By Gerald Yuen
Which part of the specs sheet do you notice first whenever a new coupe rolls out of the showroom? Is it the instant magnetic appeal of the inflated horsepower output, how much volumetric weight those humongous cylinders can stuff to provide those jaw dropping torque figures, or maybe even justifying the purchase with your partner, by claiming that it can swallow shopping bags in empty compartments that only seem huge in your naïve eyes?
If I were to answer this question three years back, I would definitely be harping on the ongoing fascination about new and improved technology by manufacturers, being able to extract the most ridiculous numerical advantage over rivals, just by the inclusion of a couple of cylinders or force feeding superchargers into the already jammed-packed engine bay. Fast-forward 1000 days, and here I am being all grumpy about these additions, because they coincide with the first quantitative item that I look for in the specs sheet now – weight.
My answer might seem surprising to some, and I wouldn’t blame those seeking to disagree with me. Big engines and high torque output will certainly provide any driver that instant sensation when push turns to shove. Simply flex your lower right limb, let the engine rake up the horses, and there you are at illegal speeds before you know it, reeling in the horizon along the way. Maybe you can consider asking yourself this question: is power output the only vital statistic? If yes, is it due to the fact that high performance translates to the acquisition of a better driving machine?
In more ways than one, cars with towering performance figures supply the avenue for technological advancement and bragging rights. Why hold back when engineers know that they have powerplants capable of gathering digits in their favour? Performance numbers might not necessarily appeal to car enthusiasts (and by this, I mean those who actually like to drive). Toyota’s 86 might be down on brute strength, but the finesse when flogged hard through corners puts many plus-sized machines (with plus-sized outputs) to shame.
Physics allows us to believe that we can push objects further with less mass, and the same logic applies to vehicles. Imagine a sub-tonne Mazda Miata strutting her anorexic load on B roads. This makes hardly any sense to wedge a heavy duty V8 in coupes for switchbacks. The Miata has been hailed as one of the best handling mass production cars to ever grace public roads (although it has also polarised opinions), and rightly so, after having the privilege to try a couple of NA 1.6 on proper roads. Her divine talent to direct her path on switchbacks according to my demanding limbs transfers the limelight from “marvelous” technological modernity, to the good old days where flyweight is the key to wring driving enjoyment behind the wheel.
It would do no harm keeping the curb weight of your intended acquisition in mind. Focus on how the power delivery is being fed to the driver during the test drive. Does it gather speed fast due to the strength of its heartbeat, or because of the featherweight chassis-drivetrain-powertrain combo? I’ll select the latter in a jiffy.