What’s the future for high performance cars?

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The business of making four-wheeled machines that transport us across the globe is staring down the road of what could be the biggest change to cars since the first three-wheeled replacement for the horse and cart click-clacked to life in 1886.

Some are predicting the next five years will yield more change to the cars we're driving than the past 50.

Increasingly, cars will be fuelled by electrons more than petrol.

Plus, they'll be driving themselves, relegating drivers (soon to be passengers) to the back seat.

But there will still be opportunities to take control, especially when it comes to fast cars.

With record sales of performance cars extending the fast-car excitement there will still be vehicles that are as much about the journey as the destination.

Here's a glimpse into a performance car future that is looking more exciting (and faster) than ever.

1 – Drivers can still take control

Speak to the people developing the next generation of high-performance cars and the shift to driverless technology is not so clear cut.

Some people love driving cars – and there are no plans to stop them.

Sure, there will be self-driving technology to take the dreariness out of traffic or allow the office to transition to the road. And cars will increasingly account for human error, one day leading to safety levels akin to those in modern aeroplanes.

Yet as more and more drivers continue to buy cars with passion and excitement, there are many brands saying they have no plans to completely eradicate pedals and steering wheels.

Instead, the choice would be in the hands of the custodian; hands-free with the car taking over when they have other things on their mind; in control and enjoying the drive when the focus is on the road ahead.

The thrill of piloting a car through a snaking set of corners or feeling the thrusting rush from a launch-control start will never fade. Humans appreciate and enjoy engineering excellence, especially when they play a part in the story.

2 – Technology to enhance the driving experience

The performance experience will continue to evolve, further embracing the technology that threatens it.

Data logging is already providing real time statistics that was once foreign to the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula One. It'll only get more detailed and advanced, improving the driving experience and allowing owners to get a better understanding of their skills – and how to improve them.

Even better, crash avoidance technology will make it almost impossible to put a ding on that gleaming paintwork, allowing all the go-fast thrills without the danger that once made fast cars daunting to some.

Indeed, the imminent arrival of autonomous technology is not just about dealing with traffic and taking things easy.

The radars, lidar, cameras and other sensors that pair with advanced computers to perform the complex task of controlling a car could double as driver training, impeccably teaching owners how to make the most of all that performance.

Imagine being driven around a race track with the pace and dexterity of Australian F1 ace Daniel Ricciardo, pre-programmed into the car's computer. Once you've had the high-tech lesson it would be your turn to test your skills, with technology ready to lend a hand if you push things too far.

3 – Stepping up the pace

We've experienced decades of cars getting faster and easier to control. That trend will continue across everything from sports cars and supercars to SUVs and hatchbacks.

Only a decade ago cars with 400 horsepower were considered fast, their old school engines shrieking at the power burst.

These days cars can make double that and there is an SUV with more than 700 horsepower. Some manufacturers are already eyeing the 1000hp target, ushering in a new era of performance.

While traditional petrol engines will continue to play a role, electricity will add to the performance equation. Electric motors produce their torque instantly, for superb response. As supercar brands such as Ferrari have shown, electric motors can complement existing technology, at the same time enhancing the driving experience.

4 – Plane thinking

Aerodynamics are becoming increasingly important across vehicle design, helping cars slip through the air better, in turn reducing fuel use.

But in the rarefied world of performance cars, advanced aerodynamics are used to improve handling, go around corners faster and brake in a shorter distance. The technology is the same as that used in aeroplanes, except instead of creating lift, in cars wings and other add-ons are used to create downforce, helping pin the car to the road. Advanced active aerodynamic systems amplify those results further, helping make performance cars faster and more accessible.

5 – Getting better with age

With software integral to the performance equation, it opens all manner of doors as to what will be possible in cars in future.

Already we're seeing cars with digital dashboards and fighter jet-like head-up displays, all of which can be tailored to the driving conditions or the driver's preferences. Just as your smartphone can have functionality and features added through software updates, so too will your car improve over time.

Imagine being able to have new features or layouts added to the instrument panel. Or downloading new drive modes, or even more powerful engine tunes.

Already, some cars offer basic upgrades – and there's more to come.


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