10-26-18-1_Image_371mLamborghini’s Murcielago was astounding when it came out in 2001; at the time I wrote that it was the best mid-engine car I’d ever driven.
10-26-18-2_Image_788The Lamborghini Reventon took my breath away when I first saw it in 2007, thinking this must have been what it was like to see the Countach in the mid-1970s.
10-26-18-3_BL5A8866mLamborghini took the Reventon’s design, and injected some steroids to come up with the Aventador. It has been a smash hit for the company, with over 8,000 produced so far, which is more than double its Murcielago predecessor.
10-26-18-4_IMG_4123Ferrari’s Enzo set the bar for overall performance and sophistication when it came out in 2002. Here it is seen with its predecessor, the F50, and the stillborn competition version, F50GT.
10-26-18-5_Image_369mPorsche’e Carrera GT was an analog dream, with a 600+ horsepower V10, manual transmission, and open top. Even today it makes for one very memorable drive.
10-26-18-6_IMG_3982mWhen is a Ferrari Enzo not a Ferrari Enzo? When it's a Maserati MC12. Still, the MC12 had its own flavor, and did something no Enzo accomplished—won numerous endurance races, and titles.
10-26-18-7_BL5A6684mTwo icons—Porsche’s 918, and Ferrari’s 288 GTO; at their respective introductions, both cars moved the performance bar.
10-26-18-8_Image_809mFord’s fabulous GT of the mid-2000s had its sights set on Ferrari’s 360 Modena. But where the Modena was like a scalpel, the Ford was a machete—and it was a fascinating contrast behind the wheel.
10-26-18-9__BL5A8926mAcura’s modern NSX is an impressive piece of engineering, but not nearly as impactful as the first generation NSX.
10-26-18-10_Image_313mAs the frontline mid-engine supercar evolved into what is today’s hypercar, the “base” models started offering nearly the same type of speed. That revolution started with Ferrari’s remarkable 355, seen here in Spider form.
10-26-18-11_0150402-R1-E016mLamborghini’s Gallardo was another “entry level” machine that offered true, big league performance with a high-revving V10. It remains Lamborghini’s best selling model ever, though the Huracan will likely exceed its 14,099 total within the next year. In sum, it’s a great time for mid-engine supercars…
10-26-18-12_BL5A6590mThree generations of mid-engine supercars—the modern Porsche 918 in the foreground, Ferrari’s 288 GTO from the mid-1980s, and Ford’s GT of 2005. And to think it all started with the ATS 2500 GT of 1963…
Lamborghini’s Murcielago was astounding when it came out in 2001; at the time I wrote that it was the best mid-engine car I’d ever driven.
The late 1990s/early 2000s saw a group of new manufacturers enter the mid-engine supercar space, as was covered in our last post. In general, a good number of them focused their efforts on snatching the headlines with a highest recorded top speed. But unlike the 1960s into the mid-1990s, that target no longer ruled the roost for the major marques…
When Ferrari stopped chasing top speed with the F50, the other major performance manufacturers followed suit. Since then all have focused their resources on advanced technologies, and in the process have become some of the world’s best software engineers.
The Lamborghini Reventon took my breath away when I first saw it in 2007, thinking this must have been what it was like to see the Countach in the mid-1970s.
In 2001, Lamborghini revealed the Murcielago, and rewrote its rulebook by making all-wheel drive standard across its model line. Designed in-house, the Murcielago was more civilized and docile than its Countach and Diablo predecessors, but would still clear 200 mph with ease. The fastest of all variants was the LP 670-4 Super Veloce that would turn the quarter mile in under 11 seconds, and hit 210+ mph. Nearly 4,100 Murcielagos were produced, and the model served as the basis for Lamborghini’s spearheading the return of limited edition, custom coachwork with 2007’s fabulous Reventon. Those otherworldly looks continue today in the Aventador, while both the V-10 powered Gallardo and Huracan have given the company the high production mid-engine model that founder Ferruccio Lamborghini hoped for in the early 1970s with the V-8 powered Urraco.
Lamborghini took the Reventon’s design, and injected some steroids to come up with the Aventador. It has been a smash hit for the company, with over 8,000 produced so far, which is more than double its Murcielago predecessor.
