Every four years, soccer fans around the world join together in one of the most revered traditions in sports: wondering why the U.S. isn't better at soccer. On the one hand, we Americans are honestly troubled by this, as there's nothing we don't like to be good at. On the other hand, though, we resent the implication we should give a rat's ass, since we've proven we're good at everything else. We routinely clean up in the medal count at the Olympics; we've brought freedom to countries around the globe (frequently without even having to be asked!); we invented the airplane, the Internet, Tennessee whiskey, and rap music. With a résumé like that, we shouldn't have to take any crap for not being able to kick a ball around.
Maybe the automobile industry is where we can level the playing field. We didn't invent the car, but we've built more of them than any country in the world, and we own more cars per capita than any country except Monaco and San Marino. (And let's face it, if your two countries combined are less than a sixth the size of Tampa, you don't really count.) On the flip side, more than a few of the soccer powerhouses that regularly eat our lunch depend on us for their vehicles and a bunch of other things.
To decide which country produces the superior example of the motor vehicle, we've put together the World Cup of Cars. Each country in this year's FIFA World Cup puts forth the best vehicle it's got, and we pit them against each other tournament-style to determine a winner. Performance is a big factor in determining "best," but not the only one; we'll also consider criteria such as practicality, comfort, engineering innovation, quality control, and intangible awesomeness, i.e. how jealous your college girlfriend/boyfriend would be if you showed up to homecoming in one. As you'll see, in some cases we'll also have to evaluate the mere likelihood that the vehicle actually exists in the form its manufacturers claim.
Because mergers, joint ventures and free-trade agreements have made it tricky to determine what a car's country of origin actually is, we're emphasizing cars each country designed and built themselves. For example, this year's World Cup host, Brazil, is home to factories that pump out thousands of Volkswagens and Chevrolets and whatnot a year, many of which are excellent vehicles -- but rather than take credit for some poor engineer sweating the night away in Wolfsburg, Brazil is represented by the locally owned and operated Lobini company. If a country doesn't have an indigenous automaker, then they get to claim something that's built within their borders. A few countries in the 2014 World Cup don't have any automobile plants whatsoever; for those countries we'll bring in ringers from elsewhere in the world.
The nations are grouped the same way they are in this year's World Cup qualifying round. Here's who's representing each country.
BRAZIL: Lobini H1 (2,270 lbs; 180 hp; 6.0 sec 0-60; top speed 143 mph)
Brazil is actually the world's seventh-leading automaker by production, though all but a handful of that is from the dozens of foreign companies that have set up shop there. They do, however, have their own homegrown sports car in the form of the Lobini H1. It uses a VW-sourced four-cylinder turbo, and the styling is courtesy of an ex-Lotus designer, but everything else is handled right there in São Paulo. And most of them are intended for export because, in keeping with the current state of Brazilian society, it's way too expensive (the equivalent of $96,000 U.S.) for most everyday Brazilians to afford.
CAMEROON (by way of China): Brilliance BS2 (2,734 lbs; 104 hp; 11.5 sec 0-60; top speed 100 mph)
Cameroon doesn't actually have an auto industry yet, but they will when the "Star of Africa" plant begins pumping out Chinese-designed Brilliance vehicles in a year or so. One can only hope it's better built than the first car Brilliance tried to export to the rest of the world. China's still-young domestic auto industry can crank out vehicles that look like the world's best -- a little too much like them, in many cases -- but the engineering and build quality are still lagging way behind.
CROATIA: Rimac Concept One (4,300 lbs; 1,088 hp; 2.8 sec 0-60; top speed 189 mph)
You may remember (and/or blame) the former Yugoslav republics for the Yugo they shat onto our shores in 1987. Croatia would like you to know two things: 1) That was actually Serbia's fault, and 2) they're trying to atone for it anyway with the Rimac Concept One. Each wheel in the Concept One is powered by its own electric motor, which adds up to more horsepower than the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport and the title of the world's fastest electric car. Price: just under a million dollars, depending on the euro-USD exchange rate.
