Happy new year, this is the first episode from our weekly automotive section that is “The Petrolhead Corner”… and we’ll start by looking at 2020, which has been a monumental year for all the wrong reasons. Despite all physical car shows being cancelled, there have been a number of dream cars eagerly awaited or coming straight out of nowhere to give us a little distraction from all that is going on in the world. And as 2020 is now behind us, it is time to reflect on some of the most interesting cars launched, in no particular order.
Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA and GTAm
A track focussed version of an already bonkers family car, from Alfa Romeo? Yes please! The Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm is the Guilia QV turned up to 11, and perhaps 12 and 13 too. The standard Giulia Qv already features a meaty 500bhp, but Alfa Romeo celebrates their 110th anniversary with the GTA and GTAm.
The GTA badge goes way back for Alfa Romeo and is not just some styling exercise. For the Giulia GTA, this means more power, more aero, more speed and more money. The GTAm for that matter features all of that, and more “race”. How? A fitted roll cage, racing bucket seats, four-point harness and no more rear seats. Prices for the GTA and GTAm are about a 100 grand more than the already pricey Giulia QV. Only 500 will be built, so it remains a rare machine.
Alfa Romeo Formula 1 drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi have aided in the development and finetuning of the car earlier this year:
I could have easily listed the new Koenigsegg Jesko and Jesko Absolut here, as the Swedish company’s new all-conquering hypercar but I decided to mention the Gemera instead. We’ve listed this car before, as it was launched at the cancelled Geneva Auto Show, and blew our socks off.
At first, the concept doesn’t sound that impressive; a two-door, four-seater plug-in hybrid. That’s not unusual, but we must not forget this is Koenigsegg we’re talking about, the brand that takes a different approach to cars. So factoring in 1.700bhp, the trademark dihedral synchro-helix doors, and room for four plus luggage; insane! The power comes from a 2 litre three-cylinder engine known as the TFG or Tiny Friendly Giant, producing 600bhp. This is combined with three electric motors to create that monstrous power output.
Performance-wise the Koenigsegg Gemera should take less than two seconds to reach 100kph and only five seconds to reach 200kph from a standstill. Theoretically, it tops out at roughly 400kph. Price for the Mega-GT as Koenigsegg calls it, start at 1.7 million US dollars and only 300 will be built. It is said that the first cars should be delivered to clients in 2021.
Christian von Koenigsegg took us through the car in detail during the summer:
From a four-door without rear seats and a Mega-GT with 1.700bhp to a track-car without a windshield. McLaren brought us the Elva, a track focussed car without roof or windshield. Styled in typical, modern McLaren fashion, the car features technology to redirect airflow over the driver and its optional passenger.
It is pretty much the brand’s most extreme car yet, and also the lightest. Power comes from a 4.0 twin-turbocharged V8, which is also used in the 720S and the Senna, but has been tweaked a little and is even more powerful; 804bhp. It features a bespoke carbon fibre chassis, carbon brakes, carbon body panels and seats and an active aero management system. Air is channelled through the nose of the car, directed out the vents in front of the driver’s compartment and as such creates a bubble of calm air around the driver and passenger.
The name Elva is a hint to a partnership with the former British race car manufacturer who helped McLaren sell customer cars in the sixties. Formula 1 youngster Lando Norris drove the McLaren Elva at the Silverstone track and found out first-hand just how effective that aero management system really is:
More on the McLaren Elva, including details about the active aero, on Road & Track.
Ferrari SF90 Stradale
Next up is the revolutionary new car from Ferrari, the SF90 Stradale. Nearly one thousand horsepower from a hybrid drivetrain, menacing good looks and the latest tech make this one very special car. And one to depart from previous Ferrari hypercars by one very important factor; it’s a plug-in hybrid. Never before has the Italian manufacturer embraced the electrical technology in such a manner before.
