Performance Reaching New Heights at 2017 Geneva Show


New McLaren P14 720S at McLaren Philadelphia


Performance cars are climbing and climbing to what seems like an inevitable plateau, which makes the ridiculous numbers associated with them seem less and less impressive each year. But if there’s any battlefield to truly fight for the industry’s attention, it’s the Geneva Motor Show.

The Swiss show centralizes the top European brands to sculpt the landscape of the next generation of cars. That next generation, for McLaren and Porsche, aims to stave off and elevate that plateau for at least a handful of years.

The Super Series was the groundbreaking line for the resurgent Automotive branch of McLaren, with the P11 family vaulting the British marque right to the front of the competition in the segment. The original MP4-12C eventually morphed into the 650S and was capped off by the 675LT, and each car was credited for setting industry-wide benchmarks. The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 that, in some form, powers the 570S through the P1, contributed to everything from class-leading lap times to efficiency not found in any other similar supercar.

But even with its automotive trophy case packed, McLaren is now moving to a new powerplant for its latest iteration of the Super Series. A 4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 will be introduced as powering the new P14 line, starting with the car that will bow at Geneva on March 7. If the MP4-12C is to be used for historical reference, then it could be safe to assume the trajectory of P14 is boundless.

Coming along with the new power unit is a medley of trickery that doesn’t just make it a faster car – which matters in the modern scope of performance cars – but offers an unrivaled driving experience on track and in the real world. As expected, the Comfort, Sport and Track modes will be further optimized, allowing for extreme performance on one end but cloaking and providing an accessible everyday product at the same time. But the “anytime, anywhere” mentality of McLaren’s supercars doesn’t come as a novelty; it has been asserted through their model line for years.

The novelty comes in the form of an intelligent and dynamic “drift control” mode, a technological hack that awards a heroic mentality to its drivers. With the swipe of a finger, drivers can point their car to any angle around a corner by tweaking the intervention of stability control to dramatically yet safely navigate a track setting. It won’t be the fastest way ’round, sure, but after a few hot laps it will be quite a thrilling change of pace.

McLaren has stayed ahead of the curve for years, fending off conformity and pushing the technological limit for other manufacturers to desperately chase. Porsche was the same way for decades, with everything from the 911 to 959 to 918 Spyder being marvels of their moment. But their latest generation of sports car saw a significant shift toward forced induction, a practice normally reserved for the most hardcore models but now coming from environmental pushback.

The 991.2 lineup is now turbocharged from the ground up, save for one of Porsche’s modern favorites: the GT3.

The next-gen GT3 is expected to drop at Geneva, and with it is the potential of a new benchmark of Porsche performance. If the 911R was the ultimate of unattainable – and its astronomical sell prices would indicate it as such – the next GT3 may offer a freshly utilitarian approach, delivering the greatest driving pleasure for a market that is not strictly limited to the most VIP clients. Powering the latest chapter of Porsche 911 history will be an expected 4.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine with output around 500 horsepower, landing in the ballpark of former instant classics like the 911R and 997 GT3 RS 4.0.

Highly sought-after cars like the ultimate 911s are always fresh in the mind of enthusiasts, and it seems easy to forget some of the concepts through the years that just came in passing. Fortunately, Porsche has a great memory.

The Sport Turismo concept from 2012 was a Panamera-based shooting brake that reimagined its practicality as a hatch-style estate. Universally praised for its devastatingly sharp design, it seemed to be a glorious preview of what was to come for the model range. Five years went silent, but it is now reportedly on its way through Geneva. Finally.

Underpinning the sveltest production-slated four-door Porsche is likely the same hardware and powertrains from the new Panamera line, with the extra capacity and fresh lines of the wagon version commanding the premium. Klaus Zellmer, President of Porsche Cars North America, expressed his hesitance with the U.S. market’s historic dismissal of hatchbacks and wagons, but is confident that the product is innovative and refreshing enough to satiate the salivation that came as a result of the 2012 introduction. Even if the Sport Turismo doesn’t zest up the Panamera range as it is expected to, Porsche is also delivering the flagship to the range in the form of the Turbo S e-Hybrid delivering a whopping 680 horsepower. That’s right. Six hundred. Eighty. From the family car.

The performance figures attached to modern cars, from top to bottom, are reaching an upper echelon previously reserved for each brand’s elite offerings. Maybe this will keep pushing the bar further up, or maybe reaching the limit is inevitable. But for now, carmakers are making it fun while it lasts.