we love the magic of depreciation. It lets us buy cars we never could have afforded when they were new, and it makes for some incredibly entertaining window shopping. Heck, just last month, we published a list of 10 400-horsepower cars that we managed to find for less than $10,000.
Were they clean, well-maintained examples with a lengthy service history? Of course not. But when you see a Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG for only $9500, it can be tempting to take a chance on it. After all, everyone deserves to own an AMG at least once in their lives.
But the dark side of depreciation is always going to be maintenance. A BMW 850i is a beautiful thing, but that V12 luxury coupe is going to force you to dip into your savings every few months, even if you do most of the work yourself.
With supercars, it’s even worse. Yes, you can buy a used Aston Martin for the cost of a new Mercedes C-Class. And yes, someone in the market for a new BMW 5 Series could buy a used Lamborghini instead, but getting these cars serviced costs a truly insane amount of money.
Just let the guys from JR Garage explain how much their Ferrari 355 cost over only 1000 miles:
Yep.$38,000. Even if you baby your used exotic and barely drive it, you’ll still have to sell a kidney to keep it running. And half your liver. The Ferrari 355 isn’t unique, either. A few years ago, we spoke to a few automakers about the yearly cost of owning their supercars, and the figures they quoted were mind blowing.
If you ever bought a McLaren F1, for example, you’d be on the hook for $30,000 in maintenance costs. Per. Year. But at least the car is appreciating in value fast enough to still be worth it. Plus, it’s virtually impossible to total one.
Don’t let us stop you from window shopping for heavily depreciated luxury and supercars. That’s always going to be fun. Just be careful if you ever decide to take the plunge and buy one. We don’t want anyone going bankrupt because they spent their retirement on a used Ferrari.
The long-awaited Lamborghini Urus super sport utility vehicle will transform from a concept SUV to the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, says a company executive.
Lamborghini R&D chief Maurizio Reggiani told Autocar that the new model will likely be revealed in 2017 and go on sale in 2018. Along with the plug-in hybrid version, it will also come as a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 model, he said.
The concept SUV was first shown at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show, which Lamborghini praised as becoming “the ultimate super athlete in the SUV segment.” It will be the first Lamborghini SUV to come to market since the LM002, which was sold from 1986 to 1993.
Turbocharging will be a critical power source for the PHEV and twin-turbo V8 versions. Lamborghini’s other models can find a good fit in normally aspirated engines, but this type of “superports car” needs the right responsiveness from the engine, and to feel the spark of every cylinder, he said.
”Turbocharging will be ‘completely mandatory’ for the Urus,” he said, because as an SUV it needs a lot of torque to do its job.
A 48-volt motor will also power some of the SUV’s other necessities. It will be sharing a platform with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga, and will also feature a 48-volt-powered active anti-roll suspension. Lamborghini is part of the Volkswagen family and is owned directly by Audi.
Autocar says it will be the only hybrid in the Lamborghini lineup. It will actually be the first electrified variant of any of its available models.
In October, German publication AutoBild reported that the Italian sports carmaker would be tapping into Volkswagen’s Porsche division to bring over the Mission E all-electric concept supercar to build a Lamborghini model on.
Reggiani said the company will concentrate its R&D efforts on power, weight, and aerodynamics, because “handling is a function” of these factors. Along with handling and performance, Lamborghini is likely balancing its efforts with concern over global emissions rules that will becoming stricter by 2020.
In the end, Lamborghini is known for high performance.
“We want to be a leader here and have a chance to change the rules of the game,” he said.
Starting Price: $500,000 The latest SLR model sure lives up to its racecar history. While cut from the same gorgeous lines as the best Mercedes, the AMG is still a true sportster inside. One of the most innovate racing designs that’s still street legal, the AMG packs all the fun and maneuverability of the best Formula 1 cars into a somewhat affordable design for the less than millionaire class.
This grand-touring beauty was, and still is, one of the greatest street-legal sports cars of its time. Combining great German engineering with Formula 1 racing capabilities, the SLR McLaren AMG provides its drivers with nothing short of an impeccable experience. Its 5.4 liter supercharged V8 engine produces 626-horsepower. More than enough to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 207 miles per hour.
24. Saleen S7
Starting Price: $585,000 Maybe there aren’t so many Made in America cars anymore, but the Saleen S7 shows the US can still make breathtaking rides. Combining the awesome handling and low profile of the best European sportsters with classic American muscle, the Saleen S7 sure gives you your money’s worth. Best of all though, this limited production faux Lamborghini is a real head turner. The S7 has earned its street-cred through great styling, high-performance, and immense power. It has a long history of racing, and can even compete with the likes of Lamborghini. This super car’s 7.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine can thrust an easy 750-horsepower that can accelerate to 62 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds, and has a top speed of 248 miles per hour. Completely made from carbon fibre, the S7 is lightweight and drives with great ease.
