Super GTs are a rare breed with the ability to be soft and gentle one moment and ferocious the next, while encasing their occupants in luxurious surroundings. Which make our top ten?
The modern ‘super-GT’ inherits a legacy forged and refined over a century of sports car-making, through front-engined, rear-wheel drive legends such as the pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C and the likes of the Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB4, Ferrari 250 and Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‘gullwing’. No other part of the performance car market has better pedigree.
These are cars intended for the idyllic, high-speed continent-crossing missions of your waking dreams.
They’re ‘have your cake and eat it’ cars, with excellent touring manners and plenty of space for your luggage, often with a couple of occasional back seats included.
But the very best combine all that with absolutely first-order speed, power, handling poise and driver engagement; or, alternatively, limousine-like luxury, as you prefer.
1. Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
If there’s one marque you’d expect to get the execution of a luxurious, powerful and beautiful super GT bang on the money, it’s Aston Martin. And with the latest DBS Superleggera, that’s exactly what the iconic British brand has done.
This new flagship model (at least until the Valkyrie hypercar arrives) was one of a small handful of cars to be awarded the full five-star rating by our road test team in 2018. It’s an impressively well-rounded car, this one. The 715bhp and 664lb ft developed by its 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 allows the DBS to cover ground with alarming and gathering urgency, and yet even with all that performance punch the big Aston never feels intimidating, nervous or highly strung – something that can’t be said of the Ferrari 812 Superfast. Superb handling and a ride that’s taut but still usefully supple adds to its outstanding grand-touring credentials.
There are a few (minor) flies in its ointment, though. It’s not exactly lightweight (despite what the Superleggera name might lead you to believe), and the eight-speed gearbox can be a bit aggressive at low speeds. The cabin is also a mite too similar to that of the considerably cheaper DB11 to effortlessly distinguish this quarter-million-pound sporting flagship.
But overall, this is a phenomenal car that represents a welcome return to form for a much-loved British car maker.
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2. Aston Martin DB11 AMR
That Aston Martin has laid claim to the top two spots on this list is a testament to the recent success of Messrs Palmer (now former CEO) and Co in turning the fabled British car maker from a much-loved, if old-fashioned, brand into a genuine force to be reckoned with, at least from the perspective from the driver’s seat.
Think of the AMR as a DB11 2.0. Nearly three years after the original DB11 V12 was launched in 2016, it has been retired and replaced by the model you see here. Power from the twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 is up 30bhp over the old model to 630bhp, while stiffer suspension bushes and re-tuned dampers mean it now handles even more competently than before, while outright traction has also been improved. And while the it’s ride is understandably firm, there’s enough composure on offer to ensure it remains a comfortable, effortless GT.
It’s one that’s not quite as complete as the DBS Superleggera, but considering that flagship model is the best part of £50,000 more, you’d hope it wouldn’t tread on its bigger brother’s toes too much.
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3. Bentley Continental GT
The sporting realignment of the Bentley Continental GT has got off to a fine start with this new twelve cylinder, third-generation launch edition coupe. This is a car that retains all of the tactile material lavishness, top-level luxury and first-order touring refinement we’ve come to expect from its maker, but that probably halves the gap that existed between its predecessor and the best-handling cars in the ‘Super-GT’ niche on driver appeal.
The car’s towering real-world performance and all-surface stability will both be big draws to customers who use their cars on a daily basis, but they come partnered with much better body control and cornering poise than existing GT owners will be used to. But for one or two details, and especially since the arrival of the fine-handling V8 version which sits below the W12 in the Conti GT hierachy, it’s hard to imagine how Crewe could better have delivered on this car’s particular dynamic brief, which now caters to a wider range of customer preferences than any of its predecessors have.
Granted, there are a couple of rival super grand tourers which nail that all-important compromise of handling agility and involvement and touring comfort ever-so-slightly better. But considering the weight of opulent luxury it has to bear, the Continental GT has just come a remarkably long way as a driver’s car. We’ll be watching how much further it may come yet with interest.
