While the “wow” factor of a car cannot be measured in any logical way, it undoubtedly sells cars. Sometimes it’s best to believe the hype.
When the cover was lifted from the McLaren P1 in late 2013, its re-entry into the hypercar market two decades removed from the F1 stirred so much interest that all examples were spoken for almost immediately. The Porsche 918 Spyder saw a similar boom, with its next-level technology leading to nearly a thousand cars selling, even at close to a million dollars each. Almost a decade prior, Maserati saw the same excitement from its buyers of the 50 MC12s in 2005.
These examples of high-dollar hypercars are what you find in posters on a child’s wall and in the garages of elite collectors of opulent luxury. The floor of the Geneva Motor Show is another answer, too.
The 2016 setting for the annual show saw the newest generation of hypercars, from Koenigsegg to Bugatti, as well as the latest iterations of already-established cars like the P1. The hybrid supercar finished production at the end of 2015, and in two years, just 375 cars passed through making it the most exclusive of the hybrid hypercars. At Geneva, the P1 flaunted its most exclusive options in the form of bare carbon fiber.
While the $300,000 options tacked onto the $1.3 million supercar add up to a dazzling spectacle on the show floor, the car did little to point to the direction of McLaren. That car came as the 570GT.
The GT serves as the next addition to the McLaren Sports Series, the newly-introduced product line aimed downmarket from the MP4-12C, 650S and P1. The 570GT feeds from the recipe of the 570S, but tosses in additional cargo space and more standard equipment to justify its everyday usability. The GT owes to McLaren’s current focus of being even more rounded, adding a new appealing element of comfort to the performance-oriented supercars. And at a lower price point, it promises to expand the McLaren brand.
Porsche, itself, has been a brand to handle the perfect balance of accommodation and performance with as diverse a lineup as there is, ranging from the family-friendly Cayenne to hardcore, stripped-out 911s and the ultimate 918 Spyder. That range has something suitable for nearly any driver, but recently there was a craving for something that was missing.
Ultimate performance, with a manual transmission.
With more than 50 years invested into the Porsche 911, many things changed but the general formula remained the same. The rear-engined sports car received revisions in looks and technology, and performance upgrades to keep it aggressively taking on its direct competitors – and those well above it.
But lately there was a buzz from Porsche’s most hardcore enthusiasts. Their loyal drivers wanted to more fully engage in the pure driving experience of the 911, and traditionally that come from a manual transmission, which was not offered in the latest GT3 or GT3 RS.
So taking the 500-horsepower engine from the RS, placing it in a slightly more subtle variant of a GT3 and making the manual transmission the only option sounded like a dream for the enthusiast. And it finally came to fruition.
The 2016 Geneva Motor Show made dreams come true for diehard Porsche drivers with the 911R taking the stage – with stripes. The R takes its inspiration from the 1960s version of the car, sporting its famous livery and sticking with the same ideals: motorsports derivation for the street. Only a handful of the original 911R were built, and with 991 examples of the new 911R being offered, it’s sure to match in exclusivity.
With first orders being claimed by 918 Spyder owners – so as many as 918 being taken up immediately – its sure to be the ultimate ticket into an exclusive Porsche club. However, there are more ways to gain access through the other sports car lines, including the new 718 line that was also launched officially at Geneva. The 718 tag hearkens back to the late-1950s/60s race car that incorporated a turbocharged four-cylinder engine in its victories. The Boxster won’t be in the same competitive arena, but it will embrace that heritage in its spirited sports car soul.
The 718 variant of the Boxster features the new four-cylinder turbo in some part for efficiency purposes – in which it excels over the previous generations – but its strong point is increased output and increased feel on the road. Whereas the 911R is an entirely capable track weapon, the 718 finds itself in a groove through twisty backroads with the top down, where its boost in power can be both enjoyed and managed.
The pairing of the 911R and 718 Boxster encapsulates the essence of purity that gave Porsche its identity in sports cars. It was never lost, it only needed to be rekindled in the right form. The 911R exemplifies that form with the simplest desires and classic inspiration. But with only a pre-selected audience allowed to attend, it’s of the utmost importance for the 718 lineup to offer a taste of what it’s all truly about.
Though Porsche was able to tap into its vast lineage of race cars for both track and street, Maserati’s latest endeavor at the Geneva Motor Show was a dive into new waters. The brand that went racing with the MC12, then put Maserati Corse onto the road with the GranTurismo MC has now made its foray into the luxury SUV market with the Levante.
The Levante utilizes features from the Ghibli and Quattroporte, ensuring that the venture isn’t being taken blindly. But its off-road configuration will instill confidence that the luxury cruiser will have all the capabilities found in a true utility vehicle, which the brand had never created in more than 100 years.
Starting at just over $70,000, the Levante will offer classic Maserati style, modern Maserati luxury and the sinful Italian exhaust note in one big package. The selection ranges from a 350 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 up to 430 horsepower in top launch trim, throwing it right into the competition of established luxury SUVs. But the exclusivity of Maserati may be a strong influence in getting the Levante off and running.
And that exclusivity plays a role in the desirability of today’s sports and luxury cars. When brands put hard caps on production and stir up demand and interest, the core values of those exclusive models trickle down into the more accessible ranges thus sufficing the rest of the market. The increased sales then further back the flagship models, and the “wow” factor can continue.