The R8’s other job, over its two generations, was to make the business case (dread words) for the Gallardo and Huracán. Neither of those Lambos were, in their first incarnations, as captivating to drive as they were to look at, but in both cases they spawned versions – the latest Huracán Performante especially – that could hold the Ferrari V8’s feet to the fire.
McLaren too. It seems a long time ago now, but the 12C arrived only seven summers back. All the arrows fired at the Honda NSX and Audi R8 were aimed once again at that first 12C. Here was another supercar made usable, only to be sneered at by supercar loudmouths who didn’t want their cars to be easy, but to be difficult. McLaren, operating with the commitment to continuous improvement that had (hasn’t lately) made them a titan of motorsport, immediately made the 12C angrier (sharper, louder) and easier (they gave it doorknobs). The rise and rise of McLaren has been one of the great supercar stories since, well, since ever. In seven years it has launched the 12C/650/675 line, the P1 family, and the 540/570. Then it rebooted the first of those into the 720S, a car that’s close to gatecrashing the hypercar club. The 675LT was to the 12C what the Type R was to the first NSX. An over-delivering answer to every criticism and a shredding of the boundaries. Last year’s new hybrid NSX, funnily enough, is another reprise of the old arguments, a car that, like the first one, is called too progressive. Electricity has arrived. Another challenge to the commandments of the supercar holy texts.
Not all the supercar action has been with mid-mounted engines. Ferrari showed the value of lots of cylinders under the bonnet, and others followed. Aston Martin, almost as an afterthought, stuffed the V12 into the Vantage (above) and made by far its best drivers’ car for decades. AMG, because we all know gullwing doors add 20mph to a car’s top speed, fielded the SLS Black. Finally, today’s thoroughly sorted GT R.
The uppercase G, T, and R rightfully belong elsewhere, though. Can a front-engined V6 4WD 2+2 coupe be a supercar? Drive the mighty Nissan, and you can’t say otherwise. It ain’t how you do it, it’s what you do. Japanese corporate might also went way outside its comfort zone in making the slightly scary V10 Lexus LF-A. That’s a car so different from America’s V10, the Viper. Oh except that’s scary too. But America showed it could do fast and civil with the Corvette ZR1.