Luxury driving no longer means wrestling with some lumbering, boat-like behemoth. In addition to stately sedans, many high-end automakers, especially in Europe, also produce some of the wildest, classiest -- and fastest -- vehicles on the planet. Three of these companies, all German, unveiled several of these haute hot rods at this year's LA Auto Show.
It's only four years since Mercedes-Benz introduced its AMG GT, so the new version shown at the Convention Center is a "refreshed" model. This ultimate grand tourer's long, luscious body features a rounded rear, a throwback to the sleek lines of the 300SL coupe from the 1950s. The coupe retains the fire breathing twin-turbo V-8 engine, which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, delivering up to 196 mph. New are LED headlights, a new rear diffuser (on GT and GT R models) and a fresh center console and steering wheel.
Also displayed at the LA Auto Show was the limited edition, ludicrously potent MBZ AMG GT R PRO. The PRO has borrowed more than just its distinctively striped wrap design from the racetrack, with fully adjustable coil-over suspension, lightweight carbon-fiber body components and finely tuned aerodynamics. Capable of launching to 60 mph in an eye-watering 3.5 seconds, there was no need to tweak the twin-turbo, 577-horsepower V-8 also found in the "regular" GT R.
BMW revealed the six cylinder M40i incarnation of its nimble Z4 roadster at the LA Auto Show. With its 3.0-liter turbocharged power unit conjuring 382 horsepower and peak 369 pound-feet of torque, the M40i eats up 0-to-60 mph in 4.4 seconds, with a chassis enhanced by crisp steering, adaptive dampers, and upgraded M Sport brakes. Gone is the retractable hard top of the previous Z4 in favor of a soft-top convertible appropriate to the body's athletic proportions, with a luxe-but-sporty leather and Alcantara interior package.
The new BMW M340i xDrive Sedan wouldn't look out of place in a presidential motorcade, yet this elegant executive car is a wolf in sleek clothing: the most powerful non-M 3 Series ever, with an updated 3.0-liter powerplant developing 382 horsepower. Factor-in xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive, performance chassis tuning and M Series interior flourishes and you have practical daily driver with the soul of a sports car.
For all of Porsche's recent success with SUVs and the four-door Panamera, its rear-engine 911 2+2 has been the brand's emotional heartbeat for more than 50 years. So the debut of an all-new 911 at the LA show generated huge excitement. With its flat-six turbocharged engine more powerful than ever, and introducing an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and an improved injection process, this latest iteration only enhances the 911 legend. High-end tech has not been neglected, with Night Vision Assist with thermal imaging camera, Porsche 360+ personal assistant and the timely Porsche Impact emissions calculator.
Although based on the outgoing 911 GT2 RS, the new GT2 RS Clubsport is perhaps the ultimate expression of 911-ishness to date. Starting at a hefty $478K, this track-only heart-stopper, of which only 200 will be produced, is outwardly distinguished by its giant rear wing, vented front hood and modified rear diffuser. But beneath the Clubsport's sculpted skin lurk racing brakes, fully adjustable racing suspension and a new limited-slip differential -- all for just the price of a small family home.