Editor’s letter

NOT BEING A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE MEANS I’M UNLIKELY TO EVER KNOW THIS FOR CERTAIN, BUT FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, IT SEEMS THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE AN OBSCENELY CASHED-UP PETROLHEAD.

ALEX INWOOD

It feels like yesterday that we were all gasping and shaking our heads in wonderment at the million dollar price tags of the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder – a sold-out trio catchily called the ‘Holy Trinity’. Now, though, that same million is being commanded by some Porsche 911 variants.

To access the truly special stuff – cars of the ilk of the AMG One and Aston Martin Valkyrie, which in many ways pick up the Holy Trinity’s performance mantle and transport it to a new dimension – you’ll need to fork out close to $5 million. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen, that is. Despite the booming number of mega-dollar exotics, the top end of town remains exclusively an invite-only club.

So eager are the world’s wealthy to secure one of these limited edition hypercars that one McLaren exec recently told me he doubts there’s any price they could charge that customers won’t pay. It was a statement said with total conviction and self-belief, which strangely, was more unsettling than if he’d started cackling like a demented Scrooge McDuck.

I’d challenge the notion that more performance and a higher sticker price equal more enjoyment

Then there’s the appreciation factor to consider. As daunting as the price of admission is, the knowledge that the lucky owners are likely to make money on these stratospherically priced machines is enough to have you thinking the whole thing is nonsense.

And in some ways, it is. While the world’s automakers should be congratulated for constantly redefining what’s possible, I’d challenge the notion that more performance and a higher sticker price equal more enjoyment.

It’s a thought I’ve been pondering since driving Ferrari’s savage 812 Superfast, which optioned as it was, cost a paltry $795,183. While under no illusions about how special it is (read more p84), I finished my two days in Ferrari’s V12 flagship wondering if I would have had more fun in something slower. I realise that sounds slightly mad, but I’m beginning to think today’s top rung of performance cars are now too fast and too capable to properly, and safely, exploit on the public road.

This is where cars like the beautifully balanced Alpine A110 come in. A comparative bargain at an eighth of the 812’s sticker, the Alpine doesn’t only feel special and unique, but delivers a level of performance that feels brisk, exciting and accessible. I’d wager it’s more fun to pedal a slower car hard than it is to constantly check your speed in one that only comes alive beyond three digits.

Better yet is the knowledge that you needn’t even spend that much. Just as the top end of the market is exploding, so too is the number of affordable driver’s cars. You only need to turn to page 69 to realise you don’t have to spend big to have big fun, which is a fact that allows me to leave you with the following thought: there’s never been a better time to be a petrolhead, no matter how big your bank account is.

SKill seeker

An interesting extension of the argument that some performance cars are now too fast for the road is that the same logic can be applied to the drivers themselves. After all, how many Aston Martin Valkyrie owners will possess the required skills and confi dence to drive it properly? Consider that most of the Valkyrie’s performance lurks in the dark and confusing world of aerodynamics, and that Aston claims it’s capable of qualifying inside the top 10 on the F1 grid, and you start to realise its abilities exist on a plane well beyond those of even very good drivers, no matter how big your wallet. Still, I’d love to have a go.