Throughout the years there have been plenty of manufacturers attempting to take the supercar market by storm. Some were successful but some really weren’t, so today I’m going to be talking about three cars I’ve picked out to be underachievers in the supercar game and why they never really met their potential.
First up, we have the Jaguar XJ220. This car is one of my all-time favourite cars for its looks, speed and unconventional powertrain. The XJ220 used a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 which produced 540bhp and got from 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds. Back in this era, those were pretty impressive stats especially coming from a lighter and smaller engine in the form of a V6. The XJ220 also had a pretty impressive top speed even by todays super car standards, with a claimed 217mph! That’s seriously quick, especially for a car from the 90’s. So why was this car never a true success? Well, I think it boils down to a couple of things. Although I love the fact this car ran a V6 engine, for people looking at buying this car at the time it wasn’t so appealing. This was in the days where people wanted a bigger engine and didn’t care about emissions just yet. Why would I want 6 cylinders in my Jaguar, when I can have 12 in my Ferrari? Interestingly, I think another big reason for this car never making it to the top was the time that it was launched and put on the market. It debuted right on the verge of the 90’s when the economy took a down turn, and not to mention that the sale price for this car was nearly half-a-million pounds! That’s a lot of money to pay for a car that has such strong opposition and was Jaguar’s first true stab at the supercar market. It’s a real shame that the XJ220 never really made it, but they are a rare find these days and have become a true petrol head collector’s item.
The second car I want to talk about is the Saleen S7. This was America’s first attempt at the modern supercar market in 2000. It was initially built in the UK on behalf of Saleen Inc. and was Americas first mid-engine supercar. In 2005, it received a substantial upgrade, specifically the engine. The S7 was upgraded to a twin-turbo powertrain with a max. output of 750bhp and a top speed of 248mph! Those are some crazy figures, especially as the car is now over a decade old since those changes were made. This car had the ingredients to become a real threat to the supercar world but it really fell short. Why? To be honest I don’t know the true answer, but I have my assumptions. Although this car was hugely powerful and fast in a straight line, it lacked the class of a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche. The S7 was also largely an experiment, as America was not known for its mid-engine supercars, but rather their front-engine muscle cars. I think this was the reason Saleen never took the market by storm in my opinion. Also, supercar buyers are a very particular breed of people, they want to know what they’re buying is a ‘pure-bred’ product and something that has a classic heritage behind it. Again though, like the XJ220, the Saleen S7 is a rare car and definitely something worth collecting.
Finally, the last car on my list is the Nissan R390GT1 road version. This car was an adaptation from the racing car that ran in the GT1 class on the global motorsport spectrum. It used a 550bhp twin-turbo V8 which hit a top speed of 220mph and 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. The R390 was never actually intended for sale and only one was ever made, so to say that this car wasn’t a success isn’t really fair but I’ll give my view on why this car wouldn’t have been successful. Much like the two cars that I’ve spoken about already, the R390 would have been an experiment for Nissan, and knowing these types of cars, it would have been crazy expensive as well. I almost get the feeling that this would have been the Lexus LFA back in the day. A very fast, powerful and technically brilliant car, but not worth the price tag attached to it, which would have made it a big flop. Most of the time, because these cars strive to storm the market, they cost a fortune to develop with no guarantee that they will be that much better than the competition and therefore, to justify the financial commitment to development they have to price the car extremely high. For me, that is why Nissan never bothered to produce this car for sale, knowing the consequences. And for this reason why their new GTR is so brilliant, as it’s a car that challenges the market but at a fraction of the cost of the competition.
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