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The Growing Divergence Between Horsepower and Speed Limits

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
Horsepower and torque continue to rise each year, to satisfy motorists' desire for greater performance, while speed limits remain more or less static, and roadways become increasingly congested. Where will it end? Should this divergence be addressed through horsepower adjustments, raising speed limits to reflect handling, braking and electronic safety advances, or is there little cause for concern?
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Comments

  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    Give me an early '90s budget car with 82hp and a long stretch of road, and I'll give you 100mph.

    It won't be stable though, and that's the limiting factor. Lots of older and wobbly trucks, SUVs, and large cars have plenty of power but shouldn't be trusted even at 80.

    Stability control, modern suspensions, and (in some cases) aerodynamics do make cars stable at 100mph. But there are problems.

    There will still be old cars with drivers who want to go 100mph.
    It often takes wings to make cars stable at those speeds.
    Car designs will have to be more expensive and aerodynamic (ie boring).
    Fuel usage is very high.
    The buffeting effect between vehicles going different speeds is strong.
    Many drivers will still drive 55 on the same roads.
    There's little margin for emergency maneuvers.
    People will try going 100 while laying down and holding the wheel with one hand.
    Others will try going 100 with both hands at the 12 o'clock position and their heads peeking over the cowl.

    Laws usually work towards a lowest common denominator, one which isn't ready for high speeds.

    I wouldn't mind an exception for myself.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    makes an unpleasant point about Americans: it should be a no-brainer that with increasing congestion, terrible driver training, and static speed limits, increasing horsepower year over year is just a formula for disaster, or waste at the very least. Yet that is exactly what is happening, so does it mean Americans have "no brains"?!

    Of course, even the autobahn is becoming too crowded for the unlimited speeds they used to drive over there, so pretty soon there won't be anywhere in the world outside of racetracks people can use more than 25% of the potential of their vehicles. What's the point?

    I don't believe for a second there are that many people taking their cars to the track. They certainly aren't taking the large SUVs and pick-ups that are today getting the Hemis and other 300+ hp engines.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Interesting subject!

    I think the market will become self-correcting. Dealing as I do with people who own high powered cars, I am definitely sensing a frustration among them regarding fewer and fewer opportunities to enjoy cars of such massive power and performance on public roads.

    Speed limit enforcement, lousy roads (potholes, etc.), heavy traffic, and rather severe public condemnation (reporting "reckless" drivers by cell phone) are just a few of the prohibitions.

    I would hazard a guess that we will see a decisive plunge in the demand for high HP cars, and that more and more cars will become lighter, more agile and more adapted to the realities of 2006 driving conditions.

    In rather simplistic terms, we will build cars that aren't all that fast but will seem very fast...in other words, the illusion of speed will be cleverly designed into them. Honda is already very good at this.

    To give an example of this "illusion"--- if you were placed say a 1958 Austin healey Bugeye Sprite, driven by an expert driver on a twisty road, you'd think you were going 200 mph, when in fact this car could barely reach 80 mph in 30 seconds. You'd get 200 mph thrills out of 75 HP, due to a low sitting position, lots of noise, great agility and g-forces pressing on you this way and that.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    cars that are small, light, fast revving, and loud give you the illusion of speed. My buddy's 1998 Tracker, all 96 hp of it, feels like it's flying at 55 mph. The way it's geared it's also pulling around 3500+ rpms at 55 mph, and all the wind noise makes it feel like you're going much faster.

    There's been a few times where I've gotten out on the highway with my '85 Silverado, which uses 165 hp to motivate 4200+ lb through a 305 with 116,000 miles on it and an antiquated 3-speed transmission, but if I don't pay attention to the speedo, it doesn't take much effort to bury it. But then with a 2.56:1 rear, it would probably have to get up to around 100 mph to pull the same revs as my buddy's Tracker, and by then I'm sure the wind resistance would be something fierce on it. And it wouldn't downshift at that speed, so it would just gradually run out of oomph, and who knows...might not even make it to 100.

    I had a '91 Honda Civic rental car up to 115 mph once. It had the more powerful of the available engines...something like 100 hp I think. Oh, and it would only do that with a long enough downhill grade. It actually felt quite stable and quiet at that speed, but when I saw how fast the scenery, including the 10,000 foot high mountains on the horizon, were whizzing past, it made me slow down!

