What is a performance car?
It’s a serious question that fuels debate on and offline – what is a performance car?
I asked myself that question after I decided to reboot the site.
What sort of car belongs on The Redline?
I had to think long and hard about what would appear on these pages. I’ve been reviewing cars for a while now and it’s a fundamental question that journalists argue over during those long dinners at product launches. Those arguments often spill over into the flight home, coffee meet-ups and Facebook feuds.
Power and Passion
When I were a lad, if a car did less than nine seconds to 100km/h (62mph), that was a performance car. I remember reading a story by one of the greats saying that there were doubts over his manhood at handling a vehicle that could complete the benchmark time in under eight seconds.
That car was the Jaguar E Type. Performance car? You betcha.
A car that “quick” today is considered normal. A BMW 120i will do it in 7.1 seconds.
One of the great complaints of two iconic Japanese sports cars of today – the Mazda MX-5 and the Toyota 86 (and Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S) is the lack of power. These things will show an E Type a clean pair of heels, finding the ton in around seven seconds. Too slow! they cry.
Wrong. These cars are both fantastic. They really are. Give them more power and they might be more fun, but they won’t be as satisfying as they are fresh off the floor. They’re about Getting It Right, making the most of what’s available.
Let me throw you another one. The Suzuki Swift Sport. 100kW/137bhp and 160Nm/118lb ft, means it’s not very fast at all. But with a set of 17-inch rims wrapped in RE.050 rubber, it’s a hoot to drive.
What – or whom – is meant to perform?
This is the question I came to as I thought more about this post and about the site. What – or whom – is meant to perform? It very much depends on the car. In the case of a Ferrari 488 GTB, not only does the car perform – you’d be slightly cranky if it didn’t given the money it costs – but it pushes you back. Come on, it says. Push me. Perform. And you will. You can’t help it.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is a cheap car, but it’s a lark. Come on, push me. But it adds another phrase, one you won’t hear from the Ferrari. I won’t bite because I can’t. Unless, of course, you’re driving like a total idiot. It’s really important that drivers of all levels – skill and experience – can find a car that pushes them to perform. I am not a terrible driver but I’m not a racing driver either. I stay well within the limits of a Ferrari 488GTB, and not just because the ones I drive don’t belong to me. But a Swift Sport, Mazda MX-5, Toyota 86, they’re all about you and you can find the limits easily and safely in the right setting.
And there’s plenty of cars in between that will push you and pull you along. Some will out-perform you, some won’t. Not enough power in the 86 is plenty for some as they chase the balance and the precision of a lovely chassis with that important piece of tech – the limited-slip diff.
This is one that really gets people talking. Technology takes the decisions out of your hands.
In some cases, yes. Another Ferrari, the incredible F12 berlinetta, is far too fast for mere mortals like me to jump in and hammer. When I first drove the F12, I was utterly terrified. By the time I handed it back, I’d moved from terrified to respectful. Without all the tech, the possibility of going from “terrified” to “cut-from-the-wreckage” was much higher.
Here’s the thing about the F12 and cars like it – they are way too fast for most people. YouTube isn’t all cat videos. There are also many idiots crashing exotic cars because they think they don’t need the tech. Ferrari’s ability to tune its F1-TRAC diff, engine and stability management to make you feel heroic – Push me! – is astounding an welcome. I love it because I can feel like I’ve performed to my best despite the car’s peak being way past my limits. But it’s still my favourite car. And the tech takes some decisions out of your hands because otherwise you might die.
What’s The Redline, then?
The Redline is a site for performance cars. There will be lots of very, very fast cars here. I can’t wait to get the first few videos in the can (for younger folk, that means shot and edited, not in the toilet) and start releasing. But there will be some slower ones, too, along with me telling you why they belong on a site where performance lives.
The Swift Sport deserves a place here just as much as a McLaren P1. The site will feature fast SUVs, warm hatches and electric cars that aren’t Teslas. It’s going to be grand.
Oh, and feel free to argue with me and each other. Keep it clean, keep it nice and keep it fun.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.