The interior of the Saleen S7 was designed to be not just luxurious but also functional. Leather appears throughout the cabin, with aluminum accents, and the S7 comes with a set of custom-fit luggage. Because of the car’s mid-engine layout, it has two trunks, front and rear. Other features include an LCD monitor, rear-view camera, quick-release steering wheel and a speedometer ending at 240 miles per hour (386 km/h). The cabin is of an asymmetrical layout, with the custom-fitted driver’s seat positioned toward the center both to improve the driver’s visibility and center his or her weight in the vehicle.
23. Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato
Starting Price: $653,000 Another breathtaking Aston Martin, the Vanquish by Zagato, roared onto the scene at the grand Villa d’Este event in 2016. The fifth car in the Zagato line, the 2017 model clearly traces its heritage back to the muscular DB4 GT Zagato racing variant of 1960.
The Zagato is about as close as the company comes to an economy model. The production version has a hard limit of just 99 units, with the most bare bones basic model priced at $653K. While the roadster version will have a specially designed powerplant, the standard model will use same spicy 6.0 liter V12 engine in last year’s Vanquish.
22. Enzo Ferrari
Starting Price: $670,000 While producing a “measly” 650 horsepower, the Enzo Ferrari is one of the lightest in the series yet. Definitely the flashiest of the latest breed. Combining the legendary power of a Ferrari with the slick handling of a Porsche, not to mention the aerodynamics of a fighter jet, the Enzo is a fun new edition to Ferrari’s line.
With only 349 ever produced, the Enzo super car pushes boundaries thanks to its impressionable in-car technology. With many Formula 1 influences, engineers made sure this Ferrari could intimidate anything that gets in its way. It can produce 650-horsepower with its powerful 6.0-liter V12 engine, and that will get it to 60 miles per hour in a mere 3.3 seconds out of a total top speed of 218 miles per hour. For many, this is an all-time favorite. Truly a beauty and a beast.
21. SSC Ultimate Aero
Starting Price: $740,000 The Ultimate sure lives up to its name, especially after earning the Guinness Book of World Records title of “fastest production car.” This beautiful creation melds the brain-bending power of a NASCAR racer with the luxurious comfort of a land yacht. And all at reasonable price, assuming you can get your hands on one. SSC went to great lengths to keep masterpiece rare, with only five units built since blowing onto the scene in 2007.
The SSC Ultimate Aero has an impressive top speed of 256.14 miles per hour, powered by its twin-turbo V8 engine that ultimately generates 1,287-horsepower. In comparison to the original Aero, the Ultimate model was redesigned with greater aerodynamics, greater use of carbon fiber, and greater braking capabilities.
20. Porsche 918 Spyder
Starting Price: $845,000 This German Wunderwaffen cannot be fully savored without a speed limitless autobahn under your wheels. Straight out of a spy movie, the Spyder is likely the hottest looking car on this list and one of the top-five most powerful. Pretty impressive for a hybrid. Environmental friendliness has never been so sexy!
The German’s are notorious for their impeccable manufacturing skills, quality, and overall presence in the automobile industry. The Spyder has an 887-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 engine, accompanied by two electric motors, making this a powerful hybrid gasoline-electric car. In a swift 2.5 seconds, the vehicle can reach 62 miles per hour. Using only battery power, it can reach as far as 19 miles, while the V8 gasoline engine can produce 608-horsepower on its own. The lightweight sports car’s starting price is $845,000 dollars, but if those looking for a greater thrill choose the Weissach Package, the price tag can accelerate just as fast to $929,000 dollars.
19. The Rimac Concept One
Starting Price: $940,000 The base version of the Rimac, dubbed the Concept One, was another great surprise from the Geneva Motor Show in 2016. Perhaps even more impressive than the Rimac Concept S. The Concept One also breaks new ground by relying on four permanent magnet electric motors. Together, they pump at a massive 1,088 hp and 1,600 Nm of torque. More than enough to reach 100 km/h in just 2.6 seconds. Sadly, that’s before topping out at a measly 216 mph (355 km/h) though.
Rimac Automobili’s unique drivetrain is divided into four sub-systems. Each system consists of a separate electric powertrain with an independent inverter, motor and gearbox for each wheel of the car. This engineering masterpiece enables them to handle each wheel independently, hundreds of times each second, in both directions, delivering an unforgettable driving experience.
18. Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss
Starting Price: $1 million The Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss Edition is Lister’s first limited production sports in a while. This beautifully retro ride was revealed to the public at Pebble Beach, Florida in 2016. To help drive up the price, only 10 cars will be produced, with the MSRP beginning at $1 million. All 10 vehicles will follow the same handcrafted construction design as the original Knobblys from the early ‘50s.
The Moss edition is powered by a solid six-piston engine, producing 337bhp at 6,750rpm and an impressive 295 lbs ft of torque at 4,250rpm. The Crosthwaite and Gardener power plant includes a classic 4-speed gearbox that transmits power directly to the rear wheels.