    When you think about it, riding around in a go-kart can be pretty exhilarating, and they only get up to around 20 mph or so I'd guess. I once thought that a cool transportation system would be a network of go-kart tracks across the country. They'd take up much less space than regular roads, and there'd be much less congestion. I guess you'd have to do something about emissions though, because just one of those suckers would put out more pollutants than several out-of-tune big-block heaps from the 70's put together.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I think Andre's point about the "feel" of a car being more impt. than the actual performance numbers is right on target. Shifty once opined that what he termed "immediacy" was really what makes for a fun automobile experience (at least for the types who post here).

    My girlfriend's Miata (a '94) has a whopping 120 HP or so, but it's a great little car that is a joy to drive and feels very quick and nimble. My 2002 Mustang isn't overwhelmingly powerful (265 HP), but it feels that way when I get the tail sideways.

    It really is all about perception I think...didn't MG used to have an advertising campaign based on that idea?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    "I would hazard a guess that we will see a decisive plunge in the demand for high HP cars, and that more and more cars will become lighter, more agile and more adapted to the realities of 2006 driving conditions."

    I would love it if this occurred! I think it will take a very long time though. Bigger is better in the U.S., both in cars and engines. That is a cultural perception based on driving conditions in the 50s, so in 50 years of ever-increasing driver frustration it has barely changed a whit. I give it another 50 before the things people desire in their new cars and trucks change very much.

    In similar topics here at Edmunds over the years, people have expressed a great deal of pessimism that with the current safety and emissions regulations, cars could or would ever get much lighter in weight. Personally, I think we are way overdue for a major trend in this direction. A light small-engined car can provide joys of driving that no-one could ever experience behind the wheel of a 300C. The very mission of cars like the 300C is to isolate one from the driving experience, even if it does go very fast in a straight line.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    really still try to isolate you from the road, though? I could see something like a LeSabre Custom or Century, or Town Car trying to isolate you, but Mopars of late have tried to give you better road feel and handling than your typical big car. Sure, they're not going to beat the hell out of you like an '82 Civic might, but they're not going to make you seasick like my buddy's '78 Mark V can do!
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,994
    I think if the government made it harder to get a drivers license, than ordering take out at the local diner, we could have a autobahn. It would be hard to imagine some lady reaching around slaping her kids doing 130 down a highway though. :P

    Rocky
  • fintailfintail Posts: 49,553
    It would be an awesome thing, but it's fantasy. Couldn't happen in the land of the lowest common denominator. Most people I see aren't fit for 70mph, not to mention their vehicles.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,994
    I can agree with that fintail. ;)
  • I own a BMW M5 and have a 911S on order. Yes, both are capable of exceeding the highway speed limit by 100-120 mph. But I enjoy driving the M5 as much on winding roads at 50 as I would piloting it down the Autobahn at 150. To me, the enjoyment of a high performance car is not dependent upon testing its top speed.

    Back when I bought my first real sports car, a 1978 BMW M1, a few colleages thought I was nuts buying a car capable of 165 when they had a national speed limit of 55. So times haven't changed as much as you might think.

    P.S. Not to be morbid, but I did come upon a high speed accident on the Autobahn when I was in Germany a few years ago. It was not a pretty sight, with car parts and human body parts spread over a large area. The damage done at 140 mph is exponentially greater than at 70. I wonder if the American public and most politicians could take too many "Eyewitness News" accounts of that kind of carnage.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    ...we did have an autobahn of sorts not too long ago.

    Montana got rid of speed limits on certain roads for a brief time, during the daytime only. Didn't last long though (probably just long enough for some new .com millionaires to total their new Vipers though... :( )
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Regardless of the handling capabilities of a car, be they superb or whatever, you can't get away from WEIGHT...in other words, even IF a Viper or Corvette or 300C handles better than most sports cars of 20 years ago, still you are pushing around a lot of weight and you have to work hard.

    It is not generally very pleasant to drive a big heavy wide car through the twisties on a narrow mountain road, EVEN IF it can do so faster than a Miata.

    Another factor, which I'm sure some will disagree with LOL!:

    I think huge HP engines make you a very lazy driver, especially if you don't have a lot of experience behind the wheel of smaller displacement cars.

    If you doubt this, take a person out of a torquey V8 and ask him to drive a Miata...you'll laugh your butt off as he short shifts and the car falls on its face in every turn...

