Can you get the same character we currently see from the engine in a Porsche, Jaguar or Aston Martin from an electric motor?
MC: No. And I think the traditional attributes – design, handling dynamism, comfort, refinement – will become more important in defining vehicle character because the electric motor will define less of it than the IC [internal combustion engine] has.
AP: But by the time there’s no combustion engine we can call upon at all in a sports car, I think we’ll all be long retired anyway – so it’ll be someone else’s problem. We believe the IC engine will be around for a long time yet. We have to look into electromobility, because it makes sense. It doesn’t mean we’re going to start making sports cars that people didn’t ask for.
Will the horsepower race ever end? Can you convince a modern buyer to accept less power?
MB: I’m not sure. We’re going to see increased hybridisation of sports cars in the next 10 years; and since adding electrification means adding weight, you can bet it’ll mean adding power, too. I don’t know where it ends.
AP: We’ll get into diminishing returns pretty soon. For me, 200 horsepower in a car that I should want to get up in the middle of the night and drive would be low. You need some speed to be exciting. For me, 300-350 horses is a minimum in a 1400-1500kg car, to really enjoy driving. Being on the verge of feeling overpowered is key, too. That way, a car never stops being interesting to drive. And for an engineer, taking away grip when you could make more of it is always going to be hard to justify. We will always find other ways to add excitement.
MB: Besides, when I drive classic cars, by and large, I don’t much like them. I tend to think: ‘The brakes don’t feel very good. I don’t much like the steering. It doesn’t have much grip. I don’t like the connection with the rear end.’ And I spend the whole time driving being distracted by what I don’t like. That wouldn’t feel like progress in a new car to me. We’re here to move things forward.
Who makes the best driver’s cars in the world right now, leaving aside your respective paymasters?
MB: I’d have a Ferrari 458 in my garage. That car offered so much emotion, amazing handling response. I like 911s: the last GT3 RS I drove reminded me of the Lotus Exiges I used to work on – incredibly fast with all the emotion and feeling I wanted.
MC: I like cars with a mechanical feel and that aren’t too powerful that you can’t enjoy them on the road. Porsche Caymans are great. I remember driving a Renault Mégane R26R once and, once the tyres were warm, I really enjoyed that. But I often find really powerful cars less satisfying to drive because it often feels like you’re just joining the corners up, and perhaps slowing down too much for them. And going back even further, I had a Lotus Sunbeam and a Chevette HS.