How to Make Downsizing Not Suck: A theory

1y ago

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I can’t have been the only one to get a bit sad when the base 911 turned to forced induction to meet emission regulations. Not only because it lost a part of that glorious sound, but also because of the opportunity it missed to make downsizing an exciting prospect.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why downsizing is necessary these days. I wish it wasn’t, but car manufacturers all have to deal with it one way or another.

Downsizing generally means that to meet emission regulations, manufacturers reduce the displacement of an engine and then add some type of forced induction (generally turbocharging) to make up for the lost performance. And sure, that way you’ll get more efficient cars. But even with the advances of turbocharging technology and hybridation, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll lose some engine character, some soul.

And while that’s all fine in econoboxes, it’s not exactly a great thing to look forward to, at least in my opinion. Not to mention that while they save fuel and emissions on the very predictable tests, they rarely do so efficiently in real life. As soon as you get into the boosted rev-range, fuel economy jumps out the window. This works to pass emission tests because they never go in these ranges. In real life, it just isn't a satisfying solution.

There’s no reason a new Miata weighs less than an NA, and Porsche or Ferrari can’t shave a couple hundred of kilos off their sportscars

It’s truly maddening to think that cars like the Lamnborghini Avantador or even any V12 Aston might not get made in a near future.

But here I finally come to my point: reducing displacement? Ok! Turbo? Nope!

To which most of you will spit: but man! The performance! The speed! THE POWER!!

And I understand your concerns. Really, I do. But I don’t think massive power is the way forward. There’s only so much you can put down with street tyres, anyway. Honestly, I feel like a 400hp engine would be largely enough for any RWD sportscar.

But we all know that part of selling cars is one-uping your previous model. And here comes my second and final point ladies and gentlemen: weight is your enemy.

Have you ever seen a 991 next to an older 911? It’s frankly massive. To me, 911s have always been about being lighter than other sportscars, and make do with less horsepower. A 991-2 Carrera S weighs 3,200 lbs. Now, you might say that’s not so much. But I remember a time when a sportscar weighing more than 3,000 lbs was seen as a boat. A 1980s 911 SC weighs 2,500 lbs.

Photo credit: Hooniverse

But there you are again, eructing in anger at your screen. “THINK ABOUT THE DAMN SAFETY REGULATIONS”, I hear you yell. Yes, fair point. But I’ll argue that with your smaller engine, you saved weight. With more and more readily available carbon fiber and derivatives, you save weight. Shrink the car a bit, and you save weight. There’s no reason a new Miata weighs less than an NA, and Porsche or Ferrari can’t shave a couple hundred of kilos off their sportscars.

Except for marketing, that is. You see, the main sportscars manufacturers are locked in a horsepower war. Again, when I was a kid, Ferrari’s mid-engined car had way less than 500 hp. The 488 has 670. That’s more than an Enzo made! Why? Because McLaren, Audi, Lambo, and even Porsche are doing the same.

Downsizing isn’t the answer; de-escalating the power wars is.

And now we come back to that sublime Dino I posted up top. See, this is what Ferrari has to do now. Build a 2,700 lbs, 400 hp NA sportscar. Market it as the “purist’s choice”, charge more than a 488, call it a Dino, I don’t care. Just do it. Put a manual in there for good measure, too. People will love it.

As soon as Ferrari does it, you’ll see that everyone else will too. Thus solving the depressing problem of downiszing and giving us better sounding, better driving cars.

Downsizing isn’t the answer; de-escalating the power wars is.

But again, this is just my theory, and the rambling of an N/A obsessed man. Feel free to disagree!

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Comments (15)
  • I know I am probably very late to comment, but here we go.

    Isn't that a fault from motoring media and price speculation as well?

    I mean, I love Top Gear, Fifth Gear and The Grand Tour as much as anyone out there. But when you have a Clarkson shouting "Powerrrr", and a Tiff Needell saying drifting is the only way to properly test a car, don't people get their priorities confused? Clarkson is a fictional character in my book (his TV persona, I mean), and he presents himself very much so with his over the top antics, but Needell sells himself as a serious journalist. Also, you have shows such as Street Outlaws, that argue about bigger, faster, louder, four digits horsepower numbers.

    Also, I think very few motoring enthusiasts really get to experience great cars, mostly because of prices (any half decent sportscar costs a fortune, and prices are being driven up, in my opinion, much more by specialty dealers and investors - Legendary Motor Cars anyone? - than by enthusiasts themselves). So, in the end, the only reference you have to discuss cars with your fellow dreamers - sorry, petrolheads - are numbers, and then more horsepower becomes a thing. Because if you are playing top trumps, and let's face it, this is the closest most of us - me included - will ever get to a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, an Aston or even a Porsche, numbers start to matter. And I do have a feeling that, much like Star Wars, by now those companies are making more money from merchandising than from selling cars, so they are playing their own game of top trumps themselves.

    But I might be wrong.

    10 months ago
    1 Bump
    • No I think you have a point. A huge part of what makes a supercar a supercar is the status symbol. And a good deal of that comes from hp numbers.

      10 months ago
      1 Bump
  • Completly agree! The power wars must end, its getting ridiculous. In a couple of years we will have 600 hp hot hacthes and 2000 hp sportscars?? The focus should be in chassis and suspension development as well as weight saving.

    1 year ago
    2 Bumps

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