Power isn’t everything, however, and the final three cars authoritative the cut this year did so on the affection of their anatomy rather than the achievement of their engines—though with 306 hp from aloof 2.0 liters, the turbocharged four-banger beneath the awning of the Honda Civic Type R has the fifth-highest specific achievement of this year’s field. Joining the Type R are Kia’s Stinger GT, whose address had afflicted us during aftermost year’s COTY evaluations, and Mazda’s MX-5, aback with a 17-percent addition in adeptness and added detail tweaks.
Why no Ford GT? Of advance we asked, and Dearborn initially agreed to accelerate one of its low-slung, 647-hp supercars. But two weeks afore we were due to alpha testing, Ford aback pulled the car, for affidavit the PR administration requested we not accomplish public. Accelerate your emails to Ford Motor Company. Maybe they’ll acquaint you why one of the best agitative driver’s cars anytime to backpack the Blue Oval wasn’t at BDC.
As usual, BDC opens on Avenue 198 in the sun-bleached hills of Central California. Our 4.2-mile analysis section, bankrupt to cartage by the California Highway Patrol, allows board to appraise the contenders on a real-world road, admitting in closed-course safety. Climbing about 1,000 anxiety and bridge the San Andreas Accountability en avenue to a turnaround point at the top of the hill, it’s a adorable admixture of quick corners and mid-pace sweepers (if triple-digit speeds can be counted as “mid-pace”), with humps and heaves that analysis the banned of abeyance travel, shock tuning, and anatomy balance. The decline run puts a altered set of amaranthine through the anatomy and a spotlight on braking, stability, and council precision.
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Route 198 consistently throws us some abrupt moments. The monstrously fast 911 GT2 RS causes aciculate intakes of animation for some board aback they access at corners with a board anchor pedal and no assurance of retardation. The culprit turns out to be the ultra-stiff activity ambience for the shocks: It’s calibrated actually for clue work, and application it on aflutter Avenue 198 agency the Porsche’s advanced auto can be in the air at a analytical braking point, causing acute ABS intervention. “Hated this car on the way bottomward the hill!” Frank Markus gripes as his advance amount allotment to normal.
There are aberrant glances at the Corvette, too. Anybody loves the Herculean supercharged V-8 beneath the hood, its barbaric adeptness accompanied by a agitable bank of sound. But no one loves the chassis. The massive brakes booty the ZR1 bottomward from boundless velocities with airy ease, and the hyper-aggressive turn-in acknowledgment is backed up by absorbing front-end grip. Afterwards that, it all avalanche apart, the rear arbor declining to accommodate abutment on bend access or absorption on bend exit. The big ‘Vette is a tail-happy handful. We had all apparent the footage of GM artefact development bang-up Mark Reuss accidentally looping a ZR1 into the bank while pacing the Detroit Grand Prix. Now we accepted how calmly that could happen. “The ZR1 needs to appear with admonishing labels,” Ed Loh mutters.
The Audi TT RS seems quick and has that characteristic five-cylinder bombinate that has authentic achievement Audis aback the aboriginal Quattro Coupe. But the abeyance lacks biking and feels underdamped, abrogation the little auto bucking and bouncing its way up Avenue 198. “A tad disconcerting,” Erick Ayapana notes.
Thanks to the super-sticky Michelin Pilot Activity Cup 2 tires that appear with the Achievement Pack 2, the Mustang GT has a ton of automated grip. But it feels clumsier and beneath composed than the Chevy Camaro SS 1LE that afflicted us so abundant in 2016. “It’s adamantine to accept a lot of aplomb in this car,” Mark Rechtin grimaces.
There are affable surprises, though, like the Aston Martin Vantage. “It’s alluring to drive the Vantage on U.S. anchorage afterwards Jonny Lieberman and I approved it in Scotland,” Jethro Bovingdon says. “Over there it seemed a complete monster—wide, stiff, and consistently shouting at you to drive faster. On 198, it’s altered but no beneath engaging. The able vibe is one of effortless control, and the car hums with feedback.”
Although at actually altered ends of the BDC spectrum, the McLaren 720S and Mazda MX-5 accomplish as expected. Those of us advantageous abundant to accept spent time in the 720S advanced knew the big Mac’s amaranthine billow of acceleration, cautiously abundant steering, outstanding brakes, and appreciably chatty ride would affect first-timers. And the MX-5 did what Miatas accept consistently done best: activity one of the purest active adventures you can get, at any price.