MEXICO: Mastretta MXT (2,160 lbs; 250 hp; 4.9 sec 0-60; top speed 161 mph)
Like Brazil, Mexico is a country where everybody and his brother has set up some kind of automobile factory, but they now have their own native sports car as well. The Mastretta is powered by essentially the same engine that's in the Ford Focus ST, only it's pushing 1,000 fewer pounds.
WHO ADVANCES: In any Group of Death, someone has to die first, and in this case that's the Brilliance. The Concept One, meanwhile, looks like a pretty obvious group champion, so that leaves the runner-up spot to either the Lobini or the Mastretta. The Mexican car gets the nod for being faster and cheaper, so it looks like the Brazilians will have to content themselves with their outstanding soccer skills, beautiful beaches, amazing steaks, world-renowned supermodels...
First place: Rimac Concept One (CRO)
Runner-up: Mastretta MXT (MEX)
AUSTRALIA: HSV Maloo R8 (3,794 lbs; 425 hp; 4.9 sec 0-60; top speed 168 mph)
More than a quarter-century before Chevy introduced the El Camino, Ford Australia built a combination coupe/pickup in direct response to a farmer's request for "a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays." The Aussies call that type of vehicle a "ute," and the pinnacle of that particular type of car is the Maloo R8, built by the Holden Special Vehicles subsidiary of GM Australia. Named after the Aboriginal word for "thunder," the Maloo is basically a pickup version of what we know here as the Chevrolet SS, which means it's powered by a Corvette V8 and is not recommended for transporting pigs of any kind.
CHILE (by way of Sweden): Volvo V40 T5 R-Design (3,307 lbs; 254 hp; 6.1 sec 0-60; top speed 155 mph)
You haven't been able to buy a domestically-produced car in Chile since GM closed their plant in 2008. You can, however, buy the full range of Volvos, including the handsome V40 hatchback that Volvo refuses to bring here. Being the sexiest Volvo in history is kind of like being the skinniest kid at fat camp, but BBC's "Top Gear" has raved about the T5, going so far as to call it superior to its BMW and Audi competitors.
NETHERLANDS: Spyker C8 Aileron (2,750 lbs; 400 hp; 4.5 sec 0-60; top speed 187 mph)
With its scissor doors, machined-aluminum dashboard and 400-horsepower Audi V8, the Dutch Spyker C8 is every bit the modern boutique supercar. If you want one, though, you're gonna have to dig through your couch cushions to the tune of $220,000 - and you may have to come up with it quick, as the Spyker company has been flirting with bankruptcy for the past three years.
SPAIN: SEAT Leon Cupra 280 (3,120 lbs; 276 hp; 5.7 sec 0-60; top speed 155 mph)
The VW Group, which owns Spain's largest auto manufacturer, permitted SEAT to build the Leon on the same platform as cars such as the Volkswagen GTI and Audi A3. This may have been a strategic error on their part, as the Cupra 280 will blow the doors off comparably priced versions of those cars.
Video courtesy of DrivingSpiritUK
WHO ADVANCES: Its name may sound like an animated Disney character, but that can't keep the ridiculously badass Maloo from taking top honors in this group. The Spyker would join them, but two hundred grand is pretty strong cheese for a car whose manufacturer might cease to exist any day now.
First place: HSV Maloo R8 (AUS)
Runner-up: SEAT Leon Cupra 280 (ESP)
COLOMBIA: Chevrolet Sonic RS (2,568 lbs; 115 hp; 11.8 sec 0-60; top speed 114 mph)
GM's experience with small cars has been a virtually unbroken string of disasters ever since the ill-fated Chevy Vega of 1970. That notwithstanding, the Chevrolet Sonic -- manufactured everywhere from Orion Township, Michigan, to Bogotá, Colombia, to Nizhny Novgorod, Russia -- is actually pretty decent to drive. Only problem is South American drivers can't buy the 1.4-liter turbo we get here; they're stuck with a significantly less exciting 115-hp non-turbo, apparently because GM thinks Colombians are having enough fun as it is.
