This is not a new question but it is one that seems to come up more and more when reading comments on fast car reviews or videos. It has also become more common because the performance figures of modern hypercars have become so insane people are starting to wonder why the makers bother. There may, in fact, be some logic behind this growing argument but there is also a huge amount of logic behind owning a fast car and there is still a strong place for them in this country and the rest of the world.
What Is a Fast Car?
Speed and performance is all relative. It always has been and it always will be. There was a time where 20 mph felt fast because a lot of people walked to places, then it was 30 mph and so on. Once the world started to fill with cars the range and relativity got even broader. You can go out today and buy a Toyota Prius and a Ferrari La Ferrari; they both use the same general basis for propulsion but the gaping maw that sits in-between their performance stats is big enough to fit Donald Trump’s ego in with room to spare for a few footballers’ too. So what actually makes a fast car? Well, the general idea is something that is faster than the norm. If most cars will do 0-60 mph in 8 seconds or over then a car that will do it in 6-7 seconds is starting to get fast. There is a debate about the words Quick and Fast being used too just to confuse things. Quick often refers to 0-60 times and Fast is used when talking about top speeds; not terms most people worry about defining.
The debate should perhaps really centre on the point of having a car that can break the speed limit but that doesn’t allow for acceleration. So for the purposes of this article a fast car will be considered anything that can accelerate to 60mph in under around 7 seconds or something that is capable of doing over 110 mph. The arbitrary top speed figure just allows there to be some definition between a slow car going as fast as it can and a fast car doing what it finds easy.
A Faster Car Can Be A Safer Car
There is no doubt about it, a car with more performance can be a car that is safer to drive. This is not always the case because some performance cars are somewhat tricky to control however is does hold true for most faster cars. All drivers have been caught behind a lorry on the motorway that seems to be weaving around a little at some point or another. This can be very unnerving and the natural instinct is to give it a wide berth and get past. Slowing down is no good because if it crashes into the side of the hard shoulder you will end up hitting. A very slow car will find this move towards safety considerably more challenging than a performance car. It is simply safer to have the power to be able to move clearly, cleanly and safely round the offending lorry and continue on your way than it is to attempt a long drawn out over take while slowing other traffic down and potentially being hit side on by the weaving lorry. There are a vast number of other similar situations like getting past tractors swiftly on a country road when the gap presents itself…because if you can’t do it then other drivers behind might take the added risk of overtaking you too.
A Slower Car Might Not Always Be Greener
As a general rule it is fair to say that slower cars tend to have better green credentials than performance ones. It stands to reason that smaller engines will push out less CO2 and the like. However, a slow car driven fast in relative terms can burn through a great deal of fuel just to achieve a basic level of performance. There is such a thing as a dangerously slow car but also one that is frustratingly slow and underpowered. For a car only capable of doing 0-60 in something around 12-14 seconds like a 1.2 Citroen Cactus pulling out of a junction quickly means giving it every last ounce of throttle available. Driving like this is not good for fuel economy, but a more powerful car might only need a little blip of the throttle to nip out and then continue driving on an almost closed throttle. Of course this is a huge subject with endless statistics but a person who is frustrated with their cars performance is unlikely to be saving the planet with their lead footed driving whilst trying to make it feel faster.
Pleasure can be found below the Speed Limit
The idea that fast cars are only fun when driven on the edge of their envelope is a silly one. As anyone who has ever driven a performance car will know, a lot of the fun comes from those little moments coming onto a motorway when you move from 40 to 70. It can also be hugely rewarding coming off a roundabout on a dual carriage way and accelerating smoothly from 20 to 60. It is these moments that a fast car makes sense. Why labour back up to speed after every roundabout when you can thrust safely back to the normal road speed in an effortless fashion. Even nipping from 0 to 25 mph can be fun, and none of these speeds are illegal or reckless. Yes the car can do it faster, yes it can do 160mph or 200mph or more….but that doesn’t mean that’s the only time it is a pleasure to own.
Noise, Style, Design and Luxury
When was the last time you saw a very slow car that took your breath away in terms of design, style and luxury? Well never unless you happen to find a 1.0 VW Up prettier than a Mercedes C63 Coupe. For a lot of people the performance of their car actually comes as a by-product of all the other functions of the car. It is just the nature of cars that high spec models tend to lean towards high performance too. But also owners get a great deal of pleasure from the look and design of their car. Some Ferrari owners never drive over 50mph, but they love their car all the same. So once again, the point of a fast car is not just about speed but about the car itself and the pleasure one gets from it.
For those who do seek to experience the true potential of their high performance car there is a huge range of track days open to them. So, in fact, they can experience the speed at which the car was built for and it can be done in the UK. Afterwards they can then simply drive around normally until the next track day.
On and On
The list of reasons why a performance car still makes sense in the UK goes on and on and it really comes down to personal taste. Most of the people who ask what the point is, probably don’t really like cars that much. Perhaps they struggle with a touch of the green eyed monster about people with high end cars too or maybe they simply don’t get it. But whatever the reason there is a clear difference between fast car owners and lover and the people that question their validity and it is this gulf that ultimately means the question will never go away. That being said, it’s fun to debate and we do love a good argument in this country don’t we?
Written by Mike James, an independent content writer working together with motoring journalist Ade Holder and The AA Garage Guide.