Although it may seem like the end of our gasoline-powered fun, the internal combustion engine likely isn’t going away in the next couple of decades. Electrification is rising as the future of standard transportation, and that’s better for the planet and even us automotive fanatics. Leaving gasoline to only those who want to burn it allows the last few great dino-burning engines to power the vehicles dedicated to the enthusiast. While 2022 isn’t quite the very end yet, we’ve been given some unbelievable metal, carbon, and rubber to enjoy for the time being.
Porsche 992 Dakar
Historically, the Porsche 911 has been one of the most versatile chassis ever created. It’s earned countless wins in endurance racing, provided magazines with a sixty-plus-year benchmark, and has even taken home some prestigious off-road and rally wins, including three consecutive overall wins at the Monte Carlo Rally. Porsche’s focus on rally-prepped 911s has waned significantly since their last bespoke race car, the 953, but the public’s interest has exploded. Taking the classic 911 and jacking it up on big tires and lifted suspension is now so common that Porsche themselves figured they’d embrace their history and get in on the action.
The 953 was the test bed for Porsche’s future all-wheel-drive system to be used in the 959. But like most of Porsche’s tech-heavy test beds, it was a purpose-built race car designed to take on the Paris-Dakar Rally and, eventually, Group B competition. The 953 won the grueling Paris-Dakar upon its debut, setting itself into the history books, and now gives the newest 992 model its name.
An in-depth look at the 992 range shows how much the Dakar is a blend of other variants. Performance figures point to the Carrera 4 GTS as the Dakar’s basis, as they’re identical. A 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged flat-six pumps out 473hp and 420 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed PDK gearbox and Porsche’s PTM AWD system. The Dakar’s PTM includes two new driver modes bespoke to the model. According to Porsche, “Rallye mode is ideal for loose, uneven surfaces and features rear-focused all-wheel drive. In Offroad mode, the high clearance is activated automatically and is meant for maximum traction on difficult terrain and sand. Both new driving modes also feature the new Rallye Launch Control, which enables impressive acceleration on loose surfaces and allows wheel slippage of around 20 percent.”
From there, Porsche went to work equipping the 992 for off-road adventuring. The lowered GTS suspension was tossed aside for a pair of springs and dampers that raise the car 50mm over the base Carrera, which can then raise the car another 30mm at the push of a button. The extra ground clearance is paired with PDCC active sway bars and specially developed Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tires to provide the best possible grip and suspension control while bombing through the desert.
Rear wheel steering and PTV+ with electronic locking differential round out the standard mechanical equipment, but Porsche didn’t stop there—body modifications are also plenty with the Dakar. A bespoke CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) spoiler adds to the rear, while the GT3’s nostril-bearing hood, also made from CFRP, dispels heat from the centrally-mounted radiator. Under the car, stainless steel skidplates protect the front, rear, and side skirts. Stainless mesh is also used in the bumper’s intakes to stave off large rocks.
Inside the cabin, it becomes apparent just how serious Porsche was in engineering this car. Standard are carbon bucket seats with lightweight Race-Tex upholstery and bespoke Shade Green stitching. Rear seats aren’t available, but the Rallye Sport Package with roll-over bar, six-point seat belts, and fire extinguisher is optional—or at least in Europe, it will be. Lightweight glass and a lightweight battery round out the standard equipment and help the Dakar come in just 10kgs heavier than the Carrera 4 GTS.
Of the many options available, you’ll likely see the Rally Design Package and one of the two roof systems. The former is a complete visual package that wraps the Dakar in a Rothman’s 953-inspired livery, as you’ll see in much of Porsche’s promotional material. The latter is a roof rack with extra lighting and a roof tent, available separately. The rack is pretty beefy, carrying nearly 90 lbs of gear, and its headlights plug into a roof-mounted 12-volt socket.
