Despite Saving Your Engine, Rev Limiters Will Spoil Your Supercar Experience


Wrapping yourself in bubble wrap is a safe way to live but is that really a way to exist?

Age is just a number, or at least that’s what cougars and rich old men say to justify dating someone who is a few decades younger than they are. Cliches aside, it’s true that age doesn’t always equal experience, expertise, or good judgment. A perfect example of this is seen when the goodhearted press relations manager for some automaker tosses you the keys to a fast car. From there on, the perpetual scene of devil on one shoulder - contradicting angel on the next, begins to play.

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The more analytical will plan each moment from thereon out, but for the majority of us gearheads, the second the plastic fob lands in our hands, it’s all go. Thanks Jaguar, and we’re especially gratuitous to you McLaren, because you have just let an army of fourth graders loose in a theme park. First comes the lust for G-force. Many car lovers place so much emphasis on horsepower figures and 0-60 mph acceleration times that they forget what it's about. Like age, those are just numbers but we want fun. We want our heads shoved into headrests, we want the seat bolsters to dig out our kidneys, and we want our eyes to bulge wide in their sockets as if we assumed that they could take in the whole experience at once.

Of course, we have to reel it all in at some point; public safety and our freedom depends on it. So we relent, keeping our hunks of metal, carbon fiber, and alcantara at bay so that the police officer can give us a nod as we pass by. Deviance isn’t easy, but it must be let out and therein lies the beauty of the throaty rumble under the hood. So at the opportune moment, such as when a wide-eyed kid whips out a cell phone to capture the volcano orange press vehicle onto some circuitry, we stop and let er’ rip. Shift to neutral, and mat the throttle. The revs rise and suddenly, just when decibels are about to peak, the fuel injectors cut you off like a responsible bartender. “What the f--k?”

Even though the nearby child is too busy collecting his jaw from the floor, us ashamed drivers get the knack that an apology is in order. It isn’t our fault though, it’s the engine’s self-preservation instincts that are to blame. You see, when the enlightened engineers sit down to make an engine, they must work around a multitude of obstacles to make the damned thing work. One of those is engine load. A McLaren 650S redlines at about 8,500 rpm. It’s an impressive feat given that the engine is under tremendous pressure from two turbochargers and a demanding driver to make 614 horsepower out of a measly 3.8-liters. Of course, all of the momentum behind this twist is supposed to be channeled into a burdened transmission.

When a driver discharges the engine of that burden by uncoupling it from transmission, that flywheel is free to spin into the stratosphere. An engine can't handle that, it has an entire life ahead and it can't afford to throw a rod for one sonorous moment of glory. That’s why your Jaguar is boring. Just to add a point to its reliability score, the rev limiter cuts in at a lower speeds, around 4,000 rpm, to ensure that the unbound flywheel doesn’t spin past the engine’s limits. It's a lesson that the Jeremy Clarksons of the world will learn in one humiliating moment in traffic. Everyone is watching, waiting, listening. Then the half-assed attempt comes through and the crowd cringes. This is a note to those types of drivers, but don't let its stop you from finding out yourself.