Stop believing the hype, supercars ain’t what they used to be!

I’m just going to come out and say it. Sorry but that McLaren Senna, it is hideous.

The front is too slender, light and insubstantial, the rear is too bulbous and bulky, the side profile is a chopped-suey, eye-slashing visual cacophony of scrambled lines, the cut-out in the middle is abrupt, the see-through door panels just look like the real things flew out, and as for the hanging rear wing, it appears as if the car itself is hanging it out to dry with utmost disdain.

It actually makes the fabled Lamborghini Countach wing appear perfectly proportioned and at harmony with the rest of the car, but more on the Countach later.

The Senna may well be utterly brilliant to drive, but it doesn’t matter because it looks terrible and I would never put a poster of it on the wall. And that’s something of an ultimate measure by which all supercars should be judged.

Although not that that matters either, because even McLaren has moved on. No sooner was this Ultimate Series limited production, rare, exclusive and surely much sought-after hypercar announced and started stockpiling orders, McLaren went ahead and snuck out another Ultimate Series limited production, rare, exclusive and surely much sought-after hypercar, the Speedtail.

Another super-Macca that everyone forgot about as soon as they swiped it up on their social media feeds, particularly ignominious since it’s meant to a be a spiritual successor to a true legend of a supercar – the Mclaren F1 from the 1990s.

But the McLaren is just an example, I’m not targeting this marque. Ferrari LaFerrari is an uninspiring technical overreach (although it does look pretty in person), the Aston Martin Vulcan is more race car than supercar, the Chiron is the most sanitised speed merchant ever (but the interior is so much nicer than the Veyron), the Rimac One is a microwave oven, the Lamborghini Centenario is an overdrawn cartoon, the Lykans are a joke, but worst than all of this is that I had to do an internet search to remind myself what the current crop of supercars are. That should not happen, they should be burned into my brain.

Supercars (or ‘Hypercars’ if you like) of today just aren’t doing it the way they’re supposed too. Is it that they’re ugly? Maybe in some cases. Is it that they are too prolific and come out too often? Very possibly. Or is it that they are just too dammed accessible? I mean launch a supercar right this minute, and 30 seconds from now, Instagram will be festooned with pictures of Supershmee Blondie Salamander taking delivery of one.

Meanwhile the world’s most moneyed, important and discerning supercar clientele logs out of Instagram en-masse – oh wait those people aren’t on social media on social media in the first place.

But anyway, back to my relationship with supercars. It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I queued up and waited hours for the famous London toy shop, Hamley’s, to open just so that I could get my hands on the very first BBurago model of the Ferrari F40, which was later joined by a McLaren F1, displayed alongside a bedroom wall, festooned with posters of sainted superstars like the Lamborghini Countach, Porsche 959, Vector W8 and of course, my personal favourite, the Lotus Esprit. I was in awe of these automotive deities.

I would give anything just to see and hear them for real, let alone sit in one or even drive it! These cars were legends and I lusted after them. In their crazily exotic interpretation of unhinged no-compromise road-going missiles, they still somehow seemed relevant as the most fervent expression of fantastical automotive speed for the road. They were real, and yet unreal at the same time.

Somehow the new breed of hyper/supercars just don’t seem as relevant to me, even as they are shoehorned into the mundane mediocrity of ‘relevance’ to today’s buyer. Less raw, less evocative, they seem far more contrived and dislocated from the surreal dreamscape where sensation mattered, nothing less than spectacular would do, and no care was given to the poor mortals tasked with taming these wild, rampaging yet totally compelling beasts.

The new cars are carefully anchored in reality; they are much more matter-of-fact drearily accessible, targeted, as they are, towards only two, extremely distinct, kinds of people.

The first and foremost are the insanely rich who don’t know how to drive at all, but can contemplate the outlandish price tags. They are more concerned with the flashy fascade of sportive pretence that they perceive gives them some sort of credibility or, let’s be honest, sex appeal. But they also want a car that cossets and comforts them, doesn’t ruffle their exclusive designer threads, keeps them cool, maintains their carefully nurtured coiffure, and ensures connectivity so they can Instagram their bought-in awesomeness.

Supercar makers also realise that this high-end clientele needs to be looked after and, most importantly, kept alive, after all there is repeat business to be had. So the cars are softer, easier, more gadget laden and computer controlled – they’re safer.

The second kind are those who are god-like behind the wheel, racers and test drivers who actually have the ability (unlike my humble skillset) to really exploit the extraordinarily high levels of grip and go, and this only safely on a closed track – the jaw-dropping speeds achievable are just too high to be considered safe for the road.

And there’s more. I just don’t want supercars that 9-year old kids can just jump into and do donuts with for their next YouTube video, nor do I want supercars that any bloody vain selfie-junkie can rent out for a show-off day having pocketed a bonus off hitting sales targets.

It’s not just the ‘hypercars’ either. The Lamborghini Huracan is potentially the perfect everyday supercar, but to me it’s more Audi than Lambo, the R8 itself is too sensible – I’d rather have the unhinged RS6 Avant, and driving anything above a Carrera S version of a 911, is just you trying to impress other car people – the regular 911 is good enough for everyone unless your name is Walter Rohrl.

I’ll give a pass to the Aventador, it’s far tamer than even a Diablo, but it’s still bonkers enough, and sharp-looking enough to carry some essence of the Countach (still the ultimate supercar in my book). Similar I properly fell in love with a Ferrari 488 Spider and decided I would have one. Koenigseggs are truly crazy things to pilot, and Paganis are spectacular to behold. I suspect I might like the new NSX too if I ever got to drive one – to my eyes it does look the part.

Lest you be judging me so, this at least proves that I have not grown too cynical and jaded or that {gasp!} I might have actually fallen out of love with cars altogether. This is not true. Give me a loud-mouth, tarmac-scorching muscle car any day, or a crazy-keen hot hatch on amphetamines and I’m as happy as an Umpa Lumpa playing Candy Crush. So no, it’s not me.

I think I’m just seeing through the blatant cynicism behind these newer supercars and their true inherent insipidity. They are products designed by marketers, economists, researchers, social media specialists and data analysts. Remember, that’s not how the likes of Enzo, Ferruccio and Chapman did it.

Which brings me to that one word that I’ve withheld in reserve so far in this piece, even though its deployment was always inevitable in such a discourse over what modern supercars might be missing so badly, that they fail to get a die-hard car fan tingling in all the wrong places. I’ll just leave that word here for you and our dear automotive industry to chew over because it is in itself the most powerful ingredient of all to set things right again: passion.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I a blithering idiot? Say what you think below.

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