Buyers of ultra-high-end cars have traditionally fallen into one of two camps: performance or luxury. There are the thrill seekers, strapped into million-dollar Bugatti Veyrons, zooming down the autobahn at 200-plus mph. And then there's the chauffeured set, lounging in the backseats of Rolls-Royce Phantoms while sipping glasses of Cristal.
Judging by the latest crop of supercars to hit the market, automakers are betting more big-spenders fall somewhere in between the two extremes. You no longer have to choose between ultra-fast acceleration and hand-stitched comfort. In some new models, you get the best of both worlds.
No car embodies the Goldilocks approach better than Fiat's Maserati GranTurismo, a supercar that made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. A sportier update of the four-door Quattroporte, the Pininfarina-designed GranTurismo is more compact and more curvaceous than its predecessor, with a wider grille.
Maserati also wanted to cater to the power-hungry driver by giving it a 4.2-liter V8 engine capable of 405 hp at 7,100 rpm. That produces a top speed of 177 mph and zero-to-62-mph acceleration of 5.2 seconds — not the quickest of the supercar lot, but a first for the luxury nameplate. Drivers aren't likely to forget they're inside a $110,000 Maserati, either: The interior is covered with Italian leather, and the trunk has its own set of designer luggage co-branded with Italian luxury design house Salvatore Ferragamo.
In its bid to trump German rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche with an aggressive coupe of its own, Volkswagen's Audi division in 2007 introduced the R8.
From first glimpse, the car is a radical break from the comfortable sedans the brand is known for. It's angular, low to the ground, and houses a 4.2-liter V8 that can develop 420 hp. With power distributed to four wheels, the R8 can accelerate from zero to 60 in just 4.4 seconds, and reach a top speed of 187 mph. But the $109,000 R8 is no ordinary sports supercar. It has a six-speed sequential-shift gearbox, which enables a shift-by-wire option that can be operated like an automatic.
Lamborghini leads the pack
There is a new breed of supercar buyer that is not necessarily interested in top-grade performance or opulent appointments — they simply want a car that can get 100 mpg, and are willing to pay for it. Charged by a lithium ion battery, the $98,950 Tesla Roadster is the first commercially produced supercar that's 100% electric. It can go from zero to 60 in less than four seconds, and gets as much as 135 mpg. And like the most sought-after supercars, it's tough to buy one: The San Carlos, Calif. startup is only producing 1,000 per year.
Still, some carmakers are betting there's a strong market for the all-out performance supercar. That's the statement Lamborghini — also owned by Fiat — made when it introduced the Reventon at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show, the rarest, most expensive, and most powerful car the company has ever produced. Modeled after a stealth fighter jet, the sleek, metallic car has a V12 engine capable of 651 hp. It comes in just below $1.5 million, and only 20 will ever be produced.