Over the years, a number of rather special cars have come forward that force a particularly honourable phrase off the tongues of the journalists that drive and write about them: "it's a game changer".
It's a phrase that resonates with prestige and triumph; a phrase that is delivered like an award rather than a mere compliment; a phrase that implies the automotive world has been moved on to new levels of greatness.
With the coming of a new motoring chapter, the phrase is finding itself increasingly commonplace in automotive literature. And as is the way with something like this, the cogs of my mind haven't been able to stop turning in wonderment: what exactly makes a car a game changer? While answering such a question may appear to be akin to trying to get blood out of Ayres Rock, with the power of logic, I've been known to draw blood from the most arid of places many times before.
One rather standout clue when it comes to objectively defining what a game changer is appears to come from the reason the term is being used now more than ever. We are, as I've stated, travelling through this period of great and unprecedented change; a completely new chapter, where a monumental rethink is required in order to reinvent what's formed the fundamentals of modern life for the past century. And with that, you also realise the phrase isn't exclusively reserved for performance cars.
Indeed, the very latest and greatest hypercars may be seen as the most prevalent game changers around – but cars that are there to help us reach our ultimate goal of sustainability without sacrificing the convenience of the present are also game changers in their own way.
In the most blunt and simple terms possible, you may think that a game changer is a car that brings with it a brand new type of technology. Make no mistake, that is true – but the definition of the term stretches beyond that. And this is where things start to take a subjective turn.
The subjective nature of the definition of what a game changer is means the term can be as narrow or as broad as you want it to be. From my personal perspective, I think a game changer doesn't necessarily have to bring with it a brand-new type of technology – it can be a car that uses technology that's existed for a while on high-end cars, and trickle it down into the regions of affordability. Like the Tesla Model 3, for example.
A Tesla Model 3 however is a game changer for completely different reasons to, let's say, a McLaren P1. One brings a new type of technology into the performance car domain; the other brings an existing technology into the mainstream domain. And this is why it's so difficult to describe what a game changer is: not only because the term itself is used as a way of defining a car – but also because the reason behind a car's game changer status can be almost anything. Furthermore, it is precisely that very reason that defines the car AS a game changer, and not the term itself.
The definition of a game changer becomes increasingly illusive when you realise that the magnitude of the term fluctuates from car to car. Some may see a car that brings a new design direction for a particular company – like Aston's DB11 – as a game changer for them. But that level of game changer isn't really in the same league as the type of things we'd normally associate with the term.
Cars like the Bugatti Veyron and McLaren P1 are usually the sort of cars we think about when we consider what a game changer is: cars that are an engineering revolution. But the mention of the phrase "engineering revolution" also brings with it more intricacies when it comes to defining a game changer.
You may think that all cars that are game changers are engineering revolutions – but there is a critical difference between the two terms. While an engineering revolution is almost always a game changer, a game changer isn't always an engineering revolution – a fact which is clear by once again reflecting on the broadness of the game changer spectrum.
The definition of game changer then is staggeringly illusive, profound, and rather esoteric, and the reason is because it appears that no one thing can describe why all game changers are game changers. But that said, in looking at game changers as a collective, and amalgamating their game changing traits into to a sort of mental Venn Diagram, there does appear to be one common element in the majority: they all bring something new that hasn't been seen before. Whether that be in reference to a new technology altogether, a new technology for a particular genre of cars, a new technology for a particular price of cars, a new and talented entrant into a domain usually dominated by other manufacturers, a new direction for a specific manufacturer, or a brand-new approach using existing tech – they all represent a first in some form or another.
To substantiate that basic principal, we must try to find a way to disprove it. And as is the way with searching for a fault in something, if you look hard enough, you will find it. To me at least, a car can also be a game changer even if it uses existing technology in a relatively conventional approach - as long as the net result of what that car can do puts it ahead of the competition.
Take the Bugatti Chiron as a prime example. It doesn't use a hybrid drivetrain; it doesn't debut any new form of technology at all. In fact, it has been stated – and rather insultingly, if you ask me – that the Chiron is not an engineering revolution like the Veyron was. But I respectfully object to that viewpoint, because if you think about it, the Chiron today still does everything better than any other car – which is kind of why the Veyron was seen as a revolution. It was a car without compromise, which is exactly what the Chiron is in a nutshell. And because of what it's components have achieved – despite the fact that it isn't a showcase in sci-fi wizardry – the Chiron is still one hell of a game changer.
The Chiron has also garnered from the automotive world the same reaction that the Veyron did when it was released – and that reaction itself is also one way of defining a game changer. It is a car that makes every other manufacturer stand back, exhale in defeat, and say: "right...erm...now what do we do?"
In these cases, car makers will go back to the drawing board in order to completely rethink the way they execute things. In essence, game changers constantly inspire future game changers.
The truth is, the facets that make a car a game changer cannot be set in stone. There can be guidelines set – like a car that represents a first in some way or another – but you must always prepare for the inevitability that one day a game changer will come along that will break that tradition. That is simply the nature of trying to define the term that is the definition itself. And in many ways, that's a good thing, because if you were able to label all game changers as one thing, you would undermine what makes them so incredible.
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Written by: Angelo Uccello
Tribe: Speed Machines
Facebook: Speed Machines - DriveTribe