For performance cars, a lot has changed since the turn of the century. Technology has bridged the gap between combustion and computer, opening the door for a lot of new and funky ideas. However, there are tons of tech upgrades that have come out fairly recently that people still don’t fully understand.
This write up is to help lock down, what I think, are the five most crucial performance upgrades, ideas, and theories that have become staples in our ever-changing world of performance.
1. Hybrid Power Platform
Yes, the hybrid motor is one of the best technological advancements for autos, ever. Specifically, for performance. That may seem weird or different because most people think you get a hybrid to save trees and small children…nope. The answer is: you get a hybrid because it delivers instantaneous power. Couple that with a furious engine and things start to get awesome, really quickly. We see the results with Tesla announcing that the new, purely electric “S” edition car can do 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. That is quick but the problem for Tesla is that people like to go faster than 60mph – so what do you do? Well, when you throw in a combustion engine like Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche all did, here is what you get:
2. Active Aero
Active Aero is one of my favorite new advancements for performance tech. The “active” part means that pieces of the car will actually be moving around in order to get a difference in regards to the impacts of the aerodynamics. The idea, much like Traction Control, has been around for a long time – Porsche has been doing it for 20 years now and they haven’t stopped.
The Porsche Turbo S has a rear wing and front fascia that all activate depending on speed in order to create maximum grip and minimum resistance to the air. The angle of the air going around the car is crucial in determining what adjustments need to be made. However, by having a computer and an automatically adjustable set up, the car can change itself by the millisecond. To an even more extreme measure check out what Pagani has done:
3. The Dual Clutch Transmission
Another controversial tech upgrade. Well, not really, it’s miles better than a manual transmission, loads easier and other-worldly faster. The dual clutch has been made famous on the Formula 1 circuit where the gear shifts come seemingly by the hundreds (per lap) and the speed doesn’t even make sense at times. The Dual Clutch eliminated the torque converter inside the engines of old and inserted itself with exactly what its name implies: two clutches. One holds gears: 1,3,5,7 and the other could hold 2,4,6,R (if it’s a seven speed box).
And with two clutches, when you’re engaged in one, the other already has the next gear ready to go. So instead of: Clutch – Gear – Release Clutch – Throttle – like in manual transmission cars, the driver just has to simply hit one of the paddles on the side of the steering wheel and the car will engage the alternate clutch faster than you can release the paddle that actually clicked it in gear. It is quite awesome but despite it being so much faster and easier, crowds of enthusiast still prefer the manual gearboxes. To many, the manual box and the idea of rowing your own gears gives a more connected feel to the car.
4. Energy Recovery System (ERS)
The energy recovery system was birthed, like many other leading innovations, on the Formula 1 circuit. Formally under the name: “KERS” or Kinetic Energy Recovery System, this unit salvages energy made from force under braking, stores it in a central location, and then allows the driver to use the salvaged energy under acceleration. This “extra” energy is a booster and it gave drivers an advantage when overtaking. Now, the ERS, is commonly used in hybrid cars and trucks around the world just in a different way. For example, the BMW X5 Hybrid that I drove a couple weeks ago, takes its energy from on-braking and stores it back into its battery powered motor. Pending on the configuration the driver chooses, the truck will either store that energy to charge the electric motor, or that saved energy will go right into use in order to save fuel while under the power of the combustion motor.
5. Carbon Ceramic Brakes
Ceramic brakes have been around for nearly 15 years now. Yet, you’ll still see someone in a brand new Porsche GT3 without them! Carbon Ceramic or Ceramic Composite brakes and rotors have been a game changing design for performance. The brakes do three things way better than steel brakes:operating under extreme heat, produce less static brake dust, and they weigh nearly half that amount that steel rotors weigh. They are a pricey option, but the benefits are gigantic. The brakes can handle around six tons of force which is cool but where it gets savvy is that throughout the process, amazing amounts of heat will be generated – in a normal braking set up, that heat will travel to the fluid and boil it which causes a loss of braking power and feel. However, with the carbon ceramic rotors, it will disperse the heat before reaching the fluid, therefore giving you much more operation under heavy braking.
While most of us have heard of these terms and names for performance tech, many people still are in the shadows of knowing about them. These cars are not like the old Camaro or Mustangs that our fathers’ had. They are amazingly complex, innovative, and industrious pieces of equipment. The real reason they cost so much isn’t because of their sexy design, their flair, or their paint job but because they are the frontier. These cars push our technology forward, our appetite for learning, and our drive to continue to build. Avoiding complacency and stagnation for the simple idea that you can never go fast enough.