No to so-called ‘supercars’

Something has changed. Is it us, or is it the cars? What’s missing? Ah, that was it…

By Shahzad Sheikh

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I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here, because writing the following will likely mean that I’ll never be invited to test certain types of cars by manufacturers ever again but, as shocking and verging on blasphemy as it is, I have to stand up and make a confession: supercars don’t turn me on any more.

Allow me to recount a recent conversation in which I was asked:
‘Have you driven a Bugatti Veyron?’
‘Yes I have actually!’
‘Wow! Cool. How was it?’
‘Well, it was fast.’
‘Er… yeah, and…?’
‘That’s pretty much all I can recall, and the only reason I know it was fast is because I dared to momentarily glance down at the instrument panel, but honestly speaking it was so comfortable it didn’t actually FEEL all that quick anyway. Nor particularly special.’

The questioner walked away, presumably in disgust and probably having decided he was wasting his time with a philistine like me who didn’t even know a great car when he drove one.

Porsche 918 Spyder

Truth is though, I’m not bothered if I never drive a Veyron again – it just didn’t do anything for me. Perhaps more astonishingly than that, I’m not particularly desperate to drive the current triumvirate kings of supercars (should they be ‘hypercars’?) – the Porsche 918 Spider, the McLaren P1 or even the LaFerrari – though I’ll grant you that last one is the prettiest and most alluring of the trio.

Yet there was a time when I queued up and waited hours for Hamley’s to open just so that I could get my hands on the very first BBurago model of the Ferrari F40, which was later joined by a McLaren F1, displayed beneath a bedroom wall festooned with posters of sainted superstars like the Lamborghini Countach, Porsche 959, Vector W8 and of course, my personal favourite, the Lotus Esprit. I was in awe of these automotive deities.

Ferrari LaFerrari

I would give anything just to see and hear them for real, let alone sit in one or even drive it! These cars were legends and I lusted after them. In their crazily exotic interpretation of unhinged no-compromise road-going missiles, they still somehow seemed relevant as the most fervent expression of accessible automotive speed for the road. They were real, and yet unreal at the same time.

Somehow the new breed of hyper/supercars just don’t seem as relevant to me, even as they are shoehorned into the mundane mediocrity of ‘relevance’ to today’s buyer. Less raw, less evocative, they seem far more contrived and dislocated from the surreal dreamscape where sensation mattered, nothing less than spectacular would do, and no care was given to the poor mortals tasked with taming these wild, rampaging yet totally compelling beasts.

The new cars are carefully anchored in reality; they are much more matter-of-fact drearily accessible, targeted, as they are, towards only two, extremely distinct, kinds of people.

Emirates Classic Car Festival 2014

The first and foremost are the insanely rich who don’t know how to drive at all, but can contemplate the exalted price tags. They are more concerned with the flashy fascade of sportive pretence that they perceive gives them some sort of credibility or, let’s be honest, sex appeal. But they also want a car that cossets and comforts them, doesn’t ruffle their exclusive designer threads, keeps them cool, maintains their carefully nurtured coiffure, and ensures connectivity so they can Instagram their bought-in awesomeness.

Supercar makers also realise that this high-end clientele needs to be looked after and, most importantly, kept alive, after all there is repeat business to be had. So the cars are softer, easier, more gadget laden and computer controlled – they’re safer.

Ferrari 458

The second kind are those who are god-like behind the wheel, racers and test drivers who actually have the ability (unlike my humble skillset) to really exploit the extraordinarily high levels of grip and go, and this only safely on a closed track – the jaw-dropping speeds achievable are just too high to be considered safe for the road.

And there’s more. I just don’t want supercars that 9-year old boys can just jump in and drive in India, nor do I want supercars that any bloody vain selfie-junkie can rent out for a show-off day having pocketed a bonus off hitting sales targets.

Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera

It’s not just the ‘hypercars’ either. The Ferrari 458 is exquisite and the best car in the range right now, but I don’t want one. I’d rather have an estate car than an Audi R8 (an RS6-badged estate car mind, but still), and driving a 911 Turbo S is like stuffing a few extra socks down your y-fronts.

I must admit to having a soft spot for Lamborghini’s – the only remaining really mad supercars (part of the definition of supercars if you ask me), but I wouldn’t want an Aventador (it’s too wide and unwieldy, not to mention – whisper it though – commonplace), and I haven’t driven a Huracan yet. The bucking and raucous Gallardo Superleggera was the last supercar that really got under my skin.

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That helps me to make the point, lest you be judging me so, that it’s not the case that too many years doing what I do has simply left me cynical and jaded and that {gasp!} I might have actually fallen out of love with cars altogether.

This is not true. Give me a loud-mouth, tarmac-scorching muscle car any day, or a crazy-keen hot hatch on amphetamines. Plus this year I’ve fallen helplessly in love with the little mid-engined Alfa Romeo 4C, a car with just a 1750cc motor, but one hell of a thrilling, challenging drive – in fact I would go so far as to say it’s a more intoxicating motoring experience than any current Ferrari further up the same Fiat-Chrysler group’s automotive food chain. And as for certain classic 60s and 70s metal, don’t even get me started, I’d probably have to have a lie-down from all the excitement.

Jaguar E-Type

No, I don’t think it’s entirely me. I think I’m just seeing through these newer cars and their true inherent insipidity. They are products designed by marketers, economists, business specialists, research analysts and consumer data (c’mon people when will we remember that that stuff’s bunk, people don’t know what they want till you give it to them!).

