It's that time of the year again, folks. Time for us to put down our laptops, to stop arguing about manual gearboxes on Twitter, and time to stop staring at cars we'll never buy on eBay or Bring-a-Trailer.
Instead, it's time for us to convene on the back roads of Tennessee and Kentucky as well as on track at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green to determine what car is worthy of earning the title of Road & Track's 2019 Performance Car of the Year.
Our rules for competing are the same as years prior. That means the cars included need to be new to the market or heavily, heavily revised. The winner from the year before is not invited back to defend the crown, so our apologies to the McLaren 720S for having to sit and watch.
This year's field is probably our most diverse ever, featuring sports cars, GTs, supercars, and even, gassssspppp, a crossover. Yes, you read that right.
We'll gather on Sunday evening and then the test starts early Monday in Lexington, Kentucky. We'll wind through the picturesque region until we reach Bowling Green and NCM Motorsports Park late on Tuesday night. There we'll collect laptimes, instrumented testing, and conduct our final vote on what will be the 2019 PCOTY.
Be sure to all week as we'll be posting incessantly about our days on the road and the track (hey that's our name!). The contenders are below, in no particular order.
Yes. The outrageous McLaren Senna is taking part in our test. The 789-horsepower special is the most expensive car to ever compete during PCOTY, with a price tag touching $1 million. It also has radical aero and weight savings compared to last year's winner, the 720S. It's sure to be unreal on track, but how will it fare on the road?
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Talk about contrast. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio may be the first crossover in PCOTY, but it's earned a place there. Based on the excellent Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio retains the 505 horsepower 2.9 liter V6, adds all-wheel drive, and raises the ride height. Don't knock it till you try it.
Ferrari 488 Pista
The 488 Pista is the latest rocket to come out of Maranello. The track-focused version of the 488, it sheds weight and gets power up to 710 from the 3.9 liter V8. We loved the 458 Speciale and 488 GTB when they competed over the past few years, so it stands to reason that the Pista will be a contender from when we set off on day one.
Mercedes-AMG E63S Wagon
A late addition to the lineup, the Mercedes-AMG E63S Wagon wasn't originally on our list. Then we drove it. It's not only fun, it's a rocket ship. With 603 horsepower and all-wheel drive, it's nuttily quick. And you can even turn off the power to the front axle to create a hooligan of a car. Don't count it out.
Porsche 911 GT2 RS
Last year we had a manual GT3. This year we have Porsche's rear-wheel drive, 700 horsepower, GT2 RS. It briefly held the lap record at the Nurburgring, which means it stands a chance at being hugely quick around NCM's technical track.
BMW M5 Competition
Another all-wheel drive rocket from Germany, the M5 Competition turns up the 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8's power to 617 horsepower. The M5 was already one of the quickest cars we'd driven this year, so the M5 Competition is set to impress.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Somehow, a 755 horsepower Corvette ZR1 isn't the most powerful car in the test. But it is the most powerful Corvette we've ever tested, and one of the quickest cars we've ever run around the track at NCM Motorsports Park. Though that's fitting since the track is named for the nearby National Corvette Museum.
Last year we had the compact TT RS, this year we're moving up in size. The Audi RS5 used to be all about its naturally aspirated 4.2 liter V8. But the days of high-revving, NA engines have passed, and now we have a 2.9 liter twin-turbo V6. The sound might be gone, but the pace likely hasn't.