Welcome back, or if you are just joining us, welcome to the definitive list (now in order of great to greatest).
#5 – The 1998 Mclaren F1 – Sacre bleu!!! this is blasphemy!, how can what is considered the greatest car in the world by so many be at the bottom?!…calm down and let me explain. When Gordon Murray initially designed the car he asked BMW for an engine with approximately 550HP, what he got was > 610HP. Well isn’t that better? not really, see when a car is designed with a certain amount of power in mind and you suddenly exceed that by 10% or more the chassis, brakes and tires all of a sudden are pushed to their limits much more easily, which in turn takes away from driver confidence. Example, you buy a Camry with a 184hp engine and it trods along at 60mph just fine, now strap a turbo to it to bump the power up to 230. While it will certainly be quicker you will start to notice things you never noticed before, more wheelspin, brakes seems softer, suspension seems softer and in turn your confidence gets softer ever so slightly and you find yourself using full throttle less. Also the fact that the F1 had no ABS didn’t help matters. I watched a Japanese motoring show once where professional race drivers take road cars and race each other, in one such race the Mclaren F1 came in plum last when put up against its peers of the time. Asked why clearly the fastest car came in last, the driver simply responded “you serious?, i didn’t want to crash that thing”. Also the fact that they now go for $18 million will forever weigh on your mind every time you get behind the wheel, just ask Jay Leno.
Score: Speed -10, Balance -6, Driving Feel -8 for a Total score of 7.7
…wait a minute, those numbers don’t add up…the scoring system will be explained at the end of the blog post.
#4 – The 2004 Corvette Z06 – …the interior was atrocious. It was clear that whatever money GM saved from using cheap plastic and flimsy seats was well spent on improving the performance and chassis. Although, the seats can be easily replaced in the aftermarket. During an interview with a popular car magazine the Chief engineer expressed how developing the car resulted in many battles with folks from both marketing and finance, clearly he won many of those battles, it’s the ones he lost that weighed the car down. Once you get driving you quickly forget about interior details and start to enjoy the sharp steering, wonderful balance, sonorous exhaust note and then you reach for the gear lever, shift to the next gear and the sharp corner of a hard plastic nearby pricks your knuckles “ahhh, dammit”, or after about 10 minutes of driving nirvana your lower back starts to complain about the seat’s unnatural driving position at which point your mind also goes back to the cheap interior, then back to the wonderful driving experience, then after a few more moments another prick or back spasm brings you back to the interior…it’s a vicious cycle.
Score: Speed -8, Balance -8, Driving Feel -8 for a Total score of 8.0
#3 – 2005 Acura NSX – The one you want is really the NSX type R, the famed underdog that battled Lamborghinis and Ferraris (and won many times) with its 290 HP V6. Unfortunately for whatever reasons it was never sold in the US, had it been, it would be higher up the list. Even in its non type R guise that we got, never had a car done so much with so little. Unlike many overpowered cars today this had the perfect marriage between power and chassis.
Score: Speed -7, Balance -8, Driving Feel -9 for a Total score of 8.1
#2 – 2019 Porsche GT3 6 speed manual– Almost didn’t make the list if not for the perseverance of enthusiasts who demanded a stick shift and forced Porsche’s hand. Really, the only thing holding it back from the top spot is balance, with the engine hanging way out back in the caboose, the threat of the rear end swinging out in front of you while cornering will always be there, reducing driver confidence ever so slightly. That being said, Porsche has done a sterling job taming that demon with each successive generation.
Score: Speed -9, Balance -7, Driving Feel -9 for a Total score of 8.2
#1 – 2019 Corvette Grand Sport, 7 speed manual – 45% of you may be surprised, 35% may have guessed right, and the remaining? well, secretly you knew but kept quiet to avoid confrontation, backlash, people looking at you funny, etc. either way i’m calling it as it is, the 2019 Corvette Grand Sport 7 speed manual is the greatest car ever made, there i said it.
I could end the end the blog right there without another word, but for the 80% who demand
justice an explanation, here ’tis:
Unlike the Mclaren F1 above, the chassis itself was really designed to handle 650+HP and was derived from the C7.R Corvette race car so it handles the 460HP naturally aspirated engine bestowed upon it with grace and ease, think the reverse of the Camry example above except much bigger HP numbers.
Unlike the 2004 Corvette Z06 above, the engineers ran the show unhindered. This is what the Z06 could have been had the chief engineer not had to constantly battle with finance and marketing. Took them 15 years to top that high water mark but they did and cut no corners this time.
Like the NSX above the power output is perfectly matched to the chassis except, in this scenario the power out is much bigger (and sounds much better, not obnoxiously loud as in , dude your muffler is broken) and they share an identically low center of gravity, 17.5 inches off the pavement (and they said such a car with a center of gravity that low could never be built again due to regulations). However, unlike the NSX said chassis is perfectly balanced at 50:50, whereas, like every mid engined car, the NSX carries a rearward weight bias of 42:58.
Over the years Porsche has perfected and ruthlessly maximized the advantages of a rear engined car and the GT3 is the pinnacle of that. Said advantages are (1) acceleration – more weight over the rear wheels give better traction and (2) braking – during braking weight shifts forward, so, with most of the weight already back there the car is incredibly neutral and balanced under braking letting all 4 brakes share the load equally. Somehow the Grand Sport neutralizes those advantages, during acceleration from 0-60mph it lags behind the lighter and more powerful GT3 by a mere 0.1 seconds and completely trounces it during braking from 70 mph – 0, stopping a whopping 12 ft shorter. So after neutralizing the advantages of the GT3, it goes in for the kill and uses its 50:50 balance to effectively outshine it in every other aspect.
Even after you leave your local track circuit in the Grand Sport (where it handily trounced far more expensive and powerful cars like the Ferrari 458 italia, the 730+HP Ferrari F12, the 573HP all wheel drive 2019 NSX, the 2018 640HP Viper and 2019 all wheel drive 532HP Audi R8 V10, just to name a few) and move into back into the real world of everyday driving / use, it holds all the cards, said cards being (1) more cargo space (2) more interior room (3) better efficiency – it can shut down 4 cylinders when not needed (4) a more versatile suspension – it can soften or stiffen at your beck and call (yes, so can the GT3, however the Grand Sport does it to a much greater degree as afforded by its 50:50 balance) and (5) it has all the cool toys and tech of an ultra modern car, apple carplay, android auto, bose sound system, a large configurable digital center display, auto rev matching for the manual, active valves in the exhaust to make it louder or quieter as needed, an electronic differential that sends more or less power to either rear wheel in fractions of a second as needed, heck even the steering can be adjusted with the press of a button (heavier, lighter, medium …whatever you feel like)…i could go on forever but you get the point, this is an incredibly versatile machine.
The marriage of a pure analogue, engaging driving experience with modern tech has never been so harmonized. Enough talk lets score it.
Score: Speed -8, Balance -10, Driving Feel -9 for a Total score of 9.15.
As you can tell the scoring is weighted, speed carries 25% , balance 40% and driving feel 35%.
This post has gone on long enough, tune in for Chapter III, when we elaborate on the scoring system and the common threads that link all these great cars, cheers.