    Last of all, all this HP requires tires the size of 55 gallon drums laid on their side...this makes for even more work and less agility.

    Without modern tires, these high HP cars would be death traps...

    Small high revving engine, skinny tires, 5 speed transmission -- you can have a LOT of fun and not hurt anybody.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 21,087
    ...from the automotive press I found myself curiously unmoved. Let's face it if I had the money for a Veyron, I'd be able to afford something with wings that would be able to operate beyond the reach of both traffic radar
    and, well...traffic at even more than 250mph. ;)

    I suspect that a lot of superfast cars in the future will be bought to be operated almost exclusively on privately owned racetracks of the kind that already operate in Europe. One is being built in Tamworth, NH.

    I look at it as a kind of Darwinian thing. If people have more money than sense they will inevitably be separated from both.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    There is a curved on-ramp on my way to work that I enter from a standstill. If I am feeling a little saucy, I floor it and my 280 hp sedan executes a perfect, tail slightly out drift for length of the entire ramp. All I have to do is step on the gas, the automatic transmission and stability control takes care of the rest.

    It is fun, but not as much fun as if I had done it myself in an old sports car.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    In an article I read recently, the designer of the McLaren F1 had plenty of veiled criticism for the Veyron.

    It is kind of a huge flying pig.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 21,087
    I read that article, it was by Gordon Murray and he made some good points but the truth is his McLaren F1 is almost as worthless on real roads as the Bugatti.

    Like Shifty I get more excited by cars that'll go fast on real roads and if they look good doing it so much the better.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    A few years back, I saw a McLaren F1 tooling around the streets on London. When I was standing on the curb, I think it came up to my ankles.

    Anyway, the F1 seems like it would be a lot more exciting at low speeds because of its light weight and visceral nature.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    I'm sure an F1 would be exciting. It was known for instability =].

    Whenever I see videos of old school F1 Grand Prixs (cigars on wheels), that looks like fun, sliding all over the place, shifting with a good old lever, and wearing goggles instead of a helmet.

    As long as there are motorcycle riders, there should be car drivers who would give up safety and comfort for fun... hopefully they remain legal.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    ...part of the problem is the increasing isolation of the driver in high-end cars. Car companies spend huge amounts of resources figuring out how to reduce road and wind noise, how to create suspensions that soak up every bump, etc.

    End result is that you can go 100 mph in one of thse cars, and it doesn't feel particularly fast.

    So maybe it's unconscious thinking on our parts that demanding increasing amounts of power will provide the sensation of speed we really want, but that modern design stifles. :confuse:
  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    I think it was David E. Davis who once opined that it was more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.

    Forget high end cars for a moment. A couple of years ago, I was in the market for what my wife calls a "genericar" - 4 door sedan. I did want a V6, however - not so much for the power but for the smoothness when compared to a 4 cylinder.

    I ended up buying a Saturn L300 with 182HP, although I did look at both a Nissan Altima (240HP) and the then newly restyled Honda Accord (also 240HP).

    Do I care that owners of those cars can accelerate to 60 a half-second or second faster than I can? I do not. All I care about is that I can accelerate to merging speed (65-75MPH) with little or no drama and that I have enough power in reserve for passing on a 2 lane road when necessary.

    My ex-wife just bought a Chrysler 300C with a 340HP Hemi. Yeah, she can get to 60MPH in 5 or 6 seconds but, really, how often will she use that capability?

    Seems like the 60's all over again....
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "...In rather simplistic terms, we will build cars that aren't all that fast but will seem very fast...in other words, the illusion of speed will be cleverly designed into them. Honda is already very good at this.

    To give an example of this "illusion"--- if you were placed say a 1958 Austin healey Bugeye Sprite, driven by an expert driver on a twisty road, you'd think you were going 200 mph, when in fact this car could barely reach 80 mph in 30 seconds. You'd get 200 mph thrills out of 75 HP, due to a low sitting position, lots of noise, great agility and g-forces pressing on you this way and that."

    That would work for me! I say bring the new generation Buggers - I mean Bugeyes - on, pronto.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I don't know about you, but driving on a track has limited appeal for me. Sure, it would be fun once or twice, or even occasionally, but the artificial setting and feel of it, for want of a better way to express the experience, plus the fact that it's wasteful, detracts from the appeal. Driving on a track bears some resemblance to a good computer car game. Of course there are differences, but they're both unrealistic. By contrast, driving fast on public roads - not crazy fast, but responsibly fast, if you can accept that notion - is more real. Does this make sense to any of you?

