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

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

Tons of power don’t equal tons of fun. You know it makes sense

It’s something I spend too much time thinking about. What will be the first legislation I pass when I am eventually appointed Supreme Lord of Planet Earth with Special Responsibility for Transport? (Insane selfish? nice

Immediate exile for anyone with their fog lights on when it’s clear and sunny, of course. Immediate exile for anyone who leaves their car parked parallel with the front wheels not straight. But I recently put a new law on my list, and it’s a big ‘un: a horsepower limit for all cars. A strict restriction, for all new cars, anywhere in the world. Supercars, sports cars, no exception.

What I know may sound a bit draconian and funny, but I think it’s quite the opposite. A horsepower limit is just what the fast car world needs. Not for ecological reasons, purely for reasons of driving pleasure. As we know, there’s way too much horsepower sloshing around right now. And horsepower is heavy. Not just the engines to generate the stuff, but the brakes and suspension to contain it. Hit a limit on horsepower, and manufacturers could use all that development money and brainpower to make their cars lighter and more interesting to drive.

The question is, what exactly should that horsepower limit be? Again, given that my appointment as Commander-in-Chief does not seem certain at this point, I’ve agonized over the exact number for too long. And then I remembered: Here’s a historical precedent! Because from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Japanese manufacturers had a so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to sell cars – at least in their home market – with a capacity of more than 276 hp.

This agreement, at least officially, had nothing to do with encouraging innovation, but everything to do with demonstrating the car manufacturers’ deep concern for road safety. It’s not clear how exactly they set 276 horsepower as the golden figure, with 275 horsepower Japanese cars still having the ability to make an annoying mess of whatever it is they collide with.

But I think 276 horsepower might be a blast. Fast enough for decent speed, strict enough to require the right innovation. And if you think that’s not enough for real performance, remember: 276 horsepower is pretty much the exact power of the original BAC Mono. I drove the original BAC Mono and can report that it was not what you would call “substandard”. And yes, the Mono was a one-seat, 560kg road race car, but tell me if Ferrari or McLaren took a lot of that R&D money they spent trying to squeeze more and more power out of their powertrains, couldn’t they cook a two-seat supercar weighing less than 600kg?

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