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Best of 2023

Opinion: are hypercars ruining our enjoyment of good, 'everyday' cars?

Multi-million pound exotics might be clickworthy, but are they distorting our view of accessible cars?

Published: 25 Dec 2023

During just one single day in August this year, at an event in California clumsily named ‘The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering’, around a dozen new hypercars were unveiled. Meanwhile over the course of the whole of this decade, how many new superminis and hatchbacks have been launched? It’s probably in single figures. This inverted pyramid doesn’t serve us well.

Of course I’m not immune to swooning at hypercars. But increasingly a hypercar is little more than an abstract construct. A collector’s item that gives you as much real world pleasure as an NFT artwork. So many of them exist only because growing inequality means more of the rich need a heat sink for their sweltering millions. Buying lots of luxury saloons looks a little silly. Whereas buying lots of hypercars is ‘curating a collection’.

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Hypercars are collectible precisely because they won’t be driven. They’re all but useless. Traffic and surveillance are rising. Speed limits are falling. Driving a car that’ll do four times the speed limit is an exercise in frustration. Give me 350bhp and I know how to have fun. Give me 1,350 and I’m disturbed.

Of course at Top Gear – along with all those other mags and websites and YouTubers and Instagrammers and TikTokers – we’re drawn to hypercars as sources of easy win content. They’re click magnets. But it’s too easy for that content to become dysfunctional. For most of us the real joy of driving is a good road in a normal hatch. Typical hypercar media is essentially peddling a fantastical and distorted worldview that demeans the pleasures available to us in the real world. Which, in another sphere of life, is a working definition of pornography.

Top Gear magazine has just passed the Big Three-Oh. If we’ve got a party hangover, it probably resembles the muzzy headache after overdoing it with too many hypercars. Over Top Gear’s lifetime we’ve always made space for the joy of attainable cars too. The big journeys in little superminis. The hot hatches. The coupes.

I’ve had huge fun in those cars and so doubtless have you. Everyone used to care very much that a Focus was more fun than a Golf. Not just the GTIs and Rs and STs and RSes either. Even the more ordinary versions mattered, if only because that was what you could insure. We’d stick them on the cover, and write lengthy features laid out with lavish photos. Now the sheer number of 1,000bhp, million pound dreamboats is distracting you and us. I fear that’s eroding our mutual love for the cars we live with, the ones that provide the cumulative happiness.

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Or maybe you drive a classic. They’re another way to get deeply engaged and they almost mandate a DIY spirit. And yet they too are getting infected by the unimaginative hyperprice virus. I love old Land Rovers and Eighties sporty saloons as much as the next person, but show me another one that’s had £500k of ‘reimagining’ with a V8 transplant and carbon panels and quilted leather... and you’d better step back lest I’m sick on your shoes.

Can’t we just enjoy keeping it real?

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