This week Autocar.co.uk is highlighting the new-for-2012 offerings from each manufacturer and assessing each car’s prospects in a market that is becoming increasingly hotly contested.
Part four, below, uncovers the supercars and performance cars that will be rolled out during the next 12 months.
If you missed part one, which covered city cars and superminis, click here to read it.
Part two examined all the family cars and MPVs, and you can read that by clicking here.
The third instalment rounded up all the hot hatches, coupes and executive cars we’re looking forward to seeing. You can survey those launches by following this link.
For the full 18-page run-down of new cars for 2012, don’t miss this week’s Autocar magazine, which is on sale now.
The tweaked BMW 6-series, due in January, gets a 533bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 and is capable of 197mph thanks to its speed limiter being removed. The Alpina B6 coupé costs £92,850, the cabrio £5k more.
Restricted to an Avant body style only, the new Audi RS4 will be a star of the Geneva show in March. A four-door has been ruled out because it would overlap with the S5 Sportback. Power comes from the RS5’s naturally aspirated 444bhp 4.2-litre V8, the same engine that powered the previous-generation RS4, which went out of production in 2008. Expect the new variant to go on sale in June.
Audi S6, S7 and S8
Three sledgehammer-performance four-wheel-drive Audi super-saloons will spice up the summer this year. The Audi S6, S7 and S8 will all use a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, co-developed with Bentley. The S8 gets the most powerful version, with 513bhp and 470lb ft, sufficient for 0-60mph in 4.2sec and a limited 155mph top speed. The transmission is a beefed-up ZF eight-speed automatic. Prices start at £90k. The S6 and S7 get a lower-powered version of the V8, producing 414bhp and 406lb ft. That’s slightly less power but more torque than the old S6. They both use a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Bentley Continental V8
A new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine is to be offered in the Bentley Continental GT and GTC. The V8 models will slot in below the existing 6.0-litre W12 Continentals. The V8 produces 500bhp and 487lb ft of torque from 1700-5000rpm, transmitted to the road via a ZF eight-speed automatic. Top speed is 187mph and the 0-60mph sprint takes less than 5.0sec. To help reduce fuel consumption, the V8 employs cylinder deactivation, turning it into a four-cylinder engine on light throttle loads. The order book opens at the Detroit show this month, with prices starting from £120k.
BMW 6-series Gran Coupe
The first in a new range of four-door coupés will go on sale this summer. Based on a lengthened 5-series platform, the BMW 6-series Gran Coupé will feature 6-series coupé styling and an extra pair of doors, à la Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. Expect a sportier chassis than the 5-series and pricing positioned between the coupé’s and convertible’s. A Geneva show launch is planned.
BMW will slot the M5’s 552bhp twin-turbo V8 into the new 6-series bodyshell in the autumn. Expect similar performance and economy — a 4.5sec 0-62mph sprint and 28mpg — to the M5. However, the BMW M6 will offer a more focused driving experience than the M5. Whereas the M5 is fast and refined, the M6 will provide more feedback through the chassis and steering and not be quite so relaxed to drive. Coupé and convertible body styles will be on sale together.
The 426bhp range-topping 6.2-litre Chevrolet Camaro will flex its considerable muscle in the UK this spring; 0-60mph is less than 5.0sec, the top speed limited to 155mph.
The Ginetta G60 represents all that’s great about the British sports car industry. It was designed over here as the Farbio GTS and then re-engineered by a now-blossoming Ginetta. The result is a machine that’s as raw as it is impressive to drive — one that will surprise you, in a good way, on pretty much every mile of every journey that you do in it.
The highlights are almost too numerous to mention, but the things that stand out are the engine noise from the Ford V6 (which is bloody marvellous), the handling balance from the mid-engined chassis (ditto) and the uncorrupted nature of the driving experience generally.
You won’t see many G60s on the road next year; Ginetta plans to make an entirely credible-sounding 50 cars a year, each to the customer’s own individual criteria. And, at £68,000, it’s not cheap. Be in no doubt about the G60’s overall quality, however, because although it may be rare and pricey, it’s also an absolute peach.