    Incidentally, I've driven on a track a couple of times, so my comments are based on how I felt.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I love track time for what it is...a day's worth of adreneline combined with a real challenge to my mediocre performance driving skills.

    But you're right...it's fantasy. I'd love to do it all the time, but I don't have the money or a dedicated race car to really take advantage of it to the fullest.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    "not crazy fast, but responsibly fast, if you can accept that notion"

    Ooooooh, now there's a dangerous notion! :-)

    There no two people that will ever agree on exactly how fast "responsibly fast" is, even under the same conditions on the same day. I came to the conclusion a while back that even though there IS such a thing as responsibly fast, GOING that fast in America will scare, anger, or irritate the rest of the sheep so much that it is probably not worth it.

    edit...wow, did that ever come out sounding elitist. Yikes! :surprise:

    edit...john324: I never thought of it that way, but yes! That makes a lot of sense! As the limits of modern cars rise, the amount of sensation the driver gets decreases, making the goal of feeling "sporty" ever more elusive.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    I can recall having was taking my '68 Dart to the parking lot of the mall where I worked after a snowstorm late one night with a friend. The parking lot was totally empty, and covered with a nice icy layer. I had a blast skidding all over the place on that ice, doing 360's, 720's, you get the idea. Well, it was all fun and games until mall security came after us...in their RWD Explorer 2-doors! :blush: Needless to say, it wasn't too hard to get away from them.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    "I came to the conclusion a while back that even though there IS such a thing as responsibly fast, GOING that fast in America will scare, anger, or irritate the rest of the sheep so much that it is probably not worth it."

    I'm with you on that. It maybe be elitist, but it's true.

    Out on Maryland's Eastern Shore, there are lots of well-maintained curvy country roads with high speed limits. Problem is, many are two-lane only, so if you want to really enjoy them, you have to occasionally do some passing to get by slower vehicles.

    Driving them once at a "spirited" pace, I passed a number of vehicles as I headed toward town. Mind you, I do it properly...pass only in designated passing zones, flash the highbeams (even though I'm sure that maybe 1 in 50 people actually understand why I'm doing it), etc.

    As I got into town and came to a stoplight, one of the vehicles (a beater van, if I recall) I had passed pulled up next to me, and the woman at the wheel started yelling at me for doing that, saying things like "well, that didn't get you there faster, you jerk!" and all sorts of very crude, unladylike language.

    As she angrily sped away (into heavy traffic I might add) I was amused that she took my passing her as an insult, and couldn't comprehend that going fast can be an end in itself. Sigh...such is America these days I guess.
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    So as each year goes on, more cars on the road have disc brakes, ABS, airbags, stability control, and better tires. This should make the fleet's performance better, and thus able to keep the same level of safety (injuries and fatalities / mile) the same.

    So basically our government wants to lower the injury/fatality rate. The question we as a society address when we let our regulators set the speed limits is: What is the "acceptable" injury/fatality rate that we'll tolerate?

    For example - if the speed limit was set to 5 mph, we could basically take the injury/fatality rate to zero. We have 55/65/75 mph limits now which give us 40,000 fatalities. If we accepted 100,000 fatalities we could set the speed limits at 90mph? Somehow we have determined that for our economy, lifestyle and convenience we will accept 40K dead annually as the trade-off.

    One other thought on speed limits; how many of us drive on roads where the speed limit for high performance or even everyday cars are the EXACT SAME as for school buses, 18-wheelers, and garbage trucks? That does not make any sense! I see these vehicles driving the speed limit (or more), and arriving safely everyday. So the speed limits are "dumbed-down" for the worst driver in the worst vehicle. It's sort of like going hiking with a big group - if you stay together you go at the pace of the slowest one. :(

    Maybe the government could raise some revenue by offering an advanced driving course for $2,500. Pass the course and have a decent car and you're authorized to drive 20 mph faster in low-volume roads in good weather.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    I ever drive that has graduated speed limits is out on the interstates in rural areas. Both I-5 and I-80 have different limits for regular vehicles and trucks or people towing. I was on I-5 this past weekend, the limit is 70 for cars, 55 for trucks, and there wasn't a truck out there going less than 68 mph.

