Supercars from household names

Peter Valdes-Dapena
July 10, 2012


Sometimes, carmakers known for more normal vehicles feel the need to reach for supercar greatness.

Nissan GT-R

Price: $96,820
Engine: 545-hp twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6

When you think about ultra-high-performance cars, you usually think of brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren. But brands like Chevrolet and Nissan are also playing in the supercar realm, as are luxury brands like Acura and Lexus, which are not usually known for extreme sports cars.

A prime example is the Nissan GT-R which, for the 2013 model year, has a hand-built 585-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 powering all four wheels. At a recent racetrack event, the GT-R showed itself still capable of handling what might otherwise be white-knuckle cornering speeds with the ease of a jaunt to the corner store.

The GT-R's price tag pushes very close to six figures, more twice as much as Nissan's next-priciest car, the 370Z Touring Roadster. But the automaker still makes the case that it's a value proposition fitting for the brand.

"When you compare it to a [Lamborghini] Gallardo or an [Ferrari] 458, it's a bargain," said Carl Phillips who heads GT-R marketing in the U.S.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Price: $111,600
Engine: Supercharged 638-hp 6.2-liter V-8

Corvette has been Chevy's performance halo-car for decades but GM upped the ante in the 2009 model year with the ZR1. Under the hood is a supercharged 6.2-liter 638 horsepower V-8 working with an improved version of the Corvette's already excellent chassis and suspension set up. It's a surprisingly nice car to drive for something so potent.

Sadly, all that excellence wrapped in some unfortunate old-school GM cheapness. The interior is barely different from the $50,000 base 'Vette. And that cool window in the hood that lets everyone see your awesome supercharger? Actually, they're seeing a painted plastic engine cover. That's just embarrassing.

An entirely new version of the Corvette is expected for the 2014 model year. A new ZR1 -- assuming there is to be another -- probably wouldn't be ready for at least a couple of years after that.

SRT Viper

Price: N/A
Engine: 640-hp 8.4-liter V-10

It used to be called the Dodge Viper but, with its reintroduction, it's now an SRT product. SRT is Chrysler Group's performance brand, usually responsible for creating performance-tuned versions of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

The new Viper's 640 horsepower will come from a massive 8.4-liter V-10 engine. This time around the Viper will have electronic stability control. That might ruffle hard-core Viper purists who relish mastering this famously hard-to-handle car but, sorry guys, it's now required by law. Still, with that much power going to just the rear wheels, it's unlikely the Viper will suddenly become a house pet.

The new Viper should go on sale by the end of this year. Chrysler has not announced its price yet.

Lexus LFA

Price: $375,000
Engine: 552-hp 4.8-liter V-10

Lexus rightfully ranks among the world's genuine luxury brands, but selling a performance supercar at this price is something else altogether. First of all, it's nearly quadruple the price of the next most expensive Lexus. Beyond that, Lexus is far better known for giving buyers a quiet, gentle ride than for awesome racetrack performance.

Of course, that's part of the point here. Lexus, which now has an "F" performance line, wants to let the world know what its engineers can really do when they set their minds to it. Provided you give them enough money, that is. The over-the-top expense pays for scads of expensive carbon fiber in the body and a big powerful, hand-built engine.

If you want to pony up and buy one, you're probably too late. Lexus only promised to build 500 and all the ones eligible for the sale in the U.S. have been spoken for. Rumor has it that a second generation may be on the way, but Toyota's not confirming any such plans.

Audi R8 V-10

Price: $196,800
Engine: 525-horsepower 5.2-liter V-10

The Volkswagen Group has a number of luxury brands under its umbrella. From the costliest on down, there's Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche (to be fully absorbed next month) and, finally, Audi.

For those who didn't already know that Audi and Lamborghini are related, the R8 drives the message home. The available 525-horsepower 5.2-liter V-10 engine is the same as that used in the Lamborghini Gallardo

While V10 R8 prices start at about $150,000 , if you want the ultimate in Audi performance you'll be pushing closer to $200,000 for the 560 horsepower R8 GT. Add about $10,000 if you want the convertible.

The R8 is a friendlier car for day-to-day street driving than the Gallardo while also being, arguably, handsomer. From a design standpoint, it fits well into the Audi brand while drawing some attention to the extended family.

Acura NSX

Price: N/A
Engine: V-6 plus two electric motors

The NSX isn't in production but it will be in just a few a years. This hi-tech all-wheel-drive V6-powered hybrid supercar is being developed in Ohio where it will also be built beginning some time in 2015.

For now, the specifications are rather sparse. No word on total horsepower or performance, yet. What we do know is that it will powered by a V-6 engine and will have three electric motors, including one for each front wheel.

There's no word on pricing for the car -- such announcements rarely come very long before a car goes on sale -- but the technology package fits in nicely with Acura's image as an environmentally-concerned tech-heavy car brand.