And there’s one word that I’ve forgotten to use in this piece so far, even though its deployment was always inevitable in such a discourse over what modern cars might be missing so badly that they fail to get a die-hard car fan tingling in all the wrong places. I’ll just leave that word here for you and our dear automotive industry to chew over: passion.

Classic Mustang Shahzad

Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I a blithering idiot? Tell us what you think about today’s supercars below

10 responses to “No to so-called ‘supercars’”

  1. Ahmed Al Ameri says:

    I somewhat agree, supercars have become a fashion statement rather than being driven hard at the track. Another reason why I agree would be because most people can’t and probably wont be able to ever purchase a brand new supercar in their lifetime, so it’s almost like a dream that could never be achieved.

  2. Donny says:

    Hi Shahzad!

    Now, you know I’m not one to disagree with you but you’d kind of contradicted yourself a little with the Aventador comment. It’s because it’s wide and unwieldy that you SHOULD have one! It’s the very essence of what a supercar should be – difficult to drive!

    Totally agree on the rest, though. As much as I’m in love with the idea of owning a supercar, as soon as I see them in the tin I just think ‘meh’. Perhaps it’s being exposed to too many of them at motor shows, but they just seem to go over my head these days. The only one I’m currently showing an interest in, though, is the Huracan (mainly because, like you, I have a soft spot for Lamborghini!) – it looks mad, all sharp lines and angles. I’ve never been too keen on the Gallardo, but the chaps at Sant’ Agata have done a proper job on this one.

    • admin says:

      [Shahzad] Yeah, fair point Donny, but as you mention I did say I have a soft spot still for Lambos because they do make the maddest cars. You’re right about the Aventador, but sadly it is a rather common sight on Dubai’s roads which falls foul of another supercar requirement – exclusivity. The other thing is that I’ve driven a Murcielago on a track and an Aventador. I went harder and faster in an Aventador (within my limited abilities) – because it was easier. The Murthy scared the shit out of me if I’m being honest and I was just happy to complete my run and get back to the pits alive and able to tell the tale! Again, that’s kinda what it should be like, right?

  3. Utk says:

    Hey Shahzad! Really good article there!
    My question is, even though not a “supercar”, (complying with the article’s context, not a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti or similar), how does the Lotus Exige fair in the special “FEEL”, the feel which you talk about in the whole article?

    • admin says:

      I haven’t drive an Exige, but for me that falls into ‘sportscar’. Lotus still know how to do very visceral cars. I loved the Evora if you read my review here on MME.

  4. M.Logan says:

    Right on Shahzad, I too feel *passion* is largely gone from the current crop of modern cars, super or otherwise. Now I’m not driving them on a regular basis like you, but I have noticed my overall interest in new cars weighing in the last few years and it is most certainly to do with the automobile being steadily designed and engineered into a *safer* amorphous blob that anyone with a pair of hands and feet and maybe one eye can get in and drive around easily.
    That being said, where does one turn to reignite the flame of passion? I look to the past (mid-nineties is my wheelhouse), and I look for a car that I can modify and set up to handle just how I like, lots of oversteer, something car manufacturers deem far too dangerous now.
    So let them build their NERF toys for the boys, and those of us who prefer to go off leash will be quietly keeping those 15 year old passion generators running smooth. Thanks for an honest write up Shahzad, and you are not alone feeling this way in such a strange time for the driving enthusiast.

  5. Fraser Martin says:

    Nicely put, Chief. You and I have agreed to disagree on the Ferrari F40 for some of the same reasons as you list: the difference being that the F40 was just so singularly tiring and unpleasant, I thought when I drove one ages ago, that I would rather have an Audi R8. I wonder too, if part of the perception is not coloured by advancing years? Like my old Caterham Super 7, a proper sports car if ever there was one, by the time most of us are old enough to afford to buy and insure a “modern supercar” (which is a bit of an oxymoron in itself!), we are invariably too old to be getting in and out the bloody things! Ancient Yank Tanks work better for me: they may not be fast or svelte, but they turn heads, are easy to get in and out of, are challenging to handle and don’t make you look like a dick!

  6. Umer Abullah says:

    I dont get what you are sayin, Are yu sayng that f the Supercars today, such as the 4f8 and the aventador, where cheaper then you would like them. Would you consider the HONDA NSX because of its affordible price? I think it is wse to have supercars targeted to the Rich and wealthy becuase a Rolls Royse or bentley is just not enough. I cannot agree with you more though, when drivng the Bugatti the first thing i went for was to max out the speed and then i was done. But these kind of cars look amazing when you pull up to the valet of Burj Al Arab, if i came up inan NSX no one would notice me. But i have to disagreewith you about the Aventador because its wide body is what defines it. If it was little less wide then it wouldnt be the same and plus if it was thinner where you you fit the monstrous v12. Mate, you are going to regret putting up this article becuase you are all wrong, i think supercars today are much better then the previous generations.

    • Umer Fayyaz says:

      I completely agree with you, but the writer does have a point. The cars are turning into tamer wild animals. They’re losing the charm older cars had. Supercars are built for speed. Not practicality. They are cars that are meant to blow your mind with the sheer amount of speed and power whilst still being able to maintain the charm of fitting in with the rich kids cars. The Veryron is the perfect example of speed and luxury.

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