Auto show sports cars: Brute force takes over


The 2015 Detroit show was a mid-engine sports car lover’s dream with the remade Acura NSX and Alfa 4C strutting their stuff. This year belongs to the front-engine ground thumpers. If you don’t have at least 500 horsepower, then you’d better go back to the pharmacist for more steroids. Porsche sports its first 200-plus mph 911 Turbo. Not to be outdone, Bob Lutz’s Made in Detroit VFL Force 1 will go 218. With power comes status, and these sleds are stuffed with interior comforts.

Infiniti Q60

Infiniti Q60

What it is: The Q60 coupe gets a sexy makeover to take on formidable rivals like the supermodel Audi A5 and thrilling BMW M4. Adapting the muscular design language of the head-turning Q50 sedan, the Q60 also gets plenty of muscle under the hood with a new, twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6.

Payne’s take: Infiniti’s coupe got lost in the brand’s recent badge shuffle. The G37 got a new name — but the same ol’ hardware. Now with a new look and name to go with engineering input from champion Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel, the big Q-ship looks to reclaim its place among the finest premium sports coupes on the planet.

Lexus LC 500

Lexus LC500 Coupe

What it is: Lexus hasn’t had a six-figure halo sports car since the head-turning, limited-production LFA. The edgy LC500 fills the hole and then some. Promised for volume production, the coupe gets the same 5.0-liter V-8 as the RC F sports car. This being Lexus, a hybrid version will be available as well.

Payne’s take: Love it or hate it, Lexus’ “Darth Vader” face has changed the conversation about the once-vanilla brand. The LC500 continues CEO Akio Toyoda’s quest to make the brand more emotionally appealing without compromising its bulletproof quality reputation.

Mercedes-Benz SLC 300

Mercedes SLC Coupe

What it is: The SLK becomes the SLC. Mercedes’ C-class-based roadster comes in SLC300 and SLC43 trims, with the latter hiding a 363-horsepower turbo V-6 under the skin. Sweet. Like the Chevy Corvette or Porsche Boxster, the SLC’s auto top can be retracted while traveling up to 25 mph.

Payne’s take: The more roadsters the merrier. Like the 2016 Car of the Year Finalist Mazda Miata, the SLC is about pure driving pleasure — but for double the price. The Miata is direct, simple. The Mercedes lives up to its luxury three-star badge with an array of safety-assist and infotainment options.

Mercedes-Benz S 65

Mercedes-AMG S65 Cabriolet

What it is: Drink it in. Mercedes’ top-of-the-line S-class coupe gets a microfiber-lined, three-layer fabric top (get it in blue, red, beige and black) to show off perhaps the most beautiful coupe bod on the planet. Slip into leather, diamond-pattern stitched seats, drop the auto top (in 17 seconds) and drink in the the symphony of a twin-turbo V-12 pumping out 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque.

Payne’s take: The ultimate Mercedes Woodward Dreamcruiser.

Porsche 911 Turbo S

Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S

What it is: The family scion, the 911 Turbo combines the classic 911 shape with teeth-clenching power. Power like 0-60 in 2.9 seconds — 2.8 for the S. Power is up to 580 horsepower in the 3.8-liter sixes thanks to turbocharging. For the first time, the S eclipses 200 mph at an adrenaline-pumping 205. Typical of Porsche, upgrades are evolutionary not revolutionary as the exterior gets three-dimensional taillights and a chrome-tipped exhaust. Inside, Porsche actually catches up (to Chevy and Honda, ahem) with smartphone app capability.

Payne’s take: Porsche’s alpha male for the alpha male.

VLF Force 1

VLF Force 1

What it is: Detroit muscle-car icon “Maximum Bob” Lutz brings Henrik Fisker to the team to make a coupe to go with VLF’s Corvette-powered, 638-horsepower Destino sedan. The Force 1 poaches a Dodge Viper from Chrysler’s Connor Avenue plant, hauls it to Auburn Hills for a Fisker carbon-fiber and — voila!, a 745-horsepower, $270k super car.

Payne’s take: Beauty and the beast. One of the industry’s most acclaimed designers rebodies the wicked Viper. Check out the expensive, bespoke LED head and taillights — the narrowest in the industry.