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MOTOR Awards 2017: Best Engine, Best Drivetrain, Best Noise

By Louis Cordony & Scott Newman, 25 Dec 2017 Features

best engine ferrari 812

We hand out awards to an atmo screamer, an AWD tyre-killer and a NASCAR mimicker

Welcome to the MOTOR Awards for 2017, where we recognise the best and worst or the year.

In this instalment we give out three awards – Best Engine, Best Drivetrain, and Best Noise.

BEST ENGINE: Ferrari 812 Superfast

The engine plugged into Ferrari’s new 812 Superfast isn’t solely about numbers, though it has plenty if you want them. Shall we start with power? It produces a monstrous 588kW, making it the feistiest car, bar LaFerrari, in Maranello’s stables. It’s even ballsier than most of Ferrari’s F1 engines from the early 1990s.

Those 800 metric horses are served at 8500rpm, and while an Audi R8 V10’s valvetrain would be tapping out here, the Superfast’s V12 can spin another 400 revolutions. It revs this freely even though capacity is a hefty 6.5 litres, or 234cc more than the F12 Berlinetta’s V12 thanks to a longer crankshaft stroke.

But don’t draw conclusions, Ferrari says three-quarters of this engine is new. The sky-scraping 13.6:1 compression ratio is slightly higher, and assisted by a new triple-spray high-pressure fuel system. Meanwhile, new variable intake runners, driven by oil pressure, ensure air dives into cylinders at the right speed at all times.

Ferrari 812 superfast engine
It’ll muster 574Nm, or more torque than a VF II Commodore SS-V Redline, by 3500rpm, before adding another 144Nm to the rear axle at 7000rpm (that’s 718Nm in total). Its quad-cam cylinder heads sport new intake and exhaust tracts, helping it squeeze 123 horsepower (92kW) and 109Nm from each litre of displacement. Unleashed from a standstill, the 6.5-litre V12 pushes the 1630kg Superfast to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds and doubles that speed five seconds later.

Yes, a McLaren 720S will undercut that by a tenth, but like we said, this engine isn’t just about numbers. Because at this speed, it’s hard for mere mortals to judge such fine differences. It’d be like trying to discern who hit you harder, Foreman or Ali? There are other charms hidden in a Maranello-built atmo V12.

From down low, when the Superfast opens its lungs and starts consuming the surrounding atmosphere at an alarming rate, the V12 spins into a spine-tingling shrill no blower-assisted mill can match.

And let’s talk about that torque curve. It has more twist down low than an SS-V Redline, and more than an Audi RS6 waiting at 7000rpm, making it so flat, full, and long the 812 is just as comfortable tailing bumpers on the Harbour Bridge as it is winding out at Phillip Island. This is probably why the amount of Fezza owners driving their V12 GT daily is up from 36 per cent around the year 2000 to 54 per cent today.

Without turbines choking its exhaust, or rotors to spin up, throttle response is unlike anything else. We learned any right-foot flinch in the F12 could hoist road speeds 15km/h above the posted speed limit. The 812 comes with an extra 43kW and 28Nm.

But the most special thing about this V12 is that it may be the last of its kind. Ferrari says its GT is going hybrid in 2020, changing the direction of a lineage that began with its very first car in 1947, was continued by its iconic F1 racers, and culminates in the finest engine on-sale today.

BEST DRIVETRAIN: Mercedes-AMG E63 S

Just like a certain iconic haircut popular with rural folk, the new Mercedes-AMG E63 S is business at the front, party at the back. When you want to go fast, or just go to the shops in an undramatic fashion, AMG’s new super sedan is all-wheel drive.

Mercedes AMG e63 s
However, turn ESP off and pull the shift paddles back towards you to engage Drift Mode and all 450kW/850Nm are sent to the rear wheels only – RIP Michelins.

The technology will also appear on the new BMW M5, leading to drastically reduced acceleration times without killing the fun factor associated with the German horsepower race.

We’d be surprised if we ever see a purely rear-drive sedan from the Germans again.

BEST NOISE: Lexus LC500

CLEARLY, the LFA’s blood still runs in Lexus’ veins, because the sometimes conservative company has uncorked one of the best noises this side of a NASCAR.

The 5.0-litre V8 plugged in the LC500 is shared with the GS F and RC F and is co-designed by Yamaha.

Lexus LC 500
But the team tasked with the LFA acoustics has had its way with the LC’s pipes, giving it a rich timbre down low that builds into a heady roar the further you spin towards its 7300rpm redline.

The soundtrack is just as delicious inside, and the ignition cut makes it sound like it’s mated to a sequential gearbox.

Even your neighbours will enjoy its roar.