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4. Ferrari Roma
Maranello has rediscovered some old form when it comes to long-striding, front-engined, beautiful and fast GT cars. As its top-of-the-series-production-line V12 options have become wilder, faster and more exciting in recent years (or in certain cases, like those of the FF and GTC4 Lusso ‘breadvan’ models, just plain weirder) they have also incrementally become more demanding and imposing to drive. That left a gap in Ferrari’s modern model range for a conventional, more laid-back super GT coupe which the new Roma has filled rather effectively.
Handsome, usable, comfortable but also really dynamically engaging at times, the Roma picks up where the widely applauded 550 Maranello left off nearly two decades ago. That it’s powered by a 612bhp turbo V8 and has ‘occasional’ back seats makes it differ from the 550’s recipe in some ways, of course. But the roundedness and breadth of the car’s motive character, and its carefully studied classic GT looks, certainly seem tributes to the 550’s spirit.
The Roma isn’t just beautiful on the outside. With its interior, Maranello has gone after the likes of Bentley and Mercedes-AMG for material richness and luxury ambience; and with the car’s new twin-screen infotainment and instrumentation layout, it’s attempted an air of real technological sophistication also. In both cases, it has enjoyed notable although not entirely convincing success – but enough to tempt some fresh customers into the Ferrari fold without doubt.
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5. Rolls-Royce Wraith
Little in the motoring world is more wonderful than the most aristocratic of passenger car blue-bloods dressed for some weekend amusement.
That’s what the Wraith represents. Rolls-Royce introduced the two-door ‘gran turismo’ version of its smaller Ghost saloon in 2013, and with it announced the most driver-focused car in its history.
The elegant two-door is only small by Rolls’ standards, of course; it’s easily big enough to accommodate adults in its beautifully appointed rear seats and has boot space for plenty of designer luggage.
Up front, it trades some of the extravagance and formality of the interiors of its sister models for a more casual, intimate and understated ambience. Again though, Rolls’ idea of understated is still sufficiently stately to include soft hides, gleaming brightwork and large expanses of gorgeous wood veneer panelling.
The Wraith’s handling has a starchier, crisper edge than the Ghost’s, making the car very happy to be whisked along a testing road at pace and well capable of rewarding an interested driver with its deliciously weighted steering and strong, balanced grip levels.
The Wraith’s V12 engine has abundant power, typical aristocratic smoothness and heightened responsiveness, although you still monitor its business at a distance, through Rolls’ idiosyncratic ‘power reserve’ meter rather than anything as common as a rev counter.
This car is simply delicious to drive, as well as being a sublime way to travel.
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6. Ferrari 812 Superfast
An updated version of the front-engined V12 introduced as the F12 in 2012, the 812 Superfast builds on everything that was good about its predecessor, and also incorporates a lot of what made the special-edition F12tdf such an incredible driver’s car. Which isn’t a bad start in life for any modern performance car.
With 801bhp from an atmospheric twelve-cylinder engine that could genuinely be the greatest of its kind ever to grace a road car, along with super-alert handling that nothing in the Super GT class can really even approach, the 812 Superfast stands head and shoulders above its closest competitors for sheer excitement value.
The rapier-like handling agility of the F12tdf, caused principally by its aggressive four-wheel steering system, has been toned down, but without dampening the dynamic alertness and balance that has distinguished this generation of front-engined V12 Ferraris since its introduction.
Some would argue that a super GT should be less highly strung – a more natural distance-coverer that’s capable of making the miles fly by the window in less wearing mode. We would agree – and that, combined particularly with the 812’s inability to deal well with uneven surfaces, is what relegates the car to the bottom half of these rankings.
The thing is, if you do like the incisive vigour, sheer pace and combustive drama with which the 812 Superfast conducts itself, you might well find that nothing else in the class will do.
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7. Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door
Mercedes-AMG’s third in-house model is an entirely different beast to its first two.
