Opinion: There should be a horsepower limit for all new cars


Tons of power doesn’t mean tons of fun. You know it makes sense

It’s something I spend too much time contemplating. When I am finally appointed Supreme Overlord of Planet Earth with Special Responsibility for Transportation, what will be the first legislation I will pass? (Delusional selfish? Me?)

Instant exile for anyone who has their fog lights on when it’s bright and sunny, of course. Instant exile for anyone who leaves their car parallel parked with the front wheels offset. But I recently have a new law on my list, and it’s a big deal: a power limit for all cars. A strict restriction, for all new cars, everywhere in the world. Supercars, sports cars, no exception.

Which I know might sound a little drastic and fun, but I think it would be the opposite. A power limit is exactly what the world of fast cars needs. Not for ecological reasons, only for reasons of driving pleasure. As we know, there are far too many horses today. And the power is heavy. Not just the motors to generate the stuff, but the brakes and suspension to contain it. Set a horsepower limit, and manufacturers could funnel all that money and development smarts into making their cars lighter and more interesting to drive.

The question is, what exactly should that power limit be? Again, given that my appointment as Supreme Commander seems less than guaranteed at present, I’ve spent too much time agonizing over the precise number. And then I remembered: there is a historical precedent here! Because, from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Japanese manufacturers had a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” not to sell cars – in their home market at least – producing more than 276 hp.

This agreement had, at least officially, nothing to do with promoting innovation, but everything to do with demonstrating the manufacturers’ great concern for road safety. It’s unclear how precisely they settled on 276bhp as the golden number, with 275bhp Japanese cars still having the ability to make a mess of anything they collide with.

But I think 276 hp could be an impressive number. Fast enough for proper speed, rigorous enough to require proper innovation. And if you think that’s not enough for a true heartbreaking performance, remember: 276hp is about the exact output of the original BAC Mono. I drove the original BAC Mono and can report that it wasn’t what you would call “underpowered”. And yes the Mono was a 560kg single seater race car for the road but tell me if Ferrari or McLaren took a load of that R&D money they spent on extracting ever more power from their powertrains , they could not concoct a two-seater supercar under 600 kg?

Forget the inevitable 1,200hp, 1,600kg hyper-hybrid that will follow the SF90: how much do you want to see what a half-ton Ferrari supercar looks like? And how much do you want to drive it?


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