GREECE: Korres P4 (3,527 lbs; 505 hp; 3.8 sec 0-60; top speed 186 mph)
The history of Greece's indigenous auto industry consists almost entirely of microcars and three-wheelers (save for the 1974 Neorion Chicago, a mash-up of a gangster limo and a 4x4 that was so hideous its own designer disavowed it). A group of Greek engineers is attempting to enter the supercar business, though, with the assistance of some American muscle. The 7.0-liter-Corvette-V8-powered P4 will be built in both Katerini, Greece, and Provo, Utah, which is almost certainly the only time those two cities will ever be mentioned in the same sentence.
IVORY COAST (by way of India): Mahindra XUV500 (3,935 lbs; 140 hp; 12.5 sec 0-60; top speed 109 mph)
The Ivory Coast doesn't have any automobile manufacturing plants either (yet), so they'll be represented by India, the world's sixth leading carmaker, where the Mahindra XUV500 sport-utility is produced. While Mahindra pitches the XUV500 as "cheetah-inspired," its track performance clearly isn't, but perhaps after perusing the vehicle's relentlessly cheerful website ("MAY YOUR LIFE BE FULL OF STORIES!") you'll be inspired to find excitement some other way.
JAPAN: Nissan GT-R (3,859 lbs; 530 hp; 2.7 sec 0-60; top speed 191 mph)
To gearheads and fans of the "Fast & Furious" franchise, the Nissan Skyline GT-R possesses legendary status; it may not to anyone else, though that's mostly because Nissan didn't sell it in the United States for the first two decades of its existence. But they finally brought it here when they separated the GT-R from the Skyline model range in 2007, and the current version will leave Ferrari 458s gagging on its exhaust fumes at less than half the price.
WHO ADVANCES: The GT-R is a lock. Of the others, only the Chevy Sonic is a known quantity, but if any Chevrolet product makes it out of this group, it's gonna be a Corvette V8, not a four-cylinder grocery-getter.
First place: Nissan GT-R (JPN)
Runner-up: Korres P4 (GRE)
Video courtesy of korresproject
COSTA RICA (by way of Malaysia): Proton Suprima S (2,987 lbs; 138 hp; 9.9 sec 0-60; top speed 118 mph)
Costa Rica doesn't have an auto industry of its own, so we've picked another tropical nation to pinch-hit for them. Malaysia's Proton corporation started out as a manufacturer of Mitsubishi clones, but in recent years it's forged ahead with its own original vehicles. According to journalists in Australia and other places where you can actually buy one, Proton is pretty much where Hyundai was in the early 1990s: The designs have become more competitive, but quality control is still a work in progress.
ENGLAND: McLaren P1 (3,280 lbs; 903 hp; 2.8 sec 0-60; 217 mph)
Picking a truly British representative for Jolly Old was a lot harder than it looked. Rolls-Royce and Bentley are now owned by BMW and Volkswagen, respectively; Rover hasn't actually produced a car in nearly a decade; and Jaguar and Land Rover are now subsidiaries of Tata Motors. (Yes, Tata Motors of India, which makes me want to go back in time to 1947 just to see the looks on the British aristocracy's faces when they learn that little ol' Gandhi is gonna own their asses one day.) Fortunately for the UK's self-esteem, McLaren Automotive is still keeping the Union Jack flying. And not only is the P1 about as close to a Formula 1 car as you're allowed to drive on a public road, it's also a plug-in hybrid, so when you're destroying everything short of a Bugatti Veyron at stoplights, you're doing so responsibly.
