A few years ago, the word "hybrid" meant only one thing: slow, abysmal-to-drive eco-machines like the Toyota Prius. But 2013 was the year hybrid technology truly entered the performance arena with extreme cars like the Porsche 918 Spyder, LaFerrari and McLaren P1. Now we need one from America.
You read that right. I want an expensive, mid-engined hybrid halo car with an obscene amount of power that can run with or beat those three cars in every way, but unlike them, was designed and built in the U.S. of A. Don't tell me we can't do it!
Like the idea of a high-performance hybrid, that may have seemed laughable just a few years ago. But it's not anymore. This is the time when your Jalopnik staff likes to reflect on the best and worst cars we drove over the year. As I started to mentally compile my list, I was shocked at how many of them ended up being American cars. That's not just some empty jingoism on my part — I'm genuinely and pleasantly surprised at how good American cars have become over the last few years.
And as I was reading Sam Smith's fantastic first-drive review of the Porsche 918 over at Road & Track, one where he describes the car as having "the most civilized 944 lb-ft on the planet" and being so complex that the engineers on-site struggled to explain how it worked. My takeaway from that story was this: We need to make one of these too.
As far as I'm concerned, the 2014 Corvette and the new Cadillacs are proof that Americans can build a car that's as good as anything that comes out of Europe. The American automakers must feel the same way, since they're so intent on selling cars like the 2015 Mustang in new markets, including Europe. This country's cars are better than they've been in decades, and possibly even ever. Don't even get me started on Tesla, whose Model S is beyond great.
But right now, the Europeans have the hybrid hypercar game all to themselves. I don't think they should be allowed to hog all the fun.
Let me be clear what I'm asking for here. I want a mid-engined, two-door, two-seat sports car that makes liberal use of lightweight materials like carbon fiber, has at least eight cylinders and as many turbochargers as is necessary, and gets assistance from an F1-style KERS system and electric motors. I think it's gonna need at least 800 horsepower, too, and an astronomical price tag. Go big or go home.
We know high-performance cars are headed in that direction anyway. General Motors North America president Mark Reuss will tell you that a high-performance hybrid or KERS-equipped Corvette "is an attractive idea." I have a feeling that we'll see a C7 Corvette with that technology at some point, and on the Pacific side of things, we know the new Acura NSX and Nissan GT-R will both almost certainly have hybrid power.
Cool. Great. But the car I'm asking for today isn't a hybrid Corvette, it's a top-of-the-range halo hypercar. Does that sound like I want an American Porsche 918, McLaren P1 or LaFerrari? It should, because that's exactly what I'm asking for.
I don't know which American brand will be the one to put this together, or how they should do that. I may spend my days writing about cars, but I'm hardly an engineer. I'm just saying that this is something that needs to happen.
Maybe it will be GM, free of the shackles of government ownership and led by a new, relatively young CEO with an engineering background and an adventurous spirit. The LT1 with turbos and electric motors? I won't say no to that.
Maybe it will be Chrysler, arguably the quirkiest and most innovative American automaker throughout its history, and now with a little bit of trickle-down technology from the folks at Ferrari. Or maybe it will be Ford, who just a few years ago gave us the wonderful revived Ford GT and has a glorious history of going to Europe to regulate on motherfuckers.
Or maybe it will come from one of the smaller boutique supercar manufacturers like Hennessey or SSC. That's good too, although I'd like to see it get built by one of the Big Three.
I know it's going to be a tough sell. R&D costs will be extremely high, and even if the cars are sold a supremely high price point, they may not result in a profit. That's not the easiest thing to justify considering two of our three big car companies are still emerging from the shadows of bankruptcy.
But I see no reason an American carmaker can't make a Porsche 918, and no real reason they shouldn't eventually. We can make 'em as good as anyone, and even better if we put our minds to the task.
Okay, American car companies. Who's up first?