There is always plenty to marvel at when attending the Salon Privé and the 2014 show was no exception to this rule. So much to see and so little time, perhaps the solution is take it in chunks rather than, python-like, try and swallow it all in one go. Salon Privé can lay claim to having many fine cars on display and their HyperCar collection was second to none.
So what is a HyperCar and what distinguishes it from a mere SuperCar? The question fits neatly into the 'How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?' category. The answer? That's the difficult bit. Just as everyone else I cannot give a definitive definition, but that doesn't prevent me from trying. There are certain elements that are common to the cars usually associated with this category, so perhaps defining those qualities will bring us to a closer understanding (or maybe just to the realisation that this is all just marketing bull!)
Elements such as exclusivity, more power than the US Nuclear Arsenal, a stratospheric price, style, glamour and a bad boy swagger that positively sneers, "No, YOU will never drive the likes of me". All of which qualities sets these rarities apart from the rest of the motoring kingdom.
Nevertheless these fantasy cars hold our attention, like a rock god, a flim star or some other remote fashion icon.
So what was on display, sitting on the lawn of the Duke of Northumberland's London residence? Numerically it was the LaFerrari on top, with 6% of the 499 production run on view at the Salon Privé on Friday. This striking green example is part the car collection of Jay Kay who fronts the popular beat combo, Jamiroquai.
Obviously this Jazz-Funk malarkey pays well, as this is no ordinary car, at over £1 million a pop it had better not be. The recently deposed Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo, put it like this. “We chose to call this model LaFerrari, because it is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence. Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving. Aimed at our collectors, this is a truly extraordinary car which encompasses advanced solutions that, in the future, will find their way onto the rest of the range, and it represents the benchmark for the entire automotive industry. LaFerrari is the finest expression of our company’s unique, unparalleled engineering and design know-how, including that acquired in Formula 1."
Formula One technology is prominent in the LaFerrari with the HY-KERS system that reduces fuel consumption by a claimed 40%. This energy recovery system is mated to a V12 powerplant that pushes out a claimed total of 950bhp. The all carbon fibre chassis makes major improvements over the fearsome Ferrari Enzo in terms of stiffness and torsional rigidity, it is state of the art by any standards. Of course mere money is not enough for one to be allowed to purchase one of these machines, ownership of at least FIVE previous Ferrari models was a basic minimum qualification. It is also been made abundantly clear that selling on the LaFerrari in the first year or two of ownership would be seen in a very poor light at Maranello, probably ensuring that you would get dropped off the list for the next exciting toy. As F. Scott FitzGerald put it, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." That applies to Ferrari too...and probably all the HyperCars.
Another HyperCar inspired in part by Formula One technology and the search for performance regardless of budget, the McLaren P1, was also to be found at Salon Privé. Ron Dennis, Chairman of McLaren Automotive, claims that the P1 is the spiritual successor to the fabulous F1, from 20 years ago. ‘McLaren introduced the carbon fibre chassis to the world of Formula 1 in 1981 with the MP4/1, and we had the first carbon road car. We have always been at the cutting edge of vehicle aerodynamics, and all of this experience has gone into the McLaren P1. Twenty years ago, with the McLaren F1, we raised the supercar performance bar. With the McLaren P1, we have redefined it once more.’ SuperCar? HyperCar? Just shows that we all get it wrong from time to time. I looked at the F1 and its stellar racing career in the Supercar's Supercar series here at DrivingLine.
Introduced at the 2012 Paris Motor Show the McLaren P1 has been developed with one aim clearly in mind, that of being the best driver’s car whether on road or track. To achieve this, the development programme has focused on ensuring the McLaren P1 pushes the boundaries in terms of sheer performance in every aspect. Of course press statements are easy to write, what counts is what happens in the real world, so in 2013 Chris Goodwin drove a P1 from Woking to the Nürburgring and, after a few adjustments to the normal road going trim, set about breaking the seven minute barrier on the Nordschleife. Chris, a thoroughly good guy, has been a Test Driver for McLaren since the F1 GTR days, indeed he raced those cars at Le Mans. He describes what it is to lap the Nordschleife on the edge...
