The world was still reeling from COVID, inflation was planning to ruin us all, and a drought would spell the end of civilization in the Western US, but supercars were still a part of the picture in 2022. And so far, carmakers were still nice enough to loan me a few of them.
Thank you, carmakers.
Despite what news reports suggest, most of them were powered by good old internal combustion. There were a few electric supercars—the Pininfarina Battista being the quickest car I drove all year (I drove the Rimac Nevera at the end of last year). I only got a ride in the promisingly ludicrous Czinger 21C, a hybrid supercar that was revolutionary in almost every way, but I’m putting it on the list just because it felt so quietly quick from the rear seat of its tandem two-seat configuration. The Lucid Air was hilariously, insanely quick off the line, as I discovered with no less a copiloto than The Stig himself riding shotgun. And a reengineered Cobra kit car got a bespoke electric drivetrain and a new manufacturer label: Scorpion EV.
The rest of the 2022 supercar experience came from old-school gasoline and air mixed together and exploded in a cylinder. The future may be coming, but it’s not here yet.
January 19, Willow Springs, California
The year got off to a good start when Maserati invited me to Willow Springs to drive its semi-revolutionary MC20 supercar. Rather than borrow an engine and a chassis from Ferrari, as it did with the 2004-2005 MC12, (which borrowed heavily from the Ferrari Enzo), the MC20 is all-Maserati through and through, from its carbon-fiber monocoque to its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6. The all-new engine uses an “F1-derived” pre-chamber combustion system, direct injection, and two spark plugs for each cylinder to make 630 hp at an easily accessible 7500 rpm.
The result is a car that will lap Big Willow with almost all the speed of, say, the Lamborghini Huracan STO that I had lapped the course in only weeks before, but with a comfort and smoothness that belied its performance potential. It was actually comfortable entering Turn 8 at well into triple-digit speeds, and never faltered in Big Willow’s decreasing-radius Turn 9. The softer setup meant this was either the world’s fastest GT or the world’s most comfortable supercar. I’ll take either one. $212,000
February 13-19, Angeles Crest Highway, California
You may recall this model launched in 2019, and it has been driven and reviewed in Autoweek at least twice before I got this example. So why look at it again? This car represents McLaren’s latest take on a certified used car program, or “Certified Pre-Owned.” This car had just under 4000 miles on it, which is pretty high mileage for a supercar. Nonetheless, with a one-year (or optional two-year) warranty, you could enjoy your Spider with relatively carefree miles. This one still had what felt like its original 710 hp (the 720 refers to European horsepower, which is just a bit higher) from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8.
Cranking the drive mode switch to Sport or Track makes the already sporty suspension even more so, and off you go. In my case I went up and down my favorite local road, Angeles Crest Highway. McLarens are magnificent in this environment, built solely for easing into and out of curves with perfect balance and nearly unmatched steering precision that will leave you grinning moonpie grins despite the high-ish mileage on your car. The problem with the CPO program is that it doesn’t represent too much of a bargain, as you may find that you’re spending close to MSRP for a used car. But it’s a used McLaren, so quit yer gripin’. This one was $315,000.
February 28, Monteblanco Circuit Sevilla, Spain
Don’t listen to the internet naysayers who deride this new Ferrari’s design as derivative. If you’ve seen it in the carbon fiber, you will surely agree it is a thing of beauty. And if you're lucky enough to drive one, you will flip your ballcap-wearing lid.
The 296 is only the third hybrid Ferrari ever made, after the LaFerrari and SF90. Its powertrain configuration is V6 internal combustion mated to a flat, round electric motor mated to a whippingly quick eight-speed F1 DCT transmission. The power and torque come on seamlessly and across a wide, satisfying band. It felt perfectly in place at the Monteblanco Circuit, with that track’s long front straight and tricky twists that demanded all your concentration at the terrifying terminal velocities of which this car is capable.
An electric motor produces 100% of its torque as soon as it starts spinning, so right off the line you are boosted by all the output of the electric motor, along with whatever the ICE is making at those rpms. Any potential lag or holes in the acceleration curve are covered, resulting in a smooth progression of power and torque up to the top of the tach, I said when I drove it back in February. It felt even better on the magnificent roads around Seville, especially one road that looked like it had been built by someone from Grand Theft Auto.
Do not fear the inevitable electric Ferraris to come, some as soon as 2025. In the meantime, consider this wonderful transition vehicle. Price is only $323,000.
