Supercars That Will Still Put a Big Dent in Your Wallet but Not Drain It


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If you fell asleep beneath a Lamborghini Countach poster on your bedroom wall or thought Thomas Magnum’s red Ferrari 308 GTS was the best part of the original “Magnum P.I.,” there’s good news: You might be able to afford a new supercar.

And you might find it sharing showroom space with a family crossover.

Modern engineering and materials have given automakers the ability to create performance vehicles with capabilities unheard-of 20 years ago. In today’s dollars, that circa-1985 Countach would start at $325,000. A car that’s infinitely more capable and better engineered can be had for half of that — obviously not inexpensive, but down from the stratosphere. A lot has changed since your mom tore down the Lambo poster and made your old room her office.

Walk into an Acura dealership and a brand-new NSX can be yours for $159,300, excluding those pesky taxes and licensing fees. It fully looks the part of a supercar, with aluminum and composite body panels draped alluringly over a chassis composed of aluminum, carbon fiber and ultra-high-strength steel. A dynamic duo of twin electric motors in front and a twin-turbocharged V6 nestled behind the driver’s seat make it an all-wheel-drive hybrid. With 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque, dream on, Prius owners.

The two-passenger NSX was engineered and is manufactured in Marysville, Ohio. Those electric motors actively and instantly vector torque to either of the front wheels for supernatural cornering. In fact, one of the few complaints leveled at the NSX is that it makes driving at jailworthy speeds far too laissez-faire. Active suspension dampers provide this mid-engine machine with the ride quality of a docile daily driver.

The Acura NSX (starting at $159,300) is an all-wheel-drive hybrid.CreditMartin Campbell

If you blow the budget on this car, make sure your significant other has a practical vehicle. There’s precious little cargo room here.

Another hybrid is the BMW i8. It has the scissor doors of the Countach but loses three-quarters of the engine cylinders. Instead of an Italian V12, the i8 sports a turbocharged in-line three-cylinder. Not to worry. It sprints from rest to 60 miles an hour in a skosh over four seconds courtesy of a 131-horsepower electric motor powered by a 7.1-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack. Charge it up and the i8 can prowl silently for 15 miles in stealthy electric mode.

How does 369 total horsepower propel a car so quickly? Physics. The i8 begins in an energy-neutral carbon fiber factory in Washington State. This thread is shipped to Leipzig, Germany, to build the light but strong chassis. Subtracting weight adds performance.

A bonus: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the i8 goes 27 miles on each gallon of gasoline (or 69 miles per gallon equivalent when charged up). At $148,495 for the hardtop model, it’s even less than the Acura.

Spend even less money and hit the performance party with a bow tie. Chevrolet’s Corvette ZR1, which starts at $120,000, is a reminder to take some pride in your country. The ZR1 comes from Bowling Green, Ky., not Germany or Italy.

Chevrolet’s Corvette ZR1 (starting around $120,000) comes from Bowling Green, Ky., not Germany or Italy.CreditGeneral Motors

Its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 pumps out an astonishing 755 horsepower and 715 pound-feet of torque. A special hood with a carbon fiber halo allows the V8 to peek out and sneer at would-be competitors. Aerodynamic aids are swiped from racing Vettes, and magnetic ride control dampers guarantee that every centimeter of the available summer performance tires bites the road. Zero to 60 happens in three seconds flat, according to Car and Driver magazine. And in the magazine’s Lightning Lap benchmark, it is among the fastest. Price no object.

Available in coupe or convertible models, the ZR1 even offers standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (that’s $4,219.00 in a Ferrari). A reminder: Spy shots suggest Chevrolet will soon replace the front-engine Vette with a mid-engine design. Stay tuned.

Porsche’s 911 is such a classic you may overlook it. Don’t, though I recommend holding your horses. The 911’s turbo flat six will produce 443 of them when the all-new 2020 Carrera S arrives on our shores this summer. It’s available in both coupe and cabriolet models, starting at $114,450 and $127,350 respectively.

The teardrop shape is instantly recognizable, but this Porsche is no fossil. New technology includes “Wet Mode,” which senses damp pavement and adjusts performance parameters to make sure your brilliant new toy stays shiny side up.

The new base 911 provides performance similar to the outgoing GTS model, so buyers get something for that extra coin. Live near Atlanta or Los Angeles? Take delivery at a Porsche Experience Center and a pro driver can school you on wringing the most out of it.

The McLaren 570S makes $195,000 look like a million bucks. And it can be leased.CreditMartin Campbell

For the full exotic image, badge and all, the Ferrari Portofino starts around $212,000. That buys a 0-to-60 time of 3.4 seconds plus the Maranello image and mystique (though hard-core collectors might sniff at the entry-level status). I scooted one through Los Angeles last fall and can report that the snap, crackle and pop of its 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8, with 591 horsepower and prancing horses riding shotgun on the front quarter panels, commands attention.

Don’t need the ego stroke? Revel in the crafted leather interior, which brightens considerably when the retractable hardtop pirouettes into its storage slot behind the useless rear seats. A bonus: My giant camera case fit in the trunk.

I wrung the Portofino up through the Angeles Crest Highway and had such a great time snapping eye-blink shifts off the nine-speed automatic transmission, I almost hoped for a speeding ticket to frame as a souvenir. Thankfully, my silly wish did not come true.

Nowadays, the Lamborghini gateway drug is the Huracán RWD Coupé. Starting at some $203,000, this visceral wedge of forged carbon fiber and aluminum is propelled by a 573-horsepower V10. It takes just 2.8 seconds to rocket up to 60 miles an hour, and forget about the crude-by-comparison Countach.

Anglophiles might find the McLaren 570S their cup of tea. A two-seat twin-turbo V8-powered mid-engine British supercar, anyone? There are exhilarating G-forces in all directions, and the visual of McLaren’s upswinging dihedral doors. They make the $195,000 570S look like a million bucks. And with 563 horses and a 3.1 second 0-to-60 sprint, it doesn’t disappoint.

Looking to spend a little less? Many of these dream cars can be leased. Terms for a McLaren 570S begin at $1,988 a month after $20,000 down. That’s for a 47-month closed-end contract allowing for 2,500 miles per year. You’ll pay more to garage it in some cities. And the Ferrari can be leased as well. Think of it as living the life of Thomas Magnum. He didn’t own that Ferrari after all. He just drove it.


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