Your daily commute wouldn't be the same without them.
Supercars seem rather illogical in today’s speed-limited, over-regulated, nanny-state environment. Yet there are more of them about than ever before. Established manufacturers are expanding their ranges and niche supercar manufacturers are popping up practically daily. So, if they are too fast, too loud and too impractical for public roads, what is the point of them anyway? Aside from the irrational desire to own one there are a number of practical reasons that they exist too.
Massive power outputs and huge consumption figures go hand in hand with most supercars, yet when taking the fuel economy numbers in the context of the power being produced their relative efficiency is actually rather good. For example, the base 2.5-liter Nissan Altima makes 179hp and gets an impressive 38mpg on the highway, yet the Ferrari 488 GTB which makes 661hp still manages 22mpg.
Now our man math may be a bit rough but that seems like a comprehensive win for the Fezza. Even without resorting to scientifically suspect comparisons, the advanced tech in supercar engines can only be good for the industry. Just look at the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio, it uses a 6-cylinder version of the very same engine in the 488 and makes more power than any of its similarly sized German rivals.
The need for efficient braking performance in extreme situations is paramount in racing and vital in a fast road car. The disc brake may not have debuted on a supercar since that term didn’t come into use until much later, but it is in cars like the fastest 1950’s Jaguars and Triumphs that the system was truly put to the test.
Issues, like eliminating brake squeal and optimizing braking performance in a variety of conditions, are partly due to the development work put into the braking system by supercar manufacturers. Carbon Ceramic brakes are the next technology that will be filtering down to the mainstream market, offering a longer life, consistent braking performance, and a lower weight; the kinks of this set up have slowly been ironed out in supercars.
In the past, the vast majority of supercars tended to have rock-hard suspensions that were brilliant on smooth surfaces but would knock your spine out of alignment on real-world roads. Yet in recent years, supercars like the latest McLarens can offer a ride as good as most family sedans while still being able to corner and respond like a thoroughbred sports car.
This tech will filter down to mass-produced cars in due course but even now you will be reaping the benefits of the lessons learned from supercars of a decade ago in your current car. The 18 and 19-inch wheels on your car today would have made for an unbearably hard ride 10 or 15 years ago.
The dark art of aerodynamics has become a lot lighter in recent years, but it took decades of experimentation to get to where we are today. Where the height of downforce technology used to involve a massive wing and some pop-up headlights, today’s supercars use movable wings, ducts, and flaps controlled by complex electronics. The Pagani Huayra uses just such a setup and electric rear spoilers are now fitted to road cars like the BMW 3 Series GT and Porsche Panamera. Smooth undertrays and active grille shutters have now been adapted to help lower fuel consumption and lower drag.
Just like in racing, engineers developing supercars need to get creative to gain a competitive advantage over the rest of the field. Active aerodynamics and ground effects may seem a bit much for your Camry, but a quick-shifting gearbox and intelligent traction control system make a lot more sense.
Hybrid and electric supercars are also great testbeds for how this tech will work in extreme conditions making for more effective powertrains in future road cars. All those incremental improvements in the running gear add up and your sedan today is far more efficient than a comparable model from 20-years ago. Some of that improvement comes from lessons learned in supercar development.
Now, sharp readers will quickly point out that most new safety systems appeared first on luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series, but they are not the only ones to have introduced cutting-edge tech into mainstream vehicles. Supercars test existing tech to its limits, while revolutionary cars like the Porsche 959 debuted tech like Runflat tires and proved that an aluminum and Kevlar chassis could be both very light and extremely rugged.
Carbon fiber, aluminum, Kevlar and exotic composites all tend to be used first in supercars. The McLaren F1 was one of the first road cars ever to feature a carbon fiber tub. Lessons learned from McLaren’s Formula 1 program helped but it still took 4,000 hours to build each shell.
By the time the MP4-12C came about in 2011, that build time was down to just four hours. That means that the benefits of lighter weight and stronger impact resistance that this technology affords is that much closer to being fitted to your next car. In fact, if you happen to be driving a BMW i3, then it already is.
Not everything in life needs to be anchored in practicality and logical reasoning, we are human after all. While a supercar may not quicken everyone’s pulse in the same way, we all sometimes need something that defies reason and is desirable just for its emotional and aspirational attributes.
The halo effect of models such as the Lexus LFA, Acura NSX and BMW i8 all filter down to the rest of the range, and even if you will never own one, there is a certain pride in knowing that your daily-driver shares the same showroom space with something a little exotic.
For as long as the motorcar has been in existence there is a man or a woman trying to go faster, be better and quicker than the next guy or girl. Supercars like the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon exist solely for this very reason. The Bugatti Chiron is much of the same, yet the lessons learned from getting cars like this to reach new heights have made modern sedans smoother and quieter at speed. Going 250 mph may seem ludicrous but so did going 100 mph 70-years ago.