17. McLaren P1
Starting Price: $1.1 million McLaren rides have a long and mystical racing legacy, but the P1 might just be the company’s cleverest car yet. Surprisingly somehow street legal, this supercar has some of the most responsive controls of any vehicle not sporting wings. Unlike many “hyper cars,” the P1’s twin turbos are relatively fuel efficient. Even without the optional hybrid electric motor hookup.
The McLaren P1 demonstrates the brand’s creativity and stellar engineering skills like none of its predecessors. With a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 engine, its performance is out of this world. If paired with an onboard electric motor, this beast can push out 903-horsepower; otherwise, it can still blow your mind with 727-horsepower. On the outside, the monstrous hypercar is mostly built from carbon fiber. Beneath that are the finest, most exotic materials that allow the P1 to fire up from 0-60 miles-per-hour in just under 3 seconds, 2.8 to be exact. It just might be one of the most exciting cars in the world worth driving.
16. Apollo Arrow
Starting Price: $1.1 million The Apollo Arrow is practically a fighter jet with wheels. The first product from the newly formed Apollo Automobili, a company backed by Ideal Team Ventures Limited, the Arrow is hopefully a sign of groundbreaking things to come. The car was first revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016, right beside the Apollo N. The Arrow though takes things a bit further with its 4.0 liter, twin turbo V8 generating a whopping 986 horsepower.
The Audi-designed, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 is highly modified. Though the specs are still being finalized, larger turbochargers and less backpressure from the exhaust are projected to help it make 1,000 horsepower and a good 740 pound-feet or so of torque. Apollo expects the results to work out to a 0-62 time of under 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 220 miles per hour.
15. 2017 Mazzanti Evantra Millecavalli
Starting Price: $1.2 million The Mazzanti is not your typical two-seat coup. Made out of exotic carbon-fiber materials, most parts of the body can be custom tailor to fit whatever desires the customer wishes. The Evantra Millecavalli is about ten centimeters wider than the standard Evantra model. While seemingly small, that little extra space drastically enhances the vehicle’s extreme performance profile, and all without changing the style.
Limited to just 25 units, the Mazzanti Evantra Millecavalli was revealed back in June 2016 at the Parco Valentino motor show in Italy. Just like its predecessor the Evantra, the new Millecavalli is powered by a 7.0 liter LS7 V8 twin turbo engine producing 1,000 hp, making it the most powerful car made in Italy. The Evantra Millecavalli does 0-100 km/h in 2.7s and has an acclaimed top speed of 250 mph or 402 km/h. Pricing has not been made official but related sources cite a $1.2 million price tag, the older Evantra was priced from $869K.
14. Hennessey Venom GT
Starting Price: $1.2 Million The Hennessey Venom is a match made in heaven between raw, unadulterated American power and British ingenuity. While only 29 were produced, they’ve already set several world records for production vehicles. Despite the high price tag, the Venom’s Batmobile-like finish sure doesn’t hurt its resell value.
While Hennessey Performance is based in Sealy, Texas, the car’s design was inspired by the beautifully crafted Lotus Elise roadster and Exige coupe model. Utilizing the base of the two British cars, the Venom GT has incorporated parts and pieces such as the doors, headlamps, and roof, to name a few. However, Hennessy manufacturers and their Venom GT are not affiliated to the United Kingdom’s Lotus. In January 2013, the Venom GT made its way into the Guinness World Book of Records for reaching 186 miles per hour in just under 14 seconds, 13.63 to be exact. In 2.7 seconds, this baby can reach 60 miles per hour.
13. Ferrari LaFerrari
Starting Price: $1.3 Million Besides a ramped up powerplant, the LaFerrari just might be the most delicious Ferrari yet. It’s definitely the most powerful production vehicle in Ferrari’s long history. While unfortunately only a small number of these hyper cars were made, anyone lucky enough to land one is clearly in for the ride on their life.
Sporting a 6.3 liter V12 engine pouring out 789-horsepower, along with an extra boost of 161-horsepower from an electric motor. Thanks to its hybrid capabilities, it can go faster than ever before, all while reducing fuel consumption. In less than 3 seconds, LaFerrari can accelerate to 62 miles per hour and has a top speed of 220 miles per hour. Unlike its predecessor, the Enzo, LaFerrari is much more visually appealing and stylish as well.
12. Maybach Landaulet
Starting Price: $1.38 Million Designed as a mini-limousine to be driven by a chauffeur, the Maybach sacrifices only the slightest function for unparalleled form. The Maybach is the perfect ride for someone rich enough to look down upon a stretch limo and long for a little more comfort. Ironically though, the brand will be discontinued soon due to its lower profit margins when compared to BMW’s Rolls Royce line.