"The track is like the rollercoaster from hell. However, the car feels balanced and poised throughout, and inspires you to push on with the levels of grip and all-round ability."The acceleration from the Aremberg right hander down the Fuchsröhre is absolutely amazing. I have only experienced acceleration like this before in a Formula 1 car. This downhill snaking section of the track is taken flat, using DRS, shifting gear all the way down to the base of the valley, and the compression that follows applies the maximum vertical g-forces to the car. The forces really load the tyres, chassis and wing, but it is taken with only a slight lift of the throttle."The numerous jumps that make the Nordschleife famous are an even bigger challenge than normal with the massive speeds we approach them. Flugplatz and Pflanzgarten are both taken at very high speed, but the levels of downforce generated combats these approach speeds, and keep the car really stable on 'landing'. They are both quite scary corners in any car, but I’ve never felt as confident. It’s just sensational."Through Bergwerk you have to turn in late in order to carry as much speed as you can onto the following straight without running wide. Here, the awesome braking and pin-sharp steering of the McLaren P1 were crucial, enabling me to get back on the throttle smoothly and quickly. That is a quick section, and one that feels fantastic when you get it just right."With a car this fast, stability is just as important as ultimate grip, and some of the bumpiest sections of the track are also the fastest. The relentless climb towards the Karussell is dealt with in a few spectacular moments as the full combined power of the powertrain punches the car up this long incline. At the top of the hill is one of the fastest corners on the lap, with a approach speed around 300 km/h, The track is really bumpy here, but the corner is dispatched with a light dab of the brakes in fifth gear."The Döttinger Höhe straight disappears in no time. From Galgenkopf the acceleration is brutal, but when you press the DRS button, it ramps up even further as the car slips through the air, and you arrive at the limited top speed of 330 kph in no time. And then, the car just sits there – ‘cruising’ – at this surreal speed, with the rough tarmac and Eifel mountain scenery flying by as if it’s a movie on fast forward.’"Driving the McLaren P1 at this pace, on this circuit, is the most impressive driving experience I've ever had in any road or race McLaren, on any road or track in the world."
As with the LaFerrari, there is an electric motor to back up the 3.8 litre V8 twin turbo engine, this gives a claimed output of over 900bhp. It is said that you could drive for up to six miles on the battery alone, probably enough to pop down to the local shops and back on. This powerhouse is backed up by an extremely advanced aerodynamic package developed in-house. McLaren have worked with a number of their partners to optimise various key aspects, such as Pirelli, with tyres designed to take advantage of the massive downforce and aerodynamic grip. Other areas of almost insane levels of attention to detail can be found like a specially-formulated lightweight paint system by AkzoNobel and braking system from Akebono, providing retardation to race car standards. Exclusive is certainly the word when it comes to the McLaren P1 as the production run is limited to 375, well you can't have just anyone drive one, can you?
The HyperCar movement that kicked off in this century was given its initial impetus by this classic, the Bugatti Veyron or Veyron Grand Sport or Veyron Super Sport or Veyron Vitesse, or the latest marketing hook, Veyron Legends.
Essentially the basic car is the same, but with subtle modifications dragging even more horses out of the 8 litre W16 engine and its four turbochargers, plus aerodynamic tweaks designed to keep up in the arms race that is known as being the fastest street legal production car.
Ah speed, if the Veyron and its descendants are known for anything it is outright, blistering pace. The record books back up this assertion, in 2005 a 16:4 beat the record set by the McLaren F1, setting the bar at 253.81 mph.
Some five years later, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, kept his boot in while driving a Grand Sport at the Ehra-Lessien Volkswagen Test Track, and pushed the envelop out to 267.856 mph...
If that was not enough record breaking, in 2013 a Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse also grabbed the title of fastest roadster with a speed of 254.04 mph.
With the news that the next model, already in development, will have the same amount of power and will not seek to improve on the top speed of the Veyron, it is likely that these records will stand for a few years yet.
Taking an automotive icon, tearing it apart and rebuilding and adding performance may seem a tall order, especially when the base model is a Porsche, but that is what RUF having doing for over 30 years. What started as a tuning operation has grown into a full manufacturing process. The basic chassis is from Porsche but everything after that is RUF and this is recognised as such by the German authorities who give the company full manufacturer status. The finished product shows the Porsche DNA clearly, but is a proper HyperCar in its own right, a RUF.
The flagship for RUF is the CTR3 and at Salon Privé the Club Sport edition was on show, which featured the latest seven-speed PDK dual clutch transmission with paddle shift. As might be expected the numbers are impressive with a claimed 777bhp available from the 3.8 litre flat six engine with twin turbochargers, this abundance of grunt gives a claimed top speed of 235mph and acceleration to match. The price tag of $751,000 ensures that this will be a pretty exclusive experience, around 20 examples have been sold so far. It is by all accounts a practical car to drive on the streets despite the usual issues with rear vision, as happy pottering around as going Harry Flatters at a track day.