Porsche doesn't skimp on their work, and in creating a small 2500-unit production only reinforces that. They knew how involved people were in the offroad community, believed in their passions, and gave them the ultimate sports car capable of easily handling that lifestyle. In the era where accountants seemingly choose what gets built and what doesn’t, it’s nice to see a company with enthusiasts at the helm.
BMW M4 CSL
BMW seems to be at an interesting crossroads as a company. Their heritage of building sporty sedans has leaned heavily on the luxury side of things over the last decade, and their latest marketing hasn’t shown any change in that direction. Even the motorsport brand has been watered down by executives looking to charge every extra penny they can, yet, thankfully, BMW’s best still manages to shine through every so often. There are a few sacred letters among the motorsport faithful, and few carry as much weight as CSL. Just two road-going models wore the badge until this summer when BMW unveiled their latest addition to the lineage; the M4 CSL.
Competition, Sport, and Lightweight were all of the attributes of the original 3.0CSL, a car that won BMW its first touring car championship in 1973. That was the car that birthed M-division and every subsequent M-car to come after, so in celebration of the anniversary, BMW’s motorsports magicians whipped up the ultimate M4. Developed from the M4 GT3, the CSL put the standard M4 Comp on a diet and exercise regimen for a much-improved power-to-weight ratio. Replacing the power seats with carbon buckets dropped 24kg, deleting the rear seats removed 21kg, and switching to a lighter sound deadening lopped off another 15kg. Performance-adding parts, like carbon ceramic brakes, thinner springs, and a titanium exhaust, also helped drop the curb weight by 25kg. In total, the M4 CSL shaves 135kg off of an M4 Competition for a 1625kg curb weight.
Under the CFRP hood, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 remains, but it’s been breathed on a bit to up the performance. The freer-flowing titanium muffler, paired with revised engine mapping and a boost to boost pressure by 0.4 bar (1.7 to 2.1), pushes peak figures to 543hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. All that performance is backed up by an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission and held in check by CSL-specific engine and transmission mounts. In a straight line, the 40hp bump over the M4 Comp and the enormous weight savings equate to an electronically limited 191mph.
Slowing down the CSL from that top speed brings the model-specific wheels and carbon ceramic brakes into play. Unsprung weight is crucial for stopping and handling performance, and the CSL’s wheel and brake package is as light as it gets. The same goes for the adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, which feature thinner springs, model-specific wheel camber settings, damper tuning, auxiliary springs, and anti-roll bars. M-division then beefed-up chassis rigidity with a considerable brace in the engine bay. You might not be able to take advantage of that on the street, but BMW clocked the M4 CSL with a 7:20.2 lap around the Nurburgring, a record-setting lap time for a production bimmer.
Included with all of the performance enhancements are a host of visual differences. All CSLs are painted Frozen Brooklyn Grey as standard, though Alpine White and Sapphire Black metallic are also available. Red accents are striped around the body, bringing attention to the CFRP components and their bare carbon appearance. While looking good, the carbon skirts, front splitter, and hood vents add to the performance pedigree with their genuine functionality. The theme continues inside the cabin with a smattering of CFRP parts in their naked glory flanked by red accents and seatbelts, an M Alcantara steering wheel, an anthracite-colored headliner, and Merino Leather upholstery.
Alone, the 135kg weight reduction and 40hp boost are enough to get buyers in the door, but the entire package sets the M4 CSL into a league of its own amongst M-cars. It’s the most capable performance variant they’ve ever created and likely worthy of the revered CSL badge. Like its predecessors, the CSL will be a limited production, but with just 1000 for the global market, it’ll be as exclusive as ever, too. Will the M4 CSL go down as one of the greats? Come back in a few decades; we’ll probably have an answer for ya.