As one of the most expensive sedans in the automobile market, the Landaulet expresses its class with its luxurious features, such as its fully retractable sunroof that stretches as far back as the car’s rear and a refrigerator to serve its guests in case they are ever hungry. This is the perfect vehicle to be driven around in. Even though it screams elegance, it has a roaring bi-turbo V12 engine that can do wonders, like accelerating to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds. For its size, that is quite remarkable and proves its dexterity and potential. The Luxury Brand Status Index 2008 voted the Maybach first place, ahead of even Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
11. Pagani Huayra
Starting Price: $1.5 Million Making its debut in the Hollywood film Transformers: Age of Extinction, the Huayra is one of the few sportscars that really lives up to the hype. The exquisite lines of this machine are not just decoration, but crucial to its stealth fighter rivalling aerodynamics. The Huayra was even labeled “Hypercar of the Year 2012” by Top Gear magazine.
Yet another exclusive powerhouse, which is, of course, a rare find. The Huayra has numerous unique features that make it one of the best performing muscle cars on the market. Most Pagani rides are made to order, and are therefore highly exclusive as well. Combining luxury and ultimate performance, this attractive roadster comes packed with a twin-turbocharger, 6.0-liter V12 engine that can push out a top acceleration of 230 miles per hour with 720-horsepower, and can reach 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds. For such a small company, it sure makes a personal statement in its engineering and performance.
10. Koenigsegg Agera S
Starting Price: $1.52 Million This limited-production Swedish road warrior earned Top Gear Magazine’s “Hypercar of the Year” in 2010. With it’s incredible get up and go, thanks to a 1,000 horsepower powerplant, not to mention futuristic design, that probably won’t be the brand’s last accolade. On the outside, the Agera seems to resemble an Aston Martin, but under the hood it exceeds all their recent models.
The Agera S was built by the Swedish car manufacturing company, Koenigsegg. This monster is an exclusive member of the 1,000-horsepower (and up) club and comes fully loaded with a twin-turbo, 5.0-liter V8 engine. In 2.9 seconds, it can reach 62 miles per hour. For those who are not faint of heart, this speedster can also hit approximately 188 miles per hour in a little under 23 seconds.
9. Koenigsegg Agera R
Starting Price: $1.6 Million Not to be outdone, even by themselves, Koenigsegg introduced the R model to their already impressive sporting lineup. The Agera R is amazingly street legal, even though it packs more horsepower than many modern tanks. Unfortunately, mass production is still out of reach for this small car manufacturer, but if you’re lucky to get your hands on one of these bad boys you’ll never turn it loose.
With the R model, Koenigsegg really shows off its capacity to fly fast and win the hearts of drivers without being a big named brand like its competitors, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Its speedy performance will have you bending through space and time. The Agera R packs a mean 1140-horsepower twin-turbo 5.0-liter V8 engine that sounds heavenly, yet acts beastly. It can hit 60 miles per hour in a mere 2.8 seconds flat, and can put a Bugatti Veyron to shame on a race track. While its ultimate top speed has not been put to the test, it is estimated that it can reach 273 miles per hour.
8. Aston Martin One-77
Starting Price: $1.8 Million With only 77 units of this model in existence, and no more planned, the sexy Aston Martin One-77 is a huge status symbol among the, shall we say, yachting class. Its elegant “modern classic” design alone almost justifies the price. Any car enthusiast would moan when they get behind the wheel though. Topping out at just over 220 miles per hour, this puppy gives the full James Bond experience.
Especially when hitting 62 miles per hour in just 3.7 seconds. Too fast for the bad guy’s henchmen to even buckle their own seatbelts. As if its stealthy line weren’t hot enough, this Aston Martin packs a 7.3-liter, 750-horsepower V12 engine under the hood to burn that gas up as fast you can find a fill up station.
7. Ferrari 599XX
Starting Price: $2 Million While not the fastest Ferrari out there, this is definitely one of the most luxurious in the brand line. What it lacks in raw horsepower it more than makes up for with ultra-agile handling. And it’s NASCAR like lines sure aren’t a bad selling point either.
In less than 2.9 seconds, this topnotch Ferrari can take you as far as 60 miles per hour. Twenty-nine very rich people have the privilege of owning the 599XX. Its 720-horsepower is revved up by a 6.0-liter V12 engine and has a top speed that is restricted to 196 miles per hour. Apart from the usual engine and performance piques, this vehicle pushes boundaries and expresses its true self-worth through its swift and lightweight speed.
6. Koenigsegg CCXR
Starting Price: $2.173 Million Here’s the rare sportscar that can run on any type of gas, including even ethanol, for the price-consicious millionaire. Thanks to the Koenigsegg’s flex fuel system, the CCXR actually delivers more power, 1018 hp, on E85 Biofuel. A big improvement over running just “super” gasoline and getting only 806 hp. Yet again giving a Koenigsegg auto the chance to claim the world’s most powerful production car title.
In 2009, the CCXR Edition was awarded “one of the 10 Most Beautiful Cars in history” by Forbes Magazine and was chosen as the Power Car Award 2008.
