Car of the Year

Meet the Bentley Continental GT Speed, Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year

Meet the Bentley Continental GT Speed, Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year

This past year, the paradigms of normalcy continued to be shaken to their core with a tenacious pandemic, which, along with disrupting lives, caused serious breakdowns in the supply chain. And the automotive industry was not immune. And yet, amidst that backdrop, Robb Report managed to field the most innovative and diverse assemblage of top luxury and performance vehicles in the 19-year history of its Car of the Year (COTY) contest.

There was a wide selection of power trains, for example, from turbocharged V-8s and a naturally aspirated V-10 to hybrids and the first all-electric example ever offered at the event. It was a variety that perhaps may never be available again as the internal-combustion engine’s prominence among new models will soon run on fumes. Yet despite the assortment of future-focused competitors, it was a conventionally powered 12-cylinder entry from a 103-year-old marque that took top honors. The Bentley Continental GT Speed is Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year.

With both the coupe and convertible versions taking turns in the competition, the Bentley Continental GT Speed is Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

Although 1919 saw the debut of the British automaker’s original grand tourer (GT), the four-cylinder 3 Litre model that took first place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans five years later, the introduction of the Continental nameplate was in the form of the 1952 R-Type Continental. That four-passenger car crested 100 mph and was exquisitely sculpted for the task. In the interim, the brand became inextricably linked to a renowned band of well-heeled gentlemen racers responsible for giving the manufacturer five overall victories at Le Mans from 1924 though 1930, forever being remembered as the Bentley Boys. If the latter were around today, they would almost certainly choose to sit behind the wheel of the Continental GT Speed, a model that bested the competition with startling performance combined with unequivocal panache.
The Speed moniker added to this Continental variant is more than just a marketing appellation, it’s the mission statement for the design and engineering departments. Both the two-door coupe (starting at $274,900) and convertible (from $302,400) took turns at this edition of COTY and feature body styling that appears sculpted by the air and balanced in proportion. Sinewy lines hint at the car’s potent output and athleticism, especially those over the wheel arches and the low, exaggerated side strakes.

The convertible starts at $302,400, while the coupe’s base price is $274,900. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

The looks are not deceiving. Stomp the throttle from a standstill and you’re met with unexpectedly aggressive yet linear power delivery that sends the 5,029-pound two-door from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds as it seeks a top speed of 208 mph. Those metrics are owed to the 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine responsible for 650 hp and 664 ft lbs of torque (available from 5,000 to 6,000 rpm and 1,500 to 5,000 rpm, respectively). The hand-built power plant is mated to a dual-clutch eight-speed transmission that further expedites the action with a shift-response that, in Sport mode, takes just half the time as that of the standard Continental GT.

Sinewy lines hint at the car’s potent output and athleticism. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

The GT Speed’s brawn is balanced by a chassis that benefits from a host of upgrades, including all-wheel steering, active all-wheel drive, a three-chamber active air suspension, a 45-volt anti-roll system and, perhaps most notably, Bentley’s first integration of an electronic rear differential; there are also new carbon-ceramic brakes featuring 10-piston front calipers and five-piston counterparts at the rear.

Photo by Robb Rice.

Although the GT Speed’s lithe comportment is a surprise, the vehicle’s opulent interior is not. Arguably, the cabin’s only equal is that of the Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost (or its larger Phantom sibling). The handcrafted approach by the team at Crewe is on full display, from the 3-D-accented paneling and the upholstery’s diamond-quilted stitching to the knurled finishes and brightwork to the enthralling display that rotates between a choice of analog gauges, a 12.3-inch touchscreen or clean veneer.
The net result is a singular machine that “checks every vibe and mood,” according to COTY judge DeAnn Romanowski, who called it “classy, sensual, fun and, best of all, unforgettable.” And evaluator Paul Williams went as far as saying that, from a driver’s perspective, it offers “an experience to satisfy every need,” a sentiment echoing the mindset of Bentley’s founder from the outset.

The team at Crewe’s handcrafted artisanal approach is on full display throughout the interior. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

The constructor’s initial automobile was developed from W.O. Bentley’s mandate “to build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” More than a century later, the Continental GT Speed has now made that directive almost seem like a call to chase low-hanging fruit, as the class-defying model excels across categories and bucks the rising tide of homogeneity within the industry. More importantly, it captures the spirit of the Bentley Boys to inspire and nurture a love of motoring. As far as Robb Report is concerned, Bentley has the new benchmark—at least for the next 12 months.

Meet the Ferrari 812 GTS, Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year Runner Up

Meet the Ferrari 812 GTS, Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year Runner Up

VITALS

ENGINE: 6.5-liter, normally aspirated V-12POWER: 789 hp @ 8,500 rpm0-60 MPH: 2.8 secTOP SPEED: 211 mphBASE PRICE: $397,544PRICE AS TESTED: $534,835
The Ferrari 812 GTS was the clear winner for lovers of high-revving power and red-blooded Italian style. And while Bentley’s Continental GT Speed ultimately took the crown at our Car of the Year, it was only by a one-point advantage, and because it does just about everything brilliantly. Yet so does the Ferrari 812 GTS; just don’t expect to haul junk in the trunk or listen to a mind-melting Spa Music channel in a silent cabin.

Enzo Ferrari famously drove Peugeots, Fiats and even a Mini Cooper. But his favored Ferrari during the early years was a 1962 330 GT 2+2, the most unassuming car in the marque’s stable. Ferruccio Lamborghini, who owned a Miura, much preferred driving his Islero, an understated 2+2. There is a reason that these titans of industry—men who could own any car on the planet—chose elegant luxury GTs for themselves. The winning formula for the model type, a front-engine V-12 with a gorgeous body and a luxurious cabin, hasn’t changed in 60 years.
Ferrari’s “modern” V-12 family tree began in 1996 with the 550 Maranello, and the latest car in its V-12 stable is the 812 GTS. Its Retractable Hard Top (RHT) design is a Ferrari signature, and with the top raised, the design is positively coupe-like. With the flip of a switch, the entire upper half of the car deconstructs like an origami swan unfolding, and once the clamshells, flaps and fenestration settle down, a sleek convertible reveals itself.

A profile shot of the Ferrari 812 GTS the racetrack donning Blu Aharabian metallic paint. 

Robb Rice

The 812 GTS is the first production series, front-engined convertible V-12 from Maranello since the legendary 365 GTS/4 “Daytona” in 1969. (The Barchetta, Superamerica and Aperta were strictly limited series, and not production models.) Anyone who is familiar with the 812 Superfast will immediately feel at home in the 812 GTS, for the simple reason that they are, essentially, the same car from the “waist down.”  And as our COTY judges quickly learned, its acceleration is meteoric. This Ferrari’s 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V-12 produces 789 hp at 8,500 rpm, and 530 ft lbs of torque at 7,000 rpm, making the 812 GTS the most powerful production convertible on the market.

This particular Prancing Horse’s tempestuous power delivery is suggested by a long hood that, once lifted, reveals an engine pushed far back toward the firewall, making it clear how “front-mid-engine” translates to such remarkably well-balanced handling. As a V-8 engine is to filet mignon, Ferrari’s V-12 is more akin to a two-inch thick Wagyu Tomahawk that can stop your heart in three seconds—more time than that car takes to reach 62 mph. At lower revs, words like smooth, creamy and linear describe the power, with 80 percent of maximum torque available at just 3,500 rpm. But as revs approach 6,000 rpm, acceleration is nothing short of explosive, accompanied by a crescendo from intake and exhaust that intensifies as the V-12 wails all the way to the extreme 8,900 rpm redline. Top speed, we trust, is 211 mph.

