Jul 12, 2023

The Coolest Cars We Saw at the 2023 Woodward Dream Cruise

The annual automotive pilgrimage to Detroit's Woodward Avenue brings out everything from exotic supercars like the Porsche 918 to classic trucks like the Dodge Power Wagon.

On any given summer night, Detroit's Woodward Avenue becomes a hot spot for shiny sports cars and brawny muscle cars revving their engines and engaging in vehicular hooliganism. But once a year, the boulevard is swarmed by tens of thousands of car enthusiasts for the Woodward Dream Cruise, a moving car show that takes place on public roads, allowing anyone to join in the fun. A wide variety of vehicles show up, from slinky exotics to iconic American muscle and right-hand-drive Japanese imports. Here's a selection of some of the coolest vehicles we spotted at the 2023 Woodward Dream Cruise.

The arrival of the Ferrari Monza SP2 in 2018 set off a wave of new open-air supercars like the Aston Martin V12 Speedster and McLaren Elva, but the Monza has remained the prettiest of the modern speedsters. Also sold as a single-seater SP1, the windshield-less look references 1950s race cars and makes the Monza look especially low to the ground. Under the hood lives a 6.5-liter V-12 producing 799 horsepower. Ferrari built fewer than 500 Monzas, and each cost around $1.75 million.

Tucked away behind a building was one of the stars of the show, this white Lamborghini Espada. Production of this two-door, four-seat grand tourer started in 1968 and lasted 10 years, but only 1227 were made in that span. The Espada's stunningly long hood hides a 3.9-liter V-12 which produced 350 horsepower, and this example was fitted with a five-speed manual.

The Dodge Li'l Red Express, launched as a special edition for the D-series truck in 1978, packed serious muscle for the time, with 225 horsepower from its 5.9-liter (360-cubic-inch) V-8. In Car and Driver testing, the truck became the quickest domestic vehicle at the time to hit 100 mph from a standstill. But the Li'l Red Express was just as much about the look, with exhaust stacks towering behind the cab like a semi truck, an oak-paneled bed with a wood-lined floor, and gold graphics on the doors.

The 887-hp plug-in-hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder debuted at the same time as McLaren's 903-hp P1 and Ferrari's 950-hp LaFerrari in 2013, the three plug-in dream machines earning the nickname the Holy Trinity. While the others made more power, the 918 knew how to transfer that oomph to the pavement, becoming the quickest car in Car and Driver testing at the time with a 2.2-second blast to 60 mph. Only 918 were built.

The Ford Model T obviously doesn't have the performance chops of the other cars on this list, but its historical significance is indisputable. The iconic "Tin Lizzie" wasn't rare either, with Ford selling over 15 million units. But it's always a treat to see such an old machine out on the road, and as we learned last year, they are surprisingly challenging to drive.

The GT3 RS badge has always adorned the most hardcore Porsche 911s, but the latest version is the most extreme yet. The 4.0-liter flat-six's 518 hp isn't the most dazzling number among the supercar crowd, but the 911 GT3 RS's wild aerodynamics—which draw upon Formula 1 with a drag-reduction system on the rear wing—make the GT3 RS a beast around the track. Pricing starts at a cool $225,250.

Truck lovers also had plenty to be excited about at Woodward, with lots of beautifully restored classics like this Dodge Power Wagon. Not only is the Power Wagon an imposing piece of machinery, but it was also the first production four-wheel-drive pickup when it went on sale in 1946. The burly truck was closely related to military vehicles used in World War II, and production continued into the late 1960s.

The SVJ model represented the wildest version of Lamborghini's V-12-powered Aventador, with the 6.5-liter engine cranking out a potent 759 horsepower. The spiky rear wing and flared nostrils in the hood worked in tandem to provide immense downforce while limiting drag. We were especially enamored with the glistening purple paint on this example.

