Are lighter supercars better than powerful ones?

Published: Saturday 16th April 2016 by The News Editor

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Rather than chasing more power, supercars should concentrate on becoming lighter, to deliver more performance and a better driving experience.

Supercars are all about outrageous figures, from the fastest to the most powerful, they are a festival of facts. In among all the hype, though, one figure is often left out and that is weight. After all, who cares how heavy a car is when you can add more power to make it accelerate harder and hit a higher top speed?

The truth is, though, less weight is the best performance gain you can have. With a lighter car, you can go from 0-62mph more quickly with less power, carry on to a greater top speed with less energy required and go round corners more ably. Simply put, the more weight you can save, the better a car is to drive.

A quick example of this is the original Lotus Elise. It used the exact same 118bhp 1.8-litre engine found in the MGF. While the MG was a decent little sports car, it tipped the scales at 1,087kg and recorded 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds. The Lotus, however, weighed just 755kg with the same engine, so it sprinted from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds. That’s a gain of almost three seconds just by slimming down.

Admittedly, the Lotus Elise is an extreme example as there was not much in the way of creature comforts or luxury in this car. However, it proves beyond all doubt the most effective method of gaining performance is to lose the pounds.

There has been a shift in recent years to making cars less cumbersome than they used to be. The Range Rover on sale today is 400kg lighter than its predecessor and BMW’s new 7 Series weighs in at 130kg less than its previous incarnation.

These savings, though, are more to do with emissions than performance and they are in cars that have sufficient size that impressive weight drops can be recorded. When it comes to supercars, it can be trickier as they are often smaller, more compact machines to begin with.

This doesn’t mean there are not areas where they can be slimmed down. For starters, many think the average supercar should be kitted out from floor to ceiling in the luxurious leather. Well, hide is heavy, so why not swap this for a mix of materials, such as suede, fabric, aluminium and even bare carbon fibre? Many companies offer a carbon fibre seat option, so why not just make it standard?

Then there are all the trappings such as air conditioning, satellite navigation, cruise control and touch screens. Yes, they are nice to have, but in a car that is supposed to be about the pleasure of driving, do we really need all of these goodies? As for electric windows and seats and steering wheel adjustment, they are just pointless sops to those owners more concerned with looking good than real driving.

Strip out all the unnecessary gubbins from a supercar and you could pare the weight by more than 100kg, or the same as a large male passenger. Porsche already does this with its lightweight GT models and charges a premium for it, so why not do it in the first place if it makes the car better to drive? After all, that’s what supercars are supposed to be about.

Copyright Press Association 2016

Published: Saturday 16th April 2016 by The News Editor

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