Another Swedish masterpiece, and more powerful than the S or even R model, this “indie” car manufacturer engineered a sports car that can reach 62 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds. And all in the most comfortable, stylish, and coolest way possible. Like no other Hypercar, the CCXR can maintain a fantastic hold over its drive and performance, no matter the road surface conditions. This car can absorb so much shock and keep great stability due to its remarkable chassis and suspension capabilities, it will leave you in awe. Its aluminum 4.8-liter twin-supercharged flex fuel V8 engine can produce an epic 1018-horsepower, which will surely demonstrate its ruthless capabilities.
5. Lamborghini Sesto Elemento
Starting Price: $2.2 Million If you’ve been waiting for something new from Lamborghini, the Elemento is exactly what you’ve been longing for. Besides a more advanced engine and suspension, this hypercar makes even more extensive use of carbon fiber components than in any previous model. And not just the exterior body. The entire chassis, drive shaft and suspension system are all crafted from composites, which cuts the overall weight to just 999 kilograms (2,202 lb). Or in another words, the same as most subcompact cars.
For those with a couple of extra million lying around and in need of a thrill, especially the thrill of being one out of twenty to own an exclusive sports car, the Sesto Elemento might just be the car you have been looking for. Powered by a 570-horsepower V10 engine, this powerhouse can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in a zippy 2.6 seconds and has a top speed of 217 miles per hour. Its state of the art engineering will provide an experience that is out of this world.
4. Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse
Starting Price: $2.5 Million The nickname “vitesse,” or speed in French, is no marketing ploy here. The Veyron is a true speed demon that easily tops the other cars on this list. Labeled “car of the decade” by Top Gears, the Veyron holds two Guinness World records: the roadster Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse version holds the “Fastest Roadster in the World” title, with an average top speed of 254.04 mph. As if that wasn’t enough, the “Fastest Street-Legal Production Car in the World,” goes to the Super Sport version with its top speed of 267.7 mph.
The French car manufacturer masterminded this 1,200-horsepower, 8-liter, 16-cylinder beast to be the best in their already impressive lineup. In 2.6 seconds, the Vitesse can hit 62 miles per hour out of its maximum 255.5 limit. For a starting price of $2.5 million dollars a pop, motorists will be driving around in the world’s fastest roadster. Since the Veyron’s initial launch in 2005, it has been making its mark worldwide, having sold its 400th model as of December 2013.
Starting Price: $3.4 Million
3. W Motors Lykan Hypersport
If you can find one of these hypercars not doing Hollywood stunts, then you’ll have the most luxurious rides of your life. For anyone looking at that price tag and wondering, “What, is it made out of gold or something?” Well, you’re right. In addition to advanced composites, the Lykan Hypersport mixed in plenty of diamonds, jewels and other precious metals throughout its design and control surfaces.
Just to top off the futuristic feel, this world-class super car even includes an interactive holographic display system inside its plush cabin. The Hypersport can dash to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds with its turbocharged 3.7-liter 750-horsepower flat-six engine and has a top speed of 245 miles per hour.
2. Lamborghini Veneno Roadster
Starting Price: $4.5 Million Hands down the fastest roadster in the world, this might just be the prettiest too. With all the flash and pomp you’d expect from Lamborghini, this car is also packed with tons of little perks to give the true Formula 1 feel. Though it costs as much as a racecar, no professional driver has ever flitted around the world in such style and comfort!
Originating from Italy, this beauty takes the cake with its roaring 750-horsepower, 6.5-liter, 12-cylinder engine. In a mere 2.9 seconds it can reach 62 miles per hour, and its top speed is 221 miles per hour. For a starting price of $4.5 million dollars, nine special upper-crust rich people will be able to own the Veneno Roadster, as Lamborghini only plans on building a handful or two of them. Its lightweight design is especially intriguing, with its substantial use of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer, amid a variety of other novelties.
1. Maybach Exelero
Starting Price: $8 Million With only one of these special hypercars ever built, it doesn’t get more exclusive than the Maybach. Designed as a technology testbed by the luxury German manufacturer, the Exelero was quickly sold to an unknown celebrity in California. It’s only other claim to fame is serving as a prop in several German TV shows, but nonetheless, someone was willing to drop mansion-level cash on this thing.
As the most expensive Maybach vehicle, the ever so sleek Exelero is unique and at the pinnacle of luxury. Its 700-horsepower, 6-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine can produce a ravaging top speed of 218 miles per hour and hit 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds. Another special aspect of this car is its Fulda Tires, which can withstand the high-performance drive. This modern concept was inspired by its legendary predecessor, a smooth-running sports car of the 1930’s. Driving it is not just about the speed and its performance, however, but also about the exclusive experience one has driving it.
In a world where new, clever ways of using tech and the cloud are being unveiled on an almost daily basis, the speed of progress on the automobile can look a bit glacial by comparison.
