Europe in a 333kph McLaren 12C

Strangely, the Honda NSX and today’s McLaren got hit with the same insults: engine too small, steering too benign, a general sense that being so accessible and usable precluded sufficient drama. It’s surely no coincidence that when it built the NSX, Honda was McLaren’s F1 engine partner. Porsche was deemed admissible to the club, though: no one ever called the 959 soulless, even though it was the most po-faced technofest ever to issue from the loins of supercardom.

A supercar isn’t about speed, lap times, power or efficiency or anything else that technicians with computers and gauges can catalogue. And heritage is necessary, yet insufficient. A supercar is about being an event.

Why did Bugatti choose 16 cylinders? Why did Gandini put that strange rear wheelarch cut-out onto the Countach? Why did a Ferrari 360 Modena have the most neck-prickling throttle-sensitive exhaust noises ever? Why all those portholes in a Zonda’s cabin? All those slats on a Testarossa? The casual craziness of a Diablo’s proportions, and the calculated craziness of an Aventador’s surfaces? The makers of those cars did those things because they knew they could. None added much to the cars’ actual abilities, but they were a profound augmentation of the drama. The parameters that say that entertainment by shock is absolutely intrinsic to supercars.