Lightweight Sportscars: High Performance and High MPG
On another subject entirely, one of the conundrums of the modern car is our appetite for automotive stuff. We seem to like our cars even our enthusiast cars replete with comfort and convenience features. There's engineering irony in the fact that the carbon-fiber-intensive Mercedes SLR McLaren has a curb weight of more than 3800 lb. Its luxurious interior, its climate control, its sound system and other features clearly add to the SLR McLaren's panache, but they add weight as well.
In devising my futurist enthusiast car, I'd hope for an extensive option list of comfort and convenience features. Let each of us decide whether the weight of a super woofer is worth it. Also to this point, I would not automatically opt for the tallest-wheel/lowest-tire-profile. This may be all the fashion, but it's rarely the best handling setup and often the heaviest. Worse yet, this is purely unsprung weight, the worst kind as it degrades ride and handling.
For reasons of crashworthiness, I've already committed to an enthusiast car of less than minimalist size, so its frontal area A is also non-trivial. But drag is the product of CD x A, and enhanced aerodynamics is still very much a win-win.
Future designs will profit from the increased maturity of Computational Fluid Dynamics. Before long, CFD will do more than augment wind-tunnel investigations. It'll replace these vast and expensive facilities with (equally expensive but vastly quicker) computers. What's more, CFD analyses will optimize more than just the exterior shape of a car. Cooling airflows directed to engine, brakes and occupants are also optimized.
My futurist enthusiast car will have active aero, a feature already present in plenty of cars. Spoilers and wings will react automatically to road speed. There's an element of pure showmanship about it, but I also admire the Bugatti Veyron's special aero setting and preflight key. (Imagine how many times these will be activated, even though the owner has no intention whatsoever of exceeding 233 mph! All in good fun.)
Hybrids Need not Be Eco-Slugs
My futurist enthusiast car will be hybrid-powered. Indeed, we've already seen hybrids dedicated to other than purely conservational goals. In fact, environmentalists have already complained that the likes of the Honda Accord Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h and the up-coming Lexus GS 450h have traded away potential mpg gains for enhanced accelerative performance. (Note well: Environmentalists don't have to sell cars for a living.)
Nevertheless, there is a basic hybrid tradeoff that calls for a bit of rethinking on the part of enthusiasts: To one extent or another, any hybrid is designed for intermittent power not an unlimited display of it. I could pointlessly enough do full-bore accelerations up and down a test track until my conventionally powered car ran out of fuel. By contrast, with a hybrid, before long I'd deplete its on-board-generated supply of electrical energy and be shunted onto a limp-home mode with decidedly less performance.