Cars are fast, right?
Fast cars are fast, I mean. Cars like the McLaren 570S, which is supercar fast despite being called a ‘Sports Series’ car. It has a rival in the Audi R8, which, by any stretch, is a supercar too. As is the new Honda NSX. Horsepower is in the 500-and-something realm. All day long, these cars are supercars.
At least, they were. But just as the Volkswagen Polo got so big that there was room for the Up beneath it, so, too, has the supercar class changed, defining itself as a faster niche again.
A Super Series McLaren, for example, is the 650S, which is likely to be replaced, and relatively soon, by a car that more closely resembles the even more powerful 675LT. That will continue to go head to head with Ferrari’s 488 GTB, the archetypal mid-engined supercar, and the Lamborghini Huracán. These cars, you understand, are now ‘normal’ supercars. They’re the Polo-class cars that have left room for the Ford Ka and Up beneath them. Brake horsepower? Six hundred, at least, plus another 50, as a rule.
Above those is a supercar class that doesn’t have a name. Beyond-supercars such as the Lamborghini Aventador and Ferrari F12 – cars with V12 predecessors whose power outputs, 20 years ago, started with a four. Today they begin with a seven, which will soon become an eight.
And then there are your hypercars – the McLaren P1, Aston Martin Vulcan, LaFerrari, Porsche 918 Spyder and so on, at 800-900bhp. Only they’re not that hyper any more, are they? Because soon there will be the Aston AM-RB 001 and something similarly extreme from Mercedes- AMG, both with Formula 1 design and inspiration and 1000bhp and, look, when is this all going to end?
Because at the other end of the scale, using cars is getting more difficult. Ten, 15, 20 years ago, you’d find a nice, quiet stretch of road in the middle of nowhere and although the speed limit was ostensibly 60mph – and although neither your correspondent nor this magazine would ever have condoned breaking it – you might have had a quick look around and if no one was about, stretched a car’s legs up to, I don’t know, 80-something. It’s not right, it’s not big, it’s not clever, but there you go.
Today’s cars are so much faster, and their capabilities so much higher, that unless you are an idiot on the road, you’ll use far less of a car’s potential than ever before. Besides, today everyone has a camera phone. An increasing number of people have a dashboard camera. Everyone has access to YouTube and anyone can be a publisher in an instant. It is safest to assume your driving is always being recorded and it’s very difficult to argue – certainly I’m not going to – that this is anything other than a good thing when it comes to road safety.
It is why doing track days is fast becoming essential if you want to have any idea of what your sports car is actually like. But a circuit isn’t the only place for a road car. So, cars, here’s the deal, which shouldn’t need repeating but does: you’ve got 60mph in which to impress me. That’s not an unusual limit for anywhere in the world, and a road-going sports car’s job is to engage and entertain below that limit. Some cars – even those with ludicrous physical capabilities – can do precisely that. More on which, not by coincidence, next week.