Honda’s Civic Type R is addition army pleaser, and not aloof because of its arresting agent and complete gearshift. At $35,595, it’s the second-cheapest car in this year’s shootout (just a brace hundred dollars added than the Miata), but the anatomy feels like a actor bucks on Avenue 198. Tremendous front-end anchor is complemented by a rear end that advance faithfully, behindhand of burke activity and alley surface. “Incredibly able and assured and accessible to drive fast,” Scott Evans gushes.
BMWs accept underwhelmed us recently, so not abounding editors accepted the new-generation BMW M5 to feel so calmly fast and chiefly composed. The agent is awfully good, a 600-hp adamant anchor captivated in a clover glove. Absorption and anatomy antithesis are agitating for a big, abundant sedan. The council is beeline and constant admitting still defective the adorable tactility that already authentic Munich’s best activity sedans. “It’s a ancestors car and a sports car at the aforementioned time,” Miguel Cortina smiles.
Kia’s Stinger GT and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio additionally win hearts, because both beat our expectations. “Beneath the hardly soft-edged responses is a anatomy of complete antithesis and a subtle, nuanced delivery,” Jethro addendum afterwards dispatch out of the Kia. Chris swoons as he exits the Alfa, afflicted by its animating twin-turbo V-6, sure-footed chassis, and aciculate steering. “Wow! Way bigger than I had anytime hoped it would be.”
Jonny had been adage for months that the Lamborghini Huracan Performante was a supercar to battling Ferrari’s 488—last year’s BDC winner—and the McLaren 720S. Those of us who hadn’t apprenticed it were skeptical. Flashy, loud Lamborghinis accept tended to overpromise and underdeliver; the Aventador’s aftermost abode in 2012 is a case in point.
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A thigh-high block of weapons-grade machismo, the Huracan Performante turns active wherever it’s parked. The aboriginal few turns on Avenue 198 acknowledge actuality abaft the showmanship—superb council precision, immense braking capability, biggy cornering grip, admirable anatomy balance, and agitating traction. Randy speaks for us all afterwards casting the shrieking Lambo up the acropolis and back: “This car makes you into a god. You aloof get in and you drive like Ayrton Senna.”
Over a sun-blasted roadside cafeteria from our admired Tacos La Potranca De Jalisco and banquet at The Cork & Plough in Baron City, we barter acclaim and snark as we rank the contenders afterwards our Avenue 198 analysis session. There’s angry altercation over whether the Porsche was bigger than the McLaren and whether the Aston and Honda actually adapted to be ranked as awful as some thought. And what wasan SUV accomplishing here?
But there was about accepted accord as to which car should top the list: The Lamborghini would arch to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca as the arch adversary for the 2018 Best Driver’s Car crown.
Laguna Seca is area Randy shines. He’s hot-lapped every Best Driver’s Car adversary for the able nine shootouts, carrying not alone a criterion lap time but additionally abridged annotation on how anniversary car acquainted at the limit. Randy’s congenital aptitude is an adeptness to get the best out of a car from the get-go, generally extracting its quickest time on his aboriginal aerial lap.
He’s additionally appreciably consistent. If Randy’s times achromatize on consecutive laps, it’s because of annoy degradation, anchor fade, or a fasten in assimilation temperatures causing the agent to cull power.
Motor Trend accordingly has a different abstracts set at its disposal: lap times for added than 120 achievement cars, set by the aforementioned disciplinarian on the aforementioned clue application the aforementioned methodology. The change of achievement can be tracked appropriate here.
Over the years we’ve relied on the talents of our centralized Gyro Gearloose, testing administrator Kim Reynolds, to actualize and body a multitiered Racelogic Vbox arrangement that captures not alone lap times but additionally key abstracts credibility that advice us accept actually how a BDC adversary behaves during the lap, which enables us to associate cold advice with Randy’s abstract commentary. But for 2018, Kim’s triple-redundancy bureaucracy has been aggrandized with the aboriginal Vantage CL1 data-logging arrangement from Racepak.
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Racepak’s CL1 multichannel abstracts accretion assemblage receives abstracts anon from a vehicle’s OBD II anchorage (including agent revs, coolant temperature, and burke position) and merges it with any alien channels you choose, additional its own awful authentic accelerometer and GPS abstracts (including mph). Again it’s Bluetoothed to (and stored in) a windshield-mounted iPhone so Randy can see, real-time, his acceleration and how abundant he’s advanced or abaft his best antecedent lap on its display. Simultaneously, the app sends the data, via corpuscle connection, to a server in Phoenix, area the advice is rendered into cartoon and overlaid assimilate a swipeable and rotatable clue map. Racepak admiral Tim Anderson says the awful automatic clear interface allows aggregation associates to watch, as it happens, a car’s achievement from anywhere in the world.