The rear of the convertible featuring the marque’s signature Prancing Horse logo. 

Robb Rice

Our judges discovered that the 812 GTS has capabilities that go far beyond acceleration and speed. Weighing about 3,550 pounds dry, the big GT is remarkably agile, with the reassuring feel of rear-wheel drive and a slight 47:53 rear weight bias that promise predictable (and predictably fun) response to steering wheel and pedal input. The rear-mounted transmission is a beefy seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that shifts with authority, and the rear will gladly step out when the steering wheel–mounted Manettino is dialed to Race.
Version 5.0 of Ferrari’s Side-Slip Control (SSC) stability system handily checks in when the driver bites off more than can be chewed, while the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system (PCV) employs four-wheel steering to enhance maneuverability. Magnetorheological dampers keep the car flat and stable, with a firm but genuinely comfortable ride over less than perfect roads. Altogether, the 812 GTS, for all its power and size, is not edgy or high-strung. Rather, like every great GT, it’s a car that’s easy to drive without fanfare until it’s time to make some noise.

The interior and steering wheel that functions on the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system. 

Robb Rice

Elegance and refinement are hallmarks of the interior. Leather upholstery and carbon trim are beautifully executed, and as with every modern Ferrari, the steering wheel is a stroke of ergonomic brilliance, managing to get nearly every control function within reach of the driver’s thumbs. The central analog tachometer “goes to 10” and takes center stage in the instrument display, a welcome presence in an age of videogame-like dashboards.

While its base price may be $397,544, don’t even think about escaping the temptation of an option list that, in the case of our car, elevated the sticker to $534,835, which included exquisite Blu Aharabian metallic paint—a $32,904 option. Among thoroughbred supercars, there really is no GT—apart from the spider’s soulmate, the 812 Superfast—that matches the pedigree, unbridled power and sheer perfection of the Ferrari 812 GTS. We can’t help but wonder if the car will soon become the last naturally aspirated V-12 made whose drivetrain isn’t tickled by electric motors.

Meet the Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year Runner Up

Meet the Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year Runner Up

It was a result as unexpected as the San Francisco 49ers beating the Green Bay Packers. At Lambeau Field. In the snow. The redesigned and reengineered Rolls-Royce Ghost left the likes of the McLaren GT, Aston Martin’s Vantage Roadster and even the Ferrari Roma in its rearview as it went on to share the title of Robb Report’s 2021 Car of the Year (COTY) with the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder. The Ghost was so impressive that it necessitated contest results be spilt into two categories, Sports Car and Luxury Car, for the first time.

The Ghost returned for the 19th edition of COTY, but in the decidedly edgier guise of the 2022 Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, starting at $395,000. The Black Badge trim option, offered on various models in the line, was the brainchild of Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the luxury marque’s CEO. “When I joined Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, I was confronted by a significantly older profile for our clients,” says Müller-Ötvös. “We needed to change from what I would call a chauffeur brand into a driver’s brand, and we started to introduce very driving-focused cars, be it Wraith, be it Dawn. Then Black Badge made such a difference in terms of age profile.”

The Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost finished third behind the Ferrari 812 GTS and winning Bentley Continental GT Speed at Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

The trim package not only blacks out stylistic elements like the Pantheon Grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, but boosts the engine performance and exhaust note. The moodier and more potent treatment now comprises 27 percent of all Rolls-Royce orders in general and has helped lower the average customer age to 43, and a year younger than that for those purchasing a new Ghost.
Rolls-Royce will most likely continue to work its way down the millennial ladder of buyers as it looks to reduce emissions and eliminate the production of internal-combustion engines altogether by 2030. Referencing the automaker’s full lineup, Müller-Ötvös says “the Black Badge Ghost is the perfect fit now to the range of combustion engines. Having said that, we clearly have in mind that all of our electric models in the future will carry a Black Badge [option].

The trim package not only blacks out stylistic elements like the Pantheon Grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, but boosts the engine performance. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

For now, the Black Badge Ghost’s enhanced performance was evident on select sections of the more than 2-mile circuit at the private Concours Club in Opa-locka, Fla., the testing ground for the East Coast segment of COTY. The 591 hp sedan’s 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-12, with 664 ft lbs of torque, has an additional 28 hp and 37 ft lbs of torque compared to the standard version.

Paired with the satellite-assisted eight-speed transmission, the power-train configuration allows the 5,490-pound four-door to barrel from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It’s not that anyone will notice the 0.3 seconds shaved off from the base model’s time for the same span, but what will impress is Low mode, which releases full torque at just 1,700 rpm; shift responses are also 100 percent faster at 90 percent of full throttle.

Evening descends on the Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost along the coast of Northern California. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

The cumulative effect is a comparatively heavy car that “is sneaky quick,” according to COTY judge David Robinson Jr. Whether jumping off the line from a standing start or tracking through apexes on a tight sequence of turns, the Ghost wouldn’t easily give up to sportier entries. In fact, judge Ray Gutowski found it “hard to separate the ‘wow factor’ of the interior versus the incredible performance from what we know is a tank.”
The Ghost’s cabin, insulated by more than 220 pounds of soundproofing material, is certainly otherworldly. Along with posh standards such as lambswool rugs and the celestial headliner—with simulated shooting stars—comprising as many as 1,600 individually set fiber-optic lights, there’s also Black Badge–specific detailing. These include various treatments of the Lemniscate (or infinity symbol), including its illuminated presentation in the passenger-side fascia’s six-layer, 850-light starburst display. It’s easy to understand why judge Don Barry refers to the interior as “unmatched,” and Matteo Atti’s overall impression is that this is a “car made of dreams.”

The marque’s customizable Starlight Headliner and Black Badge–specific accents add next-level exclusivity to an already rarified cabin. 

Photo by Robb Rice.

Not everyone at COTY shared that same vision though. “It’s not my bag,” was the enigmatically straightforward feedback offered by Scott Sullivan, while Justin Baldwin described the model as “almost too much fantasy.” The number of critics, while dwarfed by the general consensus, was enough to exorcise the Ghost from the top spot it held at COTY since last year. But the winged Spirit of Ecstasy didn’t fall far, managing to still land squarely on Robb Report’s podium.

The Bentley Continental GT Speed Is Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year

The Bentley Continental GT Speed Is Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year

Lamborghini Huracán STO

Robb Rice

It corners like a gold-medal bobsled team. —Joe Laux

As William Shakespeare noted in Henry IV, Part II, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Automobili Lamborghini’s reign over our event the past few years has been a testament to the marque’s determination to bolster an already powerful line. This year’s entry, the Huracán Super Trofeo Omologata (STO), marks the highest-performing variant of the model that will be built (or so we’ve been assured)—a street-legal distillation of the Super Trofeo Evo and Huracán GT3 Evo racers that more than a few judges found unapologetically raw and intimidating.
“The platform was much better in the previous versions,” said Brent Bellotte, who found that the automaker had “removed everything that made the car a drivable exotic.” Ezra Henson came to a similar conclusion, explaining that “what it has in exterior styling and speed, it lacks with the interior and driving comfort.” Julio Cantillo wrote off one deficiency to pragmatism: “Rear visibility is my only complaint, but the good news is you won’t need to look behind you much.”
Despite falling off the throne, the Lamborghini Huracán still had plenty of devotees. “This is a genie on four wheels; your wish is its command,” said Lindsay Faldo. Its motorsport-inspired athleticism was also a crowd-pleaser. “It corners like a gold-medal bobsled team,” Joe Laux noted, while Alex Bard was “fairly sure that if it had enough runway, it might take off.” And Steve Couig gushed, “If the Ferrari made me giggle while ripping through the gears, the Huracán commanded outright laughter.” With little real-world versatility, the Huracán, in the view of Robb Report’s automotive team, is made for the most competent, confident drivers who don’t care how much attention they attract. Perhaps like judge Don Barry, who said driving it felt like “sitting in a saddle attached to a meteor.”
ENGINE: 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-10POWER: 631 hp @ 8,000 rpm0-60 MPH: 2.8 secTOP SPEED: 193 mphBASE PRICE: $327,838PRICE AS TESTED: $404,533 (Napa) $392,133 (Boca)

3. Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

Robb Rice

Handles like a dream. Smooth as a Steph Curry three-pointer. —Scott Kotick

Perhaps not since the US defeated England in the 1950 World Cup has there been an upset like the one at the 2021 edition of Car of the Year, when the revised Rolls-Royce Ghost earned equal standing on the podium with Lamborghini’s Huracán Evo RWD Spyder. Such a sea change in perception mirrors that of the British automaker’s increasingly younger consumer base (now averaging 43 years of age), owed in large part to the introduction of the Black Badge trim package, with its edgier aesthetic and more intimidating power delivery.
Understandably, the new Black Badge Ghost also summoned quite a following among the judges this time around.
“Most cars simply show up; this automobile arrives,” said Ryan McKay about the model variant, which Penske Media Corp.’s Gerry Byrne noted was “very comfortable, very… everything.” Though passengers have long had their senses engaged by Rolls, this is a car for drivers. “Handles like a dream. Smooth as a Steph Curry three-pointer,” said Scott Kotick, while Hall of Fame golfer Sir Nick Faldo observed that “you can drive it as if it’s your waltz partner; its balance is stunning.”
The all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, however, go only so far in masking the vehicle’s over 18-foot length and 5,490-pound weight. “This car is too big for me,” Andrew Wesson said, and Kylie White thought the Ghost in general “seems overdone and unapproachable.” Steve Couig went as far as to call the ride “squishy” and was of the opinion that “Rolls-Royce appears to be having a tough time staying relevant.” But more of the feedback was closer to what was given by Jean Marie Eschmendia-Kouri, who pronounced it “the best car I’ve ever driven in my life.” In the view of Robb Report’s automotive editors, the Black Badge Ghost is masterfully designed and engineered to be a true oasis—a car that, in and of itself, could mark the renaissance of the sedan.
ENGINE: 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V-12POWER: 591 hp @ 5,000 rpm0-60 MPH: 4.5 secTOP SPEED: 155 mph (limited)BASE PRICE: $395,000PRICE AS TESTED: $484,950

2. Ferrari 812 GTS

Robb Rice

Get one while you can—this is an investment, not a depreciating asset! —Andrew Chase

Talk about a narrow race! With 70 points out of a possible 80, the Ferrari 812 GTS missed the winner’s circle by a single point. Unanimously the top pick of Robb Report’s automotive editors, who found the model to be at the confluence of legacy and outer limits, it was the judges’ second overall. Number crunching aside, the Ferrari won hearts with its combination of performance, refinement, looks and such intangibles as its wow factor and predicted future collectibility. Importantly, the 812 GTS has the most powerful naturally aspirated production-car engine ever made and is a reminder that no sound or sensation compares to a Ferrari V-12 winding out to redline. This model has a retractable hard top that makes it a car for all seasons, and when it comes to personalization, the Prancing Horse knows how to accommodate its clients; ours had $140,000 in options, including a $33,000 Blu Ahrabian metallic paint job. In short, there was a lot to like.
Many judges homed in on driving as a multisensory pursuit, and Ferrari’s primacy in satisfying one sense in particular. Peter Li called out the “lovely sound of a naturally aspirated V-12,” while Joshua Greenman advised, “It’s worth it for the sound alone.” Former fighter pilot Mike Lackey said the GTS “feels like an F-14 in Zone 5 afterburner, and we didn’t even attempt the higher-end settings. The sound of the engine, both accelerating and decelerating, screams high-performance sports car… a true symphony for the ears.” Jim Shay enthused, “Love it! The best balance of raw power and luxury.” Similarly, Hugi Hilmisson was enraptured by what he termed the “biblical soundtrack” and noted that the Ferrari “doesn’t have the handling of a car with a mid-mounted engine but still feels extremely agile.” Lee Oleinick appreciated the “insane power and noise,” adding, “it handles like a true race car but unfortunately includes the jarring ride.” Mark Newman expressed mixed feelings, too, calling it “a world-class car but not that comfortable for a long drive, with seats that are too firm and suspension that’s too harsh for a GT cruiser.”
Another weakness: “The dash and five-year-old instruments need updating,” Tim Rogers suggested, and Justin Baldwin seconded the opinion.
But for Matteo Atti, those quibbles didn’t matter. “I’m in love,” he declared. “Sometimes Italians really do it better.” Andrew Chase considered the 812 GTS from a broader perspective, advising, “Get one while you can—this is an investment, not a depreciating asset!”
Our editors recognized the connection between the 812 GTS and such classic Ferraris as the 275 GTB and 365 GTB/4 “Daytona.” Roger Cary also saw a timeless lesson, saying, “This car helped me to understand: If you are not driving your dream car, go back to work.”
ENGINE: 6.5-liter, normally aspirated V-12POWER: 789 hp @ 8,500 rpm0-60 MPH: 2.8 secTOP SPEED: 211 mphBASE PRICE: $397,544PRICE AS TESTED: $534,835

1. Bentley Continental GT Speed

Photo by Robb Rice.

The perfect blend of beauty, power and grace. —Garrett Calacci

For the graduate heralded as “most likely to succeed,” the pressure to live up to expectations can be a springboard to accomplishment—or an albatross. Bentley has experienced both. The 102-year-old marque garnered early motorsport acclaim before suffering numerous financial setbacks and being absorbed by rival Rolls-Royce at one point. Since falling under the auspices of the Volkswagen Group in 1998, though, the baronial automaker has unlocked a new level of potential manifested by one model in particular, the Bentley Continental GT—a car that took our top honor in 2004.
The years since have further refined this grand tourer in engineering and elegance, resulting in the Speed variant, which the Robb Report editorial team described as channeling the spirit of Le Mans within a sanctuary worthy of Kublai Khan. That seductive combination, presented as a convertible and a coupe in Napa and Boca, respectively, wooed the majority of our judges. The Bentley Continental GT Speed is Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year.
Most compelling was how the two-door’s parkour-worthy agility belied its over 5,000-pound curb weight. “Have you ever seen an elephant tap-dancing? Today, I have,” said Jean-Marc Bories. “The four-wheel steering is what made all the difference in the world,” added Daryn Pingleton. The handling also benefits from the automaker’s first integration of a limited-slip differential to increase sure-footedness. The result, in the view of David Emmes, makes this latest version “a quantum leap from the original.”
The camp of detractors could fit in a pup tent. Regarding the interior, Matteo Atti thought its “design was overdone and aged.” Lee Weinstein’s list of complaints included “no air-conditioned seats” and “a thumping subwoofer—that was harsh.” He also felt that the car’s tech was “not intuitive.” Julie Anne Smedley determined that “minimal trunk space and legroom in back were the only downsides,” and James Diggs’s sole takeaway from the Bentley was its “difficult sight lines in the back.”
In contrast, Timothy Donahue “could find nothing wrong with the car,” while Garrett Calacci described it as “the perfect blend of beauty, power and grace.” Kylie White offered perhaps the highest praise, saying, “This car sparks joy at every turn and every press of the gas pedal.” Reason enough to be this year’s automotive champion.
ENGINE: 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12POWER: 650 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm0-60 MPH: 3.6 sec/3.5 secTOP SPEED: 208 mphBASE PRICE: $302,400/$274,900PRICE AS TESTED: $360,345 (Napa) $340,310 (Boca)

The Concours Club Vies for Pole Position Among Private Racetracks, and Here’s How

The Concours Club Vies for Pole Position Among Private Racetracks, and Here’s How

My eyes are fixed on the distance markers fast approaching at the tail end of the 2,100-foot straightaway, foot ready to take action the moment I get the signal in my headset . . . but there’s silence. Past the second marker, an ever-so-calmly articulated command finally rings in my ear; “brake.” The BMW M2 CS race car responds like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred that’s had it reigns pulled hard, scrubbing speed with immediacy and control to navigate the ensuing double apex and soon trace the ideal line through a pair of deceptively challenging corners aptly dubbed “Frustration and Temptation.”

