By Alex Lloyd @
But it's still a question worth asking, and one that's being raised in a few corners: Is there such a thing as too much power in the hands of everyday motorists?
Officially, there are no legal limits in the United States about how powerful a car can be; so long as a model met all safety standards, automakers could throw a jet engine under the hood. There are precedents;
In France, motorcycles are limited to 100 hp — meaning high-end sport bikes have to be detuned to be legal. And from 1989 to 2005, Japanese automakers had a private limit of 276 hp for all their vehicles, although by the time it was lifted, many were building more powerful models but simply saying the rating was 276 hp.
In America, big horsepower is big business. Dodge says that when it announced the Challenger SRT Hellcat would boast 707 hp a few months back, it became the most-searched car brand on the web.
And that chatter filters down to the lesser models in the company’s portfolio – meaning the crazy halo car supports the entire brand, even if typical business practices suggests one must be clinically insane to invest money into building such a car.
In general, there is overwhelming support for mad creations like the Challenger/Charger Hellcats – especially among car enthusiasts.
And you’re gifted two key fobs, one (the black one) limiting power to “just” 500 hp, while the other (the red one) offers the full Monty.
It just demands respect.
And I don’t measure the greatness of a street car based on its speed, or horsepower numbers. That verdict arrives solely by the size of the grin plastered to my face. In that respect, the inevitable horsepower wars the Hellcat will spawn in Detroit will be superficial — mostly for other brands to save face.
Despite that, I’m thrilled that we have Hellcats with 707 hp in our lives. A Mazda Miata is fun on many occasions, but on others you might desire a powerful, uncouth brute.
Dodge needed a wake-up call, and it's made itself known to a new generation.
But these recent power wars do pose another question for me: Where’s the end?
We have hybrid hypercars that are pushing 1,000 hp. John Hennessey has his Venom GT with 1,244 horses and a new Venom F5 that’s rumored to boast 1,400 hp.
Once upon a time we’d type “350 hp” front and center in a story’s title because it would entice folks to click on it. Now we don’t bother unless it crests 600.
Eventually there’s got to be a limit, right? A tipping point between extreme and just plain stupid?
Hybridization is quickly becoming the formula for the elite super cars, and over the next few decades, it will trickle into most every car on the road. It improves fuel efficiency, which is key, but it ensures instant torque; something that's entirely new among today’s monsters, and a term that’s gained traction among car fans.
So not only will cars be more powerful in the future, but that instantaneous, mind-numbing torque will soon be available at every stage of the rev range.
Will our children learn to drive in base Corollas with 400 lb.-ft. of torque? Will your typical, economical family SUV be cresting 500 hp with a 0-60 mph time of sub six seconds?