Just a few cars down in the same lot, we stumbled upon another purple Lamborghini, this time a Diablo SE30 in a softer hue. This special edition celebrated Lamborghini's 30th anniversary and brought unique bodywork and a horsepower boost to 523 ponies from the 5.7-liter V-12. Just 150 Diablo SE30s were built.

The slab-sided 1961 Lincoln Continental may have been 15 inches shorter than its predecessor, but the luxurious behemoth still stretched over 17 feet. The Continental's sleek elegance is accentuated by the coach doors and the expansive front end that contained a series of V-8 engines. The light pink color of this example reminds us of Porsche's Frozen Berry metallic paint that is offered on the electric Taycan.

We were shocked to see this limited-production Ford Bronco DR, especially since the $295,000 off-roader isn't road legal. Although the DR uses a stock Bronco frame and standard 10-speed automatic gearbox, the V-6 engine was swapped for a Coyote 5.0-liter V-8. Special dampers from Multimatic and 37-inch BFGoodrich tires help absorb bumps as the DR shoots across craggy desert terrain.

The De Tomaso Pantera combined stunning Italian design with American power, housing a series of Ford-sourced V-8s inside its sharp bodywork. The Pantera remained in production for two decades with a little over 7000 produced, but the cleaner styling of the earlier models, like this one, is considered more desirable.

The latest BMW M3 already featured a polarizing design, but the track-focused CS model takes it even further with black accents on the hood, a redesigned grille with a red border, and a lurid shade of green. A heavy dose of carbon fiber helped shave off around 75 pounds versus a standard M3 Competition, and the 3.0-liter inline six ekes out an extra 40 horsepower for a total of 543 ponies.

Nearly every facet of car culture is on display at the Woodward Dream Cruise, and we saw several posses of lowriders cruising the boulevard, showing off their trick hydraulic systems. Their bouncy theatrics drew cheers from the crowds lining the streets, and once they had parked, we were able to appreciate the meticulous craft that is required to build these ornate custom vehicles.

Porsche finally unleashed the full potential of the Cayman with the GT4 RS model, swiping the 4.0-liter flat-six engine from the 911 GT3. In the Cayman GT4 RS, the 9000-rpm motor releases 493 hp, and a combination of sticky tires and hardcore aerodynamics helped it pull 1.11 g on the skidpad in Car and Driver testing.

Although the show is dominated by American metal, there were some neat Japanese cars like this Toyota Land Cruiser. Launched in 1984, the 70-series Land Cruiser has been assembled in a diverse array of body styles and with a large cast of different engines. The truck is still in production in the Middle East. That's where we believe this example was imported from, based on the national emblem of Yemen affixed to the grille.

It took until 2021 for the Porsche 918 Spyder to be beaten, when the Ferrari SF90 Stradale dashed to 60 mph in just 2.1 seconds in a Car and Driver test. It shouldn't have been a surprise, given the plug-in-hybrid V-8 powertrain's impressive 986-hp output. This example looked especially beautiful in this deep shade of green.

The BMW M3 is the sports-sedan benchmark, and the E30 generation from the 1980s was the genesis. Built to fulfill the homologation requirement to race in Germany's DTM series, the four-cylinder engine sent 192 horsepower through a five-speed stick shift to the rear wheels. The E30 is now considered among the greatest M3s ever built.

Jaguar never really built a true M3 rival off the XE sedan, but it did construct 300 examples of the SV Project 8, a stripped-down race car for the road with a 592-hp supercharged V-8. Designed to set a lap record for sedans at the Nürburgring, the SV Project 8 even came with a track package that deleted the rear seats (but kept the rear doors).

Among the herd of low-slung supercars, the large-and-in-charge Bentley Brooklands stood out. This opulent coupe was related to the Arnage sedan and Azure convertible, and only 550 units were built between 2008 and 2011. A 6.8-liter V-8 fed 530 horsepower through a six-speed automatic to the rear wheels of this $348,085 colossus.

Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at 13 years old, and he realized his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and joining the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure autos, aiming to one day own something bizarre like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsports fan.

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