The SF90 Stradale has a 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 in the back that also features in the F8 Tributo, but has been tweaked to deliver 770bhp. Coupled to that is a battery pack and three electric motors. Two of these are driving the front wheels while the third sits between the engine and gearbox. Total power output is a staggering 986bhp.
The SF90 features a fully electric drive mode, where the electric motors drive the front wheels or all four wheels, depending on your setting. When speed exceeds 130mph all power, including electric, is transferred to the rear-wheels. It comes to no surprise the SF90 Stradale is very fast; 2.5 seconds from zero to 100kph and a top speed of 340kph. On Ferrari’s Fiorano test-track it comes very close to the Ferrari LaFerrari, and if you opt for the Assetto Fiorano pack (different dampers, less weight, more downforce, stickier tyres) you will be a full second quicker even.
The car is apparently very clever, and easy to push hard. Lots of settings, including sort of a drift-mode, and even one where the traction control is disabled entirely. You’d imagine this car would be a million-dollar-plus hypercar but you’d be in for a surprise; sticker price is just shy of 500.000 euro’s not taking any optional extra’s into account. For a car this powerful, it sounds like a millionaire’s bargain!
Chris Harris put the Ferrari SF90 Stradale through its paces for Top Gear a couple of months ago, summarized in a short clip:
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Since the birth of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette, the engine has always been mounted in the front of the car. From the small, elegant first generation C1, to the brutishly looking C3 and C4 models, down to the most modern C7 generation, the recipe was simple; engine in the front, drive to the rear.
In 2020, despite playing around with the idea for decades and never follow through with it, Chevrolet gives us the very first rear-engined Corvette. It is one of the best bang-for-buck performance cars you can get, offering close to 500bhp for less than 60.000 US dollars for the coupe (with Targa top), and only a little bit more for the convertible one. This depends heavily on where you live, as taxes and other regulations can easily double that price for non-US clients.
In the coming years more powerful models like a ZL1 or Z06 can be expected, similar to previous generations. Chevrolet will also take the eighth generation of Corvette racing, as it has done successfully in the past. The car is being described as a bargain-Ferrari with supercar performance. Along with the Ford Mustang, it is perhaps the most important sportscar coming from the United States, and despite a rather big game of catch-up with European competitors in the 1990s and 2000s, it is now a very capable machine!
Check out Car and Driver for a full-fledged review of the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
Aston Martin DBX
Before the Porsche Cayenne, you really had a limited choice if you were in the market for a super-luxury SUV. The German brand changed that, and despite initial scepticism, the car proved to be a smash hit and outsold the 911 multiple times over. Nowadays there is plenty of choice in this segment; the Bentley Bentayga, Range Rover Velar, Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Lamborghini Urus and new for this year; the Aston Martin DBX.
In the works for quite few years now, and delayed several times, it is finally here! The ultra-luxury, high-performance SUV from Aston Martin. The engine is a Mercedes’ sourced 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 (where have we seen that before!) with 542 horsepower on tap. It’s similar to the Aston Martin DB11 and Vantage, as well as various Mercedes AMG versions of course. The design of the body of the DBX is quintessentially “Aston” with the instantly recognisable shape of the grill to start with. The lines extending from the nose of the car, along its profile and ending in the pinched ducktail can be traced back to the sports car from the British manufacturer.
Various driving modes help it tackle a range of surfaces, from the Autobahn to dirt and gravel. From a standstill it surpasses the 100kph mark in 4.5 seconds and ploughs on to a top speed of close to 300kph. Ridiculous speeds in such a huge car, but undoubtedly ample amounts of fun when you have a chance to drive one! Prices for the Aston Martin DBX start at just under 200.000 USD.
Top Gear has the full review on this SUV from Aston Martin.
I’m sure we’ve left out plenty of awesomeness from this list, as we could only select a couple. What would be your best-new-car in 2020? We’ll welcome you back next week as we look at some of the cars coming in 2021. Thanks for tuning in every week, and we sincerely hope you enjoy our weekly episodic Petrolhead Corner.