Pulling into pit lane after just a few laps at the Concours Club in Opa Locka, Fla., I’m approached by Rod MacLeod, the voice that’s been guiding me remotely. The former Formula 3 champion, and one-time mechanic for the late Ayrton Senna, is precise in his analysis: “Brake later and harder.”

The Concours Club private racetrack in Opa Locka, Fla. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Concours Club.

The simple but astute instruction shaves copious amounts of time off subsequent laps as the confidence level in both myself and the machine grows exponentially, something that the exclusive list of members experience daily at this 80-acre motorsport haven fast becoming a frontrunner in the private-racetrack field. The level of coaching, the hi-tech circuit—with the latest safety features—and top-tier dining and event amenities are also what make the Concours Club the chosen venue for the East Coast segment of Robb Report’s Car of Year contest, with drive days taking place December 1 through 5.
For Concours Club founder Neil Gehani, a commercial real estate developer and entrepreneur, the plan to develop his motorsport concept was driven by passion. “I loved cars growing up, but never had a family that could afford buying sports cars or being immersed in car culture,” says Gehani. “When I had my first success in business, the first thing I did was go to a Porsche dealership and buy a beautiful 911,” he continues, adding that “the general manager of that dealership was a gentleman racer and started a driving series at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill. I had this embedded addiction to cars, and he basically just poured fuel on the fire. When I got to Miami, my wife looked me in the eyes, and asked what I was thinking?” Gehani’s response was resolute: “I’m going to build an auto country club in Miami; it has to happen down here.”

The circuit can be presented in over seven different configurations. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Concours Club.

While such private courses are becoming more common Stateside, few, if any, provide the caliber of testing ground on offer here. “This is the only racetrack club I’ve joined,” says Hélio Castroneves, four-time Indy 500 champion and founding member of the Concours Club, in a conversation with Robb Report back in 2019. “I joke sometimes that IndyCar should learn from this course because it has a lot of challenges but is 40 feet wide and has many built-in safety aspects, so it’s good for all experience levels.”
The more than 2-mile circuit, able to transform into over seven different track configurations, is a benchmark in design and measurement of performance metrics. While many members bring their own machines, or keep them in lavish on-site garages tended to by a team of specialists, the club maintains a fleet of race cars at the ready, including the aforementioned BMW M2 CS. And all course monitoring is done by electronic marshalls via closed-circuit cameras and state-of-the art data processing. But what truly stands out is the world-class mentoring.

Concours Club founder Neil Gehani (left) and four-time Indy 500 champion Hélio Castroneves. 

Photo by Erik Schneider, courtesy of the Concours Club.

“Some of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had here at this club are with people that almost needed to be shoehorned in the car; they were not interested in driving,” admits MacLeod, who counts Formula 1 star Sergio “Checo” Pérez as a protégé. “Then you see the smile on their face after 10 laps working with them and, now, you can’t get them out of the car. That’s really what I live and work for.”
Concours Club fixtures like MacLeod and Castroneves aren’t the only magnets to membership, however, nor is the drive component in general. A lynchpin of the 28,000-square-foot complex is Verge, the dining enclave piloted by renowned chef Brad Kilgore—previously with three-Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea—and complemented by master sommelier Dan Pikey.
When it comes to his epicurean vision, Kilgore is clear. “We want to be seen as a team of private chefs,” he says, regarding the perception of members. “We’re logging all their preferences, not only dietary restrictions, but likes and dislikes.” When asked to define his own culinary style, he is equally quick to respond. “I’ve been trying to put it into words for some time,” he states, “and it’s really ‘food with no borders,’ I’ve always been a guy that breaks the rules.”

Chef Brad Kilgore in a rare moment of rest. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Concours Club.

The menu offerings range from a heart of palm salad with lemongrass, ginger, cardamom and habanero to pizza featuring a crust made from sourdough starter that’s more than 50 years old. Then there’s the staples: “I’ve been told my burger was worth landing a plane for, so we call it the ‘$10,000 burger,’” says Kilgore. “That’s my job, right there.”

Confectionary artisanship on display at Verge. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Concours Club.

Unlike other membership-driven racetracks, the Concours Club doesn’t offer a residential component, but will be developing Auto Lofts; basically, condos for your car that are also suitable for entertaining. And a soon-to-be-built event structure, designed by Pininfarina, will further add to corporate allure.

The Verge lounge. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Concours Club.

All of the lavish touches, however, are mere garnish for the raison d’être of membership; driving on a closed course with the freedom to, as MacLeod exhorts, brake later and harder than one’s comfort level would normally allow. For the next few days, a cadre from Robb Report’s own membership club, RR1, will do just that as they test a field of the world’s top production models and proffer their ballots for the 19th edition of our Car of the Year contest. Regardless of each judge’s respective choice for ultimate honors, the highlight of the day will likely come from the passenger seat as Hélio gives hot laps—at least he has my vote.

Learn more about Robb Report’s 2022 Car of the Year event taking place in Boca Raton here.

Meet the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder, Robb Report’s 2021 Sports Car of the Year

Meet the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder, Robb Report’s 2021 Sports Car of the Year

VITAL STATS
Model: Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder
Engine: 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-10
Power: 602 hp
Torque: 413 ft lbs
Transmission: Seven-speed LDF dual-clutch
Wheelbase: 103.15 inches
Dynasties are divisive. Whether in politics or sports, continued success usually breeds equal measures of admiration and criticism. (New England Patriots, anyone?) The Robb Report Car of the Year competition appears to have a contender for that role with Automobili Lamborghini. The difference, though, is that the majority of critics tend to be converted once they climb into the driver’s seat.

In recent years, models from the Sant’Agata Bolognese automaker have been a fixture at the top of our lists, placed there by judges who were not expecting even to like the car, let alone lavish praise on it. The latest disruptor: Lamborghini’s Huracán Evo RWD Spyder, the 2021 Robb Report Sports Car of the Year.
The Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder.  Photo by Robin Trajano, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

It’s no secret that, for a few decades, Lamborghinis were viewed by many as supercars for the uncouth—as loud, showy and temperamental as their owners. But that reputation has been greatly rehabilitated since the Volkswagen Group took control and brought the marque under Audi’s umbrella, ultimately creating automobiles that offer not just exclamatory performance, but a civil, even refined real-world driving experience.
The sea change for Lamborghini came in 2014 with the introduction of the Huracán coupe, followed by more noteworthy variants that include the Performante, with its innovative active aerodynamics, and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) Evo—for “Evolution”—equipped with a game-changing super processor seems to know what you want to do a split-second before you do.
A cockpit comfortable enough for the daily commute.  Photo by Robin Trajano, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Referred to as Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata (LDVI), the original AWD Evo’s leading-edge tech continuously analyzes the driver’s input against vehicle orientation, and prepares the other systems—including torque vectoring, traction control and suspension—in anticipation of the next move. The result is a car that allows a driver to push closer to his limit without crossing it. Sometimes, though, experienced drivers want to lengthen the leash, and that’s where the new rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Evo Spyder comes in.
The decision to offer a RWD version was easy, according to Alessandro Farmeschi, CEO of Lamborghini America. “We wanted to go back to the purest driving emotion,” he stated during a technical briefing on the car back in October, calling it an “unfiltered experience behind the wheel.”