Randy will alpha Day 1 with the all-wheel-drive cars and lower-powered contenders. For Day 2, he’ll accessible with the big dogs: “I appetite to do those aback I’m sharp.” Those cars that charge it will be fueled with 101 octane beeline from the pump at Laguna Seca—normal convenance amid clue day mavens. Several manufacturers accept beatific abutment teams to admonish optimum settings for suspension, transmission, and adherence ascendancy and to adviser tires and annoy pressures.
First out is the TT RS, and Randy is afraid to apprentice the analgesic Audi’s best lap of 1:39.95 was a tenth quicker than that of the emotionally arresting Porsche 718 Cayman S he collection aftermost year. “It’s quick for its admeasurement and power,” he says, “but the acceleration does not construe into disciplinarian satisfaction.” Afterwards disappointment, delight: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s best lap of 1:43.50 is about 0.3 additional quicker than the one Randy acquaint in the ultra-light mid-engine Alfa 4C sports car in 2015. “Its achievement is actually amazing,” he says, grinning.
Randy reckons his third car of the day, the Honda Civic Type R, to be one of the finest branch front-drive cars he’s anytime driven. He loves the little turbo motor’s admiration to rev and the bendability of the chassis, admitting for clue assignment 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, advance the antecedent champ, the 2008 Chevy Cobalt SS, by a whopping 3.5 seconds.
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Laguna Seca is a adeptness circuit, and with added ponies beneath the hood, the 2019 MX-5 is 2.2 abnormal faster than the Miata Randy lapped in BDC 2016. But what the Mazda has acquired in speed, it’s conceivably absent in poise. As with all ND models, the 2019 still has too abundant cycle oversteer.
Although it’s abundant happier on the bland apparent of Laguna Seca than on inclement Avenue 198, anatomy antithesis is additionally an affair with the Ford Mustang GT, which Randy begin oversteered to a accountability on bend entry. The Achievement Pack 2 is advised to get the Mustang GT on par with a 1LE-equipped Camaro SS, but the Racepak abstracts reveals the barbarous truth: Despite a 1:38.42 lap time that fabricated it the second-quickest Mustang anytime about Laguna Seca, it’s still 0.65 additional slower than the Chevy.
Randy admired the Aston Martin Vantage on Avenue 198, baronial it in his top three. But actuality at Laguna Seca he’s annoyed by a beat on bend access and a abridgement of absorption on bend exit. Puzzled at the Vantage’s abrupt abatement from grace, Aston Martin dynamics architect Ian Hartley suggests alteration the shock approach from Clue to Activity and switching tires from the beginning set adapted that morning aback to the ones acclimated on Avenue 198. That doesn’t breach the absorption problem, but it tames the beat a little, carrying a lap time identical to the Mustang’s.
Randy beams as he accomplish out of the chaste BMW M5. “So good, so balanced,” he gushes. The quickest and fastest non-electric auto over the division mile we’ve anytime tested, the M5 backed up its favorable assuming on Avenue 198 with a arch achievement on the track. Its 1:39.81 lap time is the third fastest set by a auto in BDC history, baffled alone by the lighter, added active Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (2017) and the lighter, added able Cadillac CTS-V auto (2016).
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As we access for Day 2 at Laguna Seca, the morning air is still and cool, with a adumbration of moisture—perfect acclimate for big-lunged, big-horsepower engines. Although the big dogs would be the focus of attention, the Kia Stinger additionally gets its adventitious on the clue today, and the admirable antithesis of its anatomy would acutely affect Randy en avenue to a 1:46.16 lap time. (That’s a additional quicker than a 2015 Subaru WRX STI, afore you alpha hurling, “How appear ?” blame 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 bankrupt agenda doesn’t breach the Laguna Seca babble limit. (We try to be acceptable neighbors.) His aboriginal aerial lap is a 1:33.20, and the Chevy guys frown—it’s over a tenth off the Z06’s best lap actuality in 2016, and that car had 105 beneath ponies. Aing lap is better, a 1:32.46, downforce from the big addition acceptance Randy to authority the Corvette collapsed over the acme at Turn 1, hitting 141 mph, according to our Vbox data.
The ZR1 is the fastest assembly Corvette to lap Laguna Seca. But it’s still 0.8 additional slower than aftermost year’s BDC champ, the Ferrari 488 GTB, and 2.0 abnormal slower than the Dodge Viper ACR activated in 2016. The botheration is the abridgement of rear-end grip. Randy loves the boss agent and the hand-of-God adherence through fast corners from the ZTK package’s aerial wing. But he aloof can’t get the big ‘Vette to angle up advancing out of apathetic turns. “I accept to aloof cycle that adeptness in,” he s.
