The emergence of just one of these mega cars in a given year would be an epic event. Having all three right now? The 2021 Lamborghini Huracán STO, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, and the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3? It’s like a super moon combined with a solar eclipse, in a leap year. Goodness, what an embarrassment of automotive riches.
With their high-output engines (each making more than 120 hp per liter), standard rear-wheel drive with rear-steering axles, aggressive aerodynamics, carbon-ceramic brakes the size of manhole covers, track-compound tires, and near record-breaking performance, this spectacular trio is as good as it gets in the supercar world. Consider this a battle among winged Greek gods Eros, Hermes, and Nike.
There are many fundamental differences among them. The Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series has a front-mounted mid-engine, the Lamborghini Huracán STO has a rear-mounted mid-engine, and the Porsche 911 GT3 presses on with the model’s traditional rear-mounted engine.
The GT Black Series is powered by a 720-hp, 590-lb-ft twin-turbo V-8; the Huracán by a 630-hp, 417-lb-ft naturally aspirated V-10; and the Porsche by a “mere” 502-hp, 346-lb-ft naturally aspirated flat-six that spins up to 9,000 glorious rpm. While both the AMG and Porsche engines are considered 4.0-liter units, the Porsche’s six-cylinder interestingly displaces 14cc more volume than the AMG’s V-8.
Finally, both the Lamborghini and Mercedes feature seven-speed twin-clutch automatics, with the option to shift for yourself via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. This Porsche GT3, though available with a similar paddle-shifted PDK gearbox as a no-cost option, came to us with a motorsport-spec six-speed manual.
With a combined value that’s about a single Honda Civic shy of a million bucks, this is some metal/carbon fiber you likely won’t see often, yet alone in one place. As our luck would have it, all three were contestants and finalists in our inaugural MotorTrend Performance Vehicle of the Year (PVOTY) competition (MT, April). We naturally couldn’t help but peel the cream of the crop off the top and run these cars head to head to head. Here’s what happened.
As with all our MotorTrend Of The Year programs, the first round of PVOTY testing and evaluation occurs at an automotive proving ground. There, we utilize SAE-spec surfaces and courses to collect performance data and initial impressions. Each of these cars’ results is at the pointy end of the supercar spectrum. Of note, we needed to heat up all three cars’ tires prior to instrumented testing—via either brief burnouts when possible, or up to a half-dozen pre-emptive orbits of the skidpad in both directions. The Lamborghini’s Bridgestone Potenza Race L, the Mercedes-AMG’s Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R M01A, and the Porsche’s Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R N0 tires were developed for racetrack use and to perform best at high temperatures. Be warned, though: They struggle for grip on a chilly morning.
If you’ve never experienced acceleration from a standstill in a powerful car with launch control, know it can be disorienting. The machine is one moment motionless, ferocious engine noise banging off a prescribed limiter. The next instant, you can’t separate your head from the cushion behind it thanks to acceleration exceeding 1 g. It’s as formidable as an amusement park ride, the difference being you must point it down the dragstrip yourself. Luckily, some of the transmissions upshift automatically; you simply need to keep the car straight. It’s no surprise automated-gearbox cars with launch control are usually more effective to launch and quicker off the line. Just look at the Lambo and AMG’s 0-30-mph times to see near-1-second blasts of acceleration. Only AWD cars with systems like this are quicker.
With the GT3’s engine speed limited to 5,000 rpm at a stop and our drivers using an aggressive clutch-engagement technique, the Porsche couldn’t overcome the prodigious grip from its 12.4-inch-wide rear tires, leading to “bogged” launches. But that’s a relative term, considering it, too, needed less than 2 seconds to reach 30 mph. Still, the uncompromising manual shifter is perhaps one of the best manuals to exist in our collective memory. It’s easy to find the right gear every time, up or down, and the feeling provides unique satisfaction. Incidentally, we have tested a PDK-equipped GT3, and it’s quicker than both the Lamborghini and the AMG: just 1.0 second to 30 mph, 2.7 seconds to 60 mph, and with a comparable 10.8-second quarter-mile time at 127.9 mph. Here’s an acceleration test summary:
A quick word about these exceptional results. Certainly, carbon-ceramic brake rotors and aggressive tires contributed to each contender’s sub-100-foot 60-0-mph stops, and all three cars produced 1.4-g longitudinal acceleration under braking from 100 to 0 mph. That means your entire weight plus nearly another half of it is prevented from impaling itself on the steering wheel by the seat belt for about 4 seconds. Incredible stuff. The all-time MotorTrend record for a 60-0 stop, however, is shared by a 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS and a 2016 Dodge Viper ACR at a scant 87 feet, shorter by less than the Porsche GT3’s wheelbase, in fact. Close, indeed.
