Next time you're in the magazine
section of your local grocery. Almost never will the cover feature a car anyone with an average
income might actually afford to buy. Intead you will see some Lamborghini
or other exotic that only the very wealthy can afford. Only once in a while will they feature, say a Ford Mustang
, which normal people can afford. Eight glorious pages of car porn will follow, with beautiful full, color photos of a car we have about as much time of driving as we do of bagging Miss April
. They are glorious, amazing cars but the question then logically follows of that having obtained said car where in the heck are you going to drive it?
In the United States I know of no place which has a speed limit in excess of 80 MPH and that's in Utah. There is good reason for this. Most driver training regimes are rudimentary at best. Most people really don't care about their cars, considering them mere appliances. Driving is for the most part deceptively simple, enough so that people feel free to text each other while driving. And in most of my country, if you don't have a car getting around is difficult or impossible. For that reason we keep junkers on the road that should have been retired to the salvage yard years earlier. A car with questionable wheel bearings isn't safe at 75, much less then the 150MPH many modern performance cars can readily attain.
Yeah, but goosing the throttle's fun isn't it? You bet! I drive a 2002 Ford Focus SVT, the performance version of that small family hatchback (the ST is the European equivalent) with uprated engine, transmission, brakes and suspension. It's a sweet handling car, with a fine balance of comfort and economy but at 170 horsepower it qualifies more as "quick" then "fast", particularly in a world where the baseline six-cylinder Mustang puts out 300hp. But when I get on the power to merge on the highway I'm way illegal before I get to the end of the ramp. I cannot afford to keep a lawyer on retainer to handle my speeding tickets, as does one Cadillac CTS-V owner I know.
Truth is the only place you can ever enjoy a car like a Gallardo, CTS-V or even a modern Mustang GT, is a race track. There they will let you go as fast as you want, provided you can keep it on the asphalt. But I'm a corner worker, and I regularly supervise real race cars at play. And the dirty little secret is that many modern street cars have more horsepower then their pure racing equivalent. One-fifty is really freaking fast! I know of a couple station wagons capable of that kind of speed right from the factory. Even if the car will do it, what about the loose nut behind the wheel? You know, the driver? Driving at speed requires total concentration and skill. Most people can learn to do it, and most track day organizers provide instructors, usually an experienced amateur race car driver. But no instructor automatically grants you skill or talent.
Street cars are not designed for high speed impacts. Sanctioning bodies like the SCCA require roll cages, racing harnesses and the like because experience teaches that both bad things happen at speed. I have personally been the first responder for cars which performed a full Olga Korbut tumbling run culminating in a full face plant with an experienced racing driver at the wheel. Street cars are not designed to protect you in case of an impact, and they are also very difficult and expensive to repair after an accident. Race cars, particularly those with a tube frame, are designed in recognition of the fact that race cars crash.
If you want to go fast you're better off spending the money you'd drop on that new Ferrari 456 on diesel dually, a trailer and a D sports racer. Although the DSR has only 200hp it will get around the track faster then your Ferarri because it's a real racing car and weighs less then 500 kilos (including you). The DSR is much safer, plus cheaper and easier to repair after a crash.
This is also a reason why a sweet-handling lower powered car like my SVT Focus or a a can be a lot more fun to drive then a Carerra GT3. Sure the Carerra will kick my Focus' tail and draw a lot more stares from passers-by. If breeding or impressing peers is your priority, by all means go with a Ferrari or Dodge Viper. But you can stay on the Miata's power a lot longer without drawing legal interest, and concentrate on driving a good line. They're almost as quick as the big stuff at an autocross. Plus I've never seen a seen a speed-trap on an on-ramp. You can have a ton of fun without drawing too many stares. And why are you driving if not to have fun?
the racing version of the Carerra cup GT3's boasts about 150hp less then the street car. But the racing cars do handle and stop a lot better, so are quicker in the real world. I'm told Texas just raised it's official speed limit to 85, but no road has been raised as of this writing. Where I live in Ohio the limit is 70.