In the most basic terms, the cars being sold today are similar to those introduced at the start of the 20th century: a combustion engine driving the wheels through some sort of gearbox, with steering controlled by a wheel at the front of the cabin.
Searching back through history reveals, however, that while many of the car industry’s ideas are not new at all, it has taken quite a bit of ingenuity to turn them into something people are willing to pay money for.
Toyota brought hybrid cars to the mass market with the Prius in 1997
You may think that Tesla could claim credit for introducing the first viable electric car. But Toyota could point to the nine million-plus hybrids it has shifted since 1997.
The car industry, you see, is full of examples of innovations that went nowhere until someone — quite often not the original inventor — worked out how to industrialize the idea. Take the four-wheel drive, a technology that’s now synonymous with premium, upmarket vehicles, particularly SUVs.
The idea of driving all four wheels — with benefits in safety and performance — was first introduced as long ago as 1903 (on a Dutch sports car called a Spyker).
But for much of the 20th century it remained a technology largely restricted to tractors and military vehicles like the Land Rover and the Jeep, and occasional oddities from small-scale manufacturers.
Audi changed all that with its Quattro, a luxury sports coupe introduced in 1980. Sales figures for the car were relatively modest, but highly tuned competition versions of it dominated the sport of rallying.
Four-wheel drive suddenly became not just useful, but actually attractive.
Audi still calls its four-wheel drive system “quattro,” and these days you’re almost as likely to find a 4WD system on a luxury coupe like a Bentley or an executive saloon from BMW as you are a rugged Jeep or Land Rover.
Many of these cars – and most of them, if you’re an American buyer, will save you the bother of changing gear. But this concept is further proof of how good ideas can take time to work their way through to customers.
There was something akin to an automatic gearbox as early as 1904, but that concept was chronically unreliable and it would be another 35 years before General Motors was able to introduce Hydra-Matic, the world’s first mass-produced auto transmission.
There are examples of bold innovations that have been a hit in their own right. Sir Alec Issigonis’ original Mini broke the rules on how small and cheap family transport could be, and even though it made its debut back in 1959, its influence in how small cars are packaged can still be felt today.
Right now, the car industry is caught up in an arms race on who can deliver the best fuel efficiency. Volkswagen, for example, has petrol engines that can shut down cylinders when you’re cruising along, in order to save fuel.
Connectivity is key, too; car manufacturers know we’re constantly checking smartphone screens, so anything that links the vehicle to that interface is seen as a potential reason to buy. The latest Land Rover Discovery, for example, can lower individual seats remotely using a smartphone app — handy if you know who’s traveling before you get to the car.
And on the horizon is autonomy — the ability for the driver to totally switch off when they’re behind the wheel. On this score, car manufacturers are fighting with (and in a few cases collaborating with) ‘disruptors’ — not just Tesla and a hundred Chinese start-ups, but also names like Google and Apple, who have never built a car before but are suddenly interested in exploiting the amount of ‘dead time’ we could soon end up spending in it.
The best innovation of all time?
With this in mind, perhaps the best innovation of all was one that was in fact, given away for free.
Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin.
Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin had spent much of his career in aviation, and used techniques learned in that industry to come up with the idea of a three-point safety belt for cars that would cover the driver’s torso as well as their lap.
Volvo introduced the set-up in 1959 and by 1963 it had made it to the US. But instead of exploiting a potentially huge advantage in car safety, the Swedish firm elected to open up the patent so everyone else could offer it too. Millions of lives have been saved by the modern seat belt as a result.
Indeed, the only automotive innovation that’s really beyond argument (and even then, only just) is the actual car itself.
Brakes made from a shoemaker
Karl Benz was awarded a patent for his ‘”Motorwagen” in 1886, and by 1888, his wife — who had actually paid for the development process, but who wasn’t allowed at the time to own the patent — felt confident enough about the vehicle to take it on a journey of around 60 miles.
To make America’s roads safer, cars should constantly talk to each other over a wireless car-to-car network rather than just relying on drivers to see what others are doing.
Automakers and the government have been researching the technology for years. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has formally proposed a rule requiring a uniform industry-wide system that would be put in all new cars. If the rule is approved, NHTSA said, it would take two to four years for the technology to be in all new cars.
Experts have long talked of the life-saving potential of the technology.
Instead of a driver having to see and react to a car stopping ahead, for instance, any application of the brakes in one car would send an electronic signal to other cars around it. Those cars could then warn drivers that a car ahead is stopping even if the vehicle is out of site. Similarly, drivers could be warned not to turn left across traffic because of on-coming cars. Cars with automated driving technologies, like automatic braking, could respond on their own to the signal.
The technology, known in the industry as V2V, could also be combined with automated driving technologies to provide better and quicker responses that would be possible by relying on radar and cameras. Even with human drivers, the technology could help avoid 80% of crashes involving sober drivers, according to NHTSA.
