Determining the winners for our 2016 Car Awards meant a lot of time behind the wheel of 15 different vehicles and considering what made them special. For the most part, we went back and forth about serious aspects like utility, fuel economy, and connectivity.
But for three of those cars, attributes like power, agility, and excitement stole the focus, while all the usual daily concerns took a back seat (somewhere else, presumably, as none of these cars had back seats).
Our Performance car category featured three disparate examples of cars that satisfied the definition of that term in their own unique way: The Lamborghini Huracán 580-2, Mercedes-AMG GT S, and Ford Mustang GT 350R. Sure, they were nerve-wracking to drive through downtown Portland and each parking job was a nail-biter, but all the thumbs-ups and smiles from those who got to experience them were worth it.
Speaking of smiles, once we left the confines of daily normalcy and took them off the grid at Oregon Raceway Park, the real fun started.
The Huracán was the de facto crown jewel of our Car Awards, and even in the bold company of the other nominees, it was still a stand-out. The 580-2 version of the car channels 580 horsepower solely to the rear wheels, unlike its 610-4 AWD sibling. Thus, it’s considered a more fun and lighthearted edition of the Huracán, but it’s hardly a slouch when pushed to perform. Elegant, crisp and fierce, the Lamborghini was the most exciting car to drive on the track as it danced through corners like a skilled fencer’s saber.
If the Lamborghini was a sword, then the Mustang was a war hammer, bashing its way through the undulations of the track with brute force. The 5.2-liter flat plane crank V8 works up a mighty 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque, without the help of a supercharger or anything from the EcoBoost parts bin. Power is managed through a six-speed manual and delivered solidly to the rear wheels. Unlike the other paddle-shifty contenders, the classic stick-clutch-rear-drive combo meant that performance wasn’t there to be handed over, and anyone behind the wheel had to demonstrate a level of skill to master the Mustang. Once tamed, however, the GT350R was jaw-droppingly fast around the course, and roared down straights with a battle cry of an exhaust note.
Formula 1 is arguably the pinnacle of the motor sport world, and certainly the choice of the affluent. Amongst all the million-dollar race cars poised to race, there’s one car on the grid that none are able to overtake – The Mercedes AMG GT S. As the sport’s official safety car, that’s kind of a cheat, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that it takes a special car to do the job. Powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, the Grand Tourer spools up 503 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. Though rigid and serious in build, it’s happy to wag its stumpy tail through corners, giving generous control when sliding for fun. Turns out these Germans have a sense of humor after all.
Ultimately, it was the Shelby GT350R that left the track as the winner of our Performance category. The Lamborghini was spectacularly sexy and exciting, and the AMG was the most fun, but the Mustang proved to be the most satisfying throughout our track run.
Of course, words don’t really do these cars justice, so be sure to check out the action for yourself in the video above!