I remember the first car I drove with more than 700 horsepower. It was Tony Angelo’s Formula Drift car and it was terrifying. It was exhilarating. It changed my whole idea of how cars can work. I drove it off the track in a matter of minutes.
Tony’s car was strange and wonderful because it made all its power from a tiny Toyota four-cylinder 2AZ like you’d find in a Scion tC, only boosted to 705 HP, the power curve helped out by nitrous. Even then it required a very committed right foot to make enough power to spin the rear tires as the car was set up to grip, to not just go sideways but to go sideways as fast as possible. So I found understeer, then I tried to get on the gas out of it, but not enough, then too late, and I sent the car into a bush off the back track at Englishtown.
I can say this now because at the time I really had next to no idea what I was doing or what was going on or what was causing these strange feelings and reactions from the car back to my clumsy inputs. The car wasn’t easy to drive. Not at all. I got to learn from that.
Meanwhile, Road & Track got a very different experience from a different car in the 700 club: the new Chevy Corvette ZR1, supercharged to 755 HP.
“[I]t maintains all the stuff that’s great about the Z06, about the Gran Sport, about the Stingray. You know, it’s got a compliant chassis. Even though it’s got electric steering, it’s still got some of the best electric steering that’s on the market today. And that’s what’s so interesting about this car,” Travis Okulski tells Sam Smith. “It’s that it’s accessible speed, and it’s not terrifying.”
“Part of what’s great about this, is just how approachable it is,” Smith also points out, going on that 10 or 15 years ago, this much power in a Corvette would have had people crashing before they made it down the block.
For them, that’s special. That’s interesting. For me, it’s a big question mark.
What’s the point of making a car with 755 HP if it doesn’t scare the shit out of you? That fear that comes with a car—that’s you learning something. That’s the car doing one thing that you don’t understand, something that you have to work on, work with until you get it right.
If GM is just going to sell a ZR1 that’s as easy to drive as a stock Corvette with 400 HP, why not just sell the one with 400 HP? What is anybody really getting out of that extra 355 HP other than gaining miles per hour and losing miles per gallon? Where’s the thrill? What are you learning?
Is it just a marketing exercise to claim lap times? Nobody cares about that. People want theater and lunacy and wilderness. They’re buying Hellcats. Purple ones. Blue ones. They’re leaving on the shipping protectors because they’re bright and they’re yellow and they’re silly.
So really, what’s the point of a ZR1 if it’s not frightening?