Supercars; Not This Driver's Choice.
" I am speed... I am faster than fast, quicker than quick, I am speed." Lightning McQueen.
Mankind has forever been obsessed with speed. It started with simply running faster than the other guy, but that wasn’t enough. When man domesticated the horse, his obsession with speed only grew. We trained the horses to run faster, choosing the best of the best to breed, and thus created a line of horses who ran faster than any other horse. Then, finally, the greatest innovation in speed came: the invention of the horseless carriage. Now speeds once thought impossible even for boats and locomotives were being left behind in the dust of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Nothing personifies this original spirit of the automobile more than the idea of “Supercar.” Even the slowest of the breed easily attain astronomically greater speeds than most anything else on the road, with top speeds over 200 MPH, 0-60 times of less than 3 seconds, and a super price tag to match. But, at what point does the pursuit of speed come at the cost of driving fun and driver enjoyment? Can fast ever be too fast? Are supercars really the drivers choice? For this driver, the answer is clear. No.
In all fairness, supercars are amazing feats of engineering. Everything from the engine, transmission, body, all the way down to the tires and pedals are often handmade or handpicked. Every inch of the vehicle is precisely engineered and optimized for the sole purpose of going faster. But, I fear that in all the engineering and purposeful design, they have overengineered and overdesigned most of the fun and driver enjoyment out of the car. Every supercar review has one, central thing in common: the rush of acceleration. The feeling of pure speed is indeed a rush unlike any other. But that rush only lasts as long as the dragstrip, the straight away of the track, or the highway on-ramp. Then, the rush is over, and the fun is replaced with anxiety, when immediately afterwards the supercar is loaded on a covered trailer and shelved because you can’t put too many miles onto the odometer. The high cost of maintenance and insurance, as well as the exorbitant sicker price, means all of these supercars are well out of reach for the average driver. Even if you could afford one, you can’t drive them to their full potential on normal roads and highways. After 5 seconds of acceleration, you’ll find yourself breaking every speed limit on the books in the US.
Supercars may be amazing, but here are three cars I have driven that are more fun than any supercar.
You really cant compare a Miata to a supercar; the only real thing they have in common is the fact they are both automobiles. In fact, the Miata is practically the polar opposite of a supercar. Supercars are loaded with all the tech and features you could want. Launch control, systems to limit wheel spin, wings that raise and lower themselves, lap timers, cameras, systems to show your G forces in turns, some can even tell you when to shift for better performance. The Miata has no launch control— how you control the clutch and gas pedals determine how you launch. Wheel spin is also limited by how you work the pedals. If you want to “warm up the tires,” go for it. You set the height of the wing with some bolts, if you have one. Keeping tack of lap times comes in the form of your phone, stopwatch, or friend. Want a camera? Mount your phone or get a Gopro. Measuring G force? Who needs a fancy computer that adds, like, .5 grams of weight. The amount of force your spine takes from holding you in your seat gives that info. Want to know when to shift? When you hit the redline, hold a second to admire the sound of the engine, then shift using the knob. No automatic with paddle shifters here!
The supercar is always looking to the future. Pushing the envelope, and striving to boast the largest horse power figures for its own sake. The Miata is a blast from the past, reminding us of simpler times. It has never been one to push the envelope, and the only reason it has a backup camera now is because the feds require one. It hearkens back to a time of small, light cars that don’t need extra gizmos and big power figures to tempt us. The Miata has always been “under powered,” and even the newest model has under 200HP— nothing to boast about. But, despite the low tech and low power nature of the car, the Miata always puts a smile on my face. The styling is simple, smooth, and always happy. The car is light and easy to toss around coroners with ease. The ride is stiff but livable, and the seats in mine sit too high up and don’t hold you in place, but they get the job done. The car never fails to make you smile, and what’s more, the smile starts when you see it, and only grows when you start it up and throw the top down. The Miata isn’t perfect, but when you see someone driving a Miata, they are always smiling. When I see people driving a super car, they look anxious, as if they’re doing algebra.
"Why so serious?" The Joker.
