The Top Power Cars of 2019
Like the S&P 500, there seems to be no ceiling for the rising power of modern automobiles. In 1975, when the first crude pollution controls ended the muscle-car era and emasculated engine output, the average new car made just 137 horsepower. By 2018, that typical car—including SUVs and pickup trucks—was cranking out 237 horses, a remarkable 100-hp surge. Since high-performance luxury cars must be anything but average, leading players are routinely doubling that figure: 550 or even 600 horsepower is now a baseline for bragging rights and showroom competitiveness. Crazy? Not if you’re in the market for an automobile that doesn’t keep up with the Joneses but instead blows them into the weeds.
2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible
If your follicles can stand it, be advised that Bentley’s latest GT convertible can do 207 mph with the top up, or down. It’s a ridiculous number for an elegant British vessel that weighs 5,322 pounds. And it requires a ridiculous engine, a twin-turbo 12-cylinder with 626 horsepower. The largesse continues inside, including the new Bentley Rotating Display. Picture a luxurious, three-sided Toblerone bar that flips to reveal either an infotainment touchscreen, a trio of analog gauges or a decorative veneer. Up to 70 exterior paint colors are available, with 15 choices each for leather and carpets, and eight veneers. New features include “diamond-in-diamond” leather quilting, bronze inserts, a “Côtes de Genève” metal finish and audio systems that top out with an 18-speaker, 2,200-watt Naim unit—the better to hear the symphonic peaks when you’re making time with the top down.
Base price: $236,100, bentleymotors.com
BMW M5 Competition
The most powerful M5 in BMW history appears to be more powerful than advertised: Officially, this super sedan has 617 horsepower from a twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8. But independent dynamometer testing shows the BMW may actually be generating closer to 700 horses, which might explain its 2.8-second romp to 60 mph, faster than some two-seat supercars. Like the standard M5, this new Competition version adopts all-wheel-drive to help apply that enormous power to the pavement—but drivers can switch to an exclusively rear-driven mode whenever they feel like roasting the tires. Compared with a standard M5, the Competition version gets a lowered body, stiffer suspension and chassis, and a driver-selectable sport exhaust for maximum bark and bite. If you needed more evidence that BMW is again bringing its A-game in performance, the M5 Competition is it.
Base price: $110,995, bmwusa.com
McLaren 600LT Spider
“LT” stands for Longtail, which McLaren describes as the most “extreme expression” of its performance lineup. And “extreme” sums up this track-centric marvel, including a Spider version that eliminates key performance handicaps usually associated with a convertible. The McLaren’s carbon-fiber, MonoCell II passenger tub weighs just 165 pounds. It’s so rigid and impervious that no additional weighty bracing was needed for the Spider version. Even with its three-piece, carbon-fiber folding hardtop, the Spider weighs a feathery 2,859 pounds. With a twin-turbo, 592-hp V-8 slurping and shrieking behind its occupants’ heads, the 600LT scorches 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and hits 124 mph (200 kph) in just 8.4 seconds. Top speed is 196 mph in al fresco driving, or 201 mph with the top raised. But while that sheer force is exhilarating, it’s the purity of the steering, handling and braking that makes the 600LT a standout in the supercar ranks. For died-and-gone-to-heaven driving pleasure, the latest McLaren is hard to beat.
Base price: $259,000, cars.mclaren.com
Lamborghini Huracán EVO
Lamborghinis have always been brutally fast. Handling was another story, especially on track, where Lambos were like exotic fish out of water. Not anymore: The Huracán EVO feels as agile and intimately connected as any of its contemporaries, as I learned during a high-speed romp at Willow Springs International Raceway in California. The EVO’s trump card is a naturally aspirated, 640-hp V-10 whose volcanic sound and lofty, 8,000-rpm redline are unique among competitors who rely exclusively on turbocharged power. The EVO howls to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and peaks at 202 mph. Below the Huracán’s provocative body, technology rules: All-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steering, torque vectoring and a magnetic suspension. It’s all managed by a very big brain, a new central processor that’s linked to the Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale, a set of accelerators and gyroscopes that monitors the vehicle’s accelerative forces. The system acts as a digital wingman, predicting the car’s intended path and adjusting the car’s dynamic behavior in real time. That behavior, unsurprisingly, is ruthless and quick.
Base price: $264,969, lamborghini.com
Jaguar F-Pace SVR
With SUVs firmly established as America’s do-it-all vehicles, high performance has become another entry on their to-do list. The F-Pace SVR combines slinky Jaguar style with sparkling performance—including during my recent test on the French Riviera that took in the cliff-hung Route Napoléon, among the world’s great driving roads. This cat gets its growl from a supercharged, 550-hp V-8, including racy pops and backfires from the variable-valve exhaust system that has become a Jaguar signature. The F-Pace dispatches 60 mph in a 4.1-second cannon shot, peaks at 176 mph and handles flatter than a Marine’s haircut. But the best thing about the aluminum-intensive Jaguar is its deft balance of fun and family responsibility. The F-Pace’s cargo hold is decisively larger than its key rivals’, and it feels comfortable and unflappable in any weather or driving situation. And at barely $81,000 to start, it’s also a relative bargain among super-powered SUVs.
Base price: $81,015, jaguarusa.com
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