Thursday, 2 May 2013

GUEST - America vs. Europe; the supercar shoot-out

Another great column here from Brad Credit. Simply Motor is going global thanks to his contributions from the other side of the Atlantic. It's great to see that there are young petrolheads (or 'gearheads' as they're know in the States) out there, meaning that our love for cars will continue through the generations. Now for us Brits, we often see American cars as cheap, low-quality, poor-handling offerings with large V8's and stupidly low fuel consumption. But could it be that these stereotypes are a bit old-hat? Well in this article Brad looks into this, and  looks to see if American sports cars can compete with European offerings. Enjoy...

"Are American performance cars catching the Europeans?" - Brad Credit

For decades the muscle car- the benchmark of American performance cars- hasn’t received the best comments when it comes to petrolheads on the other side of the Atlantic. Cars like the Pontiac GTO, the Chevrolet Camaro, and the Ford Mustang may have been the ideal street performance cars in the States, but in Europe- a place where twisty roads are a bit more commonplace in comparison to the never-ending highways of the U.S.- the muscle car was not quite the machine to get the job done.

However, recent adaptations of muscle car classics have suggested that the Americans may finally be getting the message and, after my observations at the New York International Auto Show, it seems that the potent American cars are now beginning to bridge the gap between the European sports car and the American muscle car.

Before the mid-to-late 1970s and the 80s came about, when American cars turned into land yachts, the American muscle car industry was booming; constantly witnessing new cars entering the competitive market. The same could be said with European sports cars, although the cars from across the Atlantic were much more capable when it came to going around corners. Although both cars were focused on performance, it can be said their areas of performance were almost completely different.

However, it now seems that the American muscle cars have moved past the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ lifestyle they inherited from the ovals and high-banks of NASCAR and have now realized that the world over has fallen in love with track days.

In recent years, cars such as Ford’s Mustang and Chevrolet’s Camaro, notorious for their straight-line ability, have been making big steps as far as making muscle cars more capable of going around twisty race circuits. Suspension changes have come about to American muscle cars, allowing the automobiles to be able to put down the muscle of those high capacity engines onto the pavement. Now more than ever, if the average American- such as myself- attends a track day, Mustangs and Camaros will be seen in abundance, travelling at warp speed around the twists and turns of America’s road circuits.

And now it also seems that the American performance car market is not limited to merely muscle cars. Since it’s conception in the early 90s, the Dodge Viper has established a global following, drawing many car and driving enthusiasts to the driver’s seat of that violent machine. But as if the original Viper wasn’t up to standards, the revival of the infamous title has brought us an even more capable automobile, and has earned the sleek machine the title of super sports car. Seeing the track focused Viper TA in person in New York is a very unique experience, if the car didn’t look menacing enough in pictures than seeing it in person is enough to send you cowering in a corner.

The new Corvette C7 Stingray even furthers this recent string of quality American performance cars. While the 450 horsepower of the C7 may seem inferior in comparison to the Viper’s potent 640 ponies, the changes to the car’s mechanics and looks certainly grant the car the title of a true sports car.

While all these words make the point of saying that American cars are becoming more and more performance oriented, is the American performance car market finally bridging the gap and catching up to the Europeans and Japanese? In my personal opinion, the answer is a resounding yes. Although the American muscle car has always had an international following, this worldwide red-white-and-blue car cult has never been as expansive as it is now. American performance car sales are booming not only here in the States, but Europe and Japan have both seen in increase in the amount of American muscle and sports cars.

Granted, the Dodge Viper can not perform on road and on track in the same fashion as a Lexus LFA or an Aston Martin Vanquish, but the car is extremely close to being on the same level, and some may argue that it exceeds the performance level of similar cars. And while we have no idea of how the Chevrolet C7 Stingray will drive- although if you have Gran Turismo 5 you may have a good idea- it can likely be expected that the new 'Vette will be closer to European sports cars than any previous model of the car has been.

And as an American gearhead, this makes me feel very blissful. If you were to have a conversation with me, you would probably expect that I could care less for the American performance cars, however truly I believe that these cars are among the best cars in the world. Cars such as the Ford Mustang (and all of its extra renditions), Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette, and the Dodge Viper are some of the purest driving cars on the international market as of right now.

As for the remainder of the New York Auto Show, the rest of the automotive exhibition was extraordinary. Mansory’s exhibit was breathtaking, as their take on the 458 Italia looked almost eerily similar to the new LaFerrari that was unveiled at Geneva early in March. The CLA45 AMG looks like it could be a very entertaining car as well, especially with the base price starting under $50,000. Of course, the exotics attracted what seemed to be hundreds, both gearheads and non-gearheads. After the show, very few questions were left for me to ask, as to be honest, there was a part of me that was just a tad speechless. I did have just one question, however: How in the world did they get the new Corvette C7 up on that wall?

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