Faster and faster

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We commented last month on the number of production cars able to exceed 140 or more mph. In the wake of these comments comes the suggestion that Jaguar is thinking of assembling a supercar, perhaps a mid-engined four-wheel-drive six-litre coupe capable of 220 mph, beating the Porsche 959’s 197 mph and the Ferrari F40’s 203 mph — a prospect to elevate even our eyebrows a shade!

Speed in itself is not the menace the bureaucrats seem to regard it as, and such super-cars will be bought for their great accelerative powers, their crisp response to the controls, and their high standards of road-clinging (all of which are safety factors), with their top speed a kind of prestige bonus, scarely useable legally on most of the world’s roads. Powerful brakes and rapid pick-up are also important contributions to safety, especially acceleration in the 40-60 and 50-70 mph brackets, rather than in the oft-quoted clutch-punishing and wheel-spinning 0-60 range.

Having said that, the intended top pace of Sir John Egan’s proposed new Jaguar will be only about 20 mph below that of the best Le Mans cars, whereas customers for such a car are unlikely to possess the skills of racing drivers. Even though they might never drive their cars at anything like top speed, and certainly not for 24 hours around the daunting Sarthe circuit, some safeguard may be desirable; D-type Jaguars were sold only to those holding authentic competition licences, we believe. . .

It is rather surprising that, with a prevailing motorway speed-limit of 70 mph, cars able to exceed 140 mph sell readily. Those we have previously listed cost on average around £36,000, so all credit to Ford for marketing the 154 mph Sierra R5500 Cosworth for less than £20,000. The fact remains that, very soon, Britain’s road system will be unsuitable even for cars which are much slower than these!

This was emphasised when we drove west out of London on a recent Friday, finding stop/go/stop congestion at Shepherd’s Bush, at Northolt, and into and out of Oxford’s ring-road, in a line of vehicles stationary in Burford extending from the A40 roundabout. These are hardly conditions for enjoyment of a good performance car; with nose-to-tail traffic, even the joy of using vivid acceleration to overtake becomes ever more rare.

It is high time crossroads were replaced by over- and under-passes, speed-limits raised, and obstructive vehicles such as overloaded trucks and untaxed caravans in some way controlled, otherwise our roads will soon be effectively useable only by two-wheelers! In the meantime, good luck to those who buy super-fast high-performance cars; may they continue to enjoy them.