Whether Jaguar’s £60k Porsche 911 chaser goes on sale next year is still a moot point. It might be ready for the year’s end, but the firm has made a habit of delaying launch dates to ensure quality levels. The handsome Frankfurt show concept is essentially the production car, which is based around an alloy extrusions/castings platform that will also underpin the next-gen XK. The Jaguar C-X16's power comes from a 3.0-litre V6 that’s a cut-down version of Jaguar’s AJ-V8 and smoothed out by twin balancer shafts. In supercharged form, it makes 375bhp.
Lotus Exige V6
By shoehorning a 345bhp Toyota V6 into the tiny, sub-1100kg Exige, Lotus has come up with near-Ferrari performance for just £40k. The interior of the Lotus Exige V6 gets a major tweak, and there’s new styling, aero mods, grippy Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber and adjustable DPM suspension, which includes a track-focused, ‘stability control off’ setting. There’s also the option of a Race Pack that adds firmer springs and a fourth Race setting mode with launch control.
Mazda MX-5 facelift
Before the financial crisis hit home, a new Mazda MX-5 was scheduled for 2012-2013, but that car has been put back. Instead, Mazda will give its evergreen two-seater a light facelift at the Geneva show in March.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe Black Series
The 510bhp 6.2-litre body-kitted Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe Black Series arrives this month. The previous CLK63 was easily the best of the Black Series family and the latest version looks set to continue that tradition. The wide-track chassis features race-derived coil-over suspension that delivers immense cornering power and body control. Prices start at £100k.
Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG
The go-faster Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG gets a major update with an all-new AMG engine — a 416bhp 5.5-litre V8, which also adds a large dollop of green credentials thanks to stop-start and cylinder deactivation. Its 30mpg and 195g/km are not to be sniffed at, considering the performance on offer.
The Geneva show will mark the launch of the third-generation Porsche Boxster, due on sale in June. Derived from the latest 911 platform, the new Boxster sports an aluminium bodyshell whose bigger dimensions include a 125mm wheelbase stretch and 15mm wider tracks. The electric power steering is new but the front struts and multi-link rear axle stay. Chassis tweaks include stiffer springs and softer dampers. Engines are downsized, so the entry model is now a 270bhp 2.7-litre boxer six and the S model has a 325bhp 3.2. A novel seven-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a dual-clutch PDK optional.
Aston Martin V12 Zagato
The first of a limited run of hand-built, Zagato-bodied supercars will reach owners in the summer. Based on the V12 Vantage, the Aston Martin V12 Zagato features an alloy and carbonfibre body and a 510bhp V12. Up to 150 will be built, priced at £330k. A race version saw action in the likes of the Nürburgring 24Hr last year.
Aston Martin DBS
Aston’s DBS will get a significant revamp at the tail end of 2012. It’s unlikely to make the Paris show, but we’ll see a new grille shape, bumpers and cosmetic changes to some skin panels — all intended to bring some One-77-style influence to bear on the £180k Aston Martin DBS. Inside, a refreshed interior will aim to bridge the gap to all-new models due in 2015-2016.
This is a more extensive tweak than might be expected, with significant underskin re-engineering to accommodate a dual-clutch S-tronic transmission in place of the robotised manual R-tronic that the Audi R8 currently offers. The wider S-tronic has forced a considerable change to the rear suspension, Autocar understands. A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard when the car appears in September.
Ferrari 458 Spider
A folding metal hard-top distinguishes the Ferrari 458 Spider from previous mid-engined convertible Ferraris. The roof is 25kg lighter than the cloth affair in the F430 and opens in just 14 seconds. A detail change is a metal engine cover in placeof the coupé’s glass cover. The dampers are also a little softer and the top speed is 4mph down on the fixed-head 458’s. Prices start at £198k and it is due here in May.
Ferrari 599 replacement
The replacement for the 599 promises to be Ferrari’s most powerful road car yet, possibly producing as much as 700bhp. The engine will be a next-gen version of the 6.3-litre V12 used in the FF. Lightweight alloy body construction will also feature. A launch at the Paris show next year is possible, followed by sales at the year’s end or in early 2013.