March 15-16, Angeles Crest Highway
The LT stands for Long Tail. This McLaren is longer, wider and lower than the Ferrari I had just driven above. It is also lighter and has better grip than the 720 S I drove just weeks before that, making it “a far more enthralling thing to drive,” as I noted in the QuickSpin podcast you can listen to here. The 765 makes 755 screamin’ ponies from its version of the twin-turbo 4.0, 45 more hp than the 720 S. That’s less than the 818-hp Ferrari 296 GTB, in case you are laying out a spec sheet to help you decide which supercar you want to buy. How does it stack up against the above two supercar competitors? If you want pure handling prowess, this would be your choice. The other two are close, but we must rank them all, mustn’t we? Price is $382,500.
March 21-29, Angeles Crest Highway
Some things you have to work for, some you beg for, others just show up in your driveway with a little note attached asking you not to park them in the street or drive them into Mexico. Such was my experience with the 911 GTS Cabriolet. It showed up in my driveway with the keys in it.
The “GTS” on the rear deck lid means Porsche squeezes some extra performance out of the 3.0-liter engine and sends 473 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels by way of a seven-speed manual transmission or Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK. The extra oomph joins the 911 GTS’s retuned suspension, 911 Turbo brakes, and slight weight savings over a standard Carrera. If you want open-air summer fun, Porsche also offers its GTS in a cabriolet shell. Even though it weighs a relatively lively 3587 pounds, it feels different on the road and through corners than the mid-engine supercars listed above. It feels a little heavier and responds just a little more slowly than the purpose-built supercars against which it competes. It’s also half the price of those mid-engine screamers at “just” $156,850 and considerably more comfortable to sit in and drive than the no-compromises howlers above. Plus, you’ll look great driving it around Beverly Hills with your movie star co-driver. Life’s full of tradeoffs.
April 4, The Thermal Club, California
For the record, I did not drive this car. I sat in the rear seat of the tandem two-seater and held on while IMSA professional Joel Miller drove around Thermal’s two-mile South Palm road course. But even from the back seat I could tell this was something special. Czinger claimed this car holds the lap record for production cars around Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca at 1:25.446 and has probably lowered that since, even though production hasn’t begun and there is no official classification for production cars in Laguna Seca’s record book.
The bigger news here is that this car and any supercar you want to make, is manufactured using a radical 3D printing technology that optimizes almost every part for lightness and strength, prints it out, and sends it to robots that weld together any supercar you can design. It’s the future and it’s kind of cool.
April 5-12, all over Los Angeles
I really wanted to like this bike. I generally love Ducatis, from the entry-level Scramblers all the way up to the XDiavel cruisers. But despite having ridden a couple of the $22,095 Street Fighters, I never really got the feel for them. They were big and heavy without the quick response of all the other bikes. The massive 1103-cc Desmosedici V4 is undeniably powerful at 208 hp and 90.4 lb-ft of torque. And with an evolution of the Panigale V4 chassis in which it sits, it should be a near-perfect creation. I just never got full enjoyment of it on the road, unlike every other Ducati I’ve ever ridden. I’m still in love with the Panigale V2 I rode a couple years ago, for instance, that was just about the best motorcycle I’ve ever leaned into a turn. Yet others enjoy and even love the Street Fighter. Indeed, skilled riders can be seen all over the internet scraping knees around race track corners on them. So maybe it’s me. That’s it, it’s not, you it’s me. So chances are you’ll like it. Try it. Ciao for now.
May 6-9, Angeles Crest Highway
After 11 years of Aventador production, Lamborghini says arrivederci to its V12 big brute with this, the most powerful Lambo ever made. With 769 SAE hp (780 in Cavellino) the LP 780-4 Ultimae does it all with no turbos and no foolin’ around. Just you and all that naturally aspirated hp sitting right behind your head in this carbon-fiber love palace. It is the pinnacle of outrageousness.
Of course, it has its limitations. While it is perfection in a straight line, and will get you as noticed as you have ever wanted to be on the boulevard, it starts to get clunky in any other environment. For instance, you have to put the transmission into the manual shift mode and then set the driving mode to Sport and do all the shifting manually or the transmission will clunk unforgivably. Likewise, you have to hit the raise-the-nose button every time you get near so much as an acorn or you’ll scrape your very expensive carbon fiber front. It’s a real handful, like dating a supermodel.
But the coming hybrids and all-electric Lambos will have sorted all that out, won’t they?
May 23-24, Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, Pahrump, Nevada
“What’s an Audi RS3 doing on this list?” you screech. Hey, it’s my list, and this little Audi was as much fun and performed as well on a race track as many of the cars on this list, better than some of them. So here it is.
