Top Speed: How Important Is It?

So I just finished up reading an article on the new Cadillac CTS-V at 2:30 in the morning and instantly became motivated to discuss a question that popped into my head while reading. In the article, the new, 640 horsepower Cadillac was said to be capable of 200 miles per hour. This is no small feat, and I commend Cadillac for it, but it made me think about the whole concept of a 200 mph top speed.

The brand new Cadillac CTS-V

The brand new Cadillac CTS-V

For years, when I've brought the idea of driving over 200 mph into a conversation with a family member or someone who doesn't know much about cars, they have generally had the same response. It's always something resembling "Why do you need that kind of performance? When are you ever going to be able to legally go that fast, or even have a safe environment to do so? What's the point of a car with so much potential when it's going to  spend 99% of its life confined to speed limits?"

To an extent, I will admit they have a point. But there's so much more to it that I don't think they'll ever understand. Sure, top speed is one of the most irrelevant numbers you can look at when it comes to daily driving, but the thought of it - the concept, the idea - is always there. The idea that engineers made it possible for the car you're sitting in to achieve such an outstanding feat. The idea that humanity is constantly pushing limits; exceeding what really needs to be possible just because it wants to. No one in the world needs a 200 mph car, but there's a damn large amount of people out there that love, respect and want one. It gives people something to dream about, to lust after, to work for.

200 miles per hour is a benchmark. It's a goal. It's something that I will not be satisfied with until I experience it myself. I imagine it to be like skydiving: an extreme adrenaline rush as you push the limits of what you can achieve and what nature will allow. And face it, if you're paying hundreds of thousands (or possibly even millions) of dollars for one of today's supercars or hypercars, you expect to hear a three-digit number that starts with a two when, and if, you inquire about its top speed.

So back to the Cadillac. A car that, with all options included, will still go for well under 100 grand. A car with 4 doors that's probably pretty heavy and is filled with creature comforts. A family sedan that can travel 200 mph. This is one of many American cars these days that fits into the same mold. The Shelby GT500, the new Z06, the Hellcats, the list goes on. And all of these cars are relatively cheap (aside from the Z06, but it's still much cheaper than most comparable cars), yet their top speeds outdo many cars that I believe they really shouldn't. The R8 V10, the 991 GT3, the AMG GT S: these are all cars with noticeably higher prices than the American cars, yet are not capable of hitting 200 mph. I don't really understand why, either. Each of these cars I've used as examples are fast, extremely capable automobiles produced by world-class engineers and manufacturers. Around a track, there's a pretty good chance these will beat any of the above examples (aside from the Z06 once again, as I doubt the R8 would be able to keep up), but in a straight line the Americans would sure as hell put up a fight.

A very yellow AMG GT

A very yellow AMG GT

What really bothers me about the supercars mentioned above is that their top speeds are so close to the 200 mark, yet still so far away. Another example is the Porsche 991 Turbo S. A blisteringly fast car, whose price tag can start with a 200, but whose top speed cannot. It's only capable of 197. Only 197. I know, you think I'm crazy, but hear me out. How much engineering would it really take for them to increase the top speed by three miles per hour? I could be completely wrong here, but I have a feeling that, with a little more work on the engine and the aerodynamics, 200+ would be easily achievable. Same with the Audi, same with the Mercedes. Time and time again, I fail to understand why manufacturers come so close to hitting 200, and decide not to go for it. The way I see it, if you're taking your supercar to an event where you're trying to achieve the highest top speed possible, don't you want 200 mph to be a goal you're actually capable of reaching? I could be blowing this way out of proportion, but to me, 200 miles per hour is important. Is top speed  as important as the acceleration, braking, handling, suspension and everything else more normally associated with driving the car? No, absolutely not. But it's still an X-factor, that thing that makes something better, and you don't always know how to explain why. It just does.

Just look at it, there is no reason why the Turbo S can't join the 200 mph club

Just look at it, there is no reason why the Turbo S can't join the 200 mph club

Now of course there are many cars out there with big price tags that can't hit such high speeds, but that doesn't matter. Take the new Aston Martin Vanquish, for example. It can't hit 200, but I don't care in the slightest. The car is beautiful, it oozes elegance and presence, and it would be an incredible car to take on a long, epic journey. Sure, it has a huge V12 up front and carbon fiber in the bodywork, but you don't buy an Aston for the numbers. You just don't, and there are many other cars out there like that. However, you do buy a sports car like a 911 or an AMG GT for the numbers (at least partially, be honest). So why don't more people care about that big, unfathomable number that I so desperately want to be 200? I don't know. Maybe I'm just tired and I'm ranting on about nothing important. Or maybe I'm right and the Turbo S really does need to be able to hit 200. Who knows. All I know is if I was driving down the street in my $200,000 Porsche and I pulled up next to that Cadillac sedan, I would hate to think that, at the very tip-top end, it was faster than me.