ITALY: Ferrari LaFerrari (2,767 lbs; 950 hp; 2.6 sec 0-60 [est]; top speed 218 mph [est])
The Italians may field the most irritating soccer team in the history of the sport, but dammit, they still know how to build sex on wheels. Don't let the silly-ass name turn you off: The LaFerrari may well be the finest vehicle ever to rumble out of Maranello, and like the McLaren it manages to post ridiculous track numbers with a hybrid powertrain. And when you drive a Ferrari, the valets always park your car in the best space out front.
URUGUAY: Effa Plutus (3,924 lbs; 123 hp; N/A 0-60; top speed 84 mph)
Since its founding eight years ago, Effa, Uruguay's lone domestic passenger-car manufacturer, has pretty much concerned itself with slapping its name on Chinese vehicles built under license. Effa's Plutus is a rebadged version of the Huanghai Plutus pickup truck, which itself is basically a carbon copy of the 2004 Chevrolet Colorado pickup -- a vehicle that, unfortunately, wasn't all that great even back in ‘04.
WHO ADVANCES: The McLaren and the Ferrari, obviously; the only question is who gets first place and who's the runner-up. We feel obligated to point out, though, that the McLaren's performance numbers have actually been verified on a test track, while Ferrari will only give rough estimates. Always the drama with those guys.
First place: McLaren P1 (ENG)
Runner-up: Ferrari LaFerrari (ITA)
ECUADOR: Chevrolet Grand Vitara SZ (3,468 lbs; 163 hp; 11.7 sec 0-60; top speed 112 mph)
This gets complicated, so pay attention. The Grand Vitara is built in a number of locations around the world, including Ecuador, where it's built by GM's South American subsidiary. However, it's basically a Chevy-badged version of the Suzuki Grand Vitara. Which you used to be able to buy in the United States, but now can't, since Suzuki's American distributor filed for bankruptcy in November 2012. Got that?
FRANCE: Citroën DS5 Hybrid4 (3,307 lbs; 200 hp; 8.3 sec 0-60; top speed 131 mph)
Technically the Bugatti Veyron supercar could've gone in this spot, but let's be real here -- Bugatti is owned by Volkswagen Group, so aside from the badge and the location of the assembly plant, the Veyron is for all intents and purposes a German car. While the Citroën DS5 may not get anywhere close to the Bugatti's top speed of 258 mph, though, it's still an impressive feat of engineering. The Hybrid4 is the world's first production application of a diesel-electric hybrid engine, and it helps ensure that a car the size of a BMW 3-series easily gets around 70 miles to the gallon even in the city.
HONDURAS (by way of Romania): Dacia Sandero Stepway (2,436 lbs; 90 hp; 11.1 sec 0-60; top speed 105 mph)
Honduras has no indigenous passenger-car manufacturers; Romania is down to one, which made mostly terrible cars all through the Cold War era but has been building itself back up to respectability since getting bought up by Renault in 1999. (Yes, though it might boggle the mind of anyone who owned a Le Car or Encore in the ‘80s, being associated with Renault made Dacia more respectable.) The Sandero, which uses essentially the same platform found in the Renault Clio and Nissan Juke (among others), isn't a sports car by any stretch, but it's won several awards for value in the European press -- and it doesn't look like it was designed by a Soviet economic planning committee, so that's progress, at least.
SWITZERLAND: Rinspeed XchangE (4,629 lbs; 362 hp; 4.4 sec 0-60; top speed 124 mph)
The Geneva Motor Show is traditionally known for featuring the wildest concept cars of any show on the circuit, and that's partly due to Swiss design houses Rinspeed and Sbarro, who seem to be locked in an annual pissing contest to see who can put the most bizarre creation on four wheels (sometimes three, or occasionally six). This year, Rinspeed turned a Tesla Model S into a rolling work of speculative fiction by modifying it into an "autonomous vehicle" capable of driving itself along a guided path. And while the car's doing that, Rinspeed has ensured you're free to slide the steering wheel over, swivel your seat around and watch a movie, or play Words With Friends, or sleep, or whatever.
