► The four cars that really counted at the New York show
► Mazda launches a new take on the MX-5, Merc fills niches
► Audi chops the R8's roof off, Nissan updates the GT-R
Mazda MX-5 RF
The launch of a folding hard-top version of the new Mazda MX-5 comes as a surprise to absolutely no-one at all. Mazda has been heavily hinting at such a model – and every iteration of the diminutive roadster has been offered with a tin top of some form at some point.
But no one, we’ll wager, expected the svelte, straightforward roadster to adopt the Rube Goldberg-inspired retractable roof panel mechanism from the 911 Targa. The price to pay for all this additional complexity? A weight penalty of around 50kg, and a premium of £2500, compared with the standard convertible. Buyers can pick from 1.5 or 2.0-litre versions, while a fun-blunting six-speed auto option also joins the line-up.
Need to know
What it is: A cut-price, front-engined Porsche 911 Targa
Engine & performance: 1.5 or 2.0-litre naturally aspirated 4-cyl, six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, fast enough to not be boring
Aimed at: Areas prone to knife crime
On sale: 2017, from £21,000 (est)
Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe
‘We have to go deeper,’ cried Mercedes’ product planner. ‘BMW and Audi are filling all these niches, we must catch up!’ Yes, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer – no, the other one – is doubling down on its Inception-inspired scheme to create ranges within ranges.
The business case is simple: give your customer somewhere to go, everywhere, and stop them jogging off to a rival like Audi – the Russian doll-alike range of which serves it well in the sales charts. It does mean, however, that you’re going to create cars that people love to hate. So, when you see the new GLC-based coupe cruising along, don’t expect it to be let out of many junctions. It’ll still be annoyingly competent, though.
Need to know
What it is: ’Low-roofed, lowered, coupe version of the GLC SUV’
Engine & performance: Range of diesels, some petrols that will never sell and a plug-in hybrid that’ll look nice in showrooms. All sub-9.0sec 0-62mph and claimed 40mpg+
Aimed at: ‘You’d like a less practical GLC, you say?’
On sale: Autumn, around £40k
Audi R8 Spyder
Unlike the MX-5 RF, the latest iteration of the Audi R8 Spyder proves to be an eminently predictable affair. The fixed roof gets hacked off, a folding soft-top goes in its place, the kerbweight creeps up fractionally and the performance worsens marginally. Quelle surprise.
It has to be said that the freshly decapitated version of the second-gen R8 isn’t as well resolved, on the looks front at least, as its tin-top sister – nor is it as slick as the Huracan drop-top. Still, at least it’ll be as easy to live with as an A4. One small saving grace is that it’s far stiffer than the previous cab and, yes, it still retains that sonorous, naturally aspirated, zeitgeist-bucking V10. Enthusiasts rejoice!
Need to know
What it is: An R8 for those who like to expose themselves in public
Engine & performance: 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10, 533bhp, 398lb ft, 3.6sec 0-62mph, 197mph
Aimed at: Those who find a Lamborghini too flamboyant – or expensive
On sale: By the end of 2016, £130,000 (est)
The Porsche fighter’s been pulled to the ropes, had its face wiped clean and been slipped a shot of steroids before being cast out for one final, controller-smashing bout. Yes, the GT-R’s getting one last update before being replaced in its entirety.
In comes a fresh exterior look, a massively revamped interior – about time – and a whole host of performance upgrades. A new ignition system helps boost power from 546bhp to 562bhp, while more compliant suspension reputedly makes the Nissan more forgiving to drive. What’s next for the engineering brute? Well, reputedly nothing’s been decided yet – but we hear the next generation of the Japanese sledgehammer will pack hybrid tech.
Need to know
What it is: A revitalised supercar-slaying middle finger to physics
Engine & performance: Hand-built twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6, 562bhp, 470lb ft, 2.6sec 0-60mph, 196mph, more G than your neck can handle
Aimed at: Those who absolutely must decimate everything else on the road
On sale: Autumn 2016, £78,000 (est)
Read more from the May 2016 issue of CAR magazine