Revised air-flow management gives the car less drag and 73 percent more rear downforce than its AWD sibling.  Photo by Robin Trajano, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

That’s not to say that all the assists aren’t there if you need them—there’s just more room to cut loose. While the RWD configuration eliminates certain functionalities like torque vectoring, a new Performance Traction Control System (P-TCS) allows greater freedom to kick the back end loose and get your drift on.
In Sport (one of three modes, along with Strada and Corsa) the P-TCS lets the rear wheels slide as it monitors oversteer and adjusts torque accordingly, bolstering unregulated oversteer by 30 percent compared to RWD predecessors. It also provides torque while the car is transitioning out of the drift or coming out of a turn, to ensure better traction.
Lamborghini’s HMI infotainment system features an 8.4-inch touchscreen.  Photo by Robin Trajano, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

The efficacy of the P-TCS system was recently experienced firsthand at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California. Coming out of turn four while in Sport mode, the back end broke loose unexpectedly. Based on my steering input, there was enough torque to carry me through the quick correction before my heart knew to accelerate. Fast forward to Central California’s wine country roads during Car of the Year; I alternated between Strada and Corsa and felt the car trace the corkscrew stretches between vineyards without a hint of wanting to stray outside the lines. It’s only ready to play when you are.
The 610 hp Evo RWD Spyder’s power train enables the machine to cover zero to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds and reach 201 mph.  Photo by Robin Trajano, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

With an aluminum-and-carbon-fiber chassis covered by a body of aluminum and thermoplastic resin, the 3,062-pound (dry weight) convertible also inspires confidence through a host of aerodynamic improvements. Lamborghini’s chief technical officer, Maurizio Reggiani, mentioned during his portion of the briefing that the team “started working from the front bumper all through the underfloor of the car to the rear diffusor in order to create the perfect Venturi effect,” explaining that the revised air-flow management gives the car less drag and 73 percent more rear downforce than its AWD sibling. It all comes in handy given the 610 hp roadster, with a naturally aspirated V-10 mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, covers zero to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds and can reach a top speed of 201 mph.

With an aluminum-and-carbon-fiber chassis covered by a body of aluminum and thermoplastic resin, the convertible has a dry weight of 3,062-pounds.  Photo by Robin Trajano, courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Much like how our Luxury Car of the Year, the sumptuous Rolls-Royce Ghost, delivers unexpected power and performance, this Lambo startles with how comfortable the cockpit is. Sure, it’s missing lambswool rugs and open-pore paldao wood trim, but it pampers with its ergonomic layout, Human-Machine Interface (HMI) infotainment system and impressive wind protection when open-air touring.
As the Huracán line eventually comes to an end, who knows what automaker and model will next rise to prominence in our annual evaluation? For now, the Evo RWD Spyder is the closest combination of race car and daily driver that we’ve encountered, and the latest example of why the Raging Bull continues its reign.

Meet the New Rolls-Royce Ghost, the 2021 Robb Report Luxury Car of the Year

Meet the New Rolls-Royce Ghost, the 2021 Robb Report Luxury Car of the Year

VITAL STATISTICS
Model: 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost
Engine: 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V-12
Power: 563 hp
Torque: 627 ft lbs
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 129.7 inches
I drove my first Rolls-Royce, a Corniche, back when a powder blue disco suit was not a Halloween costume, and the sight of a Rolls-Royce on the street was an occasion. Even today, driving the car with the little lady on the hood is special, and more than ever before, it’s really, really fun.

Almost any conversation about Rolls-Royce might easily be derailed by philosophical ruminations, with arguments ranging from the most elitist to the most egalitarian. That’s because a Rolls-Royce unleashes emotions, attracts attention and, throughout its 115-year life, has had more than a smattering of real characters seasoning the owner gene pool.
The 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost in Salamanca Blue.  Photo by James Lipman, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

The Flower Power era, for example, had John Lennon—with his psychedelic Phantom V—imagining himself to be ever so cool, a central digit extended to the establishment that he had become. Yet despite occasional hijinks by hippies or hedge funders, the marque has motored on with a grace and self-assurance that reflects its higher purpose from the very beginning: simply to build “the best car in the world.” In 1907, Autocar magazine named the Rolls-Royce 40/50 precisely that, and—true to its mission—the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost is certainly worthy to be the 2021 Robb Report Luxury Car of the Year—an elegant sedan with an unexpected twist.
The redesigned Ghost is now built on the same aluminum spaceframe platform as Rolls-Royce’s Phantom and Cullinan models.  Photo by James Lipman, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Although the Ghost has been completely redesigned, its real surprise is not visually evident. Raise the hood, part the coach doors and poke around. At a glance, and certainly from a distance, casual observers would be forgiven for thinking the new Ghost—a smaller four-door than the Rolls-Royce Phantom—is essentially the same car as its predecessor, which had a solid 11-year run. After all, it shares similar proportions. But a closer look reveals everything new, from the squinty headlamps to the more raked backlight to the Spirit of Ecstasy that emerges from bodywork behind the Parthenon grille.
The Ghost now features all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering.  Photo by James Lipman, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Crucial to the Ghost’s goodness is the actual structure of the car. “Architecture of Luxury” is what the Rolls-Royce marketers have coined the chassis, an all-aluminum structure shared with the Phantom VIII and the Cullinan “don’t-call-it-an-SUV.” This “architecture” allows optimum platforms to be configured for every model, and it’s only a matter of time until all cars in the lineup will be based on this new technology, which makes the new Ghost lighter, stronger and more refined than ever.

That the previous Ghost was tarred with the stigma of riding on BMW 7-Series underpinnings (a not entirely fair assessment, but perception is everything) chagrined many owners. Now, the Ghost is simply the most accomplished Roller to roll out of Goodwood.
Rolls-Royce’s more minimal design approach, coined “post-opulence,” still maximizes the passenger experience.  Photo by James Lipman, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

That surprising twist to which we’ve alluded, however, is the sheer sporting performance of the Ghost, which, at 5,730 pounds, is not an unsubstantial vehicle. It was the only car at this year’s contest with a V-12 engine, a 6.75-liter, twin-turbo mill that makes oodles of power and torque that is smooth, effortless and visceral, allowing the Ghost to reach 60 mph in about 4.3 seconds. But it’s all accomplished without aural fanfare inside the cabin, due in part to an additional 200 pounds of sound-attenuating insulation that ensures the silence within its interior is only broken by the bespoke audio system developed expressly for the model.
The Ghost’s Starlight Headliner creates an otherworldly ambiance.  Photo by James Lipman, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Key to the Ghost’s sporting attributes is its full-time all-wheel drive—the first Rolls-Royce model with that configuration apart from the Cullinan—plus all-wheel steering at lower speeds that make the Ghost exceedingly nimble, despite the fact that it’s 3.5 inches longer than the car it replaces.
All the while, the Planar Suspension system delivers that famous magic carpet ride that is a Rolls-Royce tradition. Handling is further enhanced by the Flagbearer system that relies on GPS data and cameras to optimize the active suspension for road conditions, abetted by the satellite-informed eight-speed automatic transmission that utilizes GPS to anticipate powerband requirements. And amenities like Park Assist automatically slot the big Ghost into tight spaces without the need for driver input; handy when the chauffeur has the day off.
Six layers of paneling contribute to the passenger side fascia’s celestial display.  Photo by James Lipman, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Rolls-Royce characterizes the new Ghost’s minimalist design treatment as “post-opulence,” though it would be disingenuous to ignore the unabashed luxury that accompanies a herd’s-worth of leather and fine details—from switchgear to the available star-spangled headliner. All that post opulence comes with a base price of $332,500, and more can be ladled on. Our car, at $428,250, was plenty opulent. And it was the first Rolls-Royce we’ve ever driven that had us—and our judges—discovering that ultra-luxury and exhilarating performance are no longer mutually exclusive.

