Monterey Car Week is the proverbial moveable feast of the world’s best and most exciting automobiles. The Quail Lodge event may not have the cachet of a 1920s Paris Salon—it’s a golf course in the hotter inland portion of the Carmel Valley—but every CEO who sells supercars and high-end luxury cars is on the green, hawking his wares, horse-trading with long-time preferred clients and newcomers alike. Watching the CEOs in action, selling half-million-dollar cars, is highly entertaining.
At both Quail and the hillside that rambles down from the Gooding auction at the equestrian center to the Pebble Beach greens where the concours takes place on Sunday, one finds established makers and quirky low-volume start-ups of all varieties. If you can’t find a car that excites you during Monterey Car Week, you may already be dead. Here are a few of the more interesting cars that debuted this week.
Bugatti Mistral is the last of its kind, the last Bugatti of the Veyron and Chiron blood line. Bugatti will produce no more than 99 examples of this spyder, and apparently all are sold already. You can read more here.
Mistral is an open-air variant that builds upon Chiron’s proven chassis and powertrain. Mistral is powered by the 1577-horsepower 8-liter 4-turbo W16 powertrain of the recent Chiron Super Sport and Super Sport 300, the ultimate evolution of the engine. Bugatti contends this is the final application of their W16 engine. As Mate Rimac is now CEO, with his eponymous battery-electric sports car company now part of a new corporation, Bugatti-Rimac, we may see hybrids, and maybe pure battery-electric vehicles. Starting price is $5 million.
Maserati MC20 Cielo
Maserati’s MC20 Cielo is the spyder variant of the firm’s existing MC20 supercar. Power comes from a Maserati engineered and built 3-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 630 horsepower and 538 lb. ft. of torque.
Nothing about MC20 is out of the ordinary among supercars, it adheres to established norms, but this is one of the tidiest, most attractive packages on the market. MC20 is curvaceous in that inimitably Italian way.
Cielo does have one trick in its hat, so to speak: the retractable roof panel employs electrochromic smart glass. If the day is gloomy, press a button and the glass above is clear. If it’s scorching hot, the sun far too brilliant, the glass can be turned opaque. Or you can put the top down and enjoy driving en plein air.
Rolls-Royce arguably offers the highest levels of customization of any brand, having evolved the Italian concept of atelier to a high level. Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös presented three vehicles at Quail, a Phantom II nicknamed “Maverick,” a Cullinan SUV painted to match your raspberry beret, and a Ghost finished in a new color.
The “Maverick” Phantom possessed two new lighting features meant to compliment and build upon that now-famous Starlight headliner. First, each metal vane of the Pantheon grille can be lit up. And much as Federal and EU regulations dictate what can and cannot be done with headlights and taillights, Rolls has found a margin of play: The bezels are laser-cut to create 580 pinpoints of starlight, mimicking the night-sky lighting of the Starlight headliner.
Alongside the Phantom were cars finished in new colors: a Black Badge Cullinan in Forbidden Pink and a Ghost in Crystal over Sagano Green. You can read about the Ghost here.
Lamborghini Urus Performante
Urus, the Super-SUV that doubled Lamborghini’s sales, is now offered in a new configuration, “Performante,” which at Lamborghini means special attention to aerodynamics and a boost in performance. Urus Performante includes a range of carbon-fiber aero addenda: front splitter, lower bumper and diffuser, and rear spoiler with carbon-fiber fins. The hood is also formed in carbon-fiber.
Performante ride height is 0.78 inches lower thanks to unique springs. Standard wheels are 22 inches, but 23-inch wheels are optional. Both wheels carry a specially developed Pirelli tire. A titanium exhaust will sharpen that satisfying V8 bark, and that wonderful Titanium happy ting-ting when the pipes are cooling off after a good run.
Urus is derived from the same “engineering toolkit” as Bentley’s Bentayga and Porsche’s Cayenne, which includes so many potential variables that each brand’s engineers can create a distinctly different vehicle. Urus has the longer wheelbase, which allows for a steep Lamborghini rear roofline combined with more than adequate rear headroom and excellent rear legroom.
