Detroit 3 Crush the Competition
Detroit Free Press / Mark Phelan / November 5, 2015 --
Road & Track magazine will give the Detroit 3 an early Christmas present this week.
Cars from Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler make up half the field for R&T's 2016 Performance Car of the Year contest, and three of the top four.
"The craft of building a really fine performance automobile has returned to the Motor City," Road & Track editor Larry Webster told me. "It's like the engineers are sitting in meetings asking, 'What's the coolest thing we can do?'
"The domestic manufacturers are giving their engineers more freedom to than any other companies in the world and we're the beneficiaries."
Performance car of the year is as much about feel and fun as raw numbers. "The experience of driving and the character of the car trump everything else," Webster said. "We're not looking for the perfect car. We're looking for the car that moves and excites us."
R&T started with eight candidates for performance car of the year. In alphabetical order: Bentley Continental GT3-R, Cadillac ATS-V coupe, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper ACR, Ferrari 488 GTB, Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang, Mercedes-AMG GT S and Porsche Cayman GT4.
"There's been a comeback by performance and sports cars, especially cars from the Detroit 3, since the Great Recession," Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs said. "They're among the most researched vehicles online and the strongest sellers."
In addition to being fast and fun, the D3 contenders are bargains compared to most of the European competition. The Shelby GT350 and Corvette ZO6's base prices of $62,595 and $79.400, respectively, are a steal.
"One of the things the Detroit 3 do well is ratchet performance up to super car levels without super car cost," said automotive writer and analyst Bill Visnic.
R&T's test team drove the great eight through the hills of eastern Kentucky for two days, followed by two days on track at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Ky.
The group quickly sorted itself into contenders and really fast also-rans. The top four were the Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper ACR, Ferrari 488 GTB and Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang.
"I don't know what happened in Detroit, but it's clear the engineers there are enthusiasts like us," Webster said. "They've been empowered to make these cars."
To learn the winner, check out R&T online Monday, Nov. 9, or the magazine's December issue, which should be on newsstands this week. Webster wouldn't reveal the winner when we spoke but I've got a feeling it'll be more good news for one of the D3.
I'm willing to bet the D3's strong showing won't be a one-year fluke. Cadillac's astounding 640-hp CTS-V sedan didn't even participate in the contest because it wasn't available for testing by Road & Track. Expect it to be in the conversation when R&T names the 2017 Performance Car of the Year.
Road & Track Editor Larry Webster's capsule description of each of the top four contenders for Performance Car of the year:
TREMEC RWD Manual Transmissions
Six-speed and seven-speed manual transmissions from TREMEC provide the fun-to-drive characteristics of many Detroit 3 performance cars. With all this newfound power comes the need for much stronger components that can keep up with the demands of the high-revving engine under the hood.
Of the Road and Track Performance Car of the Year contenders, TREMEC transmissions put the power to the ground with:
Ford Media / DEARBORN, Mich / Nov. 9, 2015 – The Ford Shelby® GT350R Mustang has been named 2016 Road & Track Performance Car of the Year by a runaway vote – beating out seven of the world’s best new sports cars in a competition that evaluated the vehicles on both road and track.
The all-new Shelby GT350R, with its high-revving, flat-plane crankshaft 5.2-liter V8 engine, produces 526 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. It is the most race-ready, track-capable Mustang ever. Road & Track writes, “GT350R is the Mustang that all Mustangs have been waiting to become.”
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