The Rolls-Royce Ghost and the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder Are Robb Report’s Cars of the Year

The Rolls-Royce Ghost and the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder Are Robb Report’s Cars of the Year

Every autumn since 2003, when Robb Report began inviting readers to judge its Car of the Year, participants have asked how to weigh a sexy super–sports car against an ultra-luxury sedan, and the answer has been… you don’t. The fact is, one car just can’t do it all. Each year, it seems that some low-slung, hip-high projectile makes the loudest, most memorable impression and, like a weekend in Las Vegas, obfuscates more clear and sober vision. The reality is that our judges—like most readers in the Robb Report universe—have garages populated with two-, four- and five-door choices for scratching different itches at different times. Is a mid-engine slingshot just what the doctor ordered this weekend? Is your preferred daily driver a rolling bank vault akin to an earth-bound Gulfstream?

This year’s roundup of cars from Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK yielded some discerning observations from our judges, as well as considerable debate about the relative merits of hard-core performance versus unbridled luxury. For the first time, a luxury icon sedan—Rolls-Royce’s Ghost—was an overall session winner. It also wowed drivers in the three other sessions, not just with its refined character but by turning on its pointy head the notion that luxury and driving enjoyment are mutually exclusive. Lamborghini’s Huracán Evo RWD Spyder was the favorite sports-car, proof that bull-riding continues to thrill, despite that car’s ability to carry little more than a passenger, the driver’s wallet and a couple of toothbrushes.
Lamborghini’s Huracán Evo RWD Spyder was the favorite sports-car.  Robb Rice

And so, after almost two decades of tortured tallying, Robb Report confers two awards in 2021: Sports Car of the Year and Luxury Car of the Year. Still, it’s an understatement to say this year’s offerings made reaching a decision difficult. Not just because of the close call between Maranello horses and Sant’Agata Bolognese bulls. Or winged victories from Goodwood and flying B’s from Crewe. But also because, in the year of Covid, “What if?” loomed large, as one might imagine a dream bout between Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. In the case of Car of the Year, the presence of Porsche’s brilliant 911 Turbo S (unavailable at the time of our event) could have well turned the tables in favor of the German team and whisked the proverbial carpet out from under the Italian champ. Even its electric Taycan Turbo, which was lined up at one stage to compete, might have surprised a few people, too. Or instead of Ferrari’s elegant, beautiful Roma, what if its F8 Spider—let alone an SF90 Stradale (likewise unavailable last fall)—showed up at the party? What if, indeed?

But the real takeaway for the marque-agnostic editors of Robb Report (who do not cast votes) is that every car in this lineup has much to recommend it. In an age when the trophies-for-all mentality is oft derided, we can genuinely regard each of our entries a winner.
11. Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Wagon
Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Wagon  Robb Rice

  A practical wagon with the perfect amount of impracticality. —Ken Kladouris

A wolf that runs errands, Mercedes’s weapons-grade wagon can handily outpace many purpose-built sports cars while hauling a dozen cases of Central California’s finest juice. Though Europe’s best-kept secret is almost unknown in the States, it may be the ultimate combination of high-performance sedan and high-riding SUV. Mercedes-AMG’s unicorn was familiar to a few participants, but most judges were bewildered by the presence of a station wagon in the company of 10 exotics.
Despite preconceptions, many drivers extolled its impressive power and capable handling. “The sheer power and grip of this wagon are astonishing,” said Ken Kladouris, who appreciated it as “a practical wagon with the perfect amount of impracticality.” Najeeb Thomas called out the dual nature of the beast, imagining that Mercedes’s “GL and the Roadster have given birth to the coolest wagon on the road.” Charlotte Rawa sensed its Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, calling it “a cool family truckster on steroids.”
In typical Mercedes-Benz fashion, the interior affords plenty of silver-star luxury but, in this case, pairs it with 64 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded down. Nikki Bass pronounced the entire cabin “spectacular.” With its expansive infotainment panel spread across the dash, Tracy Bilek “loved the full glass screen,” but with all the information and graphics on display, Praveen Sharma thought that “the dash was a bit too colorful.”
A few folks regarded the Affalterbach oddity as an answer to an unasked question. Mike Bilek minced no words, calling it “the ugliest car out there.” But Versha Shah put the car in perspective, referring to it as “the best grocery-getter I have ever driven.”
ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 603 hp0-60 MPH: 3.4 secTOP SPEED: 180 mph, limitedBASE PRICE: $112,450OUR CAR: $141,050

10. Lexus LC 500 Convertible
Lexus LC 500 Convertible  Robb Rice

    Rides like the Rolls-Royce of sports cars. —Burton Young

The LC 500 Convertible takes the lid off and lets the sun in with a shape as elegant as Lexus’s stylish coupe. Even with a price nudging into six-figure territory and plenty of practical power and torque, the Lexus faced tough competitors, some of which were much more powerful and costly. Still, the Lexus’s fit and finish continue to set exceptional standards against which even the most expensive cars are judged.
Burton Young appreciated the comfort, saying the Lexus “rides like the Rolls-Royce of sports cars.” Lexus’s careful attention to top-down airflow management and noise cancellation merited mention by John Kim, who noted the “cushy seats and a quiet cabin for a convertible.” Linda Young also found much to like in its “classy, sporty design,” describing the Lexus as “comfortable on the road, with a simple, clean and sleek interior.” Nicholas Nikolov praised the “great overall comfort, with beautiful interior design.” The Lexus elicited a no-nonsense streak in Donald Barry, who observed, “This car has a very modern interior, a great heads-up display and everything is intuitive. It’s efficient and very good-looking, a tremendous buy for the money.”
If only by comparison to the others, the LC 500 Convertible suffered from its horsepower deficit. Steve Way called it “a little underpowered, maybe.” Sandy Kim acknowledged the “smooth ride” but found it “slow to accelerate.” Duraid Antone noted a “lack of power,” and Candy Antone agreed, saying, “Not enough punch!” Still, some judges considered the Lexus a welcome discovery. Patricia Low called it “the convertible that works in the real world.”
ENGINE: 5.0-liter, naturally aspirated V-8POWER: 471 hp0-60 MPH: 4.6 secTOP SPEED: 168 mph, limitedBASE PRICE: $101,000OUR CAR: $113,320

9. McLaren GT
McLaren GT  Robb Rice

    Catch me if you can. —Adrien Signorello

The British automaker named after late racing great Bruce McLaren has always been a front-runner when participating in our contest—that is, until this year. Its finish near the back of the pack is unprecedented, but then so is this model, the first grand tourer from a marque known for compact supercars with mind-blowing performance and agility—the Cirque du Soleil acrobats of the automotive world. The McLaren GT breaks that mold with an enlarged interior and, purists be damned, space for luggage. The result was the most polarizing vehicle in the field.
For Morgan Maureze, the car made him feel “young and in control of life,” and Carrie Ferry said it “drives like a dream wrapped in a perfect bow… The exterior is gorgeous, and I love that there’s room for shopping.” Another fan, Najeeb Thomas, observed, “This car has as much power as a Category 5 hurricane.” Although the GT’s looks are certainly arresting, its optional motorsport-inspired carbon-ceramic brakes were not, at least for many of the judges. “The brakes were incredibly hard to kick in,” noted Shery Zarnegin, while Duraid Antone lamented, “The brakes felt like I was driving a bumper car at the fair.”
The consensus was that the low-profile coupe didn’t meet lofty expectations.
“Someone put training wheels on my McLaren 720S,” Anthony Ferry complained, a sentiment shared by Kimberly Worsnop, who said it was for “a 12-year-old boy in men’s clothing.” What’s certain is that while the current GT may not measure up to its smaller siblings, room for improvement has been built right in.
ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 612 hp0-60 MPH: 3.1secTOP SPEED: 203 mphBASE PRICE: $210,000OUR CAR: $281,185

