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High Horsepower Cars - When Is Enough Too Much?

Jun 7, 2013

As we were putting together this month's cover, I couldn't help wondering about the 1200hp headline. I must be getting senile because I was asking myself who really needs that much power.

High horsepower cars greg emmerson Photo 2/3   |   High Horsepower Cars - When Is Enough Too Much?

A few years ago I wouldn't have hesitated at such a number. We do it because we can, and that was always reason enough in my humble opinion.

In the early days of the industrial revolution, people thought we'd die if we went too fast because there wouldn't be enough air. And in the same way, you'd imagine a car exceeding 200mph with 1200hp would also run out of air, but those twin turbos mounted high in the engine bay guarantee the Heffner Performance conversion keeps on pulling, gulping in big lungfuls of oxygen.

Yet I'm reminded of cars I've driven in the past that simply had too much power for the tires to put down, or where the engine was unusable thanks to excessive lag from a giant turbo. But that's to ignore the advance in modern technology, where direct injection and a better understanding of turbo sizing means even 1200hp can seem docile and tractable at low speed.

Admittedly, I didn't drive the Heffner Performance Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera but we're told it's well mannered until you unleash the beast. The thought of spinning all four wheels in the lower gears seems infeasible with such an advanced all-wheel drive system and very wide, sticky tires, yet that appears to be the reality of driving such a machine.

Is the 0-100mph time of the stock Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera so feeble that all owners should rush out and buy a twin-turbo set-up simply to overcome the car's deficit? Of course not. Again, we do it because we can. And who doesn't want to feel the addictive thrust of two turbochargers propelling you towards the horizon at warp speed? Even in cars with half that power, the adrenaline rush is inspirational. And once you've experienced it, you have to seek it out again and again.

High horsepower cars heffner performance 2008 lamborghini gallado superleggera Photo 3/3   |   high horsepower cars

That's why the aftermarket exists and thrives. It's because we're all thrill-seekers, looking for our next fix of ludicrous acceleration, high-g cornering and nose-bleed braking.

Yes, it's impractical, unnecessary and excessive but who doesn't love it? If you've never experienced it, we highly recommend you begin your journey to addiction. You could start small with a 0-60mph of around 5sec. This should be easy since a BMW 335i is now running times similar to the early Porsche 911 Turbo - what was once considered the supercar bracket.

The latest M3 will get you into the 4sec barrier and it's downhill from there, with the 997 Turbo well into the 3sec sector and the Turbo S nudging towards the 2s. Of course, you could simply take a modern superbike for a blast, even as a pillion it'll feel damn quick and either scare you sane or continue you on the path to high speed and financial misery. You've been warned.

Golf R

If you're looking for a Mini-Me version of the Gallardo, the VW Golf R is a good place to start. It's a phenomenal, if rather expensive, machine (though not compared to a Lambo!) out of the box that can be easily enhanced with a number of well-placed modifications. In fact, it's been suggested that the Golf R owes it's existence to the aftermarket since it was reasoned from the beginning that people could upgrade the software and/or turbo to make more sense of the 4Motion AWD system.

As a result, our guide in this issue looks at everything from simple air filter swaps to stage 4 engine builds, suspension, brakes and anything in between.

It might only get to 400hp but the 2.0T will always be more economical than a 1200hp Gallardo and we'd suggest both the maintenance and insurance costs will be lower too. On the right canyon road, a well sorted Golf R should be able to stay with a Lambo if you know the road well enough.


We're still hoping to reinstate the Letters page in a future issue, so please keep writing to us at the email address below. We read and respond to them all, even if it takes us a while, and your views are invaluable.

Greg Emmerson



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