Of the many problems with car culture these days, perhaps the largest is the unhealthy pursuit of power. Manufacturers definitely don't help the issue with their own ongoing power wars, constantly pushing the outputs of cars to levels that wouldn't have been dreamt of just a decade or two ago. Consider this: the Mercedes-AMG A45 has quite nearly as much power as a Ferrari 360. That's an absurd amount of power, but it is the world we live in today.
Coupled with various media outlets and groups championing these high performance machines, we've become addicted, nay, learned to worship power. It's for this reason that even when a truly amazing driver's car comes along, like the Toyota GT86 or Mazda MX-5, most people are quick to compare it to something like a Volkswagen Golf GTI on the basis of performance. It's a silly mindset to have, and an unhealthy one at that.
Don't get me wrong - we love power as much as the next person. But having a huge amount of power under your right foot usually takes away from the driving experience, and it tends to stunt your development as a driver. There are some things you can only learn when dealing with too much power, but there is a lot more you learn when you just don't have enough power.
(Photo by Alex Yeo)
You don't learn how to maximize entry and cornering speeds when you have a tonne of power to make up for any shortcomings in your technique. Similarly, you don't learn how to carefully balance a car on the edge of grip with weight transfer techniques if the slightest mis-step of the pedal means you're spinning up your driven wheels and possibly grabbing fistfuls of opposite lock as you careen towards a crash barrier.
Modern cars take care of the latter issue with systems like electronic stability and traction control, but that's simply a bandaid for a larger problem. It doesn't address or allow a driver to understand the fundamentals of driving, and it can make a driver feel as if they're damn-near invincible - that is, until you reach the very real limits of these systems.
The other problem with promoting these high performance cars is that people begin to lose interest in more basic, simpler machines that would be appropriate cars to learn with. I can speak from experience here, because until I met a very rag-tag group of car enthusiasts based out of Subang, I too was skeptical about the performance capabilities of something as simple as a Proton Satria.
But I was proven wrong, over and over again - and I'm glad for it. When I first started driving, I aspired to own something like a Golf GTI - much to the chagrin of my father - but in the last few years I've seen the appeal of something like a Perodua Kelisa - which is something my father wished I had wanted to begin with. Of course it's a little late to turn back now, and I'm elbows deep in a car that's a little too quick and wild for me to handle, but it's not too late for me to educate people in the joys of (relatively) underpowered (yet fun) machines.
It's not wrong to want a fast car - but it does beg the question of what you're using it for, and what your goal is as a driver. If you're only buying something quick to beat your friends at every traffic light drag race, I have bad news for you: there is always going to be something quicker out there. Might we instead suggest that you focus your efforts on becoming a better, more well rounded driver. There's a lot more to driving than straight roads between traffic lights.