Grip and Handling
Despite their remarkable acceleration and braking feats, on-the-limit grip and handling are what really make these cars special. Those two points also differentiate one from another: This is where we first glimpse their propensities, liabilities, and boundary behaviors. It’s a nuanced dance, not raw pace, that reveals itself.
With warm tires, we lapped MotorTrend‘s figure-eight course: The layout consists of two 100-foot-radius skidpads separated by 500 feet in the center. Drive hot off of one skidpad and accelerate toward the other—just how fast can a car go in a 500-foot sprint across the middle? The GT3 reached 82 mph, the Huracán 88 mph, and the AMG GT 90 mph; roughly a 9-percent overall speed differential. Considering these disparities, how could their overall lap times result in a 0.4-second (or less) difference, or roughly a scant 2-percent lap-time differential? It’s all about braking consistency, lateral grip, poise, and the feedback each offers in the transitions. Let’s dive in.
Lamborghini Huracán STO: Figure Eight
The STO seems much like other Huracán models, only it’s louder, angrier, and sharper. Its lack of AWD improves the car’s steering performance and feel but doesn’t adversely affect the corner exits that are aggressive yet controlled. The overwhelming sense is experiential. There’s no ignoring the engine (because Lamborghini) nor the rocks being spit up into the wheel wells (because R-spec tires).
Upshifts are lightning-quick and neck-straining, as is the Lamborghini tradition. The Huracán briefly needs fourth gear to get across the middle of the course. (Hello, short gears!) Under hard braking, it clicks off fourth-to-second manual downshifts with two-quick paddle pulls, without missing a beat.
The brakes are better than I imagined. Unlike previous wooden-feeling Huracán pedals, modulation is more intuitive. The STO doesn’t reward or discourage trail-braking or a brake-first-then-turn technique. Either way, it points and turns in like a laser beam. It delivers gobs of grip on the skidpad, disorienting you along the way, and the chunky A-pillar blocks your view of the exit cone. It feels very racy, but it only likes and rewards one kind of driving: harsh and aggressive. There just isn’t wiggle room to try different techniques. It just says, “Thrash me while I thrash you. See you on the other side.”
Of the four Huracán variants we’ve tested over the years, only MotorTrend‘s 2018 Best Driver’s Car winner, the AWD Performante, lapped the figure eight quicker, and by just 0.1 second. Credentials retained.
Mercedes-AMG GT Black: Figure Eight
With traction control nearly shut off (leaving two dots on the dial, just shy of off), the AMG can slide out of the corners with a modicum of safety should it be needed. Even a wild slide with a dab of opposite lock doesn’t awaken the nanny. The system appears to see the steering angle and throttle position and conclude, “Oh, you got this.” The GT Black explodes across the middle section only 2 mph slower than the 92 mph we recorded previously with a Porsche 911 GT2 RS and a McLaren Senna.
The brakes, while powerful and consistent, are a little difficult to modulate. Making peace with the firm pedal, adjusting pedal pressure and not travel, allows you to trail-brake into the skidpad almost every time. The car’s turn-in is super sharp and yet never threatens to snap oversteer like some pointy cars do. Both the nose and tail are pinned down. The steering is a bit chunky/heavy, but it’s also trustworthy and provides just enough feel for available grip through the wheel.