Whereas the old SLS and AMG GT made much of their long bonnets, classic grand tourer proportions and two door layouts (gullwings in the case of the SLS), the AMG GT 63 4-Door Coupe well, doesn’t. As its convoluted name suggests, this latest AMG has more in common Merc’s go-faster saloons than the two-seaters that came before it.
But don’t let its inflated proportions or 2.1 tonne kerb weight fool you into thinking AMG has gone soft. An arsenal of drivetrain and chassis tech that includes everything from four-wheel steering, torque vectoring and an actively-locking rear differential, to a range of drive modes and selectable traction and stability control programs endow the GT 4-Door with near physics-defying on road agility, balance and incisiveness. Get it on a track and it’ll happily powerslide all day long.
That this athleticism doesn’t come at the expense of ride refinement is what really makes the GT 4-Door stand out. Sure, cabin quality could be better in places, as could isolation – but none of these complaints are significant enough to detract from what is a seriously impressive super GT.
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8. Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupé
Mercedes’ S-Class Coupé packs the very latest and greatest of its maker’s powertrain, suspension, safety and infotainment technology into an elegant two-door flagship. And when you’re an industry powerhouse the size of Daimler, you can pack in an awful lot of technology – much of it the kind that its niche-level rivals in this class simply don’t have the budget or scale to offer.
The Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupé, then, is a car with all of Mercedes’ semi-autonomous active lane keeping, speed limit and braking assistance systems, with the latest onboard connectivity and digital concierge systems and with Mercedes’ Magic Body Control camera-based active hydraulic suspension that scans the surface of the road ahead and prepares the suspension specifically for the bumps it’s about to encounter.
AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 supplies the S63 with every bit as much power and torque and it needs, and the suspension strikes a clever compromise between isolation and driver engagement that does just enough to keep you interested in the driving experience but also makes the car feel superbly refined and long-legged.
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9. McLaren GT
McLaren’s new GT really seems to have put the ‘super’ back into the Super GT class. On the face value, the GT seems to have more in common with a supercar than an elegant grand tourer, what with its carbon tub and mid-engined, strictly two-seater layout. But with the lines between vehicle classes becoming increasingly blurred across the entire industry, it doesn’t seem totally surprising that we now have a McLaren that can supposedly mix it with the likes of Bentleys and Aston Martins.
Of course, McLaren pulled a similar trick with the excellent 570GT. But where that car was an adaptation of an existing model, the GT is its own standalone model. So you get even greater storage space, a more lavishly finished cabin, and a slightly softer suspension tune. Its 4.0-litre engine is also down on power compared to that of the 720S, but 612bhp and 465lb ft ensures the GT is still startlingly quick in a straight line.
It’s a peach on challenging roads too – incisive and agile with feelsome, precise steering. In fact, if driving pleasure is at the very top of your list of requirements, this could be the GT car for you.
There is a compromise, though. As comfy as it is by McLaren standards (and these standards are very high indeed), next to the Aston Martins and Bentleys that sit at the top of this class, the McLaren doesn’t quite compete for genuine long-legged touring ability.
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10. Aston Martin Rapide AMR
Let’s not beat around the bush here: the Aston Martin Rapide is now incredibly long in the tooth, having been around in some form or another since 2009.
This AMR version (that’s Aston Martin Racing) is effectively a swan song for the four-door model, signalling the end of the line for Aston’s VH architecture as well as its phenomenal old 6.0-litre naturally aspirated V12.
It’s a fitting send off, too. Subtle chassis tweaks lend a bit more firmness to its ride and help keep its body in check more effectively, but its wonderful rear driven balance is just as evident as ever. Its steering is precise and impressively feelsome, its V12 smooth, powerful and with a soundtrack to die for.
Of course, it feels its age against its newer, more advanced rivals in this class – particularly in terms of its cramped, fussily styled interior. But there’s a huge amount of character on offer here, so much so that it’ll be hard not to miss the old-school charm of the four-door Rapide.
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