Vintage cars like a Ferrari 250, the E-Type Jaguar and the original Porsche 911 have always been prototypes of automotive beauty. But there are some new models on the market today that can stand up to the handsome rides of old. Such specimens as the brand-new Jaguar F-Type, the sultry Ferrari 458 Spider, and the obscure Zenvo ST1 Supercar made our list of the most beautiful cars of 2012.
Behind the List
In past years we have rounded up some beautiful vintage whips, so for the latest graduating class of stunners we considered only models that are new on sale this year.
But just being popular or expensive isn’t enough to make this list—the polarizing Porsche Panamera and Ferrari FF, for instance, didn’t make the cut. They’re both great cars, fast and fun to drive, but their looks aren’t conventionally beautiful.
“Beauty first and foremost is the No. 1 factor in evaluating a car,” says David Gooding, the founder of the Gooding & Co. auction house. “If it is beautiful, it always captivates people.”
He’s selling a regal 1936 Mercedes-Benz Von Krieger 540K Special Roadster at the Pebble Beach auction this year and says its unique good looks could push it to a record-breaking cull.
Is there any objective factor in determining what makes a car like the Jaguar E-Type so attractive? A lot of it has to do with proportion. Jae Min, a chief designer for Volkswagen Group, says the correct balance between height, length and width plays a significant role in just how beautiful–or unbeautiful–a car appears.
“There is a fundamental value in good proportion,” Min says. “That is something that we all share in terms of what is beautiful.”
Anyway, the real challenge to making a beautiful car, Min says, is to create a design that is relevant and functional without becoming trendy.
Need a primer? Study the Porsche 911 Turbo or the Mercedes-Benz SLS line. They’ve each got good looks classic enough to withstand the test of time, but they each look as fresh and dynamic as the day they debuted. Expect to see them on most-beautiful lists for years to come.
Ferrari 458 Spider
Ferrari 458 Spider Feast your eyes on the world's first hardtop convertible mid-engine supercar. This $257,000 stunner has a V8, rear-wheel drive engine and goes 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds. With the roof up, the car looks just like the stunning Italia. With the ultra-light hardtop down, it is the hottest convertible on the market today.
The new F-Type, due out next year as a 2014 model, is supposed to recapture the sports-car heritage the company used to have with its C-Type, D-Type and E-Type sports cars. Production prototypes have had a supercharged V6 engine and are small and light enough to, ostensibly, at least, compete against cars like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Ferrari 458 Italia and Porsche 911.
Zenvo ST1 Supercar
It is a Danish-made, 1,250-horsepower supercar that goes 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 233mph. It has a 7-liter, V8 engine that sports 1,050 ft-lb of torque with rear-wheel drive on 7-speed manual transmission. The entire body, and most of the trim, is carbon fiber. It weighs 3,000 pounds. Only 15 of the ST1 will be made, with three slated for U.S. showrooms.
McLaren MP4-12C and 12C Spider
"The McLaren MP4-12C isn't brand new but after seeing it in person and driving it, it just blew my mind," says Atif Kazmi, founder of the mens lifestyle site Por Homme. "Besides, the front looks like it's smiling at you. Beautiful."
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster
The convertible is the second car to be developed independently by AMG. (The SLS AMG gullwing coupe was launched last year.) It has 563 horsepower and a top speed of 197 miles per hour. It also handles just as amazingly as the coupe, thanks to modifications that increase the rigidity of the body (the cross-member under the dash has additional supporting struts; a structure between the soft top and the tank stiffens the rear axle).
"It's everything a supercar should be: shouty, sexy, outlandish and inter-planetary,” says Michael Prichinello, the co-owner of Classic Car Club Manhattan. "The lines are much harder than any other car, and all the folds and creases remind me of automotive origami."
The $300,000 four-door, five-seat sedan comes with a 6 3/4 liter, 505 horsepower V8 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission that reduces CO2 emissions and saves 15% more fuel than the previous V8. It is hand-made in Crewe, England, and takes more than 320 hours of construction from start to finish. Almost half of Mulsanne production time goes into crafting its interior, which is trimmed with hand-stitched leather, polished stainless steel sills and grills, and premium wood veneers.
Aston Martin V12 Zagato
"English cars don't always work that well, but they sure are beautiful," Prichinello says. “I like this car because the DB9 has been around for a bit and the V8 looks very much like the DB's little brother. The Zagato tag on an Aston is very special, so the car wearing it should be too. While the new Zagato doesn't delivery newness in the form of technology, engine or anything else, it is a beautiful example of bodywork. The curves are both powerful and graceful. It's a gentleman's GT car."
Maserati GranTurismo Sport
"I've always been a sucker for Italian GT cars, and the GT Sport is the best of the lot,” Prichinello says. “It is an over-exaggeration of everything a GT car should be. First off, the size of the thing. In person, it's as long as a football field, but it's that length that lets the graceful lines of the GranTurismo get bigger and bolder at the ends. The hood is long and muscular, letting you know there's a Ferrari-born engine underneath, and while it looks classically Italian and sports-minded, there's something very sinister about it. This isn't a nice man's car."