As in the Lamborghini, the grip is somewhat disorienting on the skidpad, and you have to look way ahead. Overall, the GT Black splits the difference between the polished Porsche and the rowdy STO. It feels almost as poised as the GT3 and is nearly as scary as the Huracán. Almost a full second clear of any previously tested AMG GT, the Black Series joins the ranks of, again, the record-holding 911 GT2 RS and the ultra-rare 2019 McLaren Senna with a 21.9-second lap.
Porsche 911 GT3: Figure Eight
And … exhale. The 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 delivers race car kind of stuff, but it feels like a polished gem of a race car that anyone could access within two or three laps. The GT3 is absolutely glued to the ground (1.19 g ties the 2019 GT3 RS’s skidpad record). It oozes confidence everywhere, from braking to turn-in to transition to corner exit. It offers perfect pedal and steering feedback every lap without a single surprise.
The ultra-linear engine absolutely screams up to the 9,000-rpm limiter. The brakes are nuclear, lap after lap. The shifter is perfect. Using the car’s automatic rev-matched downshift function (because why not) removes a tricky task at the most crucial moment, entering the skidpad from top speed. There are just so many things to praise here; driving the latest GT3 is a tremendous experience. Both it and the STO feel like race cars, but the 911 feels more developed, polished, and versatile.
Because it’s so confident and competent, this Porsche lets you focus on choosing a line instead of doing what the car wants you to do or feeling it punish you for getting something wrong. Where the Huracán STO says, “You better know what you’re doing,” the Porsche says, “I’m cool with this. What would you like to try on the next lap?” This car allows you to become a better driver while confidently probing its limits. Its 22.1-second figure-eight lap is only 0.2 second off the record.
At this point, it appeared both the Lamborghini Huracán STO and Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series had a slight edge heading to the racetrack. Did the Porsche, with its 128/218-hp deficit, still have a chance?
To safely probe these three supercars’ limits in the manner for which they were designed, we rented nearby and familiar Streets of Willow Springs racetrack. After our friends at ZipTire popped on some fresh rubber, we donned our helmets and headed out. Here we began to sense aero-package effectiveness for the first time at triple-digit speeds, putting those big wings to the test.
What would happen in on-/off-camber corners of various radii, or a chicane, and might we even have a bit of cat-and-mousing? You bet. Everything but lap times. Why? Remember, these three were part of a nine-vehicle PVOTY finalists’ group—this meant lots of judges, lots of cars, lots of laps, lots of photos, and little time. Additionally, while we’re pretty good shoes’ compared to many, none of us is named Randy Pobst, our racer friend who holds the lap record for production cars at this track. But that’s OK: Almost none of the people who buy these cars are named “Pobst,” either.
Lapping the Lambo
We’ve called our figure eight “a racetrack in a bottle,” and driving a car with high limits, it feels like it. Our first impressions of the 2021 Lamborghini Huracán STO being rowdy and almost abusive melted away on Streets like butter in a red-hot pan. In this track element, the STO flows from corner to corner as if it already knows its way. It truly shines and stretches its ample legs, and its race-car heritage is unmistakable.
At 130 mph, the car remains steady as an anvil. The way the V-10 revs so freely and willingly and loudly to its 8,500-rpm limiter is really a defining characteristic, and most likely not long for this earth. The extremely rapid-shifting gearbox becomes a useful and reliable companion, always ripping up- and downshifts at the precise moment they are desired.
With the drive-mode selector in Trofeo (with less ESC oversight), the car felt alive and free but still glued to the road. Driven on the racing line, it’s nearly impossible to get it loose. Even zealously laying into the throttle coming off a corner barely elicits a wiggle from the rear. So abundant is its traction, one driver even questioned if the STO indeed had AWD, or is it really RWD?
Its MagneRide 2.0 dampers sucked up mid-corner bumps like they were invisible achievement tokens. The newly talkative brakes wouldn’t shut up for a minute: Every braking zone feels like conversation. The way the car rotates precisely into and through a slow or fast corner is a testament to its well-incorporated rear-steer system. After a handful of laps, however, the steering effort begins to feel excessive, the flop sweat begins to flow, and on the cool-down lap you realize how few breaths you’ve taken at speed. Upon reflection, the overall sense is that the Lamborghini Huracán STO is a perfect track-day car. It’s able to take a good caning and begs for more, and its overall performance feels as limitless as your endurance feels limited.
