The notion that electric cars are sterile or boring couldn’t be further from the truth. Watch as the Tesla Model X, a 5,300lb minivan with gullwing doors, runs the quarter mile against the Alfa Romeo 4C, a 2,500lb mid-engine sports car. Motor Trend really puts things into perspective at the end of the video. I’m not exactly sure if there will be a place for the sports car in the supposed future of autonomous electric ride-sharing minivans, but it won’t be for a lack of performance.
Riversimple has devised a completely different approach to nearly every aspect of automotive design and ownership. Whether or not it is a feasible business model is up for debate. Regardless, it’s definitely worth watching.
No love for the truly hardcore.
The automotive industry only seems to have appreciation for one kind of hardcore and that is track performance hardcore (think GT3 RS or M4). But what about a truly hardcore road car? One that is uncompromising in its approach to the realities of 99.9% of real world driving.
While Riversimple’s concept really nails the conceptual economics of driving, I don’t think it succeeds in the realities of driving. Storage and extra seating is non existent and while it’s not sexy, that’s a deal breaker. Who’s going to buy a car that blatantly ignores the fact that people own stuff, have families and friends, or buy more than two bags of groceries at a time?
Engineered obsolesce is the name of the game.
Cars are abhorrently expensive to maintain. If you were to buy all the individual parts necessary to build a car from scratch, it would cost you 10X the car’s MSRP. This creates a huge conflict of interests between the car’s owner and the manufacturer.
Bentley Bentayga’s electrical wiring minefield
Not to mention the fact that there seems to be no foresight during a car’s design for its inevitable future maintenance. What’s the usable lifespan for increasing complex and inaccessible system? Your car is effectively”totaled” if a complex part breaks.
Having fallen in love the Ariel Nomad, the Atom with off road suspension and tires, Evo decided to assemble quite the collection of vehicles to give the whole rally thing a try.
Chasing the dragon.
Perfect is predictable. Perfect is boring. Sometimes the most bizarre and fundamentally ill-suited car can produce the most memorable driving experience. The 911’s rear engine layout may be the textbook example but the seemingly top-heavy chainsaw-loud Bowler Defender stole the show. Just absurd. I want one.
Less grip equals more fun.
Most are of the mindset that you can never have enough grip (or horsepower) but too much grip robs the driver of involvement. If you have more grip than skill, it masks bad driving techniques by asking little of the driver. MotoGP and F1 drivers are known to participate a variety of dirt races during the off season to sharpen their skills. Having to finesse a car around a corner is coincidentally the most rewarding part of driving. Evo’s tagline is “the thrill of driving”. They just get it.
I recently drove the new-ish 5.0 V8 Mustang GT. Rather unsurprisingly, it is not a sophisticated and nuanced sports car. It felt more like a brute instrument, and I mean that in the best possible sense.
dark green in a nod to McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang
Serious horsepower and torque coupled with relatively soft suspension provides for a lot of drama. Step on the gas and the rear suspension squats, pushing the long hood even higher into your field of view while the engine’s wave of torque pins you back. Heavy braking does just the opposite, with the car pitching forward giving you a better view of the immediate pavement. Commit to a turn at decent speed and the car leans hard on its outside wheels. There’s a real sense of speed and momentum that makes the Mustang a genuinely exciting drive.
A shameless part of me really wants a muscle car because it’s just so much fun. For driving on the street, I’m betting the base Mustang GT is more fun that the hardcore GT350R model with its screaming 526hp flat plane V8 and ridiculously wide (305/315 front/rear) carbon fiber wheels. The reason being that you can’t push the GT350R to its limit often in the real world. It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
This notion of the entry level car in the ranks often being the most fun extends to a surprising number of cars. McLaren’s newest model, the 570S, is getting a lot of love. McLaren intentionally focused on driving enjoyment, leaving the lap record to the more expensive and less renown 650S. BMW’s 1M was more highly regarded than the corresponding generation of M3, and the upcoming M2’s seems poised to continue the trend. How about Porsche? The GT4 has too much grip and is effectively geared for top speed runs on the autobahn, leaving the base Cayman (not Cayman S) as the real driver’s car.
So if money was no object, do people have the self control to spend less and get the more fun but more basic cars? Probably not. Sports cars are about the theater, and it takes many forms. Is the GT350R’s fancy kit really necessary for a road car? Not even close but the appeal of a car is as much in the story behind it as anything else.
NASCAR gets a bad rap. Is it the pinnacle of automotive technology? Hardly, but that’s besides the point. NASCAR is all about putting on a good show. There is genuine competition among the field (if you drive a Chevy, sorry Ford). 10 different drivers have won races this season. F1 and WEC have elected to focus on outright performance as opposed to viewer enjoyment and both series are dominated by single teams.
That being said, NASCAR isn’t for me. My new favorite form of 4 wheel racing is Stadium Super Trucks (SST). It’s essentially trophy trucks racing on paved road courses with jumps added to the straightaways. Off-road tires coupled with the huge suspension travel gives these cars poor on-road performance but makes things terribly entertaining. The trucks are either on three wheels in the turns, launching 20 feet in the air or crashing. This might be the best form of motor racing I’ve ever seen.
How much of your city’s layout is compromised to accommodate the car? Probably more than you realize. Consider a stationary car’s footprint on the road in the image below.
click to expand – footprint of 60 people when commuting by bicycle, car and bus
Now consider how much additional space each car requires when moving. The higher the speed traveled, the more space that’s required between cars. A car traveling 25 mph on the road probably needs around to 1-2 car lengths between it and the car ahead, and that figure doubles for every ~25 mph increase in speed.
Even still, it is pretty shocking to learn that the total percentage of land dedicated solely to the automobile can exceed 50% in some cities. Beyond that terrifying land usage statistic, consider how much of the remaining land’s development is influenced by the automobile’s close proximity or the preference for people for traveling by car. In short, cities are built around the car, and cars are a huge waste of space.
So why does no one seem to care about this backwards set of priorities? Why isn’t there an aspirational city car to match every enthusiasts aspirational sports car? Gordon Murray, the man behind the McLaren F1, has turned his attention to the city car, but it has attracted minimal attention. Part of the problem stems from the ridiculous correlation between vehicle size and perceived luxury.
Mini Rolls needs more grill
Small cars are always a brand’s entry level model. You simply can’t buy a truly luxurious small car. It’s almost an oxymoron. The rational for this is that automakers build cars based on consumer demand, and most cities do little to incentives people to drive smaller cars. If anything, consumer preference has favored increasingly large cars. The current 3 series is now as large as the 5 series from two generation ago.
We already incentive people to drive fuel efficient cars through taxation. Why not place the same emphasis on vehicle size or correspondingly weight? I can’t wait for the Mini Rolls or maybe just smaller (and lighter) cars in general.
I used to lust after Alfa’s 164 Procar concept from the 80’s because it seemed like the most uncompromising and focused sports car ever conceived. It had a V10 from F1, seats and an enclosed roof. I find myself still wanting the same car but for very different reasons, its utter simplicity.
I look at contemporary cars, and they seem littered with fragile expensive stuff. What we actually need in a car vs what we convince ourselves we need are two very different things. What’s the realistic lifespan of power heated/cooled backseats with a massaging feature or an engine with turbo-charging, simultaneous direct and port injection, dual-overhead cams with variable inlet and exhaust timing, mated to an electric motor and batteries?