Too Much of a Good Thing

Toyota Supra burnout

Recently, I was reading the May 2013 issue of European Car that featured a Lamborghini Gallardo on the cover.  The horsepower figure said 1200.  That is a smorgasbord of power.  But this wasn’t the first time I’d seen such powerful cars being exhibited.  I’ve come across various YouTube videos of 1,200 horsepower Lambos, 900 Horsepower GTRs, the list just goes on; name any supercar and I’ve probably seen a 1,000 horsepower version of it somewhere.

On paper, these monstrous machines seem awe-inspiring, the type of car that has the sort of performance to make the hair on the back of your neck to give a standing ovation.  But in the real world, well it’s a bit of a different story.

Bugatti Veyron vs Nissan GTR

Cars with horsepower figures in the quadruple digits tend to have problem translating that power into the language of motion.  Tires become victims of murder in the first degree with the four-digit power being the obvious culprit.  And reliability?  Well for some that word is not always well-known.

So when you take a car such as the Nissan GTR, a car that already comes with a beyond respectable 545 horsepower, and put two — sometimes more — massive turbochargers on it, plug in a new performance chip, and do whatever else the maniacs that make these cars do and give it 1,000 horsepower, what’s the purpose of it?  Is it just to demonstrate that equipping a Nissan with Veyron-type power is possible, or is there a genuine purpose to it?  To be honest, I have no idea as to what purpose cars like these have.

The first reason that stumps my understanding is the where this sort of power can be used.  There are a seldom few places in the world where any horsepower figure over 800 can be applied.  Granted, there are events in which one can turn this sort of power into speed, but some may need to travel a bit before they get there.  If you are fortunate enough to live next to one of these places then by all means, if you want to make a 1,000-plus horsepower car then do it.  But if you are like the rest of this 7 billion-some earthly population, the average freeway is not the best place to test the top speed of such a car.  And if you’re German, get Die Autobahn out of your mind, it’s just a bad idea.

Next on the list of reasons is the ability of putting this power onto the ground.  Not too many tires are capable of putting 1,100 horsepower to the ground.  Just look at Bugatti, they recommend a tire change to a special compound every 10,000 miles or so.  And I almost forgot, they cost $30,000 to $50,000.  Think about it like this, a Honda S2000 has about 240 horsepower, not much but enough to get the job done, and the tires used on that sports car icon are reliable, reasonable, and not difficult to come by.  However, take a 1,200 horsepower Lamborghini Gallardo, and tires capable of putting that sort of power to the ground are as rare as a giant squid.

Honestly, I can not tell you how many 1,000 horsepower Toyota Supras I’ve seen (as stuck up as that may sound) that couldn’t do 0-60 in under three seconds.  Why couldn’t they do achieve that?  It probably has to do with the fact that the Supra sends its power to the rear wheels, creating quite a bad case of wheelspin.  Maybe in an all-wheel drive Lamborghini there would be less slip, but when there’s that much horsepower being generated wheelspin is just inevitable.

It would take a lot of explaining from someone that makes insane cars like these to convince me that there is a method to this madness.  Maybe it has to do with the love of extracting every ounce and pint of performance from the car’s engine.  That seems like a legitimate reason, but I’d still much rather tune a car that I’d still be able to use on a road or racetrack.  Horsepower over 800 is downright scary and, at least in my opinion, unusable.  Then again, there are about seven billion people in the world, a few of them are bound to be a bit edgy.

-Brad

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