Lapping the AMG GT Black Series
Where the Lamborghini feels perfectly suited to the Streets of Willow, the AMG feels like it’s at the wrong venue, like it’s a full-size car on a go-kart track. It really deserves to be appreciated on a bigger circuit, like Big Willow, or Spa-Francorchamps, or the Nürburgring where it holds the lap record for a stock series-production road car.
Part of the reason is because its flat-plane-crank twin-turbo V-8, making almost 181 hp per liter, is so explosive and can light the car’s rear tires ablaze at the wrong moment. Corner exits are a delicate dance on the throttle, with 590 lb-ft of torque available beginning at 2,000 rpm. “When the turbos kick,” one judge said, “shit gets real.”
Few cars vaporize time between corners like this AMG does. It’s a good thing its brakes are a powerful match. The steering, though pointy, quick, and precise, doesn’t have the feel the others do. The driver feels a bit disconnected from it as a result, and because you sit so far sternward in the car, practically over the rear axle, the dislocation is exaggerated by the long hood and the distance to the front axle. This lack of confidence comes, in part, from prior experiences in the car. First the AMG GT S, then later the GT R had a “What’s it going to do?” vibe that’s hard to shake from muscle memory.
To our collective relief and admiration, the harder we leaned on the Black Series, the better it became, much like the Dodge Viper ACR redeemed that car. Part of it might be due to the extensive aero package that makes almost 900 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. Plus, the damping is superb and makes you feel like the car is completely in control going 5-10 mph faster than the others in the same stretches, seeing 135 mph on the back straight.
The GT Black is the kind of car whose limits are to be found after hours behind the wheel, not within 15-20 minutes. Entering every corner and chicane you mutter to yourself, “I could’ve gone deeper. I could’ve gone faster.” And through every sweeper, “I could’ve gone flat.”
Lapping the 911 GT3
There’s nothing quite so satisfying as having the perfect tool in hand for a job. That’s the immediate, and we mean immediate impression the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 delivers by the track’s second corner. Instant confidence and useful feedback streams from all the driver inputs: clutch pedal, shifter, throttle and brake pedals, steering wheel, and so on. The fact each is purposely weighted the same makes the driving experience flow like mercury.
You don’t manage this car to keep it on the asphalt as much as you think the car around the track, always looking one or two corners ahead. It’s as if your brain is way out in front of the GT3 and is pulling the whole thing along. One judge aptly described it as “moving mindfulness.”
The grip and traction you discover in every direction is sublime. You feel the brake pads biting the rotors and intuit exactly how much braking you’re using and how much you have left. With so little weight on the nose (1,275 pounds) combined with the rear-steer axle and R-compound tires, the latest GT3 turns into a corner just by looking at the apex. And its naturally aspirated engine allows you to roll into the throttle before you even get there, to use all the horsepower on the exit. We were all at full throttle in the places on the track where we didn’t dare it in the other two cars. And when it does let go, it does so gently and gradually just to let you know you’ve gone over the limit.
And that’s the thing: Finding and maintaining on-the-limit driving rarely feels so intuitive and manageable, even to those who aren’t accustomed to it, and even when those limits exceed those of the other two cars. This all might make the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 sound sterile or clinical. No, we assure you it’s quite the opposite, as engaging and thrilling as it is confident and capable. This car represents a rare feat of automotive engineering and thoughtful, thorough development. The people who put this 911 on the road love to drive—and it’s astonishingly apparent how hard and well they do so.
2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series
Often too much machine for the road, and even too much for some tracks. This missile was built mainly to lap the Nürburgring quicker than any production car—mission accomplished.
2021 Lamborghini Huracán STO
Barely livable as a street car, this track-day denizen begs to be driven as hard as you dare. Just save yourself $50K and get a standard paint job, because you’ll need the dough for tires.
2022 Porsche 911 GT3
In a world of like-purposed supercars, Porsche builds a car that’s super to drive. It’s miraculous how easily you can find its limits and maintain them confidently time and again.
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