2018 BEST DRIVER’S CAR

A RECORD-BREAK­ING YEAR MORE POWER. MORE PER­FOR­MANCE. ONLY ONE WIN­NER.

Motor Trend (USA) - - Cover Story - Words An­gus Macken­zie Pho­tog­ra­phy An­drew Tra­han

There is a heavy still­ness in the air, the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion.

Less than an hour be­fore, our res­i­dent pro driver, Randy Pobst, had flung the mighty Mclaren 720S around Weathertech Race­way La­guna Seca in 1 minute, 29.78 sec­onds—the fastest lap ever recorded in the his­tory of our Best Driver’s Car com­pe­ti­tion. Now, he’s pow­er­ing the 911 GT2 RS down the in­fa­mous Corkscrew, the echoes of the Porsche’s bar­rel-chested bel­low, so much like the iconic 935 racer, cas­cad­ing through the sur­round­ing hills.

A silent crowd clus­ters around the gi­ant Ra­cepak mon­i­tor in the pit garage. The folks from Porsche North Amer­ica HQ are here, as are Chevy han­dlers from Detroit, the Mclaren and As­ton Martin sup­port teams from the U.K., the Lam­borgh­ini guys from Italy, a pair of help­ful Honda peo­ple, and a posse of Mo­tor Trend ed­i­tors. We hold our col­lec­tive breath, trans­fixed by the real-time trace show­ing the Porsche’s progress around the 2.2-mile track. The clock de­con­structs the lap, by frac­tions of a sec­ond. The 911 ex­plodes onto the front straight and dashes for the fin­ish line.

Dis­tance. Time. Time. Dis­tance. Eyes flicker across the screen; synapses snap the cal­cu­lus.

Let’s back up. Our Best Driver’s Car shootout is not about a lap time. It’s about con­fi­dence: the con­fi­dence a car gives you when you take it to the limit, be it your own or the car’s. But when the lineup in­cludes four of the most pow­er­ful su­per­cars sold in Amer­ica, lap times add spice to the com­pe­ti­tion. At stake? Brag­ging rights. The fastest car around La­guna Seca may not be Best Driver’s Car. But it will be king of one of the world’s most fa­mous road cour­ses.

Along with the Mclaren and Porsche, the big dogs of BDC 2018 in­clude Chevy’s re­freshed Corvette ZR1 and Lam­borgh­ini’s Hu­racán Per­for­mante. “Seven hun­dred horse­power is the new 500 horse­power,” Chris Wal­ton muses as he eyes this 2,786-horse­power quar­tet. And 500 hp is the new mid­dle ground, with the 600-horse­power BMW M5 and 400-hp Audi TT RS brack­et­ing a group that in­cludes the 460-hp Mus­tang GT with Ford’s Per­for­mance Pack 2, plus As­ton Martin’s all-new 503-hp Van­tage and the 505-hp Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 Quadri­foglio.

Wait ... an SUV in BDC? Yep. The Stelvio is so fast and ag­ile, it damn near de­fies the laws of physics. It’s a driver’s ... er, SUV.

Power isn’t ev­ery­thing, how­ever, and the fi­nal three cars mak­ing the cut this year did so on the qual­ity of their chas­sis rather than the out­put of their en­gines—though with 306 horse­power from just 2.0 liters, the tur­bocharged four-banger un­der the hood of the Honda Civic Type R has the fifth-high­est spe­cific out­put of this year’s field. Join­ing the Type R are Kia’s Stinger

GT, whose poise had im­pressed us dur­ing last year’s COTY eval­u­a­tions, and Mazda’s MX-5, back with a 17 per­cent boost in power and other de­tail tweaks.

Why no Ford GT? Of course we asked, and Dear­born ini­tially agreed to send one of its low-slung, 647-hp su­per­cars. But two weeks be­fore we were due to start test­ing, Ford sud­denly pulled the car, for rea­sons the PR depart­ment re­quested we not make pub­lic. Send your emails to Ford Mo­tor Com­pany. Maybe they’ll tell you why one of the most ex­cit­ing driver’s cars ever to carry the Blue Oval wasn’t at BDC.

