Monterey Car Week 2018: Concept and Production Cars

Outlandish or sensible, futuristic or utilitarian, some of the most impressive new vehicles on show

Follow the money. It’s an apt phrase these days, but here we mean something different. Carmakers long ago learned that one of the most highly regarded car shows in the world isn’t in some stale-aired convention center, but in the sun and fog of Monterey, California. From Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering, to rallies and auctions, Monterey Car Week is a seven-day celebration of thousands of impressive and special cars.

It’s loud on track day, and pretty on show days. But above all, Monterey Car Week is a bunch of people united in thrall to the love of the automobile. Because of this, carmakers bring their shiniest, priciest, fastest and prettiest new creations to show off—which is why the whole affair is rapidly becoming a new car show right in the middle of showcases of classic vehicles.

Here’s a taste of the new concept and production cars on show this year. From Mercedes-Benz to Porsche, Bugatti and Aston Martin, some of the vehicles look radically futuristic, others more utilitarian—the unifier is that chances are, they’ve already sold out.

Audi PB18 e-tron

The all-electric supercar, Audi PB 18 e-tron is nothing if not clever. Perhaps most noticeably crafty is the sliding driver’s seat that can perch either in an on-road position (fully left or fully right, depending on the nation where you’re driving it), or slide to dead center, ideal for piloting on the track. Additionally, the windshield slopes directly down—practically to the tarmac—which means you can see the front wheels and suspension at work, ideally making it possible for drivers to center the car perfectly on the road. Speaking of which, the concept is designed to be driven; it’s not automated in the slightest. Audi calls it a “level zero” vehicle, to make it clear that automation is decidedly not the point. The quattro concept EV is a driver’s car: with 612 lb-ft of torque and low weight allowing zero to 62.1 mph in a claimed two seconds.

What’s unique here is that the shooting brake design also borrows from Audi’s better hot hatches, with 16.6 cubic feet of luggage space—not exactly what you’re apt to find from any super car that’s this quick.

Interestingly, Audi borrowed from sister brand Lamborghini‘s active aerodynamics on this concept. And it’s even more important on an EV, that has to be slippery to maximize range, but on the track, needs to hug the road. Audi, like Lamborghini, does this with moving parts. Here the rear wing either hugs the chassis or extends out, pushing air down at the rear wheels. This is also an exceptionally low car and one with a huge frontal area where Audi’s single-frame grille extends out from the cockpit, allowing air to flow through it and then over the cabin.

Fun facts: the PB in the name stands for Pebble Beach, while the 18 is for Audi’s Le Mans R18 endurance racer.

Courtesy of BMW

2019 BMW Z4 M40i First Edition

BMW and Toyota—like many carmakers are doing in order to save money—collaborated on the development of their two-seater sports cars. It’s unclear if the Toyota Supra will be a close cousin of the Z4  (which debuted at Pebble) or a hard-top. You can bet at least the wheelbase will be identical. You can also bet BMW was smart to debut first, because they have a massive legacy in sportscars and the Z4 only has to fill in a small niche in their line-up.

That said, the Z4 isn’t as radical of a departure as we’d expected. (Don’t forget the prior Z4 was penned under the divisive Chris Bangle, but what’s arrived is so recognizable as what came before you could be excused if you didn’t necessarily recognize it as brand new.) The car’s more interesting from the front and rear, however, where in some ways it actually looks more Japanese than German. Important details include the fact that you will be able to order it with BMW’s creamy in-line 3.0-liter six, likely making upward of 270hp, but only mated to a six-speed automatic. If you want to shift your own, used Z4s are widely available and a lot more affordable than the roughly $45-$50k BMW will want for the 2019 when it goes on sale next spring.

Courtesy of Bugatti

Bugatti Divo

Note to Bugatti: it would have been more playful to name this $5.8 million car for Devo the band rather than for Albert Divo, the French racing driver who piloted Bugattis in the 1920s. (Then, though, did Bugatti customers know or care about the name Chiron—which wasn’t after the Greek centaur nor the minor planet in our solar system, but for yet another former Bugatti driver?)

