I don't mean the fastest, the most innovative, not even the best – no, which performance car of the 2010s might be most remembered decades from now?
I have a hunch, a personal opinion. And I’m just going to say it: Ferrari 458 Speciale.
I’ll get to why, but first, the why nots. Countless cars could go here, cars that deserve to be included on a list of the greatest and most important performance cars of the 2010s.
There are the vehicles that democratised dynamics previously reserved for cars multiples their price: Subaru BRZ, Toyota 86, Ford Fiesta ST, FK8 Honda Civic Type R. The first Mercedes-AMG A45, the populariser of hot-hatch, twin-clutch launch control and supercar-beating 0-100km/h times. The magic BMW M2 Competition; the under-appreciated M140i.
The Aussie cars that were the high watermark of local engineering: the Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint, Holden Commodore VFII SS-V Redline, HSV Gen-F2 GTSR and, to only a slightly greater extent if you ask me, the W1.
Then there is the exotica for those privileged enough to afford or even experience them: the howling Lexus LFA and the big-bore 997.2 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0. The 991.2 GT3 too, and the devilish GT2 RS. The Huracan LP580-2, a welcome cosying to Lamborghini values of old. And the 600LT, possibly the first McLaren to be taken seriously against the likes of Porsche and Ferrari.
There are some cars that may be doomed to a future of marginality – much like the Ferrari F50 – until they get their time in the sun again. I’m talking Porsche 918 Spyder, Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1.
These cars pushed the boundaries, and flew the flag, for what was doable with hybrid technology, but were ultimately weighed down by the same systems to the point I wonder if their hybrid gubbins were, on balance, more of a liability. Of the 2010s, it could be the small-engined, skinny-tyred BMW i8 recognised for best imagining a ground-up hybrid sports car.
There are other cars that might still be yet to get all the credit they deserve. The Tesla Model S P85D – if any still work in 10 years – for getting the market excited about an electric car. The i30 N, Hyundai courageously muscling in on a very difficult category and succeeding. The supercharged V8 Jaguar F-Type Coupe R with rear-drive – about as agile as a Wallabies fullback but a distillation of some very time-proven driving ingredients. More deserved to be sold.
But back to the 458 Speciale. There’s not a lot I can say about this car that you’ve probably not already read, except that it was the zenith in what may be remembered as the (somewhat now dead) era of pursuing excitement, speed and friendliness in equilibrium when it came to developing a sports car.
The Speciale, in my books, is the most complete performance car of the decade. With its 9000rpm, 14:1 compression, 445kW 4.5-litre mid-mounted atmo V8, it was an almighty fast car, capable of low-11sec quarters out of the box. But unlike some of its turbo descendants, every single kilowatt was usable, for your right foot if not the rear tyres.
There might never be a car so fast that’s so easy to trust so quickly. It got into your bloodstream like a substance you had never tried before. It thrilled, made you feel lucky to be alive, but also had the ability to make you feel a tad sad. Because even if you owned one, there’d be the omnipresent suspicion there might never be another performance car like it.