Ferrari California HS
A ‘Handling Speciale’ pack will add about 28bhp to the output of the California and feature significant chassis upgrades. These will shift the driving manners of the Ferrari California HS into a more focused direction. No prices have been announced yet, but the pack is due on sale next month.
Jaguar XKR-S convertible
The most powerful and fastest open-top Jaguar yet, the 542bhp Jaguar XKR-S convertible will hit 62mph from rest in 4.2sec and run to an unrestricted top speed of 186mph. It’s priced at £103k and available from next month.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Spyder
This two-wheel-drive, 542bhp Gallardo Spyder is aimed at sharpening the driving experience of the open-top Lamborghini. A 0-62mph time of 4.2sec and a top speed of 198mph are the headline figures. Prices for the Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Spyder start at £158k, it’s here in March.
Lotus Evora GTE
The 440bhp V6 supercharged Evora is inspired by the company’s GT race car and originally was intended as a limited-run halo car exclusively for Lotus’s new Chinese dealer network. With a price close to £120k, the Lotus Evora GTE is also a useful entrée into the new Esprit due in 2013. Interest has been higher than expected, so Lotus is working on UK homologation, although that’s still a work in progress, with a late 2012 launch pencilled in.
McLaren MP4-12C convertible
An open-roof MP4-12C has been in the plan ever since McLaren started work on its new supercar and Webasto became involved with engineering the roof. It’s still unclear if the McLaren MP4-12C convertible will have a folding cloth or metal roof, or possibly a lift-off carbon panel. We’ll find out later in the year ahead of a mooted September launch.
McLaren MP4-12C GT3
Likely to be seen in race action prior to a launch in 2013, the road car spin-off of McLaren’s GT3 racer features a detuned, 495bhp twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 and revised aerodynamcis, including a new front splitter, rear wing and diffuser. The chassis tune, gear ratios and diff settings are different on the McLaren MP4-12C GT3, too.
Due to be revealed at the Detroit show next week, and arrive in July, the new Mercedes-Benz SL is built around a weight-saving aluminium structure for the first time. The kerb weight reductions are between 125kg and 140kg and the chassis is 20 per cent more torsionally rigid.
The new styling features elements from the SLS, and the revised V6 and V8 petrol engines are torquier and more fuel efficient. The entry-level 302bhp SL350 is actually less powerful than the outgoing model but promises an impressive 41mpg on the combined cycle, while the 429bhp SL500 is the same twin-turbo V8 that features in today’s S-class.
Both engines operate via seven-speed automatic transmissions. AMG versions will follow, the range-topping SL65 getting a new twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 with a power output of 641bhp.
A model-year tweak makes Nissan’s flagship coupé faster and better to drive. Power is up by 35bhp to 560bhp and the suspension has been massaged to improve agility. Prices for the Nissan GT-R start at £73k.
Penned under design boss Michael Mauer, the latest Porsche 911 — codenamed 991 — sticks with the tried and trusted formula of subtle design changes rather than a ground-up rethink. The two launch models will be the Carrera and Carrera S.
At the front, the car gets a cleaner, sleeker new look for the bumper, air intakes and headlights, designed to boost aerodynamic efficiency. New LED detailing inspired by the 918 Spyder concept also features.
While the 911’s basic design philosophy remains unchanged, its proportions have been tweaked to improve safety and stability, and to improve interior space, chiefly rear legroom.
The new model retains the rear-engined layout of every 911 since the original was introduced in 1963, albeit with modifications to the engine mounting points, which have been optimised for improved weight distribution.
Porsche 911 cabriolet
Porsche’s new 911 cabriolet features an innovative roof with fabric-skinned composite panels to improve styling and aerodynamics and cut wind noise. Supported on a magnesium frame, the roof includes a bonded-in rear glass screen — a patented feature that will also be employed on the new Boxster. Engines are shared with the coupé and prices begin at £79k for a Carrera cabriolet. Here in March.
Next: new cars for 2012, part five – luxury cars, SUVs and crossovers