Guys, someone has to say this. Cars are getting too powerful.
I know. Don’t freak out. You’d think that to even type such words while sat in the office of a motoring outlet would be an instantly fireable offence. I’m half expecting Clarkson to tap me on the shoulder in a second, wielding a V8 chainsaw, and begin gleefully dismembering me.
But in truth, he’d probably agree. A powerful car is a beautiful thing. It’s the motoring equivalent of stuffing a pair of socks down the front of your underpants. You just feel like MORE.
But too much power can, in many different ways, ruin a car. Here are some of the worst offenders…
Ferrari F12 Berinetta
Hey, are you Sebastian Vettel? No? Then you don’t need an F12. It’s too fast for you.
Let me explain: say you took a regular car enthusiast who doesn’t have extensive on-track experience, and you asked them to set a lap time in the now defunct Ferrari 458 Italia. Say you then challenged them to beat that laptime using any of the more recent, more powerful Ferraris (F12, F12 TDF, 812 Superfast). I doubt they’d be able to shave more than a tenth of a second off their original time, because to do so, they’d have to have been squeezing every last pony out of the Italia to begin with. Unlikely!
Very few people have the skills and minerals required to demonstrate the difference between a 730bhp Ferrari and a 560bhp Ferrari. So what’s the point? Take a chill pill, Fezza.
Porsche 911 GT2 RS
A similar problem arises when you get to the pointy end of the 911 range. For those of you who struggle to tell their various models apart, allow me to summarise:
Carrera/Carrera 4: Hey, good for you! You’ve got a Porsche.
Carrera S/4S/T: Ooh, that’s a nice one!
GTS: Bloody hell, that’s rapid.
Turbo S: Hold on.
GT3: Or dear god, no.
GT3 RS: ARE YOU INSANE?
GT2 RS: POO IS COMING OUT
I do realise there's a market for these road-legal track weapons, which just about validates everything up to GT3 RS. But the GT2? Why?! Who is it for?! Show me a man who thinks the GT3 RS needs 120 more horsepower and two turbos, and I’ll show you a man who eats crayons and shouts at fish.
Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
Cars don’t have to be 1000bhp axe-murderers to feel overpowered. They can achieve it simply by having more power than they can handle. Take the legendary 147 GTA, which managed to make a reasonable 250bhp feel completely obscene.
This was due to all that power being shoved through the front wheels, without providing any kind of clever tech to assist with that. Asking the front wheels of a small hatchback to steer the car while also putting down that much power is a recipe for a traumatic experience: a bit like asking your mother to do your laundry while giving you a lapdance.
VW Golf R
The Golf R may pack over 300 horses, but unlike the Alfa, it isn’t a pig to drive. That’s thanks to a clever AWD system, excellent suspension, blah blah blah. The problem here, isn’t one of too much power for the chassis – but rather, too much power for the type of car. Call me old-fashioned but a 300bhp Golf offends me on principle.
The thing is, the Golf GTI is already verging on hot hatch perfection. It’s bursting with charm, and involving to drive at any speed. Adding more power, more weight and more exhaust tips doesn’t improve it – it confuses its identity.
If you want a fast hot hatch, buy the GTI. If you want something more powerful, it’s not a hot hatch you’re after.
The G wagon is a 40 year-old military vehicle with excellent off-road capability and a bit of quirk to it. Add a twin-turbo AMG V8 engine and what do you get? Not much. It inhales fuel, it isn’t very fast or comfortable, and unlike the new wave of performance SUVs – Cayenne, Urus, Bentayga – it can’t do corners without ending up on its roof.
All you get for the six-figure price tag is a load of shouty chrome bits and side exhausts – the ultimate poser-mobile. The sheer popularity of this car is itself, a troubling indictment on humanity, but I suppose we should be thankful really. The G63 badge is a bit like the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat: it’s gross, but it does make it very easy to spot morons from a distance, and take steps to avoid them.
Range Rover SVR
Jaguar Land Rover’s special ops department might just be the undisputed champions of adding horsepower to a car until it’s ruined.
Their recent F-type SVR is very naughty, but it's a sports car, so does at least make some kind of sense. There’s a certain appeal to a car that you get out of after every journey, feeling grateful to be alive. Or rather, not dead.
The Range Rover SVR however, makes absolutely no sense at all. Like the Golf R, this is a car that has forgotten where it came from. When you think Range Rover, you think of quietly wafting along country lanes, safe from any pothole or patch of ice far beneath you.
So what exactly does a snarling 540bhp V8 add to that recipe? Why on earth would you want a Range Rover that’s so fast and so noisy, that the simple act of pulling away from a set of lights is enough to cause every pensioner within a 3 mile radius to collectively shart themselves? What is the point of that? And WHY DO I WANT ONE SO MUCH?
The very last word in gratuitous horsepower, welcome to the Dodge Demon. 800+bhp. The fastest 0-60 of any production car. Occasional wheelies. Why? I doubt even the team who built it could answer that.
But how can I get mad at this thing? It’s an obnoxious, tyre-smoking middle finger to the world. It is gloriously silly. Truth be told, Dodge probably built it just to see if they could, and if that doesn’t make you smile, the problem is you.
This brings us nicely to the best argument in defence of wildly overpowered cars: why not? The combustion engine is in it's twilight years and cars that devour unnecessary amounts of petrol to make unnecessary amounts of power will soon be gone. Savour their idiocy while you still can.
Besides, if we chose our cars based on what actually needed, we’d all drive hateful crossover-SUVs. No thanks.