A gearhead’s guide to your next purchase

Each model improvement or launch is a much awaited event for any car enthusiast. The experience for a car hack like me everytime I attend a car launch is like going out on a prom date with your high school crush. You don’t know what to expect and you have so many expectations for the night that lies ahead. 

The same basically holds true for every new car that comes around the block. In the next coming months, some of the cars in my list might make it here or not depending on the automotive manufacturer, the supply and the market demand for these high profile pocket rockets. 

Some lucky gearheads who have money to burn will have these in their garages. For us ordinary mortals who work the hours from 9am to 5pm, these rolling artworks of carbon fiber and aluminum are just pipe dreams or posters on our bedroom walls. 

Mazda MX5 RF

First in my list is this stunning Mazda MX5 RF or Retractable Fastback, which debuted recently at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. After a successful introduction at the New York Motor Show last March, the RF took center stage at the Goodwood event last June together with other Mazda cars such as the one-millionth production MX-5, the MX-5 Spyder and the Speedster concept cars.

Designed to offer a new dimension of open-top driving fun, while at the same time staying true to the rationale of the previous generation MX-5 retractable hardtop, the all-new Mazda MX-5 RF’s ‘fastback’ styling gives it a unique appearance roof up or down, broadening the appeal of the world’s best-selling two-seater sports car.

“With the all-new Mazda MX-5 RF we freed ourselves from traditional ways of thinking and took on fresh challenges in order to create something new. Our aim was a convertible sports car with gorgeous fastback lines when the roof is closed and an exhilarating open air feeling when open,” commented Nobuhiro Yamamoto, Mazda MX-5 Program Manager.

The MX-5 RF’s retractable hardtop consists of front, middle and rear roof sections, and a rear screen. When the top is lowered the front and middle portions are stowed together, while the rear glass sits behind the seats, leaving the rear roof section in place to create a unique open-topped look, and a cabin feeling that combines a sense of open air freedom with the impression of being securely ensconced within the car.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Final Edition

Based on the GSR variant, the 2016 Final Edition Evolution X is basically the same as the car that arrived almost a decade ago. 

Aimed squarely at drivers who value speed and handling above all else, the Evolution feels like the love child of an economy sedan and a Space X rocket. Powertrains include a 291-hp 2.0-liter turbo four with a five-speed manual in GSR models and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic in MR models; the Final Edition makes 303 hp with the five-speed. All-wheel drive is standard on each version; so, too, is a harsh ride. Sadly, this icon has been discontinued and won’t be replaced in the lineup.

Originally developed in the 1990’s as a replacement for the heavy and unsuccessful Galant VR4, the Lancer Evolution proved to be more competitive in the World Rally Championship (WRC). Early road going versions of the Lancer Evolution were simply Lancer’s with a 4G63 racing engine, equipped with stiffer suspensions and aerodynamic kits. The Evolution would eventually improve and get better every year up to a time when the Lancer Evolution V to VII became synonymous with WRC dominance.

Ford GT

Only a select crop of lucky and wealthy bastards will be accorded the privilege of owning a Ford GT, and in the next couple of months, one might just find its way here in our shores. With sticker prices most likely to begin around the $400,000 range, the GT boasts of the most stunningly exotic bodywork and perhaps the most powerful engine to date from the Blue Oval. Highlights of this American super car include a mid-engine twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 making more than 600 hp, carbon-fiber construction and body panels, active aerodynamics, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; and Ford insiders say that engineers ditched the manual transmission. 

 The wide front end is reminiscent of the classic Ford GT40, but the rest of the design is fully supercar-modern. The tight, two-seat passenger cell tapers to a point above the two cannon-sized central exhaust outlets, and the rear fenders sit entirely apart from the main fuselage. Power comes not from a supercharged V-8 as in the previous GT, but rather Ford’s next-generation twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine. Ford promised that this Italian slayer will produce more than 600 horsepower. 

The previous GT was amazing and a supercar by every standard, but it was also fairly conventional and done more to pay homage to Ford’s Ferrari-slaying GT40s of the past than to advance the breed. This GT, on the other hand, reads like those original GT40s, it will be a shot that’s going to be heard around supercar factories around the Globe. It’s as if Ford’s engineers fancied poking the eyes of its rivals once again by churning out the Shelby GT350 and the new F-150 Raptor. This bad ass GT would make Italians scream Mama Mia in disbelief. 

La Ferrari hypercar

As if the La Ferrari was not dead gorgeous and mean enough, Ferrari put one over its competitors by creating a convertible conversion of the La Ferrari hypercar. 

Maranello is keeping a tight lid about any Information, but from what I gathered, this red beast will have the same engine as the hardtop LaFerrari, a V12 hybrid producing 949 hp, and identical performance figures, with a top speed of 217 mph. One remarkable achievement is that the car will have the same drag coefficient as the hardtop even with the top removed.