ROUTE 198

As usual, BDC opens on Route 198 in the sun-bleached hills of Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia. Our 4.2-mile test sec­tion, closed to traf­fic by the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol, al­lows judges to eval­u­ate the con­tenders on a real-world road, al­beit in closed­course safety. Climb­ing about 1,000 feet and cross­ing the San An­dreas Fault en route to a turnaround point at the top of the hill, it’s a be­witch­ing mix­ture of quick cor­ners and mid-pace sweep­ers (if triple-digit speeds can be counted as “mid-pace”), with humps and heaves that test the lim­its of sus­pen­sion travel, shock tun­ing, and chas­sis bal­ance. The down­hill run puts a dif­fer­ent set of loads through the chas­sis and a spot­light on brak­ing, sta­bil­ity, and steer­ing pre­ci­sion.

Route 198 al­ways throws us some un­ex­pected mo­ments. The mon­strously fast 911 GT2 RS causes sharp in­takes of breath for some judges when they ar­rive at cor­ners with a wooden brake pedal and no sign of re­tar­da­tion. The cul­prit turns out to be the ul­tra-stiff sport set­ting for the shocks: It’s cal­i­brated purely for track work, and us­ing it on bumpy Route 198 means the Porsche’s front wheels can be in the air at a crit­i­cal brak­ing point, caus­ing ex­treme ABS in­ter­ven­tion. “Hated this car on the way down the hill!” Frank Markus gripes as his pulse rate re­turns to nor­mal.

There are side­long glances at the Corvette, too. Ev­ery­one loves the Her­culean su­per­charged V-8 un­der the hood, its fe­ro­cious power ac­com­pa­nied by a vol­canic wall of sound. But no one loves the chas­sis. The mas­sive brakes haul the ZR1 down from dizzy­ing ve­loc­i­ties with in­sou­ciant ease, and the hyper-ag­gres­sive turn-in re­sponse is backed up by im­pres­sive front-end grip. Af­ter that, it all falls apart, the rear axle fail­ing to pro­vide sup­port on cor­ner en­try or trac­tion on cor­ner exit. The big ’Vette is a tail-happy hand­ful. We had all seen the footage of GM prod­uct devel­op­ment boss Mark Reuss ca­su­ally loop­ing a ZR1 into the wall while pac­ing the Detroit Grand Prix. Now we un­der­stood how eas­ily that could hap­pen. “The ZR1 needs to come with warn­ing la­bels,” Ed Loh mut­ters.

The Audi TT RS seems quick and has that dis­tinc­tive five-cylin­der thrum that has de­fined per­for­mance Audis since the orig­i­nal Qu­at­tro Coupe. But the sus­pen­sion lacks travel and feels un­der­damped, leav­ing the lit­tle coupe buck­ing and bounc­ing its way up Route 198. “A tad dis­con­cert­ing,” Erick Aya­pana notes.

Thanks to the su­per-sticky Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that come with the

BEST DRIVER’S CAR IS NOT ABOUT LAP TIME. IT’S ABOUT CON­FI­DENCE: THE CON­FI­DENCE A CAR GIVES YOU WHEN YOU TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT, BE IT YOUR OWN OR THE CAR’S.

Per­for­mance Pack 2, the Mus­tang GT has a ton of me­chan­i­cal grip. But it feels clum­sier and less com­posed than the Chevy Ca­maro SS 1LE that im­pressed us so much in 2016. “It’s hard to have a lot of con­fi­dence in this car,” Mark Rechtin gri­maces.

There are pleas­ant sur­prises, though, like the As­ton Martin Van­tage. “It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to drive the Van­tage on U.S. roads af­ter Jonny Lieber­man and I tried it in Scot­land,” Jethro Bov­ing­don says. “Over there it seemed a real mon­ster—wide, stiff, and al­ways shout­ing at you to drive faster. On 198, it’s dif­fer­ent but no less en­gag­ing. The whole vibe is one of ef­fort­less con­trol, and the car hums with feed­back.”