The catch, of course, is that nobody's actually built the highway infrastructure required for such a system, so if you tried that on an actual road, it'd basically mean trading life and limb for maybe 30 seconds' worth of "Frozen." But hey, if you can't even be bothered to follow the usual rules of capitalization when naming your car, that's probably just the kind of rebel you are, man.
WHO ADVANCES: Even without its autonomous-guidance widgetry being put into action, the XchangE is still a pretty sweet ride. So is the Citroën, whose technology can be put to use on a daily basis. Ecuador and Romania, thanks for playing.
First place: Rinspeed XchangE (SUI)
Runner-up: Citroën DS5 Hybrid4 (FRA)
ARGENTINA: Donto P1 (1,388 lbs; 300 hp; 4.0 sec 0-60; top speed 161 mph)
If you're familiar with the Ariel Atom or KTM X-Bow, you pretty much get the idea of the Donto P1: Make a sports car as lightweight as possible by stripping it down just short of a bare chassis, drop in the most powerful engine it can handle, and voila, you've got a real-life Mario Kart for the road. What you won't have is a smooth ride, heated seats or any luggage space, but Juan Manuel Fangio never needed any of that stuff, cake-eater.
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (by way of the Czech Republic): Škoda Superb 3.6 (3,591 lbs; 256 hp; 6.4 sec 0-60; top speed 155 mph)
With no vehicle production going on in Bosnia at the moment, we'll head about 450 miles north to the Czech Republic, where the forerunners of Škoda Auto were cranking out cars even before the first Ford Model T rolled out of Detroit. Like Dacia, Škoda's Communist-era vehicles were little better than motorized Spam cans, but they, too, found a Western suitor in the mid-‘90s - in this case, Volkswagen -- and Škodas are now known for being well-designed and beautifully built. The Superb is basically a better-looking (and less expensive) Volkswagen Passat, and while the name may seem like a naked brag, it comes from a technologically-advanced luxury car Škoda built in the 1930s.
IRAN: IKCO Dena (weight N/A; 150 hp; N/A 0-60; top speed 127 mph)
What the Chrysler K-car was to the U.S. in the mid-‘80s, the Peugeot 405 is to modern-day Iran: You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a car that's based on it in some form or another. Iran Khodro spent years building 405s before attempting to sell cars under its own brand, but while they describe their newest car, the Dena, as "high-tech," it's still built on a Peugeot platform. NICE TRY, IRAN.
NIGERIA: IVM Taxi (weight N/A; 111 hp; N/A 0-60; N/A top speed)
My extensive research has determined that Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing is Nigeria's sole domestic automobile manufacturer. But I'll be honest, everything beyond that is a mystery. Is the Taxi basically copied from a Mercedes B-Class, or does it just look a whole lot like it is? And if it's available for private purchase -- which it is, I think -- why did they call it the Taxi? (And why is the first picture of the Taxi on their website a vehicle that literally has a "TAXI" sign on the roof?) So many questions. If you've been to Nigeria recently and can enlighten us, please do so in the comments.
WHO ADVANCES: Nothing against Nigeria, but I can't in good conscience select the Taxi, because I'm still not entirely sure it's not an actual taxi. Nor can I pick the Dena, because it's based on a quarter-century-old Peugeot. So congratulations, Czech Republic and Argentina! You have produced the least goofy cars in Group F. Kudos.
First place: Škoda Superb 3.6 (CZE)
Runner-up: Donto P1 (ARG)
GERMANY: Audi RS6 Avant (4,244 lbs; 553 hp; 3.7 sec 0-60; top speed 189 mph)
By now you may have decided it's not actually that hard for a country to cobble together a domestic auto industry, or even a homegrown sports car. The ability to build a station wagon that will beat a V8 Mustang like a red-headed stepchild, though, is what makes Germany Germany. The Audi RS6 is that rare breed of automobile that can do literally everything you'd want a car to do. Hit 60 in less than four seconds, while carrying two kids in baby seats and a load of groceries? All over it, bro -- which makes it all the more disappointing that Audi won't sell it in the United States. Yeah, you can buy the RS7 hatchback, but somehow it's just not the same.