Crosstown rival Ferrari brought ultra-sophisticated software and cutting edge aerodynamics to the fore in its landmark Enzo. Called “one of the three quantum leaps in Pininfarina-Ferrari coachwork” by Sergio Pininfarina, Ferrari CEO Luca Cordero di Montezemolo coaxed his engineers and Pininfarina’s designers to push their boundaries. The car’s 660 horsepower V12, paddleshift transmission, anti-lock brakes, traction control, suspension, active aerodynamics and more were completely integrated, and gave truly seamless performance. Road & Track called the Enzo “The World’s Best Performing Sports Car” in their July 2003 cover story.
No sooner had the last Enzo been built than the production line was shielded with barriers, and Maserati’s MC12 began production. The first mid-engine Maser since the extremely limited production Barchetta of the mid-1990s, the MC12 was originally built to go racing. It won a number of championships over several years; additionally, approximately 25 road cars were built.
Ferrari’s Enzo set the bar for overall performance and sophistication when it came out in 2002. Here it is seen with its predecessor, the F50, and the stillborn competition version, F50GT.
Porsche jumped into the mid-engine supercar game in the late 1990s with the limited edition (25 built) 911 GT1 that was based on its endurance racer of the same name, and showed the Carrera GT concept at the 2000 Paris Auto Show. Production of the latter began in 2004 with a 612 horsepower V10 mated to a six-speed manual transmission. With a top speed of 205 mph, and a 0-100 time of 6.8 seconds, the car was a more analog driving experience than the slightly faster Enzo.
An old Ferrari competition nemesis threw its hat into the mid-engine supercar game around the same time as Maserati. Ford had teased a return to the fray in the 1995 with its GT90, and followed up with the GT40 concept seven years later. Looking like the latter, only larger, the GT went into production in 2004 with a 5.4-liter 550 horsepower supercharged V8 and a top speed of 205 mph. In 2016 Ford introduced the new GT with cutting edge carbon fiber coachwork, twin-turbo 647 horsepower 3.5-liter V6, and a top speed of 216 mph. The competition version scored a class win in Ford’s return to Le Mans that year.
Porsche’e Carrera GT was an analog dream, with a 600+ horsepower V10, manual transmission, and open top. Even today it makes for one very memorable drive.
When Porsche and Ferrari went at it again most recently with their 918 Spyder and LaFerrari models, another fabled name returned to road car production. In 2007 stories began stating that McLaren would have a line up of mid-engine supercars, and the all-new MP4-12C went into production two years later.
This was followed in 2012 with the P1, McLaren’s first “Ultimate Series” machine. Like Ferrari and Porsche’s “ultra” models, the P1 was a hybrid, only now the term had an entirely different meaning than when it was used on cars such as Monteverdi’s Hai and de Tomaso’s Mangusta and Pantera. Back then it meant a European GT with an American engine, typically a V8; now it signified a combination of an internal combustion and electric power.
When is a Ferrari Enzo not a Ferrari Enzo? When it’s a Maserati MC12. Still, the MC12 had its own flavor, and did something no Enzo accomplished—won numerous endurance races, and titles.
The P1 and Porsche 918 used high output V8s, the Ferrari a lusty V12. Combined with their electric motors, total horsepower output ranged from 887 (Porsche), 904 (McLaren), to 963 (Ferrari). All delivered truly astounding performance (quarter miles in the ten second range, and lower, with 210+ top speeds), yet were tractable enough to handle commuting duties.
Honda/Acura’s most recent NSX has also gone the hybrid route, while Aston Martin is jumping into the mid-engine game with its potentially game-changing Valkyrie. Done in conjunction with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie features a radical body, very low weight (the target is 1,000 kilos, or 2,200 pounds), and a 1,000 horsepower naturally aspirated V12. McLaren went the same route with its non-hybrid Senna, while Mercedes and AMG went the hybrid route with the Formula 1-inspired $2.8 million Project One.
Lamborghini’s Gallardo was another “entry level” machine that offered true, big league performance with a high-revving V10. It remains Lamborghini’s best selling model ever, though the Huracan will likely exceed its 14,099 total within the next year. In sum, it’s a great time for mid-engine supercars…
As astounding as all those machines are, what is equally impressive is the way many of the companies’ base models have also become mid-engine ultimates themselves. The first was Ferrari’s lovely 180-mph 355 of the mid-1990s, and today Lamborghini’s Huracan, Ferrari’s 488 and McLaren’s 720S can all hit 60 in 3 seconds or less, clear 200 mph, and get 20 mpg or more. For those who lust after such mid-engine marvels, the future looks bright indeed.