'Maybe now’s the time to give up on the car horsepower race'

Lighter cars rather than more power is the key to fun driving, says Steve Fowler

Opinion - heavy cars and power

There's got to be a tinge of excitement for any car fan when Mercedes-AMG announces its most powerful production car ever, hasn’t there?

The new AMG GT 4-Door 63 S with 831bhp from its combination of petrol V8 engine and plug-in powered electric motor is worthy of a round of applause for the engineering achievement alone.

But do we really need that much power? Or more to the point, how much power is enough? This was an interesting debate I had with colleague Adam Towler, deputy editor of Auto Express’s sister title evo. 

Core to what evo does sits around the mantra ‘the thrill of driving’ and fewer people are better positioned to judge what that is than Adam. His view? On track many of these mega-bhp machines struggle to last more than a handful of laps before brakes and tyres start to wilt, negating the point of so much power. And on the road, well, we all know how congestion and legislation are combining to try to spoil our fun.

So maybe now’s the time to give up on the power race, and concentrate on what really makes cars more fun, starting with weight. Ask anyone to name their top drivers’ cars and there will be more models with weight-saving at their core than out-and-out power.

With heavy battery technology a given in our future, keeping a car’s weight down is essential for efficiency and fun. One car that Adam and I chatted about, which always puts a smile on my face, was the BMW i3. Sure, it has a heavy battery on board, but it’s offset by the use of carbon fibre and other lightweight materials.

Driving the i3 is still great fun today, even if (at eight years old) it’s hardly at the cutting edge of tech any more. It reminds me of the fun I had driving my Citroen AX GT in the eighties; the thrill of instant acceleration that comes with enough power, but light weight. For me, that has to be the engineering challenge that’s key to our future fun.

Check out the latest on the next-generation lightweight Morgan 3-Wheeler here...

Editor-in-chief

Steve Fowler has been editor-in-chief of Auto Express since 2011 and is responsible for all editorial content across the website and magazine. He has previously edited What Car?, Autocar and What Hi-Fi? and has been writing about cars for the best part of 30 years. 

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