Audi R8 V10 GT RWD
In 2008, I, like many, went and saw the original Iron Man in theatres. Among the incredible action and smart lines, the original Audi R8 briefly made its silver screen debut as Tony drove it to a dinner party. For many around my age, that was our first exposure to Audi’s mid-engine sports car, and one we won’t ever forget. Since then, the R8 has gained two cylinders, another clutch, and a reasonably extensive list of high-performance variants. But all good things must end; this is where the R8 says goodbye. The R8 is destined to join the list of great supercars no longer in production, but Audi was kind enough to produce a last hurrah for their supercar, one last special edition.
The Audi R8 V10 GT RWD is the second R8 to wear the GT badge, but this time, AWD isn’t on the menu. Ditching the front drive axles and differential saves a bunch of weight which is great for a GT badge, but Audi always sends RWD variants out with less power because of the reduced grip. However, that's not the case this time around. Plunked behind the driver is a 5.2-liter V10 in the same state of tune as the V10 performance quattro model, the R8’s most powerful, giving the new GT 602hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. Mated with the V10 is the familiar 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, though it uses an “altered gear ratio” to reach 60mph in 3.4s and a 199mph top speed.
If Audi were looking out for their less-than-skilled customers by handicapping RWD variant power figures, they clearly haven't done so here, but that doesn't mean they're leaving anyone out to dry. Audi fitted the GT with a new “Torque Rear Mode” to reign in the 8700rpm V10. I’m sure you know what that is by its dazzling name, but if not, allow me to explain. It's a specially devised traction control system that allows varying levels of slip determined by one of seven driver-selected modes. It uses information from wheel speed sensors, steering angle, accelerator pedal position, and the selected gear to determine how much power should reach the wheels, which wheel it should reach, and when it’s most necessary.
Elsewhere, the GT gets all of the R8’s best bits and then some. Bespoke forged wheels inspired by Audi’s motorsport vehicles wear sticky Michelin rubber and fit over the standard carbon brakes. Controlling the car through the bends is a standard adaptive suspension and a CFRP front sway bar. Suspension settings are selectable through any of the drive modes, as with other Audi models. Optionally, a buyer can spec their GT with manually-adjustable R8 GT coilover suspension. Similar to a GT3, height, pre-load, rebound, and compression are all adjustable to tune the R8 to the roads ahead. Altogether, the performance-focused components help to shave 44lbs from the curb weight of the GT’s basis, the R8 V10 performance RWD.
Balancing all of that performance is a unique set of aerodynamic elements designed just for the R8 GT. The front splitter, flics, side skirt covers, diffuser, and rear wing with gooseneck supports are all bare carbon elements that work to glue the R8 to the track while providing an aggressive look. Other elements, like the wheels and badging, are painted black to contrast with the paint. Like the original R8 GT, the GT RWD comes as standard in mate Suzuka Grey paint, although Tangorot Metallic and Daytona Grey Metallic are also available. Inside, black is the upholstery color, contrasted with red accents on the belts, stitching, and embroidered logos. Performance accouterments like the carbon bucket seats and Alcantara steering wheel are the bits you’d expect but are still happy to see.
Fourteen years on, the R8 looks as good as ever, competes with everything in its class, and remains a tough-to-beat choice for an everyday supercar. Eventual electrification may be what is bringing it to an end, but its impact will continue to last for decades to come. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see the R8 badge return in a few decades. Nostalgia sells, and supercars never go out of style.
Mercedes-AMG S63 E Performance
The big Mercedes is the brand-defining model. The S-class has been the pride of Mercedes for seventy years and has ruled over the luxury sedan segment since it first hit dealer showrooms. Along the way, AMG became the in-house tuner and began to make the Luxo-barges with enough torque to pull out trees. However, the latest round of AMG products has brought about electric motors, turbochargers, and smaller engines—nothing like the thunderous AMG of old. Although that upsets many—the older AMGs are truly unique—new models like the S63 E Performance are here to remind us that advancing technology isn't always a bad thing.
