Definition of fast cars?

Sportscars, supercars, hypercars, megacars... Currently there are some debates going on about the moniker to use for fast cars. The designation only has relevance for pub- or street-credibility, but nonetheless the discussions can become as volatile as YouTube comment threads.

Since cars have been around, there was a race for the same credibility going on between manufacturers and the argument was simple: top speed = testicle dimensions (male only market back then). A completely irrelevant figure for the actual performance, but this was the one that really separated the expensive cars from mainstream products and was therefore used to justify it.

300km/h and soon after that 200mph were the numbers which teased the imagination. As soon as one brand achieved one, the others had to beat it, if only by one or two km/h. The fact that these claimed numbers were usually recorded at completely incomparible circumstances and without neutral verification did not seem to matter. It is still interesting to see the graph of this progress.

This friendly fight continued until the McLaren F1 came along. This car was developed for maximum performance and a side effect of low drag, high power in a lightweight and extremely stiff chassis was a top speed so high that the status quo simply stated that top speed actually was irrelevant.

All of a sudden it was more important to have 'a race car for the road', a racing heritage or other non-road car infuences like aerospace technology. Having at least a V10, carbon tub and six speed gearbox driving large wheels with extremely low profile tires only good for drag strips or smooth race tracks was what mattered.

Untill the Koenigsegg CCR came along. The race for top speed and engine power output was back. Bugatti countered well and all of a sudden 1000hp was no longer an imaginative figure, but the actual denominator. Being the only manufacturer having access to tires rated for over 400km/h, they had this number bagged as well.

When Michelin released their high performance tires, Koenigsegg and others such as SSC and Hennessey took their chance and beat all the performance figures which regarding acceleration, braking and top speed. Bugatti came back with the Veyron SuperSport and set the new benchmarks at 1200hp and 417km/h.

Currently the Koenigsegg One:1 is considered to be the ruler, though this is not a road legal car. The Hennessey is, but they did not manage to get the official Guiness record due to not being able to do the record run in both directions.

Does it matter at all who is the fastest or has the most power? If you are an adolescent or someone else who believes that identifying or being identified with something like this does bring a better life, then for sure. To those who appreciate progress in technology a bit. To the rest of the world not the slightest bit. To new small manufacturers who want to give their products a fighting chance, it does a lot.

What is actually remarkable about all this, are not the silly numbers, but that the vehicles are actually still drivable. That is where the real progress has been made.

Now there seems to be a new trend for hybridisation and even electrification. These products match or exceed the benchmark performance figures, but provide a completely different driving and user experience.

Are they better? They bring something new and that seems to be enough to justify them as being better. They seem to be the future that everyone seems to want. Hardly anyone is happy about it though, like with the V6 turbos in F1. Regulations and brainwashing about what should be done seems to have blurred our needs and desires.

It seems that we do need some new definitions to define exiting cars after all. It is just not the one everyone is talking about. By the time everyone will be, we know that we have reached the next phase in performance cars. Can't wait. ¤

This post first appeared on my now defunct website on 2014-05-02.