Although at en­tirely dif­fer­ent ends of the BDC spec­trum, the Mclaren 720S and Mazda MX-5 per­form as ex­pected. Those of us lucky enough to have spent time in the 720S be­fore­hand knew the big Mac’s end­less surge of ac­cel­er­a­tion, del­i­cately de­tailed steer­ing, out­stand­ing brakes, and re­mark­ably flu­ent ride would im­press first-timers. And the MX-5 did what Mi­atas have al­ways done best: of­fer one of the purest driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences you can get, at any price.

Honda’s Civic Type R is an­other crowd pleaser, and not just be­cause of its re­mark­able en­gine and pre­cise gearshift. At $35,595, it’s the sec­ond-cheap­est car in this year’s shootout ( just a cou­ple hun­dred dol­lars more than the Mi­ata), but the chas­sis feels like a mil­lion bucks on Route 198. Tremen­dous front-end grip is com­ple­mented by a rear end that tracks faith­fully, re­gard­less of throt­tle con­di­tion and road sur­face. “In­cred­i­bly ca­pa­ble and con­fi­dent and easy to drive fast,” Scott Evans gushes.

BMWS have un­der­whelmed us re­cently, so not many ed­i­tors ex­pected the new-gen­er­a­tion BMW M5 to feel so ef­fort­lessly fast and supremely com­posed. The en­gine is stag­ger­ingly good, a 600-hp iron fist wrapped in a vel­vet glove. Trac­tion and chas­sis bal­ance are ter­rific for a big, heavy sedan. The steer­ing is lin­ear and con­sis­tent though still lack­ing the de­li­cious tac­til­ity that once de­fined Mu­nich’s best sport sedans. “It’s a fam­ily car and a sports car at the same time,” Miguel Cortina smiles.

Kia’s Stinger GT and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadri­foglio also win hearts, be­cause both out­per­form our ex­pec­ta­tions. “Be­neath the slightly soft-edged re­sponses is a chas­sis of real bal­ance and a sub­tle, nu­anced de­liv­ery,” Jethro notes af­ter step­ping out of the Kia. Chris swoons as he ex­its the Alfa, im­pressed by its ex­hil­a­rat­ing twin-turbo V-6, sure-footed chas­sis, and sharp steer­ing. “Wow! Way bet­ter than I had ever hoped it would be.”

Jonny had been say­ing for months that the Lam­borgh­ini Hu­racán Per­for­mante was a su­per­car to ri­val Fer­rari’s 488—last year’s BDC win­ner—and the Mclaren 720S. Those of us who hadn’t driven it were skep­ti­cal. Flashy, loud Lam­borgh­i­nis have tended to over­promise and un­der­de­liver; the Aven­ta­dor’s last place in 2012 is a case in point.

A thigh-high wedge of weapons-grade machismo, the Hu­racán Per­for­mante turns heads wher­ever it’s parked. The first few turns on Route 198 re­veal sub­stance be­hind the show­man­ship—su­perb steer­ing pre­ci­sion, im­mense brak­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, prodi­gious cor­ner­ing grip, lovely chas­sis bal­ance, and ter­rific trac­tion. Randy speaks for us all af­ter hurl­ing the shriek­ing Lambo up the hill and back: “This car makes you into a god. You just get in and you drive like Ayr­ton Senna.”

Over a sun-blasted road­side lunch from our fa­vorite Ta­cos La Po­tranca De Jalisco and din­ner at The Cork & Plough in King City, we ex­change praise and snark as we rank the con­tenders af­ter our Route 198 test ses­sion. There’s fierce ar­gu­ment over whether the Porsche was bet­ter than the Mclaren and whether the As­ton and Honda re­ally de­served to be ranked as highly as some thought. And what was an SUV do­ing here?

But there was nearly unan­i­mous con­sen­sus as to which car should top the list: The Lam­borgh­ini would head to Weathertech Race­way La­guna Seca as the lead­ing con­tender for the 2018 Best Driver’s Car crown.

EV­ERY­ONE LOVES THE HER­CULEAN SU­PER­CHARGED V-8 UN­DER THE ZR1’S HOOD.

