2005 Ford GTClick to enlarge picture

To prove it is worthy of its "supercar" moniker, the Ford GT has achieved a verified top speed of 205 mph.

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Examples of such excess have typically come from Europe; however, there are a few exceptions, including a recent entry that roared straight out of Detroit to challenge the best that Ferrari and Lamborghini have to offer.

The Ford GT is a mid-engine two-seat sports car that the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker describes as the "pace car for an entire company." Powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that produces 500 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, the design is inspired by the legendary Ford GT40 race cars of the 1960s that swept the top three positions at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Photo Gallery: Exotics Sports Cars

Other non-European exotics include the American-made Dodge Viper SRT-10 that boasts a 500-horsepower V10, as well as the mid-engine Acura NSX from Japan.

The best-known country of origin for these exciting automobiles is Italy. Almost half the cars on the list are Italian exotics. Lamborghini's Murcielago, which replaced the Diablo a few years ago, sports a 6.2-liter 48-valve V12 engine producing an incredible 571 horsepower. Driving all four wheels, the V12 powers the Murcielago to a top speed of more than 200 mph.

After years of rumors about a "baby Lambo," the Italian carmaker introduced the all-new Gallardo last year. Named for a breed of fighting bulls, the Giugiaro-designed Gallardo features a 5.0-liter 40-valve V10 engine teamed with a six-speed transmission that boasts an output of 500 horsepower. Power meets the road via full-time four-wheel drive. The Gallardo reaches 60 mph in approximately four seconds, topping out around 190 mph.

But Ferrari remains the best-known producer of exotic Italian sheet metal, adding two new cars for 2005: the F430 and the limited-edition Superamerica. The F430 is a V8-powered, mid-engine replacement for the Ferrari 360, which has sold in three different versions: 360 Modena, 360 Spider and Challenge Stradale, to become the best-selling Ferrari of all time.

Powered by a 490-horsepower 90-degree 4.3-liter V8 engine that is very light and compact, the F430 incorporates advancements in design, technology and performance that promise to push it beyond the achievements of the 360 Modena. Performance figures from Ferrari promise acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and a top speed of over 196 mph.

The second new Ferrari for 2005 is the Pininfarina-designed Superamerica, a two-seat coupe based on the 575M Maranello that can covert to an open-top roadster. The Superamerica has a tint-adjustable, electrochromic one-piece glass roof that rotates rearward and nests into a shallow storage area behind the seats. The completely power-operated process takes just ten seconds.

With a top speed of 200 mph, the Superamerica also is the fastest production convertible in the world. The 540-horsepower 12-cylinder engine generates 434 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 6-speed F1/manual gearbox. Only 559 Superamericas will be built and they will be available later in 2005.

Last year Ferrari added the 612 Scaglietti, a V12-powered 4-seat grand touring coupe to replace the 456M. A 540-horsepower 5.7-liter V12 mounted behind the front axle gives the coupe a front mid-engine layout. Both the transmission and the differential are mounted at the rear axle, which helps achieve a 46/54 percent front/rear weight distribution.

Ferrari produced the special-edition Enzo supercar for the 2003 model year, named in honor of the Italian automaker's founder, Enzo Ferrari. The 399 examples were quickly sold to owners of other Ferrari models. The original price was about $650,000, but an Enzo might change hands today in exchange for $1 million or more. The Enzo gets its motivation from a 6.0-liter V12 engine based on Ferrari's vast Formula One racing experience, rated at 660 horsepower and 657 lb-ft of torque.

Maserati returned to America in 2002 with the Coupe and Spyder convertible, both powered by a 390-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 with either a 6-speed manual transmission or an F1-style auto-manual transmission.

For 2005 Maserati's latest limited edition car is the 90th Anniversary Spyder to commemorate the founding of Maserati on December 1, 1914, in Bologna, Italy, as Officina Alfieri Maserati. A total of 180 anniversary Spyders will be produced: 90 for North America and 90 for the rest of the world.

The 90th Anniversary Spyder is finished in Blue Anniversary colors and features carbon fiber aerodynamic body parts and high-tech interior trim. The cover for the folded top is finished in blue carbon fiber, tying in with the overall color scheme.

In other news, Aston Martin continues with its hand-built V12 Vanquish exotic. Utilizing aluminum and carbon fiber, the supercar is powered by a 48-valve 6.0-liter V12 that produces 460 horsepower, giving it a top speed of almost 200 mph. The Vanquish was joined last year by the new DB9 which replaces the DB7. Available in Coupe or Volante convertible, the DB9 sports a 450-horsepower 6.0-liter V12 engine.

Another famous British marque joined this exclusive list last year when Bentley brought its all-new Continental GT to market, powered by a compact turbocharged W12 engine that produces 552 horsepower and an amazing 479 lb-ft of torque at just 1600 rpm. With power driving all four wheels, 60 mph comes up from a standstill in just 4.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of more than 190 mph.

Germany also is a prolific, historic source of exotic automobiles, and one of the finest ever offered is the Porsche Carrera GT. The numbers on this car are most impressive: the 5.7-liter 605-horsepower V10 engine takes the car to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds on its way to a top speed of more than 200 mph. Part of the secret to the Carrera GT's performance is lightweight technology. The chassis is built out of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, providing high strength with an unladen weight around 3,000 lbs.

While the Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S are redesigned for 2005, the 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3 continue based on the previous generation car. The Turbo S and Turbo S Cabriolet are powered by a 444-horsepower 3.6-liter twin-turbo 6-cylinder and include all-wheel drive, Porsche Stability Management, a two-piece rear spoiler, and newly improved Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes. The GT3 is powered by a 380-horsepower 3.6-liter flat 6-cylinder engine.

Not to be left out, Mercedes-Benz joins the supercar market with the exotic SLR McLaren. The SLR McLaren showcases the experience of both Mercedes-Benz and its Formula One racing partner McLaren, and is powered by a hand-built 617-horsepower supercharged 5.5-liter V8, the first engine developed exclusively by Mercedes-AMG. Mercedes-Benz performance figures claim zero to 60 mph in less than 3.8 seconds, and a top speed of over 207 mph.

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