How fast will they get?
How fast will road cars get as far as top speed, acceleration times and lap times are concerned?
Cars are popularly seen as pretty quick and efficient way of getting one from point A to B. Some are faster than others, and some take you from one place to another in a different fashion to the other. Performance cars are supposed to be the fast ones; they must offer their extra performance to justify their place in the market. There are hot hatches, super-saloons/estates/SUV’s, sports coupe, supercars, etc. Competition arises wherever more than one representative exists to serve the same purpose. In today’s world, we have many brands competing with each other to sell and offer people performance cars. Then there are the most exciting ones, which achieve certain extremely challenging feats to attract attention of customers. Some of these challenges include, acceleration times, top speed, how fast a car goes around the lap of a certain circuit, and so on.
BMW's performance cars, under the M division. (*Old line-up of M cars shown here)
Most performance car manufacturers these days pay attention to these things very much, which why you can see at the least anyone of the aforementioned “Challenges” on the specification sheet of any modern car. These things are important selling points of a car, and will help decide the customer as to what will be the best. Seeing this from a performance car’s perspective, one has to keep raising the bar to attract more and more customers. This raises the question, as to how far manufacturers will go on? Will it stop at any point?
Koenigsegg set the 0-400-0 km/h world record; an example of the "Challenges" that attract customers.
Let’s start with top speed. The first car in the world was the fastest in the world when it was driven (Obviously) and it was about 19 km/h or as effective as running. But speed wasn’t the thing at that point, rather we were able to do running speeds without any living being having to expend a lot of effort for transportation. Then cars started benchmarking themselves for speed records. In the 1949, for example, the Jaguar XK120 was the car that set a record speed, achieving about 200 km/h (124 mph). From then, many cars have surpassed it and today we have cars with manufacturers claiming near to 500 km/h (311 mph). The difference of about 60 years has caused cars to exceed 300 km/h! That’s progress for you. Can we go 800 (About 497 mph) in the next 6 decades? Mostly not. As our dearest James May once told, the faster we go, the more mother nature tries to hold us back. The rate at which we climb top speed reduces by some margin because of various resistive forces. Maybe some masterminds and very clever engineering could well make it all happen, but I’m sure that by 6 decades, the benchmark speed will have risen to a fairly mind-boggling figure (If not as much is 800 km/h) even by today’s already mind-boggling figure. It’ll surely be something to behold!
Now we come to acceleration times. This is slowly becoming a very popular trend in today’s world of electric vehicles. As we’ve seen in many videos, electric cars these days are the best at doing this. A modern family saloon can obliterate a true supercar these days. Now just think about what an electric supercar will be capable of doing. Companies that are working on building electric supercars such as, Pininfarina, Rimac, Lotus, Tesla etc. are all claiming big acceleration figures for their cars. The observable pattern here is that they’ll be capable of doing a sub 2 second sprint from 0-100 km/h. To put it into context, a Porsche 911 Turbo S did a 2.50 second sprint (In case you wondered, the 918 Spyder did a 2.53 second sprint, which is actually slower). Doing sub 2 second sprint to 100 km/h will be an entirely different feeling to a 2.5 second sprint! You have to keep in mind that Koenigsegg are also claiming a sub 2 second 0-100 km/h time for their Gemera, so don’t think petrol powered cars have lost their place in this respect.
There is this car as well, the Aspark Owl. It is capable of doing a 1.6 second sprint to 100 km/h (*Claimed figure)
“Ludicrous” family saloons may be at accelerating from standstill to 100 km/h, but where they really start to give up is after about 200 km/h (124 mph) or more. The battery temperatures become too extreme for them to accelerate even harder. That’s where a true supercar makes more sense, and even more so for an electric supercar. The Lotus Evija for example, claims a 0-300 km/h sprint (Which is a speed most of the aforementioned family cars can’t even dream of achieving) of just 9 seconds. Apparently, Lotus have managed to get the temperatures just right, enabling it to accelerate like nothing else, on four wheels. So, in terms of acceleration cars really seem to push boundaries, like never before. But I must mention about the feelings and sensations one may get while accelerating this quickly; I shall mention it at the very end, because there is something important to note in that.
“The Mercedes AMG GT Black Series now holds the production car lap record at the Nürburgring.” This is big. This is important. But why? Manufacturers build track-oriented cars and many of them test them at a racetrack called the “Nürburgring” in Germany. Why only this? Well, it isn’t always the case that a company tests only at the ‘Ring; Ferrari have their own test track to their name and early Bugatti Chiron’s were tested mostly in the Nardo Ring in Italy. The other reason why many are eager to test their vehicles here is because it is a very challenging place to drive a car fast on. For a beginner, who has never driven there will have an absolute nightmare driving a car quickly there. The quickest thing that has gone round it on four wheels is a Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo. It completed the lap in 5 minutes and 19.546 seconds. That’s insane for a thing on four tyres and wheels to do on a twisty, challenging 20-kilometre racetrack! The 919 Hybrid Evo is a more extreme version of the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car, but how far we away from a road car getting close or even beating that figure? In the not-too-distant future, we may be able to surpass the Porsche 956, a racing legend from the 1980’s. I think it’ll be one of the biggest challenges for a road car to even get close to what the 919 was capable of doing; I don't think any road car could get anywhere close to the 919 in the distant future.
No road car till today has been able to do what this legend did on the Nürburgring 40 years ago!
What does this all boil down to? Manufacturers are going further and further, pushing boundaries with the performance of their cars. They have to make money to survive, and they’ll keep doing it. But what if the customers themselves feel that this level of progress a bit too much? The sort of emotions and vibes a car gives are also one of the deciding factors for some customers. Cars with unbelievable performance, after a point will make a person feel that it a bit too much. I’ve heard people like Chris Harris say this. After a point, the almost addictive performance of most modern cars will be seen as a bit too much and we may feel that it wasn’t necessary to have come this far. It is probably one of the reasons why Jeremy Clarkson was extremely terrified when he drove the McLaren P1 for the first time and called it the “Widow maker”. The same goes for racing cars as well. Neel Jani, the racing driver who drove the 919 Hybrid Evo himself told that he was terrified by the car’s capability and he felt that the car was capable of going much faster than it did, because his own capability fell short. It is quite bonkers to hear this from a person like Neel! I think all these manufacturers will keep going and push more and more boundaries in terms of performance, and even if we will feel that they’re a bit too much to meet our basic requirements, we still won’t mind looking them as experiments, things which show what we are capable of. The future does look still greater!