One of the most exciting developments in modern performance cars is the increased use of clever, race-inspired aerodynamics. While it used to be that most street car spoilers were for decoration only, we now get cars that generate real downforce in innovative ways. Here are some of the coolest examples.
Instead of using top-mounted scoops, which create drag, to funnel air into the engine, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport uses NACA ducts, meaning less front surface area and a lower overall drag coefficient.
That massive rear wing wasn't put on the Superbird for show. It towers over the rest of the car for good reason: cleaner air. Any lower, and the air hitting it would be disturbed by the roof of the car, making it less effective.
The 789-horsepower Senna has some seriously polarizing looks—either you love it or you hate it. The whole car was designed to cut through the air as efficiently as possible while producing the most downforce, resulting in some seriously interesting styling cues. In addition to the massive wing and giant diffuser, there are numerous crevasses and pathways throughout the body to channel air cleanly.
The newest GT2 RS looks more race car than road car, mostly thanks to that massive rear wing that seems like it was stolen right from Porsche's motorsport division. It makes nearly half a ton of downforce at top speed.
Instead of creating downforce from the top of the Valkyrie's body, Aston martin decided to do it from the underside. The whole underbody is basically hollow, occupied by carved channels for air can pass through and suck the car to the ground.
The center piece of the rear wing found on the Corvette Z06 is a piece of high-strength plastic that can be height-adjusted. It's also translucent, which means you can actually see through it when you look out the back window.
The F50 was the last Ferrari that offered a big decklid wing, but that doesn't mean Maranello's not using clever aerodynamics. On the contrary, Ferrari develops all sorts of neat, hidden solutions to move the air around the car. On the 488 GTB and Spider, Ferrari uses active flaps in the diffuser which open at high speeds to reduce drag.
Flying buttresses are all the rage right now, but no car uses them as heavily as the new Ford GT. The car channels air through the bodywork, alongside the passenger compartment and through the rear wing to generate real downforce, even when the active rear wing is lowered.
Though the Ford GT certainly has the most extreme example of a road car with flying buttresses, the Ferrari 599 still deserves a mention because it was the first mass-produced car to use the feature. It was the car that kicked off the whole design trend in the first plate.
The big wing, huge front splitter, and dive planes on the Dodge Viper ACR are probably the most in-your-face aerodynamic features on this list, but they're also some of the most effective. With the optional Extreme Aero Package, the ACR generates legitimate race car levels of downforce. So much downforce, that it can reduce your MPG even when you're towing it. Seriously.
The Airbrake that McLaren uses on the Super Series cars (12C, 650S, 675LT) raises up to 69 degrees to generate lots of stopping power under heavy braking. Even the way it's actuated is unique: A small hydraulic cylinder raises the airfoil partway, and air pressures does the rest.
The Koenigsegg One:1 resembles something out of a science fiction fantasy more than a tiny Swedish automaker. Its wing is top-mounted and active, which is said to reduce turbulence in front of the wing. Just watch of Christian Von Koenigsegg explaining how it works.
Like any high-end performance car, the Aston Martin DB11 has to generate downforce, but since it's a luxury Grand Tourer, it has to do it without wacky-looking bodywork. Aston has come up with a suitably elegant solution–air is channeled in through open bodywork in the C-pillar, and exits through a tiny opening on the rear decklid. It's a similar concept to the flying buttresses on the Ford GT, but much more discreet.
Modern F1 cars use a (DRS, for short) to, as the name suggest, reduce drag, laying the spoilers down into a more aerodynamically efficient position. Some road cars have systems that do it automatically–like the Ferrari 488–but the McLaren P1 has a big button on the steering wheel so the driver can do it manually.
Yes, yes, yes. The 911 GT3 RS has a big rear wing and it's great, but these subtle air outlets are even cooler. They're made out of carbon fiber, and are designed to reduce lift caused by the high pressure generated by the spinning wheels. You won't find stuff like this on your average street car.
This is perhaps an oversimplification, but there are two approaches to aerodynamics used in modern street cars. There's hidden, active aerodynamics (Ferrari 488) and brutal, old-school passive aero (Dodge Viper ACR). Interestingly, the Pagani Huayra BC uses both, with a huge rear wing and dive planes, but active flaps on the front and rear of the car.
Ferrari sort of abandoned this feature with the new 488, but the deformable front winglets on the 458 are all sorts of clever. See the gray hockey-stick-shaped features in the front bumper air inlet? They're made of a rubbery material that deforms as the car goes faster, reducing drag as speed climbs. Passive aerodynamics that function like they're active.