It’s probably a good thing nobody lets me run a car company. I’d take proud old performance marquees like Jaguar, Ferrari and Lamborghini and have them turn out economy cars. They’d kick butt, but they’d also sip gas — or run on electricity. I guess I don’t see much of a future for supercars with V-12 engines and single-digit fuel economy.
I’m looking at the “Meanest Vehicles for the Environment in 2013” list and it has such entries as the Bugatti Veyron (8 mpg around town) and the Bentley Mulsanne (11 mpg). Sure, they sell great to hedge fund billionaires and Middle East oil sheikhs, but those of us who actually have to pay for gas (or care about what it costs) see it differently.
I bring this up because Dr. Ulrich Bez, who heads the venerable Aston Martin brand, is bad-mouthing hybrid power for vehicles such as his V-12-powered Vanquish Volante convertible and Vantage V-12 S. “We will not have a hybrid next year or the year after,” he said when he introduced those two cars in Palm Springs. “I am a purist and I think a sports car should have as low weight as possible. It should be as minimalistic as it can be, and this does not work with hybridization.”
Keep in mind that current Aston Martin convertibles get between 13 and 17 mpg in the city. And lightweights they’re not — the high-performance Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid is lighter. The new Vantage V-12 offers 565 horsepower, and a dismal 12 mpg around town. Says Autoweek, “If you're playing at this table, you probably don't worry much about fuel mileage, anyway.” I guess not. The thing weighs more than 3,600 pounds. Is that “as low weight as possible”?
Of course, you say, Fisker tried to make a plug-in hybrid supercar, the Karma, with 54 MPGe and failed miserably. As if to comment on this, former GM car guy Bob Lutz said this week he’ll be selling his VL Destinos in mid-2014. As you may recall, these are Karmas with small-block Chevy V-8s shoehorned in. Meanwhile, the guts of Fisker are being picked clean.
But that by no means signals the end of innovative hybrid supercars. That Porsche has gone into production, and Dan Neil has driven it and says it's pretty exciting. And McLaren’s 900-horsepower P1 (above), to be built in a limited edition of 375, is capable of zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds (ohhh, my stomach) and 217 mph. Yes, it’s a hybrid — the twin-turbo V-8 is complemented by an electric motor. And it weighs around 3,000 pounds, 600 less than the Aston. Now, of course, both these cars will be hugely expensive (the Porsche is $845,000) and exclusive.
If you want both high performance and green credentials, your best bet is still the zero-emission Tesla Model S. Pity about the price, though. I know, you love the sound of a V-12 in full song. But that beautiful music is money flying out of your pocket. Listen to it here on video, it's cheaper:
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