People will tell you that the hypercar is a lie: a concoction of the sports car industry intended to make today’s million-pound crop of exotics seem instantly superior to their predecessors.
Which seems to reveal a simple truth hidden away behind the PR-spun apparent complexity of the modern car-making world – and a likeable one at that.
Unfortunately it’s a load of balls. Not necessarily because a McLaren P1 or a Bugatti Veyron necessarily belongs in a different frame of reference than an F1 or an EB110; more so because the 'new supercars’ – the class of super-sports cars that exists another rung down from the very top of the tree – have come to do so much for their owners, and mean so much for their makers, that they demand the recognition that label implies.
Spend 48 hours in the company of a Ferrari 458 Speciale or a McLaren 650S and you’ll find there’s absolutely no room for doubt. The speed, stature, sophistication and stunning desirability of these cars distinguish them from everything underneath them.
Nobody, for instance, looks at the McLaren, curls their lip and mumbles “oh, it’s the little one; how disappointing.” People queue to take selfies, or stare out of top-deck coach windows.
These extraordinary machines show how much variety is now available for people with £200k to spend on a notionally perfect, 600bhp, mid-engined plaything. Question is, what’s your idea of perfection?
At one level, 600bhp mid-engined V8s can only be so different. Ferrari and McLaren may have been playing out a thinly veiled car industry grudge match since Woking’s supercar-making ambitions hit top gear in 2011, but even in these latest highly developed forms, the 458 and the artist formerly known as ‘12C’ remain fundamentally alike. Both employ 90-deg big-bore V8 engines driving through dual-clutch gearboxes. Both are precisely 1203mm high.