    Regular traffic was running about 80 on average, I would guess, based on the people passing me.

    So, the drivers themselves had set their speed to reduce the differential between the fastest and the slowest.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    I think part of the problem nowadays is that it's hard to properly do the "flash to pass" thing. Traditionally, flashing your low beams meant that you had an intent to pass, while flashing your high beams meant you were just trying to be a jerk.

    However, these days, I think cars that are set up with "flash to pass" actually use the high beams. And with DRLs I think you have no choice but to flash the high beams.

    Not that flashing your low-beams makes a difference these days, either. It'll piss people off just as easily, or the'll take it as you being "aggressive", and think that entitles them to make a truly aggressive/dangerous action themeselves.

    Years ago I found myself stuck behind someone who wanted to do 55 in the left lane of I-97 in Maryland. Now I-97 has a 65 mph speed limit and three lanes in each direction, and the flow of traffic was just much higher. So this guy's behavior was unacceptable. Not just rude, but dangerous. I flashed my lights off and on (low-beams, not the brights) to signal him that he needs to get up to the flow of traffic, or get over and let the traffic behind him pass. Nothing.

    Well finally I got a break in the traffic and was able to pass him on the right. I got back over in front of him and his HIGH BEAMS come on! Now high beams can be irritating enough during the day, but this was at night. And it wasn't just a quick flash, but he turned them on and LEFT them on! So here he was, blinding not only me, but others around me, not to mention traffic coming from the opposite direction on the other side of the median!
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    "Maybe the government could raise some revenue by offering an advanced driving course for $2,500. Pass the course and have a decent car and you're authorized to drive 20 mph faster in low-volume roads in good weather."

    Sign me up. But of course it would be attacked by the guardians of egalitarianism as unfair to the poor, as well as to the bad drivers. These are the same people that fight the wonderful idea of variable-priced tolls to reduce congestion, and secretly want us all to ride bicycles around everywhere ala Cold War Eastern Europe... :mad:
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    Andre - Interesting...I hadn't thought of that. I'm not sure which beams (high or low) my Mustang flashes. I bet it's the high beams though.

    I'd be interested in which ones my father's 911 uses...if any car would do it properly, it'd be a Porsche.

    I just do a quick double-tap (like in old movies) right before I come around them. Part of the problem may be that with a Mustang, people assume you're being a hothead jerk. Good thing I didn't get that Camaro... ;)
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    that they couldn't just build a second network of high-speed roads that you had to have a special permit to drive on. You'd have to take a regular course to prove you were capable, and also have to get your car inspected annually to make sure it was capable. And no big trucks, campers, buses, etc.

    Of course, I'm sure that it would cost a fortune to build and maintain something like that. And in the end, it would all fall victim to bureaucratic foolishness when someone carried on about it being unfair/racist/sexist/or discrminatory in some way. Or, god forbid someone got hurt/killed on it, or cheated on a test to get access...
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    ...use the existing HOV lanes that many areas now have.

    Could go something like this: HOV lanes function normally during the rush hours, but during the non-rush hour times, they become HSV (High-Speed Vehicle) lanes with 20+ mph extensions on the regular speed limit.

    You can only drive in the HSV lanes if you have the special performance license...it could be signified by a bright sticker in the rear window (and with technology growing as it is, they could eventually have scanable microchips in them to insure that they're on the vehicle to which they belong).

    Could actually work :confuse:
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    out of the way things currently are! A year or so ago, they put in an HOV lane on Route 50 in Maryland between I-495 and the Anne Arundel County line. The real pisser is that it's HOV 24/7. So during times when there's normally fairly light traffic, but some moron decides to police the left lane, you still can't legally use it. I have a few times, though.

    Another problem with HOV lanes, IMO, is that people will get in the left "regular" lane, and feel justified in camping because there's still another lane over that's open. Nevermind the fact that it's an HOV lane.

    Good idea for the HSV lane, though. Until some yahoo in a Prius gets over there and tries out his latest hyper-miling techniques. Although in my county they do seem more concerned about policing the HOV lanes than they do responding to murder calls, domestic disputes, etc, so it might be feasible to police it. After all, crime doesn't pay. Traffic tickets do!
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "Out on Maryland's Eastern Shore, there are lots of well-maintained curvy country roads with high speed limits."

