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Clapton has focused on one Ferrari model in particular, the 512 BB. He has owned three of them, Ferrari says, and so the new one was meant to incorporate the best of that model with a dash of 458 Italia thrown in.
Want one of your own? Ferrari wants to remind all that it has a custom-build program. We suspect all you have to do is ask for the "EC" and they'll know what you're talking about. Remember, though, if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it: the price of Clapton's prancing horse wasn't disclosed.
That's a huge prize from a company like Honda that prides itself on its Japanese heritage. The original NSX, in fact, was also intended as proof that a humble brand like Honda could run with the likes of Ferrari.
The new NSX will be a stunning yet cunning beast. Rather than a huge V-8 or V-10, it will be built so light and nimble that a V-6 will provide plenty of power, plus fuel economy to match thanks to its hybrid system, Acura says.
The car, due to hit the streets in about three years, will also have its share of technological breakthroughs. Chief among them will be multiple electric motors configured to enhance the performance of the all-wheel-drive system. They will be independently controlled by the car's computer and be able to send more power to the outside wheels in tight turns to make the car even more maneuverable. Honda calls it the Sport Hybrid-All Wheel Drive system, or SH-AWD.
"This sport hybrid SH-AWD system will make NSX the ultimate expression of Acura's idea to create synergy between man and machine," said Honda CEO Takanobu Ito in a statement.
No word yet on price. The original NSX cost $90,000 when it was produced from 1990 to 2005. It was capable of 175 miles per hour.
Although it is a Japanese company, Honda has long built Civic and other models in Marysville, Ohio.
While its name may be an unappealing mouthful, this coupe certainly deserves the title "supercar."
The new McLaren MP4-12C stays flat, even in the tightest turns, and accelerates in breathtaking bursts on the Auto Club Speedway in this town east of Los Angeles.
PHOTO GALLERY: More of the supercar
VIDEO: See the supercar in action
The twin-seat coupe, which starts at $231,400 with shipping, would look far more at home on a Grand Prix course than on a workday commuter route. Yet it was designed to be at home in both places.
The MP4-12C is both the "ultimate sports car" and "a car you can drive every day," says Anthony Joseph, McLaren Automotive's regional director for North America. "It's a car with a dual personality."
The road car is McLaren Automotive's first branded model as an independent, privately owned company since Mercedes-Benz let go of its 40% stake two years ago. If McLaren is to meet its goal now of a new model every year, the MP4-12C must succeed.
Since deliveries began late last year, about 1,000 cars have rolled out of McLaren's factory in Woking, England. The company is shooting for production of about 4,000 cars a year by mid-decade. But it is competing with a growing list of rivals for well-heeled supercar buyers. Others besides the Ferrari 458 are the Audi R8 GT, Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, Lexus LFA and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
To stand out in that rarefied field, McLaren officials say they were meticulous in every detail ? and arguably obsessive when it came to cutting weight:
Example: The magnesium dashboard, 75% lighter than steel, is so light that "you can pick it up with two fingers," says Antony Sheriff, McLaren's managing director.
Instead of the lead-acid battery found in most cars, McLaren used a small lithium-ion battery like those used in hybrids because it's about 22 pounds lighter.
The driver and passenger sit in a carbon-fiber "tub" chassis that offers protection and rigidity but weighs only 160 pounds. The car was designed to not need anti-sway bars. Even the upward-opening doors feel as though they weigh only a few pounds.
While it's lightweight, it packs a punch. For the U.S. market, the 12C has a twin-turbocharged V-8 paired with a dual-clutch gearbox that rockets the car from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and to 124 mph in 9.1. Top speed in the U.S. is 205 mph, slightly more in other markets. And its brakes can haul it down from 62 to 0 in a mere 100 feet.
Gas mileage, of course, is nothing to shout about, but good enough to avoid the federal gas guzzler tax: a rating of 15 miles per gallon of premium in the city, 22 highway, 18 in mixed driving.
"This is about designing a car that's as light and powerful as possible," Sheriff says. "We really have an incredible amount of know-how. We really do sweat the details."
That extends inside, where the instruments were designed for simplicity. There are no buttons on the steering wheel to minimize driver distraction. Air-conditioning and heating controls are on the doors, while powertrain and suspension settings are in the center console to minimize confusion.
The ideas come from McLaren's racing heritage. The company traces its roots to 1964, when New Zealand-born racer Bruce McLaren built his first true sports car, the M1A. More racers followed, with McLaren becoming a star. He died in a racing accident in Goodwood, England, in 1970, but his company raced on.
