Newness

It takes mainly heritage and credibility to sell supercars, as mentioned in last weeks INSIDER INSIGHTS. Another factor mentioned was newness. This week's article focusses on a few genuinely new supercars on the market.

How to define newness? It can be in the form of a new styling language, a new approach to the supercar experience by stimulating one's senses differently (sound is an often used one), a new configuration, introducing a new technology or implementing an existing technology differently. Or it can be something completely different. And there is the catch: it has to be different to be experienced as something new, but it can only be experienced as different once.

Even though they have been around for two decades in the highest segment of performance cars (the co-called hypercars of Pagani and Koenigsegg) as well as racing cars, carbon fiber (CFRP) constructions are only just starting to be implemented by mainstream manufacturers (BMW with their i3 and i8 to be exact). Therefore this type of construction is still considered to be different enough, though they need something else innovative to be accepted as new.

The drivetrain is one of those areas where these innovations can be found. Two types of drivetrain previously not associated with performance vehicles now found there way there: petrol-electric hybrids, diesel-automatic and completely electric. The petrol-electric hybrid drivetrains are suddenly used to increase performance via torque fill, rather than efficiency. Trident Sportscars from the UK has built a performance GT with a modified GM Duramax and Allison six-speed automatic, in an attempt to prove the old saying that “horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races” (by hopefully selling a few and not doing any races…). Tesla in the past and hopefully in the near future Detroit Electric offer Lotus Elise based electric vehicles featuring relatively conventional battery based drivetrains are an attempt to make EVs acceptable as performance cars. The clean-sheet EV called the Concept One by Rimac Automobili, which fundamentally does the same, is in a different league though regarding newness. The Quant eSportlimousine wants to proof that it is not necessary to fill a car with hundreds of kilos of strong toxins, though the car needs that 920hp and 4x2900Nm to compensate for its 2300kgs and takes newness up to 11. Credibility though… It simply is much easier to take someone with a complete lack of hair serious than someone who seems to give it the highest priority in life.

There have been hardly any changes in the configuration of a vehicle. The Dutch Savage Rivale is in this regard a breath of fresh air. Even though the technical basis of the vehicle is a conventional front-mid-engined sportscar in a custom construction from conventional materials and technologies, the four-seat convertible configuration with its telescopic roof and champagne cooler just breathes newness.

The sportscar which achieves the highest level of newness though is one created by one of the most conventional and largest manufacturers. The Volkswagen XL1 features a resin transfer injection moulded CFRP tub with CFRP body panels, a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain, futuristic styling, a compact seating arrangement which comfortably seats two, gullwing doors and weighs only 795kg. Not a bad achievement for such a megalomanic organisation. ¤

This article first appeared on my now defunct www.autoweekly.info website on 2014-07-25.

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