    Where are these? With only a few exceptions, the Maryland Eastern Shore various roads I've driven going to/from the Atlantic beaches from the Washington area are flat, straight, and kind of boring.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    The following suggests that Nissan is taking your prediction seriously, Shifty:

    "DALE JEWETT | Automotive News
    Posted Date: 12/15/05

    The fraternity of small roadsters may be getting a new member soon. Nissan Motor Co. will show this concept vehicle, named the Urge, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

    The Urge was created at Nissan's studio in La Jolla, Calif., by car designers who are also motorcycle enthusiasts, said Bruce Campbell, vice president of design for Nissan Design America. A key goal of the Urge is to give the driver and passenger the sensation of the road going by, Campbell said.

    The concept is fitted with a small high-revving engine and rear-wheel drive. An Xbox 360 gaming system is part of the interior."
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    since I've been to MD's eastern shore, but usually the only road I'd stick to is Route 50, going to Ocean City. Or if I was going to Rehoboth, I'd turn off on 404 or whatever it was, and take that over to Delaware. I remember there used to be a cool little used car lot along 404 near the Delaware border that had tons of 50's and 60's and 70's stuff. Last few times I was out that way I couldn't find it though, so I guess they went out of business.
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    If you get off 50, and head toward St. Michaels and Tilghman Island, there are some nice backroads.

    There are a lot of straights to be sure, but there are also some nice curves too and visibility is high.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    There have never been so many good compact and small sporty cars on sale in America, from the nimble Ford Focus to the Honda Civic; from the practical Honda Element to the sporty MX-5; from the Mini Cooper to the BMW 3 Series.

    Too bad small doesn't equal lightweight. These cars are all pretty huge compared to the '70s equivalent.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Smaller cars are better in so many ways. Weight not only destroys fuel consumption, it also damages handling, agility, steering precision, roadholding, braking and performance.

    So where are those smaller cars?

    2006
    Ford Focus ZX3: 2654 lbs
    Honda Civic Si: 2877 lbs
    Honda Element: 3391 lbs
    Mazda MX-5: 2474 lbs
    Mini Cooper: 2524 lbs
    BMW 325Ci: 3197 lbs

    1991
    Nissan 240SX coupe: 2657 lbs
    Mazda Miata: 2182 lbs
    Honda Civic Si: 2284 lbs
    Nissan Sentra SE-R: 2412 lbs
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    I was encouraged to see preliminary specs on the upcoming Toyota Yaris (arriving in four or five months) showing a curb weight of around 2300 pounds. Yes, it only has 105 hp, but with that weight it has about the same power as other cars you might not think of, like the 4-cylinder versions of the American midsize sedans and Toyota's own Matrix, for instance.

    They are hoping for 40 mpg highway in that model (not yet EPA tested) which will be accomplished in large part by the weight reduction. Now imagine how fun the Honda Fit will be, with an extra 10 hp over the Yaris at (hopefully) about the same weight.

    These are cars that feel zippy around town because of their lightness, and can easily cruise at 85 on the interstate if you want them to. If 105 hp is enough for these cars, what on Earth does the 300C SRT driver need 425 hp for? What can he/she possibly do with it, short of racing it at the track (and that won't be much of a track car at well over 4000 pounds - good for drag racing and not much else).

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,653
    is good for bragging rights, and that's about it. While I'll admit that it's cool, I wouldn't buy one over the regular Hemi, which is more than enough for my needs!

    Sure, it would be great on the dragstrip, but that's an awful lot of money to pay for something like that. At least back in the day, a '68 Hemi Dart only cost around $4,000. And before anybody talks about inflation and how that was a lot of money back then, let me stop that by mentioning that my '69 Dart GT stickered for a whopping $3600 new, and it only had a slant six! So just think...back then you could do from a typical compact to king of the world for just $400 more! Nowadays, doesn't the SRT-8 more than double what the base 300 costs?
  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    Yeah, totally bragging rights. There are people out there that just have to have the fastest car on the road. Kinda a losing battle it seems to me, but to each their own I suppose...

    On the price, while it is true that at the margin, it was quite a steal going from the base model to the king o the road, there's another side to the calculation.

    When you adjust the 1969 price of $3600 to today's dollars, it's about $20,000.