NHTSA officials have compared the potential life-saving importance of the technology to that of seatbelts and electronic stability control, auto safety features that have been credited with saving many thousands of lives.
Testing the tech that will power BMW’s self-driving cars
V2V technology could save about 1,000 lives a year and avoid 190,000 to 270,000 crashes, according to NHTSA. The addition of V2I — vehicle-to-infrastructure — technologies could save even more lives. NHTSA said it is planning to soon issue proposed rules for V2I technologies so cars could talk to things like stop signs, red lights.
Automakers would be required to have the technology in new cars and consumers would not be able to legally turn it off, according to NHTSA. Drivers would be given the option to turn off warnings and automated responses, though.
Once it’s installed on significant numbers of vehicles, the technology could also improve traffic flow and thereby save fuel, the agency said.
The proposed rule would apply only to passenger vehicles, but the auto safety agency is also looking into its application to trucks and buses.
The data sent between and among vehicles would not identify individual vehicles, NHTSA said, so privacy would not be compromised. The agency could not say whether police agencies would be able to use the data stream for general traffic enforcement. NHTSA also issued proposed guidance for security methods to protect the V2V network from hackers
With the exception of the addition of the Lamborghini Aventador SV, the 691-horsepower Aventador has remained relatively unchanged since it entered production almost six years ago. Now, however, signs are pointing to a new, higher-powered model being unveiled in January, according to reports.
A patent unearthed by Autocar showed that a new model called the Aventador S is on its way. And on top of that, the British automotive publication claimed it was also invited to a January product launch event from the Italian sports car-maker.
Though the launch invite did not include pictures of the new Aventador, it said the car had a “new design, superior power and a mix of advanced technologies,” Autocar is reporting.
There’s no official word on what changes the Aventador might be on the receiving end of, but it is likely there will be a moderate physical facelift, as is usually the case for cars deep into their life cycle. As Autocar notes, it’s also possible Lamborghini will fit the new Aventador with power similar to the 760-horsepower Centenario.
It’s likely this new car won’t entirely replace the current Aventador, but will likely slot in between the current model and the 740-horsepower Aventador SV. If that’s the case, the other models would also probably see the same changes the Aventador S gets.
The only other noticeable change in the Aventador lineup came when Lamborghini offered the 710-hp 50 Anniversario special edition car in 2013.
The launch of the new car will reportedly be at the Ricardo Tormo Formula One race track in Valencia, Spain. And you can bet we’ll try to be there.
When people think of Lamborghini, they think of the Countach. Yes, the Miura was prettier and launched the supercar segment, and today’s cars are faster and far easier to live with, but it’s the Countach that made Lamborghini what it is. Its legacy is what allows the brand to operate from safely under the Volkswagen Auto Group umbrella, share parts with Audi, and expand into the SUV market while still pushing the image that its cars are a flying middle finger to speed limits, good taste, and discretion. Ferrari may have been at its most iconic in the ’50s and ’60s, but Lambo peaked ideologically in the fast-living, sleazy ’70s and all-for-me ’80s. The Countach is a car of excess and impulse, one that always has and always will appeal to people on a primal level, even if they can rattle off its laundry list of flaws from memory. Simply put, the Countach is one complicated car.
It’s important to remember that the Lamborghini of the early 1970s is far different than the company today. Its sales had begun to dwindle thanks to rising gas and insurance prices, and it was hit especially hard by the labor unrest that had swept Italy. As a result, company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini would step down in 1974, and it would go bankrupt in 1978. To say things were touch and go is an understatement. On paper this was a strike against the Countach’s build quality, but in the car’s narrative, it makes it all the more extraordinary.
Ferruccio Lamborghini envisioned his company as a builder of world-class grand tourers, but as soon as the Miura was released in 1966, it became apparent that customers expected something different from the company. When it was launched, the Miura’s sinewy, Marcello Gandini-penned body and mid-mounted V12 made it unlike anything else on the roads. But by the end of the decade, competitors like Ferrari and De Tomaso had caught up, and the Miura was beginning to show its age. Lamborghini returned to Gandini to design a follow-up, and what he came up with was unlike anything the world had ever seen.
The legend goes that the Countach got its name when a worker came upon the prototype before its unveiling at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show and shouted it out in exclamation. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a Piedmontese exclamation that’s analogous to “good heavens!” or something dirty men say to each other about a beautiful woman. Either way, the name was appropriate, and the prototype LP 500 hit the auto show circuit almost exactly five years after the Miura, having nearly the same effect. The supercar world may have still been new, but it had changed a lot since Lambo’s first mid-engined two-seater. Italian design firms like Bertone, Ital Design, and Pininfarina had spent much of the late ’60s showing off wedge-shaped concepts, but the Countach was the first of these designs to make it off the auto show stand and into production.