GHANA: Kantanka Nsoromma (weight N/A; N/A hp; N/A 0-60; top speed N/A)
If Nigeria's IVM Taxi is a mystery, then the Kantanka Nsoromma, built just a couple countries over, is a riddle wrapped in a mystery baked into an enigma, with a creamy inscrutability filling. The Nsoromma looks suspiciously like a Toyota Land Cruiser, but I've been unable to come up with any sort of technical data on it -- except for one feature: "Kantanka Shirt-Ignition®," in which "all that is needed to start the car is to place your palm on your chest" is described as an exhibition of God-given powers. And that's just one of dozens of innovations dreamed up by designer Apostle Dr. Kwadwo Safo, whose website has maybe the chillest welcome page on the entire Internets. And you thought your Nissan Leaf was such hot shit.
PORTUGAL: Asterio Tork 700 (1,962 lbs; 350 hp; 2.9 sec 0-60; top speed N/A)
Asterio is a series of computer-designed lightweight eco-friendly sports cars, all of which look pretty sharp. Looking sharp, unfortunately, is pretty much all they're confirmed to do, as there's no evidence that any of them actually exist yet. Asterio's lone tangible product so far is a rolling chassis that debuted at the Estoril race course in 2010; meanwhile, their website hasn't been updated since June 2011. Fool me once, Portugal, shame on you...
UNITED STATES: Cadillac CTS Vsport (3,966 lbs; 420 hp; 4.4 sec 0-60; top speed 172 mph)
As the U.S. auto industry got fat, vulgar and complacent in the 1970s and ‘80s, Cadillac became a symbol of Detroit's descent into self-parody, half-assedly assembling monstrous barges that nobody under the age of 70 could possibly be interested in. Around the turn of the century, though, Caddy finally decided to expand its target market beyond Del Boca Vista. And now they're cranking out award-winning sports sedans that can run with the best of the German and Japanese automakers.
WHO ADVANCES: As badly as I would've liked to reward the upstarts in this group, I cannot in good conscience do so, as I am unable to verify the Shirt-Ignition feature of the Kantanka (or the mere existence of the Asterio, for that matter). Thus the established giants in this group advance by default.
First place: Audi RS6 Avant (GER)
Runner-up: Cadillac CTS Vsport (USA)
ALGERIA: SNVI Safir (30,900 lbs; 300 hp; N/A 0-60; top speed 57 mph)
By the end of this year, a Renault plant will be up and running in Algeria with the capacity to turn out 25,000 Symbol subcompacts a year. Until then, though, Algeria's motor vehicle industry is represented by exactly one company, which exclusively manufactures trucks and buses. One of their products did win the truck class in the 1980 Dakar Rally, though, so if you encounter a dust storm or mudslide on your morning commute, you can be confident an SNVI vehicle will still get you there.
BELGIUM: Gillet Vertigo.5 Spirit (2,200 lbs; 420 hp; 3.2 sec 0-60; top speed N/A)
Founded by former rally driver Tony Gillet in 1994, Automobiles Gillet produces custom-built sports cars for the likes of French singer Johnny Hallyday and Prince Albert of Monaco. And while my first instinct was to be pissed at Tony for spelling Gillett wrong, I guess I should be glad somebody's doing something productive with the name.
RUSSIA: Lada Granta (2,513 lbs; 117 hp; 9.5 sec 0-60; top speed 122 mph)
Had I written this article just a couple months ago, you'd currently be reading about the Marussia B2, a sinister-looking supercar capable of single-handedly dispelling all those Cold War stereotypes of flimsy, wheezing, unreliable Russian cars. Unfortunately, Marussia Motors has suspended operations and all of its employees either quit or were dismissed, depending on whom you talk to. So instead Mother Russia is represented by the Lada Granta, a subcompact Vladimir Putin needed six tries to start when he took it for a spin at the Lada test track in Tolyatti. More or less embarrassing than Pete Campbell duffing the stickshift and backing a Camaro Z28 over a sign in front of a group of snickering GM executives? Well, Pete Campbell isn't the dictator of a supposed superpower, so I'm going with more.
