? Tesla stunned the world last April by garnering almost 400,000 deposits for its “affordable” Model 3. Lost in the hubbub was that General Motors will have an electric vehicle — the Chevy Bolt — with a similar range (383 kilometres on a single charge) for about the same price. More importantly, GM says the Bolt will be in dealerships by the end of this year, a full year before the Model 3 is scheduled to pound the pavement. The timing could be a major advantage, especially since Tesla has a habit of not meeting production deadlines.
When is it coming? You can make a Christmas wish, Chevrolet says.
How much will it cost? Somewhere around $45,000. But with eco-incentives as high as $14,000 and low lease rates aimed at getting converts behind the wheel of more EVs, the Bolt should prove relatively affordable.
Should I buy it? Electric vehicles, save Teslas, have proven to be a huge sales disappointment. Indeed, the Model 3’s incredible success seems more like blind loyalty to Tesla than fealty to electric propulsion. That the Bolt is technologically competitive and aggressively priced may not matter if environmentalism is a mere fashion statement.
6. 2017 Lincoln Continental
2017 Lincoln Continental
What is it? The rebirth of yet another storied luxury nameplate.
Why does it matter? Lincoln has been an afterthought for both Ford — its attention devoted to its profit-producing F-150 pickups — and consumers, who have left the brand behind even as they’ve driven the rest of the luxury segment to new heights. This may be Lincoln’s last chance to be relevant.
When is it coming? Late fall this year.
How much will it cost? Considering that the model below it, the MKZ, tops out at almost 70 grand, a fully loaded Continental will likely fetch upwards of $80,000. Lesser models, however, should start as low as $55,000.
Should I buy it? The good news is that the Continental’s styling is virtually cloned from Bentley’s Mulsanne — so much so that Bentley’s chief of design, Luc Donckerwolke, asked David Woodhouse, Lincoln’s head designer, via Facebook, “Do you want us to send the product tooling?” If you’re going to copy anything, a Bentley is a good place to start. The top-of-the-line engine, a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 sporting 400 horsepower, is a good ’un. The bad news is that, like the MKZ, the Continental is based on Ford’s Fusion (albeit stretched and strengthened). The Continental’s success, therefore, will depend on how adroitly Lincoln disguises its lineage.
7. 2017 Aston Martin DB11
Aston Martin DB11
What is it? The remake of the car that saved Aston Martin, the DB9.
Why does it matter? The very future of the storied British supercar rests on the DB11’s broad shoulders. Future Vantages and Vanquishes will be built off the revised glued-and-riveted aluminum chassis that underpins the DB11.
When is it coming? Late this year.
How much will it cost? Exactly $254,195. No more, no less. The first DB11s will arrive “fixed spec” with no available options.
Should I buy it? There are faster supercars. There are lighter ones. And there are more dramatically styled supercars. But few stir the soul — or reward the eye — as much as an Aston. The V12, now turbocharged for 600 horsepower, remains raucous. The interior is as cozy as an English leather settee and, perhaps it’s a sign of creeping maturity, but no one will ever convince me that a Ferrari or Lamborghini is sexier than an Aston. Thank goodness there’s still a place for quirky English supercars — Aston Martin is the last supercar marque of any significance that remains independent of a major automaker — that value panache as much as performance.
Why does it matter? Simple: 650 horsepower, 650 lb.-ft. of torque. First gear alone will get you past 100 km/h, which, by the way, the ZL1 hits in a very Ferrari-like 3.5 seconds. A quarter mile as fast — 11.4 seconds — as an Audi R8 V10. Do you really need more convincing?
When is it coming? Coupe versions of the ZL1 will go on sale later this year (a convertible version will be ready in the spring).
How much will it cost? All yours for US$62,135 (Canadian pricing has not been set yet).
Should I buy it? Oh, mercy me, yes. The monstrous 6.2-litre supercharged V8 is quick in a straight line — the 2017 ZL1 boasts 70 more horsepower than its predecessor while weighing almost 100 kilograms less — and it’s also built on General Motor’s new Alpha platform that underpins the award-winning Cadillac ATS. Considering that the previous Camaro — at least, the Z/28 version of it — was the best handling “pony” car of all time, the new ZL1 should be able to shred a racetrack with the best of Stuttgart and Maranello.
9. 2017 Lexus LC 500
2017 Lexus LC 500
What is it? A follow-up to the LF-LC concept car. Lightning does strike twice.
Why does it matter? For one thing, its bold grille to swooping rear roofline says this isn’t your grandfather’s Lexus. Lexi of old were boring old Buick wannabes. Now, with the sport IS and RC, as well as the performance-oriented IS F, RC F and LC 500 models (not to mention the seriously supercar-ish LFA), Toyota’s once-somnolent luxury brand is more BMW than, well, BMW.
When is it coming? Sometime in the second quarter of 2017.
How much will it cost? Speculation points to a base price somewhere around $130,000 to $140,000, with a hybrid version, the LC 500h, to be introduced in 2018 likely touching 200 grand.
Should I buy it? Almost assuredly. Powered by the same high-revving, naturally aspirated 467-horsepower V8 as the RC F and GS F sportsters, the LC will be an exciting counterpoint to the current turbocharging revolution. Almost ideal weight distribution (52:48 front-to-rear) and low-profile 21-inch gumball tires promise tenacious grip and handling. If you’re looking for a fast, sexy grand touring coupe, there’s a new playa in town.
10. BMW M5
What is it? The sixth generation of the quintessential sports sedan.
Why does it matter? With apologies to Jaguar’s XJ, BMW’s M5 fairly invented the concept of the four-door sedan as sports car. In 1985, Bayerische Motoren Werke dumped a track-worthy high-performance inline-six — from its M1 supercar, no less — into an otherwise unprepossessing family hauler, and the automotive world has been trying to catch up ever since.
When is it coming? Head to BMW dealerships next year for a first-hand look.
How much will it cost? If BMW Canada keeps to its ultra-competitive pricing of late, somewhere around $105,000.
Should I buy it? There’s no way to say this nicely, but the current M5 is a bit of a disappointment. The first few M5s were the very definition of lithe and athletic, but the fifth gen is an overweight pig (1,945 kilograms or, in imperial terms, a very un-sports-car-like 4,288 pounds) that rides like a tank, chews through expensive Michelins and handles like a water buffalo on roller skates. The good news is that the grapevine says, thanks to liberal use of carbon fibre, the next one should weigh at least 100 kilograms less while also gaining a performance-oriented xDrive all-wheel drive system, the better to handle its expected 600 — and possibly even 620 — horsepower. The final word? If BMW M Division goes back to its roots — light weight, precise steering, user-friendly handling — then it will once again rule the sports sedan roost.