8. Audi RS 7 Sportback
Audi RS 7 Sportback  Robb Rice

      For a daily car, it brings a ton of fun and sleek looks to match. —Steven Rogstad

Now into its second generation, Audi’s hot-rod five-door hatch shows German rivals from BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche how to combine blistering performance with incredible versatility. Peter Krauss called the RS 7 “a real beast that gives AMG and [BMW] M class cars a real run and beats them in many aspects.” All-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and adjustable air suspension make the RS 7 handle as well as it accelerates, and optional carbon-ceramic brakes with 22-inch wheels add stopping power and snazz. Versha Shah called it “practical and sophisticated,” but although Phil Garrison said that “the RS 7 delivers a performance-packed package at a reasonable price,” he added, “It didn’t leave a memorable impression.”
Most judges were suitably impressed. Cohiba Cigars ambassador Sean Williams, at over six feet tall, liked the feeling of space, saying, “This is a luxury performance vehicle that a big guy can really appreciate!”
Inside, Audi’s well-reasoned layout and materials are tastefully understated, while twin touchscreens keep everyone entertained and informed. “The tech is awesome,” exclaimed Patricia Davidson. Alexander Sadak focused on those details, observing, “The interior finishes and dual displays are utterly flawless, a command center that pays homage to clean lines and modern textures.” With the rear seats upright, the Sportback still offers 24.6 cubic feet of cargo space, proof that practicality and power are not such odd bedfellows. That fact was not lost on Tim Rogers, who considered the RS 7 “just a good, commonsense choice.” His wife, Twanna, added, “I could buy this car.” Chris Bauer summed it up, saying, “I would love this as a daily driver.”
ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 591 hp0-60 MPH: 3.5 secTOP SPEED: 155 mph / 190 mph with carbon-ceramic brakesBASE PRICE: $114,000OUR CAR: $125,140

7. BMW M8 Gran Coupe
BMW M8 Gran Coupe  Robb Rice

      Because kid seats won’t fit in the Lambo. —Carrie Ferry

A true outlier, BMW’s M8 Gran Coupe would be equally at home pulling out of a racetrack’s pit lane as it is pulling up to the red carpet. Akin to Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, the five-passenger Gran Coupe hides surprising power and ability thanks to its trim and tuning from the German automaker’s M division, responsible for BMW’s motorsport prowess late last century. Most notable is its 600 hp output, roughly the same as the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder.
“It looks so innocent but drives like a beast,” Peter Desforges said, adding, “The guttural sound of the engine when you push the pedal down is nothing short of breathtaking. I actually turned the radio off just so I could listen to it.” And Avrum Elmakis thought that “the value for what you get here is second to none.” The four-door also impressed Versha Shah, who said, “Wow, I forgot I was driving a sedan—an amazing mix of power and polish. There’s nothing to dislike, unless you don’t like having fun.”
Mike Bilek was one of the dissenting voices, however, finding the model to be “the same old BMW look—not much out-of-the-box thinking with its design.” Phil Garrison concurred, noting that “the overall cabin feel lacks sophistication.” Peter Krauss’s opinion came down to market positioning: “The price is a mistake. BMW enters a very crowded space with fierce competition and better brand cachet. Brand snobs looking for the valet’s respect at their favorite restaurant won’t find it.” But perhaps that’s its allure, being inconspicuous to all but a select few who know the truth. Just ask Lois Lane.
ENGINE: 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 600 hp0-60 MPH: 3.1 secTOP SPEED: 155 mph, limited / 190 mph, optional M Driver’s PackageBASE PRICE: $130,000OUR CAR: $154,295

6. Aston Martin Vantage Roadster
Aston Martin Vantage Roadster  Robb Rice

       Stylish, light and fits like a suit. —Vipul Shah

Much like the UK’s royal family, British marque Aston Martin always keeps up appearances, even when there’s chaos behind closed doors. Despite the albatross of financial instability, Aston continues to make cars that fuel aspiration, and its new Vantage Roadster is no exception. The Vantage is the marque’s most accessible model in price point and, with the 3,860-pound convertible, in visceral experience—a small package with far more sportiness than the lineup from Gaydon has shown in some time.
For Everett Robert, the Vantage Roadster is “a real sports car with massive power and a great ride.” The words Linda Young used to describe the vehicle were “fast, elegant and sleek.” Similarly, Suzanne Desforges applauded its “beautiful craftsmanship and strong performance.” Vipul Shah said the car was “stylish, light and fits like a suit,” while Ryan McKay went a step further by calling it a “little baby rocket ship.” Avrum Elmakis raved about the “incredible responsiveness,” and Praveen Sharma was enamored with the twin-turbocharged V-8’s “delightful harmonics.”
But not everyone was smitten. John Kim found the interior “unappealing,” and Patricia Davidson dismissed the tech as “outdated,” a complaint shared by several of the judges. Michael Sisk said the Vantage handled like an “expensive go-kart,” while Michael Steinger deemed it an “upgraded [Mazda] Miata.” When all votes were tallied, the balance of disparate opinions landed the car roughly in the middle of our pack. With its recently announced new leadership and infusion of capital, Aston has a good shot at rising back up our leaderboard next go-round.
ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 503 hp0–60 MPH: 3.7 secTOP SPEED: 190 mphBASE PRICE: $147,000OUR CAR: $199,186

5. Bentley Flying Spur
Bentley Flying Spur  Robb Rice

      The Ritz-Carlton has merged with the Daytona 500! —Najeed Thomas

At once sober, sleek and almost sinister, the Flying Spur is not just new but so refined that it replaces the hallowed Mulsanne as the top sedan in the lineup of extraordinary four-doors from Crewe. “This is a luxury automobile with exceptional power and class,” said Everett Robert. Mark Izydore agreed, bowing to the “effortless power” of the Bentley’s W-12 engine, while also bowing because “the roofline is too short… It’s hard to get into.” He wasn’t alone: Michael Steinger also found ingress and egress challenging but gave the big Bentley his vote for the “smoothest ride with the most power.”

