When Is Enough Horse Power Enough?

Given the general road conditions, rules and regulations on our tiny island nation there surely has to come a point when an excess of power in a car becomes superfluous. With the wide open spaces available to them (although Bill Crittenden’s article last Monday still applies) American car buyers do not appear to think the same.

With an unprecedented 707hp, the 2015 Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat models break the barrier for domestic performance cars in the USA and potential buyers are clamouring at the dealers’ doors to get their hands on one. Now it seems that some salespersons are bending some rules, too. Apparently American Dodge dealers have been told they may get only one Hellcat per month for the foreseeable future yet one salesman at a small-town dealership in Ohio has taken deposits and placed orders from consumers nationwide for more than 200 Hellcats since last Autumn.Meanwhile, consumers on the enthusiast website Hellcat.org report being asked by some dealers for non-refundable deposits of as much as $5,000 just to get in line to buy a Hellcat. Some dealers are selling these cars by taking sealed bids from customers. Other dealers are testing the auction-price limits for the hot-selling motors on sites such as eBay.

Worse still, several dealers nationwide are asking for up to $25,000 of pure-profit “market adjustments” to the Hellcats’ recommended price. The price increases, which are legal, are common on the websites of dealers who show unsold Hellcats in their inventory. The parent company, it is said, are not happy with this profiteering – acts which they describe as ‘unscrupulous’, but the dealers say it is just business – build more cars.The point is that, around the world, there is still a healthy demand for powerful cars despite the armoury of eco-weaponry being fired at them by the anti-brigade. We love a fast car and that’s the end of it. Obviously, these new Hellcats would be totally pointless on our crowded UK roads and would attract the attention of the peelers faster than you could say ‘magistrates court’.

Yet despite all the rules and regulations that abound these days manufacturers still put these temptations before us. Obviously they don’t care if you get nicked – that’s your problem – they just want to shift motors. That’s fair enough but why be constantly adding bhp? The new Pagani Huayra has 700hp; the new Mercedes GLA 45 AMG 4Matic has a stonking 355bhp and even the latest Honda Civic Type R has 306. That’s huge and probably more power than you’ll ever truly use unless you are on a track wearing your best brown overalls or until the day of your speedy demise in a hedgerow somewhere near you.

It seems like the title of being the top producer of high horse power cars is a kind of race for automobile makers and the figure goes up with each new or refreshed model. It seems to be about getting the customers attention – like bragging rights. Driving hugely powerful cars is generally frustrating and, frankly, is getting a bit pointless. As a breath of fresh air, The new Mazda MX-5 is said to develop just 130bhp from its 1.5L engine. It gets its performance from being light and, if previous models are anything to go by, it is going to be a fine and proper drivers’ car. In the UK these days surely that has got to be enough.Geoff Maxted