This would have been blasphemy back in the day, but I’m bored by horsepower. It’s cheap. It’s too easy. It’s too dumb. We’re at the point where a Cadillac with 640 horsepower has been on the market for years now. The horsepower wars are over, and we all won. But there’s a new war coming. The war over weight.
Don’t get me wrong, going fast is fucking delightful. But when you get into your Cadillac that rivals lesser gods for power, you realize you’ve got a bit of a dilemma. Before your foot even gets mid-way through a stomp on the throttle, your head has already been re-arranged straight up into the depths of your posterior, and you’re doing 90 mph. Which is illegal.
So the only place you truly get to enjoy the 640 horses that you paid for is the track. But how often are you getting to a track day, between all the other things going on in your life? Once a month, at most?
Be real here.
And then you see your friend in a Miata, and your friend in a Miata is always having a great time because their foot is always straight down on the right pedal, they’re always giving it 110 percent, and they’ve spent a quarter of the money. Their car doesn’t weigh a million pounds, and it’s light and chuckable and great. They’re happy.
Don’t get me wrong, the Cadillac CTS-V is a great car. But it’s a great car, briefly. Which is the problem with the horsepower wars. The overpowered brutes that we’ve created are great. Briefly.
But manufacturers pursued them because slapping forced induction on things is easy and cheap and helps fuel economy, and the better way of making cars fast and fun and more fuel efficient—making cars lighter—is hard and expensive.
And people don’t like things that are hard and expensive. Because they’re hard and expensive.
All of which is to say that Mike Flewitt, the CEO of McLaren Automotive, is on to something. Flewitt was speaking at an industry conference in England, when he said that the whole Horsepower Wars need to end, to be replaced with something much better in a McLaren press release:
Delivering his keynote speech to automotive leaders and policy makers at the SMMT industry summit in Central London, Mr Flewitt called for a future “weight race” to replace the more traditional “power race”.
He said industry and government need to work hand in hand to develop the synergies between future powertrain development and the clever use of lighter materials that will help save weight and, therefore, reduce the energy needed to power them.
“We now have a fantastic opportunity for the UK to be at the very forefront of a new automotive ‘weight race’ that can help achieve increasingly tough environmental targets.”
McLaren went on to note that in pursuit of the weight race it made a door for the Senna that weighs less than 10 kilograms and that “the company even formulated a lightweight paint specially to reduce the volume of liquid needed.”
Which is brilliant, and it’s what all companies should be doing. Even if Flewitt is being a bit of a hypocrite leading McLaren, a company whose least powerful car, the 540C, still makes 533 HP, which is still 55 more than the legendary Ferrari F40. But that’s fine, we’ll make a special exception since the 540C needs to have airbags. And at least McLaren is doing the weight thing, too.
But I want to see this mindset not just apply to cars that cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars at the very least. I want to see this on cars for the people.
I want a Toyota Corolla Colin Chapman Edition. I want a Chevy Tahoe to blow away in the wind. I want the “V” in Cadillac CTS-V to stand for “Very lightweight, who gives a crap if it’s only got 120 horsepower, it weighs 93 pounds, it’s fast enough to make you cry.”
Down with horsepower. Up with weight.