LA­GUNA SECA

La­guna Seca is where Randy shines. He’s hot-lapped ev­ery Best Driver’s Car con­tender for the past nine shootouts, de­liv­er­ing not only a bench­mark lap time but also con­cise com­men­tary on how each car felt at the limit. Randy’s in­nate tal­ent is an abil­ity to get the best out of a car from the get-go, of­ten ex­tract­ing its quick­est time on his first fly­ing lap.

He’s also re­mark­ably con­sis­tent. If Randy’s times fade on sub­se­quent laps, it’s be­cause of tire degra­da­tion, brake fade, or a spike in in­take tem­per­a­tures caus­ing the en­gine to pull power.

Mo­tor Trend there­fore has a unique data set at its dis­posal: lap times for more than 120 per­for­mance cars, set by the same driver on the same track us­ing the same method­ol­ogy. The evo­lu­tion of per­for­mance can be tracked right here.

Over the years we’ve re­lied on the tal­ents of our in-house Gyro Gear­loose, test­ing di­rec­tor Kim Reynolds, to cre­ate and build a mul­ti­tiered Race­l­ogic Vbox sys­tem that cap­tures not only lap times but also key data points that help us un­der­stand ex­actly how a BDC con­tender be­haves dur­ing the lap, which en­ables us to cor­re­late ob­jec­tive in­for­ma­tion with Randy’s sub­jec­tive com­men­tary. But for 2018, Kim’s triple-re­dun­dancy setup has been aug­mented with the brand-new Van­tage CL1 data-log­ging sys­tem from Ra­cepak.

Ra­cepak’s CL1 mul­ti­chan­nel data ac­qui­si­tion unit re­ceives data di­rectly from a ve­hi­cle’s OBD II port (in­clud­ing en­gine revs, coolant tem­per­a­ture, and throt­tle po­si­tion) and merges it with any ex­ter­nal channels you choose, plus its own highly ac­cu­rate ac­celerom­e­ter and GPS data (in­clud­ing mph). Then it’s Blue­toothed to (and stored in) a wind­shield-mounted iphone so Randy can see, real-time, his speed and how much he’s ahead or be­hind his best pre­vi­ous lap on its dis­play. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the app sends the data, via cell con­nec­tion, to a server in Phoenix, where the in­for­ma­tion is ren­dered into graph­ics and over­laid onto a swi­peable and ro­tat­able track map. Ra­cepak pres­i­dent Tim An­der­son says the highly in­tu­itive graphic in­ter­face al­lows team mem­bers to watch, as it hap­pens, a car’s per­for­mance from any­where in the world.

Randy will start Day 1 with the all­wheel-drive cars and lower-pow­ered con­tenders. For Day 2, he’ll open with the big dogs: “I want to do those when I’m sharp.” Those cars that need it will be fu­eled with 101 oc­tane straight from the pump at La­guna Seca—nor­mal prac­tice among track day mavens. Sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ers have sent sup­port teams to ad­vise op­ti­mum set­tings for sus­pen­sion, trans­mis­sion, and sta­bil­ity con­trol and to mon­i­tor tires and tire pres­sures.

First out is the TT RS, and Randy is sur­prised to learn the an­o­dyne Audi’s best lap of 1:39.95 was a tenth quicker than that of the emo­tion­ally en­thralling Porsche 718 Cay­man S he drove last year. “It’s quick for its size and power,” he says, “but the speed does not trans­late into driver sat­is­fac­tion.” Af­ter dis­ap­point­ment, de­light: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadri­foglio’s best lap of 1:43.50 is nearly 0.3 sec­ond quicker than the one Randy posted in the ul­tra-light mid-en­gine Alfa 4C sports car in 2015. “Its per­for­mance is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing,” he says, grin­ning.

Randy reck­ons his third car of the day, the Honda Civic Type R, to be one of the finest fac­tory front-drive cars he’s ever driven. He loves the lit­tle turbo mo­tor’s de­sire to rev and the con­sis­tency of the chas­sis, though for track work he wants a lit­tle lift-off over­steer to get the car into cor­ners quicker. Its 1:44.22 lap time is a record, the quick­est lap of La­guna Seca by a front-drive car, beat­ing the pre­vi­ous champ, the 2008 Chevy Cobalt SS, by a whop­ping 3.5 sec­onds.

