Driving still matters, and not just because Mazda says so. Of the new production and concept vehicles debuting in Frankfurt, these are the five to actually drive.
Based on the overarching themes of the 2017 International Auto Show in Frankfurt, an electrically powered tsunami of self-driven cars and SUVs is about to wash over the world.
To a driving enthusiast with gasoline running through his or her veins, this is disheartening. After all, the silent whoosh of a Tesla Model S P100D rocketing to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds simply is not as viscerally satisfying as the roar bellowing from a slower Camaro ZL1. And who wants Autopilot when you can grab the wheel yourself, snick through the gears, and revel in the satisfaction of a writhing road well driven?
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Thankfully, Frankfurt did hold some promise for thrilling drives. Among the multitudes of new vehicles, these five are the ones I’d like to drive, listed in alphabetical order.
Audi RS4 Avant
Lots of people like station wagons, and I’m one of ‘em. Not the old wood-sided Country Squires of yore. I’m talking about the turbocharged bricks of yesterday, the AMG-ified E-Classes of today, and the Audi RS4 Avant that debuted in Frankfurt. I would take this over an A4 Allroad any day, and not just for the extra power and performance. It looks terrific, too.
Audi might get me, but because I live in the U.S., I can’t get this stupendously quick kid hauler. Too bad. So sad.
In Southern California, where I live, Ferraris are a dime a dozen. Hell, you can rent one at LAX. And like a person who might rent one at LAX, most of the owners of these Ferraris possess more money and ego than driving talent.
Still, this new entry-level Ferrari Portofino intrigues me. Not because it’s low-$200K price tag puts it within reach (ROFL). Rather, because it is the “cheap” Ferrari, shallow SoCal socialites won’t want anything to do with it. And that will make it the best one to drive.
Besides, I’m a sucker for power retractable hardtops, and this car looks really damn good, demonstrating a comparatively understated approach to exotic car design. Get one in a subtle color, and you’ll enjoy the Portofino for what it’s engineered for: driving, and in enough of a stealth mode that people won’t notice how fast you’re going.
Honda Urban EV Concept
This is how a small electric car is done. Retro-cool styling and custom boy-racer detailing make the Honda Urban EV Concept look like anything but a Dustbuster with wheels, while front and rear message panels and Easter eggs like the plug at the trailing end of the side character line ensure communication of modern technology and underpinnings. Plus, I’ve always loved small, zippy cars.
Again, though, this one previews a European-market vehicle that isn’t coming to America.
Land Rover Discovery SVX
If you ask me, crawling over treacherous terrain is far more terrifying than slamming around a racetrack at the limit of adhesion. That’s why the new Land Rover Discovery SVX makes this list.
Essentially, the Disco SVX pairs a big motor with kick-ass off-roading capability. The hotter supercharged V8 is perfect for teaching 28-year-old stockbrokers in leased base Cayennes lessons in driving etiquette, while the fortified suspension provides the hardware you require to safely traverse the path less traveled…or Washington Street in Hoboken. Either way.
Mercedes-AMG Project One
Hybrid, all-wheel-drive sports cars are nothing new, with both Acura and BMW selling them right now, today. A hybrid sports car packing Formula 1 racing technology and more than 1,000 horsepower, however, is something new. Who wouldn’t want to drive the Mercedes-AMG Project One, at least once?