Should supercars be easy to drive?
Just because they can be easy does not necessarily mean they should be.
I suspect there are few activities more thrilling than lion hunting.
Next to injecting heroin, putting one’s life on the line to tackle one of Mother Nature’s apex predators must provide quite the adrenaline rush.
Nonetheless, I have often thought that if one were serious about testing their mettle then they should retire the security offered by firearms and Land Rovers and go at it alone with their bare hands. After all, what defence does a lion have against a bullet travelling 2,600 feet per second? Hardly a respectable match, if you ask me.
So-called ‘Big Game’ hunters are nothing more than cowards. To paint them as anything else is terribly misguided.
Which leads me to the McLaren 756LT.
I recently read a review of the 765LT which suggested that it may be “too much: too much power, too much speed, too much to keep up with”. While the time I have spent in the driver’s seat of a McLaren 765LT matches the time I have spent stalking lions in the African savanna, I cannot help but feel they missed the point.
Should supercars be easy to drive? I am not asking whether supercars can be easy to drive. The latter is a question of plausibility, one I know to be true. The former, however, is a question of permissibility. There is a difference.
When the Porsche 930 Turbo was released in 1975 it was promptly branded the ‘widowmaker’. And for good reason: it was a bloodthirsty machine hellbent on hospitalising anyone who took the reins. That was its brilliance. Remember, the 930 Turbo initially had just 193kW (260bhp). Or less than Toyota’s GR Yaris hatchback. Oh, how things have changed.
Groundbreaking developments in driver-aids and tyre technology have enabled manufacturers to push the performance envelope to new heights. Face-tearing acceleration figures, once the reserve of fully-fledged hot rods, are now being achieved by Bob the accountant in his Tesla on the way to work. Long, flowing drifts are as easy as twiddling your Ferrari’s manettino then letting the car sort out the rest (alright, not quite, but you get the picture). Technology has turned mortals into driving gods.
TL;DR: Supercars have become suck-ups and people have become soft.
To see the extent of this change, just look at the 930’s modern-day successor, the 992-series 911 Turbo. Here is a car with well over 600bhp (641bhp, to be precise), is capable of sprinting from 0-100km/h in under 3 seconds, and yet is no more taxing to drive than a Golf GTI. Indeed, when Chris Harris drove it for the first time he praised it for its exciting blend of “ruthless speed” and “endlessly engaging” handling, and in the very same breath declared it “unintimidating”. That last adjective troubled me.
Admittedly, my supercar-driving resume is not exactly comprehensive. Hence this essay’s premise depends on the honesty and integrity of reports from automotive journalists the world over. Nonetheless, it seems to me that far too many supercars have become easy to drive in a bid to flatter their cashed-up owners. As a consequence, people have become increasingly flippant when referring to such mesmeric machines. This is particularly evident when people gripe that the latest supercar has “only” 500bhp or cannot manage 0-100km/h in under 3.5 seconds.
I am not for a moment suggesting that supercars should be suicidal to drive. Airbags, traction control, and stability programs are, emphatically, Very Good Things. You do not want to be slithering about uncontrollably when tootling through town. I am, however, suggesting that manufacturers should care less about flattering drivers at the limit of adhesion and should instead focus on producing dragons worthy to be slain. Advanced driver aids have infused drivers with a false sense of reality.
Upon driving the McLaren 765LT, American journalist, Matt Farah, exclaimed, “McLaren probably shouldn’t be allowed to sell this car to regular people.” He went on to clarify:
“State authorities probably should set up some sort of tiered licensing system, whereby people who want to drive a thinly disguised race car on public thoroughfares will need a bit of extra training and certification.”
Whether he was speaking literally or merely emphasising the big Mac’s license-shredding performance matters not. People need to be aware that when they purchase a supercar, they are — to put it bluntly — taking ownership of a road-going weapon.
Fifteenth-century French moralist, Francois De La Rochefoucauld, put it best when he said, “Flattery is a sort of bad money to which our vanity gives currency.”
Maybe the 765LT isn’t “too much”. Perhaps other supercars are simply too easy.