We live in an unprecedented time for cars, a time when the things we drive are faster and cleaner and safer and more advanced than they’ve ever been in history—a time with the fewest compromises. And the power gains we’ve seen in just the last few years have been just amazing.
But as Jason Torchinsky pointed out in his thoughtful article yesterday, that’s not always a good thing. Excessive power isn’t always better, even if a sizable portion of car people will claim otherwise.
To me, this goes beyond the “slow car fast/fast car slow” debate. It means striking a balance in the car you drive, getting something that’s usable in daily driving and fun scenarios like track days without leaving you wanting more.
So what’s the ideal amount of power to you?
Obviously, we have to take into account other factors for a vehicle, namely size and weight. A Volkswagen Golf R has “just” 296 horsepower, but for a small hatchback, it can sure hustle. And as I mentioned yesterday in the comments on Jason’s story yesterday, I find 485 HP to be about perfect in the big, heavy Dodge Challenger; the 707 HP Hellcat version, while insane and wonderful, is overkill. In the Hellcat you’re hard pressed to find places to actually use that power without killing yourself or going to jail. (Your ideal amount of power may also vary depending on where you choose to live, if you catch my drift.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love high horsepower cars, especially when the rest of the car can back up that power with a good suspension and proper brakes. But I have little interest in owning something that’s totally overkill.
Last summer my wife and I drove a BMW M4 from Seattle to Los Angeles along the Pacific Coast Highway. That car had 425 HP going to the rear wheels, and while that may not be an insane number in this Age of Excess, it made for a very fast car. Even with the extra weight from the convertible top, too.
And while I haven’t driven the BMW M2 yet (something I plan on fixing very soon), I kind of laughed at the people who said its 365 HP wasn’t “enough.” In a car that size, I’m sure it’s plenty. Hell, let’s be realistic for a second—any car with between 300 and 400 HP will get out of its way just fine.
This is different for everyone, so I’ll just ask: what’s your ideal amount of horsepower?