The RS3 joins a long line of impressive Audi performers that have carried the RS logo. This one has 401 peak horsepower to move its 3649 pounds of curb weight but still manages to carry five and most of their soft-sided luggage in its 11.3-cubic-foot trunk. The seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic transmission delivers the promised “lightning-quick shifts,” and the price is an entirely reasonable (for this much performance) $61,995. Set to the right drive mode you can even drift it, which I got to do around a big, flat section of Spring Mountain’s motorsport paradise.
There are other strong competitors in this field, including the 505-hp Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, 503-hp BMW M3 and coming M2, the 472-hp twin-turbo V6-powered Cadillac CT4 Blackwing, and the Mercedes-AMG C43 putting out 385 hp. It’s a great time to be alive, particularly if you have between about $60,000 and $75,000.
June 7, Angeles Crest Highway
Once the team at Cyan Cars finishes its remake of the Volvo P1800, there is nary a stock panel or part to be found. Heavily influenced by the success of Singer, the boutique re-imaginer of 911s, Cyan looked to its Swedish motoring heritage and plucked the P1800 from ancient obscurity and remade it in a more modern, performance image.
Cyan Cars came from Cyan Racing, the latter which has won five World Touring Car championships using Volvos, then started tuning Volvos for the street. The heart of the redo is a 420-hp direct-injection inline four-cylinder turbo, with Borg Warner EFR engine management, driving the rear wheels. The caster, camber and toe were all set up more for racing, and a Holinger five-speed with Holinger diff were added. The whole thing is wrapped in a redesigned carbon fiber body and costs $700,000. Problem was, they didn’t really tune the whole setup to be fun or even lively, at last not to my definition of the terms. The on-center feel of the steering was a little loose, you could feel the differential grabbing and releasing as you got on and off the gas, and the suspension was just a little more vague than I’d want in a $700,000 supercar. But most reviewers seemed to love it, so what do I know?
July 8-15, Greater Los Angeles
The AMG GT 53 is the four-door sports car that’ll thrill the entire family (unless they’re prone to motion sickness). You can impress the spouse and kids while lapping the Nordschleife, a track where one of these in professional hands and presumably without passengers set a record of 7:27 just a year ago.
My 2022 model squeezed 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque out of its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. Mated to a nine-speed AMG Speedshift 4Matic and sprung on a taut AMG-tuned suspension, the coupe-like sedan made daily driving with or without passengers downright thrilling. There’s not a millimeter of slop anywhere in the drivetrain and even less in the suspension, yet it doesn’t beat you and your passengers up on its way to being, as I said, thrilling.
This is a great way to sneak performance past a normally disapproving spouse who has sent you out to buy a “sensible luxury sedan.” All you need is $103,650.
July 10-11, Skyline Drive, San Francisco Bay Area
Lucid may have a few production hiccups limiting supply, but their finished product is among the quickest EVs built. The official figure is 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds, and I got to replicate that in an empty parking lot with no less a co-driver than Ben Collins, aka The Stig. “Wow!” I said, as Collins chuckled.
The Lucid Air is already one of the most powerfully efficient drivetrains ever made, maybe it’s the most powerfully efficient. Tesla claims a 0-60 time of 1.9-whatever, but the amount of track-sticky chemicals required to achieve that, in addition to the lengthy pre-conditioning of the battery before each run, put that claim into the science experiment category. On a real road where you can just stomp on the accelerator any time you want, the Lucid Air will always deliver. The Grand Touring Performance makes 1050 hp from its state of the art, 900V+ electric drive unit that weighs just 163 lbs and is "small enough to fit inside a standard airline carry-on roller bag,” according to CEO Peter Rawlinson. With two such motors driving all four wheels, it’s a performance paradise. The units are 45 percent lighter and up to 59 percent more powerful than their closest competitor, too, Rawlinson added.
You can even get up to 516 miles range.
I drove it around the Silicon Valley and then up into the mountains to the southwest on the famous Skyline Drive, and the Lucid felt every bit as lively to drive as electric competitors like the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan. The only problem was that the exterior looks a little bland—even the Model S looks better. Also, the interior with its ginormous glass roof was a distraction. Oh, and the price, yes, the one I drove was $179,000. Yowzer! But you can get a Lucid Air Pure, at least in theory, for $89,050.