SOUTH KOREA: Hyundai Genesis 5.0 (4,541 lbs; 420 hp; 5.2 sec 0-60; top speed 149 mph)
When the Hyundai Excel first appeared in the United States back in 1986, it sold like hot cakes thanks to a starting MSRP of $4,995, but it was every bit as slow, noisy, and cruddy inside as you'd expect a sub-$5K car to be. Fast-forward 28 years, though, and Korean cars are now nicer than many of their Japanese competitors. They're not exactly cheap -- the 2015 Genesis luxury sedan starts at $38,000, and that goes over $50K if you want the V8, which you do -- but you no longer have to cover your mouth and mumble when you tell the valet "It's the Hyundai."
WHO ADVANCES: I can't choose a bus over a 420-horspower sports car or luxury sedan, and though I'm probably going to get a dose of polonium-2010 in tomorrow morning's coffee for saying so, I'm certainly not gonna chose a car even Vladimir Putin can't start on the first try, either.
First place: Gillet Vertigo.5 Spirit (BEL)
Runner-up: Hyundai Genesis 5.0 (KOR)
Now we come to the knockout stage of the tournament, which will be organized via the same pairings as the World Cup.
ROUND OF 16
Rimac Concept One (CRO) vs. SEAT Leon Cupra 280 (ESP)
If it were a question of which one I'd pay my own money for, it'd be the Leon, because I'm not going to make enough money over the course of my entire life to afford the Rimac. But it's not, so. WINNER: Rimac Concept One
Nissan GT-R (JPN) vs. Ferrari LaFerrari (ITA)
That said, if your $120,000 sports car can keep up with a $1.3 million one, you deserve some extra credit. But the LaFerrari is just so purty. WINNER: Ferrari LaFerrari
Rinspeed XchangE (SUI) vs. Donto P1 (ARG)
At some point in the indeterminate future, the XchangE will actually drive itself while you take a nap. The Donto, as much fun as I'm sure it is, doesn't even have a windshield. WINNER: Rinspeed XchangE
Audi RS6 Avant (GER) vs. Hyundai Genesis 5.0 (KOR)
The RS6 will run rings around the Genesis and has way more cargo space. If that's not a recipe for Best Car in the World consideration, I'm not sure what is. WINNER: Audi RS6 Avant
HSV Maloo R8 (AUS) vs. Mastretta MXT (MEX)
A similar calculus applies here: The Maloo will beat the Mastretta at the track and you can use it to help your friends move. Wait, that's not actually good. Ehh, even so. WINNER: HSV Maloo R8
McLaren P1 (ENG) vs. Korres P4 (GRE)
McLaren Automotive has a quarter-century of experience translating F1 technology into street-legal passenger cars. Up until now, Korres Engineering was a civil engineering firm specializing in structure relocation. WINNER: McLaren P1
Škoda Superb 3.6 (CZE) vs. Citroën DS5 Hybrid4 (FRA)
The Citroën gets points for crazy good gas mileage (and an umlaut), but the Škoda gets points for better performance, more room and a lower price (and a háček). WINNER: Škoda Superb 3.6
Gillet Vertigo.5 Spirit (BEL) vs. Cadillac CTS Vsport (USA)
Considering that it's hauling around an extra 1,700 pounds with the same horsepower, the Caddy isn't that much slower than the Vertigo, plus you can carry four friends instead of just the one. And if it breaks down, you won't have to haul it all the way to Belgium for repairs. SCORE ONE FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE. WINNER: Cadillac CTS Vsport
Rimac Concept One (CRO) vs. Ferrari LaFerrari (ITA)
The LaFerrari -- OK, that's redundant, right? I mean, aren't I basically saying "the the Ferrari"? I've about lost my patience with y'all, Italy. The Concept One will match the Ferrari's performance without using a drop of gasoline or employing a cutesy name, so I'm giving this victory to the Croatians. WINNER: Rimac Concept One
Rinspeed XchangE (SUI) vs. Audi RS6 Avant (GER)
