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New in 2017: Sportscar golden era rolls on

Reality cheque: Lexus will bring its concept-car-made-real LC500 coupe to Australian showrooms in May and command big bucks for taking one home.

Plenty of choice for the cashed-up in 2017’s long list of new sportscar launches

Outlook logo17 Jan 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

FOLLOWING the bumper crop of sportscar launches in 2016, this year promises to deliver another huge adrenaline fix for driving enthusiasts with more than 20 new models arriving to tempt buyers into a head-over-heart purchasing decision.

Put it this way, the only category that will see more new metal this year is SUVs.

Deep pockets are required to explore the vast majority of this year’s upcoming sports offerings, with Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all represented in the launch list.

Just a couple of more affordable options, both courtesy of Japan, will raise the keen driver’s pulse rate while leaving the bank manager’s blood pressure well alone.

From that perspective, there is not long to wait for the hard-topped Mazda MX-5 RF two-seater that will provide cheap thrills come rain or shine from February with its sub-$40,000 starting price.

Higher up the price scale, homegrown hero HSV will ensure the Australian car-manufacturing era ends in a cloud of tyre smoke and deafening V8 rumble when it blasts out a supercharged swansong expected to wear the retro GTS-R nameplate in the first quarter, offering even more punch than the existing GTS flagship’s 430kW/730Nm 6.2-litre blown LSA V8.

What’s more, there is likely to be a Maloo ute version of this wild thing and a rumoured GTS-R W1 with the Corvette ZR1’s 476kW/820Nm LS9 V8 sledgehammer upping the ante even further. Like the 2008 W427, this highly collectible Commodore will be a bespoke offering commanding serious coin.

On the subject of hot shops associated with mainstream brands, Nismo will finally reach Australia in February with its hardcore 441kW/652Nm version of the Nissan GT-R supercar debuting at the Bathurst 12 Hour GT3 race and carrying an eye-watering $300K price tag – enough to buy 15 of the Pulsars with which it will share showroom space.

In March, Nissan’s upstart luxury brand Infiniti will launch the Red Sport variant of its striking Q60 mid-size coupe featuring a 298kW/475Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drive for less than $90K before on-roads, which makes it something of a bargain compared with similar-performing rivals from Germany.

While we are talking Japanese luxury, the big Lexus LC500 coupe will glide into Australian showrooms from May under V8 or hybrid power, having wowed the motor show circuit with its concept car looks and the promise that these are backed up by a scintillating experience from behind the wheel. Do not expect much change from $200,000.

As previously mentioned, Audi’s new-generation A5/S5 Coupe arrives soon, while the brand’s sports model cannon will be reloaded with the sedan version of its rip-snorting RS3 and the second-generation TT RS coupe and roadster arriving in the second quarter.

Moving from Ingolstadt to Stuttgart, both Mercedes and Porsche will have a busy 2017 in Australia with three launches apiece, starting with the billionaire-baiting turbo V12-powered Mercedes-AMG S65 Cabriolet in February.

Affalterbach’s E63 upper-management muscle car will turn up in May and channel its prodigious 450kW/850Nm to Australian soil through all four wheels. But don’t think it has given up smoking – there’s a drift mode.

The five-strong Porsche 911 GTS line-up will arrive in the second quarter to plug the gap between Carrera S and hardcore GT3 with some purposeful-looking styling tweaks and grunt-enhanced turbo flat-six engine, while the year’s mid-point is marked by the arrival of a svelte Benz-badged and reportedly AMG V8-free E-Class Coupe.

Around the same time, Porsche will give the Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe the GTS treatment, followed in October by the next chapter in the 911 GT3 story that is tipped to regain a manual transmission option and share much of its 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engine with the controversial mid-engined 911 RSR endurance racer revealed at the Los Angeles motor show last November.

British brands will also demonstrate their performance car firepower in 2017 with the 336km/h Bentley Continental Supersports opening proceedings in the first half and claiming for Crewe the title of world’s fastest luxury four-seater.

Meanwhile in Gaydon, Aston Martin is preparing the Vanquish S supercar for an April arrival to Australia, its howling 5.9-litre naturally aspirated V12 tweaked and tuned to create 444kW and 630Nm, helping it match the heavier Bentley’s 3.5-second 0-100km/h time and cruising on through to a cool 324km/h top whack.

Even more exclusive is the uniquely styled Vanquish Zagato in coupe and Volante convertible form, each of which is limited to a global production run of just 99 units with examples of both on their way to the plush garages of their seriously well-heeled Aussie collectors this year.

From nearby Coventry, Jaguar’s F-Type coupe and convertible range will undergo some minor mid-life cosmetic surgery from around June. New V8-look but V6-powered R-Dynamic variants and a special 400 Sport launch edition will appear, along with a welcome technology update including GoPro-compatible app that can overlay race-style real-time telemetry data to in-car footage.

Woking-based McLaren will unleash its second-generation Super Series – a replacement for the 650S and limited-run 675LT –at the Geneva show in March, when Australian pricing will be confirmed and the first examples possibly reaching our shores by the end of this year.

And finally to Italy, which will supply thrill-seeking Australians with four new models this year including the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso with versatile, four-seat hatchback practicality coming in the first quarter with all-wheel drive and a 507kW/697Nm 6.3-litre V12, with deliveries of the less-expensive 449kW/760Nm rear-drive turbo-V8 ‘T’ version commencing in the third quarter.

Interestingly, the LaFerrari Aperta, an open-topped version of the Prancing Horse’s hybrid hypercar flagship, is confirmed to reach lucky Australian buyers in the first quarter, even though it is left-hand-drive only and cannot be registered for road use.

Arch-rival Lamborghini will also bring us the amped-up S version of its Aventador flagship this year with four-wheel steering, upgraded suspension, refreshed electronics and new aerodynamics-enhanced styling – plus a modest power increase to 544kW from the 6.5-litre V12. Not bad for $789K.

Exhibitionists will enjoy Australian availability of the Raging Bull’s rear-drive ragtop, otherwise known as the Huracan LP580-2 Spyder. With nothing but fresh air between the cockpit and a boisterous 426kW/540Nm 5.2-litre V10, those stumping up $429,000 for the model will either be used to being both seen and heard, or about to familiarise themselves with that feeling.

WHAT’S COMING

Aston Martin Vanquish S – Q2
Audi RS3 sedan – Q2
Audi TT RS – Q2
Bentley Continental Supersports – Q1/Q2
Ferrari GTC4Lusso – Q1
Ferrari GTC4Lusso T – Q3
Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta – Q1
HSV GTS-R – Q1
HSV GTS-R Maloo – Q1
Infiniti Q60 Red Sport – Mar
Jaguar F-Type facelift – Q2
Lamborghini Aventador S – Q3/Q4
Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 Spyder – Q3/Q4
Lexus LC – May
Mazda MX-5 RF – Feb
Mercedes-Benz E63 – May
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe – Mid-year
Mercedes-Benz S65 Cabriolet – Feb
Nissan GTR Nismo – Feb
Porsche 911 GT3 – Oct
Porsche 911 GTS – Q2
Porsche Boxster/Cayman GTS – Mid-year

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