La­guna Seca is a power cir­cuit, and with more ponies un­der the hood, the 2019 MX-5 is 2.2 sec­onds faster than the Mi­ata Randy lapped in BDC 2016. But what the Mazda has gained in speed, it’s per­haps lost in poise. As with all ND mod­els, the 2019 still has too much roll over­steer.

Although it’s much hap­pier on the smooth sur­face of La­guna Seca than on choppy Route 198, chas­sis bal­ance is also an is­sue with the Ford Mus­tang GT, which Randy found over­steered to a fault on cor­ner en­try. The Per­for­mance Pack 2 is de­signed to get the Mus­tang GT on par with a 1Le-equipped Ca­maro SS, but the Ra­cepak data re­veals the bru­tal truth: De­spite a 1:38.42 lap time that made it the sec­ond-quick­est Mus­tang ever around La­guna Seca, it’s still 0.65 sec­ond slower than the Chevy.

Randy loved the As­ton Martin Van­tage on Route 198, rank­ing it in his top three. But here at La­guna Seca he’s irked by a twitch on cor­ner en­try and a lack of trac­tion on cor­ner exit. Puz­zled at the Van­tage’s sud­den fall from grace, As­ton Martin dy­nam­ics en­gi­neer Ian Hart­ley sug­gests chang­ing the shock mode from Track to Sport+ and switch­ing tires from the fresh set fit­ted that morn­ing back to the ones used on Route 198. That doesn’t solve the trac­tion prob­lem, but it tames the twitch a lit­tle, de­liv­er­ing a lap time iden­ti­cal to the Mus­tang’s.

Randy beams as he steps out of the un­der­stated BMW M5. “So good, so bal­anced,” he gushes. The quick­est and fastest non-elec­tric sedan over the quar­ter mile we’ve ever tested, the M5 backed up its fa­vor­able show­ing on Route 198 with a stel­lar per­for­mance on the track. Its 1:39.81 lap time is the third fastest set by a sedan in BDC his­tory, bested only by

the lighter, more ag­ile Alfa Romeo Gi­u­lia Quadri­foglio (2017) and the lighter, more pow­er­ful Cadil­lac CTS-V sedan (2016).

As we ar­rive for Day 2 at La­guna Seca, the morn­ing air is still and cool, with a hint of mois­ture—per­fect weather for biglunged, big-horse­power en­gines. Although the big dogs would be the fo­cus of at­ten­tion, the Kia Stinger also gets its chance on the track to­day, and the lovely bal­ance of its chas­sis would deeply im­press Randy en route to a 1:46.16 lap time. (That’s a sec­ond quicker than a 2015 Subaru WRX STI, be­fore you start hurl­ing, “How come … ?” in­sults masked as in­quiries.)

Randy feather-foots the Corvette ZR1 up to Turn 6 on his out lap so the 755-hp V-8’s snarling, crack­ling ex­haust note doesn’t break the La­guna Seca noise limit. (We try to be good neigh­bors.) His first fly­ing lap is a 1:33.20, and the Chevy guys frown—it’s over a tenth off the Z06’s best lap here in 2016, and that car had 105 fewer ponies. Next lap is bet­ter, a 1:32.46, down­force from the big wing al­low­ing Randy to hold the Corvette flat over the crest at Turn 1, hit­ting 141 mph, ac­cord­ing to our Vbox data.

The ZR1 is the fastest pro­duc­tion Corvette to lap La­guna Seca. But it’s still 0.8 sec­ond slower than last year’s BDC champ, the Fer­rari 488 GTB, and 2.0 sec­onds slower than the Dodge Viper ACR tested in 2016. The prob­lem is the lack of rear-end grip. Randy loves the mighty en­gine and the hand-of-god sta­bil­ity through fast cor­ners from the ZTK pack­age’s high wing. But he just can’t get the

THE MORN­ING AIR IS STILL AND COOL, WITH A HINT OF MOIS­TURE—PER­FECT WEATHER FOR BIG-LUNGED, BIG-HORSE­POWER EN­GINES.

big ’Vette to hook up com­ing out of slow turns. “I have to just roll that power in,” he grum­bles.