August 9, Malibu, California
The Pininfarina version of the Rimac Nivera coupe is every bit the thrill ride that Croatian cruiser is, with distinct Pininfarina touches that set it apart (as if you’ll ever see two of these on the same roadway). Specifically, Pininfarina says the Battista shares its rolling chassis, electric powertrain, T-shaped battery, carbon-fiber monocoque, and all electrical systems with the Rimac. From there, Automobili Pininfarina assembles the rest of the Battista in its Cambiano, Italy, facility just outside of Turin. One Pininfarina employee said the car was “engineered hand-in-hand with Rimac and designed at a different level of beauty.”
Like the Tesla Model S, Pininfarina lists 0-60 mph at “under two seconds,” and in this case it seems entirely plausible, although I did not attach testing equipment to it and hit the drag strip. The Pininfarina’s four AC permanent-magnet electric motors–one powering each wheel–make a combined total of 1874 hp and 1727 lb-ft of torque. Chief engineer Paolo Dellacha says zero to 186 mph takes less than 12 seconds. With a 217-mph top speed, active aerodynamics are necessary to help keep it on the ground.
Will you miss the engaging character of a V12 gas engine and a manually transmission as the future turns electric? Maybe, but we all got over missing the sound of horse hoofs, so maybe we can accept this new future.
Price is just over $2 million.
August 17-21, Monterey, California
BMW graciously invited me to Pebble Beach and even offered me my choice of car. This being the 50th anniversary of BMW M, I naturally picked the M4 Coupe. Driving from L.A. to Monterey can be done any number of ways, but if you have all day, try to stay off the expressways and explore. Turns out there are roads you’ve never heard of and never been on that wind through ranch country you never thought was still in California, at least not since the days of The Rifleman or The Big Valley.
The heart of the M4’s character is in its 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six, making 473 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a six-speed manual and an M Sport differential, the M4 is ready to tackle any turn you throw it into. With a curb weight of 3709 pounds, it feels light and tossable. Dial the Adaptive M Suspension back and you can sail over the roughest country roads, crank it down, and it’s ready to handle curves once you find smooth enough pavement. Mine was loaded up fairly well, with everything from M carbon buckets to M carbon exterior package, which drove the price up to $96,345, but the M4 starts at $72,795.
August 22, California
On the way back from Monterey I got this big, brawny M8 Convertible Competition. I might have preferred a straight-up coupe, but we all have our crosses to bear.
With 617 hp from its mighty 4.4-liter V8 driving all four wheels, the M8 Competition can rocket you from a standstill to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, only a tenth slower than the hardtop model and almost two full seconds quicker than the previous entry level 840i Convertible (which is no longer offered).
I drove this M8 Competition Convertible back to L.A. using all the backroads I found on the way up the week before. Most of the drive I had the car in Comfort mode, but when I got to a particularly good stretch of twistiness, such as that section of Hwy. 58 just west of McKittrick, I pulled over, pulled up the suspension menu, and cranked everything up to Track mode. As you might expect, this changes the character of the car from a sedate boulevardier to a surprisingly capable canyon carver. It's a big, beautiful Bimmer and worth every nickel of its $141,495 price tag.
September 12, Compton, California
The all-electric Scorpion EV is made in Temecula, California, from a Factory Five Racing Cobra. Scorpion adds a Tesla powertrain along with some proprietary controllers and software. The version I drove makes 600 hp and gets to 60 mph in a claimed 2.4 seconds. Stated range is 400 miles. And they’re in production now, with a sticker price of $185,000. A 1000-hp version is coming, as if spinning the rear tires with 600 hp wasn’t enough.
I met up with the Scorpion team on their way home from a demo in Santa Monica. I met them at the place where I swap motorcycles. So my drive was just in industrial streets and not any great, winding two-lanes. Still, the car was able to display its horsepower, available in incremental stages. You can set power output from your smart phone. My first couple launches were in 150-hp mode and I gradually built up to 600 ponies. At the top output, traction management is very important, but I found it easy to control, with a linear throttle that comes with an all -electronic engine and drivetrain controller.
October 3 , Angeles Crest Highway
Global Motorsports Group is really a race team first and a tuning team second, though you could say all race teams are essentially tuners, in that they want the car to go faster. But GMG specializes in setting up your 992 Porsche 911 exactly as you will be using it. Unless you’re Patrick Long qualifying at Le Mans, you probably don’t want a harsh setup. GMG can make your 911 liveable as well as fast.