Just how abundant that abridgement of absorption bedfast the ZR1 is fabricated apparent aback Randy hits a amazing 154.67 mph over the acme at Turn 1 on his aboriginal aerial lap in the McLaren 720S. Best of the acceleration cogwheel is bottomward to the McLaren’s aloft drive out of the 90-degree larboard of Turn 11; although the 720S is 500 pounds lighter than the ZR1, the power-to-weight arrangement of both cars is about identical.
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The McLaren’s aboriginal aerial lap is a 1:30.62, and to prove it was no fluke, the aing time about is aloof .07 additional slower. Randy drops addition three-tenths on the third lap, and the McLaren technicians army about the rear of the antagonism orange 720S aback it returns. Those three laps had additional the rear annoy pressures to 36 psi, able-bodied aloft the 32 psi at which the 720S works best. So we air bottomward the McLaren to 29 psi and set the capricious alluvion ascendancy a added two clicks abroad from the “off” ambience afore Randy active out again.
His consecutive record-breaking 1:29.78 lap is about a additional quicker than his best time in the 904-hp McLaren P1, set during the 2015 Arch 2 Arch analysis adjoin the Porsche 918. This surprises Randy, who anticipation the lap was a awkward affair; he’d spent the able time busily alive abaft the caster to acquisition the antithesis amid 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 acme at Turn 1 at the alpha of the lap, but the Racepak traces accept apparent consistently college midcorner and bend avenue speeds—5 to 10 mph higher. Area the McLaren had been a accelerated high-wire act, consistently dancing about the track, the Porsche stays buried and absorbed up.
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There are gasps of atheism aback the alarm stops: 1:28.30. It’s the fastest lap anytime recorded at Laguna Seca by a street-legal assembly car on street-legal tires, 0.35 additional quicker than the complete almanac Randy set in the quasi-race Viper ACR for a Dodge PR achievement in 2016. And the ber-911 did it easily. “It’s balanced, alive all the way through the corner, appropriate on the bend of the best grip,” Randy enthuses.
The Lamborghini still hasn’t run, but branch analysis disciplinarian Davide Conforte already has conceded aloof rights to Porsche and McLaren. “They accept added horsepower,” he shrugs. However, anybody aggregate about the Racepak adviser knows the Hurac n Performante still has a complete attempt at the 2018 BDC title. Randy’s acknowledgment will be crucial.
The Lambo’s aboriginal aerial lap stops the alarm at 1:30.00. And with that, BDC 2018 is one for the almanac books: The three quickest laps in the history of the antagonism accept been set in a distinct morning.
Randy’s additional lap in the Huracan is 1.3 abnormal slower, however, and as he watches time blooper abroad on the Racepak affectation in the cockpit, he decides to pit early. “I anticipate the tires gave us some magic, and again 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, accept zoomed to 40.
Because the Lamborghini has alert burst the babble complete and a third bang would bind the car to 30 mph on the track, we adjudge to about-face to the quieter activity of filming and photography afore we try a final hot lap after in the day. By then, though, with the clue temperature up, the abracadabra is gone for good, and a 1:31.00 is all Randy can manage. Still, that’s about seven-tenths quicker than the Ferrari 488’s best time aftermost year. (To watch Randy’s hot laps, go to MotorTrendOnDemand.com.)
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Would finishing third on the clue be abundant for the Huracan to accumulate its branch aloft the rankings, accustomed its untouchable accomplishment on Avenue 198? Could the sly McLaren be a darkhorse? Would the Porsche’s rocket achievement at Laguna advice it grab the title? We accumulate in a pit row apartment to argue over the finishing order.
The qualities we admired in the Huracan Performante on Avenue 198 still shone blithely at Laguna Seca. “It’s aloof actually a admirable thing,” Randy smiles. “It would oversteer a little bit, but again it aloof backward there, a assured adeptness oversteer that I enjoyed. And that bankrupt note! It sounds like a antagonism car!” His alone : a abridgement of antecedent chaw from the brakes. Added Jethro: “A absolute advance on the senses, the absolute supercar experience.”
And that is the aspect of the Huracan Performante: the affecting caliber that put it aloof advanced of the acknowledged baron of Laguna Seca, the awfully able Porsche 911 GT2 RS, which abashed some board on Avenue 198. This Lambo allows drivers of all abilities to bacchanal in that acquaintance while confidently exploring and accretion the limits—its, and theirs. And that’s what makes the flamboyant, operatic, acquiescently Italian Lamborghini Huracan Performante our 2018 Best Driver’s Car.
Want EVEN MORE from 2018 Best Driver’s Car? See the cars in activity appropriate here.
More 2018 Best Driver’s Car Contenders and Winner:
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