    How does that compare to a typical compact's price today? ;)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well you can buy a Scion xA for $13,500 fully equipped and get 38 mpg and a very well made compact wagon or you could push to $16,000 for a PT Cruiser comparably equipped and maybe not so well made. Or a Mini for 18K, or one of those mini SUVs like a Mazda3 and the like.

    If aliens came from another world and forced all Americans to have only one car, about 98% of us could make do with an xA with hardly a blip in our lifestyle. Not as much fun as a Corvette, TRUE....but not totally funless either like the base models of 15 years ago most certainly were. And for $1,000 in aftermarket parts, for $14,500 total, (aliens permitting :P ) you could make a truly fun car out of it.

    There's a lot of value out there right now in small cars and unless you are in the rural mountains with 5 kids, one of them would certain do you fine.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    "unless you are in the rural mountains with 5 kids, one of them would certain do you fine."

    So what do you buy if you DO live in the rural mountains with 5 kids?! :-P

    You are absolutely right, not that you will get many to admit it.

    I am tempted to buy a really horsepower-challenged car, I haven't had one in years, and just get out on the interstate and remind myself exactly what it is capable of. One of the last Chevy Metros would do just nicely - 2400 pounds and 80 hp. 46 MPG HIGHWAY with the manual, and wasn't it still three cylinders right up to the end? When they dropped that model, the last car with less than 100 hp (excluding diesels and hybrids) left the American market, right?

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    One of the last Chevy Metros would do just nicely - 2400 pounds and 80 hp. 46 MPG HIGHWAY with the manual, and wasn't it still three cylinders right up to the end?

    The late Metro hatchback weighed about 1900 pounds and had either a 55hp 1L I3, or a 80hp 1.3L I4. The sedan was 100 pounds heavier and only got the I4.

    When they dropped that model, the last car with less than 100 hp (excluding diesels and hybrids) left the American market, right?

    The last one that wasn't Korean. The Hyundai Accent had the 95hp 1.5L available through 2002. A late-90s base model (no AC or power steering) Accent L hatchback weighed around 2100 pounds.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Interesting you should mention the challenge of "underhorsepowered" cars. I was reading complaints about the lack of power in Car X at Edmunds consumer reviews the other day, and so I took a brand new Car X out for a spin....and realized that the "problem" was twofold:

    1. They ordered car X with an automatic transmission, which of course makes lazy shifts--compounding the problem of a small engine.

    2. They really must not know how to drive a stickshift car properly, that is, keeping the tachometer in the "sweet spot" of the powerband.

    Yes, yes, this requires (oh my GOD) some concentration on the part of the driver, but I have to say that this 'underppowered' car handled itself admirably amid the much larger and more powerful vehicles on the road. There was no sense whatsover of being "left behind". Sure the little engine that could has to work a bit, but it is a twin cam with variable valve timing and a 6,500 rpm redline, so that's what it was DESIGNED to do all day long. And it's fun, too.

    The only drawback might be passing uphill...that would indeed require some (oh my GOD again) planning and speed/distance mental exercises.

    And no, I would not tow a cabin cruiser with it.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    what's even more pointless (and a little scarier) than the huge increase in horsepower in cars in America is the increase in power in TRUCKS. Everyone in America must own a boat they tow regularly, because everyone with an SUV has the tow package and the optional engine, and wow! Some of these trucks are super-powered these days. The ultimate end of this trend can be witnessed at your Chevy dealer in the form of the Trailblazer SS - what a ludicrous idea for a vehicle!

    Thing is, while designed to have enough power for a full load, most of these trucks (especially SUVs, but pick-ups too) are being driven around with nothing in them but the driver. What on Earth is all that power needed for? In fact, they have way more power than they would need even IF they were fully loaded. You see it all the time in truck reviews: "then we hooked up the 8500-pound trailer and took it back out on the highway, and could barely detect any difference in pick-up or passing power - this thing can FLY!".

    I remember a trip I took to Vegas a couple of years back - there were seven of us so we rented a Suburban, which had the base engine. Even without the optionally extra hp's, and with seven passengers and gear, I constantly caught myself looking down to find I was going 80, 85 mph, and that thing could have gone much faster. Of course, in close to 2000 miles of driving on that trip, I never drove anywhere with a speed limit higher than 70.

    Overkill alert, overkill alert!!

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

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