Five new sports cars from iconic makers – a final flourish for the supercar?

Five new sports cars – from Lotus, Maserati, Ferrari, McLaren, and Aston Martin – represent the pinnacle of their kind. But what's the future of the supercar? 

Aston Martin V12 Vantage
Aston Martin V12 Vantage
(Image credit: press)

What will tomorrow’s high-end sports cars look like? It’s a question that must trouble the chief executives of the big names in high performance, as not only are they having to re-jig their technology, but the entire raison d'être of the ultra-fast road car is increasingly being called into question. Not that you’d know it from this quintet of supercars, all of which represent the pinnacle of many years of evolution. Ultimately, every conceivable ethos and approach is represented here, as well as engines ranging from 4-cylinders right through to 12, with a mix of hybrid power and old-fashioned pure combustion. 

Five new sports cars by iconic makers

Lotus Emira

Lotus Emira sports car

(Image credit: press)

Lotus Emira sports cars interior

Lotus Emira, from £59,995 (V6 First Edition, £75,995), lotuscars.com (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: press)

With the arrival of its first SUV looming, Lotus’s future is set to look very different to its past. Founded in 1948, the company was born out of motor racing and has spent much of its 74-year history lurching between excellent products and financial insecurity. Now owned by Geely (and therefore sitting in the same stable as Volvo and Polestar), Lotus is on the brink of a revolution. This car, the Emira, is its final dalliance with the old-fashioned internal combustion engine. Available with both a high-powered 4-cylinder and Lotus’s venerable V6, the Emira promises a step-change in usability and quality, whilst still retaining the lightweight ethos that underpins the brand. You’ll notice that the Emira is substantially more affordable than the other cars on this page, not least because Lotus has never really seen itself as a rival for high-end names like Aston Martin and Ferrari. That will all change with the imminent arrival of the Emira’s bigger sibling, the all-electric Evija, which catapults the company into hypercar territory (it has a list price of over £2m). For now, the Emira promises to continue a strong tradition of affordable sports machines, with a laser-like focus on dynamics and driving fun. 

Maserati MC20 

Maserati MC20 sports car

(Image credit: press)

Maserati MC20 interior

Maserati MC20, from £187,230, maserati.com (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: press)

Maserati’s MC20 is a big gamble that’s been a long time coming. The core design of this mid-engined supercar takes the Italian marque back into a market sector it hasn’t occupied since the 1970s, when its Bora model was a true Ferrari rival. There have been limited runs of specialist machinery since then, but the MC20 brings Maserati back into true supercar territory. The game has moved on somewhat since the brutish era of 1970s car design and engineering, but the MC20 should be able to keep up. With a new V6 at its heart, the carbon fibre-swathed machine will take the fight to Ferrari. One of the best-looking designs to come out of the company’s Centro Stile in decades, it has butterfly doors that tick the box marked ‘supercar’, and a cabrio version will be along soon. 

Ferrari 296 GTB

Ferrari 296 GTB sports car

(Image credit: press)

Ferrari 296 GTB interior

Ferrari 296 GTB, from c£230,000, ferrari.com (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: press)

For the aficionado, a new Ferrari is an event to be celebrated. Announced last year but just starting to roll out around the world, the 296 GTB is the latest iteration of a long line of mid-engined two-seaters from Maranello. With each new model, the technology gets a little bit more intense, and so it is with the GTB, which marks the ‘mass production’ debut of Ferrari’s hybrid system, paired with a 3-litre twin-turbo V6. Ferrari’s cockpits are increasingly sophisticated, and the 296 GTB is no different, with a Formula 1-inspired steering wheel containing a whole of controls from driving mode to indicators. The bodywork is one of the company’s most successful recent designs, losing some of the fussy junctions that were starting to creep into the Ferrari design language. Active aerodynamics complement the technical complexity of the hybrid and drive systems, making this one of the most advanced cars the company has ever made. With the forthcoming Purosangue SUV – Ferrari’s first-ever official four-door car – just around the corner, the 296 GTB will have to carry the flag for Ferrari’s purist sportscar image.

McLaren Artura

McLaren Artura

(Image credit: press)

McLaren Artura Interior

McLaren Artura, from £185,500, cars.mclaren.com (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: press)

Not to be outdone, Ferrari’s longstanding rival, on and off the track, has announced its own V6 hybrid supercar. The all-new McLaren Artura should start to ship in 2022. Like Ferrari, it represents the distillation of ultra-high-end hybrid technology created for the company’s limited-edition hypercars (opens in new tab) into a series production car. McLaren has worked hard to cut weight, and claims the Artura is the lightest in its class. The hybrid set-up allows for a modest EV-only range, as well as using electric-only power to replace the reverse gear (another weight-saving tactic). There’s also impressive fuel efficiency, a rare quality in this traditionally rather profligate category. Unlike most mid-engined cars, McLarens have usually offered exceptional visibility and ease of everyday use (opens in new tab), and the Artura looks set to continue that trend. 

Aston Martin V12 Vantage 

Aston Martin V12 Vantage, one of the best new sports cars

(Image credit: press)

Aston Martin V12 Vantage interior

Aston Martin V12 Vantage, sold out, astonmartin.com (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: press)

Finally, an old school machine that turns on the brutish charm instead of relying on technological trickery. Aston Martin is slightly behind its rivals when it comes to building mid-engined production cars, so in the meantime, it’s crammed its bespoke 5.2-litre V12 into the relatively compact Vantage frame – a major engineering feat. As well as addressing those who grumbled about the Vantage’s Mercedes-AMG-sourced V8 engine, the new V12 Vantage could well be the final appearance of this venerable engine as every manufacturer looks to downsize their output. The Vantage itself is more than capable of coping with the impressive power on tap. The muscular body has been widened and additional aerodynamics added, making this fearsome machine more akin to the Vantage’s GTE racing siblings than the refined but supremely capable ‘regular’ V8 Vantage (opens in new tab).

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.