One of the company's most acclaimed cars was the F1 of 1995. The track version of the car won what McLaren considers racing's triple crown: the Formula 1 world championship, Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Many lessons of the F1, from carbon-fiber construction to engine design, were incorporated into the MP4-12C. The result is a car that's extremely precise like a racer, though some believe it lacks the kind of personality found in cars such as the Ferrari 458 Italia.
The 12C feels scientific and clinical, says Jonny Lieberman, senior features editor for Motor Trend. "They are approaching street cars the way you would approach an F1 race."
Lieberman contrasts it with what he calls the rhapsodic way an Italia tugs one's heartstrings. He says that another editor, a classical guitarist, noticed the engine sound even matched notes in major scales while downshifting.
Robert Ross, auto consultant to the posh magazine Robb Report, agrees, saying the MP4-12C is a wonderful car but "almost like a Stepford wife in comparing it to the 458 Italia."
But former Ferrari owner Elliott Dolin of Malibu, Calif., says his new "volcanic orange" MP4-12C "exceeded my expectations."
Beyond its performance, Dolin appreciates how his McLaren gives him a lower profile. "I'm not trying to impress anyone," he says.
McLaren's Sheriff seems just fine with that, saying the car aims to be "aggressive but not overly aggressive."
The new Viper is more powerful, yet lighter, than the outgoing one. While there were reports that it would share a lot, and look a lot, like one of parent Fiat's Italian stallions, it has its own U.S.-made frame, 50% stiffer than the last one, and looks decidedly American.
At the heart of the 2013 SRT Viper is a hand-assembled 8.4-liter all-aluminum, V-10 overhead-valve engine producing 640 horsepower and 600-foot pounds of torque. Horsepower is increased by 40. SRT boss Ralph Gilles says it will have the most torque of any non-turbocharged car in the world. "This thing is a torque monster," Gilles says.
The new engine is 25 pounds lighter than the one it replaces.
To hold down all that power, the Viper gets wider rear tires. "This thing sinks its claws in the ground and sticks like glue," Gilles says.
Just for fun, there's a launch control button. You hold down the accelerator, push the button and the car goes off the line as fast as it possibly can.
While it still has many of own components, SRT did borrow one element from Fiat-brand Ferrari: the seat. The racing seat is thinner and will make more room for the biggest of drivers.
The new Viper was given a snake-eyes look from the front. It is meant to evoke emotion, a new halo car of Chrysler Group's SRT performance group. It is no longer a Dodge.
"We've been waiting for this day for a very long time," he said. When he emerged from the cockpit, he planted a kiss on the fender.
VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech first publicly expressed interest in buying Ducati in 2008 but lost out to the takeover by Investindustrial.
Ducati would add motorcycles the growing VW empire that includes the VW, Audi, Skoda, Bentley and Lamborghini car brands and heavy truckmakers Scania and MAN.
Ducati would complement Audi's luxury car lineup -- and its upscale Italian brands Lamborghini and Italdesign -- with products such as the $28,000 Superbike 1199 Panigale S Tricolore. It also brings expertise in small engines and lightweight materials and is very active in racing.
Management board Chairman Rupert Stadler said in a statement: "Ducati is known worldwide as a premium brand among motorcycle manufacturers and has a long tradition of building sporty motorcycles. It has great expertise in high-performance engines and lightweight construction, and is one of the world's most profitable motorcycle manufacturers. That makes Ducati an excellent fit for Audi."
Ducati sold around 42,000 motorcycles last year and had revenue of about 480 million euros. It was founded by Adriano and Marcello Ducati in Bologna in 1926 as a radio company and began making motorcycles in 1949.
"Yes," he said. "Yes, speed and risk, risk in terms of economic risk. I think an entrepreneur has to risk, if not, he is not an entrepreneur anymore."
Montezemolo and a consortium of private investors are taking a 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) risk that they can provide better high-speed train service between major Italian cities than state-run Trenitalia, taking advantage of a 2006 European Union move to open up track to competition.
"We have brought an end to one of the longest monopolies in the history of our country. Finally, Italian travelers and tourists can choose," he said.
The new company, called NTV, or Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, starts service between Rome and eight other Italian cities on April 28 and will eventually have 25 trains - a new type of locomotive-free rolling stock that has an engine under each car to increase capacity.
Montezemolo and businessmen Diego Della Valle of luxury goods maker Tod's, Gianni Punzo and Giuseppe Sciarrone founded the startup in 2006.