So when I met the GMG guy at the base of ACH and got in the car, I was surprised at how comfortable it was. Way more so than, say, a Guntherwerks 911 that had been set up for track use that I’d driven at this same spot fairly recently (though Guntherwerks will set up your 911 any way you want, too). My car rode on Goodyear F1s, 265/35R-20 front and 315/30R-21s rear. It had GMG front thrust arms with spherical bearings in front and adjustable caster thanks a GMG-made T-6061 aluminum thrust arm that is fine-tune-adjustable, with caster set to eight and a half degrees, and new rear upper and lower suspension with solid aluminum billet suspension pieces, also with spherical bearings.
“There’s absolutely no give on the car now, so you can really, really feel the road and it’s very, very quick,” said Allen Ward, longtime general manager of GMG.
It worked splendidly, with some of the best steering you’ll ever encounter, and roll stability that is unmatched. It was a definite step up from the stock Porsche, which felt soft and floaty in comparison (even though it’s not, as we all know).
My set up cost $206,100.
October 6, Thermal Motorsports Park
The Tecnica takes the 631-hp V10 from the STO and puts it into a somewhat softer, much more comfortable car, with rear-wheel drive just like the EVO RWD model, thus giving you the best of all possible worlds.
It’s a delightful car to drive. With 631 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque from the 5.2-liter V10 going to the rear wheels, it would be nearly impossible NOT to have fun in this. For our fun we were at The Thermal Club’s South Palm circuit (the one with the red and white stripes), with two miles of second- and third-gear turns sandwiched by a long pair of straights on either end. It was lead-follow and we each got our own designated professional driver to pursue—who would be driving an STO, by the way. Those 631 hp pushing a dry weight of 3040 pounds around South Palm was fun. I never got up to the Tecnica’s listed top speed of 202 mph, nor did I verify the 0-62 mph time of 3.2 seconds nor the 62-0 mph distance of 103 feet, but the car felt entirely capable of accomplishing each of those figures.
Price is $239,000, but you’ll have to wait until 2024 for yours, as the first ones are all spoken for.
November 4, Greater Los Angeles
“An SL from Mercedes is pretty much the biggest icon you can get,” said Daimler’s head of design Gorden Wagener. “Ever since the 300 (SL of 1952), this is next to the S-Class, probably the core of the brand, probably even stronger than S-Class.”
The new roadster rides on an all-new-from-the-wheels-up aluminum, steel, magnesium, and “fiber composite” chassis, reminding us that the original letters SL stood for “Super Leicht,” or “Super Light” (or “Superleggera,” if you want to get fancy). Thus, torsional rigidity is up by 18 percent over the previous model, transverse rigidity is 50 percent over the AMG GT, and longitudinal rigidity, or what we might call bending resistance, is up 40 percent. The car shares no parts with the AMG GT, by the way—or with any other car, for that matter. At its heart is a handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with twin-scroll turbos. The SL will come in two models: SL 55 and SL 63. Both get 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8s but offer different outputs. The SL 55’s makes 469 hp and 516 lb-ft while the SL 63’s makes 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. The SL 63 makes its greater horsepower thanks to higher boost and greater airflow, as well as software tweaks.
I spent a week in this car roaring around Los Angeles and the single most impressive feature was its massive torque from my 63’s twin-turbo V8. Just getting near the throttle meant a sudden leap forward, despite the significant curb weight of this bulbous beast. People say they want horsepower but what they mean is they want torque, and with this iconic roadster they get it. $179,150 base price
November 14, Angeles Crest Highway
When you’re looking to save a little money but still want your Porsche to perform, consider the 911 Carrera T, surely the finest balance between price and performance in the 911 line.
The 911 Carrera T has all the features that make 911s fun to drive but without the big, honkin’ sticker—or wing. The new 2023 model will be available in spring, with a base price of $118,050.
Technically, the T stands for “Touring.” And you could certainly tour in this. It’s comfortable, livable, and yet a lot more toned down on the outside so you’re not as likely to be noticed by, say, the police. It gets the same twin-turbo flat-six as the Carrera, making 379 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque.
You get everything from standard Porsche Active Suspension Management to lightweight glass and the rear seat delete. It’s 100 pounds lighter and 100 times more fun. Okay, maybe 1.5x more fun. But still, it’s fun. If you haven’t been in a Porsche 911 for a while, you will fall right back in love as soon as you wheel through the first corner. The balance, the direct steering feel, the more-than-adequate power and torque will make you swoon.
For almost all spirited driving, the 379 hp is more than enough. You might want more up near the top of the tach, say at the end of the quarter mile or when you’re approaching that 182-mph top speed. But as you wend your way through canyons and over mountains, you’re usually in third gear, for which 379 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque is just right.