The perfect car is the one created inside your own head. So here's the best thing on four wheels, according to Autocar.

Autocar UK, By John Evans

© Image credited by Haymarket Media Group | How we'd design our dream car

If you’re reading this, I guarantee you’ve done it. Whether at school, on holiday, while bored at work, you’ve sat down and designed your own ideal car. How much power, how much performance, how much weight and so on.
But today the desire to pen the perfect car seems stronger than ever. You don’t need me to tell you that we are at the end of an era, that all we’ve taken for granted about the way cars are built throughout our lifetimes will shortly become no more than history. Electric cars are coming and I think most of us know that if they are to deliver true driving pleasure, it will come in a form that, as yet, is unknown to us. Even the best of them, the Jaguar I-Pace in my book, is at best a competent and characterful device employed in a transportation role.
So now, and while I still can, I’m going to design my ideal car, right here on this page in front of you. No one will agree with all the decisions I make, few with most, most with few, and some with none; but that doesn’t really matter, any more than does the fact that no one but a very well-resourced lunatic would actually try to manufacture such a car. This is my little fantasy, untroubled by issues like homologation and whether there is even a market for such a car, which, without a posh brand name behind it, there certainly would not be.
What’s the first question? It has to be how much, doesn’t it? It’s so tempting just to duck the issue and design a carbonfibre wonder-car with beryllium brakes, but that’s too easy. The car has to be within the reach of the merely quite well off, not the absolutely stinking rich. So I’m going to aim for an £80,000 list price and spec it accordingly.
Second is how it’s built, and at this price point, you can forget carbonfibre. This car will have an aluminium body and an aluminium structure and a weight target of 1150kg dry, which is very, very light by most standards, but realistically achievable without resorting to using exotic and prohibitively expensive materials. Next has to be the size. It’s such an important consideration, it’s staggering to see how widely ignored it is today. Modern sports cars and supercars are just too big in general and too wide in particular, so I’m going to change all that. My car is going to be narrow, no more than 1800mm wide, which is still more than enough for two people to sit side by side in comfort. Two people? I thought about creating a 2+2 but this car is going to be so small that if there’s to be adequate luggage space and a decent-sized fuel tank, those rear seats are going to have to go.
Adequate luggage space? Absolutely. This car is categorically not a track-day weapon. It is a car that not only could be used every day, but it’s also one you’d choose to use every day. Of course, it will be fun to drive on the track – hilarious, in fact, because its performance is going to be so accessible – but no one is ever going to break a lap record in one, because it’s just not important. One of my few mantras is that the amount of enjoyment a car can provide is defined as how fun it is to drive multiplied by the number of times you feel inclined to drive it. That, to me at least, is what’s important. So it has to work in all weathers and on as wide a variety of roads (and tracks) as possible.
The next consideration is probably the most fundamental because it affects everything. Where do you put the bloody engine? I’ve agonized about this. I don’t want it in the front because putting that much mass on the front wheels must affect the way it steers, plus transmitting its power to the rear wheels (presumably I don’t need to explain why it’s going to be rear-wheel drive) will add weight and limit traction. But I don’t really want it directly behind the driver because that’s going to extend the wheelbase further than I ideally want it to go.
Really, I want it behind the rear wheels because that’s the only way I get to keep my optimal wheelbase, decent luggage space and uncorrupted steering. But if I’m going to do that, I need a flat-formation engine to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible, whereupon you’re all going to accuse me of designing a 911 by stealth. This is why no one has ever tried to follow the 911’s lead. And there is the weight distribution issue too.
So it’s going to be mid-engined. I’m not that happy about it, but when you’ve factored in all issues concerning the mass, polar moment of inertia, traction and steering feel, it seems to me to be the least bad option.
Now, what sort of engine is this? You will, I am sure, have worked out it will drive through a six-speed manual gearbox, but I’m hoping its actual configuration will come as a surprise because, so far as I’m aware, it’s never been used in a road car before. And I really don’t know why. I still need that low centre of gravity, which draws me to a flat formation, but a four is too rough, a six too, well, 911-y. But a flat eight? Why not? In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Porsche used a flat eight in its 908 to win every major sports car race on earth save Le Mans, I’ve driven one and it sounds utterly fabulous. It also means it will be space-efficient and quite short in length, so I can retain my hope of a super-short wheelbase.
It will be oversquare in dimensions both to make sure it revs and keep its width (and therefore the car’s) under control and actually quite small. I think 3.0 litres is more than enough, from which 360bhp at around 8500rpm should be easily realised.
This article was originally published in Autocar UK.
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