As is Bentley tradition, interior amenities define luxury as few cars on the planet can. Kimberly Worsnop called it “sublime opulence” and “a transformational experience.” Other drivers offered aviation analogies, with Adrien Signorello likening it to “a G6 in air.” Peter Desforges elaborated: “As the name suggests, it’s the closest thing to flying in the competition, with a private-jet interior and an incredibly luxurious ride without losing the feel of the road.” Patricia Low called it a “New York–to–Palm Beach express,” adding that “the ride is smooth and the interior is magnificent.” So much so that Stuart Winston quipped, “I want to move in.”
Notable, too, was the Naim for Bentley audio system, which struck a note with Avrum Elmakis, who called it “incredibly well done.” Ryan McKay said the Bentley would be “the perfect road-trip car for you and your hedge-fund buddies.” Moti Ferder was succinct, calling the Flying Spur “perfection,” and Tim Rogers gave it first place, opining, “This is the winner of Car of the Year.”
ENGINE: 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12POWER: 634 hp0–60 MPH: 3.7 secTOP SPEED: 207 mphBASE PRICE: $216,700OUR CAR: $270,860

4. Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster
Mercedes-AMG-GT-R-Roadster  Robb Rice

      Be prepared for blastoff. —Ricky DeCastro

When you’re behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster, it’s hard not to feel like racing icons Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio as they piloted their Mercedes-Benz 300 SLRs to a record-setting first-place finish and a second-place finish, respectively, in the 1955 Mille Miglia. After all, the GT R shares some of the remarkable DNA of its predecessor, including the outstretched hood and ability to wring every iota of performance from the eight cylinders on hand. With the addition of more than a couple hundred horsepower, the current incarnation pays tribute to the German manufacturer’s past and present motorsport accomplishments in a street-legal convertible that kept many judges smiling as wide as its grille.
“The pickup, torque and roar of the engine are spectacular,” said Morgan Maureze. Perhaps that’s why Ken Kladouris noted, “The exhaust’s ‘crackle’ and ‘pop’ on downshifts induce sinister laughter, and the blistering acceleration and handling will take you right to the edge. It’s an attack missile ready to fire—the best Mercedes-AMG GT to date.” For Patricia Low, the bottom line was simply that “it delivers on its promise.”

Despite the GT R’s aggressive aesthetic, the model came across as overengineered to some. “The excitement has been refined out of this car,” Donald Barry lamented. “It’s a wonderful flavor of vanilla.” A similar assessment came from Mark Izydore: “It does everything well, but that doesn’t make it fun to drive.” And John Kim thought the “transmission was sometimes jerky.” Admittedly, not all voters were unbiased. Nikki Bass couldn’t get past a case of sour grapes: “If Mercedes wasn’t killing Ferrari and everybody else in Formula 1, I might like it more.”
ENGINE: 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 577 hp0–60 MPH: 3.5 secTOP SPEED: 197 mphBASE PRICE: $189,750OUR CAR: $216,240

3. Ferrari Roma
Ferrari Roma  Robb Rice

         Ferrari gave us a new car that looks fresh while still maintaining its heritage. —Mark Izydore

The Ferrari Roma aims to be what Maranello’s carmaker calls La Nuova Dolce Vita (The New Sweet Life), a contemporary take on the era when Rome exercised a global influence on art, music, fashion and film. In the views of most judges, it hits the mark. Alexander Sadak called the Roma “the epitome of Italian sexiness.” “It’s a super-elegant Ferrari,” said Steven Rogstad. “It’s a car that’s fun to be seen in, but even more fun not to be seen in—find your remote, windy roads and unwind.” And Linda Young called the Roma “gorgeous, fast and powerful.”
For Nicholas Nikolov, the Roma offered the best of everything, with “beauty and exceptional performance all in one. This car has amazing handling and the power to match it. You can drive in comfort every day during the week and go crazy having fun with it on the weekends.” Anthony Ferry found it “so easy to drive—very approachable and not intimidating at all—with lightning-fast shifts.” Peter Krauss discovered plenty to like as well, saying, “Ferrari has built a solid, sexy daily GT with an amazing, award-winning engine and the best Ferrari transmission I have ever experienced,” thanks to the new eight-speed gearbox taken from the SF90 Stradale. The cosseting cabin made the Roma an attractive Italian soul mate for Carrie Ferry, who called it a “sexy beast! Seriously, I love this car.” Ken Kladouris put first things first: “Ferrari just redefined the GT with the perfect fusion of exotic and luxury. I’m six-foot-four and I fit!”
ENGINE: 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8POWER: 611 hp0–62 MPH: 3.4 secTOP SPEED: 199 mphBASE PRICE: $218,670OUR CAR: $316,240

1. Rolls-Royce Ghost (Luxury Car of the Year)
Rolls-Royce Ghost  Robb Rice

          It’s like driving your living room, really fast. —Donald Barry

In the world of sports, game changers are those who possess a combination of effortless power, unique style and nimble athleticism that redefines expectations and perceptions—think Serena Williams and Simone Biles. This year, the automotive arena has such a player, the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost. With the latest iteration of its most commercially successful model, the baronial automaker has given the sedan paradigm not just a shift but a real shove.
As judges took into account the directive to evaluate each vehicle based on the respective manufacturer’s goal for its development, Rolls-Royce vaulted over its own high bar and decisively grabbed top honors in a category it essentially created 116 years ago. With the marque’s aluminum spaceframe platform, a new all-wheel-drive configuration and all-wheel steering, the enigmatic Ghost turned the majority of evaluators into true believers.
“This is a gorgeous automobile with deceptive power,” Everett Robert raved. “It’s like riding a cloud in front of a jet engine.” Anthony Ferry opined that “there is no higher level of luxury” and noted, “The acceleration is insanely smooth—it whispers its way up with zero drama.” Or as Donald Barry put it, “It’s like driving your living room, really fast.” Timothy Bass said he “loved everything about this car,” which coincides with Amy Way’s proclamation: “It’s the most comfortable car I’ve ever driven.” And Phil Garrison said, “The Ghost surprised me at every turn. The biggest surprise was that I didn’t want to get out of the driver’s seat.”
Many judges left empty spaces on their ballots when it came to criticism of the Ghost, but Stuart Winston ventured that Rolls “needs to move the massage button,” and Kimberly Worsnop complained that “it doesn’t come equipped with heated slippers.” So, obviously, there are still a few bugs to work out.
ENGINE: 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V-12POWER: 563 hp0–60 MPH: 4.8 secTOP SPEED: 155 mph, limitedBASE PRICE: $332,500OUR CAR: $428,250

1. Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder (Sports Car of the Year)
Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder  Robb Rice

    If you enjoy driving, you’d be in love.—Nicholas Nikolov

In the decades after its founding in 1963, Automobili Lamborghini was burdened by the perception that it built muscular but gaudy machines for equally brash owners. It’s a stigma from which the automaker now consciously distances itself with each increasingly sophisticated model, the Huracán Evo RWD Spyder among the latest. A variant of 2020’s winner, it maintains the latter’s super-processor that predicts driver response and re-adjusts accordingly, but it has a rear-wheel-drive configuration that presents a different specimen altogether, one with the same refined engineering but a lot more leash.
“Its aggressive exterior lines match the controlled chaos of its performance,” said Alexander Sadak. For Chris Bauer, driving the Evo RWD Spyder was “the closest thing to being a fighter pilot,” and Duraid Antone loved the way it “hugs the road and never lets it go.” Versatility was the clincher for Suzanne Desforges, who observed, “In Strada mode, it works well for daily driving, and in other modes it’s an exceptional race car.” Her husband, Peter, was more emphatic: “OMG—that pretty much says it all… It turns every road into a track, even driving the speed limit.”
Not everyone, though, was ready for the open-air Evo’s race-inspired dynamics. “I felt every pebble on the road,” Praveen Sharma complained, while Michael Steinger admitted that he actually found it “sometimes a little too fast,” referring to how quickly and effortlessly the speedometer advances. Ergonomics proved to be another concern. Burton Young said it’s “hard to get in and out of,” and Nikki Bass found it difficult “for a short person to see out the back window.” Acknowledging that image is still an issue, Timothy Bass said: “Great car, but I don’t think I would buy one just based on Lamborghini’s stereotype.”
But Charlotte Rawa was sold: “As I slipped behind the wheel, the goose bumps emerged… This car is an exhilarating, mind-altering bundle of perfection.” Now, that’s a reputation to build on.
ENGINE: 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-10POWER: 602 hp0–62 MPH: 3.5 secTOP SPEED: 201 mphBASE PRICE: $229,428OUR PRICE: $288,183

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