Look back at any piece of automotive technology and where the application has appeared first or been most effective. Every single one of them has appeared at the top of the tree in an almost ‘money no object’ car. The S-Class is an exception, but even that is a high end car. In fact, long before the car became a form of mass private transportation it was a play thing of the rich. The money they were willing to pay for the privilege of being able to rip around their estates at a neck-snapping 17mph meant that manufacturers had an incentive to make the technology work better, making the older technology more accessible, obsolete and, therefore, cheaper.
The list of technology that has filtered down from high price applications would basically be a list of everything that appears on modern, affordable, cars: ABS, light-weight alloy wheels (remember how rare those were in the early nineties?), disc brakes, turbochargers, superchargers, independent suspension, etc, etc. Even tyres benefit from this ‘top down’ paradigm.
Engine technology is exactly the same. No matter what the environmental set would like people to believe, we know that an engine that generates 500bhp from 6.2 naturally aspirated litres is a massively efficient donkey. Figure out how to get more power from a given amount of petrol for the people willing to pay £50k for a car and you’re figuring out how to make the petrol engines lower down the range far more frugal. To give an idea of the pace of progress the twin-turbo, 5.5 litre 536bhp V8 in the current CL63 generates just 7g/km more CO2 than the Mark 1 Focus RS, which had a two litre turbocharged four with 200bhp.
The only piece of automotive tech that I can think of that hasn’t taken this tried and tested route to mainstream success and, when you think about it, is the only piece of road car technology that is a bit rubbish is the Hybrid power train.
And I reckon he's fucking spot on. It's absolutely nothing odd for a perfectly normal hatchback to push out horses that would have required a Ferrari 30 or 40 years ago. A relatively common or garden variety Merc pushes out more power than even a final Anniversary Edition Lamborghini Countach!
A Nissan Micra probably has brakes that a Ferrari 250 GTO would have given its metaphorical eye teeth for.
Cutting edge technology like keyless entry or voice controlled gizmos has always appeared first in aspirational cars to and then worked its way down the tree. This is how we're used to making and buying cars. This is a proven process.
The Toyota Pious and Honda Inshite are awful cars precisely because they were the result of an abnormal, government-inspired process, where new tech was bolted directly into the daily shitbox before motor manufacturers had their normal cock-waving competition. And they cost more than they sell for, which is no way to make a living.
So I hope that eco-wibblers the world over will be applauding Porsche for being the first company to take the traditional path with Hybrid technology:
Anyway, this is why I think the 918 Spyder is a far more important car than the coverage it has been getting suggests. Porsche had dealt the first Hybrid-powered blow to the supercar market, and it’s a whopping great big haymaker. Here is a genuinely beautiful car (not some weird quasi-futuristic design abomination that most Hybrid car manufacturers seem inclined to produce) that has 738bhp and will, according to Porsche, out-mpg a Toyota Prius if you drive it sensibly.
How long will Ferrari be able to resist? Lamborghini? Pagani and Koenigsegg? Not long I suspect and, as these guys start producing Hybrid cars whose sole purpose is to smash the faces in of their competitors rather than sell millions, Hybrid powertrains will, after ten years on the market, finally be at the point at which they should have started.
Where will we be in another ten years? I have no idea, but I’d bet my life that as Hybrid supercars start appearing on the market batteries and electric motors will be more mind-blowingly advanced than we could have ever imagined. Perhaps then we’ll get a Hybrid (or even fully electric) car at the sub £30k price point that actually works better than one with an internal combustion engine.
PS I certainly fucking would!