Just how much that lack of trac­tion ham­pered the ZR1 is made plain when Randy hits a stag­ger­ing 154.67 mph over the crest at Turn 1 on his first fly­ing lap in the Mclaren 720S. Most of the speed dif­fer­en­tial is down to the Mclaren’s su­pe­rior drive out of the 90-de­gree left of Turn 11; although the 720S is 500 pounds lighter than the ZR1, the power-to-weight ra­tio of both cars is al­most iden­ti­cal.

The Mclaren’s first fly­ing lap is a 1:30.62, and to prove it was no fluke, the next time around is just .07 sec­ond slower. Randy drops an­other three­tenths on the third lap, and the Mclaren tech­ni­cians swarm around the rear of the rac­ing orange 720S when it re­turns. Those three laps had boosted the rear tire pres­sures to 36 psi, well above the 32 psi at which the 720S works best. So we air down the Mclaren to 29 psi and set the vari­able drift con­trol a fur­ther two clicks away from the “off” set­ting be­fore Randy heads out again.

His sub­se­quent record-break­ing 1:29.78 lap is al­most a sec­ond quicker than his best time in the 904-hp Mclaren P1, set dur­ing the 2015 Head 2 Head test against the Porsche 918. This sur­prises Randy, who thought the lap was a sloppy af­fair; he’d spent the whole time busily work­ing be­hind the wheel to find the bal­ance be­tween un­der­steer and over­steer. “I’m sweat­ing! It’s a dif­fi­cult car to go fast in,” he says. “But boy is it fast!”

Now, the Porsche. The lap timer is in the low 1:20s as the GT2 RS launches out of Turn 11. No one breathes. The Porsche had been 6 mph slower than the 720S over the crest at Turn 1 at the start of the lap, but the Ra­cepak traces have shown con­sis­tently higher mid­corner and cor­ner exit speeds—5 to 10 mph higher. Where the Mclaren had been a high­speed high-wire act, con­stantly danc­ing about the track, the Porsche stays planted and hooked up.

There are gasps of dis­be­lief when the clock stops: 1:28.30. It’s the fastest lap ever recorded at La­guna Seca by a streetle­gal pro­duc­tion car on street-le­gal tires, 0.35 sec­ond quicker than the ab­so­lute

record Randy set in the quasi-race Viper ACR for a Dodge PR stunt in 2016. And the über-911 did it eas­ily. “It’s bal­anced, work­ing all the way through the cor­ner, right on the edge of the max­i­mum grip,” Randy en­thuses.

The Lam­borgh­ini still hasn’t run, but fac­tory test driver Da­vide Con­forte al­ready has con­ceded brag­ging rights to Porsche and Mclaren. “They have more horse­power,” he shrugs. How­ever, ev­ery­one gath­ered around the Ra­cepak mon­i­tor knows the Hu­racán Per­for­mante still has a real shot at the 2018 BDC ti­tle. Randy’s feed­back will be cru­cial.

The Lambo’s first fly­ing lap stops the clock at 1:30.00. And with that, BDC 2018 is one for the record books: The three quick­est laps in the his­tory of the com­pe­ti­tion have been set in a sin­gle morn­ing.

Randy’s sec­ond lap in the Hu­racán is 1.3 sec­onds slower, how­ever, and as he watches time slip away on the Ra­cepak dis­play in the cock­pit, he de­cides to pit early. “I think the tires gave us some magic, and then the pres­sures came up,” he says. In­deed, the rears, which had started at 26 psi, are at 35 psi, while the fronts, set at 29 psi, have zoomed to 40.

Be­cause the Lam­borgh­ini has twice bro­ken the noise limit and a third strike would re­strict the car to 30 mph on the track, we de­cide to switch to the qui­eter ac­tion of film­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy be­fore we try a fi­nal hot lap later in the day. By then, though, with the track tem­per­a­ture up, the magic is gone for good, and a 1:31.00 is all Randy can man­age. Still, that’s nearly seven-tenths quicker than the Fer­rari 488’s best time last year. (To watch Randy’s hot laps, go to Mo­tortren­don­de­mand.com.)

