One of the weirdest things that has happened in the sports car world in my lifetime is that exotic cars have all started to add “high-performance models” to their lineups. Over the last 20 years, it has come to be that you can’t just be content having a Ferrari; you had to consider whether you wanted a “normal” Ferrari, like a 488 GTB, or the “high-performance version” Ferrari, like a 488 Pista, and if you don’t get the performance version, well, then, you’re leaving some excitement on the table. I personally find this trend bizarre, but nonetheless, I’m going to list my personal favorite exotic car high-performance models.
Bugatti Veyron Super Sport
I’ve always loved the Bugatti Veyron for the sheer ridiculousness of it, but for ultra ridiculousness, you have to examine the Super Sport version. Designed to set the record for the world’s fastest production car, the Veyron Super Sport is a regular Veyron with an additional 200 horsepower and a top speed of just over 267 miles per hour. The Super Sport is just a reminder that there is always someone out there with a “bigger boat.”
Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale
The Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale is a truly special version of the standard 360 Modena, and it’s one of the very first vehicles ever offered in the “make it lighter and charge more for it” school of thought. Built in small numbers and boasting a more track-focused personality than the regular 360 Modena, the Challenge Stradale was a focused sports car and really did enhance the driving experience of the regular 360 Modena. It also offered subtle touches over the regular Modena (carbon fiber mirror housings, for instance), so only true exotic car aficionados could spot it.
Ferrari F50 GT
The Ferrari F50 GT is one of my all-time favorite cars, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s just ridiculous. To create it, Ferrari took the most ridiculously-styled supercar, the F50, and made a 1-off racing version with a racing engine and 739 hp, which made it faster than the 333SP — a purpose-built, ultra-fast, open-cockpit race car. Unfortunately, the F50 never participated in a racing series, so the GT remained a 1-off car that was later sold to a private buyer. Then, later, Ferrari made a couple more using spare parts. A performance version of a flagship supercar seems bizarre, but that’s exactly what the F50 GT was.
Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Jota
The Lamborghini Diablo SE30 is one of my all-time favorite supercars. To create it, Lamborghini took the insane-looking Diablo and added a subtle but noticeable body kit, with the Lamborghini shield badge on the front bumper. Then they painted it purple. No, really: Most SE30 models, built to commemorate the brand’s 30th anniversary, are bright freaking purple. The SE30 also had 523 hp — a boost over the standard model’s 485 horses. And then, if that wasn’t enough, there was a “Jota” version — a performance version of a performance version of a performance car — that increased power even more, to 595 horses.
The Mercedes-AMG GT is one of my favorite new sports cars, largely because it can really do everything — it’s fast and it’s fun, sure, but it’s also reasonably relaxed when you want it to be. The AMG GTR removes some of the relaxation but adds some insane performance and magical supercar-like handling, along with a wing and an available bright green paint job dubbed “Green Hell Magno.” It’s also a bit of a bargain, coming in around $185,000 — far less than models from Ferrari and Lamborghini with similar performance.