The new limited edition special series will be available with a carbon fiber hard top and a soft top. It has the same running gear and performance figures as the original LaFerrari, sporting a 800 cv V12 ICE (with a specific power output of 128 cv/l) coupled with a 120 kW electric motor (163 cv), unleashing 963 cv in total.

Significant and extensive modifications have been made to the chassis with the aim of retaining the same torsional rigidity and beam stiffness as the coupé version. The car’s aerodynamics have also been further honed to guarantee the same drag coefficient even without the roof.

Nissan GT-R Nismo 

The Nissan GT-R is already one of the best production performance cars on the planet, and the NISMO in-house tuning division has made it that much better.

The 3.8 liter twin turbocharged V6 remains, but now with an additional 35 horses and final output of 600 horsepower. A more moderate torque jump from 467 to 481 lb-ft is also achieved. The large diameter turbochargers are used in GT3 competition. Like the standard GT-R, each engine is carefully built by one of the Takumi, skilled craftsmen at Nissan’s Yokohama plant. An aluminum plate on the front of each engine bears the Takumi’s name.

Aerodynamic and styling changes include a new front bumper with layers of carbon fiber sheets, and canards to better airflow around the vehicle. The amount of downforce generated by the new GT-R NISMO is the highest of any Nissan production car ever.

Like the GT-R Premium, the GT-R NISMO’s front end features a freshened face highlighted by an aggressive new fascia. To help cool the car’s high-output engine, the dark chrome “V-motion” grille has been enlarged to collect more air, without diminishing the car’s aerodynamic performance. A new significantly reinforced hood avoids deformation at extremely high speeds, allowing it to keep its aerodynamic shape. 

Honda Civic Type R

The Civic Type R last saw production in 2010, but it’s returning to the global scene once again. The newest version features a huge step up in performance output. The old Type R saw horsepower figures of 222 hp (Japan) and 197 hp (Europe), while the newest model makes the leap to 306 hp.

At 306 hp from a 2 liter inline-4 means a high output of 153 hp per liter. However, that doesn’t come at the expense of tractability and low end power, as the maximum torque of 295 lb-ft is available at a mere 2500 rpm. Honda claims the key to these number is their new turbocharger with VTEC (Valve Timing Electronic Control) technology, which gives abundant power across the rpm range.

The new 2015 Civic Type R will be powered by the most extreme and high-performing engine in the 22-year history of the red ‘H’ badge, signaling the start of a new performance era for the Honda brand. At the heart of the Civic Type R is an all-new, direct-injected turbocharged 2.0 litre VTEC TURBO petrol engine, which delivers power, torque and performance figures unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment. Peak power output is 310 PS at 6,500 rpm, and peak torque is 400 Nm* at 2,500 rpm – both higher than for any previous Honda Type R model.

Redlining at 7,000 rpm, the engine – part of Honda’s next-generation Earth Dreams Technology series– features an advanced new turbocharger with VTEC technology that boosts low-end torque and delivers sustained acceleration.

The Civic Type R’s blistering performance is unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment: the 0-to-100 km/h (62 mph) sprint is covered in just 5.7 seconds—making it the fastest accelerating performance front-wheel drive hatchback—and top speed, where permitted, is a class-leading 270 km/h (167 mph).

The new engine is mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, safeguarding an intimate, rewarding connection with the drivetrain, and power is directed through the front wheels.

Subaru Impreza WRX STi

This Impreza STi hatchback version will surely send chills down the spine of its rivals at Ford, Mitsubishi and Toyota. A closer look of this soon to be released hatchback version subtly reveals its heightened capabilities with aggressive touches like deeper front air intakes, narrowed “falcon eye” headlights, burlier fenders and an oversized rear wing that screams WRC! 

Power comes from a turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder that produces 305 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 290 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. STI buyers will need to know how to drive stick - a slick-shifting six-speed manual is the only transmission available. It helps the sedan to accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in a claimed (and likely conservative) 5.1 seconds.

Brembo brakes bring the action to a halt, including four-piston calipers with 13.0-inch rotors up front, and two-piston calipers clamping 12.4-inch rotors at the rear.

Setting the WRX STI further apart from the standard WRX is its Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential mated to Subaru’s existing all-wheel-drive system. A planetary-type center differential delivers a nominal 41/59 torque split (front/rear), while a mechanical limited slip center differential helps apportion that power fore and aft in one of three automatic modes. A manual mode lets drivers pick one of six pre-selected center differential locking levels for various driving situations.

Unlike the standard WRX, as well as the Impreza economy sedan with which it shares a platform, the STI uses an inverted strut front suspension to improve cornering. Aluminum lower L-arms up front reduce unsprung weight. The Impreza WRX STI has definitely set its sights on the  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, its biggest competitor, the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS.

Topics: A gearhead’s guide to your next purchase

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