Urus Performante sits alongside the W12 Bentayga and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo gas-electric V8 hybrid as the most interesting and potent variants, yet each vehicle delivers a dramatically different driving experience. In Urus Performante, the 4-liter twin-turbo V8 has 656 horsepower, a bump of 16 over the standard Urus. Urus Performante is a bullet of an SUV, sprinting to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds. Key to the improved performance is a whopping 627 lb. ft. of torque that is 100 percent available from 2300 to 4500 rpm. Pricing starts at $260,676. Deliveries should begin by the end of 2022.
Bentley has developed its atelier, batch-build and one-of-few capabilities under the Mulliner banner. I visited the old Mulliner Park Ward facility on the eastside of London in the 1980s in conjunction with the launch of the original Bentley Turbo. Mulliner has built special-bodied Bentleys since the days of W.O. and has been in existence over 250 years.
Batur production will be limited to a maximum of 18, and it seems like all are already sold for $1.95 million apiece.
Based on the proven chassis of the Continental, Batur features the most highly evolved and potent version of the W12 twin-turbo engine ever, with 737 lb. ft. of torque and 729 horsepower.
Automobili Pininfarina Battista
Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista is a bold Darwinian evolution of the mid-engine Italian sports car, but it’s easy to think of it as some species of 4-wheeled particle accelerator. It fits gracefully into the legacy of Pininfarina-designed Ferrari supercars of the past half-century, yet it’s different, of the 21st Century.
Last week I was among the first to ever drive the production version, and you can read about it here.
Meyers Manx 2.0
The unexpected delight of Monterey Car Week was the debutante ball for a reimagined battery-electric Meyers Manx dune buggy.
Bruce Meyers created the Manx dune buggy in 1964 by placing a minimalist lightweight fiberglass roadster body on VW Beetle mechanicals. Meyers and his Manx won the “Mexican 1000” off-road race in 1967 (later known as the Baja 1000), and a legend was born. Steve McQueen built one with a Chevrolet Corvair flat-6 engine for the movie The Thomas Crown Affair. Meyers lost a design patent lawsuit and a few years shut down the company. He did not produce more of his dune buggies for nearly 30 years.
Two years ago, not long before Meyers passed away at the age of 94, he sold his company, Meyers Manx Inc., to Trousdale Ventures. Trousdale hired Freeman Thomas to spearhead creation of the Manx 2.0, a battery-electric interpretation of the original. Instead of a donor VW Beetle underneath a low-cost knocked-up fiberglass body, Manx 2.0 is a cohesive vehicle with an aluminum monocoque tub, sophisticated suspension, and a choice of two battery packs, 20 and 40 kWh. It will likely take advantage of the “SEMA” low-volume replica laws.
In top configuration with 40 kWh battery pack, the Manx 2.0 is a featherweight at 1650 lbs. Excepting the original UK-market Lotus Elise of decades ago, we have not seen vehicles anywhere near this light in more than 50 years. One can imagine a related spin-off to market a lightweight purist sports car built around Manx 2.0 components.
Manx has two electric motors mounted out back, and a choice of a 20 kWh or 40 kWh battery system. Though the car is entering final developmental phases and numbers change, it’s like the Manx 2.0 will hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Because the vehicle is so light, the 40-kWh version may achieve the promised range of 300 miles. Obviously, the 40-kWh system is most appealing, with roughly 240 lb. ft. of torque. It has regen braking, and 4-wheel mechanical disc brakes. It is meant as an off-road explorer, a perfect rental vehicle for tropical resorts, or a company cruiser at wineries and Rocky Mountain ranches. But Manx 2.0 could also be a delightful lightweight purist sports car. How the battery-electric system will operate off-road will be discovered.
Meyers Manx is recruiting 50 “development” drivers for a Beta program. Tesla did much the same with the Model S. Those 50 will likely be battery-electric evangelists. Think of it as crowd-sourcing the development process. You can sign up at meyersmanx.com/pages/manx-2-0-ev. You’ll need to draft a personal storyline, a sales pitch to argue why you’re worthy of joining the happy few of the Manx Beta Squad.