The idea of one day letting my car worry about dodging idiot drivers on I-285 is appealing, but the idea of hitting 180 miles an hour with a full load of IKEA furniture in the back is more so. WINNER: Audi RS6 Avant
HSV Maloo R8 (AUS) vs. McLaren P1 (ENG)
Australia is home to the Eyre Highway, which, according to Jalopnik, boasts the second-longest stretch of perfectly straight highway in the world. Not that the Maloo is some slowpoke, but even the most patriotic Aussie wouldn't resist the opportunity to whip the McLaren up to its full 217-mph potential on a road like that. WINNER: McLaren P1
Škoda Superb 3.6 (CZE) vs. Cadillac CTS Vsport (USA)
In the Czech Republic, the Superb 3.6 starts at 984,900 koruna, which is the equivalent of nearly $49,000 U.S. -- a lot of coin for what's basically a Volkswagen Passat. Not that the Cadillac is cheap, but when you lay down that extra ten grand for the CTS, you're buying your way into a loftier class of vehicle. WINNER: Cadillac CTS Vsport
Rimac Concept One (CRO) vs. Audi RS6 Avant (GER)
On the one hand, you've got a cruise missile of a sports car you can show off to your hybrid-driving, organic-gardening, gluten-eschewing hipster friends without shame. On the other, you've got a ridiculously fast wagon that could fill every conceivable role in your life: tailgating, child-hauling, vacation-taking, mid-life-crisis-soothing. They both sound too good to be true, but the on-sale date of the Rimac keeps getting pushed back, which means that might actually be the case. The Audi, meanwhile, you can buy today -- assuming you live in Europe (or Asia or Australia), and are rich. WINNER: Audi RS6 Avant
McLaren P1 (ENG) vs. Cadillac CTS Vsport (USA)
Aw, man. If this were the 2016 CTS-V we were talking about -- Corvette Z06 engine, 600-plus horsepower, aluminum frame -- Caddy might give the McLaren a run for its money. But that car won't arrive for another year or so, whereas the McLaren is available now. Well, as long as you can find a current owner willing to sell you one, as McLaren is sold out of the P1 (yup, all 375 of them). Nevertheless, it occupies a higher plane of existence. WINNER: McLaren P1
Audi RS6 Avant (GER) vs. McLaren P1 (ENG)
We're left with a rematch of the 1966 World Cup final, in which the Brits scored two goals in extra time to win the championship in front of the home crowd. That England team was described as the "wingless wonders" for their unorthodox formation; the McLaren has a wing, which rises as high as 12 inches depending on how fast you're going, but is otherwise equally unconventional, blowing past 200 mph thanks to a hybrid powertrain that churns out as much power as nearly seven Priuses. Other than the fact that it's a station wagon, the Audi is utterly conventional by comparison -- no electric motors or lithium-iron battery packs, just a twin-turbo V8 shooting power to all four wheels. But if you've got groceries in the back (and the Audi holds way more than the McLaren will) you'll want to keep them strapped down just the same.
Here's the McLaren's ace in the hole, though: There's a bright red button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel marked IPAS, which stands for Instant Power Assist System. Hit that button when you're close to full throttle, and no matter what the gasoline engine is doing, the electric motor will deliver all of its 176 horsepower to the rear wheels. What that means is that in the unlikely event someone is gaining on you -- whether it's at the racetrack or the on-ramp to I-285 -- all you have to do is hit the turbo boost button. It's like having a Mario Kart with a built-in golden mushroom that never goes away.
They think it's all over ... it is now. WINNER: McLaren P1