HAVE YOU EVER DRIVEN A PRODUCTION CAR THAT WAS SO FAST THAT YOU THOUGHT IT SHOULDN’T BE SOLD TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC?
LET’S START with a game of ‘have you ever?’. The question concerned is straightforward but the answers could well be illuminating. Have you ever driven a production car that you thought was too fast for the road? You know, that terrifying realisation that you’re behind the wheel of something that was so wild and rapid that it probably shouldn’t be sold to the general public?
Your answers will probably reveal much about your era, but I’d be delighted to hear them. For me, the very first time that occurred was when I got to sample the Porsche 996 GT2. It felt utterly demented on the hemmedin roads of the UK, 340kW of twin-turbocharged flatsix walloping it to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds. Over here, Cameron McConville jumped in one and fired the $399k silver bullet around Winton in 1m36.235sec. When Jonathan Hawley tested it for us back in December 2001, he claimed “the GT2 is not really a car. It’s a destructive force, a machine of vengeance..”
Earlier this year, I lapped Winton a second quicker than the GT2’s time in a bone-stock production hot hatch. As a driver, I’m not fit to velcro Cam McConville’s boots, but I was able to eclipse his mark with air-con and a podcast on the go. You’ve probably guessed that I might have been in a Mercedes-AMG A45 S, a car that does almost everything better than a 996 GT2. I’m not saying that to be deliberately inflammatory. It just does.
It’s quicker off the mark, it’s quicker through corners, it rides better, it’s more spacious, it’s more luxurious, it’s leagues safer, it’s more economical, the interior finish is night and day better and, the big kicker for many, it’s a $100k car. Minuses? The Porsche sounds better, its steering delivers higher fidelity feel, it offers a manual gearbox and it always felt monumentally consequential.
Where are we going with this? Well, last month I posited that we’d never had it so good when it came to performance cars. This Porsche versus AMG comparison backs up the assertion, to a point. There’s little doubt that the A45 S can clean the clock of Weissach’s (once) finest in virtually every objective measure, but throw in that curveball of subjectivity and suddenly there’s no right or wrong answer. You own your own truths. But that was true back in the day too, so these two parts of the equation effectively cancel each other out. Dollar for dollar, cars deliver more today, especially compared to that other big capital purchase in your life, a house.
In 1989, the median Sydney house price was $170,850. It’s more than a million today. By contrast, a junior hot hatch like a Peugeot 205 GTI was $29,500. Today, a Fiesta ST is a $32,000 car. Take inflation into account and, in real terms, house prices have trebled and car prices have halved. And while the house is still the same bricks and mortar as in 1989, cars are night and day more capable.
You know what else is better value today? The mag you’re reading right now. Adjusted for inflation, a 1989 edition of MOTOR would be $8.70 today. Jump onto our latest subscriptions offer on page 46 and you can get it for as little as $6.20 per issue. The world’s full of bad news stories right now. Here’s to a tasty morsel of balance.