They were later joined by Banca Intesa San Paolo, Italy's largest insurer Generali, businessman Alberto Bombassei from Brembo brake company and French state railway company SNCF, which took a 20 percent stake and provides know-how.
But Montezemolo, chairman of NTV, is clearly the leading man in a high-profile business script aimed at snatching 25 percent of Italy's high-speed train market by 2014 and breaking even the same year. It hopes to attract 8-9 million passengers a year by then.
Chiara Pelizzoni, a transport analyst for Nomisma, said NTV will not have too many problems attracting customers in the high-speed market.
"The high end of the market will be easier to sell. There are customers willing to pay for good services and from an industrial plan point of view they have a good, experienced partner in SNCF," he said.
"The real challenge will be if they try to enter the market for regional routes, where it is much more complicated to make money and where there are more regulations," she said.
The dapper Montezemolo, who looks younger than his 64 years and sports a Bobby Kennedy-esque mane of hair, has a breathless business resume and aristocratic family lineage that fuels his confident, can-do style like high-octane petrol fuels a Ferrari.
He organized the 1990 World Cup football tournament, was chairman of carmaker Fiat, managed Italy's America's Cup sailing race challenge team, headed the powerful business lobby Confindustria and is now running Fiat's Ferrari division.
NEW ENTREPRENEURIAL CHALLENGE
But a startup was a new challenge, even for him.
"This is the first time that I have developed a company from scratch, from zero, from a blank page. Four years ago there was nothing, no train, no people, no organization, nothing," he said as the train sped toward Rome.
He enthuses about the train as if it were one of his Ferrari Formula One race cars and it is a safe bet that the choice of red as the NTV's dominant color is probably no coincidence.
"This is the quickest train today. There is no other train like it. This train can go 360 kilometers an hour but we are obliged not to go faster than 300," he said, referring to the limits of the infrastructure of the Italian rail system.
The 450-seat NTV trains, dubbed Italo and painted red, gold and gray, use high-speed AGV cars built by French transport and power engineering group Alstom.
The AGV is quieter and cheaper to run than its predecessor the TGV and has 20 percent more passenger space because its motors are placed under each car, instead of in locomotives at either end.
"Can you believe we are going at 300 kilometers an hour?" he asked as the streamlined train sped quietly between Naples and Rome on a trip for the media last Friday.
Indeed, if it were not for the Italian countryside flashing outside the big, oversized windows and a slight murmur inside, a passenger might think the train was standing still.
SERVICE, STYLE, AND VALUE
NTV hopes to win customers away from the state-owned Trenitalia, which uses the Italian-made ETR 500 on its high-speed runs, by offering better onboard services, elegance and free amenities such Wi-Fi, live television and first-run films.
The business plan uses a tiered airline-style fare structure for its three "ambiances" - Club, Prima and Smart - and includes low-cost fares in the Smart "ambience" for tickets that are booked early and for off-peak times.
NTV's guiding mantra is service, style, and competition. It offers, for example, quality meals at competitive prices served in passenger seats instead of restaurant cars and prepared by Eataly, the food emporium with shops in the Italy, the United States and Japan.
All the seats, even the cheapest, are in plush leather made by luxury furniture maker Poltrona Frau
The trains will make the Rome-Milan run in about three hours, depending on which stations the traveler chooses, roughly the same amount of time as Trenitalia's fast trains.
But Montezemolo is betting that travelers will choose NTV for the overall experience, the customer service and the smoother ride.
Apart from Rome, the NTV network will include Salerno and Naples in the south as well as Florence, Bologna, Milan, Turin, Padua and Venice in the north.
And he said the company might eventually expand into regional routes with high tourist traffic such as Florence-Siena using different types of trains in the future.
"This is a high-risk venture for us. We have invested 650 million euros for the trains, we will pay 120 million euros a year for the use of the tracks and we have already created more than a 1,000 jobs with a 50-50 distribution between men and women," he said. "If it doesn't work out, we fail."
He wants to make Italo, the sleek white jumping hare who is the mascot of the train, as easily recognizable a brand as Ferrari's prancing horse.
Asked if he feared a price war with Trenitalia on the profitable Rome-Milan route he said: "Bring it on. May the best customer experience win".
($1 = 0.7571 euros)
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Callus)
If it gets made -- and we think it's a fairly sure bet -- Lambo says it hopes to sell it in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, the Middle East and China. Lamborghini says they think they could make about 3,000 of them a year.
A lot of other details are still under wraps, including the one we want to know most: will it have upward opening Lambo doors?