Names aside, the Divo’s target buyer is someone who wants to drive more on the road than the track, hence the car’s actually slower than the Chiron. This is thanks to a reworked skin that develops far more ground force, literally creating purposeful drag to glue it to the road. Slower is relative, of course. We’re talking 236mph vs 261mph, even though it’s got the same bonkers 1,500hp W-16 engine. Bugatti says top speed isn’t all that, and instead the Divo’s purposefully a grippier car.

Courtesy of Lambourghini

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 63

The Aventador was kind of a hot mess when it debuted in 2011, but Lamborghini’s worked considerable magic on their fastest machine—now it’s far more than fast. Like for the Huracan Performante, Lamborghini greatly revised the aerodynamics of the SVJ. The now-more-pronounced pout to the front lower “lip” has active shutters; same goes for the rear-deck ahead of the massive wing. Closing these shutters at both the front and rear creates down draft to hold the car to the road (similarly to the flaps of an airplane wing used for braking). Jump to the throttle and the flaps automatically go flat. As with the Huracan, Lamborghini’s also programmed these flaps to swap from side to side, too, pinning the inside wheels to the road during high-velocity corners. All told, this buys 40 percent more downforce than the Aventador SV, and you’ll want it, because the SVJ’s V-12 now produces 770 horsepower, flies to 62mph in 2.8 seconds and to 124mph in 8.6 seconds.

While the Huracan was less of a handful, the Performante version suddenly made that car goofily easy to drive at 9/10ths. If Lamborghini’s made anything like that kind of improvement on the Aventador, this should truly, and at long last, be a worthy rival to its ultra-fast supercar rivals. All that said, to own one will be unlikely for most of us: they’re only making 900 and they will cost $517,770.

Courtesy of Infiniti

Infiniti Prototype 10 Concept

Infiniti had a tough dance at the Quail—their big stand was actually 10 miles away on the fairway at Pebble Beach. So, oddly, this expensive and exclusive concept car sat solo on the lawn, like some vintage racer from an alternate reality where 1930s speedsters got AWD and pure EV power. Like Infiniti’s lovely Prototype 9, the 10 continues to explore the idea of a single-seat race car. And like Audi’s PB18, it also has full “drive-by-wire,” meaning nothing mechanical connects the switchgear—from brakes, to throttle, to steering, to the motor, wheels, etc. That’s one way cars of the very near future will shave bulk they otherwise gain in the form of batteries.

There’s zero reason to expect that Infiniti will actually make a car like the Prototype 10 Concept, but there’s certainly a quorum in the design world that electrification can radically transform how sportscars are designed, so we wouldn’t be even slightly surprised if Infiniti’s next effort in this space is a whole lot closer to a production study with a proper roof, doors—and seating for at least two people.

Courtesy of Nissan

Nissan GT-R50

Each year a different brand gets to sponsor the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which happened to work out great for Nissan this year, since it’s also about to be the 50th anniversary of the GT-R. Nissan partnered with Italdesign on this unique-bodied GT-R, of which they’ll only make 50—and sell for $1.2 million each. (Nissan says they already have 30 customers.)

Key features include not only a goose of the 3.8-liter V-6 to 710 horsepower (from a mere 600hp on the stock GT-R), but a thorough reworking of the body. To handle that extra muscle the entire car’s now nearly four inches longer and wider, with a large front-splitter and side-skirts necessary to create added downforce. Speaking of which, it’s hard to ignore the massive wing on the rear. A lot of the details get lost in the black-and-gold livery, but the Nissan-Italdesign effort is pretty slick and manages to make the very muscular GT-R look, if not exactly elegant, certainly thoroughly refreshed. FYI, if you’re wondering about the high cost, each of these cars will be shipped from Japan to Turin with mechanicals in place, then bodied by hand in Italy. That’s a much more costly way to build GT-Rs than running them through the assembly line once.

Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow

When it comes to concept vehicles, Mercedes-Benz rarely disappoints. The EQ “Silver Arrow”—inspired by the 1937 W125 Rekordwagen that held the top speed record for a public road until 2017 with a figure of 268 mph—looks stunning in it’s Alubeam Silver paint, further paying tribute to the equally pretty race-cars of the ’30s and ’50s which also used the Silver Arrow name. Those cars eschewed paint in favor of exposing their aluminum bodies because paint was deemed to add weight. These days weight savings can come in many forms, but the exclusion of paint is rarely one of them, in this instance we can’t say we’re mad about it. The combination of that paint and the gigantic 24″ front and 26″ rear wheels finished in rose gold would’ve been enough to endear this concept to us for eternity. However Mercedes-Benz went and covered the front half of each wheel with a fixed hubcap that lines up with the end of the seriously flared wheel arches, leaving half the bespoke Pirelli tires and only 84 of the 168 beautiful spokes exposed to our eye.

Jaw dropping design isn’t limited to the exterior either—the low slung, single-seat cockpit is a sight to behold once the “roof” is moved to the forward position allowing the driver to exit. With a saddle brown leather-wrapped steering wheel and walnut floorboard that’s accented by pinstripes,  there’s plenty of contrast with aluminum, carbon fiber and microsuede found throughout the rest of the cockpit. It’s from here that the driver would be able to enjoy a claimed 738 horsepower. (Mercedes did not say what kind or how many motors the EQ Silver Arrow uses.)

by Andrew Maness

Aston Martin Rapide AMR

From the daytime running lamps borrowed from the limited production Vanquish Zagato to the massive rear-splitter with quad tailpipes, the Aston Martin Rapide AMR is visually striking. This car seems like the ultimate expression of what Aston Martin is capable of when their designers and engineers are given carte blanche. Simply stunning in the Signature spec which consists of stirling green paint, and lime green accents throughout the interior. Creating a great deal of contrast, there’s fade-resistant dark blue Alcantara fabric—which Aston Martin developed with Alcantara just for the Rapide AMR—covering the seats, door panels, pillars and ceiling. Pretty much anywhere there isn’t leather, there’s Alcantara and where there is neither, there’s carbon fiber. In fact, the whole center console is real carbon fiber—a first for the Rapide—which ought to give you an idea of how serious Aston is about this being the ultimate performance four-door.

As Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman told us while walking around the car, “We wished to share the extreme side of Aston, so you have the the AMR Rapide—a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” An apt description, considering this car is currently the fastest four-door in the world with the naturally aspirated 6.0L V12 capable of propelling it to a top speed of 205mph.

With the Rapide AMR, Aston has shown us that while they are unquestionably still the go-to brand for elegant sportscars, they’re also serious about dominant performance within their segment. It’s truly a shame that this will likely be the last new Aston Martin to feature a naturally aspirated engine, but at least it previews the start of an intriguing new story line for one of the all time great automakers.

by Andrew Maness

Gunther Werks 400R Sport Touring

One of the more interesting displays at The Quail wasn’t a fully functional car, but rather a raw carbon fiber exoskeleton. Apparently Gunther Werks got so many chassis-related questions last year (following the unveiling of their remastered 993 Porsche 911 dubbed “The 400R”) that CEO Peter Nam decided to display a shell—straight from the production line.

With pockets of sunlight hitting the now-exaggerated curves that Gunther Werks has extended by over three inches at each corner, the car is a labyrinth of shimmering carbon weave. Rather than backdate the final iteration of the air-cooled 911 as some Porsche modification workshops do, Gunther Werks have chosen to go all in on the 1990s styling the 993 brought to the table. This approach was more than apparent when looking over their new vehicle on display next to the exoskeleton, the 400R Sport Touring.

Recently completed for a customer, this car wears Chelsea Grey paint, gloss-black wheels that are a combination of the classic Fuchs found on many a 911 SC and the famous Porsche 917K race car wheels. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires in custom sizes work together with updated giant carbon ceramic rotors from Brembo are there to keep the the hand-built Rothsport Racing 4.0L  flat six in line—or at least try to. Further assisting the extra-wide rubber and giant stoppers in their duties is a new JRZ active suspension system tuned for the 400R by Eisenlohr Racing.

This is the first time an air-cooled 911 has been equipped with active dampers and it pushes the modified 911 segment forward in a major way.  Adding an active suspension to a remastered version of an iconic vehicle that is lighter and more powerful than the original should be a recipe for success. And Gunther Werks has committed to building 25 of these 400R Sport Touring, and some customer deliveries have already occurred.