Would fin­ish­ing third on the track be enough for the Hu­racán to keep its perch atop the rank­ings, given its un­touch­able ef­fort on Route 198? Could the sly Mclaren be a dark­horse? Would the Porsche’s rocket per­for­mance at La­guna help it grab the ti­tle? We gather in a pit row suite to hag­gle over the fin­ish­ing or­der.

The qual­i­ties we ad­mired in the Hu­racán Per­for­mante on Route 198 still shone brightly at La­guna Seca. “It’s just re­ally a beau­ti­ful thing,” Randy smiles. “It would over­steer a lit­tle bit, but then it just stayed there, a con­fi­dent power over­steer that I en­joyed. And that ex­haust note! It sounds like a rac­ing car!” His only grum­ble: a lack of ini­tial bite from the brakes. Added Jethro: “A to­tal as­sault on the senses, the de­fin­i­tive su­per­car ex­pe­ri­ence.”

And that is the essence of the Hu­racán Per­for­mante: the emo­tional quo­tient that put it just ahead of the undis­puted king of La­guna Seca, the stag­ger­ingly ac­com­plished Porsche 911 GT2 RS, which in­tim­i­dated some judges on Route 198. This Lambo al­lows driv­ers of all abil­i­ties to revel in that ex­pe­ri­ence while con­fi­dently ex­plor­ing and ex­pand­ing the lim­its—its, and theirs. And that’s what makes the flam­boy­ant, op­er­atic, joy­ously Ital­ian Lam­borgh­ini Hu­racán Per­for­mante our 2018 Best Driver’s Car.

THE LAM­BORGH­INI HU­RACÁN PER­FOR­MANTE IS “A TO­TAL AS­SAULT ON THE SENSES, THE DE­FIN­I­TIVE SU­PER­CAR EX­PE­RI­ENCE. ”

Il­lus­tra­tions: Paul Laguette

Ad­di­tional Pho­tog­ra­phy: William Walker, Robin Tra­jano, Jade Nel­son, Bran­don Lim

WORK MATES We couldn’t make Best Driver’s Car hap­pen with­out Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol, who make Route 198 safe for test­ing. In be­tween runs, the of­fi­cers check out the con­tenders.

ALL IN ONE Ra­cepak’s Van­tage CL1 sup­ple­mented our twin Vbox data log­gers to never miss a lap. FI­NAL TUNE Porsche, Mclaren, Lam­borgh­ini, and As­ton Martin sent crews to swap tires and make ad­just­ments be­fore Randy Pobst be­gan his hot laps at Weathertech Race­way La­guna Seca.

DATA DUMPThe ver­sa­tile Ra­cepak Van­tage CL1 data-log­ging sys­tem en­abled us to watch and com­pare Randy Pobst’s Weathertech Race­way La­guna Seca laps in real time. The screen can be con­fig­ured to graph­i­cally show dif­fer­ent data streams on a ro­tat­able and swi­peable track map while driver­crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion (“Am I faster? Am I slower?”) is trans­mit­ted to a wind­shield-mounted smart­phone in the car.

LAP DANCE Randy Pobst is sur­prised to learn his best lap in the Mclaren 720S is al­most a sec­ond quicker than the one he set in the 904-hp Mclaren P1 in 2015.

LIT­TLE AND LARGE The rear tire from the Mazda MX-5 Mi­ata (right) is dwarfed by mas­sive meat from the Porsche 911 GT2 RS (left).

FAST COM­PANY De­spite hav­ing the most horse­power, a lack of rear-end grip meant the Corvette ZR1 strug­gled to get any­where near the Lam­borgh­ini, Mclaren, and Porsche.

THREE AMI­GOS Check out the Mo­tor Trend Net­work (formerly Ve­loc­ity) or Mo­tor Trend’s own on-de­mand chan­nel to join Jonny, Randy, and Jethro be­hind the wheel of this year’s BDC con­tenders.

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