The supercar always takes itself seriously, and you have to be equally serious while driving it. One wrong move, and next thing you know you’re on the phone with the insurance company trying to explain how you crashed headlong into a Chili’s. Everything about the supercar is serious: the company that makes it, the dealerships, the price, the insurance… even the keys are serious, high performance keys, so you had best take them all seriously or risk the consequences. Every supercar driver, with the exception of young YouTubers, who make more money they know what to do with, and have no appreciation for the hard work and joy that goes into owning a beater as a first car, or the joys of owning an entry level sports car like the Miata. Supercar owners are usually older men who ran/run a business or invest, and have more money than self-discipline, hence the supercar. The vehicle isn’t so driven for enjoyment, or anything so plebeian as that. It’s driven to show off, to flaunt, as a fashion and power statement. They use it to remind everyone they are better and more serious than you.
Vintage VW Bugs, with the exception of some very early, rare models, are not taken very seriously. People look at them and smile, and often giggle because the car is just funny. It’s like a tiny cartoon version of a normal car from the 1930s. Serious is nowhere to be found. The price of the Bug certainly isn’t serious: you can get a reasonably conditioned and mechanically sorted Bug for 5K, and a fixer upper for much less. The insurance isn’t serious either. I got my Bug insured for less than $70. You can get collector car insurance, you know, if you’re serious, but most people don’t. The drivers of vintage Bugs don’t tend to be serious either. I think the typical wardrobe consists of a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. They work normal jobs, and seem like normal people, they know how to have a good time. They are always laughing and smiling, and have like to joke around. Vintage Bugs are far from a fashion and power statement: they are cheap, and very easy to find. While the average supercar owner is very serious and rarely enjoys the car. The average Bug enjoys life, and the car, to the fullest.
"Look, your tie's all flat and junk. Let me grab my cellular and call you a wrecker. Oh wait I can't, because I'm a pothole. GEICO.
Supercars are designed and engineered in such a way that the only way you can enjoy everything the car has to offer is on a track or dragstrip. Normal roads just don’t allow for that level of driving. Sure, you can take the highway on-ramp and floor it, but that ends mighty fast, and then you have to slow down or else you’re eating the back of that ‘04 Camry that wont get out of the left lane. And you can forget about in-town driving. Potholes, speedbumps, other cars, low speed limits, rain, all combine to suck potential fun that you could be having behind the wheel. Not to mention all the annoying people trying to take a picture of your car, asking you questions about the car, wanting a picture with the car, and all the car guys asking to drive the car. Due to the nature of the supercar you can only enjoy about 20% of the car’s potential, while the rest is wasted on normal roads.
The Suzuki Sidekick was engineered as the last dying breath of the true SUV that died in the ‘90s. A real off-roader, built to hug around the bend of the trails, but comfortable enough to drive on pavement. The Sidekick was engineered in a way to allows you to enjoy everything the car has to offer all the time, no matter what road you’re on. For that highway on ramp, you’ll get up to speed, but not fast, so there’s no need to worry about smashing into the back of that Camry that just wont use the right lane! In town the ride is stiff, but you won’t care about hitting pot holes! In fact, I go looking for them, because I drive an off-road monster. Speedbumps? Who cares, it’s not like I’m driving a GEO Metro. Other cars? Dents and scratches mean nothing, they’ll just blend in with the others. Rain? I got 4WD baby— all the rain can offer is a free car wash. And boy, I love low speed limits. It means I don’t have to worry about being the slowest one on the road. Greatest of all, no one cares about the Sidekick. Nobody wants a picture, hounds you asking questions, and no one wants to drive it. Unlike the supercar, I can enjoy 100% of the Sidekick’s potential 100% of the time.
Let me be clear, lest you think me resentful over something I can never have: I don’t hate supercars. I like them for what they are: amazing feats of automotive design and engineering that keep pushing the car world forward. But it’s absurd to imagine that they’re anything close to the pinnacle of driving. They’re just too limited in scope of what they can do, because that is how they are designed. In my opinion, the Miata, Bug, and Sidekick are much more fun and fulfilling to own and drive.