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In an ironic twist, the auto world’s most prestigious celebration of old cars is now dominated by new cars.
Monterey Car Week has long been anchored in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, a showcase of the finest classics in the world. First held in 1950, the Concours has developed into the days-long Monterey Car Week that brings uber-rich buyers, car enthusiasts, and industry heads from around the world to view the most expensive and collectible cars up close in person.
Now, however, brand activations at exclusive events like Quail, A Motorsport Gathering have repositioned the spotlight to exciting first looks from the world’s greatest automakers.
Why the shift? According to Adrian Hallmark, CEO of Bentley Motors, it’s because brands have realized that MCW brings all their prospective customers to one place. “There is no event on Earth with this concentration of our target group in one place for one weekend, full stop,” says Hallmark. “So I love being here, it’s a great place to be. You’re in the middle of the most passionate group of car people in America. And you can have a sniff around the competition.”
Unlike traditional auto shows where the new cars draw the crowd, it seems Monterey Car Week’s crowd draws the cars. During the event, the Monterey peninsula’s normally low-key luxury hotels become buzzy hotspots where you’ll likely rub elbows with celebrities, car world royalty, and the ultra-wealthy. Picturesque seaside vacation rentals, meantime, are turned into showrooms-slash-party venues by brands like Lamborgini, Bentley, and Range Rover.
This year, we headed to Monterey Car Week to see what the coastal car mecca was all about — read on for all the best things we saw.
If you didn’t make it to this year’s Car Week, you’ll want to make arrangements far in advance for next year, as hotels go very fast. Of course, Monterey is also great to visit anytime (you’ll see locals in amazing cars year-round). Head here for flights (you’ll want to fly into the Monterey Peninsula Airport [MRY]), here for hotels, and check back here when tickets for the 2023 Concours d’Elegance go on sale.
The Best New Cars at Monterey Car Week 2022: Big Engines or None at All
This year’s modern MCW stars were largely on opposite ends of a spectrum: A good portion were last hurrahs for the gas engine, while the rest were all-electric.
EVs are obviously the buzziest thing in the auto world right now, with Tesla outselling other luxury carmakers and every other brand rushing to launch (or expand) their electric lineups. The demand for electric — especially in the luxury sector — has long been proved, and it’s rapidly rising, according to Hallmark. “More than 60% of our customers would buy an electric Bentley in the next three to five years,” he says. “We’ve asked the question, and we asked it four years ago, three, two, and one. And it’s gone from circa 16% saying yes to over 60% in four years.”
On the flip side of the EV push is a celebration of the combustion engine. 2023 will see the discontinuation of beloved enthusiast cars like the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG C63s, the Audi R8, and the Lamborghini Aventador, among others. In response, some luxury and hypercar (brands like Bugatti and Bentley) released limited-edition, collectible cars with monstrous engines. Customer enthusiasm is high for these cars as well, with many limited-run pieces selling out before they’re even announced publicly.
From affordable EVs to ultra-exclusive hypercars, here are some of the best things we saw at Monterey Car Week.
1. Bentley Mulliner Batur
At a private event during MCW, Bentley Mulliner unveiled its latest coach-built model: the Batur. Limited to just 18 examples and priced at £1.65 million GBP (roughly $2 million USD), the coupé is both an ode to Bentley’s past and a signal of the future.
Inside the Batur’s engine bay is one of the last W12s, which gets two turbochargers and six liters of displacement, and, at 740 PS, makes more power than any previous Bentley. The outside of the car, on the other hand, “previews new design language for Bentley,” per the brand, and gives us an idea how its soon-to-come EVs will look.
Despite the forward-looking designwork, the Batur is still a proper Bentley with an aggressive-yet-luxurious silhouette, from the tall front grill to the low-slung rear end (Bentley describes the design as a “resting beast stance”). The interior gets a few special touches as well, like a 3D-printed 18-karat gold media controller.
As with previous projects from Bentley Mulliner, all 18 Baturs were reserved before it was unveiled.
2. Lucid Air Sapphire
Move over Tesla Model S Plaid; there’s a new four-door EV king. Lucid Air’s newly-launched, limited-production Sapphire pushes its already great (and insanely fast) sedan to new levels, making 1,200 horsepower that generates a neck-snapping sub-two second 0-60 time. The whole car has been altered to accommodate this power, with changes including a wider body, carbon ceramic brakes, and harder suspension. The Sapphire will cost $249,000, and should be available sometime in the first half of 2023.
3. Kia EV6 GT
MCW is dominated by high-end brand unveilings, but some affordable brands made splashes too, such as Kia with its EV6 GT. But don’t let the badge fool you: Kia’s new electric hatchback has the performance to keep up with almost any supercar, boasting 576 horsepower and a 0-60 of just 3.4 seconds. This power is complimented by a limited-slip differential, adjustable suspension, and burly disc brakes.
4. Bugatti W16 Mistral
With the release of the Mistral at MCW, Bugatti has officially launched the final iteration of its famed W16 engine. Of course, the W16 hasn’t gone down with a fight: The Mistral — a convertible, reimagined take on the Bugatti Chiron — makes an insane 1,577 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque, which gets the hypercar to a claimed top speed of 261 miles per hour.
Bugatti is producing 99 Mistrals — all of which have been accounted for, with owners agreeing to a $5 million price tag.
5. Koenigsegg CC850
Koenigsegg’s latest, the CC850, celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first production car, the CC8S, and the 50th birthday of its founder, Christian von Koenigsegg. The design is largely reminiscent of that now-iconic CC8S, but the 1,185-horsepower, twin-turbo 5.0 V8 engine and the car’s tech are certainly modern.
But the real reason why the CC850 was a showstopper at this year’s Quail is its “Engage Shift System.” This mind-boggling transmission lets the driver choose between a gated, clutch-operated six-speed gated manual mode or a nine-speed automatic mode.
6. Lamborghini Urus Performante
The Urus, Lamborghini’s 2018 entry into the high-performance SUV sector, has been wildly successful. This past week, the Italian brand unveiled the Urus’ new trim level — the Performante — which features sharper, more bold design work and, as the name suggests, slightly better performance numbers. Thanks to a 16-horsepower bump and a 47-kilogram weight reduction, the SUV can now blast from zero to 100 kph in just 3.3 seconds.
7. Porsche 911 GT3 RS
We all knew an RS version of the 911 GT3 was on the way, but that didn’t stop a collective eye-widening in the car world when Porsche unveiled it in Monterey. As expected, it’s a dream road-legal track car built around Porsche’s 4.0-liter flat-six engine, creating massive downforce with a huge wing and body kit. Set to arrive next spring, the GT3 RS will command a $223,800 price tag.
8. Land Rover Range Rover SV Carmel Edition
To celebrate its first North American residential home in the Carmel Highlands near Monterey, Land Rover debuted a limited Carmel Edition Range Rover to select owners at a private event. The SUV, which costs $345,000, is based on Range Rover’s long wheelbase model. Just 17 will be made; each showcasing a Satin Bronze exterior, a multi-color interior, and other bespoke details.