While the S-class is known for its opulence, Mercedes is insistent that the focus of this model is its performance. Returning from the previous S63, the M177 bi-turbo V8 is nearly at its most powerful in the W223 chassis. From just 4.0 liters, AMG engineers were able to pump out 791hp and 1055lb-ft of torque, though the mild hybrid system certainly helps achieve that figure. With an AMG-specific permanently-excited synchronous motor at the rear axle powered by the AMG high-performance battery, the S63 is good for just about 21 miles in pure electric range, too. The HPB 150, as Mercedes calls it, is the latest iteration and carries a 13.1kWh charge using a 400-volt system. Sure, that might sound a bit complicated, but the performance is easy to understand; 0-60mph in 3.2s and an electronically-limited top speed of 180mph in a 5720lb(!!!) heated and cooled massaging-seat-equipped sled. Sign me up.
With all that weight and performance comes the need for serious suspension. Standard is the AMG RIDE CONTROL+ air suspension with automatic level control and adaptive adjustable damping. Through the input of steering angle, throttle position, yaw, roll, pitch, and engine power, the suspension computer adjusts each air spring individually for maximum control and comfort. Using the AMG DYNAMIC SELECT feature, drivers select between "Comfort," "Sport," and "Sport+" modes to adjust the responsiveness of their S63, including the suspension characteristics.
However, the suspension is also adjustable independently from that feature through a separate button. Not adjustable, but still very much a part of the suspension is the AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL active sway bars. An electromechanical motor sits at the center of both bars and provides varying levels of roll control depending on the road forces detected by the various sensors connected to the suspension computer.
The rest of the car is just as high-tech, too. The 9-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9G transmission uses multiple wet clutches to have the smoothness of a torque-converter automatic but the rapid shifts of a dual-clutch. From the transmission, the power is distributed to all four wheels via the AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system. Again, using various sensors, the 4Matic+ will shift power between the front and rear axles as it sees fit in a given situation for unending traction in any weather condition. Along with the electric motor in the rear is rear steering to make the rather large sedan a bit more agile. Up front, the steering system uses the three-stage AMG parameter steering system for a variable rate and feel depending on speed. No matter where you look, the S63 E Performance is filled with tech designed to make it as fast as it's comfortable.
Inside, it's the standard S-class affair with an AMG spin on the appearance. Diamond-stitched Nappa leather covers each seat, while an AMG Affalterbach logo is embossed into the headrests. Between all the leather is brushed metal accents and lots of carbon fiber trim illuminated by the expansive ambient lighting. Driver and infotainment controls are handled by the MBUX system found in other Mercedes-AMG models. Hybrid-specific and AMG-specific displays are easily selected to display charge levels, temperatures, pressures, and all sorts of other vehicle-related info. If that's not really your jam, well, the Dolby Atmos surround sound is plenty to keep you entertained.
As a singular object, the S63 E Performance is a seemingly irresponsible way to get around and burn gasoline. But in the automotive atmosphere, there are genuinely few better ways to get around in speed and comfort, shy of a private train car or jet. As attractive as that sounds, it always takes the right person to order one, as very few can escape the allure of SUVs these days. To those who do, we thank them for their interesting choices and look forward to the class-leading depreciation.
Formula 1 technology has inspired and played predecessor to many of the engineering feats we've seen reached in production cars. Carbon monocoques and paddle-shifted gearboxes got their start on the track, but we haven't ever seen F1 components, relatively unmodified, applied on the road. Race environments are great for stress testing, but their conditions are measured and crafted carefully to ensure proper operation. Road cars don't get that, which is why we haven't ever seen anything like the newest hypercar from Stuttgart.
For all intents and purposes, the Mercedes-AMG ONE is a Mercedes-AMG F1 car with road-legal weather-capable bodywork and an extra seat. Lewis Hamilton's championship-winning W06 sported a rules-mandated 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 and a hybrid system which powered it to victory. It was an engine that idled at 6000rpm and spun beyond double that figure. Nestled behind the driver in the AMG ONE is a nearly identical turbo V6, modified for Europe's lower octane and emissions requirements. The two engines are remarkably similar, sharing the era-defining hybridized turbocharger and its MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit-Heat) that nearly eliminates any form of turbo lag. If that doesn't sound like anything special, I promise it is. Owners of the nearly $3mm hypercar must return their examples to Mercedes every 31,000 miles or so for a complete engine refresh.