The ancient city of Modena is close to heaven for those who appreciate fast cars. In the shadow of its city walls Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Pagani are to be found. Even by HyperCar standards the name Pagani stands out as just a little bit more extreme than the rest of its Italian high performance cousins, perhaps being the youngest kid on the block promotes this wild streak, this attention-seeking behaviour. Whatever the reason, it has succeeded in getting noticed since Horacio Pagani introduced the world to his first solo creation, the Zonda, at the 1999 Geneva Salon.
The latest offering from San Cesario sul Panaro is the Huarya, a sensuous blend of curves and lines that ripple with power and performance. The carbon fibre wing mirrors are indicative of the total commitment to aerodynamic efficiency and control, all while maintaining a sense of artistic flair, form and function if you will. Horacio Pagani puts it thus, "We decided to imagine the car totally different in form, dimension, dynamics and technology, all this without losing the essence of our approach, that is to follow a concept born in the Renaissance where Leonardo da Vinci told us that art and science are disciplines that need to walk alongside each other." Indeed Pagani was present in person at the Salon Privé to met up with owners. “The United Kingdom has always been a crucial market for Pagani Automobili. Over 20 Pagani cars have found a home in this country, and we’re delighted by the attention we received at Salon Privé. The first UK Pagani Owner Reunion has been a wonderful occasion to meet old friends and long time ambassadors for Pagani, and it gave us the opportunity to show the Pagani Huayra to an enthusiastic crowd. We are honoured that people in Britain see our creation as a collector's item; an object of art that mix the finest technology with the purest design”.
The figures are one might expect for such an exclusive and desirable work of art, a $1.6 million price tag. For that you get a carbon-titanium monocoque, two seats and 6 litre twin-turbo Mercedes Benz V12 power. Pagani worked closely with suppliers such as Pirelli on the tyres and Brembo on the braking system. The performance is other-worldly, far beyond normal parameters.
HyperCars are supposed to come from the usual places, Italy, Germany or France, not Sweden, definitely not Sweden. However they said that about pop music and then we got Abba...so the world of HyperCars also embraces Koenigsegg and the Agera as well as the One:1 (this illustrates neatly another element found when encountering HyperCars, that of them having a daft name). In common with Pagani, Keonigsegg and the fantastic automobiles that they have created arose from the vision and persistence of one man, Christian Erland Harald von Koenigsegg.
So what is on the table from Ängelholm airfield, in the shape of elegant Agera? Two seats, check. Mid engined, check. Power in abundance, check. Carbon fibre monocoque, check. Jet fighter style performance, check. Positive mission statement, check.
"Every single detail of a Koenigsegg car is measured against our continuing goal: to enhance vehicle performance. This is reflected in everything we do. Nothing is insignificant. The way we choose our raw materials, our staff, the setup of our facilities, our software, tools, systems and maintenance. Everything. Every aspect of the development process is focused on performance, not only in terms of power and speed, but in every deliverable. From powertrain to safety – every part must enable the car to deliver the best possible performance."This small Swedish engineering group even builds its own engines, a fearsome 5 litre V8 with twin turbochargers, good for over 1000hp or so it is said. Like its competitors in this exclusive class, there is an extreme attention to details, bordering on insanity, the result is another statement that crosses over between art and engineering and back again.
The final HyperCar in the London suburban garden was the one-off Ferrari F12 TRS. It is based on a F12 Berlinetta but the result is an extreme roadster with styling hat tips to the late 50's 250 Testa Rossa. The mechanicals have not been touched, so a V12 6.3 litre engine provides all the power that is required, the main area of change is in the aerodynamics and the stripping out of civilising elements such as air conditioning, all of which creates a dramatic and unique statement.
Which is just as well, as the other dramatic statement involved would be the one from the owner's bank. The F12 Berlinetta can be yours, Sir, for the very reasonable sum of $330,000. The F12 TRS's price is known only to the owner, the bank and Ferrari - but there is considerable speculation online, so it must be true, that another zero (and then some) be added to the base car price, which is very definitely HyperCar territory. As would be the performance, the style, the swagger of this red-headed starlet.
The 2014 Salon Privé provided us with a fantastic exhibition of these most extreme form of the automobile, but that was not all, there was much more to be seen as will be revealed in the next instalment.