If You've Got It, Flaunt It: Supercars at NYIAS

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Apr 13, 2017

NEW YORK CITY—This was not the year for economy cars at the New York International Auto Show. There was big, and there was bigger. There was fast, and there was faster. Nowhere was this trend more explicit than in the parade of supercars I saw Thursday morning. Three seconds to 60 mph isn’t fast enough anymore, and if you build a faster version of your already insane vehicle, that’s the one people will buy.

Rimac and Koenigsegg--just two of the supercars on the Manhattan Motorcars stand. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The actor/comedian Eric Bogosian had this great routine about BMWs. “Buy the 7-Series,” he said. “Because if you buy a 5-Series and you see a guy at a light in a 7-Series, it’s gonna piss you off.” That’s exactly where we’re at today.

From left: Tariq Ali of Koenigsegg, Monica Mikac of Rimac and Victor Muller of Spyker. (Jim Motavalli photo)

I described Lucid’s 1,000-horsepower electric Tesla killer, the Air, in my earlier post here. On Thursday, the company showed the vehicle they’d used for testing in Ohio, and it reached a heady 217 mph. The good news is that it’s not a million dollars—prices actually start at $60,000, for a model with 240 miles of range.

The Koenigsegg Agera in all its splendor. (Jim Motavalli photo)

From Lucid it was on to Koenigsegg. This tiny Swedish company produced only 12 cars in 2016, and maybe 20 in 2017, but they’re crazily fast, very expensive jewels, with the company’s own engines. Koenigsegg’s Tariq Ali said the company had a “fantastic” year, necessitating a 200 percent workforce increase.

We’re talking 1,360 horsepower from just five liters of twin-turbo V-8, in a targa-topped carbon-fiber-bodied Agera RS roadster weighing a hair over 3,000 pounds. Owners of cars like the one on display (which cost over $2 million) get to design them like bespoke suits.

Next year, Koenigsegg will be out with the Regera, a slightly more civilized version of the hairy Spyder. There will be just 80 of those, and the first one is going (where else?) to the Middle East. Zero to 248 mph in under 20 seconds. The Agera takes a ponderous 22 seconds.)  Buy a Regera only if you have the stomach for that kind of G-force. And you need patience, because there’s a four-year wait.

One of 267 gorgeous Spykers built since 2000. This is the C8 Preliator. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Victor Muller founded Spyker back in 2000, and has built 267 of his undeniably gorgeous cars since then. The proposition is similar to the Koenigsegg, and in fact Muller’s big news was that for the carbon-bodied C8 Preliator (100 will be built) it is switching from Audi to detuned Koenigsegg power—so the bespoke car will have a bespoke motor. Customers with Spykers on order were not dismayed to learn their cars would now have 600 horsepower, compared to a mere 500-and-change from the Audi powerplant.

Fifty percent of Spyker’s cars are sold in the U.S., and just one dealer, Manhattan Motors, has eight Preliators (they come as coupes or Spyders) on order. It was fascinating to learn that for the average Spyker buyer, it’s their seventh car. They already have a Koenigsegg, and a Bentley, and probably a Rimac, too.

Muller explained the thinking that would create such a stable. “You buy a BMW M-Series, but then you see that everyone in Greenwich has one. Then you proceed to a Porsche 911, then a Ferrari—but those are too numerous, too. That’s when you turn to the boutique players such as Spyker, Koenigsegg and Rimac.”

Only eight Rimac Concept Ones--made in Croatia--will be built. (Jim Motavalli photo)

You don’t know the Rimac? It’s another $1 million-plus supercar, sourced out of  Croatia. If 600 horsepower isn’t enough, said spokesperson Monika Mikac, how about 1,000—from an electric car, with 220 miles of range (from a 90-kilowatt-hour battery pack)? Only eight Concept Ones have been built, and the company is as much tech supplier as carmaker. Koenigsegg has bought its battery tech, and Aston-Martin is also a customer.

Rimac, which has 250 employees, makes everything, from the batteries to the motors and even the infotainment system. Got $1.4 million? That’s what a Concept One would cost, but they’re sold out. Only two are in the U.S. Wait for the next model from the company. “Supercars are our passion,” said Mikac.

The three supercar executives had a brief discussion, and it was agreed that autonomous cars won’t kill their business. People will still want supercars, Muller said. “It’s the generic automakers that will experience a major change in direction.” Ali added,  “The last car on Earth will be a supercar.”

Mikac pointed out a previously unknown benefit of self-driving cars. Enthusiasts can go to the track and have a Michael Schmacher autonomy program teach them how to be a race driver.

Tom Sawyer with his Trans Am Super Duty. The grocery store, then the track. (Jim Motavalli photo)

I would be remiss not to mention one other supercar presentation. The good folks at Trans Am Worldwide showed off their Alpha Platform, their latest Camaro-based Pontiac rebirth. You can’t buy a Trans Am from General Motors, but you can from these guys—with a Super Duty using the 6.2-liter direct-injected LTI Corvette engine topped with a Magnuson Supercharger for 602 horsepower and 625 pound feet of torque.

The Trans Am is the Pontiac GM isn't building. This is the earlier Bandit. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The Trans Am would likely do quite well at the drag strip, but according to the improbably named Tom Sawyer, “We wanted to make a street car, not just a race car.” The engines are built for Trans Am at a NASCAR facility in Charlotte, South Carolina—with custom rods and pistons, a ported head. It’s a race engine, but Sawyer said “you can drive it everyday. You can drive it to the grocery store, but it will get really ugly if you need it to. On the weekends you can do low nines or high eights at the track.”

The company’s earlier car was the Bandit, and they made 77 of them—all pre-sold. The new Trans Ams start around $80,000 without the supercharger, so in this company it counts as affordable. On-sale date for the Trans Am Super Duty is May 1.

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