The stretch from race to road is seen elsewhere, too. Mated to the V6 is a single-clutch, sequential-type, paddle-shifted gearbox. Why not a dual-clutch? Engineers deemed it too heavy and were concerned that it wouldn't support the power. If it were turbo V6 alone, the DCT could support the near 600hp, but the electric motors push power way beyond that. There are four in total, including the turbo's 90kW MGU-H. The other three are 120kW motors, with the MGU-K (Kinetic) attached to the engine's crankshaft, and the remaining two driving the front wheels to give the AMG ONE the AWD advantage that F1 doesn't get. In total, the complete powertrain produces 1063hp and an undeterminable amount of torque due to drivetrain complexity. That's enough for a sub-3s sprint to 62mph and a 7s run to 124mph; for reference, that's a second and a half quicker than a Porsche 992 Turbo S with the Lightweight package.
Like the F1 car, the engine sits behind the driver and ahead of the front wheels in the traditional mid-engined layout, but the drivetrain is also bolted directly to the carbon and steel monocoque as stressed members. At the rear, the suspension bolts directly to the transmission case. It's a push-rod design with five aluminum links supporting adaptive coil-over dampers. Individual suspension adjustment is available in three modes: "Comfort," "Sport," and "Sport+." Only two are available at a time, depending on which vehicle mode the ONE is in. "Comfort" and "Sport" are available in the EV, Race Safe, Race, and Individual drive programs; the "Sport" and "Sport+" suspension settings are available in the Race Plus and Strat 2. The latter is a play on F1 terminology and signifies the most aggressive drive mode. There, the car is lowered 37mm up front and 30mm in the rear to aid the active aerodynamics.
Active aero is highly regulated in F1 competition, but Mercedes engineers were allowed to go nuts regarding the ONE. Computer-controlled components are all over the place, including the front fender louvers, radiator inlet air flaps, and flaps in the diffuser's venturi tunnels. With all of those variables, Mercedes offers three aerodynamic setups to choose from, ranging from a street-oriented low-drag efficiency mode, an all-out, high-downforce configuration, and a middle ground for max velocity runs. With so many modes and settings to choose from, it's easy to see how driving may be a bit complicated fumbling through a touchscreen menu, but the ONE has all of its most essential settings adjustable via steering-wheel-mounted knobs. The wheel is a carbon fiber piece that looks like it was taken directly from an F1 car.
Nearly every other surface in the interior is bare carbon, too, save for the seats, dashboard, and doors. They all feature their exposed carbon structure but have leather or Alcantara upholstery covering the touch points. As you might expect, the rest is all very spartan, with metal and Petronas Green accents breaking up each surface. Two 10-inch screens relay all of the mechanical and electrical info to the driver, with one acting as an instrument cluster.
There is so much more that's special about this car, but I'm not here to craft a novel. Altogether, the ONE may be the most impressive road car ever created, though the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg likely have something to say about that. What it certainly is, is the most impressive race car turned road car offered to the public as a street-legal vehicle. Never before has such an immensely race-specific drivetrain been adapted to emissions-passing levels. F1 fan or not, the ONE represents what may be the last generation of bar-raising hypercars, and for that, you have to love it.
If this year has shown us anything, there’s still a future for enthusiast ICE vehicles. While they might not be the mass-produced, easily accessible cars like the GTI, I think it’s safe to say that the supercar and hypercar will continue to flourish in some form for at least a decade. So let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have while it’s new because we only get one chance to do that. Once you’re done enjoying the moment, subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow along on the Blog for more daily content.
Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.