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We could take this story in a number of different directions, but the fact that more than 70 cars sold in the U.S. today are available with over 500 horsepower is being viewed as at least ironic.
The HybridCars.com dashboard currently lists around 30 hybrids sold in America, and while this number is increasing, another list has grown from just two 500-plus horsepower production cars available a decade ago when the Prius had scant competition, to more than double the number of today’s hybrids.
Those two in the 500 club a decade ago were the the Ferrari 575M and the Lamborghini Murcielago. Now, according a story making the rounds, the number of vehicles delivering 500 horsepower is busting at the seams, and in the last five years alone the tally doubled, suggesting an acceleration in the trend, not a subsiding.
It’s a free country, and our observing this trend is not to to be confused with a screed suggesting the good people of the planet ought to rise up and ban such things, though if you think so, you are entitled to your views. Nor are we unmindful of the fact that R&D money from some high flung projects can be funneled into other more economical projects. Nor do we mean to compare numbers of units sold, but are noting only the number of models developed and brought to market. We know furthermore that often times exotics are purchased as weekend playthings, and can actually represent an investment, as they can in cases increase in value.
No, as they say, we’re just sayin’, and you can parse the info which encompasses many more nuances in this macro economy than we can account for in this brief write-up. We are merely noting free-will choices, and where things are in today’s market.
So with that qualifier, shall we continue by stating the obvious? Petroleum is a finite resource, and even if a high-tech 500-horsepower car can sneak through a sedate drive cycle test and return OK numbers, unleashing enough power to keep the lights on in your neighborhood block still burns much more fuel, but this seems to be a small deterrent.
We’ve seen gasoline crest to over $5 per gallon in 2008, and again now in some regions, have heard all about concerns over emissions, and we know green cars are on the rise.
It would appear also in a land described by some as one increasingly of the haves over the have-nots, that 18 mostly upscale automakers are counting on supplying the wish list for those who have and want more.
And regardless where you stand on the societal equity question, more certain is technology and market demand has enabled automakers to deliver internal combustion vehicles that threaten to make the 60s “muscle car era” fade into memory. Now fast and sleek cars have suspension, brakes, aerodynamics, infotainment, luxury and more to match gobs of raw horsepower and torque.
This is where we find ourselves, even as the handwriting is on the wall from rising gas prices, and U.S. and European legislators mandating stringent standards for the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW – and Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and all others.
But as Cindy Lauper once sang, “Drivers just want to have fun,” or something like that, right?
And not wanting to disappoint, as automakers explore the limits of excess, they are simultaneously working on sensible, frugal, penny pinching cars. When they do that, they will naturally play up the environmentally sensitive side of their marketing, even as in other departments their engineers work on satiating the gods of speed and status, attempting to set lap records at the Nurburgring and upping the ante.
But with a variety of reality checks on the horizon, also underway are attempts to have it all – even including such virtuous attributes as polar-bear friendly low emissions, and high mpg when desired.
We’ve seen “green” electrifed Ferraris, Rolls-Royce EVs, and beyond those low-to-mid six-figure prototypes, Porsche is preparing such creations as the $845,000, 770-horsepower Porsche 918 Spyder (silver car pictured above). This brute will make many a ZR1 Vette owner green with envy, while returning efficiency even a Chevy Volt fan can admire – estimated 78 mpg in hybrid mode, or even 16 gasoline- and emissions-free miles at up to 94 mph on battery power alone.
This kind of experimentation is going on by the majors, but let’s not forget companies like Tesla, Fisker, and others who aspire to start from scratch with green luxury performance.
But what do you think? Coming back to the 500 club, can the internal combustion horsepower wars continue upward? Will mutually contradictory goals continue on side by side with initiatives by automakers doing what they can to sell what people of varying sensibilities diversely want?
For those mindful of phenomena such as energy security, global warming, and other such things, do you think we are cresting toward a last hurrah? Or will the turbocharged party go on well past midnight and the partiers can party no more – or till the proverbial cops come in and shut down the fun?
500-plus Horsepower cars on sale in the U.S.A
NOTE: This list counts to 63, but other vehicles are estimated to make the total in excess of 70. Also, our Dashboard lists 34 hybrids, but a few vehicles are disconnected, and other pending have yet to be added.
DBS coupe & convertible (510 hp)
V-12 Vantage (510 hp)
R8 V-10 (525 hp)
A8 6 W-12 (500 hp)
R8 coupe & spyder (525 hp)
R8 GT coupe & spyder (560 hp)
2013 S8 (520 hp) (summer launch)
Continental GT, GTC, Flying Spur (567 hp)
Continental Flying Spur Speed (600 hp)
Continental Supersports convertible (621 hp)
Continental Supersports IRS convertible (631 hp)
Mulsanne (505 hp)
2013 GT and GTC (500 hp) (new V-8)
Alpina B7 (500 hp)
2013 M5 coupe & convertible (560 hp) (summer launch)
X5 M (555 hp)
X6 M (555 hp)
M6 coupe & convertible (560 hp)
760Li (535 hp)
CTS-V sedan, wagon, coupe (556 hp)
Camaro ZL1 (580 hp)
Corvette Z06 (505 hp)
Corvette ZR1 (638 hp)
458 Italia (558 hp)
458 Spider (558 hp)
FF (651 hp)
F12 Berlinetta (740 hp)
2012 Mustang Shelby GT500 coupe & convertible (550 hp)
2013 Mustang Shelby GT500 coupe & convertible (650 hp)
XFR (510 hp)
XKR coupe & convertible (510 hp)
Jaguar XKR-S coupe & convertible (550 hp)
Aventador (700 hp)
Gallardo (553-562 hp)
Range Rover Sport Supercharged (510 hp)
Range Rover Supercharged (510 hp)
LFA (552 hp)
MP4-12C (592 hp)
57 and 62 (543 hp)
57S and 62S (620 hp)
C63 AMG Black Series (510 hp)
CL600 (510 hp)
CL63 AMG (536 hp)
CL65 AMG (621 hp)
CLS63 AMG (518 hp)
E63 AMG (518 hp)
E63 AMG wagon (518 hp)
ML63 AMG (518 hp)
G55 AMG (500 hp)
SLS AMG coupe (563 hp)
SLS AMG roadster (563 hp)
S600 (510 hp)
S63 AMG (536 hp)
S65 AMG (621 hp)
2013 SL63 (530 hp) (July launch)
2013 SL65 AMG (612 hp) (fall launch)
GT-R (545 hp)
Porsche Panamera Turbo (500 hp)
Panamera Turbo S (550 hp)
911 Turbo S (530 hp)
Cayenne Turbo (500 hp)
Ghost (563 hp)