Thursday, May 14, 2009

What's The Point of Supercars?

Mind blowing performance. Impressive specifications. Sexy styling. Limited production. Some say that supercars are the ultimate driving machines, but I've got a hunch that many of today's top performance automobiles are not being used to their full potential...or even being used at all.
The supercar industry has seen some of its most groundbreaking innovations in recent years, thanks to advances in technology. Everything from crash testing to aerodynamic modeling can now be perfected in the lab using computer modeling and simulations before the first vehicle rolls off the production line.
Not only does this cut down the amount of time required to bring a new vehicle to market, but it has also led to the development of some of the wildest and most unique vehicles ever produced. Computer-aided design allows engineers to explore new concepts and ideas that just were not possible a decade ago.

From paddle-shifters mounted on the steering column to heavy-duty carbon ceramic brakes, modern supercars are dripping with innovation. Carbon fiber body panels stay rigid and strong as advanced traction control systems help channel massive amounts of power to the pavement. Hand-assembled engines pump out huge horsepower at high RPMs and will run for years without needing a rebuild.

Yes, it's safe to say that supercars are some of the most over-engineered vehicles on the road today. A design team at Ferrari or Lamborghini may spend more time perfecting the suspension of one vehicle than it would take for a mass-production automaker to revise its entire lineup. The amount of effort that goes into developing a true road-raping machine is often reflected in its six or seven figure price tag.

But how often do you see supercars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis on the road? When was the last time you saw a Koenigsegg at the corner store or an F430 at the movie theater? Unless you live in South Florida, probably never.

The truth is that in spite of their incredible engineering, supercars do not make good daily drivers. Many exotic car owners also have an ordinary car for driving to the post office and the grocery store. The supercar is kept in the garage most of its life and will be driven perhaps a few hundred miles a year to car shows and around the block on sunny days.

Although a supercar can accelerate to 60 mph in the blink of an eye, its driver must still obey the speed limit. While the limited production makes them highly desirable, it also makes them difficult to get parts for. Because of the expensive price tag, a fender bender or theft would be disastrous.

Supercars also have high maintenance costs including premium fuel, synthetic oil, and special order tires. They gulp fuel and have no room for passengers or cargo. Insurance is expensive and so are speeding tickets. When you get right down to it, supercars are a lot like ordinary cars, only less useful and more expensive.

That's not to say we shouldn't have supercars. It is through the development of such exotic, high-performance vehicles that our regular cars become more advanced. What I am saying is that it's an absolute shame to see the fastest and best engineered vehicles sitting around all the time, being pampered instead of being driven!
It is a shame to see a classic Ferrari on the auction block at Barrett Jackson with 6,000 original miles on the clock. It is a shame to see today's most obsessively engineered vehicles hiding under car covers and being trailered to shows. It's a shame that supercars are priced well out of range of plenty of people who would love to drive them regularly.

What's the point of spending thousands of hours designing and testing a vehicle so it can sit on the grass at Pebble Beach? What is the point of engineering a vehicle that can travel at 250mph, only to have it spend the majority of its life sitting still?

The vehicles that are built to go the fastest are the ones that are driven the least. Rather than be driven and enjoyed as the designers intended, they spend their days covered up in garages, museums, and trailers at car shows. Now, where's the sense in that?

I am not the only one who feels this way: