Car-lovers take heart: Car and truck sales in the U.S. rose 13.4 percent in October over a year ago, and industry-watchers expect the gain to continue as dealers use holiday promotions and year-end deals to clear inventory.
Better yet, some of the hottest cars to hit the scene in years make their way to showrooms this spring.
Take the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. Not only is it the world's fastest production car (it hit 268 miles per hour last summer in Germany) but it is also one of the most refined — with interior cues taken from its sister company, Bentley. Its cockpit is wrapped in hand-stitched soft-grain leather and trimmed to the hilt in carbon-fiber; the rear-view camera, Bluetooth capability and Satellite radio make driving to the store a pleasant experience rather than the sweat- and stress-inducing jolt provided by other exotic autos.
The Super Sport's exterior is hot too, with bold lines that look modern but evoke Bugattis from the 1920s and '30s (a continuous crest line down the length of the car, a stirrup-shaped grill).
Sure, you'll pay for all that beauty — at a retail price of $2.5 million, only the world's wealthiest people can afford to put a Super Sport in their garages. But those lucky enough to do so will really get something special: A balance of 1,200 horsepower, three suspension settings and a world-renowned dual-clutch transmission.
"It's a real physical sensation," says Bugatti driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel. "The Bugatti is incredible because if I give you more performance, it will normally destroy and contort drivability and reliability, (but the Super Sport can be) controlled with only two fingers on the steering wheel."
Bugatti's not the only marquee coming out with stunners. Ferrari's street-legal 599XX variant, the GTO, the elegant Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro and McLaren's first-ever solo production car, the MP4-12C, will quicken lots of heart rates when they hit the streets next year.
One common thread between some of the hottest new cars is an emphasis on weight control. Almost every car on our list, including the Range Rover Evoque, boasts a streamlined frame, light-as-air carbon fiber components or a super-efficient, whittled down engine.
Stephan Winkelmann, the CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, says the future of high-end motoring is about handling, not power. "If you can have a car that decreases in weight with the same power, you will have a much better feeling in the driving experience," he says.
Porsche's latest 911 variant, the lightening-quick GT2 RS, embraces that ethic. Dave Engelman, a spokesman for the Stuttgart, Germany-based company, says Porsche engineers got the GT2 RS to beat its predecessor 911 GT2 off the line by simple addition and subtraction: They upped the horsepower by 90 and pared down the weight by 154 pounds. That gave the coupe a power-to-weight ratio of 4.9 pounds per horsepower, by far the best in its class. They also managed to eke out a 5 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
The BMW 1 Series M Coupe is also lighter than its closest family member, the M3. Official specs for the high-performance coupe haven't been released yet, but M enthusiasts can expect to see a car roughly 300 pounds lighter and slightly more agile than its larger counterpart, thanks to a lower ride and smaller compartment.
Muscle-car enthusiasts will be relieved to know there's something on our list for them as well: The much-anticipated Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, a Detroit-made animal whose $75,000 limited-edition Neiman Marcus variant sold out in three minutes last month. The standard version will have a 312-horsepower V6 engine and will go to production in the first quarter of 2011. There will also be a V8 SS option, which will likely be priced near $36,000.
Sure the Camaro packs a lot less punch than the Super Sport, as will even Lamborghini's Jota, the code-named successor to the Murcielago coupe. But for drivers in need of an ego boost next year, either will easily do the trick.