That would come three years later, during what’s considered by some to be the worst year in automotive history. In America, the two best-selling cars were the Ford Pinto and Plymouth Valiant as catalytic converters began to strangle performance from engines, and massive five mile per hour impact bumpers became law. Elsewhere in the world, the fuel crisis had driven gas prices to stratospheric levels. So imagine the pure, unadulterated escapism the Countach LP400 seemed to embody. It didn’t look like anything that had come before it, and it certainly didn’t look like it came from 1974. Impossibly low, all angles and sporting gorgeous scissor doors, its 4.0 liter V12 cranked out 370 horsepower – an unheard of number in the early days of the fuel crisis. With car culture at its nadir, the Countach seemed like an object from another planet, one where things like safety, emissions, and fuel conservation didn’t exist. Most importantly, it looked like it came from a better place.
But back on Earth, Lamborghini was in serious trouble. By 1977, Lamborghini had found just 158 customers willing to buy the Countach. Because of new safety and emissions laws in the U.S., the car wasn’t legal in America, cutting off revenue that severely hamstrung the company. It declared bankruptcy in 1978, the same year the Countach saw its first major update, becoming the LP400 S. Improvements included an optional $5,500 V-shaped wing which slowed the car down, but made it look even more sinister and turned it into an automotive icon.
At the dawn of the ’80s, Lamborghini was still in dire financial straits, but the Countach was already a legend. In 1982, the car became the 500 S, getting an updated interior and a 4.8 liter V12 to boot. By then, its outrageous styling and outlaw status began to grow legendary in America, and companies began to spring up that would import the cars and make them U.S.-DOT compliant. Known as “gray market” imports, they would set you back well over $100,000 (around $230k today), but it wasn’t likely you’d have to worry about anyone else having the same car.
This is a bad boy’s car, and everybody knows it. When you surface from the depths of its cockpit and put two feet on the earth’s crust, folks with any sense back off a couple paces. They don’t know what you might pull next, but, as far as they’re concerned, just being seen at the wheel of such a thing is prima facie evidence that you’re a regular traveler beyond the borders of good judgment, good sense, and good taste. Nobody on a mission from God would arrive in such a conveyance. It’s too much: too low, too flat, too many slots and scoops, too much power in the engine, and too much rubber on the road. Wretched excess is what it is, and God would never commit such an affront — which leaves only one other guy, the big bad boy himself. So hide the women and the kids. There’s a Lamborghini Countach 5000S on the loose, looking for heads to turn.
By 1985, the Countach turned 11, and Lamborghini introduced the 5000 QV. Its 5.2 liter 48 valve fuel-injected V12 was now pumping out a whopping 414 horsepower, but most importantly, it was now street-legal direct from Lamborghini’s Sant’Agata Bolonese factory.
In 1987, Lamborghini was sold to Chrysler, and after 25 tumultuous years, it celebrated its birthday with a notably restyled 25th Anniversary Countach. While the original car was radically clean and simple, the 25th Anniversary model was bulbous and aggressive, like a long-distance runner who took up steroids and weight lifting. But by then, the car was already ancient, and it soldiered on for just two more years before being replaced by the all-new Diablo.
Once the Diablo hit the streets, it seemed like the world had had enough of the Countach. Despite their otherworldly looks, Countaches were cramped, hot, lacked any real ventilation, had no storage space, a second-rate interior, couldn’t corner, and were woefully unreliable. Its clutch was incredibly heavy, driving position was awful, and to reverse, you needed to open that sculptural scissor door, sit on the wide sill, hang your body outside, and very carefully guide your car backward. In every metric other than speed, looks, and exclusivity, it was a terrible car. On paper, the Diablo was better in virtually every way.
And yet, no one remembers the Diablo as fondly as the Countach. When it debuted in 1990, the Diablo looked fast, sexy, and appropriately like a Lamborghini, but it also just looked like a contemporary fast car. The Countach never looked “just like” anything, let alone like anything contemporary. Stretching into three decades, it was like a collective fever dream, something unobtainable to lust after. Lamborghini may have built it for 17 years, but only 2,049 cars rolled out of its factory. For at least two generations of gearheads, the Countach was more important than an expensive sports car; it was an avatar to project your desires onto. No one in their right mind would ever consider it a good car, but chances are if you’re a gearhead born between 1965 and 1990, you probably had a Countach where it really counted: on your bedroom wall or in your toy chest. I know I had both.
And that’s the enduring appeal of the Lamborghini Countach: an image that transcends time, space, class, and even logic to become an object of universal desire, or a sinister gateway drug that made millions of kids fall in love with cars. They were unobtainable then for almost all of us, and as surviving cars now change hands for seven figures, they’re even more so today. Try to think of another car that could represent so much to so many people who have never driven – let alone owned – one; you’d be forgiven if you can’t. Top Gear‘s James May famously said, “Never drive your heroes,” about the Countach, and he’s probably right. But that’ll never change how great that car is in our collective imagination.